On Saturday I went to the inaugural edition of Linework NW, Portland's new comics and art festival, and I gotta say—I was impressed! The show was busy, the energy in the room was great, and both the crowd and the exhibitors seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The Norse Hall was a perfect venue for the first show—it was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so, and the tightly packed tables ensured that browsing felt natural and casual. (The onsite bar certainly contributed to a festive atmosphere.) Out front, in the sunshine, 50 Licks sold ice cream while a crowd gathered to watch artists try their hand at drawing with a gigantic fountain pen—complete with vase-sized ink pot—lugged down from Seattle by cartoonist Jim Woodring. I bought a couple of chapbooks and a mug with a cat on it, and my boyfriend bought a print; all of the artists and publishers I spoke to said they were making money, realizing one of the explicit goals of the festival's organizers: getting money in the pockets of artists.
When I interviewed the fest's organizers for our cover story this week, they stressed that they saw Linework as a complement to more pop-culture oriented shows like Rose City Comic Con, and it very much felt that way; more than once, I heard it compared to the early days of the now-defunct Stumptown Comics Fest, when that show was more staunchly creator-focused than it eventually became. It's really a testament to the breadth and diversity of Portland's comics community, that you can essentially build two different festivals around the different styles of creators you'll find here.
It'll be fascinating to watch Linework develop, especially given the comparisons to Stumptown, which essentially provided a template for how not to grow your comic book festival. Given that they were bursting the seams of the Norse Hall, Linework is probably gonna need a bigger venue—the organizers assured me that they won't be moving to the convention center, which leaves them with a problem faced time and time again by Portland arts organizations: Where to throw the damn festival? Wordstock solved the problem by moving to the Portland State campus; I've daydreamed for years about a literary festival at YU, which would be a beautiful home for something like Linework....
But let's let Linework rest on its laurels for a while—it was a great show, and a hugely promising addition to Portland's arts scene.
The Comics Reporter is archiving coverage of the event, if you're interested in reading more!