Category: convention reports

Convention Report – Multiverse 2019

Article Originally Posted on Patreon

Kevin and I had a great time at Multiverse this past weekend!  It represented our last show of the season and the first time we’ve been at this con, since this is a brand new event.  Normally, I’d be hesitant to do a first-year show because the traffic is usually slow at these, but in the end, I’m glad I gave this show a shot!  

After the chaos of DragonCon and consecutive Kickstarters happening around here, it was nice to do a small, chill con, while still being able to network with other artists and enjoy a more relaxed environment.

Booth Tour

I’ll admit by the time the con rolled around, I didn’t have a plan or proper signage for the vendor table for this untested arrangement!  Here’s what we were able to throw together at the last minute.  

After studying the booth’s traffic flow at DragonCon, I realized many folks were afraid to walk up to the prints in the corner.  I knew I wanted to try a display where the prints were front and center and viewers could engage with them immediately, so on the table they went so people would not be afraid to pick them up or venture into our personal space!

A spice rack served as a display for the pins. I’m still trying to decide if it blends well and if I should cover it with paper. Or if I want to place it with a rotating rack entirely.  My table display is always evolving!

You can see where I also forgot to bring the table runner, so the scarves ended up being draped across the front of the table, since I wasn’t sure where to put them otherwise and it filled the space left by our missing table runner.  I didn’t have proper signage for the top behind me either, so my Patreon sign became my main sign temporarily.

Folks had trouble even realizing the scarves were there because they blended so well, so I will have to think of a new way to display them so they stand out more.  Perhaps hanging them off a dowel rod of some sort? Or replacing my silver tablecloth with a darker color?  I know I want the scarves up front where people can touch them because most people want to feel the material before they buy clothing accessories.

Gallery Tour

While my table display focused on the Birthstone Goddesses, I decided that my gallery display should focus on my darker narrative art, which I felt was relevant to the interests of this con’s scifi/fantasy/literary themes.

I had a small 4’x4′ bay in the Art Expo which left a little to be desired. The unexpectedly large bid sheets and the print bin which overlapped my display meant I had to leave 2 pieces out of my planned display.  Simple fixes for next year, however!  The show staff are also new to things and were receptive to feedback.  

I sold nothing from my bay, so if any of this display interests you, drop me a line! (Reminder that Patreon Patrons will get their Patreon discount on these as well.)

So was it worth it?

I honestly would have been satisfied for the fact that I sold enough to cover my attendance fees AND I got to network with fellow artists in a much more relaxed environment!  We’re always so busy at DragonCon and other shows and barely have time to say hello.  

During this show, I was invited to two local events, was invited into a new vendor group online, and was able to attend 3 fantastic panels on writing since traffic was chill enough for me to let my husband handle things alone.

On top of all that, we did end up meeting a metric of success I agree with, which is this formula:

Profit = Cost of attending + $100 a day = worth attending

We made back the cost of attending, plus at least $100 of profit per day, so were paid for our time at the very least.  I got to test my new Square Terminal as well.  I’ll have more about the Terminal later over in The Muse’s Library where I’ll be writing a review on it! This is a fantastic piece of tech we just invested in that has totally blown my mind for how useful it is.

Favorite Cosplay

I always love to admire the wonderful costumes of attendees and Multiverse did not disappoint because the amazing folks of the Whiskey Weasel Cosplay dropped by with their wonderfully detailed Monster Hunter World cosplays!  They even replicated the scoutflies you use for tracking with little LEDs. SO COOL!

Final Thoughts

Sometimes it’s worth it for more reasons than just money to attend smaller shows.  It was nice to leave my art cave and remember how awesome the fan community is, as well as to meet a couple of my Patrons in person and say thank you for their support.  

It’s easy to spend so much time alone without the love and laughter of the community.  I hope to return next year and continue supporting the spirit of fan appreciation this convention is nurturing!

Convention Report – DragonCon 2019

Originally posted on Patreon

I’m back from DragonCon and have finally stirred from my post-con torpor!  Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by, including a couple of my Patrons here!  It was so lovely to meet you and give you hugs (and pins!).  I got to see so many artist friends I haven’t met in person, plus old friends I only get to see this time of year.  I only wish I’d had more time to spend with everyone!

I always like to do a write-up if I can.  DragonCon is such a massive show and always a great event for testing out new, ambitious things!  I’ve been working hard towards it for a long time before the event to make new products to debut, such as the tote bags and scarves.  This was also the first time I’ve ever had to fill such a large space at 8 x 10 feet! It was an intimidating prospect!

So how’d I do?  I sold half my canvas totes, but only a couple of scarves!  Most folks went for my prints, pouches, totes, and greeting cards (especially the ones themed for the month of September!).  I also think my display made an impression!  People really seemed to love my little ‘shrine’ of flowers and candles.

You can also see a video tour of the booth here.

