Tom Hough, friend of Launch and frequent creative collaborator, filed this report after attending the Illustration Conference 6 (ICON6 for short) in Pasadena, California in July.
I’ve always found illustrators to be kind of an elusive bunch — a rather solitary and nocturnal species, since they’re all freelancers. I’ve done some illustration myself, along with graphic design, so I jumped at the chance to see and interact with these unique people.
It was a large and interesting group, and the conference program was great. So, without further ado, here is a run-down of some of the stand out speakers and topics.
The opening Keynote address was entitled “The Future of Publishing” and was presented by a panel of speakers including Scott Dadich, Creative Director, Wired, and Kelly Doe, Art Director, The New York Times, among others. They addressed an elephant in the room: whether electronic media, such as the iPad and Kindle, will sweep away the last few areas of print publishing that haven’t been completely transformed by the Internet. The consensus: yes, although it might take as long as 10 years.
There were many speakers at the conference from the publishing and film industries who discussed their careers and companies. Highlights from a few:
Wayne White: His greatest claim to fame is as the set designer of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. But he has had a fascinating and varied career as painter, art director, set designer and installation artist. Just listening to his body of work made me tired.
Thomas Blackshear: He talked about the process of being a “traditional” illustrator in the style of N. C. Wyeth and branching out to non-traditional venues to sell his illustrations.
David Saylor: An art director at Scholastic Books, David spoke of his career in the publishing industry and talked of one of the few times that illustrations created for a series of books made it into the movie titles and posters: the Harry Potter series.
Scott Dadich: This creative director for Wired Magazine discussed a fascinating article done for the iPad version of Wired that used an animated interactive illustration.
Kathy Altieri: As the production manager for the 2010 release “How to Train Your Dragon,” Kathy talked about the incredible amount of work that goes into a feature-length animated movie, how long it takes, how many hundreds of animators are involved and how much concept and preproduction illustration work is done. Mind-boggling.
Saiman Chow and Jesus De Francisco: This pair, illustrator and Creative Director at Motion Theory, respectively, spoke about the field of motion graphics and what it holds for the future of illustration. There was a continuing Q&A between the audience and speakers about whether illustrators need the ability to animate their images for the coming electronic media, through software like Flash or HTML5. Some illustrators voiced that they didn’t want to become “programmers” in addition to being artists, but the panelists pointed out that nearly everyone in the crowd had learned to use Illustrator and Photoshop, and learning other software wasn’t any different. In other words, adapt or die.
There were many other presenters, speaking on subjects as diverse as copyright law, computer animation, children’s books, graphic novels, self-promotion, social media, inspiration, art history and technique, the gallery world, electronic publishing, contracts and negotiation. The most inspirational part of the conference, however, was listening to the individual illustrators discuss their life and work.