OSU Festival of Cartoon Art – 2013

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013

This weekend was the Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State University. It was also the grand opening of the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. It was a tremendous weekend, and I thought I’d share a bit of the experience.

I arrived Friday evening, so I missed both the academic presentations and the ribbon cutting, but my flight was good and I had copious legroom, so I can’t complain.

I stayed at the Blackwell Inn which is where I believe the event was held when my wife and I first attended 12 years ago. Three years ago I found the shuttle buses were often late, and the Blackwell is just a short walk so I could come and go as I pleased. If you can get a room for the next festival I’d highly recommend it.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast at McDonald’s, I checked in and almost immediately ran into Rich Diesslin and we chatted for a bit. Then I found Stacy Curtis and his wife and we caught up over coffee. After that it was time to get things rolling with the presentation of the until recently dormant Elzie Segar Award to Lucy Shelton Caswell. And not only did she get a lovely statuette, but a standing ovation from the appreciative audience. Congrats, Lucy!

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Lucy Shelton Caswell
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Elzie Segar Award

After that it was on to hear the first speaker of the day, editorial cartoonist Matt Bors. While I’ve certainly become more aware of Bors’ work in recent years, I haven’t made the time to really dig into it, so I was glad to get the opportunity. I very much enjoyed how Bors is, as he put it, “inspired but the urge to call bullshit.” And I especially appreciated how he strives to avoid the standard low hanging fruit type gags.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Matt Bors

Between speakers I got to say hello to old friend Tom Stemmle and his wife who was snapping pictures. It’s always so nice to see them, and the Mrs. usually mails out photos. I can’t wait to see them!

Next up was Eddie Campbell, another artist whose work I’m not familiar with, but, again, he was an entertaining speaker. His comic and video about his encounter with the possibly fictitious insect, the Snooter, was a highlight. Well, except for the rectal exam part. (I really hope that bug is fictitious.)

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Eddie Campbell

After Campbell I had a reasonable lunch and then gorged myself at the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. There’s so much incredible material on display that I was overwhelmed. Honestly, I teared up a bit while taking in a Watterson watercolor. This beautiful new facility and its contents has to been seen to be believed. Enjoy this small sampling:

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum 1
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum 2
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Art Glass
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Reading Room
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum 3
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Bill Watterson 1
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Peter Arno
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Ernie Bushmiller
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Walt Kelly
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Will Eisner
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum George Booth
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Lynn Johnston
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Hulk
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Sergio Aragones
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum John Byrne
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Jack Davis
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Carl Barks
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Bill Watterson 2
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Winsor McCay

It was at the museum that I ran into Chris Sparks, editor of the Team Cul de Sac book. He and I chatted about the exhibit and I signed a few Team Cul de Sac books for him, immediately lowering their values. I was so happy to be able to be part of that book, and I’m certainly feeling Richard Thompson‘s absence at the festival this year. I’ve heard there’s going to be a combined show of Watterson and Thompson here next year. I’m going to have to figure out a way to come see it.

I headed back over to the Wexner center to hear Stephan Pastis speak when I ran into cartoony pal Maria Scrivan. While her very patient husband read nearby, Maria and I talked business, success, failures, editor/spouses and more. It was so much fun that I ended up being late to Pastis’ talk. My apologies to the people I stepped on while finding my seat. I’m an oaf.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stephan Pastis

I don’t know if it was coming after similarly structured chats from Bors and Campbell, but I was hoping for less of a general audience aimed talk from Pastis and something meatier for the largely cartoonist audience. Still, it was entertaining, the hate mail stories are amazing, and the Cathy Guisewite naked Twister story is a real gem. (I’m not making that up.)

Following a short break we got to see the first real screening of the new documentary, Stripped, by Dave Kellett and Fred Schroeder. It’s really a love letter to the craft of cartooning and its creators. There are plenty of laughs, a lot of head-nodding-in-agreement moments, and even some very rare audio of Watterson himself talking cartoons.

The end of the film dealt more with the future of traditional comic strips and the promise of webcomics and their business model, which I found interesting, but I admit I would’ve liked to hear more than this one possible way forward.

They answered questions afterward, many of which dealt with the print to web transition. It got me thinking, are there any ‘old school’ comic strips that are in the process of or have successfully transitioned/embraced the web-centered paradigm? It feels to me like there’s a very sharp line between traditional print comics and web comics. Am I missing someone? I wonder what will happen to current print cartoonists when the newspaper model finally hits bottom.

