Category: advice

[VLOG] Print Shop Prep!

Here’s a quick peek recorded live of the print shop prep for my next convention! I haven’t done a convention in a couple of years since I took the time to create a new body of work, but getting back into prep has been like riding a bike!

Some advice on buying and saving money:

BAGS & BACKING – You can get backing made out of spare matboard for cheaper than the white boards. The Clearbags branded bags are also cheaper and have a tiny URL for the bag company on the adhesive strip.

PRINTING & INK – I bought my Epson printer at Staples where they let me trade in an older printer for a $50 discount. They’ll also let you trade in used ink cartridges which earn you store credit vouchers. The Staples brand paper is also much cheaper than Epson branded paper and has more weight to it!

The Epson Artisan 1430 I have lets me print up to 13×19 inches, which is a nice size! Anything larger I will have printed at http://www.iprintfromhome.com. Tell them Angela Sasser sent you to earn some referral bucks!

(CORRECTION: They DO have gloss photo paper at Staples, but it never seems to be in stock at mine and I prefer matte or semi-gloss for printing my art, regardless.)

MAT CUTTER – The Logan Compact Mat Cutter can be found in many of the hobby stores in the US like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Joanns, etc. where you’re generally able to use a 40% off coupon on them!

(NOTE: I have a master list of my favorite suppliers with reviews of each online here.)

SUPPLIES:

Epson Artisan 1430

Staples Premium Matte Photo Paper

Avery Full Sheet Labels

Logan Compact Mat Cutter

Paper Cutter

SUPPLIERS:

Bags & Backing

Custom Playmat Printing

Dice Bags

Getting My House In Order

Getting the Monster Girls up on Redbubble is a big part of my push this year!

When I first started this blog, my intent was to share my journey as an artist.  Over 2016, however, I noticed most of my posts here have been Sketch Diaries about my creative process.  It’s time to get back to form with a long rambl-y semi-personal post!

How is my artistic journey going these days, anyways?  2016 was an odd year for me.  I didn’t go to any conventions or do any big events due to a limited budget.  Being so disconnected from the art world made me feel pretty bummed about this past year.  However, taking a break from being in the scene was time that I really needed to get my myself in order, business, personal, and art-wise.  I’ve managed to stay hyper-focused on producing art for the Ladies of the Months, which has been one of my central goals and drives of late.

Finishing this series has taken precedence for me for multiple reasons.  I have a bad habit of flitting from one project to the next and following my excitement down a new rabbit hole before actually figuring out how I can market and sell what I’ve created.  This happens so often for me, especially because I have so many multiple art styles vying for my attention, from the friendly colorful stylization of my Monster Girls to the elegant tediousness of my Art Nouveau work to the painterly surreal narrative art I’ve been ultimately trying to evolve my work towards.

Last year, I came to the realization that this is a huge part of my lack of success as an artist.  I’m not a bad artist, by any means, but my huge amount of varied work and lack of cohesive presentation, as well as any consistent large body of work I could market to consumers hinders my success.  I have so many things sitting on my computer that I’ve moved on from without properly utilizing them (ie. the Monster Girls and my Rapunzel comic).  How do I choose which ones have value for me to complete and which ones are better left as a learning experience?  I’m still learning the answer to that question.  As far as I can judge, it’s a matter of being honest about the quality of the end product and how marketable it actually is to an audience.

For the future, I want to change my love of different styles into a strength.  For me, this has meant learning when and how to pick similar things in my art and sort them better into websites and ‘brands’ that appeal to their unique audiences.  I’m at that point in my artistic journey where I’ve stepped back to take stock of my large varied body of work and how I can make what I’ve already created work for me.

For instance, the Ladies of the Months can aid me with approaching the Fine Art market.  My Monster Girls can be the central attraction at anime conventions.  My narrative art can appeal to the crowd open to Imaginative Realism or my fantasy writings.  This seems like such an elementary observation now, but it’s taken me the past 5 years (the time I got my business license) to realize how to funnel and package myself as an artist.  I’m learning to embrace my experimental nature, while also reigning it in and becoming more able to recognize what I can utilize for my business before I move on to that next adrenaline rush of a new project.

All in all, I’m more hopeful this year that in the near future I’ll finally start seeing myself being as successful as I want to be and that I’ll make a clean, clear connection to the audiences who enjoy my art.  The big picture is finally becoming clear, as is my own mental image of myself and where I want to be as an artist.  Slowly, but surely!

