Wednesday, May 20, 2009

comic art fans unite

Not even a rainy morning could keep us comic fans from heading over to the first ever Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland on Sunday. The fact that kids 12 and under, PLUS librarians and educators, were FREE was undoubtedly a draw. My daughter is a fan of Kean Soo's Jellaby and was dying to get her hands on the next story. He obliged her with not just a signature, but a little sketch, too. Sweet.

She found out from her teacher the next day that she was on TV, in the brief bit on a local channel.

I was happy to see several MECA students in attendance, and exhibiting. Here's Liz Heller doing great things.

And here is fellow MEIC member Cristina Siravo showing her lovely products.

While the rest of my family was browsing, I attended an informative presentation by Peter Gutierrez, who talked about the unique qualities of sequential art to engage young readers. There are multi-modal benefits of reading text and image in juxtaposition, in terms of parallel narratives, subtexts, and semiotics. He showed excellent examples of comic and graphic novel art, demonstrating all the unseen reading that takes place between images, and the fluency, vocabulary-building, and visualization that occurs in visual literacy. Artists have no clue the powerful things they can do, invisibly, with their bare hands! POW!

This comes as no surprise to savvy librarians like Kelley McDaniel of King Middle School who has rounded up a group of unsuspecting teachers for a zine workshop with me. I typically give my sophomore illustration students a zine assignment, as a good early exercise in sequential visualization and mechanical production. But why wait til college? Middle school is the source of angst and the emerging self. As a zine fan, Kelley found incredible treasures at MECAF, like Coping with Death, a zine with heart-breaking deadpan wisdom.

Jay Piscopo is as suave a spokesperson for comics as we could possibly invent. He deserves a hand for giving visibility to the event, and to artists. Laura Richter, an award-winning technology integrationist presented a new curriculum for Jay's Undersea Adventures of Capt'n Eli, an ingenious coupling of brand and character coming soon to a school near you. POW!

I purchased some hand-made editions, rather than the notable and fantastic authors that headlined the event, since I stupidly didn't bring enough cash.

Peaks Islander Annie O'Brien was there with her Korean folk tale in graphic novel form, Hong Kil Dong.

It was such an amazing crowd of talent, overwhelming, in fact. I could have bought one thing from everybody there, if I wasn't a skimpy artist myself. It was also a familiar and endearing group, many of them probably dreading the public interface, and keeping their heads down over their sketchbooks. I've been behind a few tables myself, and it's a knotty feeling in the gut to sit there while people pass you over. I made some selections based entirely on impulse and title. Like "it's sexy when people know your name" by Lisa Hanawalt. She's the girl in the striped sweater lovingly drawing a singing pony inside the zine I bought.

Here's fellow islander and illustrator Doug Smith, chatting up Marek Bennett who did a fun presentation on the 24 hour comic frenzy.

Doug's been to comic cons all over, in pursuit of classic collectible art, and found the art at MECAF disappointing. He's more into traditional heroic realism and painterly sci-fi. This crowd of artists is not your mainstream superhero flock. In fact, they are often aw shucks geeky, like this beauty I saw heading into the presentation by the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Having toured the amazing CCS awhile back, I was sorry to miss their Self-Publishing 101. But I was too bleary from the Surviving as a Print Cartoonist. Got to see my daughter's hero, Lincoln Pierce, speak. And find myself a new hero, Corey Pandolph. His self-deprecating sarcasm was most authentic. Check out the video of Leopard Man on his blog. That guy is a peculiar phantom of Portland and may be the one thing to lure Corey back into Maine's evil clutches. If we're lucky.

So I ambled off, skipping the afternoon's line-up of new stars, and headed back to the island. Heard the contestants were lodged at the Inn, but I hope at least one of them saw more of Peaks Island than that. I challenged my visual recall by drawing more of the cast I encountered.

This is Sofi, heading onto the boat with her jaunty beret over her mohawk.

Here is a girl whose shirt I admired. I noticed she was drawing her 24 minute comic during the Surviving as a Print Cartoonist panel.

This is Otto, the lucky son of the fabulous Jessica and Henry, with a very sober air, holding his plush puffin toy like a precious avatar.

I did these drawings from memory, so pardon the lack of likeness.
Here is Mike and daughter, in a stunning example of parenting with care. I'm of the opinion that cultivating a sense of humor, love of comics (and zombies), and art comes way before anything else. To expose kids to observing the world, drawing with imagination, and believing in super powers is a great calling.

Big applause for Rick Lowell at Casablanca Comics, for conceiving the event. As my favorite book babe, Kirsten Cappy said, "It's a sweet little monster to pull together."


Anonymous said...

Ahh, I had it on the calendar and everything, but it happened to also be the weekend we had to bury our Grampy, so I missed out. I'm very glad that you posted so much about it, so I feel like I didn't miss out on too much! I'm definitely going next year!

jamie peeps said...

I'm sorry about your grandfather. I hope you have drawn him or will do drawings of him. Keep him with you!

Peter Gutierez said...

Wow, great write-up: detailed, thoughtful, and with terrific photos that capture the energy of the event and the beauty of the setting. And of course thanks for the kind words about my workshop.

Ray Dillon said...

This looks excellent! Look at that view out the windows! Wow.

I'm so excited. My wife, Renae De Liz, and I are moving to Maine in just a few days. We're excited about having a comic con in our own town!

Great pictures. I hope we get to know you.

Shanti said...

Hey, I'm the girl in the drawing on green paper! :D

jamie peeps said...

Shanti, I hope you come to the comic fest this May, too, and we can meet!