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!

6 comments

  1. I always wondered how you had the time to cut and design all those mats LOL. You should find a local framer to cut mats for you. Opus has custom mats that we get. bulk discounts and the like.
    We don’t really mat though, for ours.
    We do back mats and clear bags.
    What is “photomerged trees”?

    • I did find a place that will allow me up to triple matted pieces and cut them to my specifications (the place mentioned in my post). I’m not a fan of my local framing places because they’re usually very expensive to do one simple little thing (sorry if any of my friends there are reading!). We’ll see how this wholesale mat place works out for me.

      Photomerged trees refers to one of the images in my portfolio where I had photomanipped Christmas trees in the background because I was in a rush. They were really bad. XD Go figure, that painting *still* sold in the show!

  2. Seth Fitts says:

    Aww, I wanted to go but could not. Things just didn’t come together for me. I am disappointed I missed Stephanie Pui-Min Law (among other people who attended). I would have like to have met her face to face.
    Every art event is a learning experience for me and I am glad things went well for you (decent sales and meeting people AND a portfolio review!). Cool to read that you follow Muddy Colors too. Good luck with the future events you are contemplating to attend.

    • Aw man you so have to come next year, Seth! You have to go at *least* once in your life while you’re a local. The art show is an amazing inspiring cloud of creativity! Isn’t Muddy Colors amazing? I have learned so much from that collective and hope to keep learning more!

      Good luck to you as well. I trust I will see you some year out there!:)

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