MoCCA

Having set up the table way before everyone else, we hard working Australians went to prepare ourselves for big event #1, MoCCA. I had been here 10 years before by myself at a litte card table so it was awesome to be BACK with a major posse as we were this year. We checked out the shindig at the brain popping Desert Island in Brooklyn, which had Jason, Tom Gauld and Matthew Forsythe doing a signing but was rammed and sweaty. How sweaty? This sweaty…

The armoury building is huge and there was a lot of great stuff there, we noticed as we came back in an hour before opening. Some folk had crafted intricate little dioramas, some had fancy banners and lots had beautiful books. A large percentage of people there were from New York or nearby, and there was a mix of real publishers and self-publishers. We were over in the far left corner – the exact opposite side of the room to the large Scandinavian contingent, who were the only group bigger than me, and I was naturally in my all-things-Nordic current state of fixation keen to meet. So here’s the room full of people…

Here’s me and the lovely Jen Breach (turning the wrong way and not shifting units!)…

And here’s a far away view of me manning my post…

Being at a comic festival is a lot like running a market stall but you desperately want to go run around and check out other stalls. I managed to do this a bit on the first day and saw the Nordic panel (couldn’t go up and meet them on the first day as i was wearing a viking t-shirt and this seemed like going up to an Australian table with a toy koala and saying “g’day I make up shit about your country!) and the digital comics panel with Evan Dahm and the Comixology founder – revelations: digital comics aren’t going to destory print and will probably help it become the paper fetish object it should be. At the stall I got my sales pitch down pat “It’s like a heavy metal Asterix” and met a surprising number of Nordic based folk who liked the book. Lots of great folk came by the stall, including comics journos like Jimmy Aquino, Ustralian (plus read this nice piece they wrote on us) and Reid Harris Cooper; the Nords, Karen Green from Columbia University who bought everyone’s books and put them in the Columbia University graphic novel collection; Harvey Pekar’s missus; and the awesome Gina from First Second books. Also bumped into this old mug…

Time flew by both days – you are constantly talking, selling, drawing, doing laps for another purchase or swap and trying to find the things you will never see again. There were a lot of mixed feelings about it – some felt that the festival has lost its soul and the Brooklyn comics’ fest is where it’s at now; certainly you were never really greeted by the organisers or were there any organised exhibitor only parties, like at TCAF. However it’s still an event on the calendar, it’s in frickin New York and it’s a super hero-less comic convention so you can’t complain too hard. Lotsa folk turned up despite the $15 entry fee and bought loads of comics. The Beat did a great wrap up of some of the top buys, and the listed the Caravan’s Dave Blumenstein! (plus you should read Dave’s take on events here – he writes in a more organised fashion than I) There were some incredible self published works there which I wish I could list but all the books I bought I have sent back to Sydney. Pat was getting a big zine-on and kept returning with arms loads of tiny little hand stitched, risographed numbers – I think Scaffold took the cake as most beautiful self published work there…

and for my money The Pterodactyl Hunters (in the Gilded City) from Top Shelf by Brendan Leach was exactly the right book for MoCCA – Cost ten bucks, beautiful drawings and was massive printed on newsprint. Quite a few newsprint numbers popping up around the shop.

Daniel Johnston launched a comic there and played at the party on Saturday night, which was totally rammed and I’m not sure if he rally enjoyed it. I went out drinking with the bad ass Sean Pryor and after leaving Dean Haspiel in some tiny, dark Bruce Springsteen bourbon diner den went to the totally awesome Otto’s Shrunken Head. It’s a fully fitted out tiki bar and there was a big Psychobilly night on. I saw this awesome band which all wore these John Carpenter masks and had so much reverb you couldnt understand anything they said.