All in all, I made back expenses and then some!  Having a larger display space really paid off for me, as I think the larger display footprint allowed me to give people a better idea of the scale of this ambitious project of mine which is really hard to contain in a smaller space.

The Art Show

The Art Show was a new beast this year!  New management meant new changes, such as the lack of a silent auction or a print shop.  This meant more floor space for artists and a new way to buy directly from the artist, instead of an auction!  It was nice to be able to take my earnings from sales in the Gallery area home immediately instead of waiting for a check to come in the mail.

There was a little confusion about how to buy things from the gallery bay, but otherwise, I felt the changes were for the better, letting the Art Show check-in process go more smoothly (no dealing with barcodes or anything of that nature).  I really enjoyed the new black pegboard for the Gallery area as well!

The volunteers were especially exceptional this year.  They came around often to see if we needed help and check on our well-being!

What Did I Learn?

DragonCon, especially one where I test out new things, is always a learning experience!  Here are some things I learned.

  • Bundle Deals. The bundle deals worked like a charm! I attribute most of my sales to people wanting to buy gifts for multiple people and being encouraged to do so by saving a little money with a bulk discount.
  • More Signage. I need more signage to show people I’m on Patreon, what my name is, and also that the series is about a birthstone series, as it took  people a minute to realize this was a birthstone series and upon realizing that fact, they of course then wanted to immediately see what their month was, which was easier when I made month signs to go by the images (and to subdivide the print bins).
  • The 15 Second Rule.  Kevin, who has vast retail experience and is a remarkable salesman, taught me this at the con. Basically, instead of smothering people with my overeager greetings, give people 15 seconds to process what they’re seeing and decide if they are engaged with it.  This wait time helped me make a better call about who was meandering through and who was actually interested so I don’t waste my precious introvert energy on people who have no interest.
  • Stock for Birthday/Month Sensitive Items.  I had so many September babies stop by and say “It’s my birth month and I’m treating myself” or I had friends of September babies shopping for birthday gifts for the special September person in their life. This should have been obvious to me, but I need to keep more stock on hand for these timely occasions!  I even made extra of September and still sold out!
  • More Small Impulse Items. I had so many people who didn’t want to make a big investment or who didn’t have a lot of wall space who ended up scooping up stickers and greeting cards.  I would have sold pins like hot cakes for this reason as well!  I want to focus my table area around showing off these small items since they became the ‘bread and butter’ small sales that added up nicely at the end of the day because they are easy to manufacture on a mass scale with a good markup and impulse range price tag that isn’t too much of a burden for the average buyer.
  • Calendar. I REALLY need to finish up the calendar for this series, as now that I have all 12 images, it’s become my number one requested item. I’ve planned to work on it after the enamel pins, so it will be coming next year!

Favorite Cosplay

Oh boy it was SO hard to pick a cosplay to feature here!  Now that they’ve lifted the no photo ban in the Art Show, I had a lot of fun taking photos of amazing cosplayers who dropped by my booth.  They were all wonderful and you can see more of them here.  

However, I just have to feature this lady!  I was a Power Rangers fan back in the day and this lady made me squeal with nostalgic glee.  She also made her costume herself!

I am already missing the glorious geeky chaos that was DragonCon!  I love being around so many kindred spirits that it feels pretty lonely when I get home and return to the grind.  I’m grateful my fans (and especially my Patrons) are here in my corner experiencing this journey along with me.  Your encouragement and feedback have helped me have one of my best cons ever!

Next, I’ll be hopping right into Kickstarter fulfillment and revving up for the Goddesses of Autumn pins, so there’s no rest for the wary!

Did you stop by at DragonCon?  What was your fave cosplay?  Sound off in the comments!

♥ Ang

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!

Convention Report: DragonCon 2014

After catching up on sleep, emails, and the internet, I’m finally able to grab some time to write a few thoughts about this past weekend’s Dragon Con!  It was an odd year for me, as my sales were not so stellar, but the sense of kinship I felt with the other artists, even during a ‘bad’ year, warmed the heart.

I’ve come home feeling encouraged and inspired more than ever before, especially since I had a disappointing show.  We all have them and I learned a lot this con about myself, my future, and how much I love the supportive nature of the art community.

I have a lot of thoughts to sort out, so I’ll try to condense!

My Display this Year:

My table setup during load in.  I wore a much nicer outfit at the actual con so I didn’t look like an art hobo.
This table arrangement changed a bit over time, with the books being moved up front and the bookmarks behind them.

My gallery display in the Art Show.  Art Nouveau to the left, mature fantasy in the center,
and my masks to the right.

The Convention Experience:

As always, the Art Show is a well-oiled machine and set up went rather well!  I had a lovely time chatting up familiar faces like Annie Stegg, Justin Gerard, Drew Baker (Drew, the playmats you printed were gorgeous and I sold them both!) and Peter Morhbacher (or more often, his dad, Mike. He told some stories about you, Pete. Hehehe!).

