So this last Saturday was the maiden voyage of a new illustration and comics event in Portland, Linework NW. Organized by Zack Soto and François Vigneault, here’s the description from Linework NW’s own website:
“Linework NW is a new illustration and comics festival taking place in Portland, Oregon. Linework NW’s goal is to focus attention on the creators who continue to inject new energy and vitality into these venerable mediums that share so much in common, whether their work is to be found in comic books, original art, graphic novels, prints, or other forms. Drawing upon a wealth of talent from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, Linework NW seeks to cultivate a vibrant cultural experience for creators, readers, art lovers, and collectors alike.”
It delivered on all of this. And speaking for myself, and from what I could gather from some other folks I talked to, it was exactly what so many of us needed.
Let’s rewind a little bit: When I first moved to Portland at the beginning of 2004, there was a new comics event starting up that June. They called it the Stumptown Comics Fest and they held it in a little church in SW Portland. It was a pretty small event by all accounts, but for someone that had just graduated from college, just moved to Portland, and was working a shit job and making comics in my spare time, it was HUGE. I gave me a chance to meet other cartoonists, to connect with them and share our love for comics and making things. It injected inspiration and motivation for me, and it gave me a community to be a part of.
Fast forward 10 years, and a lot has happened. For me, I kept drawing and making comics, and have a lot more under my belt. I finished a graphic novel with my friend MK Reed that was published by a major publisher, I’ve had work appear in lots of anthologies by other publishers large and small, and have been holding my own as an illustrator, even though that’s been a little up and down. Stumptown changed a lot in those 10 years too. It grew. It grew a lot. I stopped going to them until the last couple of years when Americus came out. It was fun, but it was different. Not just the space, but the feeling of it. It was growing, and as it was, it seemed like it was just turning into to every other comics event.
Then news broke last fall that Stumptown would be no more and that it would get absorbed into the Rose City Comic Con, run by the folks that do the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. There’s a lot of people I know that speak highly of that show. I went one year, and found it to be more of the same – the focus was on superhero or mainstream comics, television, and movies. Other comics and cartoonists were present and welcome, but they just got lost or overshadowed by those other things. The loss of Stumptown was a bummer for a lot of people, but for me, it getting absorbed into Rose City was just the natural evolution of where it was headed.
Shortly after that news broke of Stumptown’s demise, news of Linework NW happening broke. People like myself were excited not only because it was helping fill that void of a convention in April in Portland, but because it was being organized by two incredibly respected creators who were already organizing some of the best independent comics in Press Gang and Studygroup. Maybe this was going to be the comics event we had all been wanting.
I quit my day job almost two years ago to try to make it freelancing full time. It’s been up and down, but for the most part I’ve managed to keep my head above water. The last four months or so have been pretty rough. It’s been be first rocky patch as a full-time illustrator. Work has been really slow, and a lot of things have just plain-out fell through – a storyboarding job I applied for, two teaching jobs, a book proposal rejection, agent rejections, etc. It’s hard, and it can really get down on you. It can also be hard looking at other friends and artists folks on social media and seeing all the success [or perceived success] they’re having and just wondering what you’re doing wrong. It made me wonder if I’m even cut out for doing this.
The last couple of months I decided to change my perception and just make use of this free time I’ve had and focused on working on two of the book projects that I’ve had in my mind the last couple of years. I got about 30 pages of each of them done, and made them into mini-comics for Linework NW.
What does all this have to do with Linework NW? Well, despite my successes and where I’ve taken my work over the last 10 years, I’ve found myself in an eerily similar situation that I was in ten years ago when I first moved to Portland. I feel like I’m starting over, unsure of my work and myself. But then Linework NW came along and brought the same things to Portland that the first Stumptown did in the tiny church in SW a decade ago. It brought enthusiasm and love, and energy from other people making comics, doing illustration, and from people that love those things. It allowed me to connect, and reconnect with so many people, and to remember that there’s such a rich and vibrant community here full of excitement and love for the work and for one another. It’s easy to get caught in your own bullshit, sitting by yourself at your drafting table wondering what the fuck you’re doing and why you’re even doing it. Being able to talk to your peers and having them be excited for you and your work, to get excited for the work they’re creating and have it inspire you, and to share your burdens, and encourage each other… That’s what Linework NW brought, at least for me.
Could Zack and François known that’s what Linework NW would be? I mean they did an amazing job organizing the event and curating the exhibitors and making sure all the gears were turning smoothly. But that energy and love? They brought that too, for sure, but everyone that showed up that Saturday brought it, as well. It was all kind of a perfect storm. It was amazing and it was just what I needed.
Also, there was some dude handing out gnarly hairy penis stickers. I can’t wait for next year.