And then boom, come Sunday afternoon it was all over after two fast paced days. The Armoury emptied, tables were packed up and we lugged our treasures back to the flat to figure out how we were going to deal with them. The rest of the gang drew postcards as we were supposed to do, but I dragged Ben Hutchings over to Brooklyn to a metal bar called St Vitus to watch the premiere of the next season of Metalocalypse. Highlights: being there, meeting a lot of interested customers, learning how t write my name in Norwegian plus some actual viking facts (plus some lies courtesy of Danish Lars), “the Aussies” all got some attention, I met Mikel Sommer right in the last 15 minutes and getting our books in mofo Columbia University. After this we had two last days in New York to do whatever it was we needed to do, before the Caravan hit the road proper.

NEW YORK BONUS ROUND

So the aforementioned Jimmy Aquino invited me to a live recording of the 400th Comics News Insider podcast up at the Hour Glass Tavern. The invite said Paul Pope, Becky Cloonan, Self Made Hero, Ben Templesmith and more would be there so I was like “guys we gotta go!” assuming it would be this big spacious tavern with a radio booth. I dragged Greg and “the Hawk” up 5 flights of stairs to what a tiny room with 5 chairs in it and ten guests. We promptly retreated to the bar downstairs for beers and sliders (cheeky little burgers – like burgers you can have between burgers) and waited for it to start proper. The first half hour was in-jokes and such, then the interviews started which was cool but then after I’d been back for more beers and had a great chat with Mr Pope and stolen one of Ms Cloonan’s cheeseburgers, the guys on the mike pulled out a copy of Lars and called me up for an interview. Greg gave me a “did you plan this?” look and I went up and did my thing and sat down afterwards with a big old grin. So you can hear it here, warning it’s 2 hours and I’m right at the end. The night descended into whiskeys and that fast blur after anticipation is paid off in trumps, conversation becomes strong and passionate and it all ends too soon. Back at the flat we had an awesome conversation I can’t remember, but that great feeling that we had totally done New York with a big fat tick.

Then it was time to get our ass to Penn Station the next morning…

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next stop… new york

After spending an awesome weekend in Frankfurt with my good friend Marty and his awesome family, eating and drinking heartily, seeing castles, hiding out in boar hunters sheds and discussing the ways of the world at great length I lugged my big bag into another airport and headed to New York for the first stop of the highly anticipated Caravan of comics, the boldest undertaking of a group of Australian cartoonists, ever.

The list is almost too long to spend linking but here’s a pic of most of us at Union Street on our first day. L to R… Sarah Howell, Michael Hawkins, yours truly, Pat Grant, John Retallick, Andrew Fulton and Mandy Ord. Dave Blumenstein was taking the photo and Ben Hutchings was off checking his email, so you’ll have to google them.

To get our bearings straight we went bowling and spent the proceedings of our Sydney fundraiser event in a vital team building exercise. I then backed up a solid session in which I had my best and worst games one after another by meeting my buddy, Johnny, to go play shuffelboard and listen to jazz (yes at the same time, amidst a swarm of west village fratboys playing tablesoccer and ping pong as well. The band played my song and I could think about my lady, bravely battling her way through the swarms of Delhi with our son in tow. Johnny showed me where to get the best slice and after a fond farewell, I ended up getting locked out of my flat and turned around and went back to Johnny’s to crash on his couch.

The next day we earned some major adventure points by busting over to Staten Island to do an instore drawing session at Comic Book Jones, a great store run by a really friendly bunch of dudes, and apparently Evan Dorkin’s local. It was new order arrival day so all afternoon local dudes were popping in to clear out their standing orders and see what we were up to. We ended up drawing there for 5 hours or so. Pat, Greg, Andrew and I did random drawing challenges – 5 minute wonder woman, 10 minute green lantern just to mix it up. The store itself had a really well picked range of super hero and independent titles, a great vibe, and its strip mall location between a chicken shop and a pizza place was really cool – like comic book shops were totally normal and should just slot into any suburban mall. We had an incredible cab driver to take us down to a bar afterwards, he was a bit Travis Bickle with his mohawk and general bug eyed insanity but when we started talking about Australia he said “That Steve Irwin, he’s a real fuckin idiot, y’know… I coulda told him that you fuck around with a fuckin stingray… that thing’s gonna kill ya, right? And you guys got dem bear in trees, right?” He was awesome and scary all at once. If you ever go, the ferry to Staten Island is very impressive – its enormous, free and cruises right past the Statue of Liberty. Here’s my view from the drawing table and my first drawing of japanese green lantern.