I also made new friends with my amazing table neighbors, Jasmine Beckett-Griffth and her husband Matt, and Tienne Rei and her lovely assistant, Linda.  I also got to hang out with the talented Meredith Dillman and her husband and my good friend and artist, Brenda Lyons.

The more time I spend at conventions, the smaller the art world becomes!  It’s been a great pleasure getting to know other artists more personally and to realize what an encouraging and amazing community network we have.

I just wish I had more time to chat with everyone!  We were all so busy that beyond a dinner here and a shuttle wait there, it was selling, eating, or sleeping.  Makes me sad I’ll miss IlluXcon later this month, where people generally have a bit more time to hang out!

The general feel from the attendees this year was…tense, to say the least.  So many seemed very upset about the crowds in the Dealer’s Room and in general.  I’ve heard that there were 72K attendees this year.  This is insanity!  The hotels were just not made to contain this number of people.   Due to foot traffic and the general unintuitive layout of the hotels, it’s near impossible to find your way to a panel on time, and that’s not the worst of it!

Between myself, people I know, and other attendee experiences, we witnessed glass bottles being dropped off balconies (onto other people!), an escalator being shut down because of too much foot traffic in one area, the dealer’s room being shut down by the fire marshal because of too much traffic, a fist fight on the shuttle bus, and so much more chaos!

Dragon Con, it’s time to consider your attendees’ comfort levels and move the event to one of the local convention centers.  I probably won’t be coming to this con ever unless I have to sell things because I don’t want to deal with this mess.

Best Sellers:

My Kushiel’s Dart prints were a big hit and I sold out of them completely!  It’s unsurprising, since the print depicts a character from a popular novel that many identify with (thank Jacqueline for giving me her blessing to sell these prints!).  My Ladies of the Months postcards and bookmarks were also popular.  People wanting to know about when their Lady will be released was the #1 reason many signed up for my mailing list.

Overall, I sold many small things this year (bookmarks, card prints, small prints, etc.) while the canvas prints and masks gathered dust.  I have a lot of thoughts on why this is that I’ll cover in a minute.

Throughout the show, I saw many high priced original paintings selling across the board.  This is a very encouraging trend that I hope will be continued in future Dragon Cons!  Dragon Con seems to be attracting a decent number of collectors who aren’t afraid to spend top dollar on good art.  Original oil and acrylic paintings seemed to be the most popular big ticket item out of them all.

What I Learned:

If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that having a bad con can sometimes teach you a lot more about what you’re doing right or wrong than having a decent year can.

My Brand is Too Segmented – I had a fair few people come up to me to say they loved my art, but that they were wondering where all of my older angel-centric work went.  This is the effect of not having sold at the show at a table in a few years and my work being in major flux since that point in time.

I’ve been moving towards a more serious mature fantasy vein in recent times and I learned from this experience that this type of work doesn’t exactly jive with what my past collectors expected, which I suspect affected sales.  My thoughts on how to handle this problem and where I’m going as an artist could fill a book, so expect a future entry on this topic soon!  I’ve already gotten some great feedback from fellow artists and AD’s that have proven invaluable.

Mailing List Signup Ideas – I did my standard book giveaway this year, where new sign-ups would have a chance at winning the book on the last day of the con.  However, my neighbor Tienne did an excellent job of encouraging sign-ups by giving people a choice of a free print if they signed up, which is a far more immediate tactic than a book giveaway.

She also gave folks the option to sign up to a snail mail only list, which is nice for those customers who don’t check e-mail often and prefer the updates of a solid mailer.  I want to try this idea at the next con and see how it goes!

Digital Art is a Hard Sell – I had many people confuse my digital art for oil paints, which is a style I’ve been nursing for my own benefit, since I don’t have the luxury of ventilation so I can work in this medium and I consider digital far less messy and environmentally destructive.  Once people learned my painterly work was digital, they seemed to be disappointed.   The idea that digital is ‘easy mode’ and is therefore worth less for that still seems prominent.

If I could do it all over again, I’d hang my original traditionally painted pieces at my table and put the prints in the Gallery Bay.  People seem more interested in chatting with me about my process and it’s a lot easier to do that when the original is hanging nearby.

Coolest Costume:

Last, but not least, here is the coolest costume I saw!  Dragon Con is a costuming paradise and I am always sure to be on the lookout for impressive ensembles.

I didn’t get out of the Artist’s Alley much, but this one really knocked my socks off!  The amount of detail is just staggering and I can literally hear the Junk Lady’s voice in my head when I look at this costume.

“What’s the matter, my dear, don’t you like your toys?”

All in all, this convention is still one of the best places to sell fantasy work in the Southeast and I hope to come back, but probably not at a table until my artistic voice evens out a bit.  The Art Show has an ever-increasing number of amazing artists that are definitely worth seeing, but also gives enough of the limelight to lesser known artists that might surprise you.  This mix of amazing artists and new talent makes the Art Show a must-see for any of you out there interested in either participating in the show or seeing some of your favorite artists in person.

Till next year!

Convention Report: SpartanCon 2014

It’s been about a year and more since I worked a convention!  To be quite honest with you guys, I was feeling really burnt out by them.  They never seemed to be worth the physical effort and preparation put into them.  Sales were bad, morale was down, and they were absolutely no fun for me anymore.

I wrote a post a long time ago about my thoughts on whether conventions are worthwhile and I have been thinking a lot about how I could improve my convention experience.  
For one, (and this is huge) it helped to have a positive table partner along.  In the past, I’ve worked with a table buddy who had good intentions, but who was usually bored and focused only on the money-making aspect of the venture, which is an attitude that became quite toxic for me over time.  Unfortunately, you can’t expect to become a millionaire at a convention and doing so is the fastest way to burnout.
My new table partner with a more positive attitude aka. my significant other, Kevin, also gave me some great tips on selling learned from his years in retail.  Nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to.  If you can casually chat people up, learn their interests, and find something that would help improve their lives, selling is easy.  Even if they don’t have interest aligned with yours, then you still have had a good conversation!
Positivity is key!

Another area of improvement for me this con was my display.  I used to throw everything but the kitchen sink onto my table, from masks to prints, in an effort to appeal to anybody.  My display greatly lacked brand consistency, which I suspect left most folks unable to remember my specialty.  Was it masks? Art Nouveau?  Original fantasy characters?  Who could say?  There wasn’t a consistent theme across my products.
Simplifying things helped greatly, especially when describing to customers what exactly it is I do.  It was much easier to say “I work in fantasy art and book covers” than “I work in fantasy, book covers, masks, Art Nouveau, and oh yeah I do this other thing too!”.
More is less!  My new simplified display.
As for SpartanCon, it was a great test run for me so that I could try new tactics and a new display with renewed enthusiasm!  It felt wonderful to be less concerned about money and more focused on just having a good conversation with fellow kindred spirits in geekery.  SpartanCon fills a gap within our driving distance for cons that aren’t anime-focused, as it features not just anime, but horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, which has a wider cross-section with the kind of art I do.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the venue to find that SpartanCon didn’t take place at just any public library, but a beautiful three level building with a gallery and a fantastic setting of skylights and books!  The staff were all well organized and setup went very smoothly.  Foot traffic was decent the entire event and we were surprised to sell enough at this one-day, first year event to make back gas, lunch, and more.  Something that rarely happens at first year events!  

Other Lessons Learned:

– I tried out a tip jar, which I thought was a silly idea.  Imagine my surprise when I ended up with a $1.10 tip!  It’s not a lot, but something unexpected happened.  As a con-goer mentioned to me, they tipped me because they didn’t have a lot of money, but still wanted to support me somehow, thus they tipped what they could afford just to support me in making art.  That gesture of kindness itself was uplifting moreso than the actual tip!
– I also tried out a new tactic for enticing con-goers to sign-up for my mailing list by hosting a giveaway for one of my books.  I came away with half a page of e-mails, so I’d say this was a success!

Final Thoughts

SpartanCon was a promising event that I hope to see more of!  I learned valuable lessons about how to present myself as a professional and met some wonderful enthusiastic authors and fans.  I hope the event will be returning next year.  The atmosphere is friendly and if the first year traffic is any indication, it’s only going to get better from here on out!

Convention Report – IlluXCon VI

I’m finally recovered from the successive conventions of DragonCon and IlluXCon and boy can I just say what an amazing experience IlluXCon was!  I’ve come back feeling so very inspired and motivated.  There’s a lot I want to say about it, so hang on to your butts for a long post!

Why Attend?

First thing to know about my experience is that I battled with myself in regards to whether IlluXCon was was worth the money we paid to attend.  We saved roughly $1300 to cover hotel, room, food, badge, and board, which can be really painful for those of us on shoestring budgets.  All in all, I will say yes, this was very worth the money, but not because I made money at the show.  In fact, I sold one $20 print the entire Showcase, but that is not where this show’s worth lies.

Instead, I had so many passionate and livening conversations with so many artists, from world-famous artists to up and coming artists like myself.  I learned so much from simply having great conversations with people and receiving good advice which is worth its weight in gold from pros who are further along in their careers.  To say nothing of the barrage of helpful info packed panels on every aspect of art!

The passion you absorb just from being around so many other artists is also a priceless experience.  I have returned hyped and revived after being around such a great crowd of kindred spirits!  It is just the medicine the doctor ordered for the feelings of burnout and exhaustion that have plagued me.

