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ICON9 : Recap

*You will also find my thoughts on the Happy Happy Art Collective blog, along with Denise and Lauren's.

WOW! ICON9 was a total whirlwind. When we registered back in October, July seemed like such a long time to wait - which it was - but it led to some pretty impressive build-up and excitement for the trip. And it did not disappoint! Those ICON planners pack a LOT in to those 4 days, and by the end, I was exhausted!

I kept a sketchbook specifically for my ICON adventures - and this was the first page. I really wanted to see an armadillo! (I did not.)

The first two days of ICON were filled with optional workshops. There were so many great ones to choose from, and unfortunately there were two for each time slot, so there were some good ones I missed. I learned about creating animated GIFs with Rebecca Mock, creating a consistent process with Jessica Hische, pricing and other legal matters with Robert Huntand Jonathan Tobin of Counsel for Creators, and editorial concepting with Anita Kunz. My favorite workshop, though - was more hands-on - signpainting with Norma Jeanne Maloney! Since I've been doing a few murals over the last couple years, it was nice to hear a REAL signpainter describe her tools and process. We even got the opportunity to try our hand at some lettering!

Norma Jeanne demonstrating her technique on the tricky "O" utilizing a mahl stick and quill #4. We practiced an A, E, O, S and Y - the five letters that exemplify all the lines, curves, diagonals and symmetry of the English alphabet.

There's my "E"! Not too bad, considering how nervous I was, with a few of my peers watching over my shoulder. My hand was shaking so much! Gotta work on my snap at the end

On Wednesday night Denise and I went to the famous Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for Motion Commotion - a series of animated shorts. Gosh, people are SO talented! I was especially interested in this event, because I am taking a Motion Design course at our local college in the fall and I'm super curious about animation and taking my work to the next level. It was fun watching these animations while we ate our dinner. Some of the artists were even in the audience, so there was a Q&A afterwards to get even more insight on their process.

Denise pointing out the cool tile work at the entrance to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

I had signed up for 5 workshops over the course of two days. While I wasn't workshopping, I was sitting in the main ballroom listening to the presenters at the Education Symposium and drawing. It was nice to have the option of learning even MORE during our downtimes. ICON also had a pop-up bookshop with the most amazingly curated selection of illustrated books, and tables with all of the sponsor's wares - including some awesome art supplies. There were even a bunch of button makers available for us to make buttons to wear and trade. Who doesn't love buttons? I'm telling ya - ICON thought of everything!

ICON sketchbook - Mahlstick

Finally, the main event arrived - 2 days PACKED with speakers! Each day was comprised of 5 speaker sessions with 20-minute breaks in between (except for lunch, where we got an hour or so). So from 9a to 7p, we were sitting in the ballroom, taking everything in. Midway through the first day, my butt was starting to get sore, so in anticipation to another day and a half of sitting, I started taking a quick walk around the block on our breaks - just to loosen up the hips a bit and get some exercise. Despite my sore body, what a phenomenal lineup of speakers! Of course there were speakers I was already familiar with that I was super excited to hear - and they did not disappoint. But there were quite a few artists and topics that I didn't know - and I probably learned even more from them.
A few themes:

  • collaboration
  • virtual reality
  • political cartooning
  • sharing a studio space
  • getting in front of art directors
  • storytelling
  • design activism
  • zines
  • collage
  • play and expertise
  • inclusivity

Gosh - the speakers were SO good and SO inspiring! In addition to individual speakers, there were also more casual panel discussions and a kaleidoscope session - in which a few of the attendees told their stories in 5 minute presentations. Fun!

The ICON stage changed during every break! Jason Holley and his team definitely kept us engaged with the ever-evolving scene!

Our evenings were filled with numerous social activities within walking distance of our hotel. There were multiple happy hours, Motion Commotion, The Roadshow - a pop-up market showcasing the art and product of dozens of the ICON attendees, Tall Tales - a group exhibition featuring the work of some ICON attendees, and the closing night party - featuring a live band, open bar and yummy BBQ. I really appreciated the effort the planners put in to ensure we had plenty to do.

BBQ, that-away!!

I waited all week for some Texas BBQ. And the brisket at Stubbs Bar-B-Que totally hit the spot.

Of course, all of these social events meant plenty of opportunities to hang out with fellow illustrators. I got to meet a few of my illustration idols, catch-up with some old pals, and meet new friends! I can see how ICON ends up being a reunion of sorts.

Lauren, Emily and Denise after the closing party. Phew! Whatta week.

