2020 documentary film on DAVID LESTER:
“In this video made by filmmaker Rami Katz, you’ll see David Lester take you through his intricate process of illustrating this notable protest and the challenge of depicting historic figures and events with contemporary urgency.” — CBCArts

David Lester Facebook

David Lester

David Lester website

I’m a graphic designer, cartoonist, and the guitarist in the rock duo Mecca Normal. We have released 13 albums on labels including K Records, Matador, Kill Rock Stars and M’lady’s Records. Our 13th album, Empathy for the Evil was released in late 2014. As a graphic designer I created the poster series “Inspired Agitators,” now archived at The Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles, and I designed the t-shirt “Actually, I like crap.” My poster Malachi (18 x 28″) is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial (New York City) along with a recording of a performance by Mecca Normal. I do a weekly illustration, with text by my Mecca Normal bandmate Jean Smith, for Magnet Magazine. I live in Vancouver, Canada.

My first book was called The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006, Winnipeg). It’s a book of statistics that are, on their own, disconnected facts and figures. I made some rather abstract associations and calculations to give readers an emotional impression of poverty, capitalist greed and the violation of human rights. For example: a child dies of hunger every seven seconds, meanwhile there are 400,000 liposuction operations every year in the USA. I got the idea for my second book, the graphic novel The Listener (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011) after stumbling on a brief account of the Lippe election in a history book about Hitler. After more research, I realized the story of the Lippe election had never been fully explored in English. I thought it would make an incredibly exciting project to bring to life as a graphic novel. This led to my first draft. I researched, wrote and illustrated the novel over a period of seven years. Of course during that time, Mecca Normal wrote, recorded and toured an album called The Observer and we gave lectures and had art exhibits. If anything, I had too much information and I had to cut out quotes and details that didn’t have a place in the story. At that time, the inability of political parties to work together, particularly the Communist Party and the Socialists, contributed heavily to Hitler seizing power. Those relationships would require entire books to describe. And I had a lot of scary quotes from other Nazi party officials that didn’t make it into the book.

The drawings are a combination of pencil, pen, watercolour and acrylics. For some of the images I ripped or cut the drawings and reassembled them to achieve a sense of movement. The Listener is influenced by film techniques such as German expressionism and film noir, and the work of Hitchcock and Orson Welles.  I also took great inspiration from paintings and drawings by Jean Smith, my partner in Mecca Normal. I admire her fluidity and I applied that to my work for this book. The Listener has two main story threads. One is the true story of the last democratic election to take place in Germany (Lippe) before Hitler seized power. And the other is a fictional story of an artist who makes a piece of art that inspires political action that ends in tragedy. The connection between the two stories is art and politics. Aesthetics were an important part of Nazi ideology, while in my fictional story, the artist believes the blending of art with politics is a valuable part of progressive social change. My protagonist Louise is searching for reasons to continue making art; she isn’t at her most confident and her attitude and body language intend to reflect that. She is a complex character. She’s a bit pretentious, very talented and intelligent, but not always likable. She isn’t another souped-up, unrealistic version of a woman. I drew her without exaggerated features or smoothed out imperfections. I’m challenging how women tend to be portrayed in the overwhelming majority of mainstream media including advertising, movies, and graphic novels. I wanted Louise to resonate with readers as a realistic character, like someone they might know. She’s not there to say being a political artist is easy so get on with it. I’ve shown her in times of quandary and distress, how individuals might in fact respond to being wrongly blamed for something. She is, by nature, introverted and she is searching within the history of Europe for reasons to return to her art-making, which, like most artists, is conducted in solitude. There is something symbolic about showing a female character realistically operating within a story about spin-doctoring and manipulation. Women have obviously been consistently misrepresented within the media since there was media to misrepresent them with. Louise is a kind of metaphor for truth against the backdrop of Hitler’s lies and manipulation in general.

I wanted Louise to reflect the reality of how many creative people speak. They do in fact quote other artists. They do in fact struggle with concepts and try to articulate them, often awkwardly.

Art has a long history in progressive social change. We saw the significance of songs, posters, and street art during the recent uprising in Egypt. In Israel, Palestinian graffiti artists have led the fight against the “wall” with their bold and defiant art. In the U.S., several books of collected political graphics have been put out by Josh McPhee of Justseeds, and Jean Smith and I are slowly working on The Black Dot Museum of Political Art as a viable way to exhibit art by cultural activists.