PS.

A lot of my slow boiling realizations about my art and how I connect with my audiences have come about thanks to Greg Spalenka’s wonderful Artist As Brand workbook. I very highly recommend it!

Patreon Update – Art Student Tier!

A brand new year is upon us and I’m rearing to get started on all the projects I have waiting in the wings!  With so much going on I’ve decided to pause the Mentorships I was hosting through Patreon so I don’t split my attention too much.

I know the mentorships have been helpful (and affordable) for aspiring artists, so I added a new Reward tier to take its place till I’m ready to host full mentorships again.  This new tier is called the Art Student!

With the Art Student tier, you’ll get the following:

  • Access to my usual Patreon Rewards from the prior tiers, including wallpapers, video walkthroughs, PSD files of my paintings, a PDF sketch diary, & the ability to participate in the inspiration prompt drawing each month.
  • A single paint-over OR redline per month for your work in need of critique! Additional paint-overs can be purchased separately at a discounted rate of 25% off for Art Students.
  • A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on YouTube. Critique videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources.
  • A .PSD of your paintover/redline which you’re free to use as a base will also be provided!

Critiques will be delivered after the 1st of each month once the prior month’s pledges have been successfully processed. I aim to have them online within the first week of each month. You will be individually notified when your critique is available.

Questions, comments, or suggestions?  Feel free to drop me a line in the comments or via email! There’s no greater joy than unlocking the potential of a piece of art, so I’m excited to see what you all might throw at me!

Art in the thumbnail by Jude Mayr with a redline by me.

Does it Pay to Specialize as an Artist?

I was quoted in an article over at CreativeBloq, “Does it pay to specialise as an artist?” 

Featuring some familiar faces and some of my own art and thoughts as well!  I’ve struggled for years to find my artistic voice and sort out my passions from my wide array of interests. Hopefully these words of wisdom help others figure things out for themselves as well!

Patreon Project Kit for Artists

Cross-posted from The Muse’s Library.

I’ve been on Patreon now for about a year since the site went live. I’ve tried a lot of different experiments in that time and have built a small, but dedicated following via this community-driven site. I’m a firm believer that crowd-funding is the wave of the future and the core building block of a growing breed of artist-entrepreneurs.

I thought I’d share that spirit of giving by sharing the structure, templates, and other resources that keep my Patreon ticking!  I hope it helps other artists out there considering promoting their projects via this site.  Let’s make a Patreon!

Patreon Profile Image

Release Schedule

When you set up your account, it’s important to have an idea of how and when your releases will occur and also other notices you’d like to send to your Patrons so you can be aware of how much you might be spamming them at once so they don’t get fatigued by your posts. Mine go something like this:

– Last Day of the Month.  Patreon begins charging your Patrons on the 1st of the month, so let’s start there!  The monthly image is uploaded. I only release one painting per month to keep things simple, but you may want to release more frequently! If I ever do more than one painting a month, I stagger out my releases so that there’s always one being posted per month.  However, I do not charge monthly because I am a slow worker and I’d rather my Patrons only get paid when I release a painting, rather than taking a chance that they might not receive anything if I’m not productive enough.

– Within the First Week of the Month.  Rewards for all levels are posted in individual posts (one for each tier) and a PM is sent out regarding my Keyword Inspiration sketch (an event I hold monthly for $5+ Patrons where they turn in prompts and I draw the most inspiring prompt).

– The 15th of Every Month.  A mid-month reminder post reminding people to attend my monthly Studio Hangout (with a link to the Event on Google+), sharing a WiP of that month’s art, and any other important reminders that might be relevant. The 15th is also my internal deadline to have the physical Rewards mailed out.

Last Wednesday of Every Month.  A link to the recording of my live Studio Hangout is posted.  The recording is auto-generated by Hangouts and posted to YouTube for me, which makes things easy.

Digital File Rewards

Digital Rewards are the cornerstone of any Patreon since they’re easy to fulfill and require less of an expense on the artist’s part. Here are a few ideas for distributing digital items.

Patreon Attachments. The downside is a user might have to sift through a lot of posts to find the older Rewards that wouldn’t have been emailed to them. Storing a master list with links that you can link Patrons to in a private Rewards post is another idea to help keep track of older Rewards for new users.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. DA’s sta.sh allows for private viewing of file links for anonymous viewers who have the url. You can store any kind of file (image, video, etc.) and also ‘stack’ them if you have multiple releases you’d like to show at a single url. The current default limit for free users of DA is 2GB while Premium members get 10GB. Another random perk is that you can also hotlink to sta.sh files if you are embedding images into html on other sites.

