I've never been to a Con before. I did attend the 4th Annual Disney Institute Animation Event back in 2001, but as it was only attended by about 120 people, it wasn't quite the same thing. When the opportunity to attend this one within driving distance came up, I decided to give it a try, knowing that at a bare minimum, I would get the opportunity to finally meet Tom Bancroft in person: followers of the old blog will recognize him from the Reliant K music video project, and you Disney fans had darn well better know who he is!
I've never really been much of a comics fan, although I've loved French comics ever since visiting France in 2005, and I can appreciate the skill of many prominent cover artists. As for the popular American superheroes, however, I tend to consume their stories in the form of TV and movies, and so am far more familiar with Bruce Timm and Bryan Singer than with any comic artist. In any case, I expected to be bored after just a day of the three-day event, assuming it wasn't really "my thing."
WOW. Was I ever wrong. Not only was I not bored, but I found myself wishing that Heroes Con was a week-long event! Not only was there a tremendous variety of art, toys, and books to consume, but the artists were tremendously accessible and friendly. Events went on all day and all night, including professional panels, some raucous partying in the hotel, and one very crazy art auction (top sellers went for $8K). Among others, we met Adam Hughes (who has a new book out: Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes (Adam Hughes Cover to Cover) go get it!), J Scott Campbell (tremendously patient and friendly, even with never-ending lines in front of his booth), Frank Cho (also super-friendly and with an excellent sense of humor), and Sean "Cheeks" Galloway (does he ever stop smiling? Nope!).
And of course, we got to meet Tom Bancroft and his lovely wife, Jen. Both were an absolute pleasure to meet, and their laid-back and goofy senses of humor made for some great times over the two days we were there. The only thing better than geeking out about animation with friends is geeking out about animation with a former Disney animator who also works in the Southeast (where the entertainment community is small but growing!). I even managed to snag a few of Tom's drawings, and they just warm my little animation-geek heart. Example:
We made it home with quite a lot of swag besides this as well, leading me to the conclusion that next year, I'd better save up so that I can buy even MORE sketchbooks and original art.
Obviously, I couldn't help but be inspired by all of this talent, but there was on more person I met who had quite an effect on me. While perusing Artist Alley, I came across the work of the very talented Otis Frampton. I immediately found his drawing style and particularly his color work appealing, and we fell into conversation about our respective careers. He explained that he had no formal art education, but had created his first comic book while serving in the Air Force. You could say Otis attended the "School of Hard Knocks," as he owes his fantastic style to constant hard work and refinement, exhibiting a drive that is the only possible road to success.
gallery or demo reel, I suddenly realized that I had no recent work to show. And it hit me that I'd been using my full-time job as an excuse not to pursue personal projects or work at improving my art, as though the good fortune of being employed exempted me from the dedication any self-respecting professional ought to have. It was a moment of extraordinary shame for me, to realize I was wasting that good fortune (and education) while Otis was making something great of himself. I bought a sketchbook from him (and you all should, too, because he rocks), and came home with the determination to get back on the horse and start creating.
It hasn't been easy, as old habits die hard and I've gotten very good these last few years at coming up with excuses not to work. However, I've managed to attend some models sessions recently and have been trying to do a drawing a day, and though the results have been generally atrocious, it feels fabulous to be moving forward again. So, here's to a successful Con, and I wish all possible success to the artists I met, including the ones I forgot to mention. See you all at Heroes Con 2011!