Friday, November 13, 2009

Malta Comics Convention 2009

Part 3 of the first Maltese Convention…

Hi Guys,

Well, there we were at the start of the second ever Malta comic convention and now the nerves appeared to have become less stretched for the organisers, as we all met up at breakfast.

We were then taken once more to the venue in Valletta, where we would again set up our tables ready to receive the fans. Once more the sun was blazing down and I managed to get one or two photos taken from within the people carrier, in which we travelled, albeit they were a little blurry at times.

It began pretty much as it was to end with more folks coming in through the doors than the previous day, as had been predicted the evening before.

I have to admit that the amount of folks wanting sketches, photos with me and that actually bought products from me was a pleasant change of pace to the general one back home at the UK based ones.

Maybe this was down to the fact we had flown to their country from abroad, but the feeling I got was not this, but one, which stemmed from a different understanding and respect for the arts in general, which would become very apparent the next day when we would be taken on a whirlwind tour of the island.

Olivia the organiser of the creativity sessions came over, just as I was half way through a sketch to ask me to start the sessions with Mike and then she went to tell Mike too. The person I was sketching for was most gracious, as were all the fans there that weekend and he told me he would come back later to pick up the sketch and buy some of my products.

This time the session included the parents and being English speaking Mike and I became a double act again this time managing to keep the parents happy and amused too.

We were joined this time by Inez’s mother and younger sister who proved to be an excellent, if shy artist and reminded both Mike and I of Disney concept and comic artist, Claire Wendling, which is a great accolade, especially for someone so young.

The session went quickly for me and everyone enjoyed themselves, as they learnt one, or two new tricks for drawing, as Mike and I imparted some of our knowledge to the folks there. One of the things that went down well was to show them, with our flipcharts facing towards each other, so we could not see what we were each doing, and getting a description of the character they wished us to draw, just how different the two drawings would be.

The character we were asked to draw was an obese, spy, hedgehog with blue hair and a black costume. I hope someone at the centre managed to take a photo of the work we did, as it was one of those things I should have photographed, but didn’t in amongst all the excitement of the weekend.

The sessions, as I say, went down so well I have asked Mike to join me here at one of the Fantasy Art Unlimited sessions next year.

Well the session finished we returned to our respective tables and I had a great time chatting once more to Inez’s father and mother and a huge amount of fans there. I also spent some time chatting with Inez herself and traded a sketch I did when she asked me for one, with the one she did for me, which you can see here on this Blog.

It really did amaze me the amount of people that remembered my work and also at how many had taken the trouble to bring some if it along to have me sign it.

I found myself drawing ever faster, as more and more folks came over to my table and asked for a sketch. At one point in the afternoon, after lunch I was wondering if I would manage to complete them all. I never charge for sketches, as I figure it is a compliment from the fans to have them ask for one in the first place, plus if it weren’t for them buying my stuff I would be out of a job.

We went for lunch once more at the Inspirations café/restaurant and this time we all received our orders. I had a huge bowl of crispy chicken Caesar salad and it was huge too.

We were joined this time by John Bamber, a big comic art collector. I had only previously spoken to John via email and this was a great opportunity to get to know him. Having chatted to him the previous evening at the after party in the hotel bar. If you are reading this John, yes I will sort out the artwork for you, just let me know what you need.

Back at the tables the surge of folks continued and I was just able to finish off the last couple of sketches, whilst the other guys packed away around me. During this time Inez and her family packed up and prepared to leave. We switched email addresses and I agreed to create a piece of artwork for her father, once I got back home for him to use on his musician’s tours as a back drop and for his advertising and posters, etc.

Then it was time for me to pack too and then we were once more taken to the Inspirations café/restaurant, where I decided to try one of the pizzas, which Warren had eaten earlier. Like the rest of the food served there the pizzas were large and delicious too.

We spent a couple of hours drinking and chatting on the patio following our meal, mainly about the convention to start with then about the state of comics in the UK and US and what could be done to change things. The conversation was very fruitful, to my mind and I hope some of what we discussed comes to fruition. I can only advise you to watch this space.

It was soon time to move on and we left the venue for the final time and headed back to the hotel for more drinks. By the time we arrived back there and had dropped off our stuff from the convention the main bar was closed, but the little café/bar at the front of the hotel next to the reception was still open so we had a couple of drinks there and continued to chat, this time about less serious matters.

By 02:00 a.m. it was time for us to retire to bed and we arranged to meet once more for breakfast before leaving for the tour of Malta that the guys were going to give us.
I have to admit that I packed my gear ready to leave two days hence and then my head the pillow and I was asleep.

