Friday, June 22, 2012

My ICON Wrap Up

Last week I was in  Providence, RI working as a volunteer at ICON7. For those who don't know, ICON or the Illustration Conference is a BI-Annual event where illustrators and art directors get together and discuss the illustration industry. As a volunteer I was placed at the registration desk, and in return I was able to see a few of the events and lectures. But I wasn’t the only one who worked to get ICON up and moving; there were many other volunteers who each were amazing, talented, and the most motivated people I have ever met. I can honestly say that some of these people will likely be running ICON as board members in the future.

Most of the first two days were devoted to the front desk checking in the attendees. This was actually the coolest job I have ever done. Was it a tough task? You bet. Did I miss a few workshops? Sure. But I got to meet some of the best illustrators in the industry. Most of the illustrators I know and love were hidden behind their work and I didn’t have a face to match their name, but now I do.  Which is the point of the conference.

At one point I made it on stage with Rachael Cole to help present the winners of a few raffles. Well, I walked out and held stuff, then walked off. I told everyone afterward that I was Vanna White and this is how I look in real life.

Outside of working the event, I did get to see some great lectures that have only  strengthened  my resolve to be the best illustrator I can be. Below are summaries of three talks that had a lot of influence on me:

Opening Ceremonies: President John Hendrix.
John (who was one of a few professors who spent 2 year guiding me through WUSTL’s illustration program) gave an inspiring introduction to ICON with “This IS Culture.” In the opening remarks, John’s witty talk discussed how illustration is not pop-culture, but it is culture. Illustration is communication. Illustration is meaning. Illustration has the power to shape history. He also mentioned that illustrators are not just individuals working alone, but rather are community who work and learn better together.

What I gathered from John’s lecture is that Illustrators are the visual translators of culture all over the world.

Six years in the Black: Idiot’s Books
Idiot’s Books are a collaboration between writer Matthew Swanson and illustrator Robbi Behr. The husband and wife team gave a hilariously great lecture on what it is like to take risk, work hard, and do what you love. The two left their comfortable lives and secure jobs to start Idiot’s Books. Aware of the potential of failing they created a subscription-based system that would keep them motivated and generating content. Fear of disappointing their customers forced them to stay on task, which ultimately brought more subscribers and success.
I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Robbi. She explained to me that while she was in school she struggled to work in specific styles that came so natural to others. Robbi explained that it just wasn’t as fun, so she decided just to draw how she draws and now enjoys her work. This was what I really needed to hear. She was able to express how I feel about my own work in just a few sentences.

Of course I bought a few of their books. They are hilarious and I strongly recommend them to everyone. 

Seen Through a Sketchbook: John Cuneo, Marcellus Hall, Jillian Tamaki. Moderated by John Hendrix.
The point of this lecture was to give insight on how some artists use sketchbooks to further their work. They each explained how they use sketchbooks to try new things, to fail, and to make bad drawings. They collectively pointed out that sketchbooks could be used as a piece of the process on making their work better.

However, John Cuneo somewhat stole the show. His fast passed speech and funny, yet neurotic view of himself and his work is something to talk about. As he displayed his work on the screen he rapidly threw quips at himself. It was apparent that he is the external personification of my inner self. The inner self I try to not let people know exists (well unless you really know me because I bitch a lot).

There were many other great lectures that I wish I had time to go through, but I don’t. Plus if you are an illustrator you should have went because you missed a lot. You also missed this:

Onstage at ICON with a few friends and Monsters

I wanted to say a quick thanks to all the Board Members: John Hendrix, Troy Doolittle, Jaime Zollars, Soojin Buzelli, Robert Brinkerhoff, Rachael Cole, Chrystal Falcioni, Thomas James, Mark Todd, Kyle Webster, Ellen Weinstein, Mark Heflin, Melanie Reim, Leeane Khalique, Lorraine Frazier, and JJ Stratford. Also all of the other volunteers whom I hope to keep in contact with. Thank you all for making ICON7 so amazing! 

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