Anton Emdin Illustration & Cartoons
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Reubens Weekend in Pittsburgh 2013

Hey yinz!  I just returned from a great week and a half in Pittsburgh.  PITTSBURGH!? Huh? I hear you mumble while absently checking your Facebook status.  Yup, the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) moves their annual Reubens weekend around every year (I've been to New Jersey and Boston), and this time it was in 'Steel City'. Now, for those of you who don't feel like reading a long piece, here's the crux: I won my second Magazine Illustration Reuben Division Awardhad a rockin' time!  Woo! For the rest of you, please feel free to read on while I blurt out some foggy, jetlagged mutterings...

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Holy moly!  Here's me with MAD's Sam Viviano, while ex-MAD Editor Nick Meglin photo bombs.  Photos © me and Jason Chatfield 2013.

I arrived a few days early, as my previous experiences of flying in the US have been fraught with delays and weather issues.  So I allowed a buffer in case of crapness.  Turned out, it was a dream run; I had a whole row of four seats to myself for the 14-hour leg from Sydney to LA, so I got some sleep.  And then after just a quick four hour jaunt to Pittsburgh I arrived feeling fairly relaxed.

I took my lodgings at the Omni William Penn hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, where the Reubens were held.  It's a really fantastic old hotel with all the bells and whistles (not pictured) and an air of luxury (air also not pictured).  My room was slightly less luxurious than the public areas, but everything seemed to work ok, except for a light or two.  (Pfff...  seeing things is overrated, anyway.)  And I was also to learn that I'd need to purchase earplugs if I wanted to sleep in. (Pfff... sleep is overrated, anyway.)

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Not bad, eh?  On the far right was my view: a great old church and the skyline.  Even some water, too.  Nice.

After arriving in the evening I grabbed a quick shower before heading downstairs.  There I spied the lovely Tom and Marie Stemmle and Jeff Keane (Family Circus) enjoying a drink at the lobby bar.  Well, I assume they were enjoying it, as they were laughing and talking.  But then again, I was in a strange new land, and wasn't aware of the custom of the local tribes.  I approached them using the customary cartoonists' greeting of "hello", and a bartender was summoned.  I was then served the biggest scotch on the rocks I've ever seen (seriously, that glass was FULL... not that I was complaining) and settled into the night.

The next day I wandered around Pittsburgh, getting my bearings.  Besides bearings, I picked up three pairs of sneakers, clothes and other knick-knacks for stupidly low prices - well, compared to what they cost in Oz.  And with all that money I saved, I could afford to buy a new bag to lug it all home!

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The Sharp Edge beer cafe in downtown Pittsburgh.  Great beer, crap logo.

On Thursday a few more cartoonists started rolling in, which was a little weird as I generally prefer walking.  I met up with my fellow Aussie mate; Ginger Meggs cartoonist and comedian Jason Chatfield, who was to be the MC on the Reubens Awards night.  Jason's old mate Ben Russell travelled up from Chicago to hang out, too, and I had the pleasure of going on a 'man date' with him while Jas went to a meeting.  From all accounts Ben is a fantastic sketch comedian, being part of the elite Second City troupe in Chicago.  I also learned that he is a cocktail aficionado , and we spent many hours sampling some tasty beverages in the great Speakeasy bar under the hotel.  These weren't the girly, fruity ones, mind you.  These were the ones you'd see in the early half of the 20th Century - a lot of liquor and crushed ('muddled', I learned) things.  Over the week I developed a taste for the Old Fashioned, which I learned was some sort of alcohol and awesomeness blended with a shitload of hangover.

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Jason, Sophie, and, er... Ben

Friday brought a good sleep-in (either my jetlag had subsided or I was actually still on Sydney time and it didn't matter) and then seminars on e-publishing, Rob Rogers on editorial cartooning, and Terri Libenson on her 'The Pajama Diaries' comic strip.  On Friday night was the official start to the Reubens Weekend, and there were drinks, food, an excellent exhibition (excellibition?) in the local 'Toonseum' of art from every Reubens winner, including Bill Waterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Walt Kelly (Pogo), Al Capp, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Bil Keane, Mort Walker, Tom Richmond, Arnold Roth, Sergio Aragones, Rube Goldberg... seriously, the list goes on and on.  I was gobsmacked at the gorgeous inking of many early strips.  It made me a little sad to think that most of us new generation artists won't have the original art like this to show in years to come.  So many of us (myself an offender) will ink fairly loosely as we know it will be fixed up 'in post' later.  Or even work purely digitally (again, my bad).  Something to think about, at least...

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Reubens original art.  Wow.  This is how it appeared after one too many Old Fashioneds. Photo © Jason Chatfield 2013.

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Some MAD art on show, featuring original art from Sergio Aragones, Al Jaffee, Jack Davis and Tom Richmond.  In the middle is a MAD #1 I found at a local comic shop for a cool $5K. Photos © Jason Chatfield and Anton Emdin 2013

The night continued on into a local seedy bar with karaoke and girls walking around selling watered down test tube shooters.  The classy atmosphere drove many back to the hotel bar, so the hardcore of us stuck it out, enjoying some great singing performances, including Lio's Mark Tatulli  treating us to a rendition of Kermit's 'Rainbow Connection'... AS KERMIT.  He brought along his own puppet (as you do) and acted it perfectly.  Amazing.

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Party people: The talented John Martz, Dave Blazek and I; Terry LaBan and Dave; Ray Alma and the 'Tooter' girl; Tooters all round thanks to Universal Uclick Prez John Glynn; Blazek, Rob Rogers, Mike Lynch and I.  Photos © Dave Blazek and Ray Alma 2013.

