From 22 — 24 June a global range of illustrators and comic artists will descend on London, filling The Round Chapel and The School Rooms in Hackney for the annual East London Comics and Arts Festival. 2018 marks the seventh edition of ELCAF, a weekend packed with a programme of talks, workshops, masterclasses, screenings, installations and exhibitions, as well as some of the world’s most exciting illustration focused artists selling their goods too. Tickets are now available in advance of the weekend in June and more information is available here.
Each edition of ELCAF also spotlights the work of one particular illustrator, crowning them the festival’s artist in residence. For this year’s selected artist, Belgian-born and Antwerp-based Charlotte Dumortier, the news that her illustrations would represent ELCAF, through a flurry of online icons and specially created posters was met with “a little explosion in my brain from excitement,” she tells It’s Nice That. "I’ve been planning to go to ELCAF for some years but every time something got in the way. And now I’m invited, and I got to make the poster, crazy! I couldn’t believe it at first.”
Tasked with evoking ELCAF’s tone of voice through illustration, Charlotte’s process began with unplanned sketching. “I wanted to see what flowed out of my pencil. I filled pages with rough mini drawings until I thought one could work as a poster,” searching for a visually interesting image rather than an overall mood. What flowed was characters sweetly picking up books and reading them creating “a few propositions so they could pick which one they thought fitted the festival best,” she explains. Thankfully, the festival organisers choice was one of her favourites, a nude girl on her back, leafing through a book.
This one character became the catalyst for a host of other female characters who act as icons for ELCAF 2018. Filling the background of the festival’s website, some are also reading, using giant books as tents to hide within, or are dressed in ELCAF merch and dashing around the screen. This exercise was also Charlotte’s favourite, “I always enjoy filling pages with all kinds of little guys,” she says, and developed from flicking through her own sketchbooks, “filled with all kinds of nonsense and little guys/girls, mostly with hair buns and dogs, I can’t stop drawing them in endless variations”.
In preparation for the weekend in June, Charlotte is “screen printing as much as possible,” to get ready for a very busy couple of days. As well as packing a bunch of Riso and screen printed editions of her work, Charlotte will also be travelling with a gang of other Antwerp-based illustrators, representing her zine collective Yum Yum Zines, which she co-runs with her best friend and fellow illustrator, Shamisa Debroey.
Making a zine specifically for the festival, Yum Yum Zines will also have Satyr a 24-hour comic she made last year, as well as a new sketchbook zine by Frederik Van den Stock. Shamisa and Charlotte will additionally be hosting a workshop “about the unexpected beauty of misprints,” at ELCAF, guiding participants through “the colourful process of print, collaborative drawing and beautiful surprises.” The illustrator will also be doing a solo presentation on her work, focusing on “powerful first lines: the spontaneousness and playfulness of a first sketch, and how to preserve this in a final drawing by trusting yourself and your intuition” — ideal advice for any illustrator.
For Charlotte, illustration festivals such as ELCAF provide a community feeling that’s quite unique to the industry. “It’s always fun to finally meet artists you only know from the internet and have some beers together,” she says. “There’s always a ton of amazing stuff to see, self-published, screen printed original zines and posters are the best motivation for me to also make more work on my own. It’s something I forget after a while when working on too much client work. Creating drawings or zines and so on together gives me a lot of inspiration and energy.”
The welcoming attitude of fellow illustrators to their respective hometowns is an aspect Charlotte also praises, “I’ve stayed on a lot of couches,” she points out. “It’s nice to get to know illustrators from all over the world. It’s also fun when they visit Belgium and I can return the favour and show them around!”
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