Category: artists alley practices

[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

Killing the Muse

I must begin this journal with a disclaimer. This topic is perhaps one of the topics I am most passionate about, so please forgive my fervor if any of this offends you.

I’ve noticed a pattern lately, particularly at anime conventions, where fellow artists set up their tables, toss up a “will work for food” sign, and litter their booths with fan art because that is what sells at anime cons. There seems an atmosphere of desperation that’s almost sweltering with the $10 originals and $5 quickie sketches while the rest of us who are charging what we’re worth are left to the mercy of undercut prices. Besides selling yourself short, the other half of what bothers me so much about this practice is the sheer hopelessness of these artists. Not every artist in an anime convention artist alley is this way, but it’s something I notice more at anime conventions in general.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a well crafted and well thought out homage to anime. Selling fan art is not the problem, it’s the intention behind selling the fan art. I have gotten the response from some of these artists about how they can’t sell their original work because it’s fluffy and idealistic to think one can make money off of drawing what they love. My response to them is that if you’re looking for a quick bang for your buck, the art world is not the one for you. For one, it is certainly not guaranteed for many of us to make money right out of school, though I have heard of it happening. Success in any creative profession is about doing what you love and standing out in the crowd for it. Doing what you love and doing it well…because there are a thousand others trying to do the same thing. If you have no passion, you’re more than likely to be a flicker next to a candle in the crowd.

(EDIT for clarification) For example, if you’re selling fan art in the artist alley, what will a customer be more likely to buy? The half-inspired doodle of Sasuke or the inspired, or at the very least masterfully crafted, image of Sasuke that really says something about the character and your love of him? This same concept can be applied to the creative field as a whole.

I used to be in the same position where I thought I could not make money with the subjects I enjoyed (an unfortunate byproduct of a gallery-focused fine art education). That is, until I started talking to more professionals in my field (and in other creative fields as well, for that matter!). Every single one of them has told me the same thing during interviews:

“It’s scary relying on the uncertain, but do what you love and they will find you. Doing anything else is a way to get stuck designing cereal boxes till you don’t care anymore.”


If you market yourself to draw the popular things you don’t even remotely enjoy drawing, you are going to burn out quick because that is all anyone will ever want to hire you for. This business takes patience, focus, and self-motivation. Forcing yourself into it just to make a buck generally leads to sub-par work because you are not challenging yourself or fostering your inspiration and you just cannot compete with other people in the same field who genuinely enjoy and love what they’re doing.

I am not naive enough to think an artist or creative individual will always be inspired for every single job they’re hired for, but if these sorts of jobs become more numerous than the ones you enjoy in even the slightest capacity, than something’s gotta give. Why? Why torture yourself if you don’t enjoy it even a little anymore? There must be a breaking point where you discover just how much your creativity is worth to you.

Why not just get another job that’ll help pay the bills, and then do art on the side because you can truly enjoy it rather than be held prisoner by the motivation of money? Don’t kill yourself! Don’t kill your muse! If the single motivation of your art is to make money without any enjoyment of what you’re doing whatsoever, than I can almost guarantee you that it is not worth it.

(Another EDIT for clarification XD) However, as Brenda pointed out in the comments, if making money is your enjoyment and that doesn’t harm your inspiration or quality of work, than more power to you! I realize not all people operate the same way I do.

My plea to you, the desperate undercutting artists, the money focused fan art peddlers who are afraid to explore their limits, the hopeless and uninspired who feel trapped by their profession, you have options. There is no shame in guarding your inspiration as a hobby if you cannot do it as a profession. There is no dishonor in doing such a thing.

Please stop torturing yourselves! It is painful to watch…

The Evolution of an Artist’s Alley Table

(My display has since leveled up! See the new display.)


After the last couple of conventions, it seems my artist’s alley table is growing and evolving into something grand! I am always seeking ways to improve and welcome any suggestions you might have.

It started out at an Anime Weekend Atlanta of years ago where I just tossed unmatted and unbagged prints on the table and sold them for $5-$10 with a banner hung out front. Then we had the Dragon Con display this year with an elevated banner and slightly more offerings of necklaces and matted prints.

Now, we have the Anime Weekend Atlanta display where we pulled out a few more stops to make our display the best it could be. Here’s a run-down of what we did.

The Elements of an Artist’s Alley Table

1. One Sleep Deprived Artist – Complete with circles under the eyes and friendly smile. Customers like to see the artist at the table so they can talk to you personally and maybe watch you while you’re working on a project. People like to be close to that creative flow and are generally curious about ‘the life’. ($100,000,000 or 100 steak dinners)

2. Professionaly Printed Vinyl Banner – Printed at my local sign shop by my wonderful brother over at Graphic Signs Atlanta. I chose vinyl because it can take abuse and weather the elements. It’s guaranteed to last longer than a paper sign. (FREE, generally $6 per square foot)

3. Backdrop Display – This is actually a piece of photography equipment called a backdrop kit. The poles break down and it comes with a handy carrying case to store it all in. It is relatively lightweight. I generally use this set for my stock photography needs. Bought from eBay. ($85)

4. Jewelry Stand – My dad made this wood stand ages ago and I stole it from my parents’ bedroom. You can buy cute tree style stands from eBay for pretty low prices. Having a stand for necklaces helps draw in the crowd with more visibility for your shinies. (FREE, generally $25 for a nice one, less for a wire one)

5. Small Prints – I like to have these out for folks who don’t have a large budget for buying the larger pieces. At only $5 a pop, they’re a colorful way to help fill up empty space on the table and provide a low end price option.

6. 3 Tiered Magazine Display – Purchased from displays2go.com. Instead of magazines, I put in matted prints. People enjoyed rifling through it, but I want to invest in one with deeper compartments with more room for people to flip through. ($30)

7. Greeting Card Rotating Rack – Purchased from displays2go.com. I used this to display matted 4×6 prints and unmatted 5x7s which fit snuggly in the slots. It’s amazing how a rack like this can give your work a more professional feel. This is pretty lightweight for transport, if a bit bulky. ($35)

8. Canvas Bin – Purchased at Big Lots. I used this to display more large prints to rifle through for those who wanted something a little more beefy than the 5×7’s. ($15)

9. Cube Grid Walls – Another item that was donated to me. These grid walls were a lifesaver for making my display project upwards more. They stack easily when broken down and give you plenty of space to play with as far as hanging art. I had only 6 cubes, but imagine what you could do with more! (FREE, generally $16 for 6 cube set)

What am I missing?

Display Portfolio – I didn’t have it out in this photo, but I had a portfolio of my best work laying out on the table housed in an Itoya notebook with a custom printed spine. ($8)

All in All…

I feel the weakness of this display setup is that it is slightly bulky, but the ability to project upwards I feel is a necessary one for my tastes. I’ve also been told carrying primarily more expensive items forces people to buy those instead and that a lighter setup is easier to do. My experiences have shown this does not work for my particular set of items and audience, though this lighter setup with more expensive items may work at conventions where customers are more willing to pay for top dollar items. At smaller cons, customers seem to like an option for smaller budgets.

The next big step in my display campaign is to figure out what I need for a large 10 x 10 foot space, the standard floor plot for art fair space. I sense canvas panels, tents, and god knows what else in my future!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to drop ’em here!