On Strips: Festival of Cartooning Notes

By | Friday, September 23, 2016 Leave a Comment
So last weekend was the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning, a show put on to celebrate comic strips, editorial cartoons, and the creators who make them. It was the first time I'd been able to go at all, and my only disappointment was that I hadn't been able to get there sooner.

The setup is pretty straight-forward. In the Kenosha Public Museum, they have one of the galleries set aside for comic art (this year, the focus was on women in cartooning) and then they have a series of talks from a half dozen or so working cartoonists, each lasting about 45 minutes. All of which is free to the public. Although the Museum Gift Shop had a few books available, there's no real commercial aspect to the festival. No vendor tables or anything; even the creators there didn't have books to sell. It's really all about the capital-A Art.

The whole thing was organized by Ann Hambrock and emceed by Tom Racine. I was able to hear Rob Harrell, Eddie Pittman, Wiley Miller, and Ann Telnaes all speak and, to no real surprise, they all had great anecdotes and insights into their work and their processes. I found Miller's and Talnaes' talks the most enlightening with regard to their work processes, but everyone had plenty to share. Pittman was probably the most popular, judging by the crowd, in large part because he's done a lot of work on the Phineas & Ferb cartoon, and there was definitely a crowd of kids who came just for that. But the variety of approaches they take, and their respective paths to cartooning were all deeply fascinating, and I quickly added several book titles that I have to be on the lookout for now. (The Gift Shop didn't have all of their work.)

I'm always interested in studying original comics art to see how each artist tackles the actual process of drawing. From the tools they use to their basic methodology, there any number of things you can pull out from an original that you just can't get from the published version. Miller's approach to providing his strip in both horizontal and vertical formats for example. Or the sketching Fran Hopper did on the side of the page to figure out precisely what she wanted a character's eye to look like. Or the ink wash technique that Edwina Dumm used to let some elements drop to the background of a panel. Some incredible stuff! The exhibit runs through the beginning of October, so even if you couldn't make the festival, stop by to check this collection out!

I was really pleased to be able to go this year. It's not a large show, but that's part of what I enjoyed about it. There was definitely a level of intimacy there that you don't see at a lot of other places. I'd been eager to go since they launched, and it did not disappoint! And now I can personally recommend putting the next on your calendar. The next one won't be until 2019, but I'm already looking forward to it!
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