Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
The Pittsburgh Independent Comics Expo, or PIX, was held on April 8 in the Cultural District. It is an annual gathering for artists and consumers interested in the comic-making profession that is usually held in the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers building in the South Side. This year’s iteration, however, expanded to The August Wilson Center, The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the Toonseum.
The gathering is, according to its website, pixcomics.blogspot.com, a place that is “devoted solely to creator-owned, self-published, small press and handmade comics, artists’ books and other visual works.”
This do-it-yourself mentality is carried throughout the different venues.
The August Wilson Center location focused around the artists’ individual achievements and works. The main envoy had tables set up to allow interested passersby to talk to the artists about their art and they could, in turn, attempt to sell it or trade for another person’s work.
The artists converged on The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council to actually practice their craft. Many different styles of comic-making occurred in the brief mini-session.
Carol Tyler led one session, and as a pioneer in the autobiographical comic genre, Tyler had an emphasis on storytelling style in the comic world. She shared her experience with storytelling techniques and drawing advice in a brief one-hour session. Tyler lent her artistic insights from her seven larger works based in the autobiographical comic genre including “Soldier’s Heart” and her most recent work “Fab 4 Mania.”
The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council hosted the Pittsburgh Comics Salon. The Salon conducted a one-hour exercise to help artists practice drawing and swap different art styles and techniques among one another. It was a learning experience that was focused on community involvement.
The Toonseum showed off the city’s already established artists like Ed Piskor, author of “Hip-Hop Family Tree”; Lane Milburn, founder of Closed-Captioned Comics; and Jim Rugg, illustrator for comics such as “Street Angel,” “Afrodisiac” and “Supermag.”
The Toonseum also hosted several speaking events where artists and fans of comic books could gather and learn more about the craft from each other.
The Pittsburgh Comics Salon made an appearance at the venue and discussed how to get involved in the growing Pittsburgh comics scene. The Salon also talked about its goals for the future, with several members touting the Salon as a good, free way to learn what they wanted to know from artists that had already worked in the industry.
Some, like Samuel Ombiri, explained how art school would not have been the best place to develop their craft and prefer the Comics Salon’s setting where they can learn whatever they want, not what the school dictates they need to learn.
Sponsors included Copacetic Comics Company, a retailer for local artists’ comics that gives all the profit to them; Comics Workbook, an initiative started by comic book artist Frank Santoro that teaches students how to make quality comics in the Swissvale area; and The Toonseum, which not only hosted many events at PIX but hosts artists’ lectures every third Thursday of the month.
All of these venues and events followed the same sentiment: “The event will give Pittsburghers the opportunity to survey and sample a wide variety of works produced by … independent comic book artists, cartoonists and illustrators from around the country, with a primary focus on the flourishing Pittsburgh scene,” according to their website.