Committed: Inspiration at the LA Art Book Fair

This weekend I attended Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair. While I was curious to see what it would offer, I didn’t have very clear (or high) expectations. A few comic book creators and stores had tweeted that they would be there so I hoped that there might be something interesting to me. As it turned out the show was packed with fascinating works and people who love books and comic books as much as me.

Being relatively new to Los Angeles I really didn’t know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t think it would be packed with comic books, but it was! At least a quarter of the tables were people who make their own brand of wild comic books, some small press art book publishers offering a strange comic book or two, and there were even a few interesting comic book retailers with tables, like Secret Headquarters and Giant Robot.

At first glance everyone attending seemed drastically hipper than me, but once I got past the part of the fair filled with expensive ’70’s art and design books (not that exciting because I grew up in a house packed with that sort of thing), I found a ton of interesting stuff. There were so many graphic novels, magazines, art, and comics, covering every aspect of life. Gorgeous imported versions of comic books I couldn’t afford (I'm still fantasizing about the chunky version of Chris Ware’s Building Stories). I snagged a great little box of archival prints of Ed Luce (of Wuvable Oaf) art and a very special copy of Henry & Glen Forever & Ever #4.

Sometimes events conspire to create something perfectly silly and quite wonderful. When I spotted Tom Neely’s table at the LA Art Book Fair I thought I’d see if he had the newest issue of his hilarious comic book, Henry & Glen Forever & Ever. I was in luck, not only did he have it, but he had drawn the cover in the style of one of my favorite comic books, Love & Rockets #1. One of the Love & Rockets creators - Jaime Hernandez - was signing just a few rows down and so I thought I’d try a bit of genre mix up, asking him to sign Neely's homage. Jaime did gladly, laughing at the crazy combination and it made a fantastic start to the day.

While I emphatically support digital books, they’re a very different animal from printed books. In many ways the availability of digital books has encouraged a higher level of artistry and care in designing printed books, as more people are now collecting only the most beautifully designed books. In this regard comic books are no different, and I found a wonderful range of strange and different designs to pique my interest.

After the LA Art Book Fair I felt a tremendous sense of excitement about visual communication, the huge array of strange and beautiful books reminded me why I like the medium so much and I came back to my studio with a renewed sense of excitement about the comic books I have to design. The next day I rethought my entire approach to design, redesigning my own websites and rethinking my own upcoming comic book design projects.

Until my perspective changed I hadn’t actually realized that I was feeling a bit apprehensive about attending another Comic-Con this Summer. It isn't that I didn’t want to go, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about it and my little brother has scheduled his wedding for the weekend immediately following the con (of course), so I’d already begun to fear the con plague and people-burn out. But then at the book fair I didn’t feel burned out by talking to all these new people, instead I felt creatively nourished. It was an inspiring experience, now instead of apprehension I’m looking forward to Comic-Con again and I'm more excited about designing comic books than ever.

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