Aaronpicto.jpgAaron Leighton here, reporting for Uppercase from the pictoplasma conference in lovely Berlin. Well, actually I'm reporting from back home in Toronto and the conference was almost two weeks ago, but hey - better late than never! 

Ah, Berlin - it's an amazing city, full of artistic beauty in both expected and unexpected places. For instance, I'd heard about the cutting-edge architecture, world-class museums and leafy boulevards. But what I found more interesting and inspiring was the abundance of street-art, stencils, stickers and doodles decorating the streets (at least in Mitte, the area I stayed in). In some places the stickers and posters were so thick they became beautiful, illustrative skins spread across sides of buildings or covering an alley wall from the ground up. Talk about a perfect place to hold a conference about character design, not to mention a wonderful source of sketchbook material!

The conference itself was a lot of fun and very inspiring. To be honest, I missed a good portion of the early presentations due to the fact that my friends and I did a fair amount of drinking (yum - German beer!) late into the night and, subsequently, sleeping in / recovering. However, the work that I saw really blew my mind. I found the work of Jon Burgerman (jonburgerman.com), Ian Stevenson (ilikedrawing.co.uk), Fons Schiedon (fonztv.nl), Shoboshobo (shoboshobo.com), Studio aka (studioaka.co.uk), Friends With You (friendswithyou.com) and Doma (doma.tv) particularly enjoyable. And of course, I must mention my fellow Canadians, Nathan J (scarygirl.com) and Derrick Hodgson (madreal.com) who both showcased some great new work. 

In addition to enjoying the incredible visuals, I found it encouraging not only to see so many people gathered together to celebrate character design and share ideas but also to hear the various speakers describe how they had stayed true to what they wanted to do and ended up finding outlets for their doodles. For me, it drove home the importance of balancing professional work that pays the bills with personal projects that feed your soul. And if the two can be brought together, even better!

Will I go back to Berlin for the next pictoplasma conference? Hell ja! And this time, I'll be bringing stickers of my own to add to the mix.

Note from Janine: make sure you visit Aaron's new website and blog!