The next day was time to bump in for the festival. We managed to pick an apartment that was exactly across the road from MoCCA which was quite very conveniant so there was no schlepping across town. Next post will be all about MoCCA so to tide you over here’s a picture of what an empty comic book convention looks like. Feel the anticipation build…

 

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berlin – spree park

Due to popular demand from people here’s my picks from Spree Park. On my last day in Berlin, my art school buddy, Ed, took me on a bike tour around Kreuzberg area and beyond. I had been told about this place and even seen it in the movie Hanna , and in my current desire to see modernity in decay it was a must-see. The park was a GDR themepark, and was the only constant amusement park in East Berlin. However due to financial problems and a drug deal gone wrong it closed its gates in 2002. You can read the history of the park here. In the ten years it has been shut it has fallen to rack and ruin, an OHS nightmare and a Hipstamatic user’s wet dream. I had been warned about the security guards, and even though it is open to the public on Sundays I didn’t have a Sunday left so we needed to jump the fence.

I think the photos below tell the story but once you get over the fear of being busted by security, it is then the true creepiness of the place can really sink in. It was a place of absoute stillness – much like Canberra on a sunday afternoon, and the only sound you could hear was the eerie creaking of the ferris wheel. The design of the rides is pretty unique too – cute, meets scary meets dinosaurs. You can imagine how stoked I was to see a decaying haunted viking ship there. There was heaps more to the park to see but i had other GDR ruins to see and a practically named german beer to drink. Enjoy, and if you’re in Berlin, cycle round the lake and jump the fence. Here’s instructions on how to get there.

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pictoplasma 2012

I’d always wanted to come to Pictoplasma, I’ve got lots of their books and after all… they have changed the face of character design and art irreparably. So now here I was finding my way to the .HBC to get the pink wristband I’d wear for the next four days to give me access to a staggering amount of talks, films and workshops, with artists such as Pleix, Grant Orchard, Nathan Jurevicius, Gary Baseman and more. Each year they always have the next wave of character designers talking and this year’s lineup too was a cracker.

Each year begins with the Character Walk – this was a series of 15 exhibitions by artists from the conference, dotted in a big loop around the Alexander Platz/Rosenthaler Platz area. When i showed the map to my friend Ray, he said “wow, that looks like it’s made by a graphic designer” – it was a bit minimal but very attractive – and whilst I overshot the mark by a few block on the first location, soon I was threading my way through the back streets of Hackescher Markt, finding heaps of other cool places I want to go back to – yes that’s you I’m looking at Gestalten bookshop. I also saw a shop the specialises in selling bells of all kinds (aaah germany, you crazy thing).

Big faves for me were Ben Newman’s show of Masks (I snuck back and bought a litho print), Joshua Ben Longo’s felt creatures and also some cool drawings he did and seeing Mark Gmehling’s beautifully rendered forms up big – I had only ever seen these things as little jpegs. All the shows were great though, check the program. Later in the afternoon the beers started flowing at every venue, artists were everywhere and the excitement was building. Having worked my way back from a dusty start to the day, I called it quits on high after Pleix’s great interactive installation and went back to my room to rest up for Day 1.

Day 1: began with 2 hours of screenings (I saw about 60 films all up so will post some of the highlights in another post). Mark Gmehling was first up to bat – talking through his  life of coming from teenage graff writer to 3D solo artist. I was lucky enough to do a Cinema 4D workshop with him where he showed an audience of half “newbies”/half 3d users, just how elegantly and simply you can twist nurbs into beautiful 3D characters. I can’t say I mastered Cinema 4D in 2 hours but I got a good taste for how to make some stuff applicable to my needs without having to learn some crazy Pixar action.

