Wednesday, July 18, 2018


I attended the 10th biannual ICON Illustration Conference in Detroit last week. This conference is one of my absolute favorite of all the many things I go to for work. Here are a few bits and pieces from the trip. (Not pictured: the amazing array of illustrators and designers I got to meet, hang out with, see the work of, and hear speak & the fact that I didn't have much chance to see the city of Detroit, but got a strong impression of it and now want to go back and spend more time there).

Above: The Detroit School of Art Vocal Jazz Ensemble kicking off the conference proceedings with a beautiful performance (note the black and white set behind them, designed by one Josh Cochran - this will come up again later)

The view out my hotel room window might seem unexciting at first, until you learn that those buildings across the water are: CANADA! Which, believe it or not, is due south of Detroit.

I did get a chance to sample the Detroit delicacy known as the "coney hot dog" at this place with these cool signs.

Detroit has a complicated political and economic thing going on downtown where previously abandoned and crumbling high rises, many of them hotels, are being fixed up. The nuances and issues of the situation are many. But so are the astonishing architectural details. It's complicated.

Public art by KAWS

A live on-stage fashion illustration demonstration. The man in the white shirt is the videographer, filming the illustrator (who you can’t see in this photo), a close up of whose hands in action are then projected on the screen behind the model.

The set I mentioned earlier changes during the breaks in the proceedings, growing more and more complicated, and with color slowly creeping in. By the time Jamayla and Pierre Bennu spoke, here, near the end of the conference, it looked like this.

The closing party was held at the Michigan Theater - a majestic spot more recently used as a parking garage and allowed to fall into near total disrepair. Now a party venue, it's crumbling elegance is striking and picturesque. But some local Detroiters in attendance reminded me that the backstory of how it got this way is far from pretty. As with much of what I learned about the city in my brief time there, it made me want to come back and learn more - but with the awareness that the possibility for a gawking kind of tourism is quite high. When I do go back I want to have learned enough ahead of time to do so in a responsible, respectful, and conscious manner.

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