I’ve primarily been a visual artist and a musician, but I am also very influenced by film. I studied the silent-film era. While I was writing The Listener, I was thinking that it would also make a great film, perhaps with some animated segments. Regardless, it’s an important story, but at its core, it’s a small story. Three people are facing the past and the future, assessing their actions in terms of regret. One important theme from The Listener is that clearly, how we act as individuals really matters. And that is something Jean and I have been saying for years in interviews, with Mecca Normal and in our classroom presentation How Art and Music Can Change the World. Even though I don’t speak during Mecca Normal performances, Jean and I have always had amazing conversations about events in the world over our 30-year history and we have always sought out interview situations, not essentially to talk about our band and the new record, but to make an opportunity to try and inspire people towards creative self-expression that intends to create progressive social change. Creating the lecture brings that interview content into our presentation.

I have ideas for other graphic novels. I’d like to utilize what I’ve learned about creating the structure of the book and the story, but as with any big project, you have to balance how it fits into other parts of life. Because I used my wife as the model for Louise, she was involved in the project in that way. Drawing her was a good balance to doing all those drawings of Hitler.

I have two other book projects in mind. One is a book about political art in general and the other is a collection of my poster series “Inspired Agitators” which was the inspiration for the lecture that Jean and I have been presenting. Ideally Jean’s third novel will be published and the focus of how we tour next will be decided by what comes out next. A book, a CD or another art exhibit. When we did a tour in Canada to support The Listener, Jean created an adaptation that included Mecca Normal. We had a power point presentation and Jean cleverly brought the two female characters to life and she coached me into being Rudolf. So Louise arrived to talk about her role in the story and then Marie dropped by to talk about regretting that she and Rudolf had at not taken action to stop Hitler, and Rudolf chimes in about how important history is. Hitler also makes an appearance. After we do all that, Mecca Normal plays some songs that correlate to that material. We have a song called Malachi (K Records, 2010) about a political activist whose life ended tragically. Jean introduces that song, making that connection, and we also use Mecca Normal’s history as an example of what the book brings up in terms of cultural activism and political art. Mecca Normal is preparing to record and no doubt, the work we’ve been doing recently, art and activism, will make its way into the remaining songs to be written. It seems there are usually common threads through the work we create together and independently.

The Listener was a finalist for a ForeWord Reviews‘ book of the year award in 2012. Also in 2012, Mecca Normal recorded an album in Miami, Florida with Kramer as producer and Rat Bastard as engineer. In 2013, I started work on a graphic novel about Emma Goldman. In 2014, Mecca Normal released the album, Empathy for the Evil

David Lester Selected Chronology:

1958: Born in Vancouver, Canada

1969: Organizes a protest for student rights at his elementary school and writes about it in The Yellow Journal, a left-wing Vancouver newspaper.

1973-75: Illustrates/writes a monthly comic for FPS: A Youth Liberation Magazine (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

1977-79: Art Director of the Georgia Straight (a Vancouver weekly newspaper) where co-workers and writers included Sea Shepard founder Paul Watson, cartoonists Rand Holmes and David Boswell, and Doug Bennett (Doug & The Slugs).

1977: Member of the collective that produced Open Road, an international anarchist newspaper out of Vancouver, which featured his posters of Emma Goldman; Bakunin; and Sacco and Vanzetti

1978: Designs “Anarchy in Canada Day” punk poster.

1978: Plays guitar in rock band The Explosions (Bob Mercer, Alex Varty, Tom Harrison and Jamie Baugh) who release a 7″ featuring a prison protest song, which they play while opening for The Talking Heads in Vancouver. The band plays numerous protest events including anti-nuclear, and benefit shows, including one for a Chilean seeking political asylum in Canada (he’d been tortured after the 1973 coup).

1978-79: Art Director of Public Enemy, an alternative/punk newspaper in Vancouver.

1979-1980: Squats in Hackney, London, England for a year.

1979: Editorial design for Latin American Newsletters in London. For nearly 50 years the publication has been the foremost authority on the region.

1981: Cartoons in Pork Roasts: 250 Feminist Cartoons, an exhibit at the UBC Fine Arts Gallery. The Pork Roasts companion comic book would go into two printings.

1981: Full page of comics in Anarchy Comics #3 (San Francisco: Last Gasp), edited by Jay Kinney.

1982: Writes the music for “Suicide” (lyrics by Marian Lydbrooke), recorded by all-women band The Moral Lepers.