YouTube. YouTube allows you to upload videos at private links (called ‘unlisted videos’) that are only accessible to those who have the link.  It’s a good alternative if you want to offer a streaming option for videos instead of requiring a complete download of the entire file.

Private Journal Entries

Sharing exclusive posts can really make Patrons feel special! However, Patreon’s current journal function is very limited and doesn’t allow images and text to be formatted easily. For this reason, here are some suggestions for ways to share private journals:

WordPress Public Draft Previews. If you run a site built with WordPress, the Simple Preview plugin allows you to share a link to a Draft which is private and only accessible by those who know the url. The downside is comments currently don’t function on these posts. A workaround is to disable comments on the post and request that Patrons comment on the original Patreon post that led them, including a link so they can easily access the correct url to post their comments.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. While also useful for storing files, you can also use Sta.sh Writer to create more robust journal entries than Patreon currently does. These private journals also allow users to comment on them.

Physical Rewards

Postcard and Greeting Card Mailings. I use www.postable.com for a fast, secure, and easy solution for mailing out postcards (ie. Christmas cards, Thank You cards, etc.) to my Patrons. You can personalize your cards online, though they will not be handwritten.

Prints. I usually print off my own prints via an Epson Artisan 1430 which boasts lightfast inks and wide format printing (up to 13×19 inches), but when I need bigger and/or fancier prints (ie. giclee, canvas, mounted prints, etc.), I turn to www.iprintfromhome.com (tell them Angela Sasser sent you and we both get Thank You dollars when you make your first order!).

Reader Suggestions

Before I get to the Templates, I’d love to hear your reader suggestions in comments!
If you have any tips or resources you’d like to add that I find particularly helpful,
I’ll add your tip to this journal entry with a link to your Patreon page.
Let’s make this entry a great resource for the community!

Templates

It’s important to have a link to your Patreon wherever you promote your work. Here are a few buttons and banners to help you out with that!

Download the editable files all at once here.

Profile Image Montage:

Button:

Event Banner:

Logos:

Confessions of an Artist: Embracing Defeat

This post needed some humor so here it is!
This post needed some humor so here it is!

It’s been a long time since I wrote a personal/art career post here.  The main reason for that has been the absolutely disastrous year I’ve been having.  Rather than continue putting on a happy face, I thought an entry of candidness might be more helpful.  After all, I started this journal because I wanted to talk about my journey as an artist and I want to stay true to that instead of let this place devolve purely into WIP’s and self-promotion.

This year started with my partner nearly dying from heart complications from bronchitis.  Nearly dying being terrible enough on its own, the ensuing mentally draining recovery topped with an icing of medical bills made a perfect cake of disaster.  The funny thing is, we were more prepared for this than most and those savings got us through a difficult time, including the time immediately after his recovery where my partner was let go from his job.

I’ve said in the past we’re a single income household, with my art bringing in some income, but not a lot.  There followed another extremely stressful and depressing period where we both weren’t sure what was going to happen next.  Even still, my partner reassured me that it was okay to continue trying to do art as my living (because he’s awesome and so, so loving).  We had enough to live off of and emergency measures in place.

But I had something to prove.  I didn’t want to be a money sinkhole when we were in such a period of turmoil.  Here I was in my own little dream world trying to squeeze every penny out of my art, which only made it harder to create anything with that pressure to make everything I made worthwhile and profitable.  I spent more days tied up in a lack of motivation and depression than producing anything at all.

As this year wore on and other medical catastrophes and setbacks happened, I hit a low point.  I gave up for the briefest milliseconds on the notion that any of this struggling to be a professional was worth the suffering it was putting me (us) through.  It felt like everywhere I went, people I respect were bombarding me with the fact I was especially failing this year, that I should be farther than I am.  I needed to be stronger!  My insistence that I could never show weakness and should react by working harder and beyond my limits only worked against me because I turned all of that stress inwards, causing my own physical and mental health to decline.

In a strange way, finally accepting defeat this year has been freeing.  I have become increasingly aware of the long game and the shortness of life here on this earth.  Entering the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil earlier this year was a game changer for me.  I have a lot of ideas I’ve always discredited because they weren’t producing results RIGHT now, but here were several professionals telling me my ideas are “F**king awesome”.  I’m not sure I would have entered this mentorship otherwise if I hadn’t been in the place where I was just so tired of struggling and really wanted to give those unacknowledged passions a chance they would not have gotten otherwise while I was obsessing over proving myself.

It’s funny how we need permission to just do the thing we always wanted to do…

Luckily, we’re doing much better now.  Kev has been making leaps and bounds with his recovery and has also found employment.  We continue our game plan to let me build my art career.  And while I feel guilty for having this privilege when so many other artists don’t, I’m not going to squander this opportunity with guilt anymore because I’m trying to impress those who quantify success as merely money, when success in life is so much more than that.  That path leads to elitism and becoming the kind of person and artist I don’t want to be.  With our income stable for now, I have also started saying no to a lot of jobs that I feel aren’t going to advance me as far as my personal projects might.

I’m still terrified of the unknown and of waiting for another bad thing to happen, but I’m hoping that surviving one terrible year means we’re better equipped the next time.

I suppose if there’s any advice for other artists to take away from this, it’s that sometimes you have to embrace failure because it’s one of the best ways to learn how to do anything right, that other artists who you admire more often than not are projecting a self-image of success (even when it’s not true), and that doing so doesn’t make them any less of an artist.  Also, try to save up backup funds for those rough times because they are waiting to sucker punch you in the gut when you least expect it!

Meanwhile, I’m still here…a little older and a little wiser.

CON REPORT: DragonCon 2015

I’m back from DragonCon and have a massive head cold as a souvenir!  Before I disappear with hot tea and meds, I thought I’d post about how my DragonCon went.

This year was an odd duck for me.  I had no table, which is the first time I’ve been without one for a couple of years.  I was completely okay with that, however, because it meant that I got to actually experience the con by attending interesting panels, costume watching, and networking with people rather than being tied to one place.

I went to a wide range of panels, from the history of Persian dance to indie game development (panel notes forthcoming).  I somehow never made it by the dealer’s room since venturing anywhere outside of the Hyatt just seemed like too much effort.  The Hilton for the game dev track was as far as I made it.

I also ran two panels for other artists entitled Social Media for Artists 101 and 102!  Any event where I can play Duck Army as an ice breaker is a good event.  The attendees at my panel were all very enthusiastic and willing to share resources. Thanks for making it a great first run for 102,  everyone! (NOTE: You can find the PowerPoint files of my presentations here.)

ART SHOW

John, Anne, Heidi, and the other staff ran a tight ship, as always!  It was an experimental year for me in that I left my masks and Art Nouveau work at home and only displayed my digital fantasy work in the show this year, an intimidating decision!  I was happily surprised that two of my canvas prints (Oathbound and Kushiel’s Dart) found new homes!  I did decently in the print shop, though I have a few extra playmats and dice bags still available if anyone’s after them.  Use code DRAGONCON to get 15% off at my shop right now!

dragoncon-2015-gallery-bay
A panoramic shot of my large gallery bay. From left to right, Kushiel’s Dart, Enchained Wind, Keeper of Secrets, Oathbound, Persephone Queen of the Underworld, The Lotus Dancer, and Dreaming Butterfly.
File Sep 10, 10 47 00 AM
See more of these amazing cosplayers here.

FAVORITE MOMENT:

We walked by a guy in the skybridge dressed as a herald from Assassin’s Creed.  He was putting up posters on the walls every few feet.  I heard tales of cosplayers dressed as Assassins zipping by and tearing them down later.  When we asked him how many posters he had, he said 250.  I am highly amused by this kind of clever fun.  I didn’t get a picture of him, but I got one of his poster, which was really well done!

BEST COSTUME:

I snapped a pic of this amazing pair dressed as Na’vi from
Avatar during the Night at the Aquarium.  That baby looked so very real. It was quite creepy (and awesome)!  It’s the dedication to full body paint and detail that made this the best costume I saw all con.  While the Night at the Aquarium was great for costumes, they had all of the lights turned off in the displays this year, which made it really hard to see any fish.  How I wish I’d gone to the philharmonic concert instead.

WHAT DID I LEARN?

I always like to think about what I can learn from looking at the displays and presentations of artists, but this year’s revelation was on a deeper level. Instead, I got a lesson in creativity and motivation from attending the panels on creativity and writing this year.