One more thing about the film – I know the focus is on the comic strip genre, but I would’ve liked to have seen at least a small representation of gag cartoonists and editorial cartoonists as well. But, there are lots of things I’d like that don’t necessarily happen, and I can understand their need to target just the one discipline.

After that it was back to the Blackwell where I ordered pizza from a small local pizzeria (I’m in a college town after all!) and took time to type up the first day. I opted out of the Hernandez brothers presentation that evening as I ran out of steam and just wanted to enjoy my pizza in my Tabasco pajamas while watching the last half of Blade 2. It’s not pretty, but, hey, it’s honest.

The next day I got up, had breakfast and headed over to the Billy Ireland Museum for a behind the scenes tour of the stacks. It did not disappoint. The amount of material carefully and loving archived here is unbelievable. I joked with another tour attendee that I might try to hide so I could stay behind and bask in all the cartoony goodness, but I was only half joking.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stacks 1
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stacks 2
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stacks 3
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stacks 4
OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Stacks 5

I think when Andertoons is all said and done, this would probably be the place the send all my originals and stuff. They can use them as coasters or scratch paper or something.

After some writing and a quick lunch, it was on to Brian Basset’s talk. An OSU grad, he talked about his early career as an editorial cartoonist, his first strip, Adam@Home, and his other strip Red and Rover. He detailed his love of drawing body language, how he portrays his older brother in the strip, and how difficult it is to maintain Rover as a real dog.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Brian Basset

Up next was Amulet‘s Kazu Kibuishi. I was quite excited to hear his talk and was very impressed. Both the boy and I adore his Amulet series, and Kibuishi had lots of art and process to share. He also shared a hilarious story about his near-death encounter with a Murphy bed, talked about how he sees himself more as a teachers aid encouraging kids to read, and then wowed the audience by taking questions while creating a painting on his laptop in real time. Amazing.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Kazu Kibuishi

Finishing things up was Bone’s Jeff Smith who shared six of his favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons. It was so great to see them in 35mm with an audience. A true joy and what a perfect “That’s all, folks!” for the weekend.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Jeff Smith

Then it was a ride to the airport to see if I could get a flight home. My original flight was cancelled, but Chance at the United desk worked hard to get me reserved on two possible flights. I had dinner, grabbed some candy, found a seat where I could plug in my phone, and finished up this blog. Thankfully, I was able to get home safe, sound, and reasonably on time.

OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2013 - Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Blog & Beer

A big thanks to everyone involved at the Billy Ireland for putting together another fantastic event, a big thanks to the good folks at United for getting me home (eventually), and the biggest thanks to the Mrs. for taking the full brunt of the kids for the weekend. I’m looking forward to the next Festival of Cartoon Art in 2016.

If you’re interested, here’s my 2010 and  2007 (part 12 & 3) blogs on the festival.

2010 OSU Festival of Cartoon Art

osu festival 2010

So this weekend was the 10th OSU Festival of Cartoon Art and despite some small logistical issues it was a lot of fun.

Starting us off was Agnes‘ Tony Cochran explaining his path to a daily strip. (“How hard can it be?!”)

Next up was Slowpoke cartoonist Jen Sorensen who revealed her secret formula for viral cartoon success: Palin, Obama, and iPhones.

Sheldon‘s Dave Kellett spoke about webcomics’ counterintuitive business model. And I agree that the familiar “I don’t want to learn about business” refrain is a bulls#!t copout.

Paul Levitz showed off the new DC 75th Anniversary book (note to buyers – reinforce your shelves), and James Sturm discussed his process and the Center for Cartoon Studies. I unfortunately missed Dan Piraro’s talk.

The following day, editorial cartoonist Steve Breen assembled a Clinton caricature in office supplies, and explained the hazards of the Titanic metaphor.

Jan Eliot hosted a Stone Soup book club, and read some letters from readers who obviously have too much time on their hands.

Gene Yang explained some of his great book, American Born Chinese, and how the Monkey King loves to pee on everything and everyone.

Roz Chast brought the afternoon to a hilarious close showcasing her brilliant work.

And last, but certainly not least, Simpsons, Futurama and Life in Hell creator, Matt Groening, chatted the evening away with Tom Gamill and graciously avoided the onslaught of signature requests during Q&A.

Plus I got to hang out with inky pals Mike Lynch, Richard Thompson, Eddie Pittman, Benita Epstein, Stephanie Piro, Mike Cope, Stacy Curtis, Tom Stemmle, and scads of others. What a great time!

Now it’s back to the ol’ cartoony grind. Just three more years to wait for the next festival.

OSU Wrap Up

Sorry, for the late post here, but getting caught up over the past two days has kept me busy. Throw in a washer giving up the sudsy ghost and… well…

Anyway, I thought a good way to finalize my thoughts on the 2007 OSU Festival of Cartoon Art would be to reply to the evaluation here at the blog. (I’ll also send it in of course.)

What did you enjoy about the festival?

I think the thing I liked most was just hanging with cartoonists en masse for a few days and recharging my cartoony batteries. I met so people I’d “met” online, but never in person, and it was particularly exciting for me that so many folks seemed to know who I was. Ego to power, inspiration to speed! (Cue MarkMan music!)

Were the presentations of interest to you? Why or why not?

To be honest, I did skip a few to get some time relaxing back up in my room, but I mostly attended everything, and it was generally all very good. I can think of a few speakers that didn’t exactly float my boat, but when you contrast that with some absolutely out of this world speakers, it more than balances out. I thought the topics were nicely varied, and there was even some tech for toony geeks like me!

What did you think about the exhibitions?

The stuff at the cartoon library was probably my favorite as it showed a lot of Caniff other than Terry and the Pirates (loved the letters!), but it’s hard to complain about big original Caniff over at the reception. All in all, very nice. And the library tour was great!

What did you think about the schedule? Did each speaker have enough time? Where the question and answer sessions long enough?

I thought the schedule was fine and I was very impressed by by how on-time everything was kept.

Who would you like to have as speakers at future events sponsored by the Cartoon Research Library?

I think a panel of independent cartoonists would be interesting. Be they gag, web, whatever, but cartoonists who don’t work for a syndicate, newspaper, etc… I wanna see people entirely self-sufficient.

Did you enjoy being at the Renaissance for the conference? Why or why not?

I enjoyed it immensely. The accomodations were great, and being able to skip a presentation here or there to relax and/or catch up on work in my work was fantastic!

Any suggestions or ideas?

Perhaps some tables in back with outlets for laptops jockeys like myself?

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OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2007 – Day Two

8:55 – Just finished up having coffee and a croissant with Stephanie Piro, Anne Gibbons, Sandra Bell-Lundy, Stacy Curtis, Kim Warp and a bunch of other folks. Lots of talk of people who want you to illustrate their children’s books, people who want cartoons for free, and other cartooning annoyances.

9:00 – Quick look around and other than the sound guy, I think I’m the only one here on a laptop. Weird…

9:07 – OK, here come the graphic novel publishers. Looks like it’s gonna be a fair amount of Q&A. I wonder if I can come up with anything that even sounds semi-intelligent. The Diana Schutz is beginning and is giving a little history of DH. David Saylor from Scholastic is giving a little background on book clubs, book fairs, and the like. Talking about reading a lot of comics when he was a kid and rediscovering them later. Telling about Bone’s recent success. The Babysitter’s Club books are being made into graphic novels/comics now. Talk about full circle considering the books’ author is Henry Martin’s daughter. (Any way I can turn that into an intelligent question?!) Gary Groth from Fantagraphics is speaking now about The Comics Journal, Love and Rockets, Crumb, etc… Lucy asks if “we’re stuck with the term ‘graphic novel?'” Groth answers that he’s not fond of it and sees it as a marketing term, but all agree that we seem to be stuck with it. Lucy asks about the mainstream media’s acceptance of the form. Schutz and Groth agree that there simply needed to be enough material for publishers/retailers to create the ‘graphic novel’ category. Lucy asks about manga’s influence. Groth suggests manga is 80% of the graphic novel market and 20% is everything else, and, largely, the two groups almost never overlap in readership. Lucy asks about finding new talent. Saylor says he gets a lot of recommendations from other artists, and a lot from word of mouth. Groth says he sees a lot via press conventions. Schutz agrees with both and discusses “overnight success” being years of really really hard work. I wonder if I could come up with a coherent question about humor books. A guy asks about web piracy. Saylor says “piracy sucks,” and Groth suggests that it’s difficult to stop isn’t really concerned about it. He comments on the sort of free promotion aspect of it too; promotion they don’t necessarily have to be involved in. I wish I’d asked about longer form humor, but I never go the chance. Oh well…

10:00 – Back up the room for a laptop recharge and some more coffee.

11:00 – Ray Billingsley – Speaking about his family and early inspirations. Telling a story about finding a girl in his brother’s bed, early experiences with vodka/asthma, and hiding scrambled eggs in his brother’s pants. Talking about how cartooning saved him from problems his friends had fallen prey to. Ray’s a really good speaker; he’s got the crowd very much in his hand. I was on a panel with Ray a while back that Mike Lynch put together and he was such a nice guy. Lucy made mention of some recent illness, but Ray seems to be feeling well and having fun. Talking about meeting Mort Walker while sporting a giant afro. Curtis is his second strip. A lot about working hard and rejection. Discussing working Kwanzaa into the strip. On mentor, teacher & friend Eisner, lovingly, “that brother was never moved by anything I did.” Talking about an early play-writing class and his interest in storytelling. I want to ask “where’s the Curtis collections?” Ray just mentioned “if I had a book thing I’d show you, but I don’t” and you can tell… Oop! Someone just asked about books! Regarding himself and other black cartoonists “we don’t get the same sort of respect, we don’t get the same opportunities…” You can tell Ray’s upset by the lack of a book deal. Mentions Boondocks and says “…it reinforced the stereotype of the angry black man.” Mort Walker asks about Ray’s gallbladder attack, Ray says you will see it in the strip; lots of laughs. Class act all the way, really really fun presentation. You can tell that people could keep asking questions and Ray could keep telling stories for a good long time. Discussing designing a character, Derek, via a simple circle with Schulz. Telling a story about his barber grandfather cutting off his afro. Talking about moving from Wake Forest to Harlem as a boy. Lucy asks about controversial strips. Ray explains “The Stinky Middle Finger” story line. Now a story about Curtis meeting a rabbi and the mail that ensued. Story about defending himself against angry people on a radio call-in show. Resounding applause for Ray, and well-deserved.

12:00 – Mike Peters – I’ve been a fan of Peters for a long time. I stole my thick line from him and I just love that look. Begins by discussing showing up at the wrong building, forgetting his slides and notes, trying to get into the cartoon library, driving over to the hotel to give his speech… funny! Exuberant is the word. Talking about being dyslexic before being dyslexic was cool. I’ve never seen Mike speak before, but you can tell he’s really comfortable in front of a crowd. Explaining avoiding nuns over summer break. Telling story about his mother who had a TV show in St. Louis growing up and being “little Mike.” Story about having his hair cut in front of everyone in military school and realizing only later that he was supposed to be embarrassed. Talking about the “bricks” that make you into a cartoonist. Discussing potentially flunking out of art school while dating the dean of students’ daughter and the advice he got. Onto showing cartoons… Tells a story about coming up with cartoon ideas. The space shuttle, its plane, and the Wright Brothers and how he almost missed doing that cartoon while trying to come up with a Kissinger gag. Explaining brainstorming and his spoked wheel approach. Remembering the OJ trial and Ito mentioning one of his cartoons on TV and discussing it with the jury. Wow, Peters is a hoot! I’ve heard people described as a “strong cup of coffee,” and I think that applies to Mike. What fun! Showing his favorite cartoons now. I’m gonna tape this… I’ll try to post it in a day or two.