1983: Designs the weekly left wing labour newspaper Solidarity Times during massive protests against the austerity measures of the provincial government (almost leading to a general strike). Edited by Stan Persky, the paper was financed by Operation Solidarity (a coalition of labour unions and the BC Federation of Labour).

1984: Designs album cover for punk band D.O.A.’s ep to benefit striking British miners.

1984: Forms punk duo Mecca Normal with Jean Smith and they play their first show opening for D.O.A. at the Smilin’ Buddha in Vancouver.

1986: Mecca Normal self-release their first album, which includes the feminist anthem “I Walk Alone.”

1986: Mecca Normal west coast Black Wedge Tour of mostly anarchist poets and musicians.

1987: Mecca Normal releases 7″ ep “Oh Yes You Can” on K Records (Olympia, WA), which includes “Strong White Male” and “Man Thinks Woman”, the 4th release in K’s International Pop Underground series.

1987: Designs “Artists Against Apartheid” poster for Oxfam benefit concert that raises $12,000 to buy a mobile health unit to aid those injured in protests in South Africa.

1988: Mecca Normal’s “Oh Yes You Can” e.p. is single of the week at New Musical Express (UK).

1988: Mecca Normal’s “Calico Kills the Cat” (K Records) released. Recorded by Calvin Johnson and Patrick Maley. It would be K’s 4th album release.

1989: Designs literary newspaper BC BookWorld, which he has been doing for over 25 years with publisher Alan Twigg, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2014.

1990: Mecca Normal’s “Water Cuts My Hands” (Matador/K) released. It would be Matador’s 11th release.

1991: Mecca Normal plays the International Pop Underground festival (Olympia, WA).

1991: Designs a series of theatre posters in Vancouver.

1991: Mecca Normal play Evergreen State College (Olympia) with Beat Happening and Bikini Kill.

1991: The Kill Rock Stars label created by Slim Moon releases its first album, a comp containing tracks by Mecca Normal, Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Melvins, Jad Fair and Nirvana among many others.

1992: Mecca Normal’s “Dovetail” (K) album features “Throw Silver”.

1992: Mecca Normal 7″ is released as part of the SupPop Singles Club, it is shared with 10-piece all-female band Kreviss.

1992: Mecca Normal’s first of five European tours.

1992: Mecca Normal cited as an influence by the founders of the social movement known as Riot Grrrl.

1993: Mecca Normal’s “Flood Plain” (K Records) released.

1993: His publishing imprint, Get To The Point, publishes Jean Smith’s first novel “I Can Hear Me Fine”.

1993: Rolling Stone features Mecca Normal, along with Liz Phair and Radiohead in “New Faces: A guide to the coolest new music this summer.”

1993: Mecca Normal opens for Fugazi in front of 4,000 people in Vancouver and again with Fugazi at Roseland Ballroom in New York.

1993: Book cover design of “Hard Core Logo” by Michael Turner. David has designed over 70 book covers and numerous interiors for small press publishers.

1993: Mecca Normal opens for Sonic Youth in Seattle. Sonic Youth would later record a song in part about Mecca Normal called Skip Tracer, off the Washing Machine album (1995).

1993: Mecca Normal’s singles compilation “Jarred Up” (K Records) released.

1994: Mecca Normal signs to Matador Records (New York) and releases “Sitting On Snaps”.

1994: Four star review of “Sitting On Snaps” in Rolling Stone: “The most visionary of punk’s political bands. Through seven albums over nine years, vocalist Jean Smith and guitarist David Lester have presented a consistent, evolving and luminous challenge to the reigning social order.”

1995: Mecca Normal releases The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly 7″ single (Matador).

1996: Mecca Normal’s “The Eagle & The Poodle” (Matador Records) released, with drums by Peter Jefferies.

1997: Mecca Normal open for The Ex in New York at the Knitting Factory.

1997: Mecca Normal’s “Who Shot Elvis?” (Matador Records) released, with drums by Charlie Quintana, known for being the drummer in Social Distortion and Bob Dylan’s band.

1998: Publishes a series of chapbooks, including “Keys To Kingdoms” by poverty rights activist Bud Osborn which wins the City of Vancouver Book Award in 1999.

1999: “Hundred Block Rock” album released by the Bud Osborn Band, with David on guitar, and Wendy Atkinson on bass. All song’s co-written by Bud, Wendy and David. The band tours Canada playing shows promoting harm reduction. Bud’s efforts play a strong role in establishing the first safe injection site in North America.

1999: Starts designing and drawing “Inspired Agitators” poster series, which is archived at The Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles.