The advice from a lot of the authors there was that comparing yourselves to others was the quickest way to burn out.  Most of us in the creative industry are just trying to get by and/or create something that we love.  You can partially measure that success by money, but other times, it’s the victory of just having made the thing since, more than likely, creating art is not really going to pay all the bills until a very long time out.  Most of us are in that dreaded ‘gap’ and those who would be at the top are not always guaranteed to stay that way.  Focus on making good art and stop comparing yourself to others.

And that’s a wrap!  You can see more of my DragonCon photos of some of the cool swag I picked up in Artist Alley and other moments over at my Instagram.  Till next time!

Mentorship Slots Available!

EDIT: I’ve updated the Casual Mentorship after some feedback. Now with more bang for your buck!  Also added a more in-depth explanation of exactly what the Portfolio Review and Art Marketing sessions would involve.

Last year, I tentatively opened up the Creative Consulting section of my website.  Now, I’m excited to roll out Mentorship slots via my Patreon reward tiers!  I’ve had a few requests from other artists who wanted to have a deeper educational experience than my painting critiques, which I offer via redlines and paint overs.  I’m currently offering two types of mentorships:

The Casual Mentorship

You will receive:

  • A monthly personalized 30 minute long Portfolio Review OR Art Marketing Consultation (EDIT: changed this previously from being a one-time session). You may also pay for additional sessions separately (see my rates here).
  • A single paint-over per month for your work in need of critique!  Additional paint-overs can be purchased separately (see my rates here).  A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on my YouTube channel. Paint-over videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources. See an example of how detailed my critiques can be here.
  • A .PSD of your paintover which you’re free to use as a base will also be sent to you!
  • I am YOUR personal Art Cheerleader!  I’m at YOUR disposal when you need advice!  E-mail me any time and I will give you advice on studying, resources, and other art-related topics.

The Full Mentorship

You will receive:

  • A monthly personalized hour long Portfolio Review OR Art Marketing Consultation. You may alternate which one you prefer each month.
  • Up to three paint-overs a month for your work in need of critique! A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on YouTube. Paint-over videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources. See an example of how detailed my critiques can be here – http://angelasasser.deviantart.com/critique/.
  • You will also receive a .PSD of your paintover which you’re free to use as a base.
  • Just like the Casual Mentorship, I’m at YOUR disposal when you need advice on studying, resources, etc.!

EDIT:  What are the Portfolio Review and Art Marketing Sessions?

The Portfolio Review and Art Marketing sessions would be hour long online chats that we have together via Hangouts or Skype to discuss your needs during the mentorship.  The Portfolio Review would focus on your art and any concerns you have related to your work and techniques while the Art Marketing session would be mainly focused on your business and marketing efforts.

If there happens to be time left after we’ve discussed the primary topic, we can always talk about other things, but I like to keep the sessions focused on a primary concern so as not to overwhelm us with information.

Extra, Extras!

In addition to the mentorship perks, you’ll receive a slew of other goodies I’m offering via Patreon that come with my Mentorship reward tiers, including wallpapers of my art, monthly tutorial videos, and more!  See the Rewards section of my Patreon page for the full details on what other rewards are included.

I’m only offering a limited number of slots right now so I can make sure that each student will have the dedicated attention they deserve, but this may change in the future, should this venture prove successful!  For those who might be new to my work and would like to know more about my credentials, you can read more about my experience here.

Have any questions or comments?  Feel free to comment on this journal or email me!

My First Kickstarter – Part 3 – What I Learned

So my first ever Kickstarter has ended and I regret to say that it did not meet its goal!  I am not completely crushed, however, as this has been an  experiment from the beginning.  I knew it might fail due to my own inexperience with hosting this kind of campaign.  I’m writing my thoughts here so that I (and you) can learn from my mistakes and triumphs.

“As the Lady of January, I must protest this treatment!”

What Promotion was Effective (or Not)?

To see a full list of the places where I promoted my Kickstarter, see Part 1.

– The Art Nouveau Tumblr blogs I submitted my promo posts to took about 2 weeks to process submissions.

– The Facebook Groups and Pages I submitted to never replied.

– The DeviantART Groups I posted to, especially artnouveau, were very supportive and enthusiastic! I had a few pledges directly from dA due to spreading the word there.  It’s also a community I’ve been on for 10+ years, which probably plays a factor.

–  Reddit, despite everyone’s insistence that it is vital, was useless for me.  I got a couple of upvotes, but I suspect Reddit is only effective if you have a particular fandom that would be interested in your topic. Alas, none of the several subreddits I posted to provided a single clickthru of support according to my statistics panel.  Perhaps I just didn’t find the right subreddit with the right people?