Below: Me sketching and having my photo taken with a comic fan:

Below: The Convention Mass-Sketch Board:

Below: More sketches for the comic fans:

Below: The Convention Organisers and the UK Guest lineup:

Below: The Mighty Mike Collins:

Below: David Lloyd - One of the gentlemen of comics:

Below: Warren Pleece signs one of his books:

Below: Sean Azzopardi sketches for a fan:

My sketch of Ralf from Inez Kristina Baldacchino (watch out for this artist):
More of Inez's wonderful artwork:

Below: Local Maltese Superhero - FAT-SPIDEY:

After the usual breakfast fare we joined the guys at the front of the hotel, where Mike Collins was joined by his wife Karen and some of their friends, who were to continue the trip, as an holiday from the day following the trip. The sun was again beating down and armed with my shorts, sunglasses and camera, we set off for the tour, arranging to meet up with Mike and his family, who were travelling in a second vehicle in Mdina.

Mike Quinton drove David, Warren, Sean and myself across the island and to a couple of the bays, (see photos) before heading on to Mdina to meet up with Mike and the gang. Once there we looked inside the Mdina Glass company shop, which was bright and colourful, as one comes to expect from them.

We walked through Mdina’s narrow medieval streets until we reached St Paul’s Cathedral (Malta has a big catholic tradition amongst its people) and the Cathedral Museum. We bought tickets and the inside of the Cathedral was like looking at a mini Sistine Chapel. It was a beautiful sight to behold and the photos here do not really do the place justice.
Some of the artwork on the stone floor looked like they could have been produced by the Pre-Raphaelites, or in keeping with my comic art background, Barry Windsor Smith.

Inside the Museum I saw some beautiful pieces of art and old religious clothing and hand written and illuminated Bibles. As I walked down a long gallery with paintings on either side, Mike Collins approached me and told me there some Albrecht Dürer etchings in a side room, just off this main gallery, so I decided to take a look.

It is incredible to think that these pieces of art were created back in the 1500’s, especially in light of the condition of the artwork. It reminded me greatly of Howard Pyle’s work on the King Arthur books. Howard Pyle was one of the leading American illustrators early in the last century and founded the Brandywine School of Art, where he taught artists such as NC Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish.

Some of the background work especially with it’s renditions of castles and trees reminded me of many of the illustration of Howard Pyle and I wondered, as I looked at the detailing whether he himself had studied this artwork and taken his style from it.

From there we were took to a high point in Mdina, which overlooked the island and showed how high up we actually were. We looked at the sights and then returned to our transport to drive over to Southport Villa and Gardens, in Marsaxlokk, across from the boats that bob about on the bay in front of this magnificent restaurant.

Below: One of the many forts dotted around the island:

Below: One of the narrow streets of Mdina:

Below: St Paul's Cathedral Mdina - breathtakingly beautiful:

Below: St Paul's Cathedral - Museum containing the Durer etchings:

Below: Outside the National Museum of Natural History - Vilhena Palace:

Below: One of the many horse and carriages in Mdina:

Below: Panoramic view from the high walls of Mdina - showing the Malta national football stadium:

Once there we were quickly escorted to the lounge area at the back of the restaurant, where we did not have long to wait before being shown to our tables outside in the gardens at the rear. It was a in beautiful setting; the weather was fantastic, and the food even better.

Chris Stellini, (Check out the photos of his tattoo) one of the organisers was a chef himself and so was given the job of ordering the wine and also the meal, which was exquisite and if we thought we had eaten plenty and well up to now, this was about to up the tempo…somewhat.

We drank copious amounts of wine and water and ate a starter of antipasto. We began with a serving of Maltese breads covered in vegetables, herbs and pastes, which were delicious. We then were served with an octopus pasta, a rabbit pasta, and a vegetable alternative. Next came the main course of different shellfish, such as mussels, scallops, and a variety of other shellfish, crayfish in the shell, and monkfish and stonefish, which was mind-blowingly good. Wine was served throughout and then we had a lovely large Maltese dessert, which was a cross between cake and ice cream, light, but in a large portion. We finished off the meal with more wine and a coffee and a liqueur.

We kind of all waddled out after we had said goodbye to the restaurant and set off back to the hotel. Once back at the hotel I packed the final things and prepared to leave early the next morning.

Below: Marsaxlokk - a beautiful and Malta's main fishing village with beautiful restaurants and lots of boats:

Below: The ever-pleasant Mike Collins poses for the camera:

Below: Mark, Chris, Sean & Mike laze in the mid-day sun:

Below: The astonishing Southport Villa & Gardens Restaurant:

Below: Organiser Chris Stellini (The Back):

Below: Outside the Southport Villa & Gardens Restaurant - 3.5 hours later - FULL:

An hour or so later we were all back out and heading towards the Il Barri restaurant in Church Square, Mgarryes more food. It was like they wanted to kill us with kindness now and became a running gag between us and the convention organisers.