2000: Mecca Normal tour the west coast with godspeed you black emperor. The two bands perform Mecca Normal’s “Beaten Down” together at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

2002: Begins ongoing lecture series with Jean Smith called “How Art & Music Can Change the World.”

2002: Mecca Normal’s “The Family Swan” (Kill Rock Stars, Olympia, WA) released, produced by Dave Doughman.

2002: Designs and draws the t-shirt “Actually, I like crap.” which is featured on national television (CBC).

2003: Paints “The politics are not obvious” (12″x 12″ acrylic on canvas).

2005: Writes the book, The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing). All author royalties (over $2,000) are donated to The Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture.

2006: Mecca Normal’s “The Observer” album released (Kill Rock Stars), featuring “Attraction is Ephemeral.”

2007: Releases “Guitar & Bass Actions” (Smarten UP!) as Horde of Two, an experimental instrumental duo formed with bassist Wendy Atkinson.

2009: David starts drawing a weekly illustration for Magnet Magazine with text by Jean Smith. The collaboration has continued ever since, with over 300 pieces of art and text.

2011: Writes and illustrates the graphic novel, The Listener (Arbeiter Ring Publishing).

2012: Awarded a BC Arts Council Grant to write his next graphic novel.

2012: The Hidden Cameras cover “Throw Silver” for the album “Have Not Been the Same – Vol. 1: Too Cool to Live, Too Smart to Die”.

2012: The Listener is a finalist for Foreword Reviews‘ Graphic Novel of The Year Award.

2012: Records Mecca Normal album in Miami Beach, Florida with Kramer as producer.

2013: Begins graphic novel on the life of Emma Goldman.

2014: David’s poster of anti-war protester Malachi Ritscher, Malachi (18 x 28″) is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial (New York City) along with a recording of a performance by Mecca Normal.

2014: Mecca Normal releases the album “Empathy for the Evil” on M’lady’s Records (Portland, OR). Kramer plays bass, vibraphone, mellotron and organ.

2014: Mecca Normal is interviewed on Democracy Now (New York) by Amy Goodman. The duo plays 3 songs, including “Anguish/Misogyny.”

2014: “Empathy for the Evil” is listed at #662 (out of 950) in Pitchfork’s critics ratings for the year.

2015: “Empathy for the Evil” is listed in the Village Voice‘s Pazz & Jop Poll (annual critics list of best albums of the year) at #472 out of 1,529 albums.

2016: Cover illustration of the battle of Ballantyne Pier for British Columbia History, a magazine that has been publishing since 1923.

2016: Writes and draws a 12-page comic called “The Battle of Ballantyne Pier” which is published in an anthology of comics called Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle (Between The Lines). Noam Chomsky: “This evocative collection of the struggles and achievements of labour organizing should inspire us to ‘dream of what might be’ and to act to bring it about.”

2016: David is interviewed by Sheryl MacKay for NXNW (CBC radio) about Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle.

2016: At Emily Carr University of Art + Design, David introduces students to a time when design involved hot wax, knives, sizing wheels, rollers, Letraset, steel rulers, and lines were made with tape or drawn with a pen. The context was his experience in the collective that produced the international anti-authoritarian newspaper Open Road (1976-1990). His talk was part of a summer course called “Design Criticism, and Anarchy and Culture” taught by visiting Professor Jeffrey Swartz (University School of Design and Art of Barcelona).

2016: Mecca Normal‘s “Man Thinks Woman” (1987) makes the cut with an inspired write-up by Douglas Wolk for Pitchfork‘s “The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs: From Patti Smith to Bikini Kill, the songs that have crushed stereotypes and steered progress”.

2016: Mecca Normal open for The Julie Ruin on their Pacific Northwest tour.

2017: Drawn To Change: Graphic Histories of Working Class Struggle (with David Lester’s The Battle of Ballantyne Pier) wins the $10,000 Wilson Prize  for the best book that “succeeds in making Canadian historical scholarship accessible to a wide and transnational audience” The book also wins the Canadian Historical Association’s Public History Prize.

2017: Mecca Normal film (16 min.) is shown at PopCon 2017, Museum of Popular Culture (Seattle).

2017: Guitar World (New York) interviews Corin Tucker, Sleator-Kinney: What inspired you to first pick up a guitar? CORIN: “…when I went to college and saw other female musicians—bands like Bikini Kill and Mecca Normal—I was like, “Oh I wanna do that!” That’s when I really started trying to learn.”