–  Paid Facebook ads ($40 worth, to be exact) seemed to be somewhat effective.  I got plenty of shares and Likes and a few pledges via Facebook, according to KS’s stats.  I promoted both a video post and a text post.

–  Paid Twitter ads (or promoted Tweets) got plenty of Favorites, but resulted in no direct pledges.  I have to wonder if people bookmarked the project page and came back later, which made them come up as direct traffic instead?  Either way, I had $100 free credit on Twitter for trying out their Ad area for the first time, so it was a great risk free promotion.

– During my campaign, Kickstarter launched a whole new way for projects to be found via their ‘Discover’ panel, which now includes clickable sub-categories for their main categories, which make it easier to narrow the focus of the projects that pop up for random discovery viewers.

The Bottom Line:  Out of all of the sites I promoted my Kickstarter at, my top three referrers which resulted directly in pledges were direct traffic via Kickstarter’s site (especially after the debut of the new discovery panel), DeviantART, and Facebook.

Disclaimer:  My results may not reflect your results, especially if we have unrelated projects.  Best to test them out for yourself and see where your target audience exists on the net!

Toughest Challenges

Losing sleep – I spent a lot of time at night trying to think of the exact perfect way I could say the right thing to encourage people to invest in my project.  I kept thinking up endless tasks for myself to do.  Not a recipe for good sleep!

Obsessively checking email – Even though I promised myself I would not become obsessed with this, I could not help but clicking refresh to see when Pledges came in.  With such a short timeline, every day is vital and might bring new pledges!  This is a dangerous activity for our egos, especially when a campaign fails.

Fear of not promoting enough or too much – Was I spamming people?  Was I not asking people to do enough?  Was I not clear about what my project was trying to do?  All of these thoughts kept bouncing around in my head every day and night, also not conducive to sleep.

Why Did My Campaign Fail?

And now the tough question!  Why did my campaign fail, anyways?  I got some great feedback from a person who was kind enough to come forward and tell me why they did not back my project as well as fellow artists who have ran their own campaigns in the past, which made me come to some important revelations.

Confusing Expectations – Most potential Backers thought they were getting the entire series at once or they wanted to get the whole series at once, instead of waiting.  What they did not understand is that by backing this Lady, they actually help to fund the next Lady in the series.

If I were to just finish all of the paintings first without breaking them up into a series, I wouldn’t actually be able to put any of the funding received along the way to a good use (IE. helping me to hire models, acquire new art supplies, etc) and therefore being able to improve the next Lady in the series.  I was not clear enough with my project Story and videos with how vital backers would be in influencing the creative output of this series and thus helping these paintings to meet their full potential.

Lack of Variety/Demand – The downside of only having one Lady in the series so far is that it is highly reliant on those with a connection to January.  January isn’t a popular birthday, as far as I can tell, meaning there were less Backers interested in picking this one up.  Now October?  I have a feeling she’s going to have an easier time meeting her goal!  (October has been the number 1 requested Lady so far!)  By the time I get to the later Ladies, the previous Ladies will be included as part of the Rewards, which will add to the demand for that Lady.

EDIT: I have since moved the Ladies of the Months project to Patreon where it’s currently gaining traction!

What Would I Do Differently Next Time?

I definitely want to try Kickstarter again and I plan to continue the Ladies of the Months Kickstarter series. However, I will definitely be going about things quite differently after this first experience.

–  Plan a strict time table BEFORE I start.
I had a loose time table in my head, but so many delays came up, particularly with the video editing, that I stressed myself out more than I should have trying to get things posted within the relatively small window I had to promote in.  Next time, I hope to have all of my sample Rewards and videos created and ready to post before the campaign even begins.

– Target my promoters ahead of time.
I’m going to make a list of places to promote my Kickstarter ahead of time so I’m not scrounging during the final days stressing myself out and desperately trying to find the right outlets who will respond to me.  I hope to approach promoters first and give them some lead time for working in an article about my Kickstarter into their schedules first so they won’t run into the problem of my campaign being over before they even have a free slot.