Saturday started with more seminars, including the awesome Mo Willems, who gave a very entertaining talk while sharing some excellent tips on story book layout and writing.  Next was someone I was VERY excited to meet: Drew Friedman.  Drew's paintings are astounding, and his talk was hilarious.  Drew is obsessed with old Jewish comedians... so much so that he has published three books on them.  He had some great stories to tell, including his visit to Groucho Marx and the rumours surrounding Milton Berle's enormous schlong.  Very informative.  Ahem.  And then we heard from Brad Anderson on his famous dog Marmaduke, but I was more interested in his early gag cartoons which exhibited his great, fluid brush style.

After a quick cuppa joe, we all scrambled back to our rooms to pretty ourselves up for the big night.  (It takes some of us longer than others - after half an hour of prettying, I looked pretty much the same as before.)  Drinks were served in the cocktail reception, and everyone looked marvellous (even ol' un-pretty me).  I got to meet my fellow nominee Daryll Collins, who was a great guy.  Unfortunately, Barry Blitt (my other fellow nom-nom) wasn't able to make it.  Barry does fantastic work, including infamous cover art for The New Yorker.

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This art STINKS!  Reubens night photos © Ray Alma and Mike Cope.

The night started with a bang as Mr. Chatfield came out swinging singing.  Between videos produced by Tom Gammill (Doozies cartoonist and writer for The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live), Jason did a brilliant job throwing out gags and keeping the night rolling along.

I was sitting at a table with John Kovaleski, and new friends Maria Scriven, Carol Isaacs (The Surreal McCoy), and Drew Friedman.  Admittedly, I was nervous once the awards part started (mainly from the thought of getting up on stage - I definitely prefer it out of the limelight) although to be honest I really didn't think I would get the gong.  The competition was tough, and I lost a few bets back home when they called my name.  Yep - I was awarded the Magazine Illustration Reuben Division Award!  And it was extra cool to be handed it by Bizarro's Dan Piraro.

The big winners of the night were Rick Kirkman and Brian Crane for their work on Baby Blues and Pickles, respectively).  Some other notable awards went to Jen Sorenson (Editorial), Vince Dorse (Online Comics - Long Form) and Ed Steckley (Advertising illustration).  The full list is published here: www.reuben.org/2013/05/2013-reuben-awards-winners/ and well worth a squiz.

By the way, everyone has been asking me which piece I was judged on.  Actually, there are six pieces, so the panel is looking at the best from your body of work published during the previous year.  From memory there was Pickup Lines and the Dinner Party for People, Black Caviar and Britain's New Muslims for The Spectator, plus MAD's Toilet Saga and The Avengers.

A night of drinking followed with an after party, and then the after-after party.  I stumbled in at around 4-ish to grab a few zzzzeee's (or zed's as we say back home) before heading down for lunch with MAD art director Sam Viviano, Chatfield and  Sophie Miller.  Stuffed, we waddled over to the Pittsburgh Cartoon Arts Festival a few blocks away.  A whole swag of cartoonists were doing signings and drawings, and I drew in a couple of sketchbooks, too.  I got whisked away to a big, huge comic store a few blocks away, and then had a bite to eat with Maria Scriven and Ray Alma.  Ray's a MAD guy from way back, and Maria has just had her first piece accepted into the mag, so it was a very potrzebie affair.  Unfortunately, I was a bit green around the gills, so made for a lousy lunch companion.  We headed back to the hotel to find ourselves in the street being entertained by ex-MAD editor Nick Meglin.  Talking to Nick is like being in a stand-up comedy club and we were all in stitches - mainly because he'd beat us if we didn't laugh.

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MAD's Nick Meglin and Sam Viviano keep us amused.  Photos © Ray Alma 2013.

Then it was time to dress up all over again for the farewell dinner and drinks at the Speakeasy.  Everyone really did outdo themselves - there were a lot of white suits and feathers, headbands and long cigarette holders.  I dressed smart-casual and felt like a goddamn bum in comparison.  But it was a great night, and I got to chat to quite a few people, many of which I didn't get a chance to on the crazy night before.

Monday rolled around far too soon and everyone left.  Leaving the next day, I headed out to walk along the river for some head-clearing.  I passed the Andy Warhol Museum (closed, darnit!), two sports stadiums and then stopped in at the Carnegie Science Museum, which is like the Powerhouse Museum here in Sydney.  I had a lot of fun playing air hockey and Foosball against computers.  (They won every time, despite my sledging and threats to loosen their bolts.)  I was actually feeling pretty homesick at this point.  I missed Ash and the kids, and realised that going to such a family-friendly place was a really stupid idea.  So I shuffled back to the hotel, ate a lonely dinner and counted down the hours till I would see them.

The journey home seemed to take an eternity.  Leaving early, I left the Pitts to spend eleven hours in JFK airport waiting for my flight.  Fog in Sydney had caused massive delays, and to top it off we all had to get off the plane in LA for three hours before commencing the 14-hour leg to Sydney.  Luckily I got a bit of sleep, and was sitting at a local Italian restaurant with the family 48 hours after leaving my hotel.  Bliss.  Later I collapsed into bed, and woke to tell the tale here.


Thanks so much for stopping by, and I appreciate all the notes that have been coming in to my mailbox and via social networking.  It really was an amzing week, and I met and caught up with so many awesome cartoonists - way too many to name here - you know who you are.  And congrats and thanks to Tom Richmond, Jeff Keane and all the rest of the NCS board for putting on a brilliant weekend.

I'm decompressing over the weekend, and then back to the ol' drawing board next week... see you then.

Take care,

Anton! Signature by and © Anton Emdin 2012. All rights reserved.