2017: Challenging Stories: Canadian Literature for Social Justice in the Classroom (Canadian Scholars’ Press) features a chapter on teaching David’s The Listener to high school students. The chapter by Karen Jacobson demonstrates innovative ways of how The Listener was used to teach social justice issues to secondary school classes, stating “From the very first page, the book inspired thoughtful discussion about the place of social action in the students’ own lives.”

2017: In an interview with the Eugene Weekly about her latest band Filthy Friends (which includes a member of REM), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), reveals that a pivotal moment in her development as a musician came when seeing a show at the WOW Hall: “When I was in high school, it was Fugazi and Mecca Normal and Beat Happening. That show pretty much changed my life. Seeing those kinds of shows live can bring you into the realm of, ‘I really want to do that.’”

2017: Writer/director Chrissy Loader’s short film The Listening Party premieres at the Nevada City Film Festival. The film features Mecca Normal’s “Throw Silver” and “I Walk Alone” on the soundtrack.

2019: Between The Lines publishes 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike by The Graphic History Collective and David Lester.

2019: Direct Action Gets The Goods by The Graphic History Collective with Althea Balmes, Gord Hill, Orion Keresztesi, and David Lester is published by Between The Lines.

2019: Release of Mecca Normal live in Montreal, 1996 (LP, CD, download), on Artoffact Records as part of their CBC’s Brave New Waves series. Jean Smith, vocals; David Lester, guitar; Peter Jefferies, drums.

2019: David Lester creates a 5 x 3’ mural for a commission for a permanent exhibit called Coal, Conflict and Community at Cumberland Museum & Archives depicting significant figures in the areas political and social history.

2019: Art by David Lester from 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike is exhibited along with Seth and Jeff Lemire etc. as part of Architecture and Comics: Canadian Cartoonists and the City at the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation (WAF).

2019: The Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton exhibited blown up panels by David Lester from 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike for an exhibit on the Winnipeg General Strike.

2019: 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike is published in German and French editions.

2019: The New York Times lists Mecca Normal‘s ‘I Walk Alone’ as an essential song in their article, “Riot Grrrl United Feminism and Punk. Here’s an Essential Listening Guide. 25 songs that fueled a rock revolution”.

2019: Panel on “Documenting Resistance”, with Ben Passmore (Your Black Friend & Other Strangers), Gord Hill (The Antifa Comic), and Nate Powell (the March series) at VanCaf (Vancouver Comic Arts Festival).

2019: Joint presentations with The Graphic History Collective at the Congress of The Humanities (UBC).

2019: Mecca Normal’s song I Walk Alone is in 3 different scenes in episode 2 of season 3, of Better Things written and starring Pamela Adlon on the FX channel. The viewership was 353,000.

2020: 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg Strike is shortlisted for the George Ryga Prize for Social Awareness in Literature.

2020: Rolling Stone magazine feature on Riot Grrrl includes a playlist of 23 songs including Mecca Normal’s I Walk Alone.

2020: CBC TV series Art Exhibitionists features David Lester working on a graphic novel. Directed by Rami Katz, with cinematography by Devan Scott.

2020: 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike is co-winner of the 2020 CAWLS Book Prize for the best book in Canadian work and labour studies published in 2019. The prize is awarded by the Canadian Association for Work & Labour Studies, Brock University (Ontario).

2021: Mecca Normal’s I Walk Alone featured in a scene in the American teen drama thriller CRUEL SUMMER (Episode 5). The show was broadcast on Freeform and Hula. The previous episode of CR got 260,000 viewers.

2021: Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, a graphic novel (Beacon Press) published with Marcus Rediker and Paul Buhle.

2021: Re-Release of Kill Rock Stars comp album — 30 years later — with Mecca Normal’s Narrow sandwiched between Unwound and Nirvana.

2021: Mecca Normal’s song In January is the soundtrack for Jocelyne Moreau‘s “White Death’ short film, about Tuberculosis. The film was an award winner at the New York International Women Festival.

2021: Presenting at the United Association for Labor Education (UALE) conference in Chicago on a panel with the Graphic History Collective, on “Transforming the World with Public Labour History.”

2021: Five illustrations for Bill Stenson‘s short story collection “Half Brothers and Other Stories” (Mother Tongue Publishing).

2021: Zoom presentations to students at University of Toronto (on “1919”) and University of the Fraser Valley (how to make a graphic novel and employ stories as instruments of social good).

2022: Cover and interior design of Susan C. Boyd’s HEROIN: An Illustrated History (Fernwood).

