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ICON8: Inspiring Sights and Sounds from the Illustration Conference

The 8th installment of ICON, or the national Illustration Conference took over the Portland Art Museum (and surrounding areas) in Portland, Oregon from July 9-12, bringing with it hundreds of inspiring illustrators, artists, and designers both experienced and aspiring for four days of conversations, workshops, lectures, signings, and discussions.

According to the ICON mission statement:

The national Illustration Conference, ICON, is committed to providing a forum for an ongoing dialogue that serves the illustration, design, publishing, advertising, and academic communities. Its purpose is to provide a platform for the most influential illustrators and industry leaders to address, in a timely manner, the most pervasive issues facing the profession. 

ICON8 President, Ellen Weinstein

After  two days of workshops focusing on such diverse subjects as oil painting, pattern design, copyright, zines, and more, the festivities kicked off with an introduction from ICON President Ellen Weinstein  who outlined the theme of the event, Work and Play. “It’s a helluva time to be an illustrator,” said Weinstein, laying out the many opportunities for artists to make a living and gain exposure thanks to wonderful world of the WWW and its many channels of social sharing.

The event was an incredible opportunity for creatives to “charge their batteries” and learn more about self-promotion, honing their crafts, making mistakes, and most importantly, having fun by making both work and play synonymous phrases in their lives and careers.

For me, the best way to illustrate (ha) the INSPIRING tone of the conference is to share some of the amazing advice, quotes, wisdom, and greatness that came from the awesome array of talent who shared their creative journeys with us all.

"I found my own voice by pushing back against something." - Environmental designer (and day one keynote speaker) Paula Scher

Artists watch the awesome Souther Salazar

"There's no shame in working for beer, guys." - Portland icon: Carson Ellis

Paula Scher's "surreal" creativity staircase

"We're all just giant fan boys and fan girls, that's what this whole conference is about: seeing all these incredible people. And as an art director - if you ever work in that role - how could you combine this person with this thing and mash it all together and see what you come up with. I think curiosity is just at the core of art direction." - Art director/illustrator Josh Boston on why he does what he does

Copyright lawyer Linda Joy Kattwinkel shares some "best practices" for artists in the Internet age

"I realized that it's important to stay with stuff. If you have a relationship that's good or working on something that can be long term, even if it takes a turn south, it's kind of good to stay with it and see what happens as we try to turn it around." - Keynote speaker Paula Scher on why quitting isn't always the answer

Illustrators selling their work at the ICON8 Roadshow

RB artrist Erika Rier selling her work at the ICON 8 Roadshow

"At 'The Times' we have a philosophy about creating graphics for both Bart Simpson and Lisa Simpson ... Basically it says that when you create something, you want something on surface level that Bart Simpson can kind of get, and move on, he doesn't have time t really pay attention to it ... But we also want the graphic to be rewarding to Lisa Simpson - so someone who is going to sit on the chart, sit on the page and really study it and try to glean something interesting from it." - New York Times graphic editor Jennifer Daniel explains the "Bart and Lisa Approach" to infographics
"It's always play, then you can hopefully get paid for it later." - Art director Josh Boston on trying new things

The ever-changing set on the ICON8 stage

"I think of work and play as, it's central to me of what life is about. This sounds dramatic, but for me, it's almost the purpose of life. How do you connect to everything around you and everything you interact with? And then work is how do you give that purpose? How do you make that something bigger than yourself? - Artist Souther Salazar on work and play

The packed ICON8 ballroom at the Portland Art Museum

"The more you make it about you and your influences and your passions, the more you become a unique brand and the more you become a unique brand, the more power you have in the industry, the more jobs you can get, the more money you can command, and it's more fun, and it's more true to you." - Lilla Rogers (Lilla Rogers Studio) explains how to branch out in the illustration business
"We would advise you approach the market from a point of view of your passion, decide what you want your work to look like, then believe in it, and you will succeed." - Robert Priest from Eight by Eight Magazine

Andy J. Miller's "17 Secret Herbs & Spices of Illustration"

"The best work that you do comes from when you're in the zone. Michael Jordan could never have gotten into the zone if he was trying to ref the game at the same time, so I think it's important to play a lot and really get into it before you worry about whether it's good." - One of Andy J. Miller's "17 Secret Herbs & Spices of Illustration"
"You can't hide being an artist." - Julie Murphy on creating in the cubicle
I think as creative people, like everyone here, it's endless, the exploration of your world is endless, it goes on, inwardly, forever. So that's why I feel that play is so important, because you're always defining that world. - Southern Salazar on the importance of play

Final keynote speaker Damian Kulash from OK GO shared the secrets behind his band's success by creating viral videos.

"You can't have good ideas unless you put yourself in the position to have good ideas." - OK GO's Damian Kulash

For me, the biggest takeaway from the event is: Be active, stay active, and try try try. The art directors on hand repeated over and over again that they are constantly scouring the world for new talent. And you can’t get discovered if you don’t put yourself “out there.” So create, share, promote, repeat.

It works.

RB takes ICON8 by storm

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager