A U.S. Cartoonist In Colombia, Part 2

June 23rd, 2009 | Posted in General

CaliComix 2009

The Sal??n Internacional de Historietas y Caricaturas Calicomix is an annual event held in Cali that celebrates humorous illustration, caricatures, cartoons and comic books in South America and the world. This year’s exhibition is the 15th annual, and the driving force and founder of the event is local Colombian cartoonist Jos?¬© Campo. Jos?¬© is a very acccomplished cartoonist who is also very passionate about the art form, and it shows in the scope of CaliComix. Jos?¬© organizes and finds sponsorship for the entire event, which includes multiple guests speakers from various countries, several art shows and exhibits, many demonstrations and live drawing sessions and social events. This year’s conference included artists and speakers from several areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and the United States. The week is a true tour de force of cartooning. Putting on this show is quite an accomplishment and he should be congratulated for his amazing efforts. Thanks, Jos?¬©!!

Tuesday, June 9th

After my morning huevos pericos and bu?¬±uelo (oh, and coffee… can’t forget the coffee!) I accompanied a group of cartoonists from the Casona la Merced Hotel over to the Centro Cultural de Cali where the first round of presentations were to take place. That included my presentation, which was first.

La Merced Church
The historic La Merced Church, on our way to the Centro Cultural de Cali

Cali Street Vendor
There were street vendors on every corner

The Teatro Municipal

The Teatro Municipal

The crowd was not overwhelming, which was a real shame. Jos?¬©’s efforts should have sparked more interest from the public, but whether the small crowds were a result of a lack of publicity or a lack of interest, I could not tell. Certainly the people that did attend were very enthusiastic and had a great time.

Boris looks on during my talk

Boris looks on during my talk, ready to translate!

My presentation went well. I had some neighbors from Argentina help me translate the captions on my PowerPoint show, which included my “Diary of a MAD Job” which I have posted here before. Thanks to Boris, my terrific interpreter, everyone was able to understand my talk and ask me questions.

The next presenter was Arturo Kemchs, a caricaturist and political cartoonist from Mexico. Arturo is also President of the Association of Cartoonists of Mexico. His work was fantastic, ranging from clever and hard hitting political/editorial cartoons to whimsical and hilarious illustrations. One thing I learned is that the sense of humor in South America and particularly Mexico is a lot less prudish than American humor. Sex is a prominent subject for humor there, and Arturo has some very funny cartoons and books that reflected these tastes. Arturo also publishes a humorous magazine called Humoris Causa. Very impressive work.

Arturo and Perucho
Arturo talks cartooning in Mexico while Perucho contemplates moderating him

The dynamic Claudia Contreras did a presentation next about the rich history of South American comics. Claudia is a collector and an expert on the comics and cartooning of South America. She has a collection of over 3,000 comics and has put together a DVD database of biographies and work from hundreds of South American cartoonists. She is from Chile, and is the director of her own annual cartooning/comics event in Valparaiso, Chile called Del Festival de Comic de Valparaiso. She spoke about as much English as I did Spanish, so our attempts to communicate kept the other cartoonists laughing hysterically. She declared herself my official translator of “chilinglish”, which the other artists found hilarious. Actually I could understand her much of the time.

mi traductor del chilinglish, Claudia

We also heard from Ecuadorian illustrator Francisco “Paco” Pincay, a tremendously talented artist whose work as really fantastic. It is not easy to make a living doing freelance illustration and cartooning in that part of the world, but Paco is a real professional and showed some really diverse and terrific work for advertising, design and comics. He has worked for some pretty big clients, including art for a local promotional campaign for the “Guitar Hero” game and for various products and promotions. He had these great sculpted animals going down water slides for an ad that were really stunning. Paco was also one of the artists there who did pretty well speaking English, so he and I did a lot of talking during the week. Great guy.

Paco Pincay
Paco talks about illustration in Ecuador

Unfortunately I lost my translator at noon, so the rest of the day I was in “total immersion” mode. Paco helped a lot, and Claudia’s “chilinglish” of course. 🙂

That night we ended up at the Plazoleta Centro Cultural Comfenalco, which is an open air plaza next to a gallery where a great art show was opening that evening. Many of us set up and drew for the public for a few hours before the show’s opening party. I didn’t know what else to do so I brought my live caricature stuff and started drawing people. I don’t think many of the people there had ever seen a live caricaturist work, because I was swamped for the entire time I was there and people were amazed. It was funny because many of the other artists started telling me how tired I must be getting and someone tried to feed me a Coca Cola and snack in the middle of a drawing… of course they did not understand that I can draw caricatures for about 10 to 12 hours before I start to burn out…. 25 years of live caricature work builds some endurance. I did a TV interview (with translator) as well.

