SD ComiCon

San Diego. What a beautiful town (yes, that's an old clipper-ship in the background, I think one of the two docked there was used in the blockbuster Master and Commander). My girlfriend/fellow artist Danielle Griffith and I arrived ready to hit the Convention Center via the smooth Toyota Matrix owned by the one-and-only Court Jones, good friend whom I've come to know through the NCN. As usual (from what I hear- I've only attended one ComicCon in 2002), the convention center was absolutely packed. On Saturday (typically the busiest day of the Con) I hear they turned away over 400 potential attendees. Fortunately I had a badge for the entire time, so I could walk right in, but it was a shame to see the line of anxious youngsters and adults extending around one of the largest convention centers in the world, into the adjascent Marriot Hotel parking garage, and over the horizon.

It's almost frustrating just trying to walk around, yet you can't leave, because there are so many great artists and so much to see. I didn't take many pictures, but I saw a lot. Most people bring portfolios and business cards with hopes to get a job. I didn't want to worry about that (I did that 2 years ago and found that it was awkward to approach people I admired with my work, even if they were helpful and accomodating), so I just kept my eyes wide, learned what I could from the amazing mentors. It was such a usual occurrence to see amazing artists peppered throughout one giant hall:

Here you see Sergio Aragones... and yes, he signs 3 items for nearly everyone that walks by, including doing original, unique sketches for anyone that asks. I watched him do one, and it was truly a piece of himself being poured into it, rather than a stock-stamp sketch, reserved for the event. I admire him a bit more now, after seeing that.

Two years ago, when I attended, I didn't really know who he was (I didn't grow up with MAD) and my friend was fawning all over him. He asked to see my little portfolio, and said,

"Have you sent anything to MAD?"

"No, I really haven't thought of it."

"You should, they get a lot of crap, and this is not crap." (then he may as well have said, "NEXT!")

It was very entertaining and weird, and for some strange reason, I admired it. If you haven't seen his work, pick up any issue of MAD magazine, past or current, and find the "A MAD Look at ____". He's in every issue and draws a lot. Until you try it, it's hard to appreciate the work he and others do. Another chap that is in the same category is my friend Tom Richmond (see my links, check his overflowing blog). Tom wasn't at the Con this year, but his work is even more involved, as he's averaging out with more than one gig/issue of MAD, along with plenty of other commissions, all with very involved digital color, still using fountain ('dip) pens (crow-quill).

Another grotesquely prolific artist that I'll never stop admiring is my buddy Stephen Silver. This guy had his funny little booth with his cute ol' wifey selling his silly books and overrated art (just kidding). I ma
de his table a regular stop while roaming the halls, sort of a meeting place for me and friends, just to get a smile on my face when it got too crowded, and to see his art once again.

It's great to see a friend whom I learn so much from doing so well with fans. I know it can become work for him, but he was moving those books and prints like nobody's business... and I will never stop preaching about the value of his little sketchbook, the only book that I throw into my bag when I travel, go to work, or just hit the local bookstore to sketch. I look at it while watching TV, when riding in my roommate's car, and while on the toilet (come on, we all read on the toilet) - don't worry, Steve, I wash up good.

Moving on...

The con was great. I saw some artists that I know very personally, like my best friend from college, Ben Dewey and new buddy Nathan Staples (watch out, a rising duo in the comics world) - friend Steve Fishwick (silver's best buddy), Gabe Hunt, David Wolter, Bryan Flanigan, Andy Murray (of whom has a very similarly-inspired website as I), Arkady Roytman, Chris Daily, and many others. I also saw many artists that I've seen and met online, and in years past... most of whom were very nice and personable, like Bill Plympton, Bobby Chiu, Michel Gagnet, Angel Medina, Jeff Watts & Eric Gist, and more. I wish I could have found Alberto Ruiz, design artist, extraordinaire... friend of friends, whom I couldn't find (grr).

And other than that it was a lot of fanboys in costumes (lots of storm troopers, of which I'll spare you the imagery), lots of amazing art for sale and fun toys, neat exhibits and displays, overpriced water and coffee, and cool panels and demonstrations every day. After the overload, Danielle, Court and I spent a day relaxing and sightseeing in Balboa Park where we saw some museums, neat cacti and foliage and got in trouble for helping a gregarious hairy old fella feed 'cheezy poofs' to the exotic fish. --->

We po
sed for some silly photos as per Court's request inlcuding a 'gay frolic', among others. It was a fun day that ended with Court painting a portrait of Danielle while I worked on optimizing some images for my upcoming book.


If you like comics, if you don't care about them but like art or illustration, do something fun and smart and at least attend one Comic Con International in San Diego. It occurrs every summer and if you can prove you're some sort of artist, you can register on their website and get in for free. It's very inspiring and worth your time. I can't imagine not going back at least every other year. And if you think a plane ticket is too expensive, then sign up for a Capital One GoMiles airline rewards credit card, buy all gas and groceries with it for 8 months, and you'll have a free round-trip from anywhere; so no excuses!

Now I'll randomly leave you with a disturbing image of my rubbery skin, large part of the inspiration behind my exaggerations and distorted artwork... sick, isn't it? - (as Borat says)
"I like... is NICE."


Cute vs. Crazy

I've drawn in 10 different theme parks now, and I'm seeing an array of artists, ages, skill levels, experience, styles, approaches, philosophies, customers, and tastes. It's amazing how guests of a Six Flags theme park will often fawn over a drawing that a Sea World guest would outright reject, even take as an insult.

I've also found that with the right attitude, swank and confidence, an artist can pull off whatever they want with a drawing, if you keep the entertainment going. "Selling" a caricature has little to do with the piece of art created in front of you (yes, I said ART), and far more to do with selling yourself. You could call it confidence, you could call it swagger or even arrogant enthusiasm...
whatever you tag it, the attitude you project to the subject of the drawing or onlookers/family is the attitude the drawing is expected to have - or at least as much insurance as you're giving yourself. If (as an artist) you're a safe driver, then you don't need full collision coverage, and if you're a risk-taking exaggerator, you may need more than the soft-spoken minimum liability plan. My new friend Gabe Hunt taught me a lot about attitude and enthusiasm while drawing and selling. I like to concentrate on the art more than the business, however there's so much more you can do when giving yourself padding - cusion of crazy, as I've observed with Gabe. Either way, different situations call for different tactics, but as much as you try to make the customers pleased and happy (if you draw live) - don't forget to take that one bold leap and do something that helps you grow as an artist. Rarely do the drawings that give growth go over well with a paying customer in a conservative cute theme-park, but don't forget why you're doing it.

Here are a couple drawings done at Sea World in San Diego, CA. The first was done early in the day - an extremely cute little baby hanging out with daddy. The same theme asked of a 3 year-old (or so) girl a few hours later, with a different approach. Now even though the first father laughed, thanked, smiled, and purchased the drawing, in true form he kindly returned for a refund. This was truly a sketch-book drawing where I learned a lot, grew a little, and didn't produce the nicest drawing, but I taught him a little, myself a little, and my co-workers a little.. which is worth far more to me and them than the $24.95 refund; whereas the latter was a quick card-trick, small illusion or fun joke that I've told 50 times. Great for them and it made me feel good, but only a passing memory that will wash off. They both have their strong points and positive results and both are important in drawing live.

The 2nd group framed the drawing with enthusiasm, and I'm sure it's hanging in the living room right now. I experimented with the first, failing in some rights, succeeding in others.

I'll have more here soon... to much to sort through, too many drawings and paintings, too little time. I'm thinking of giving up sleep altogether.