2022: Release of I Knew I Was A Rebel Then (Shrimper Records) by instrumental guitar/bass album duo Horde of Two (David Lester / Wendy Atkinson) with a 42-page chapbook (Bamboo Dart Press).

2022: Horde of Two‘s album featured on CBC’s Songs You Need to Hear.

2022: Cover and interior design of Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale Press).

2022: Kathleen Hanna releases a video on the influence of Mecca Normal for NPR series, The Spark, which asked the question “Who helped you understand that music could be a force for social change?” Kathleen Hanna: “I’m here to talk about Mecca Normal and how they made me feel like I could make political music without compromising writing great songs.”

2022: David presented his graphic novel on Emma Goldman to scholars at A Symposium on Emma Goldman 82 Years After Her Death in Toronto sponsored by the University of Toronto.

2022: Presented Prophet Against Slavery (with Marcus Rediker) at a conference of Quaker historians on approaches to the study of Quaker history and culture using graphic novels. Dash Shaw (Discipline) also presented.

2022: Friends Journal, a Quaker magazine included a 5-page feature on David’s work illustrating Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, a graphic novel.

2023: Under the Banner of King Death: Pirates of the Atlantic, a graphic novel (Beacon Press) by David Lester (Text/art), Marcus Rediker (text) and Paul Bulhe (editor) is published.

Author biography in images:

Inspired Agitators poster of Howard Zinn by David Lester, 2010. Part of an on-going poster series that includes includes John Heartfield, Lucy Parsons, Emily Wilding Davison, Phil Ochs, Red Cloud, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nellie McClung, Tommy Douglas, and Paul Robeson. The poster was featured as “Poster of the Week” by the Center for Political Graphics in Los Angeles.

“Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love” poster design by David Lester, 1991. A production by Touchstone Theatre and written by Brad Fraser. The play was controversial for its violence, nudity, frank dialogue, and sexual explicitness. But it was quickly acclaimed by critics and audiences and was named one of the 10 best plays of the year by Time Magazine.

“Actually I like crap.” t-shirt design by David Lester, 2002.

1977. Georgia Straight staff photo — with Rand Holmes, Paul Watson, Terry Glavin, Alan Twigg, Bob Mercer, Joyce Woods, David Lester (arms folded), Dan McLeod, Bob Cummings and Tom Harrison

David Lester (arms folded), Art Director, Georgia Straight newspaper, 1977. With cartoonists’ Rand Holmes and David Boswell, Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson, writer Alan Twigg, editor Bob Mercer, publisher Dan McLeod, Greenpeace’s Bob Cummings, music writer Tom Harrison and others.

Anarchy In Canada? poster by David Lester, 1978

Artists Against Apartheid poster by David Lester, 1987. The event raised enough money to buy a mobile health unit to assist those injured during demonstrations in South Africa. The concert was sponsored by Oxfam Canada.

BC BookWorld cover design by David Lester, 2009. David has designed the newspaper for over 20 years and continues to do so. BC BookWorld is the largest circulation literary publication in Canada.

David Lester, 2009

Don’t Turn Yer Back On Desperate Times, D.O.A. album cover design by David Lester, 1984. The record was a live recording from a John Peel Session by D.O.A. Part of the proceeds from record sales went to benefit striking coal miners in the United Kingdom.

David Lester (centre), playing kazoo, Pigeon Park, Vancouver, 1969. This was part of a weekly event organized by Vancouver’s official Town Fool in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.

Emma Goldman poster by David Lester, 1977. This poster of the anarchist / feminist Emma Goldman was part of a series of centrespreads in the Open Road newsjournal.

David Lester, Hyde Park anti-nuclear weapons march, London, 1979. There were about 80,000 people taking part. A memorable moment was marching into Trafalgar Square just as the Gang of Four (on a flat bed truck) played ArmaLite Rifles.

Free The Five poster by David Lester, 1983. A benefit concert featuring the Dead Kennedys.

David Lester, Mecca Normal, 2010

The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism, book by David Lester, 2005/2006. All author royalties are donated to The Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture. The book has been re-printed in a revised second edition. It has also been used as a course text at Capilano University (English: Studies in Contemporary Literature). The excellent cover design is by Mike Carroll.

David Lester, Mecca Normal, 2010

Hard Core Logo book cover design by David Lester, 1993. David re-designed the logo for a mounting of the book as a stage play in 2011.

