Written by Nathan Gotlib
Last night I went to a gig in Shoreditch, at Village Underground. When I passed outside I recognized the mural and remember that I would have to come back a few hours after leaving the venue for ELCAF, the East London Comic and Art Fair. Needless to say, the venue layout was significantly different on the next day!
I had seen the day’s program and really wanted to attend the Tac au Tac 2012 revival. Tac au Tac was a French television show that featured the legends of the Belgian and French ‘bandes dessinées’ scene, like Uderzzo, Peyo et Gotlib (sadly, not related). I had talked about the amazing program with some friends recently and was delighted to hear there was going to be an East London recreation of the show.
I got there a bit early, so I had a look about all the different stands. It was East London incorporate, from the Print Club to NoBrow (who organized the event). I managed to catch Alex, one of the founding members, who was more than happy to share his philosophy about ELCAF’s organisation:
Sam and I attended illustration and comic book fairs all around the world and thought it was time for London to also have a similar event, so we took the initiative and decided to organize this fair to combine the different styles of illustration, comic art, image-making and zines.
The mix was very successful. While very busy working on the launch of No Man’s Land and NoBrow 7, Alex and Sam did a wonderful job in getting together London’s finest and trendiest illustrators and artists. Some of them had only just started working with comics, while others did it on a more regular basis.
Daniel Clarke, a recent graduate from Camberwell BA Illustration, was holding a stall with 3 of his mates, selling beautifully rendered screen prints and original pencil drawings of their work. While not all his work is print-based, he did not bring his digital collage work to the event.
Another interesting pair were Lando and Stathis, a comic art duo from Kingston (they used to study animation). Their pet serie, Decadence, is printed at their house and bound by them. Exquisit line work interestingly tells a conversationless story across fantastic sci-fi universes.
Dan Berry was a bit more of a settled comic artist. Teaching Comics at Glyndwr University (I have never been asked to pronounce a Welsh word before, and failed miserably), he attended various comic art shows around the world, working with clients from all over (like Canadian bands…). One of his projects was particularly interesting: at one of these events he was set the challenge to write and illustrate a complete story in under 24 hours, 24 pages long. The result was a story about a cat, well-paced and illustrated with almost no trace of rush.
After talking to a few other artists, I decided to get ready for the Tac au Tac, as I did not want to be left out. Alex announced the start of the event: each illustrator was going to draw something that chased the previous drawing. A camera was well set up above the drawing space and the audience could follow the fluid line action the artists undertook (albeit sometimes with a shaky hand as almost all of them confined to have been terrified and nervous!).
French-born illustrator/animator McBess started, drawing a mouse in his recognized style, comically showing the audience the iPhone he was using to look at picture of mouses. His work is definitely worth looking out for. Besides doing the artwork for the event poster (find him on Twitter, there is a very interesting live feed of images of the making off) he is currently working on shows in Germany and Holland.
Further along the line came illustrator Kristyna Baczynski. She drew the butcher chasing the previously drawn tights-and-boots wearing cow. She was really nervous being in the spotlight like that. While having done live drawing events in the past, she had never been put on stage like this. While her hand seemed steady, she assured me her heart was beating in her throat.
Another illustrator who stood out was Jake, who drew a vegetarian monstrosity. He hadn’t known he was going to have to perform and while he looked like he was really taking his time and drawing calmly, he too felt the nerves. He has been touring such events in the last few months, promoting his first graphic novel Hellraiser (and is off to Latitude Festival later this ‘summer’). While he already knew how to draw, he studied a course in design which definitely helped him work on the aesthetics of his graphic novel.
Before calling it a day, I had to go by Shoreditch Boxpark and get a Bukowski burger. If you haven’t been yet, go!