Pittsburgh Comics Salon offers support for comic artists

By Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Comics Salon is an, “…incubator for new ideas and approaches to the comics medium,” said Juan Jose Fernandez one of three comic book artists spearheading the group.

The main goal is for comic book artists, old and new to have a place to explore their artistic side and hopefully grow as a comic book artist as a result of the diverse ideas produced at the Comics Salon.

Founded in July 2012 by Comic Book Artist Frank Santoro, The Salon is an adaptation of a common idea that has been a part of comic book culture since it was founded.

It started out as a comics correspondence, a type of collective that has helped many of the great cartoonists like Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” and Roy Crane, pioneer of the adventure comic strip. It allows comic book artists to connect over vast distances. In the past it was done through letters now it can be done via email, Skype, or phone.

The Salon doesn’t begin to form until 2013 when Santoro and Fernandez meet at an artists’ lecture in Vermont at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

It is there that the already established Comics Workbook, a place where cartoonists, comic book artists and the like can have their work published online transitions into a physical interaction. The artists only knew each other from the internet, but Fernandez and Santoro both wanted a physical interaction between artists in the Pittsburgh area.

The goal was to create a space where people who love making and reading comics could discuss their thoughts in a social environment that the medium otherwise inhibits.

The Pittsburgh Comics Salon meets three times a month. The first meeting is held at Lili Cafe on the first Wednesday of every month. This meeting is a brief two hour comic-making session where anyone, experienced or not, can come to learn more about the medium.

The second meeting is on the third Thursday of every month at The Toonseum and it consists of an artist’s lecture about educating artists in the different and unique ways to create comics.

The way it came about was when John Kelly a comics salon member became the Executive Director of the Toonseum. Last month’s lecture featured Em DeMarco, a comics journalist that works for the Pittsburgh City Paper.

The final meeting is held the third Saturday of the month at Biddle’s Escape. The function is similar to the first meeting of the month, only without a time limit, which means that those who attend have more time to express their ideas in an open environment and get feedback from like minded individuals.

Over the past five years the Comics Salon has changed quite a bit; however, when asked about future goals for the program Fernandez said, “There is no finish line.”

The end goal is the same goal that Fernandez feels many artists have: To create something and see it through. There is no specific purpose he wants the Comics Salon to take he just wants it to be a place where, “building solidarity, for comics makers,” is a priority.

Fernandez sees this regularly published and distributed comics magazine he created called “Field Work” as the next step for the Comics Salon group. He wants to spotlight unknown artists, like Samuel Ombiri, who joined the group in 2014 and has started to create publications of his own.

For anyone interested in finding out when the group meets, there is a website, pittsburghcomicssalon.com, and a Facebook group of the same name in which interested parties can get in contact with Fernandez for more information or to find the meet-up times.

Pittsburgh Comics Salon will be at the Pittsburgh Independent Comics Expo on April 9 where various members will have their work displayed at The August Wilson Center, Toonseum and Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.