Best Moments

– Sitting down for lunch only to realize John Jude Palencar was right across from me.  He pointed to me and went “Hey that’s my book in your hand!”

– Talking with so many great artists who gave me specific advice about my work.  The list of folks I got to chat up includes Noah Bradley, Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos, Winona Nelson, E.M Gist, and Michael C. Hayes.  Mike was especially detailed in that he made sure to let me know what I’m doing right, which is sometimes easy to ignore!  That was a great lesson in and of itself.

–  Nearly EVERY single artist in attendance, including world-famous ones and AD’s, all jammed into the hotel’s lobby being yelled at to stop drinking by midnight lest the bartender lose his license.

–  My first ever in-person interview with an Art Director, particularly Jon Schindehette.  He gave me encouraging and prudent feedback as well as answered some pointed questions, specifically the following:

The Question:  How often should an artist send an AD new work?
The Answer: As often as they have something that pushes their work to the next level.

– Meeting familiar faces I’ve only known through the net! Like Cris aka. Quickreaver.

– Realizing my Showcase table was beside one of the most talented book cover artists for Mercedes Lackey series, Jody Lee!

– Having a passionate conversation about comic books, creativity, and unique creators, such as David Mack, Neil Gaiman, and Drew Hayes with Bill Baker.  It’s not often that a person I meet knows all three of these creators who are a triad of inspiration for me.

The Showcase

Speaking of the Showcase, I learned a lot from selling there which I will carry over into next year, should I choose to sell there again.  The Showcase happened on the weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), where art collectors were invited to attend the show and meet artists face to face.  I noticed as soon as I told people my work was digital that they almost immediately lost interest.  It seems there still is a general lack of respect for digital as being an investment as a collectible piece.  My digital Art Nouveau piece, Lady of December, still caught a lot of interest, but no buyers.

This has led me to the decision that if I am to show my work there or in galleries that I will need to bring some traditional pieces along as well.  I don’t mind doing this, however, because it’s just easier for me to do intensive line work in my Nouveau inspired style by hand anyways.  So keep an eye out for more ink and watercolor Nouveau pieces from me!  I’m looking forward to scratching that Traditional media itch that’s been nagging me after all these months of doing digital work.

Something else happened that I did not expect at the Showcase that is worth mentioning is that I did not expect to be handed portfolios by other up and coming artists. I spent 80% of my time chatting up younger artists about their work.  I’ve always felt that I’m the ‘eternally breaking in to the industry’ person.  Having someone trust me enough to request feedback on their work was so unexpected!  I got to encourage and inspire them in person and that just filled me with joy!  Inspiring you guys inspires me, and it always has, point of fact.  Part of the reason I keep this journal!  (I know I occasionally do crit here, but it’s so different doing it in real life.)

Personal Revelations

The Number One thing I learned there is that the art industry is full of people who are passionate about what they do.  World famous and novice alike are made equal by this passion.  The first day I arrived and went through the Main Showcase, I literally crawled out of the room dragging my jaw along with me feeling feeble and unworthy as an artist.  However, as the week progressed and I got to talk to more and more with other artists who offered encouragement and critique, I realized something.

I AM ready for this career path.  My work IS good enough.  I only need a bit of love and polish before I’m ready to start pitching myself as a hireable artist.  I am one step away from my goals.  That one step has always felt like a canyon I could never cross.  Every artist I spoke to in review said practically the same thing, nearly word for word each time (“Work on lighting, polish anatomy a bit, and you’re there!”).

Sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves that we curl up in a ball and don’t take chances.  I haven’t sent my work to AD’s in over a year because I simply wasn’t up to par. My portfolio was too full of life drawing and student work or pieces that I just wasn’t excited about.  Sometime in this past year I have transformed, but I was too caught up in my own feelings of slowness, anxiety, and self-loathing to really notice it and PUSH my work where it needed to be pushed so that I could improve.

Having other artists I respect reinforce a properly centered view of my art has been so very cathartic.  Even better, I am now informed with the knowledge of which companies are hiring, how much they pay, and who I should talk to in order to be hired.  This is knowledge that you can get via the internet, but which comes so much quicker having a good conversation with another artist.  As one artist put it to me, this is the ‘family reunion’ for illustrators where they all get to catch up and see how everyone is doing in a business and non-business sense.

As Lauren Panepinto said in her recent Muddy Colors post on physical vs virtual networking, “One hour of physical networking is worth 100 hours of virtual networking.”  That is incredible advice and one of the best lessons I’ve taken away from attending IlluXCon.

To be sure, I’m going to do everything I can to be able to attend next year and maybe to add Spectrum to my list.  Here’s hoping!

PS.
I have an album of public IlluXCon images on FB if you want to get a glimpse of the con. Check it out here!

Con Report: Dragon*Con 2012

Sporting a leather Magpie feather
made by the multi-talented
Brenda Lyons!