“How Art & Music Can Change the World” lecture/multi media presentation by Mecca Normal, Evergreen State College, Olympia, 2009. This event has been presented at colleges, universities, bookstores, festivals, and art galleries. Contact David if you would like us to present it in your area.

Mecca Normal, Black Dot Museum of Political Art opening, Olympia, 2010. Mecca Normal (Jean Smith, David Lester) began in 1984. We have released 13 albums (K Records, Matador, Kill Rock Stars). Mecca Normal has played shows with Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Mirah, The Ex, Bikini Kill, The Fall, Sleater Kinney, Corin Tucker Band and Kimya Dawson to name a few. A 7″ single on K Records came out in late 2010. The single features a song called “Malachi”, about the late Chicago anti-war activist.

Magnet Magazine series, painting by David Lester, 2009. Jean Smith and David began this weekly series in 2009. Jean’s prose covers a wide selection of topics, and includes sections from her upcoming novel. The series is ongoing.

This is a page from David’s 312-page graphic novel THE LISTENER (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011). The book is now into a second printing. THE LISTENER reveals one of the world’s most tragic acts of spin doctoring while weaving a compelling tale of complacency, art, power, and murder. It is a startling little-known story that changed the course of history. In THE LISTENER, two stories collide: the rise of Hitler and a woman artist searching for meaning in the great art of Europe. THE LISTENER was a finalist for a ForeWord Reviews’ book of the year in 2011.

Mecca Normal performance at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 2009. Surrounded by Jack Shadbolt paintings we performed at an event called FUSE which attracts thousands of people to a variety of performances all over the gallery.

The Politics Are Not Obvious, painting by David Lester, 2003. I really like this description of the painting by Michael Kramer, a Lecturer in History and American Studies at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois): “Here, politics are ‘not obvious.’ Instead, they are something at once more humble and more profound: they are all about self-expression, the heavens, and the individual in relation to the rest of the world. They are about one person ‘getting’ another person and conveying that communication on paper. They are about a clawhammer style half-mastered, a shadow of blue or gray sketched just right, a hopeful clang of strings, a person sitting in front of another person, the brushing of a banjo, a painting acknowledging the passage of sound. Politics become about instruments passed across the generations through mass production and consumption, yet reclaimed; instruments turned anti-instrumental. They are about things and sounds and images translated back and forth from bodies to feelings to representations — a circle broken and fixed again, a circle unbroken. They are all very quiet and hushed — ‘not obvious’ — and then you look and the brushed hand begins to roll into a pulsation.”

“The Number 14″ theatre poster design by David Lester, 1992. This is one of Touchstone Theatre / Axis Mime”s most successful plays, winning numerous awards and presented internationally. In 2012, the poster was re-published (with changes) for the 20th anniversary production by Centaur Theatre in Montreal.

“Big Bill Haywood” by David Lester (18 x 24” acrylic on canvas). In September, 2012, The Black Dot Museum of Political Art exhibited at Northern in Olympia, Washington for the second time since 2010, featuring art by members of the rock duo Mecca Normal. Guitar player David Lester exhibited new paintings, and panels from his graphic novel The Listener and illustrations from his weekly Magnet Magazine online column “The Art of Normal” with text by Jean Smith, whose new paintings included a series by a character from her recently completed novel by the same name, The Black Dot Museum of Political Art, bout a narcissist who attempts to prevent an environmentally destructive coal mine from opening off British Columbia’s coast.

Aside from MECCA NORMAL, David plays in HORDE OF TWO, an experimental guitar/bass duo with Wendy Atkinson. Horde of Two have released one album, “Guitar & Bass Actions” and performed at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival, 2010. Their  10-minute instrumental song called “IWW: The Lynching of Wesley Everest” came out on a comp CD called “In The Orchard Of Osiris” ( Takes A Village To Make Records) in 2010.

Graphic design

Pink Noise, CD cover (2007) by David Lester

#14 poster, Touchstone Theatre, 1992

The Number 14, Touchstone Theatre, poster (1992) by David Lester

300- 2

A Comix Tale, Axis Mime Theatre, poster (1990) by David Lester


BC Book Prizes, banner (1995) by David Lester


Unidentified Human Remains & The True Nature of Love, Touchstone Theatre, poster (1991) by David Lester

