ACA Stanley Conference and Awards 2011 ~ Part One: The Conference

Well, I'm only just recovering from what was another brilliant Stanley's weekend! If you are not aware, every year the Australian Cartoonists Association holds a two-day conference capped by an awards night dinner and party. This year's special guest was the one and only Ron Cobb, who has had an amazing career in not only political cartooning but film production art and character and set design. The location: The Mercure Hotel in Sydney.

Friday: Conference Day 1

First up was little ol' me! I was honoured to be asked to hold an inking workshop titled "INKS Vs. DIGITAL" that addressed drawing in both traditional and computerised techniques.

(Sidenote: while setting up for it, I had one of my Stanleys highlights before it even started: drawing quietly and trading tips for over an hour with Swamp's Gary Clark. I may have to share a cool trick he showed me in customising to a Faber-Castell PITT pen sometime later, too...)

There was a lot to cover in the workshop, and it felt like the hour flew by. I started with a quick presentation of some of my illos, then warmed up and inked a quick drawing with brush and ink on paper. Then I moved on to another drawing using Photoshop and the new Wacom Citiq 24HD. (For those interested, I may be doing a review of this sometime soon, as I got to spend a few hours on it while setting up and doing the workshop.)

Anton Emdin's INKS Vs DIGITAL Workshop - photo © Jason Chatfield 2011

Brush and ink on paper. Not easy with someone threatening to taser you.

I gotta say, that I am not used to drawing in front of so many people - it was definitely an experience! Once my hand stopped shaking, I had to get used to talking and drawing at the same time, which is not as easy as it seems when you are used to quietly working in your studio. Thankfully a lot of questions were being thrown in and it seemed to go pretty well. There was a bit of time at the end, so at the request of an audience member I did a bit of simple colour work, too.

Anton Emdin's INKS Vs DIGITAL Workshop - photo © Jason Chatfield 2011

Digital inking on the Wacom Cintiq 24HD - it's a beast!

My aim was to show that you could use both traditional and digital techniques - either separately or together to make an illustration or cartoon, and I hoped that everyone would walk out with a few new tricks to add to their process.

Thanks to Jules Faber for MC duties, and Peter Broelman for an hour of filming over my shoulder! That little camera gets heavy after a while!

Next up we had Children's Illustration panel with Leigh Hobbs, Stephen Axelsen and Cathy Wilcox which gave some interesting insights into the world of publishing and the artmaking process. I had a great chat with Leigh beforehand, but missed out on meeting one of my favourite newspaper cartoonists, Cathy Wilcox.

Aussie Legend Reg Mombassa entertained us with stories and insights into his illustration, art and cartoons over the years. Reg's work with Mambo has covered the bodies of millions of Aussies. It would be hard to find someone that has lived here throughout the last couple of decades who is not familiar with his art. Not many illustrators can say that!

Dirty Creatures © Reg Mombassa

Alex Hallett (Arctic Circle), Matt Bisset-Johnson, Luke Watson and David Blumenstein discuss important matters of world domination.

After lunch we heard Nat Karmichael talk about John Dixon's Airhawk, followed by the Aussie Comics Panel with Tim McEwen, Dave Follett and Jozef Szekeres. They spoke about their work and Tim shared his extensive knowledge on Australian comics and creators. I had no idea that so many Aussies were doing well in the major publishers like Marvel and DC, and it was great to see quite a few titles being produced here. What came through in abundance was their love and devotion to the craft - a trait shared by most comic creators I've met.

Then, special guest Ron Cobb took to the podium and chatted about his prolific career as a political cartoonist. His style has been revered (and emulated) over the years and hearing him talk about his processes was very interesting. A lot of questions were being thrown in about his technical process, which I was very happy about. I love hearing tool talk.

For me, Cobb's work is so successful as he has the 'holy trinity' of the great cartoonist: design/composition, draftsmanship, and idea. With all these planets aligned you get a truly memorable cartoon, and Ron has many, many of these in his catalogue.

Art © Ron Cobb

That was Day 1 of the conference done, so Alex Hallett (Arctic Circle) and Mark McHugh (Easy Tiger) and I headed off to The Clare for some jugs of fine ale and shared some comic strip stories.

An hour later we walked (with a little more spring to our step, I must admit) back to the hotel to join the others for a meal in a private room, followed by drinks in the bar. ACA President/Ginger Meggs artist/caricaturist/editorial cartoonist/standup comedian/musician/what-the-hell-CAN'T-this guy do well Jason Chatfield had me in stitches, and I slapped the backs of talented folk such as comic artist and Stanleys newbie David Blumenstein, definitely not a newbie Steve Panozzo, legend Vane Lindsay, Broels, Watson, Dee Texidor, Chris Barr, and a host of other talented scribblers.