My brain has finally returned from Dragon*Con 2012 (some days after it officially ended, I might add)! It was a haze of cool costumes, reunions, and meetings, as it usually is.  This is going to be a LONG entry, so grab a cup of tea and get comfy!

The Con

This year was an odd duck for me. I spent most of my time selling at my table in the art show, running to panels in the art track, and riding on the train since we commuted in. I didn’t get a chance to see many costumes or really leave the Hyatt.

I did, however, brave all three dealer’s rooms to hunt down amazing artists Michael C. Hayes, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Echo Chernik to buy their books, which I had been looking forward to doing for a long while! There’s no better feeling than to shake an artist’s hand and show them you support their work by buying a book directly from them at a show. This probably worked against me as I suspect I spent all my profits doing just that!

I also met several cool folks I have known online for ages, but had never met in person. So many folks came by to say hello and show their support!  It really made me feel special this year and I have no words to express how this warms my heart. Thanks, you guys!

The Selling Experience

As always, the Dragon*Con art show is a well oiled machine!  Set up and break down went smoothly, despite the fact I had three times the stuff I usually do this year.  I sold decently at the art show and hit my selling goal to break even, plus a few hundred.  My best selling work at the show was The Lotus Dancer, which I sold out of at my table, while none of my masks sold from the 3D table, which I’ll probably be dropping next year.  People seem to buy more masks right off the gallery bay, so I suspect that’s where I’ll be putting my masks from now on.

What I  Learned About My Display

For the first two days, I had nothing but older watercolor work of mine up on the panels arranged in very symmetrical grid patterns.  I have Death the Kid level obsession with symmetry, which works against me sometimes when I put up art for display!  My boyfriend tried an experiment of arranging a whole new selection of my digital works in asymmetrically balanced patterns and we noticed this seemed to grab the attention of con-goers far more. Lesson learned. Gotta dump my old work, get larger pieces for max eye-catching capability, AND stop being so symmetrical!

Other Stuff I Learned About Displaying Art

  • Tiered wire magazine racks make for great mask displays!
  • Instead of stretching canvases on stretcher bars, I want to try affixing them to masonite and covering them with gel medium. Annie Stegg used this to beautiful effect!  Her prints had the texture of her original paintings after applying the gel medium.
  • Offer more sketches and/or sketchbooks.  A lot of artists have been doing this and it seems like a smart way to get a little added income from your sketches!  Instead of rotting in my art pads, I could sell my doodles in bins or baskets.  Got to break my sketch hoarding habit!
  • Start ordering things wholesale. A couple of the other artists looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I hand cut all of my mats myself.  It’s time consuming and I can save a lot of time finding places that sell mats, backing, and bags all in one place for cheap at a bulk rate. (Anyone know any suppliers? I have been looking into Matdesigners.com)
  • Mitch Foust had an amazing looking display that folded up into little collapsible panels AND included its own lighting setup!  It also costs far less than my Propanels and seems to take up much less space.  It’s called The Original SMART Exhibit and it is lovely and professional looking!  It may not work well for my outdoor shows, but it’s a good choice for the inside ones.

My First Portfolio Review

This year was the first year I worked up the courage to ask other pro artists to review my art at length.  I talked to both Justin Gerard and Dan Dos Santos, two illustrators from Muddy Colors with amazing work who gave me some stellar advice at my review and during their painting demos, which I will paraphrase here:

  • Use more reference. They knew instantly where I had fudged anatomy and it really brought down the overall believability and quality of my work where I didn’t use it.
  • Relates to the last one. Do more preliminary studies and thumbnails. Both Justin and Dan did an alarming amount of planning until the next step in their production was merely  to copy the preliminary to their final format. My planning phase has always been short and rushed and that needs to change.  They did whatever they had to, from taking model shoots, to photomanipping in whatever props and faces they needed in the prelim phase.
  • NO PHOTOMERGED TREES! *hangs head in shame*
  • Cut out ALL of the old mediocre work from my portfolio. Out of 20 pieces, only 5 were really viable to show to an art director.  This means I better get cracking on new work!  If I’m not producing at last one polished piece a month, I am not being serious about my career nor will I get the amount of high quality images I need in my portfolio in a decent amount of time.
I’ve already emailed the both of them with my sincerest thanks!  I suspect the advice they gave me is really going to change my career in the best of ways, plus they are just two wonderfully nice fellows!  Don’t be afraid to chat them up if you see them at a con.

Photo and Video Stream

I only took a couple of photos this year while I was hurrying through the Marriott to the dealer’s room, but you can see them here.  I also gave a panel on leather mask-making, which you can watch the video walkthrough here.

Here’s a preview of two really awesome cosplayers who had built their costumes around my Red Dragon and Seraphim leather masks. You look stunning, ladies!

The Red Dragon and Seraphim masquers. More of my masquers
can be seen at Angela’s Masquers.

What’s Next?

I have been debating back and forth if I will even attend Dragon*Con next year.  My budget is very limited and while I always have a blast at this con, I really want to try attending other conventions geared for artists, such as Illuxcon or Spectrum Fantastic Live Art, where art is the focus and I can make more career contacts.  If I can do them all, I will, but it’s time to venture outside of my comfort zone, meaning that Dragon*Con will be prioritized beneath these others.

But this also means I have a whole new journey ahead of me to produce new, improved work so that I’m not just showing the same old tired pieces to people.  I also need more subject matter relevant to the gaming industries in my portfolio, if I am to seriously pursue the kinds of jobs I want there.  This probably means less floofy angels and more Elves, which I can’t argue with!  I have an action plan for doing this, but I’ll save that for next journal entry!

Thanks for joining me for my Dragon*Con wrap up. See you all next year, maybe?  If not, remember me when you see cosplayers in leather masks and/or wings. Take a photo for me!

DragonCon 2011 Con Report

Finally! I am sentient enough to write a blog post about DragonCon!  This year was my most work-intensive year yet, despite the fact I didn’t have to man a table.  It was so wonderful to meet old friends, fellow artists, and attend many cool panels!  It made returning home to a backlog of work after all the fun that much more difficult.

My panel on E-Marketing for Artists 101 that I gave during the con is now available online for your viewing pleasure.  It was my first time giving it so I was pleased to be applauded at the end. Next time, I’ll be sure to include even more info based on the crowd’s great suggestions!

I decided to be over-ambitious and do a mixed media display of new digital paintings, jewelry, and masks to reflect my new skillset from the past year.  I’m happy to report I sold half my masks and jewelry and even a couple of framed pieces!  This year was the best I’ve done with a Gallery panel at DragonCon, though Print Shop sales remained lackluster.

Now for a tour of my panel! (See more pics of my gallery this year here).

 
Things I Learned
(Because you always learn something new with every con. Even if you’ve been attending for years.)
  • Mailing labels are your friend! Instead of wasting business cards by using them as title labels, a simple design printed on a mailing label looks even more snazzy AND saves me money!
  • Plastic Sawtooth Hangers look way better than using binder clips on your images (and doesn’t risk creasing your art/bag). The downside: Once they’re stuck on, they’re on for good.
  • Gatorade. The cure for hangovers, nausea, and walking multiple blocks in 85 degree Georgia heat in a corset!
  • What sold this year – DRAGONS (Derp moment on my part as this never occurred to me. Especially for an event like DragonCon), masks, jewelry, and my darker angel pieces.  Seems my craft items are staying my money makers.
  • When giving an hour long panel, drink plenty of water (or Gatorade). I was hoarse for a week after because I rambled the whole time at my panel without sipping any liquids.

Personal Stuff
Being able to wander the con and attend panels was great this year! I learned how to make items out of hardened felt, which opens up a whole new world of crafting for me. I also attended a panel on peasant fashion in the 1650s, which was great cultural fodder for my novel writing research.
A butterfly lady sketch
from Stephanie
Pui-Mun Law.
I also got to yack with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and, in what’s becoming my DragonCon tradition, purchased her latest Tarot book, The Tarot: Minor Arcana!  Stephanie did a lovely sketch on the inside cover before my eyes, even with my rambling distracting her. Thanks so much for the gift of inspiration, Stephanie! Can’t wait to really dig into this tome. A flip through has already revealed tons of crows, swords, sparkly bods, and awesomeness! It will be good inspiration and motivation for me to get going on my own Tarot project, once I finally sort my direction out.
After two years of saying ‘I might go’, I finally attended David Mack’s charity body painting event hosted at one of my favorite joints in town, The Shakespeare Tavern! There was much talent packed into one place and also organic strawberry beer to be had.  David also signed my present of a rare Scarab figure from a friend, which was the source of much happiness.
I was also free to wander around snapping pics of costumes this year. You can see my meager collection of costume photos here!  If you want to see videos of my friends and I being stupid at the Night at the Aquarium event, check out Derpy Eels and Rockout Fish videos.
I’m not so sure if I’ll be able to make it to DragonCon next year with other events like SDCC and Spectrum Live Art tempting me, but after the success of this year, I’m definitely going to try!  Till next time, guys!  I’m already plotting a costume.

Happy Happy Insanity Time!

Also known as the “Pre-DragonCon Rush”

So the insanity is in full swing now with T-minus 30 days till DragonCon and still many paintings and leather crafts ahead of me!  Not to mention I have recently received some life-changing news, but I’m loathe to reveal it now until we know for more of a certainty! (Don’t worry, it is nothing bad!)

