Cartoonist-Crazy China

I just got back from spending a week at the AYACC conference in Guiyang, China – a tiny backwater, by Chinese standards, of only four million population, just a two hour plane ride from Hong Kong.  I had never been to Hong Kong before, and I took a couple of sightseeing tours – my Chinese tourguides had never heard of tiny Guiyang before.  Bigger than the city of Los Angeles, twice the size of Houston, five times the size of San Francisco, and it’s a tiny backwater – China is a different world.

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Here’s the AYACC cartoon jury, in the back row, left to right is Marlene Pohle (Argentina/Germany), Hideo Takeda (Japan), and me. In the front row, left to right are Xia De Chuan (China), Xu Pong Fei (China), Zheng Xin Ying (China) and Zhou Ming Jian (China).

If I was plopped down into the middle of Guiyang, not knowing where I was, and someone told me I was in the biggest city in the world, I would have believed them.  Guiyang seems colossal, booming and sprawling, with skyscrapers and new construction everywhere.

The AYACC cartooning festival is huge, and doesn’t seem to have a good web site.  Here is a page on the AYACC contest where I served as a judge.  I did a drawing of my jury-mates (right) and there’s a photo of them below.  (I see that when I draw myself, I always draw myself with my hair going backwards, because I usually only see myself in a mirror).

Oh, the two fingers “peace” gesture is something I see a lot in China, I’m not sure what it means, but it seems to be positive and their equivalent of “saying cheese.” When I draw the two fingers/peace sign gesture, it makes the Chinese happy.  (Maybe someone else can explain it better.) I think it is their hand sign for the number eight, which is lucky – maybe that’s all it is.

Jury Cartoonist Crazy China cartoons

Here is a video (below) of a French cartoonist, on AYACC award night, on stage doing a live caricature of the two emcees, to the delight of the crowd, and to the beat of thumping music – not what I’m used to from a cartooning awards show.

The winning cartoons that we chose in the jury a day earlier boomed onto the big screen as the music pounded.  I’m told that the AYACC show in recent years was broadcast on national television.  This year they were a bit scaled back, but it seemed plenty big to me. It looked like there were 600 or 700 people in a University audience, whooping and hollering.  They played exciting music as they gave awards to cartoonist students, interspersed through the evening, which was nice.

The Chinese government has decided that cartooning is important and they have given a lot of support to cartoon animators and illustrators (although they may have overlooked political cartoonists) the quality of work there was very impressive.

I gave a talk to a university crowd of about 500 art students a couple of days later, and the college folks took me and some other cartoonists out to a impressive lunch banquet where the locals, in costume, sang to us. I pulled out my phone to record the scene below. (That’s my lovely translator Wenwen making the iPhone movie next to me, German/Argentine cartoonist, Marlene Pohle to her right. To my immediate left is retired, but very active, Temple University cartooning professor, John Lent, who was the chairman of the awards juries and Scottish gag cartoonist Russ Thompson to John’s left.

At one point in my speech, when I was showing a bunch of Obama bashing cartoons, I mentioned that I don’t like Obama, and the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. For the rest of the speech they sat stony-faced, staring at me with no expression.

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I showed the students my Xi Jinping/l’il Kim cartoon above, and they didn’t get it.  Chinese cartoonists aren’t allowed to draw their own president so I’m sure the students had never seen anything like this, even though the cartoon is pretty tame – still, the students seemed more confused than surprised (as did my charming translator, Wenwen). Oh well.