2:00 – OK I’m back, Nick Anderson is starting now. Mentions he went here to Ohio State; neat! Showing an x-ray of his recently broken thumb. Showing a pic of his Cintiq. Showing a video from his blog showing how he managed to draw with a broken hand. Hey, another cartoonist with a blog! Discussing the evolution of cartoon technology: erasing pencils, a light box, etc… Showing his process technologically. I wonder how many people in the audience think this is space age stuff. The presentation is really nicely done. I’m assuming in Keynote. Talking about hiding his childrens’ names in his cartoons. Says it remind him of what’s important every day. OK, so why use this technology? Nick explains it’s a huge time saver and he’s got a lot to get done. Nick’s responsible for policing his blog’s comments?! Yeesh! Says editorial cartoonists are graphic storytellers, but it takes place over a long period of time little by little. Nice point. Showing some older art. Some really great stuff. Now onto animation; cool! Ahh… they have someone do the animation FOR him. Oop, he’s in powerpoint? On a Mac? OK, after some tech problems, he’s got some animated stuff for us to see now. Showing a sort of Flash video game/cartoon. That’s is freakin’ fantastic! What a great idea! I dunno that you could do that every day, but still… God this SO makes me want to do some Flash! VERY cool stuff. Showing us the process. Now some simpler animations. Man oh man, neat stuff. I wonder how other editorial cartoons feel about these? Showing some 3D animation stuff in Maya. I’m less impressed with the “My Humps” thingy, but, wow, you gotta admire the stretching the boundaries of the medium. Just played a take-off on Feel Good Inc.. I’m not sure these longer animations are as effective, but holy cow, this is really some forward thinking. I wonder if he has to get permissions for all of these songs and photos? Mentions he has to do a lot himself to get this stuff to work. I want to ask a question about permissions, I’ll see if we have time. Showing some Painter stuff live. Hooray, I got to ask my permissions question, and my heart didn’t jump out of my chest. Seemed like Nick thought it was an intelligent question. (Hooray for me!) OK, I gotta check out Nick’s site and get more knowledgeable about his stuff. Perhaps a kindred soul. Harvey asked about the whole Pulitzer thing, Nick gives a good answer. Looks like we’re finishing up questions. Wow, what a GREAT presentation. I would so love to see a whole festival based around this sort of thing!

3:00 – Back in my room for a break and realized I forgot to get a pic at the Nick Anderson thing. Grr! But I did get a chance to talk to Groth outside the room about the potential for longer form humor. Felt like I got sort of a blow-off answer, but I’m sure this guy’s getting deluged with people hassling him. Anyway, he suggested I check out some Peter Bagge, and I really should. See you at 3:45.

3:50 – Alison Bechdel – OK, got a fresh charge on the laptop and I’m ready to go. Alison is starting out with Dykes to Watch Out For. Said part of the appeal for her 25 years was that comics were soothingly obscure and she could void criticism. Asking herself why she does this: she doesn’t want to bore people and this gets her info across quickly and effectively. “It’s easier to read a cartoon than to not read it.” Wanted to see herself and her generation in a comic. Talks about self-syndication in the 80’s. Able to do this full-time by the time she was 30. Explains the very wide nature of her strip. Looking at some really great art. I so love stuff like this in only black and white. I could never command crosshatching and larger black areas this well. Beginning to discuss Fun Home. Wow, some amazing art. A book I really need to make some time to explore. Comments it was interesting to write something with a concrete end, unlike an ongoing strip. On to the technical process. Showing an example of her handwriting font. Writes in Illustrator, drawing empty boxes, and placing text first. Neat idea! Gotta remember this. Prints it out and does pencil sketches. Showing some family photos. Does shading on a separate piece of paper. Curious to hear why later. Neat video of her doing the watercolor shading on a light desk over the line art. Takes a lot of photos for reference. Says she’s become more and more photo dependent. Wow some really neat stuff here, and inspiring too. Again I’m wondering if a graphic novel is something I should consider?! Now a reading from the book. Could I do a book telling an entire story in gag cartoons? Could you do a narrative that way? Wow, a kinda low key, but thoroughly engaging presentation. Questions now. Book took 7 years to finish. Holy ka-moley! Did it off and on while doing her strip. Says her new memoir is going badly and she shouldn’t even be here. Doing a lot of self-psychoanalytic research now. “Sounds like fun, huh?” Says she’s trying work from photos more loosely now. Question about her blog. Says she needs to be in the right mood for such immediate feedback but that its often inspiring and she likes it. Another blogger. Speaking about the bleaker landscape for selling Dykes. Says “Fun Home” isn’t really therapy for herself. Question about issues with her family regarding the book. “They weren’t so keen on it.” Not the “after-school special fantasy” she hoped for. Says her family doesn’t talk about the book. Wow, another really good presentation. Today was chock full of good stuff.

9:00 – Just got back from dinner with everyone and had a great time. I know everyone is meeting in the bar downstairs, but I think I’m just gonna kick back, maybe watch a movie, let my feet breathe, and get ready to fly out at an ungodly hour in the morning. I figure I’ll write sort of a nice wrap-up tomorrow or the next day.

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