Illustration Station, Inspiration Island, Kidlit County

Highlights from ICON7

Well, I am feeling thoroughly inspired, thanks to attending last week’s ICON7, a bi-annual illustration conference. This one took place in Providence, Rhode Island and was my second time attending (I got to go 6 years ago in San Francisco). So much happened, and I met so many awesome people, so forgive me for condensing into a few highlights (though not all of them actually happened at ICON, but everything is relative, no?):

Lynda Barry having a moment with my Elly postcard!

Lynda Barry is amazing. That is an understatement, but I’m not really sure how to expand on that. She’s that rare person that I wouldn’t mind sitting and listening to talk for hours while I don’t say a thing. You can actually see the energy bounding out of her. I took her writing workshop, which proved to be a revelation. She introduced us to a method that she’s used almost her entire life (which you can fortunately experience on YouTube, though it doesn’t do justice to her in-person presentation). Also check out her Tumblr. Again, mind=blown, me=speechless.

I took another workshop facilitated by Josh Cochran and one of my artsy heroes, Chris Silas Neal (who I have been cyber stalking for years). We all made zines in two hours. I’m pretty proud of mine! Check it out.

Jessica Hische preachin’ the “creation story”

Jessica Hische is everything I dreamed she would be and more. I’ve drooled over her work for that last year or two, but what I appreciate even more is the sincerity and frankness with which she spoke at ICON. Two mantras she shared (which I need to write on my studio wall in permanent marker): “Learn what you need to learn to make what you want to make” and “Make things you wish existed.” She also coined my new favorite word: Procrastiworking.

I ran into Murray Tinkelman, my former professor at Syracuse University. The man is ancient. When I said hello and explained that I used to be his student he replied, “Congratulations!” Classic Murray (although there was no use of the F-bomb).

Speaking of former professors, I didn’t know that Tim O’Brien was going to be speaking. He was an adjunct professor for a month during my senior year. I shared a moment with him from college, when he said that my painting was good, but did not live up to the promise of my original sketch. That haunted me for years. Often, I would look at a painting I finished and be weary that it was not as good as the drawing. Then one day something clicked, and I thought, “Why don’t I just draw?” Duh. Tim said that he’s glad he haunted me.

Matt Goening showed up as a special guest, and spoke with his old friend and my new favorite person, Lynda Barry. Lynda and Matt took turns reading some of their comics. Here’s a clip from Matt’s strip Life in Hell, which he just stopped writing last week:

I also picked up an autographed copy of The Homer Book for Dan:

The Real Deal.

Some other speakers who really got me jazzed were Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson of Idiot Books, a husband and wife team who left all their grown-up comforts to start a subscription based press, where he does the writing and she does the art. It looks like they have an awesome time.

I got to meet some amazing folks at the conference. Here are some links to a few illustrators that I got to know over food & drinks: Denise Gallagher, a sassy red head from Louisiana who has graced the pages of Communication Arts. I tagged along while she hunted down her list of art directors. Isabel Roxas, who I met via the interwebs a few months ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see her at the roadshow, and we ended up people watching together at the bar! Kyle Lindholm, who I met at the hotel bar when I had to sneak out of a talk to eat some dinner (you know me and my demanding tummy). He actually spent time in Afghanistan documenting in his sketch book. Ana Isabel Ramos, who flew all the way from Panama. We talked about client-designer relationships, working from home, and cultural differences in all the cities and countries we’ve lived in. Not bad considering we had a little over an hour for lunch.

I also got to spend some quality time representing Seattle with my pal Mark Kauffman. You’ve seen his stuff in the Stranger, Seattle Weekly, and some old rag called the New York Times. It was good to have a reliable wing man at the conference, especially when it came to 3AM food truck excursions.

Sunday, after the conference, I met up with my family at a half-way point in New Haven, CT, for some yummy Spanish/Mexican food. We haven’t all been together for Father’s Day in many moons, so it was a special treat. Another special treat was the batch of “crack brownies” that my mother made for me to bring home.

The apples and the tree.

I also need to give a shout out to my friends Sarah Jane Lapp (who I wrote a post about a few months ago) and her man Rick, who were good enough to host me, feed me, and save me a bazillion dollars in hotel bills.

And now I leave you with an awesome clip of the band What Cheer Brigade and some larger than life puppets who helped start the conference with a bang.


9 thoughts on “Highlights from ICON7

  1. Mike, you certainly summed up things well! I haven´t been able to do a good wrap up yet.

    It was lovely to meet you and to have lunch with you. Hopefully we´ll be able to do that again.

    Hugs and enjoy those brownies!

  2. Pingback: Five Desserts and a Piece of Broccoli | mike curato

  3. Lara says:

    Mark stopped writing Life in Hell? Sigh. That is so sad, but I hope that he’s moving to something where he can continue to share his awesome with us.

  4. Alice Young says:

    Great recap! All the parts of the conference you wrote about were my favorites. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you the past weekend.

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  6. Pingback: Stu-Stu-Studio Tour | mike curato

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