I’ve been meaning to post here about how my career is changing (which partially ties into the good news I can’t talk about yet), but that’s something for a later entry as well I think.  For now, just announcing I’m busy as HFIL, my Etsy and Artfire shops are both in vacation mode till after September 5th, and that I’ll be at DragonCon this year with bells on.  I’ll be debuting new prints of such glorious arts as these in my Print Shop and Gallery panel at the con!:

“Angel of January” 11×14 in., Pencil colored in Photoshop.
“Keeper of Secrets”, 11×14 in., Ink colored in Photoshop

You really must go see my gallery panel this year.  It will be like no display I have ever done before with paintings and leather crafts, galore!  I don’t have a table this year, but I’ll most likely be wandering the floor of the Art Show or helping Windfalcon at her table.  We’ll be at the Masked Ball on Friday as well. (Oh but I still need to figure out what to wear!)  We may very well see the return of Captain Evelyn (my pirate alter ego), if I can fit my art-fattened patooty back in that costume!  ALSO, I’ll be hosting a panel called E-Marketing for Artists 101, so check the Art Track for schedule times!

Hope to see you folks there!  If the grumpkins don’t get me first….

My First Art Fair!

After a day of rest and a couple of Advil, I’m pleased to report I have survived my first art fair!  All in all, I did fairly well for a first timer. Made back my booth fee, got suggestions from the crowd on what they wanted to see, and learned the secret of good transportation of random stuff — plastic tuberware!

What did I learn from this experience? Read on!

Start Early!

2 weeks was not enough to make even half of the items by hand that I wanted to fill up my artisan display tables. I found myself painting into the wee hours and relying on a lot of older stock I had lying around just to make my booth look presentable. First lesson learned! Start early, DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF by procrastinating!  Know your display capacities. Practice your setup in advance.  Last thing you want is it to look empty and rushed.  Also, check your current stock! I had to reorder many prints last minute because I didn’t realize I was low till that moment. Doh!

Remember Your Traffic Flow

Probably the most important lesson I learned.  Day 1, I had a setup like this:
Heeey! Buy my stuff. Please? YOU KNOW YOU WANNA!

While this isn’t terrible, I think I did this because I’m so used to setting up at conventions where you put the table out front and people come up to you to talk.  This layout drives people right up to you, but what I noticed at the fair is most people will talk to you, but then not browse your wares, or they’re intimidated by your presence and just want to be left alone to shop.  I also had a technical issue where I couldn’t find the stiffeners for my walls, so I couldn’t line the sides of the booth with them, leaving it looking pretty empty on the left.

After walking around the fair a bit and getting some ideas from other artists (and fanagling walls with velcro), I ended up with a setup like this for Day 2:

Psst! Hay man. Need a kidney? Operating table in the back!

Much more open space and plenty of room for multiple browsers to go down the line of pretties!  Artist hidden away and only there if you need her to checkout or to ask questions.  More people came in this time round and didn’t have to peer over my head to come right up to the artwork.

Best Selling Items?

This was a huge surprise for me! I thought my crafts would do well, but I only sold a few things. Mainly I sold art cards and prints because people wanted small artwork to inspire them (but didn’t want to buy the more expensive larger pieces on the wall). I also sold a few books to people who saw my work elsewhere and liked that I offered personalized goodies for free if they bought it directly from me.  I didn’t sell a single mask.

I had a good many requests for hair brooches with chopsticks and lapel pins of the butterflies.  No doubt due to having a generally older crowd (with grandkids along) who were looking for things for their home or small gifts, of which matted/framed Fantasy art is generally not well suited for your average collector.

Next time I do an outdoor fair, I plan to carry more personal items (hair brooches and pins), more ornate masks framed in shadowboxes, and more accessible 2D art items (perhaps carved leather butterflies in framed ‘specimen’ arrangements?)  If people can see the use of an item for their home or their personal decor, I imagine they’d be more inclined to buy at these sorts of events!  I can save my fantasy art for more themed fests, like the Renaissance Faire or the cons I attend.  That’s at least one joy of being a multi-faceted artist!

Final Thoughts

I am sore and sleep-deprived far more than I ever was for a plain ol convention!  Art fairs are physically grueling work and not for those who can’t handle the hauling, unloading, and long hours.  It’s also a HUGE investment of time and money.

The fair season has only begun for me, however, so I’m not going to give up on it just yet! Being able to talk to fellow art lovers and curiosity seekers was quite enjoyable for me!  Even moreso when they would tell me they saw my work online or at the gallery next door.  Getting your face out there can be very gratifying and just as important as sales.  For my shy artist friends, however, this definitely may not be the thing for you!

If you’re a fan of my Facebook Fan Page, I’m having a sale on leftover hand-painted butterflies. Get ’em while they’re cheap because they’ll be going up on Etsy for a higher price after this week!

See one you like? Check out my sekrit sale!

Stay tuned for a post on what makes up an art fair display. Till then, I’m going to attend to the mess that is my trashed studio after an event. *cry!