Over Memorial Day weekend I drove out to Pittsburgh, PA to check out the 2013 Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival. The truth is, my main motivation was to meet Patrick McDonnell, author and illustrator of Mutts, as well as have him sign some of my collected books and prints. So, I didn't get to check out any of the panel discussions, etc., but I did get to meet Patrick and have some fun hanging out in the 'burgh on a beautiful, cool spring day.
The wife stayed home and did things she needed to do, got caught up with some of her friends and got some much needed r&r. So, I went it alone and stayed with my dad. The drive out from Leesburg, VA on Saturday morning couldn't have been more ideal, and on Sunday morning I took off early for the Toonseum in Pittsburgh. The day started off on a very positive note after visiting this great little coffee shop called Amarabica Coffee House (see above), off Rt 19 in Wexford, PA. I got a latte, which tasted fantastic, and the place itself, a family-owned operation was beautiful and unique, full of color and character. I was the only person there (and probably the first to open it that day), however a few cars actually pulled in while I was leaving. I was sad when this former Star Wars shop (yes, a store dedicated to only Star Wars stuff!) closed to reopen as a tobacco shop a little while ago. Hopefully it's latest incarnation is here to stay. Highly recommended.
I have to admit, Downtown Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh is looking kind of rough these days, but there are some things about the place that add some life, including the enormous mural by Brian Holderman called "Yesterday's Tomorrow" (see above and below), a title I found somewhat ironic, considering some of the run down structures nearby, sadly. Needless to say, I must have counted at least thirty people who took a picture of this massive work of art, which I love and always have to stop and look at a while when I'm in the area.
Near the front entrance of the Toonseum stand these two giant sculptures (below). I'm not sure what their significance is, but they're a great way to draw attention to an otherwise smaller space.
Though I arrived quite early, a big line began to form to see Patrick McDonnell (below). I didn't think so many fans would come out of the woodwork and I was actually very happy to see that they did!
Meeting Patrick (see below) was extremely cool and the guy is truly a class act. Despite the long line, he took some time to genuinely greet his fans and never seemed at all in some kind of rush. I had several items for him to sign, including a wonderful print based on a piece by Hiroshige, a postcard comic inspired by Hokusai, as well as a hard bound copy of his fantastic collaboration with another one of my favorite people, Eckhart Tolle, titled "Guardians of Being". I thanked Patrick for all he's done and let him know how much I appreciate the way he sometimes incorporates tributes to great artists in his work. I loved that he took the time to draw a little cartoon on everything, along with his signature. Some people think autographs are kind of silly, but I personally see them as an important mark indicating a moment in time when I met a fellow human being who inspired me and brought something good and meaningful into my life.
After meeting Patrick and hanging out some at the Toonseum, I got sidetracked by this great little bookstore (below) that had a superb art section. I probably browsed around for about an hour and I made some great finds, while paying very little for them. I think the place was once called Awesome Books but is now called Amazing Books. Either way, I'll take it!
The actual street festival took a little time to get underway, and during this time I found a place that served pizza for lunch.
There were some art vendors, including the well-known Pittsburgh-based Tugboat Printshop (below), who do some incredible woodcut work. I wasn't too clear on how to vend this year and was too busy anyhow to even try. I talked to one vendor who said they were keeping things a little lower key this first time around, to test the waters, and perhaps next year things will get bigger. If so, I think I'm going to look into selling some work, if possible.
There was a vacant space that I believe at one time housed an art gallery funded by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and it had a piece of paper taped onto the window with the words "Bureau of Surrealist Research" (below) that caught my attention. Who knows what that was about, but I thought it was pretty cool, whatever it meant.
I stuck around a while until author and illustrator Mo Willems was scheduled to sign books at the nearby August Wilson Center (above). My friend Susie, who is our school librarian loves to read his "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus " book, and has a good number of the kids in school drawing the pigeon character all over their notebooks, etc. So, I waited in a fairly long line (below) to get him to sign that very book for her, as well as a copy of the book "Leonardo, the Terrible Monster" for me. Mo was a real cool guy with some great, encouraging words of wisdom for his younger fans, who were there in abundance.
There were lots of talented caricature artists on hand, as well as Earl (from Mutts) and Wonder Woman. How could you go wrong? So, I had a lot of fun and hopefully it'll be an even bigger and better event next year. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, do check out the Toonseum!