There we were faced with another menu of epic proportions and was treated to my first try at snails, which were incredible and served in a lovely sauce. We also had some of the by-now-famous Maltese bread starters. I chose a spaghetti Bolognese, thinking it would come in a small portion, as they do here in the UK, but no it was large. Other food served that evening was rabbit the Maltese national dish and horse, amongst lots of other things to choose from on the menu.

A evening of eating and drinking later, just one local beer and then water for me by this time, and it was time to say our goodbyes. We took photos inside the Il Barri, or at least the owner took them for us all and then we left. As is the wont of these kinds of events, you have all had such a great time and got to know new friends and the night reaches it’s anti-climax. I saw everyone hugging everyone and thanking everyone, the organisers, us and we, them. Folks were close to tears in some cases and then eventually we had to leave.

The night ended in a laugh, however, as six foot plus John Bamber was forced into one of the organiser’s small cars. First several objects were removed to the boot, a drill straight out of Driller Killer, a plastic devils trident (well it had been Halloween weekend), several box files and other dubious looking devices and then John forced himself in, whilst the comedy of the moment carried on and we continued to laugh. The car was dusty on the outside and I decided to have one last bit of fun with the guys and wrote on the back “Just Married!” to which the entire group doubled up as the car drove very slowly off.

Our goodbyes said we returned to the hotel, where we said goodbye to Mike our driver for the few days there. The it was time to get a little sleep before being driven to the airport by Chris.

Below: And the food that day, just kept on coming and coming and...:

Below: The final group photo behind the bar of the Il Barri:

Below: Caught wearing my Captain America tie, bought for me by my daughter Joanne and her finacee Toby:

Below: The flight home with Air Malta David took these for me, as he had the window seat:

When we set off for the airport, it had been raining, not like here in the UK, but enough to make a change to the air. By the time we reached the airport, however it had stopped and almost without incident, except for my leaving my drawing stuff in his car and having Chris retrieve it for me, we sat in the café and had one last drink of coffee before finally going through customs waving to Chris, as we did so.

I spent the entire flight back to Heathrow, chatting to David and it was great to do so, as it had been a while since we had met and chatted like that.

At Heathrow, Warren said his goodbyes and David and I sought out a café/bar to have a final chat. David knew my flight to Manchester was still hours away and helped break up some of that time by staying around until about 13:30 in the afternoon, to which I was really grateful. The time at the café enabled me to show him the graphic novel in its entirety in pencil form too.

Then once we had parted out ways it was the longest wait in an airport I have ever had to endure, something I will be sorting out for the next trip.

Back home I have had time to reflect and have had lots of the folks from my time in Malta ask me to add them on FaceBook, which I have since done.

This is for me, personally the best convention I have been to for the way we were looked after by the organisers, this is not to demean any of the UK ones or indeed the US ones either. The simple fact there were fewer of us creative types meant it was easier to deal with us and look after us. I have also personally had the best reception from the fans that I have ever received too, which was equally nice to experience too.

All in all it has been a great event and we have already been invited out there again to next year’s convention, which we have all agreed to do. The fact this was the first event of its kind to be organised by these guys is all the more special and I hope the powers that be see how effective their work has been to introduce our work to their audience, first hand (it is always different meeting the guys who create the stuff) and also to introduce the local artists to the potential of creating an home-grown cultural event and a new artistic avenue for those attending as local artists aside their heroes.

Good Luck with the second one guys and, as I said, to quote Arnold; I'll be back.

All that remains now is for me to say a heartfelt thank you to; Chris Le Galle, Mike Quinton, Chris Stellini, Chris Muscat, Mark Ellul, Olivia Deguara from the St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, and John Bamber and the whole rest of the crew of mirth making organisers who made my stay and that of the other guys such an enjoyable experience, to my fellow comic creators, whose company I enjoyed immensely and last but not least to all the folks that turned out and took the time to chat, ask for a sketch, a photo, and/or to buy one of my products.

Without you guys none of this works.

I look forward now to seeing you all again next year.

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
November 13th 2009


Mike Collins said...

Yep, it was a fabulous trip-- easily one of the friendliest, most hospitable crowds I've had the pleasure of meeting. They treated us all well, and as Tim said-- the food was amazing. I got to swim in the sea on Bonfire Night... which is definitely a first!

Classes went well, loved the fact that we got to do one with the parents as well who may well have been more into the sketching than the kids. Class.

Tim Perkins said...

I have to agree with everything you say and I am so proud of you, mate...swimming on Bonfire night!!!

Now that is class.

Yes didn't the parents enjoy the class, at least as much as the kids...if not more so.


Peter Richardson said...

I'm still trying to get my head around the shots of organizer Chris' back.

That is (ulp!) an actual tattoo?

Tim Perkins said...

Yes, it is the absolute best tattoo I have ever seen in the flesh.

You have to admire Chris' pain threshold.

The photos just do not do the masses of unbelievable detail true justice!