Field Notes: Draw with Local Artists and Illustrators at Comic Jam Hawai‘i
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vibrant and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: the artist collective Comic Jam Hawai‘i.
photos: brandon smith
What it is
A regular gathering of professional, aspiring and hobby artists and illustrators create original drawings together while talking story at the mall. It takes place every first and third Sunday of the month, usually at Downtown Center Court in Pearlridge Center, although the location varies. “We’ve been on the Uptown side, we’ve done the hallway in front of Payless Shoes, we’ve been all over,” says Michael Cannon, one of Comic Jam Hawai‘i’s organizers. “Honestly, we’re just happy to have tables and chairs. They could put us in the basement.”
How it started
In 2011, the first “comic jam” was held at Coffee Talk in Kaimukī. Artist Marie-Pierre Maingon was visiting from Vancouver when she put an ad on Craigslist to see if anyone wanted to get together and draw. “The idea was, she’s going to be drawing anyway, and having company would be nice,” Cannon says. He had been a Navy illustrator-draftsman chief but wanted to do something creative, so they met up and drew.
That led to planning a second event, where artists and designers, including Jon J. Murakami, Byron Inouye and Alan Low, joined the group. Their numbers grew and they relocated from Coffee Talk to the tables at Kāhala Mall and, now, Pearlridge Center.
“You go to Kāhala Mall now and see signs about time limits on the tables, that’s probably because of us,” says Cannon.
“Sometimes we have something happening in this area, like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, and we have to relocate Comic Jam but for the most part, they’re here. People love it,” says Kelly Kauinana, marketing director for Pearlridge Center.
With five tables and 25 chairs, there’s plenty of space for Comic Jam regulars at Pearlridge, as well as walk-ins, which the group encourages. Cannon provides paper, pencils and crayons, but most people bring their own materials. At the end of each session, artists may scan their drawings for posting on the Comic Jam Hawai‘i Facebook, which has more than 500 members.
“If you’re an artist, it’s good to be around other creative folks and share that energy. I grew up in a small town in Arizona and would’ve killed for something like this. If Comic Jam can help be a venue for somebody like that young man drawing there, that’s great,” Cannon says, referring to a teenager in a red shirt who sat down at the table and started sketching.
Comic Jam Hawai‘i regulars include freelance Marvel and D.C. illustrator and colorist Kanila Tripp, and “Local Kine” greeting cards and newspaper comic-strip artist Jon J. Murakami. Art students in high school or on break from college drop in. Random people in the mall who see the group and the art supplies sit down to join in. A worker from Sears hops over for a quick sketch while on break. Professional freelance comic artists are welcome—as long as they’re not working on commercial projects. “If someone’s doing a commission, we say maybe take it to a different table because we don’t want to infringe on the mall’s kindness. Just your own projects here, not business,” says Cannon.
Sometimes Comic Jam Hawai‘i will encourage artists to create works to fit a particular theme. Past themes:
Wonder Woman Week (in honor of the film)
The Many Faces of Leia (after Carrie Fisher’s death)
Monkeying Around Challenge (drawings of monkeys)
Kanila Tripp, 46
Freelance comic artist, Kapolei
“Artists by nature tend to be introverted recluses. So being out among the people and breathing fresh air can be a good thing.”
Jessica Sato, 19
Cal State Fullterton student, ‘Aiea
“My favorite part is talking to everyone here about art and stuff I’m working on, movies we’ve seen. It’s nice to come here and talk about that kind of stuff and show them what I’ve been drawing lately.”
Kalani Holland, 30
In-between jobs, Pauoa Valley
“With everyone’s input, I’ve improved my coloring and illustrating techniques. [Comic Jam Hawai‘i] helped me grow as an individual as well as an artist. Feels like family over here.”
To stay up to date on the latest jam session, visit facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii.
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA