By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Camosun’s Comic Arts Festival (CCAF) is growing, and just what this event does is to put ownership back to the artists who decided to make the visual storytelling medium their career. It’s been used as old as time, since the caveman days, to tell a story on a surface. In Ancient Egypt, the paintings on the tombs can evoke a magic like quality to help the deceased continue on to the Afterlife. The immortality is not just with their souls’ journey but also with how their legacy upholds when their life is told in illustrative form.
Interestingly enough, one of the students, Raphaël Pirenne, takes inspiration from this land, and will be hoping he creates a comic out of it.
The college that’s located in the garden city of Victoria, British Columbia, has played host to some special events, and unlike bigger shows that tends to spotlight brands more than with the independents, to get back to the basics is all that’s really needed for this show. The CCAF is simply starting small, but it has bigger plans.
“We’re now in its third year and it will continue to build from strength to strength, ” said Ken Steacy, program co-founder, “We take our cues from the TCAF (The Toronto show) and VanCAF (Vancouver), which we consider to be emblematic of shows that celebrate both the artistic and literary value of comics and graphic novels.”
Along with his wife, Joan, they started this festival as a graduating ceremony of sorts for their students of the Comics & Graphic Novels certificate program. Camosun College is certainly staying current with today’s needs since comic books is a recognized medium to tell stories in — especially after the success of comic books being translated into movies. The options are lucrative with the right story.
I heard the word ‘convention’ being used to describe this event and I had to wonder if that’s right word to use? After seeing a few folks in costume, I have to agree that that’s the type of environment being fostered. Even a few of the exhibitors, namely the lovely and talented Astra Crompton, even got into the act.
Near the end of the day, there were the diehards walking back and forth on the third floor of the Young building. With an Artist’s Alley, Art Jam and Reading room offered, I was transported back in time to my days here as a student. I found that this show has a lot of good going for it. The big conventions are often packed and the artists I like to talk to can only offer so much time to chat with their fans. Here, folks can take their time and discover the motivations behind these new talents. Who knows what’ll happen in a few years time. Some may find themselves hired by IDW or Dark Horse Comics because their skill with the pencil is just that good. Others may continue with being truly independent, and it’s that world that needs to survive so artists can continue to express themselves.
To see how the old stomping grounds have been converted into study and studio space — all I can say is oh how the times have changed! The program I was enrolled in turned from Applied Communication (Journalism) to Digital Communication. The radio station space is converted into laptop stations and the television studio got turned into an arts space. During the CCAF, anyone could step up to try their hand at drawing costumed models from the organization, Superheroes of Victoria, and tack the work up. Three classrooms that I once regularly frequented were turned into exhibit space for students, mentors and professional artists to show off their wares.
Even notable talents like Paul Chadwick (Concrete), Nelson Dewey (Harvey Comics’ Back To The Future), Glen Mullaly (My Teacher Is An Alien), Janine Johnston (Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi), Ash Vickers (Megacynics), Glen Lovett (The Adventures of Jasper), Sam Logan (Sam & Fuzzy web comic), Deni Loubert (Cerebus) and Alex Steacy (LoadingReadyRun) were present. I even saw Dan Schoening (IDW’s Ghostbusters), whom, as I recall was also a graduate of this school. The comics program was not quite in place when he started, but his education in this building’s hallowed halls was helpful. Even though he did not set up a table to show off his work, to see other Victoria-based talent come to this show certainly tells folks the community is alive.
The show started Friday night with a keynote about the comics scene that took place at the Nellie McClung library. The speakers at that event included local cartoonist and owner of Legends Comics Gareth Gaudin (Perogy Cat), Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame inductee Katherine Collins aka Arn Saba (Neil the Horse), Simon Roy (Tiger Lung) and Renée Nault (The Handmaid’s Tale). At the festival itself, there were other discussions like in how Ken, Joan and Alex (their son) approach visual storytelling. Also included is a look at Nelson Dewey’s career, how to cosplay by Astra Crompton, how to manage an art career by Paul Chadwick and how illustration can be fun as Edutainment!
“Having the keynote talk the preceding evening was an important part of our outreach to the community at large in an effort to connect creators with their audience. We were very pleased with the turnout, and will continue with those efforts in the future.” said Steacy.