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December 7, 2016


Festivals Extra: Event Photos From CALA 2016

I attended the Saturday afternoon of a two-day Comics Arts Los Angeles, at Think Tank Gallery -- that's in downtown LA on Maple. I had a really good time. I believe it was a successful show, although I only have a limited sample from which to project.

I think one thing that CALA has in common with Comic Arts Brooklyn in that both are really good selling shows, with a lot of unique artists due to the wider industries available in each city, artists that are looking for a place to ply their paper wares and related items. It's an extremely young show, both in terms of its own growth (this is year three) and in terms of its exhibitor base. There seem to be a lot of makers in the audience. It feels like an end-of-the-year show, people wrapping things up, talking about 2017 in broad terms, creative pushes, sabbaticals, re-calibrations.

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My brother Whit took a bunch of photos at the show. He lives on the fissure line between Burbank and North Hollywood, a space occupied by a lot of comics people. We took the Red Line down to the Pershing Square shop, where you go to hit The Last Bookstore. We got brunch at Little Easy, a bar+kitchen with two spaces carved into the city block that are intended to be reminiscent of two kinds of New Orleans drinking establishments: the big old bar, curtain-heavy kind, and the courtyard-oriented kind. The brunch was good. The clientele was younger than the two of us, but not in an accelerated fashion.

There was a line outside CALA at 1 PM Saturday. Because it's in a gallery space that isn't obviously a comics show from the street, this gave the moment a hilarious clichéd LA feel. Chip Mosher cut in line to go in with us. It took about 20 minutes. It was not so crowded upstairs it felt like a show that would have a line, but I remember 2014 being hot and cramped and am happy they were doing what it took to not repeat that experience. That third shot is neighborhood shot; there's a lot going on down there on a random Saturday afternoon, and I enjoyed the walk through all the clothing- and fabric-focused stores. Super-bummed the nearby Starbucks shut down their bathroom, but totally understand.

****

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This is a few shots of the inside while we were there, and a fair representation of the show's audience and crowd-level while we were in the second floor space. They had a nice balance: people were busy, but if you stopped and talked to someone for 90 seconds or so it didn't feel like you were jamming up someone else's day. I don't know if they need to relocate the major part of the show or not.

*****

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The map gives you another look at the show's size and if you can read it an idea of the quality of the exhibitor. It was high for a show like this one. I didn't see a single person that felt strongly out of place and only a few that maybe seemed they could have made a stronger showing a year or two down the line. Good shopping room. Books and paper mostly, but plenty of t-shirts. The books were mostly handmade and small. A couple of shopping highlights for me were John Pham selling his latest and beautiful-looking books and Lisa Hanawalt had a bunch of original art going of various sizes and intensity, some just art and I think some pages.

*****

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There were more people here I recognized than in 2014, I think because the show is slightly more attractive and I've gotten to know a few more younger cartoonists at such events. This is an inconsistent and incomplete sampling in threes for the bulk of the rest of the pages. That's Lisa Hanawalt, Dustin Harbin and Charles Hatfield. Hanawalt's in the middle of her animation work year, but seems happy with the rollout for her 2016 book. Harbin had his pile of wares. My brother was wearing a Harbin t-shirt. Charles and I talked briefly of Comics Studies Society doings. It's always great to see him, and he was one of the contributing writers during my era of TCJ.

*****

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Kevin Czap and Cathy G. Johnson at their tables right next to one another seemed to be doing brisk business, as did creative partners Rebecca Mock and Hope Larson (on Compass South), seated next to one another. I got a chance to tell Hope I've enjoyed her public posts about vocational issues, which I think a lot of creators feel reluctant to address.

*****

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My brother and I have taken enough photos of Chris Pitzer to do a coffee table book and this is one of the Pitzeriest photos ever. He had AdHouse t-shirts for those of us that ordered them. I liked that Ryan Sands looked like a somewhat sleepy, van-driving Dad on his way to pick up salted Irish butter at the drive-through convenience store. Ben Sears was located next to Harbin. I don't know him all that well except to recognize I probably shouldn't introduce myself again, but I've enjoyed the last few comics of his I've seen.

*****

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Ryan Cecil Smith was selling a loose-leaf explanation of how to best employ Risograph printing methods on behalf of your own work. It was the only publication I physically bought at the show. He is also in the NoHo area. I've enjoyed his comics for years and it seems to me he's been ready for several years to take that next step in terms of finding a bigger, more trenchant audience. Sophie Yanow was a long way from her teaching gig in Vermont. She's a great add for them up there. Malachi Ward had an Image book there, which I don't think anyone else did even though there was a smattering of folks' book-publisher books on seemingly every table. Good book, too.

*****

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After introducing me to Cecil Castellucci, Chip and my brother an I went in his car -- my brother apparently took pictures of us gossiping from his back-seat perch -- and over to the remodeled and restored Clifton's for cafeteria-type dinner. Both the original place and its restoration have a place in LA's heart, and Chip talked about living in Los Angeles as a now-veteran member of the local community: vital, scattered, professionally-oriented. We also talked about areas of potential growth for comics people in the next few years. It was a really good time.

And so was CALA, really. That's a pleasing show that isn't running ahead of itself. I hope that in the next few years it might find ways to plug and play a few more socially-driven events around town -- there have been strong satellite events both years I've attended but not core-show stuff -- and that it will continue to get a crowd of people that just want to come to Los Angeles for a few days. It hasn't quite figured out that component, but I think it will get there. There's a lot of energy in that room, and a professional sheen that says of those mostly young cartoonists that they are going to do the comics they want to do and they're not asking for permission, access or for a specific outcome.

*****

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Let's end with Sam Alden, who de-aged 15 months during the two hours I was in the room with him and will one day win a major comics award he'll be too young to lift over his head. Sam seemed happy with the new work he's doing, and as one of the first cartoonists in his age group to make a bunch of people decades older take notice I'm glad to see him challenging himself and ensconced in a community that can find him work and multiple creative outlets.

I hope Sunday went as well, and I hope the show will be back next year. With more and more people moving to Los Angeles, there are chances to grow strictly according to their own desires, which is an exciting thing for comics. I'll return every time I can and one day I hope to burn through the room buying something from every table -- a modest comics dream, likely achievable.

*****
*****
 
posted 3:35 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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