After that was Joel Trussell, whose life has taken many twists and turns and has gone from making crazy videos for Kid 606 with pieces of fruit to just recently directing 20 full length episodes of an animated series for Tom Hanks. After this came Australia’s reigning vinyl champ, Nathan J, and Oscar nominated animator for Studio AKA, Grant Orchard. He had a major turning point when he took off 3 months sabbatical, which is always nice to hear, and his latest short film, A Morning Stroll, is quite great. I missed the last three talks unfortunately but was lucky to hang out with Aaron Leighton (Uppercase mag) and Lucas Zanotto at the closing party and they are both top guys (really sorry about the lack of negative reviews so far… but you might not find any later on either).

Day 2: more great screenings – madly scribbling down notes in my program. One thing hit me sitting there is just how much better it was watching these films on the big screen in a relaxed viewing situation then as little web previews in stolen moments during a work day. Even things I’d seen before were given full justice.

After we crowd surfed Florentijn Hofman’s big inflatable duck…

I saw Pleix explain their slick French communal ways and then went to a talk Nathan J gave about Indie Game development, outlining the stages behind the Scarygirl in its several incantations and his new Latvian owl inspired game “Paleda” – although as he says “I was into owls since before they were cool.” Having done quite a bit of digital media assessment it was cool seeing someone who loves games and art putting them together in a way which was good, and making games which actually worked rather than them seeing like an add-on. His work and characters sprawling through a variety of mediums from vinyl toys to movies to graphic novels in several countries all of which he somehow steers them from his ornate treehouse studio (I imagine) in Toronto.

After this I did a live drawing class with sound designer, David Kamp, where he would play soundtracks to imaginary creatures and we would have to draw them. Like any life drawing class – there were long and short poses, we knocked out 9 creatures over 2 hours and I can safely say I’ve never done anything like that before. This is my hairy tusked pig creature from Sound Drawing #18…

The night ended with talks by Ben Newman (Nobrow), Animade (who are hilarious) and resident Mexican artist Melissa Godoy Nieto. In the foyer Joshua Ben Longo and a small craft army were building the Biggest Feltmonster Ever and as it took form the excitement of the festival was becoming palpable. One amazing thing about this festival was just how approachable everyone was – I had drinks, conversations and good times with many of the speakers there as well as other visiting artists and animators and it was all totally normal. Y’know like it should be.

Day 3: French illustrators Sauerkids and German Illustration Institution, Henning Wagenbreth, started the proceedings on Day after another big morning of screenings. I was workshopped out by this point and just let the last 6 speakers wash over me, ducking out for coffees with fellow Aussie, Alex Grigg, and beers with Mikey Please. Gemma Correll, showed how you can be nice and shy and rule the world drawing little pugs; Jeanspezial, are like a French Wu-tang collective of stoner surrealist character art; Joshua Ben Longo, was exhausted from building his huge felt monster but still an irrepressible ball of enthusiasm offering “Love what you’re doing… don’t fucking stop…. and when someone asks what you do, lie with a smile and make its sound heaps better than it is.” as his takeaway advice. Femke Hiemstra, from Holland, closed the conference with a jaw dropping detailed insight into her process and crazy detail seeing her tiny paintings blown up so big behind her.

And then, BOOM! it was over. The night rolled into the after party – it was crowded, dark and loud. Backs were slapped, rounds were bought and the vibe was great. I dont know how Peter and Lars, the organisers, do it year after year, when most people would be happy to organise just one conference like this. But they are the heroes of the character world, toiling at the coal face, bringing together the players from this weird little world I work in, pulling them out of their studios, bedrooms and shoeboxes to get totally hyped and share that excitement. So much good times. I got out of there about 4am, inspired as hell but too tired to draw.

best.conference.ever.

 

 

 

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next stop… berlin

Flying via Dusseldorf, I arrive at midnight in Berlin and pull up at the Michelberger hotel in Kreuzberg and finally feel out of my comfort zone. Dealing with the moustachioed man at the front desk who spoke no english, really hit home that I had made it through all the packing and planning of previous few months and was now TOTALLY OVERSEAS.