ICON9 was incredible. I had heard great things, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. I absolutely want to go back to ICON10. Next time, though - I'll probably take more hands-on workshops than lecture-based workshops, just to mix it up a bit. I'll also try to pad my trip with an extra day to explore the host city a bit more. This was my first time in Austin, and though I am happy the conference was right downtown in the thick of things, there were still so many places I would have liked to experience - we just didn't have the time!

We ate a few smoothie bowls for lunch. One of mine was the most beautiful hot pink color. It was hard to believe it was natural! Turns out it was the pitaya (dragonfruit) that made it that beautiful hue.

Austin is a very creative, artsy city. I loved the beautiful storefronts, painted brick, funky floors, neon signs and murals. Murals, murals, murals! Everywhere! I couldn't get enough. Here are a few of my favorites:

The first night we had the most amazing Tex-Mex at Chuy's. The food and margaritas were phenomenal - and look at this floor!

Detail of the side of the Iron Works BBQ building

Butterfly mural at the Art for the People gallery

Oh, how I love me some painted brick

Taped floor at Parts and Labor.

Just look at the Uncommon Objects storefront! 

Mural on the side of the Mexic-Arte Museum.

ICON, you were fantastic. I am still processing everything I heard and learned last week and I am ready to start making art in response! I had a wonderful time with my roomies, Denise and Lauren, and truly enjoyed the quality time spent with Jennifer Orkin Lewis (aka August Wren) and Rachel Place, some of my MATS buddies. I loved meeting everyone else and I can't wait to see y'all in 2018!

Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 - DEEP

Ferocious Quarterly is a "slightly-larger-than-pocket-sized coffee table zine filled with illustrations, comics and pulp-inspired short stories". I was asked by Nate Utesch, the brains behind FQ, to participate in the latest issue no. 4, DEEP.

Whoa. I was SO honored to be asked! The list of artists that have been featured in the publication over the last several years includes many of my idols. It kinda blew my mind that I was being asked to join the ranks of those talented contributors. But despite my intimidation, I said YES!

The theme for Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 was DEEP. Artists were divided into two groups - deep sea and deep space. The deep sea group was tasked with creating an illustration set in a deep sea environment. They were then partnered with a deep space artist who took the round 1 deep sea illustration and used that as inspiration for their deep space piece.  

I was partnered with Brandon Rike who created this bad-ass octopus:

Illustration by my Deep Sea partner - Brandon Rike

We had two colors to work with - navy and mint green. As you can see, Brandon trailed the octopus legs off the right side of the page, and I really wanted to continue his lines on my side.

I don't do a lot of work in the science fiction genre, so when I was doing research for this project, I really gravitated towards futuristic cityscapes on distant planets. I liked the idea of incorporating space-age buildings set in a barren landscape. Once I started sketching I focused on two concepts:

The first concept had one of the aforementioned space cities surrounded by highways mounted on sky-high pillars. The roadways would be an extension of Brandon's octopus legs. The second concept was a bit more whimsical and literal, with alien legs attacking the surprised astronaut. I decided to finalize concept 1.

I liked how it turned out, but the skyway looked pretty random to me. If we're in space, wouldn't the vehicles be flying? Why would they need roads? It just didn't make sense to me and it seemed too safe. I decided to scrap it and flesh out concept 2.

As I worked, I decided I wanted more illustrated elements in this illustration, so I created a network of controls to give our hero a greater sense of purpose before he is attacked. 

I wanted to share a bit of my process - after I create all the color flats, I print out the illustration, and utilizing tracing paper and a light box, I manually draw in the textures with a pencil. I then layer the transparent textures over my illustration in Photoshop and color them to create different effects. 

My final piece for Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 - DEEP

I was happy with how the final art turned out, and I thought it was a good complement to Brandon's piece. I couldn't wait to see them together! 

Last week, this showed up:

Ferocious Quarterly no. 4

Ahhh! Isn't it beautiful? The simplicity of the cover, paired with the gold foil is just gorgeous. And I love the heavy stock and the perfect binding. Nate was so thoughtful when designing the book and it really shows.

I flipped it open, and right there in the middle was our spread! 

It turned out so great! Even though I laid the two pieces together digitally, it has so much more impact side-by-side in the book. I am really glad I decided to go with the second concept. Though I feel bad for the poor astronaut. Hope he survived.

This was SUCH an amazing project. Though I was super intimated by the awesomeness of my fellow contributors and the exquisite corpse idea provided it's own challenge, I couldn't be happier with the end result. Plus, it turns out a couple of my talented artist pals were also included, so it's fun to share the excitement with them. (I'm looking at you, Nate and Scotty!) Thank you again, Nate, for taking me along on your ride!

If you want to purchase your own copy of Ferocious Quarterly no. 4, head on over to their shop. It would make a pretty great gift for the upcoming holidays, if I do say so myself!

emily