I haven't posted too much about ICON
, but I guess now that it's over, I should. Partially so I don't forget things and partially because I need to speed up this decompressing and get back to my life! I've been home for four days and all I've done is sleep. This is what happens when you run a deficit for as long as I did, I guess!
Putting together the Illustration Conference was the shared work of an entire dedicated board of amazing artists / volunteers. As with everything with me, I threw myself completely into the planning of it and poured my heart into every detail of my involvement. I personally invited and produced main stage speaker sessions with Carson Ellis, Souther Salazar, and Chronicle Books (me, Lisa Congdon, Kristen + Christina at Chronicle); developed a program called Kaleidoscope (recruited my friends Abe Vizcarra and Robert Brinkerhoff to co-curate, landing on final applicants Julie Murphy, Lisa Brown, Andy J Miller, Mike Kerr + Renata Liwska); developed workshops with Bridget Watson Payne
from Chronicle, Alexandra Zsigmond from the New York Times, and Jason Sturgill; worked with my friends at Land
to curate + set up an art show for 70+ attendees; ordered over 300 hand-selected books with Esther for the ICON8 bookstore and intook consignment books from self published authors - its own added complication; moved those books ourselves to 5 different locations throughout the conference; sold them to attendees myself using my own damn phone! (as did my co-chair Esther and our amazing student volunteers); confirmed and ran author signings with Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Andrea Dezso, Carson Ellis, Calef Brown, Vanessa Davis, Mimi Pond, Wendy Macnaughton, Julia Rothman, Mark Todd, Marshall Arisman, Whitney Sherman, Lilla Rogers, No Brow's Sam Arthur and Rilla Alexander, The Clayton Brothers, Adam McCauley, Janet Hamlin, Justin Hall, Victor Juhasz, and I think even a few more. Managing lines for some of the above myself. And of course, the Roadshow - a pop up marketplace + portfolio show I planned with Esther over the past 2 yrs that turned out like this:
(and this is a photo toward the end of the night, I'm guessing, because the room was at capacity for much of the time. Pretty great!)
Look, I even exhibited!
I'm really freaking tired.
I spoke on the main stage, too - moderating and participating in the panel about Chronicle Books. I hope people got something out of it or at least that it wasn't boring! One thing that's weird about a moderated panel is that not having any control over how long other people digress or become nervous or self-conscious which can break up the momentum of the conversation! But, I *think* we flowed pretty well + more than anything, it was really nice to connect with a few friends on stage since I sure as hell didn't see anybody while I was running around behind the scenes!Hard lessons I learned at ICON:
1. People promote the shit out of themselves every second of every day and it is the most depressing thing to witness.
I didn't bring business cards to this conference, because I am the worst example of a self promoter in the world. Even fellow board members had no idea I did so much for ICON. Even my best friends in the world who were in the art show I helped bring together had no idea I had a part in it. Which is fine! Maybe I'm the problem, but seeing how much people talk about themselves all the time in all the places just got to me at a certain point.
I saw attendees and my fellow board members drop everything or put themselves front and center to introduce themselves to an art director, curator or publisher they want to work with. Good for them for their boldness! But man, that is not me.
The positive side of this is I now understand how I operate and what works for me: work hard and put your heart into it and I believe good people will take notice. It's nice that people sometimes take notice, and they're usually the people who are fun to work with anyway.
2. Very few people say thank you.
3. There are Mean Girls in illustration!!!
Whoa. This one caught me by surprise. I saw them openly, rudely giggling during other people's talks and forming high school-esque cliques during breaks, shunning each other. I saw them posting their passive aggressive criticisms of other people's lectures to their well-attended social media accounts. How cleverly they put down other people! Let's give them a medal. How do these people find each other and encourage each other to be so exclusionary? I'll never understand.
There's probably a little hypocrisy in posting this observation at all, but I am just so surprised there was such negativity coming from women at this conference, when some of the women behind it are the most inclusive, friendly people you'll ever meet. It breaks my heart that I felt and noticed this, but I did.Edit: Why am I singling out the women? I've always sensed a similar type of boy's club in illustration. Maybe now that women are breaking more and more into the field, I'm surprised they're doing the same thing, finding ways to exclude and mock each other to try to make themselves look better.
Stop it, people. We all work hard. We all wish for job security. We all want to make artwork people respond to and love. No one comes to this conference because they have nothing to learn. Putting someone else down won't make your work better.
4. You can put every bit of your energy into something benevolent as a volunteer and someone will still complain to you that you're not doing a good enough job.
During and before the roadshow, I fielded complaints from a few memorable people - notably from a gallery owner who repeatedly harassed me about where his consignment book was (Apparently "I don't know but I'll find out tomorrow morning and let you know" isn't a straightforward enough way of saying "I'll find out tomorrow and let you know"?) He was rude and aggressive and self-important and selfish enough to demand I drop everything to solve his problem in that moment; he ruined my night and later shit-talked me to my friends, because he is an asshole. One person complained because they weren't allowed in the room before the show opened. And so many people complained that the room was too busy! Um… stop. Stop. Stop. See #8.
5. Related: People are sometimes self-centered and self-important and selfish and it's sad because you know someday either they'll get what they want or they'll be so lonely, and both of those possibilities are heartbreaking.
6. Most of the best people at ICON were people I already know!
This isn't a "hard lesson" so much as a nice reminder I left with!
I always go into these types of events hopeful that I'll leave them knowing some wonderful new people -- and I totally do -- but the best best best people for me this week were the friends I've had long established friendships with, the ones who cared for my well-being and checked in on me and didn't treat me like I was an invisible sharpie holder for their book signing, or an avenue to the recognition they've so long deserved, a person to climb over on their way to the top.
In particular, my husband Michael was so supportive of my overcommitment this week and over the past two years and I will always love him for patiently waiting by for me to wrap up my responsibilities so I can be fun again.
Several of the people speaking at or attending ICON were just really lovely, gracious, sweet people and you just root for their continued success. Shout out to new friends Andrea Dezso
(I love her as a person and I love her work), instant friend Julie Murphy
, sweethearts Sean Qualls
+ Selina Alko
, witty and wise Lisa Brown
, the adorable and ridiculously talented Renata
-- benevolent new friends / board members Rick Lovell
and Owen Smith
who helped when they could -- and of course, old friends Caitlin Keegan
, Robert Brinkerhoff
(near and dear to my heart + incidentally another chair for the conference), Allison Cole
, Kate Pugsley
, Esther Watson
(my co-chair and dear friend) and Mark Todd
(sweetheart who worked as hard as Esther and I did) who all kept me sane (ish) as I juggled everything. Check out their work if you haven't before.
7. Without sleep and food and some time alone where you can take care of your own needs and quiet your mind, you will break down.
And I did.
8. Stop complaining; nobody cares.
I felt like people's eyes glazed over if I opened up about how I was falling apart, or if I mentioned how I hadn't slept in days, or if I made any mention of the insane time commitment ICON became. And then see #4 above. Lesson learned.
After I finish this post.