From top: Dad and son Watson do their ABBA impression while Jason Chatfield watches in horror; Torkan creator Roger Fletcher and Eva Frengstad; Vane Lindsay shows us how it's done; Mark McHugh looking only slightly insane.

I had planned on an early night, but this was not meant to be, and I stumbled home for a few hours kip before the next day's seminars...

Saturday: Conference Day 2

Due to family duties (read: wrestling childerbeasts) I unfortunately missed the AGM and Steve Little and Fran Stevenson's talk on the Bunker Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour, but I did arrive to see the uber-talented Eric Lobbecke do a workshop on editorial illustration.

Lobbecke is one of my favourite newspaper illustrators and he bravely gave himself the task of completing an illustration within the time a typical deadline might be. So, in 45 minutes he would sketch, scan and colour up a finished piece. Unfortunately, his scanner was having technical issues, so he had to colour up a different sketch he had scanned beforehand. Nonetheless, I was enthralled to watch him work and talk about his thought and art processes. It was interesting to see that he draws all the linework in pencil, and goes directly to colour in Photoshop.

Eric Lobbecke sketches Captain Tony Abbott

Like in my talk, Broels filmed over his shoulder so the audience could see every pencil stroke. This is something I love to do, and I know a lot of other artists learn a lot from this simple act of observation. Eric mentioned he found it difficult to draw and talk at the same time... Hoorah, I am not alone!

Spitting image: Comic artist and animator David Blumenstein with his caricature by Luke Watson

Torkan and Staria creator Roger Fletcher took to the stage beside NSW VP, cartoonist and cartooning historian Lindsay Foyle (although Roger has the gift of the gab, and I don't think Lindsay had much of a chance to even draw breath!). Roger's Torkan strip is 35 years old this year - an amazing achievement, and a testament to Roger's skill in telling a story and hooking in readers to come back week after week.

After lunch we were treated to a great presentation by Andrew Marlton, who draws under the pseudonym First Dog on the Moon for Crikey. Andrew's work is effortlessly funny, and he had us laughing the whole way through.

I even got a nod in his Stanleys comic strip!

Stanleys comic strip by and © First Dog on the Moon 2011

Stanleys comic strip drawn by and © First Dog on the Moon 2011

Peter Berner and Grant Brown

Next, Jordan Verzar chatted with Jules about the very successful GRAPHIC festival, including reading email excerpts from Robert Crumb about his cancellation from the festival. He also showed a highlights reel and hinted at some ideas for next year. I'm a big fan of the festival, and it's great to see a collaboration between Graphic and the ACA.

The highly anticipated talk on Ron Cobb's Hollywood career was on next, and Cobb seemed even more at ease, recalling stories of Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger to name a few. Ron worked on some of my (and the world's) favourite films: Back to the Future, Star Wars, Alien and Aliens, Total Recall and many, many more sci-fi films.

Two great cartoonists: Mark Knight and Ron Cobb. Just imagine if they made a baby.

Cobb's masterful painting and vision of the future has helped shape what we see now on film, and the room was transfixed on the production art that appeared on the screen. After the talk we crowded around to get a glimpse of some of the original pieces he had brought with, and cursed his immense talent!

Hammerhead alien design from the Star Wars Cantina scene.

Bruce Petty couldn't make it, so the dapper Glen LeLievre held the floor and delivered a great talk on his experience with The New Yorker magazine; showing many of his very funny cartoons. I've toyed with the idea of sending in some ideas, but with the bombshell that most artists need to submit for years - YEARS - before even getting one published, I wonder how strong my resolve is! Apparently, the record is ten years before being published. You gotta admit, that fella had a thick skin.

Do not adjust your sets... this is indeed Glen LeLievre.

That concluded the Stanleys Conference so (here comes another highlight...) editorial cartoonist Jos Valdman and I went for a quiet beer with Ron Cobb in the lobby bar! We had a great chat about movie special effects, models and CGI.

I could have stayed there all night, but there was something else on. What was it? Oh yeah, The Stanley Awards! So I had to drag myself away and get ready for Australian cartooning's big night...

Next... Part Two: The Awards Night

Photo credits: A big thanks to Jason Chatfield, Geoff Richo, David Blumenstein and Mark McHugh for allowing me to use their images. All photos are © their respective owners.