It’s been a few days since the Rendez-Vous came to a close, and I’m still having trouble distilling my thoughts into anything more than fractured moments from the weekend. The whole experience was so alien to the usual North American comic convention experience. It was exhausting, as all public appearances are, but it was such an inspiring event for so many reasons.
I don’t even know where to begin. We, the invited artists, were treated wonderfully. In the French speaking market, comics is truly considered an art form as well as popular culture, and it was eye opening to see people of all-ages, children especially, all interested in buying books and speaking with the authors and artists. While Salgood Sam and I, the two Anglo guests, did not have quite the same interest from the public as the artists from the Franco-Belgian market, we did receive a lot of interest, much more than I would normally get at a super-hero dominated comic convention. It was like an SPX, but free to the public, in a National museum, with gallery showings, and galas in conjunction with the French, Belgian, and Swiss Embassies, a lot of wine and cheese, and dinners and parties every night.
We weren’t worked too hard. Every guest was booked for two events a day. Either two two hour signing blocks, or a signing block and a presentation of some sort. On my first day I was driven to the University de Quebec en L’Outaouais for a meet and greet. Along with Delaf et Dubuc, I was presented to a gathering of students in the Bande Dessine program for a question and answer period. The questions tended to be more about the career of art than technical questions. Questions like, “How important is networking in getting work and maintaining a career?” came up a few times over the weekend.
On Saturday I had a half hour live drawing presentation, where I drew on stage while being interviewed by Tom Fowler. I think it went fairly well, and Salgood Sam filmed a good portion of it, though the English presentations tended to have very small audiences. On Sunday I was booked for “Masters at Work” where I had an hour to do a large illustration on canvas. It was just done in a corner of the Festival space, but I would occasionally step back to get a better look at the canvas and realize that there was a circle of people watching. I had quite the audience throughout most of the hour.
Aside from the daily Festival events, there were a number of other special events after hours. Thursday it was the opening ceremonies at the museum followed by a wine reception. Then it was off to dinner with the invited artists and the organizers and friends of the Festival.
Friday evening there was an unveiling of an art show sponsored by the French Embassy at the Alliance Francais of the works of Phillipe Aymond. There was more wine and cheese!
On Saturday evening there was the unveiling of the Tout Spirou collection at the Universite de Quebec en Outaouais. Basically, a gentleman had collected the entire run of Spirou, going back to 1938, and had donated the collection to the University library. There was much wine and cheese! Then it was off to the offices of the Salon de Livre, a huge heritage building in Gatineau that was the original Mayor of Ottawa’s summer home, for a pot luck dinner of traditional Quebecois food. It was at this event that I truly understood just what Paul Roux, the coordinator of the Festval, meant when he told me that the purpose of the show was to create a family. It truly was a big family dinner full of warm, fun, and inclusive people.
I think this is where the show had the most profound effect on me, on a personal level. I have Francophone roots, but that side of my heritage has been long lost. My dad was raised English, a result of the school board system in Cornwall where he grew up. My grandfather died when I was three, leaving an Anglo family behind, so I grew up with no direct connection to the Francophone side of my family. Those roots are something I’ve always felt, but aside from 4 years of French Immersion during middle school and early High School and an interest in French Bande Dessine, I’ve really had little direct exposure to that side of my heritage. The experience has really solidified a desire to reconnect with that side of my roots. I’m not really sure how I’m going to do that, aside from taking a French course or two and reading more Bande Dessine of course.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and I am sold on the Festival. They do not book the same artists two years in a row, but I offered to help out in any way that I can next year, simply to be involved.
A la prochaine!