Drawing caricatures
Drawing at the Plazoleta

The art show was really unique. It was full of static displays of various cartoon/fine art, but also had “live” spaces where artists were busy doing creating their work right on the spot. Paco did a cool Batman themed piece and other artists were busy working away. Great creativity.

Caricaturistas en Vivo
The art show at Centro Cultural Comfenalco

Painting away...
Two young artists working on a cool piece

Paco at work
Paco’s contribution in progress…

Claudia's contribution
Even Claudia got into the act!

The evening were mostly spent back at the Casona la Merced Hotel in the downstairs room eating, drinking wine and drawing. On Tuesday night we had some real homecooked treats. Big trays of Colombian foods were brought out for us to pick and choose from. They included aborrajados, which are ripe banana stuffed with cheese and fried (they were quite good); marranitas, which were crunchy fried spheres a little like fritters filled with bananas and bits of chewy pork (not my favorite but still pretty good) and empanadas, which were corn pastries stuffed with potatoes and meat (they were delicious). With them were various bowls of condiment-like sauces with a tiny spoon. We spooned one of our choice on whatever we were eating and took a bite, then spooned more on for the next bite. I tried the Guacamole sauce, some kind of ranch-like white sauce and then a green sauce made of chilis, cilantro and finely diced scallions… that was it for me, I ate that green one the whole night. Fantastic!

The cartoonists unwind after a long day…

Wednesday, June 1oth

This day was less structured, as we went back to the Centro Cultural de Cali in the morning and had a kind of round table discussion on the state of cartooning in Colombia and around Latin America. A young cartoonist from a different area of Colombia named Julio Naranjo had come seeking advice on his work, and he showed us his portfolio. He got the lesson of his life as Paco, myself and several other artists went over his art giving our opinions. His work was really good, but of course everyone has room for improvement. We’ll be seeing his work somewhere soon.

Cartoonist's round table discussion
Cartoonist’s round table discussion

I should mention these presentations and panel discussion were moderated by Perucho Mej??a, a Colombian professor and PHD in the arts at a local university. Perucho is also an author and gave me a book he wrote called Semiotica del Comic, about the symbols of comics and their significance. I’m going to read that as soon as I learn Spanish! No, really.

That night we went to the Biblioteca Departamental (the public library) where yet another humorous art show was going to have it’s grand opening that evening. We once again drew for several hours, this time both Paco and Colombian cartoonist, fantastic illustrator and all around funny man Luis Eduardo Leon joined in the live caricature fun. Leon is both a hilarious cartoonist and an incredible illustrator. You need to see his unbelievable photo-realistic digital paintings (click the link on his name) to understand what I am talking about. Superb.

More drawing...
Here we go again!

The art show that evening was more traditional comic type art, with some unusual touches. One of my favorites was (of course) the Batman sculpture, but the place was full of terrific comic art. It was also very well attended.

From the art show
De Arte Fant?¬?stico exhibition

Batman's sculptor and me
Batman’s sculptor and me

Claudia get’s fresh with Batman

That evening we went to the charming restaurant of another local cartoonist and had a delicious dinner with his family. Candles and rose petals greeted us in the entry. Colombians as a rule are very friendly when greeting friends and guest… lots of hugging, kissing and back slapping. I experienced a bit of language barrier at dinner when I tired a joke out on Claudia, who had told me she worked as a counselor for people with alcohol and addiction problems in Chile. I asked Paco to translate for me:

“I also have a drinking problem”, I said… ” I spill a lot”

She didn’t get it.

The wednesday night restaurant
The Wednesday night restaurant

A grand entrance
What a welcome!

More drawing and wine that evening, although I must say I was surprised that there was not a great deal of alcohol consumed at any of these events. There was always wine, but only a glass or two and then that was it. I guess I expected the same kind of free-flowing drinking that cartoonists in the United States are known for, but that was not the case in Colombia. All the better for my liver.

Tomorrow there will be a special “Sketch o’the Week” of two people who I was very privleged to get to meet while in Colombia, and then I will wrap up my travelogue on Thursday.


  1. Monty says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share this experience, Tom. Very inspiring.

  2. Philip Willey says:

    Totally awesome, Tom!!!




New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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