Six appearances, six weekends in a row — Whew!
I’m happy to say this six weekend run ended with a bang. The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo was incredible. I had one of the best times there that I’ve ever enjoyed at a convention.
I flew into Calgary from LAX on Friday. Our driver to our hotel, Steve, is a friend/fan of mine. At the hotel Steve loaded us up with huge bags of Cadbury’s samples (Steve works for the well-renowned candy company). It was an early flight so I had some time to see a bit of the city that afternoon and evening. I made some new friends, four great young artists who were on my flight that I met at our Air Canada gate: Joe Weatherly, David Colman, Fabian Molina and Mark McDonnell, awesome drawers all.
We decided to meet in the lobby after we checked into our rooms at the wonderful Hotel Arts and go out for a drink.
The Hotel Arts reminded me of many of the hip, enchanting hotels I stayed in on my last trip to Europe. There was lots of art all throughout the hotel.
So, these young Turks of film and animation design met me in the lobby and we wandered over to a few of their favorite Calgary watering holes. Every pub we visited had Guinness on tap, so I was a happy camper. Plus, the company was great: four smart, young talented and funny guys. We were having such a good time that we all decided to have dinner together at a terrific nearby steakhouse. My chipotle sirloin was indeed incredible. A few more pints of Guinness and Kilkenny at some more pubs afterward and we were all ready to meander back to our hotel.
The guys invited me to join them for breakfast the following morning. More fun and laughter ensued in the AM and then we took off for the Expo.
I was not prepared for what met me at Saturday’s show. The attendance was amazing — the convention broke their two day record in that single day, with over 10,000 attendees. Every third or fourth person who came to my large two-table corner booth told me that they had come to the show just to see me. That was so unexpected and gratifying! I had no idea I had that many fans in that region of Canada. Some of them drove for days just to meet me and have me sign one of their books. I could scarcely believe the warm reception I got.
The show itself was extremely professionally run; one of the best organized conventions I’ve ever been to, actually.
The fans who were new to my work were just as gracious as my long time followers. Now that I somewhat expected, this being Canada, a country famous for the politeness, generosity and down-to-earth openness and friendliness of their citizens. Nevertheless, I enjoyed and appreciated every single second of their many kindnesses.
My booth was right next to my good ol’ friend Iain McCaig. If California ever faces another blackout, all the state would really have to do to solve their problems would be to plug in to Iain for an hour or so. Iain is perhaps the most high energy, enthusiastic artistic soul I’ve ever encountered. We met on the Conran brothers version of the John Carter of Mars film. Upon meeting Iain, I felt as if I had just found the long lost brother I never knew I had. Sharing his booth was artist and entrepreneur extraordinaire Robert Gould. Next to them was my pal Brom. It was like Murderer’s Row in that aisle!
At 2:00 PM on Saturday Brom and I gave an extremely well attended (packed, actually) workshop lecture, the subject of which was “Insight on Traditional Painting.” The audience seemed incredibly smart; their questions were all interesting, thoughtful and provocative. The response to our answers was enthusiastic, positively resonating throughout both days of the show.
After a great day at the Expo, we decided to all have dinner together. The amazingly talented Craig Elliott joined us.
Iain, Robert, Brom, Craig and I dined at one of the best Indian restaurants in Calgary. Although the food and service were outstanding, the high point of that meal for me was the conversation: Five really smart, talented guys having a deep 4:00 AM type conversation about life, death, art, business, the future, sex, motivation, out of body experiences and a myriad of other heavy subjects — except that the conversation became deep, entertaining and heavy right off the bat at about 8:00 PM rather than at 4:00 AM. It was hours and hours of sheer enjoyment and wonder my friends; I have not enjoyed an experience like this in years.
The next morning we all got back together for breakfast. The Sunday show was a little calmer than the previous day which made for a very relaxing yet still busy show. Financially, I did better in those two days than during all of the much larger three day shows of WonderCon and Chiller, taking home an empty suitcase and just three of my 50 Convention Sketches books.
I rode to the airport with Erin Gray (we were both involved with Buck Rogers; she played Colonel Wilma and I did design work on the TV series) and actor Tony Todd.
At Calgary’s airport I ran into my old friend Len Wein and saw Leonard Nimoy and Billy Dee Williams. I also bumped into the young posse once again, joining them and their friend Marcelo Vignali with whom I worked on Walt Disney’s Dinosaur. I was seated next to the talented Marcelo on the flight. Our conversation and passion for art, music, animation and film made the trip back to LAX pass like a brief, wonderful dream.
Thank you, Kandrix, for inviting me to Calgary. The time I had at your convention was unforgettable.
And folks, if you ever get a chance to go to a future Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, do not pass on that chance for anything.