No, not a walking guide to Cumbria's Lake District, but my experience of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival held in Kendal between 18th-20th October, 2013 (though to be fair I did miss most of the 20th due to travelling).
So first off, for me at least, Kendal isn't the easiest of spots to get to. Seven hours by train with a couple of stops and waiting in between. Still, as journeys go it was largely straightforward and uneventful. The arrival was marred a bit by the grey, mist and persistent rain but it could have been worse and I spotted the Comic Art Festival banners almost immediately upon leaving the train since The Box theatre is just across the road. The Premier Inn I was staying at wasn't much further ahead and there I was greeted by an enthusiastic staff member dressed for the occasion in a Superman outfit. It wasn't long before Batman and Wonder Woman turned up. Good to see local business getting into the spirit of it.
It was only further up the high street with the Library and the Comics Clock Tower (the town hall) that the Festival really made a big impression on the town. A bit further ahead was the Brewery Arts Centre, a fantastic venue full of little bars and cafes, theatres, screens and halls. This was where the bulk of the events were held and there were plenty of enthusiastic volunteers on hand to guide people about and answer questions.
My first event was The Big Comics Draw, hosted by Pete Doherty and featuring Doug Braithwaite, Duncan Fegrado, Jose Munoz and Carlos Ezquerra. The idea was that each pair of artists would spend half an hour drawing, their work projected live onto a big screen while Peter chatted to them about their work. In the event Munoz and Ezquerra hardly got a word in as the other three chatted on the sofa. It was lively and entertaining but maybe a case of too many cooks. The drawings they produced were great though, given the short time but I did come away feeling it was a bit of a missed opportunity to really delve into their working processes. Carlos did make a very good point though that a really good comic artist knows what to leave out as much as what to draw. The story must come first.
The next event followed straight after and had Paul Gravett in conversation with Ed Brubaker and Kurt Busiek. This was a thoroughly absorbing chat covering a wide range of subjects themes. They covered such things as when not to add text, dialogue placement on the page. The mechanics of storytelling, the ups and downs of Marvel and DC's exclusivity contracts and the rise of Image Comics and why their business model is so good for everyone. They also discussed the two different types of writers they referred to as gardeners and architects; the gardeners are those who sow the seeds of the story and work with the artist to develop it and see what grows; the architects are those who minutely plot every aspect, even down to page layout, giving the artist little room but to draw exactly what has been asked for. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and depend as much on the writer-artist relationship. Ed cited his working relationship with Sean Phillips as that of the gardener.