Yesterday, I returned home from ICON10, the Illustrators' Conference, held this year in Detroit, MI. That means I got to go to Detroit, and I got to eat hot dogs and beer and burgers, and look at cars, and visit their art museum, because that's what's in Detroit. I did not go to a Tigers game. They're also in Detroit, but I don't think they, or the Red Wings, were playing at the time. So, no hockey, no baseball. Just food, and adult beverages, and soft pretzels, and art, and illustration.
I really love going to the ICON conferences. They're held every two years, every time in a different city. The first one I went to was in Portland, Oregon, which was lovely. They have donuts and pinball arcades there. The second one was in Austin, which has barbecue and 104 degree weather, and bats. Austin was less lovely, but the conference is always good. There's always a decent spread of snacks and coffee and a free full breakfast buffet, and cocktail hours, and usually some nice giveaways, and oh yeah, IT'S FULL OF ILLUSTRATORS, who, along with my wife, and most Nobel Prize winners, are the best people on the planet.
And I don't get to see enough of them.
For most of my adult life, I've lived in either Washington, DC, or Charlottesville, Virginia, which have thriving art communities and minute illustration communities. There are very few people I can meet for coffee and talk shop with, compare fees, bitch about assignments (although all of my assignments recently have been cool) and grow my presence. Which is what ICON provides. For 4-ish days, I hobnob among my people. EVERYONE comes to these things. You have old pros who have been working since the 60s, young hotshots who win awards every year, students, art directors, designers, agents, people who illustrate children's books, people who illustrate the New Yorker, cartoonists, poster artists, muralists, writers, and every single one of them is delightful to a tee. I've met so many friends there just by following up on the business cards I collect.
This year I forgot my satchel of business cards at the hostel when I flew back, but the hostel staff found it, and they're mailing it back to me, which is nice, but they're making me pay for it and I only forgot it because I lost it when they forced me to switch rooms, which is less so, so in all, I'd give the Hostel Detroit something between 0 and the most stars, because they deserve both.
Most of the Conference is taken up with talks and workshops where people with experience or knowledge to share, share that knowledge, and then run away very fast before everyone deluges them with contact information. And I've found most of it to be very useful. Last year, I had lunch with an art director who vehemently insisted that being in New York was very important to my career. That's part of the reason I moved to DC. Manhattan is just a quick train ride away. This year I heard an educator talk about how to best shape my portfolio to attract new clients. I'll take his advice too. And I always meet a lot of people, many of whom continue to inspire me, out of the sheer beauty of their work, or their work ethic, or my jealousy at their ability to manage both at the same time.
Now that I'm back, I desperately need to catch up on sleep while I wait for my business cards to arrive in the mail. Then I will get right on that. I'm an illustrator and I want to be a better one, and I REALLY hope the next ICON is held somewhere I don't have to fly to.
I recommend Northwest Washington, DC.
I never have pictures in my blog because I never see the need to post anything on the internet twice, but my Instagram account to the right has most of the sketches and photos I took, and my Twitter has most of the same, but with better captions.