Chromacon is an annual one-day Illustration and Comics Arts Festival which aims to connect communities: artists, illustrators, storytellers and story lovers.
Renee Liang talks to its creator, Allan Xia.
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Allan Xia is an Auckland-based illustrator. After seeing a need for an event to bring together NZ’s talented but disparate illustrating, comic and graphic novel writing artists, he decided – with no idea of the size of the project it would grow into – to organise one himself.
Enter Chromacon, an annual one-day Illustration and Comics Arts Festival, making its debut at the Aotea Centre on May 12. One glance at the website and you’ll see the hard graft and love that has gone into organising this: there are over 60 exhibitors confirmed to date, many well known in NZ and internationally. Unlike other comics and illustration events, Chromacon’s main purpose is to connect communities: artists, illustrators, storytellers and story lovers. It’s non profit and entry is free. Artists from all over New Zealand will exhibit original artwork, there will be free seminars and workshops, and original work and publications will be available for sale or admiration.
What made you want to become an illustrator?
I initially started drawing during my last year of high school because I wanted to become a concept artist for video games. Eventually, I realised my main passion was creating emotional engagement through visual storytelling. Illustration then became the obvious career choice for me; however, I am also very interested in interactive and sequential narrative and would love to continue exploring storytelling in a video game or graphic novel context.
What training did you do?
I am mostly self-taught, I took a gap year in 7th form and traveled to China to study and work on fundamental drawing skills. After returning, I enrolled at AUT which exposed me to many new inspirations. However, I would say my primary source of learning came from years of participating in online art communities.
How do you find illustrating opportunities?
Mostly online, the internet makes it much easier to network with other fantastic artists and find clients globally, despite a relatively small illustration industry here in New Zealand.
Why is an event like Chromacon needed?
Despite my answer to the previous question, New Zealand actually has an amazing community of visual storytellers bristling with world-class talent. From concept artists for video games and film to illustrators for advertising and publishing to comic artists producing work for both web and print and much more. Sadly, many of us are segregated into smaller communities or more directly connected to the global industry most of the time. I felt there lacked an New Zealand-based platform for artists to congregate and share ideas and inspire each other in person, while at the same time - fully engage with the wider public and showcase their fantastic art.
What do you hope to achieve?
I aim to create a platform where New Zealand creatives can showcase their original, personal artwork to fellow artists and the wider community. I also hope that through this, Chromacon can create more public awareness of the fantastic potential of visual storytelling, and be introduced to the many talented artists based in New Zealand.
Who's coming that you are excited about?
This is quite a tough question! For our inaugural event, we set up a selection committee to process exhibitor applications. There was no bias towards any definite style/ genre/ subject matter but rather a focus on originality/ technique and professionalism. I am extremely happy that the response from the art community has been so amazing and so many great artists have come aboard for this new journey. Best of all, since I started organising Chromacon, I have been fortunate in connecting with many fantastic NZ artists whom I did not know of previously.
I think the most exciting thing for me will be to finally meet both old friends and new artists in person and check out the fantastic new work being produced.
Chromacon is free to attend. Who's your target audience?
Everyone! Seriously though, as long as you have an interest in art and visual storytelling, Chromacon welcomes you! I would especially love for the younger generation to attend the event as they can get a great idea of what they can achieve through pursuing art.
What has driven you to spend so much of your valuable time organising Chromacon?
Definitely passion about the idea and a whole bunch of naivety and optimism.
Seriously though, I've waited years for someone to organise an event like this. Eventually I just decided on a whim to do it myself. I had no event management or planning experience before this so I knew I was jumping into the deep end, I just didn't know it was the ocean instead of a pool like I had initially thought. Being a bit of a perfectionist meant that once I started, I had to make it the best event it possibly could be. Thankfully the response and support has just been so amazing that many aspects simply clicked into place. Finding out that many of us are definitely on the same wavelength also really motivated me as it confirmed for me that Chromacon was an idea that many believed in.
Unfortunately, the scale of the event also meant I had to work full-time on Chromacon for the past 5 months. Being a non-profit event, the budget for Chromacon has been incredibly tight. Another important factor in driving me and the event forward are our brilliant sponsors (THE EDGE, The Online Printer, Yoobee, Animation College NZ, Takapuna Art Supplies and more) who believed in Chromacon and my vision.
With the event less than a month away, my main source of motivation lies in the the excitement of everything finally coming together on the day. With the our 60+ exhibitors all confirmed, the most important thing for Chromacon at this stage is letting New Zealanders know about the event itself. I have recently started a Pledgeme crowd-funding campaign to support our marketing and staffing costs.
What's next after this one?
I will work my hardest to make sure Chromacon will develop into an annual event. Furthermore, I really want to build up the conference side of the event so that we can have better planned talks and discussion panels for future years. Lastly, but not least, I'd really like to invite some overseas artists over to join us for next year's event.
Chromacon's Pledgeme crowd-sourcing campaign is mainly to fund our marketing and staffing costs, however, any extra we raise will definitely go towards ensuring that the event will grow and develop into something even greater for the years to come.
Chromacon 2013 takes place at Aotea Centre on 12th May 2013, 9am - 5pm. Free public entry.