Blog and photos by Claire Denton-Spalding
Comics artists sprawl on couches and cluster around the few tables, hands deftly maneuvering Sharpies, eyes fixed to their foam boards. Drawings of Totoro, Wonder Woman, Ren and Stimpy, Darth Vader and Venus begin to emerge as the artists sketch characters from comics, art and film. “Favorite characters” is the theme chosen for this year’s drawing “en vivo” at the block party hosted by Espacio Moebius. This is the second year the comics and graphic design store has hosted such a party as part of the Noche de las Librerías, or Night of the Bookstores. The impressive turnout of artists, vendors, and observers speak to its success.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Lucas Varela, Clara Lagos and Julieta Arroquy to watch their drawing process and ask them about character selection. Each artist chose subjects with sentimental or aesthetic value. Varela reinterpreted Venus Anadyomène by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Ingres’ Venus tiptoes a cloud as lovely cherubs play around her legs. Varela’s Venus, in contrast, balances on a pile of writhing worms while squalling, vomiting demons grope at her. “Demons are more likeable,” replied Varela when asked why he chose to draw such a revolting scene, and, he admitted, “I wanted to draw a feminine figure…semi-naked.” Varela regularly featured in Fierro, a magazine devoted to Argentine comics, where he exhibits his unique grotesque and cartoony style. He recently returned from a four-month sabbatical in France at the Maison des Auteurs — an artist’s residence dedicated to writing and drawing comics.
Lagos drew Buddy Bradley from Peter Bagge’s Hate because of the sentimental value. In the 90’s, she read Hate on the long bus ride home. Her love of this comic inspired her to start a fanzine (photocopied comic) with a friend. Lagos’ Bradley types away at a computer with the mischievous, toothy grin characteristic of the series. Lagos explained her choice of theme: “I asked myself, ‘what would Buddy Bradley be doing now? He’s writing ‘The Hate Guide,’ an online site…about restaurants he hates.” Lagos contributes to the online comics blog Historietas Reales. She debuted with “Clarísimos días” and currently publishes “Perlita y Pinocha,” a series featuring the adventures of two adorable old ladies.
Arroquyworked on a figure I didn’t recognize, a young girl with Buenos Aires growing from the top of her head, obelisk included. She decided to portray Ofelia, a character of her own invention, to “get her out there.” Ofelia “lives inside a square and tells stories…she analyzes, comes to conclusions.” Arroquy recently released ¡Oh no! Meenamoré, a compilation of comics published in the women’s magazine Ojalá. Her minimalist style provides an appealing contrast to the complex themes like relationships, beauty regiments, and sex that she tackles. After passing a while with these talented artists, I walked around the street, admiring a Darth Vader by Salvador Sanz, an artist who creates nightmare-inducing science fiction, and a neon Cheshire Cat by Animalitos. Pablo Vigo produced a noble, humanizing portrait of Capitan Haddock from the Tintin series.
Sketching “en vivo” provides an excellent opportunity for the public to interact with the design process. Illustrating comics is a solitary profession, with hours spent on the computer or drawing board. Moebius’ block party allowed artists to intermingle with others, making social the otherwise lonely act of creation. As the artists sketched, the viewers sat transfixed, documenting this normally secretive process with photos and videos. Argentina has a small market for comics, and many artists, scholars, and editors have voiced the need to create a consciousness about local comics. Events like the one at Moebius raise awareness about comics and attract readers. By exhibiting the creation process, artists create a durable connection with observers.
The sketches are on view at Espacio Moebius (Bulnes 658). They will have a formal exhibition towards the end of the year.