Alpha Yaya Diallo CD cover

Alpha Yaya Diallo, CD cover (2010) by David Lester

Anarchy day concert, 1978

Anarchy In Canada? poster (1978) by David Lester

300- 2

Artists Against Apartheid, benefit poster (1987) by David Lester

Augustine poster, 1999

Augustine (Big Hysteria), Pink Ink Theatre, poster (1999) by David Lester

Bakunin poster, 1976

Mikhail Bakunin, poster (1976). Drawing by David Lester; design by Bob Mercer

BC BookWorld, 2008

BC BookWorld, newspaper cover (2008) by David Lester

BlackOut cover, 1978

BC BlackOut, zine cover (1978) by David Lester

300- 2

D.O.A. True North Strong & Free, poster (1987) by David Lester

Crisis logo

Crisis Management, logo (1986) by David Lester

Dance brochure, 1992

Firehall Arts Centre, dance brochure (1992) by David Lester

Dance Brochure, Firehall Arts Centre, 1991

Firehall Arts Centre, dance brochure (1991) by David Lester

Dance poster, Firehall Arts Centre, 1992

Firehall Arts Centre, dance poster (1992) by David Lester

Dead Kennedys poster

Free The Five / Dead Kennedys, benefit poster (1983) by David Lester

Dishrags poster, 1979

The Dishrags, poster, Public Enemy (1979) by David Lester

300- 2

D.O.A.: Don’t Turn Yer Back on Desperate Times, album cover (1984) by David Lester

El Salvador poster, 1981

Ronald Reagan in El Salvador, poster (1981) by David Lester

BC Book Prizes banners designed by David Lester hang at Government House, Victoria, B.C., official residence of the Lieutenant Governor and the ceremonial home of all British Columbians since 1957.

BC Book Prizes banners designed by David Lester hang at Government House, Victoria, B.C., official residence of the Lieutenant Governor and the ceremonial home of all British Columbians since 1957.

300- 2

Emma Goldman, poster (1977) by David Lester

Erotic poster, Touchstone Theatre, 1995

The Erotic Show, Touchstone Theatre, poster (1995) by David Lester

Fed logos colour.pmd

Federation of BC Writers, logo (2006)
by David Lester

HCL LIVE 2C skull logo small

Hard Core Logo Live, November Theatre, logo (2011) by David Lester

300- 2

Iceberg Lettuce, Touchstone Theatre, poster (1992) by David Lester

Locarno CD cover 2011

Locarno, CD cover (2011) by David Lester

Matchgirls Strike poster, 1989

Matchgirls Strike, poster (1989) by David Lester

Mosaic bus card, 1997

MOSAIC Immigrant Services, business card (1997) by David Lester

Mayworks poster, 1992

Mayworks Festival, poster (1992) by David Lester

No More Censorship poster, 1987

No More Censorship, poster (1987) by David Lester

Pointed Sticks poster, Public Enemy, 1979

Pointed Sticks, poster, Public Enemy (1979) by David Lester

300- 2

Open Road, newspaper (1977) by David Lester

Super 8 film poster, 1988

Super 8 Film Festival, poster (1988) by David Lester

Tanya FLYER 2009

Tanya Tagaq, flyer (2009) by David Lester

300- 2

Terminal City Ricochet, film poster (1990) by David Lester

300- 2

D.O.A. True North Strong & Free, album cover (1987) by David Lester

Graphic design of posters, brochures, record / CD covers, logos, business cards and publications by David Lester. Some of these  pieces are in the collections of Simon Fraser University and the Museum of Vancouver

John Heartfield by David Lester 2010

John Heartfield by David Lester 2010

Cover design by David Lester (1999). BUD OSBORN:

Cover design by David Lester (1999). BUD OSBORN: “I’ve always liked rock and roll, and it’s been very important to me. I wanted to have music that would drive the poem perhaps in another way or amplify the meanings. Originally I worked with a couple of jazz musicians, but then I heard David Lester (longtime guitarist for Mecca Normal) play his electric guitar. It clicked right away.”

Mikis Theodorakis by David Lester 2007

Mikis Theodorakis by David Lester 2007

Phil Ochs by David Lester 2002

Phil Ochs by David Lester 2002

Paul Robeson by David Lester 2002

Paul Robeson by David Lester 2002

Meredith Monk by David Lester 2006

Meredith Monk by David Lester 2006


D.O.A. tour poster by David Lester 1986


D.O.A., Mecca Normal, Rhythm Activism, Stu Leal joint single, designed by David Lester 1986


D.O.A. single designed by David Lester 1983


D.O.A. poster, designed by David Lester, 1978


D.O.A., No Means No, Mecca Normal etc. poster designed by David Lester, 1987


D.O.A., No Means No etc. poster designed by David Lester, 1988


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