Alco-Installation at the hotel bar

Kreuzberg is one of the hip, arty suburbs undergoing gentrification, but that is normally the sort of suburb you’ll find someone like me in. I had the first day to myself so did a free walking tour of the street art and galleries with this nice guy, Mike. I had been planning on doing the red bus one, but this one was far more up my alley, gave me my bearings around the area and gave me a sense of how serious these guys are about the street art thing. Melbourne doesn’t have shit on Berlin. We saw the former glory of Tacheles, walked through the Hackescher Markt, Mitte and around Alexander Platz.

Mike

Berlin is, maybe now in a more organised and less squat focussed way than before, a punk rock city. It’s full of people getting DIY, setting up bars and galleries wherever they want, painting and stencilling all over the town. It is covered in graffiti, there’s almost no point trying to photograph it all. It also has a tonne of awesome book stores which I’ve been really careful not to start just buying things at – the number of books I’m gonna see on this tour is going to push my luggage limits. I might need to start strapping them to me when I get on some flights.

Later I met up with my friend, Ed, from art school and having thought I was so clever avoiding jet lag with my stopover managed to recreate the same feeling after a good long session of “catching up.” This left me a bit dusty and overwhelmed waking up to the towering, pink, multi-headed beast that is the Pictoplasma conference the next day…

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first stop… dubai

Being the international man of mystery I am, I’m lucky enough to have a sister in Dubai to stop off and visit which broke the first leg up nicely. My sister and brother-in-law happen to run the fabulous Capital D studio, which if you happen to be at a loss as to where to plan your next Arabic fashion shoot, well there you go. This was my second time here so had no agenda to see the modern shopping pyramids, so jumped in the cab and whizzed straight to Mez’s house…

And got in some good times drawing zombies and vikings and viking zombies with my rad nephew and niece, Wolf and Leila.

I think we workshopped the images well. The kids are gonna be okay.

I would’ve loved to stay longer, but the plane ticket said “NO!”. My job as uncle-who-can-draw done I gathered my junk and set off to Germany…

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settin’ off on a caravan of comics

Well next week I’m setting off on a 4 1/2 month sabbatical, which is gonna take me to Pictoplasma in Berlin, working at Superfad in LA and also setting off on the great Australian comics road trip as part of the Caravan of Comics with a scarily talented bunch of Aussie cartoonists.

There are 11 artists and one comics journalist on board. Check the honour roll on our site and if you are suitably wowed there is still time to kick in for our Indiegogo supporter page. It’s basically gonna be history in the making as roll through MoCCA, present at CCS, drop the bomb at TCAF, and roll on down the road to Quimby’s in Chicago, and more.

It’s basically history in the making. Get on board.

And here’s a rad group portrait fellow caravaner, Douglas Holgate, drew…

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more gold from the archives

Cleaning out a lot of old gold in preparation for moving out while we go O/S (more about this soon). And found this gem. Seems like everything I knew about vikings, I learned by age 8.

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what next pt 2 – Storm Surfers

Been doing a cool project at work. Its some illustrated sequences for Storm Surfers documentary thats coming out soon. It follows Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, two Aussie old school surf legends who now in their middle age chase giant waves round the world. These frames will fill in undocumented chapters of their life and will be finally scene in 3D IMAX, which may be the ever I see my drawings. We’r adding slight camera moves to the illustrations to give depth but not so much that they try to become animation, ya dig?

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what next pt1

ok so as I crawl out from under my post-lars rock, here are some new things I’ve been working on.

First is a poster for upcoming tour for Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro, a Japanese funk band who will be touring Oz in January. Get info here…

And then here’s some stickers for good ole’ sixty40

 

 And here’s a drawing of a lost fashion impresario/vedic meditation cult member.

Thats it for this week. Next week will be launching the Lars mini site and more explorations coming up.

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