– Build a bigger fanbase first?
I’m torn on this one. Many people offering advice about this campaign stated you don’t need a fan base before running a Kickstarter, but the people I have seen succeeding the most on Kickstarter already have a collector base they have built or have worked with well-known IPs.  I have a small fanbase, but it’s not nearly as big as I would like nor does it seem big enough at the moment to support a Kickstarter for people who might pitch in on a whim.  Should I wait till I have built more of a collector base for a particular brand of art before starting another Kickstarter in this series?

By the same token, I’ve had many people notice Lady of January (and my Ladies of the Months series) thanks to the Kickstarter and just simply having the paintings out there at conventions and online has grown interest in them.  Most of my mailing list sign-ups at this past DragonCon were thanks to people wanting to know when their Lady’s month comes up.  Does this mean that though January failed, my audience has grown just enough to make chances of the future Ladies’ success bigger?  I’m still pondering on this one!

– Have a clearer creative journey.
I really believe focusing on how awesome Art Nouveau is and the physical rewards over the creative journey hurt my chances for success.  I intend to focus on how this series is actually helping me maximize the potential of these paintings beyond my current capabilities the next time.

I hope documenting my process has helped someone else out there.  I know it has helped me!  I look forward to presenting the Lady of February’s Kickstarter in the coming months armed with new knowledge and enthusiasm.

Thanks to all who pitched in and gave words of encouragement!  If anything, running a Kickstarter gave me real, tangible evidence of all the amazing folks out there who are wishing me well and sending their support.  You guys are fabulous!

Till the next time!  I cheer to your own Kickstarter’s success!

You can read the other parts in this series here:
My First Kickstarter – Part 1 – Concept, Preparation, and Promotion
My First Kickstarter – Part 2 – During the Campaign

Are Conventions Worth Selling At?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately.  Especially considering that I have chosen to take this year off from conventions, with the exception of Illuxcon in September.  After all the money, blood, sweat, tears, and coffee, are cons worth your while to sell at?  Here is what I have learned after 10+ years of doing conventions as a hobbyist and 4 years as a professional artist:

The Pros


1.  Staying in Touch with Fans and Building Your Reputation

This is the number one reason anyone thinks to attend conventions not as a fan, but as an artist.  You get valuable face time with people who might like your art and start getting your name out there on the tongues of people, which is an especially good move if you are the kind of artist who plans to make their income selling art directly to their fanbase.

Face to face selling is also far more effective since your fans can get to know you as a person so they have more of a reason to buy your art. Sounds weird, but having a personal connection to a REAL living person can be very powerful!  Meeting someone in person allows us to want to emotionally support them even more than if they were a faceless artist online whose art we merely consume without consideration for the human behind them.

2.  Marketing Yourself
The other main reason we as artists choose to attend cons is to meet with the folks that can put us in touch with jobs.  Art directors, game developers, publishers, etc.  You’ll probably never meet these awesome folks who lead you to professional opportunities unless you go to conventions!  The downside, these folks may not be at smaller cons so you’ll have to attend the larger ones which may not be local to you. True, you can still email in a portfolio, but I consider face to face interactions to be more memorable/powerful.

3.  Meeting Kindred Spirits
After spending months in the quiet darkness of the art cave, getting out into the world again and talking to people who are just as geeky and passionate as you are can be such a gift!

4.  Valuable Selling and Setup Experience
Every artist needs this!  You need to know the joys of being juried into a show, meeting the deadlines of setup and application, the proper way to set up your display, etc.  Most of all, you need the ever-important skill of dealing with people.  A lot of us spend a lot of time alone without knowing how to market ourselves with confidence.  This is an especially handy skill for when you want to start showing your portfolio to the folks that can get you jobs opportunities beyond selling to your fanbase.

The Cons


1.  Selling Too Early
Notice how I didn’t put ‘Making Money’ as one of the Pros of conventions?  It’s my belief that most people who try to sell at conventions (including myself!) start selling too early.  True, it’s good to start building a reputation, but if you start doing that before your art is at a professional level, you start building the wrong kind of reputation. Chances are if you start selling too early, you won’t have an established artistic identity or direction to your artistic vision.  People will get to know your art by the lower quality and lower prices we all have when we first start out as green, wide-eyed wanderers in this grand art world.

One might argue that fans enjoy seeing you grow as an artist.  I’m sure they do, but wouldn’t you rather impress people right out of the gate?  Starting too early can also lead to demoralization when you aren’t making the kind of sales to justify your expenses because everybody else is levels higher than you, skillwise.  If you’re not sure if you’re ready, ask your friends or art professionals you know whether they think you are at the point you need to be to take the risks of selling…because there are a lot of risks and a very high chance of burning yourself out when money is involved!

