So that was TCAF 2011. My third TCAF now and, again, a wonderful experience. I've only just got back and I'm still a little jetlagged but I wanted to throw some thoughts up here while they're still fresh in my memory.
It all kicked off with a dream panel on Friday night which saw Chester Brown, Seth, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine talk about their work, the state of comics and generally be charming and funny panelists who are clearly very comfortable with each other. I think someone should make a reality TV series in which Chester Brown and Seth have to live together in a tiny bedsit. I'd watch.
I spent the weekend sharing a table with the talented and wonderful Becky Cloonan who is one of the best tablemates anyone can have the pleasure of sharing with. We both sold well, and Becky spent a lot of the weekend excitedly telling me about the new Thor film with infectious enthusiasm. Here we both are (I look extremely scared for some reason):
It was the busiest I've seen TCAF (which is saying something) and everyone I spoke to did very well there. The parties were a whole bunch of fun and I got to pick up some fantastic new comics while speaking to people like Helen Jo, Nate Powell, Lucy Kniseley, Dustin Harbin and Sarah Glidden - all of whom are huge inspirations right now and they are, of course, lovely in person.
Now, so much has been said about why TCAF is so much fun for exhibitors and attendees alike - I'm not sure I have much else to offer at this stage. The key thing is having a downtown, public library as your venue. And free entry. It seems to me that if you're going to put on a comic event that is going to encourage new readers to take a chance on comics and to see what the medium is all about - then a free festival with an easily accessible and prominent venue is the way to do it.
The rest of it - the excellent organisation (I was getting useful information about customs, panels, table layouts etc. every day in the week leading up to the event - that's just a tiny example of how well run this show was), the inspiring volunteers who ran around offering table cover, coffee, water, change - anything that would make our weekend easier, the amazing panels, the wide-reaching publicising of the event, the fantastic parties and side-events... All of it is a bonus but all adds to the many reasons that every artist had a great time and will do everything they can to come back next year.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. We need something like this in the UK. Thought Bubble is the closest we have to it but we need a free comic festival. It just needs to happen.
I was on a panel with the delightful Sam Arthur (of NoBrow Press), Philippa Rice, Adam Cadwell, Kayla Hillier, Joe Decie and Kenny Penman (of BlankSlate) about UK comics. It was titled Her Majesty's Comics, moderated by American artist Brian Brown and was apparently filmed. It can be watched here if you're curious. I haven't seen it and can't bring myself to watch it but I remember the panel being fun and it may well be worth your time.
Here's a quick photo I took when people were setting up on the Sunday morning:
I then had a few days to kick around Toronto and enjoy a bit of time off. I spent Monday mooching around bookshops and then enjoyed the sun in High Park. Here's a quick sketch of a tree I did while there:
As a quick aside, I noticed a poster campaign for a paint company at Bloor station which involved lots of full colour swatches of the various paint colours they offered with minimal text at the bottom detailing the colour code. Such a nice, simple way to advertise your product and also make the train station look designed and pretty rather than cluttered and oppressive. More advertising like this please!
The next day we drove to Angonquin national park and went for a refreshing hike. A world away from the madness of TCAF and much needed. Here's a photo from our adventures which looks a little like a cover to some prog-rock album from the seventies:
For my final night, there was a special Pen Club (the first one I attended in 2007 was the inspiration for doing a similar thing in London) and I had a chance to speak to Anne Koyama properly after only crossing paths briefly at TCAF. We met back in 2007 and since then Koyama Press has gone on to be an amazing publishing house that continues to delight. It was lovely to hang out and see everyone. Was also the busiest I've ever seen it:
I drew a bunch in other people's sketchbooks but here's what I managed to do in mine:
And then, before I knew it, it was time to come home.
As always, spending this time at TCAF and in Toronto has left me with a huge amount of hope and enthusiasm for comics. I'm inspired and ready to throw myself straight back into work. Speaking of which... There's a studio calling my name right now...