ELCAF — Meeting London’s trendy illustrators

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!

Nathan Gotlib
About author:
Nathan Gotlib
Nathan's work tends to be about information and the way it is spread. His enthusiasm and love for neon signage stems from this interest. A subject he continually tries to explore is how people react to experiencing certain bits of information and the psychological effect it has on them. This goes hand in hand with his practice of Design, a discipli... Read further >
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