2.  Demoralization
Chances are that 99% of you are going to lose money when you first start selling at cons (especially if you start too early).  If you’re lucky, you’ll break even.  There are countless expenses involved, including, but not limited to, gas, hotel, travel, inventory, food, art show fees, table fees, etc.  While most of these expenses are tax deductible, it can really put a dent in your wallet and leave you with a hollow sense of failure after all the effort you put in.

And we haven’t even talked about the sleepless nights spent prepping your inventory, making travel arrangements, setting up displays, eating badly, descending deeper into the anti-social art cave due to all the prep work you have to do, breaking down displays…the list goes on and on and on and on.

3.  Time Consuming Distractions
On top of the dangerous levels of demoralization, conventions have a way of sucking up our lives.  By the time you’re done with one convention it’s time to start prepping work for the next one!  It’s all about sell, sell, selling and sometimes you get so fixated on selling that you forget to make new work.  A year (or two) later, you might realize you have the exact same work you’re showing to fans and art directors and you’re not advancing, artistically, because you’ve spent all this time making a short term dime instead of preparing for long term opportunities, like that portfolio you keep ignoring so you can SELL, SELL, SELL at conventions.

Bottom line is you need to balance conventions with creating new relevant work for your portfolio or you might find yourself stuck in a fruitless loop of selling.

4.  No More Fun Times
After a few cons of selling, you realize that you aren’t able to go to all the late night parties or stalk all the Jack Sparrows for your photo album or Pin the Tail on the Anthro.  You’ve got a table to man and unless you have backup, you’re going to be stuck there for 80% of the con.  You’ll probably need to be there relatively early too.  Some of us can handle partying AND selling, but that’s a recipe for a health nightmare!

Worse yet, you stop having fun at cons, altogether, because they are nothing more than selling opportunities for you rather than a place to be passionate about what you love with other people.  Sure, there’s nothing wrong with making money, but attending only to sell can sometimes sap the soul out of the whole experience, especially if you don’t sell well and end up demoralizing yourself instead.  I would personally rather be in the studio painting something for my portfolio that I can be excited about rather than selling at a convention I’m not really interested in. (Which is the exact reason for my break away from conventions this year)

Other Thoughts on Conventions

On Anime Cons – A great place to cut your teeth as a hobbyist  to get some basic setup and selling experience.  Also wonderful for experiencing pure unadulterated fan enthusiasm!  However, they’re generally not viewed as very professional and it’s hard to maintain serious prices in most artist alleys, where people are generally at a novice level, and therefore charge far less than you would see at other shows.  The younger attendee crowd for these cons are generally looking for cute cheap things to take home instead of expensive pieces of art. (These are all generalizations, of course. If you can sell well at any con, I encourage you to go for it!)
On Small Cons –  These can be small fun events to network with people, but usually aren’t so good for selling.  This also includes cons which are just starting up.  Be prepared to not make any money when you hear that a con is just getting started.  If you’re unsure, ask a show director (ie. the art show director) about how many years the con has been active and what the average attendance rating is like.  I usually like to sell at cons with 1000 or more attendees, unless the theme of the con is one which suits my art or my tastes, then I will take a chance on it because it might be enjoyable to network there for me.
On Professional Cons – By ‘professional’, I’m talking about cons like Illuxcon and Spectrum Fantastic Art Live which are focused purely on art and artists.  I have never attended a con like this and I’m looking forward to learning how they might serve different needs than your standard fanbase convention.  I suspect it’s going to be a whole new engaging experience where I grow my skills in networking and as an artist, rather than hone my skills as an entrepreneur.  I plan to report back later after I attend Illuxcon this year.

Final Thoughts

All in all, conventions are a wonderful, but exhausting experience!  I personally recommend that up and coming artists work on their skills first before putting too much time into the experience of selling at these events.  A sad fact of the industry is that people aren’t going to be looking for you by name when you first start out.  That kind of recognition comes from long, hard years spent building your reputation and your skills. (10 years on average, according to the pros I’ve talked to!)
Definitely attend them and enjoy conventions BEFORE you end up chained to a table!  Enjoy the atmosphere and learn the scene.  The most important thing conventions allow us to do is to get in touch with that nexus of passionate people who can lead us to a deeper appreciation of our beloved genres and stories, while also giving us valuable learning experiences.  Good luck and remember to drink plenty of water!