Artist of Broncos/Pitre sketch 'wanted to contribute' and never expected viral response

She insists she’s not an artist and, at first, expected to remain anonymous.

But the woman who drew a pencil sketch of Jonathan Pitre meeting Humboldt Broncos players in a Heavenly hockey rink says she’s surprised at the impact a simple drawing has had.

Kerry MacGregor lives in France now, but grew up in Ottawa. She tells Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon that she was inspired by what she called “the French way” of dealing with tragedy.

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“I didn’t set out to do a drawing. I think part of it is that I live in France,” she says. “Here, any of the tragedies we’ve had – the terrorist attacks and some of the difficult things that people have gone through in France – the French way is to think about it in a small little vignette-type cartoon. I didn’t think that I should draw anything, because I’m not an artist, but it was so heartbreaking, both of those stories, one after the other, and I guess it was stuck in my head and I needed to get it out.”

Pitre died Wednesday, April 6. His death was announced Friday morning. The deadly crash in Saskatchewan, involving the team bus for the Humboldt Broncos, happened later that day.

MacGregor says she never thought so many people would see the picture she drew. It started appear on social media feeds Monday, and was later shared by MAJIC 100 host and Ottawa Senators PA announcer Stuntman Stu Schwartz, garnering thousands of shares and retweets on Facebook and Twitter.

Not sure who did this but increasingly powerful 😥 🦋💚#humboldtbroncos pic.twitter.com/XkxMRi42SM

— Stu Schwartz (@StuntmanStu) April 9, 2018

“I wanted to contribute something to the conversation or just hug people or just be part of it, but not take anything away,” she says, “I just wanted to run in and say what I could. I didn’t think it would go that far.”

MacGregor – a former journalist, and an author who wrote the "Ice Chips" children’s books with her father, Roy MacGregor – says she thought only a few people would see the sketch and the fact that she drew it wouldn’t matter.

“I wasn’t an artist, presenting my art, it was just an idea,” she says.

But since it began spreading, she says she’s been humbled by the reaction.

“I read a lot of comments, and some of them were from people I knew, which was kind of cool because they weren’t trying to impress me or compliment me, they were just saying how they felt about it, which I actually valued quite a lot,” she says. “In that was it was very nice being anonymous for a while.”

She says some of her favourite comments come from people asking about Jonathan Pitre, prompting others to explain his story.

“Not everybody knows his story. The Humboldt story is so huge, it’s stretched into other countries, but Jonathan’s story in some ways, is still kind of local so, when people ask about him and who is that boy sitting down, and other people respond with his story, those are actually some of my favourite reactions.

“That’s the best part,” she says.