Category: artist alley practices

Convention Report – DragonCon 2019

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: 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
  • 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 2012 To-Do List

This year is going to be my biggest year yet at DragonCon!  I’ll have a table in the artist alley, a large gallery bay, and a 3D display table in addition to all the rest!  This will also be my first year giving a panel on the basics of leather mask-making (Saturday at 7pm during the con).  I thought it would be a good exercise to share my tentative to-do list for this year’s con just to give everyone an idea of the hecticness.

–  Shoot and edit videos of segments for the mask-making demo.
–  Finish “War Prince” and “Lotus Dancer” paintings.
–  Craft 6 leather masks to add to the displays.
–  Create head displays for masks (touch up ones from last year that are damaged).
–  Double mat 10 art cards and embellish each mat with a themed drawing.
–  Order canvas prints of centerpieces.
–  Order bookmarks (order vinyl sleeves and tassles for bookmarks).
–  Make prints for the print shop and table (what a time to break in a new printer!)
–  Make sure I have enough bags and backing for all the prints.
–  Program barcodes for products at my table. Train with the new scanner between now and Dragoncon.
–  Compile portfolio for black and white interior artwork and full color character art for tabletop game companies.
–  Sign up for portfolio reviews. Still need to research which companies are represented at DragonCon and what kind of art they’re looking for.
–  Make some kind of freebie for any interested AD’s. A sketchbook? Bookmarks? Mini Calendar? Brochure? Not sure yet…

Have a sneak peek of my art gallery panel layout, for the curious:
I almost always lose my layout during setup so it’s nice to have a backup
here on the blog just in case I lose it.

To be honest, I’ve never pursued portfolio reviews at DragonCon before. It’s always been too intimidating and I never felt like I had enough of the right kinds of pieces.  Now, I feel I have a better idea  of what I am trying to be hired for and better work, to boot.  We’ll see, though!  I suspect I will be in for a cold splash of reality, but it’s one I hope that will help me to improve my presentation, overall! I’m also going to experiment with presenting my portfolio on an ipad. Yay for hand-me-down electronics!

So let the mad rush begin! May the coffee flow free and the chocolate be plentiful!

Evolution of an Artist Alley Table II

Back in September of 2009, I posted a list of what goes into my display in an artist alley.  Now two years later and a few events wiser, my display has evolved!

Show them what they’ve won, Vanna!
Anatomy of an Artist Alley Table – Part 2
  1. Retractable Vertical Banner – $300 – A pricey item, to be sure, but the fact I don’t have to carry around a big pvc pipe set nor have it taking up space in my car makes this item well worth it! This vinyl banner pulls out from and retracts back into a spring loaded base that is about as big as a tabletop easel and very lightweight. Adds to my vertical appeal and allows people to notice me over the heads of the crowd. Mine was printed by Graphic Signs Atlanta.EDIT: I’m told Staples offers a cheaper $100 collapsible stand now too!
  2. Standing Easel – $13 – These simple wooden easels are great for propping large prints for that eye-catching vertical appeal!  I’ve been using these to prop the blow up of my book cover at book signings as well.  When I’m not promoting the book, this cover image will be replaced by a piece of art instead. Bought at Joanns Fabrics and Crafts.
  3. Gridwall Cubes – $30 –  Also called wire cube storage. These have been with me since the beginning! I use them to clip prints, mousepads, and prints to, though I’m looking for an alternative display method for the masks currently. The wire distracts from their detail so I’m either going to cover them with fabric or buy some gridwall hook attachments that project from the wall so the masks can be placed on them some distance from the grid instead. Found mine at Target.
  4. Mannequin Head – $40 – Affectionately named Shay, she helps bring more visibility to my masks and other artisan crafted items! Her ears are pierced so I can add earrings as well as display a necklace and a mask all on the same head.  Found her at Store Fixtures, USA.
  5. Visa/Mastercard Sign – $5? – A simple plastic sign used to notify customers that I take credit and debit cards. I printed it off on cardstock and slipped it into the stand.  You’d be amazed at how comforted people are to know that you can accept plastic money!  Many people don’t carry cash anymore, either because they prefer not to or because they’re trying to limit their budget. Accepting cards is a good way to be that evil influence prompting people towards impulse purchases. That sounds bad, but hey, it’s true!  Can’t recall where I got this sign and how much it was, but it couldn’t have been more than $5 and probably came from Walmart or Staples.
  6. Basic Tabletop Easels – $5? – You can probably find these even cheaper if you buy plastic instead of metal.  In my case, I was actually using a small metal easel used for displaying antique dinner plates.  Great for propping up items like prints and books again for that vertical eye-catching appeal!  It’s harder for people to notice your work if it’s all lying flat on the table, especially where there are big crowds.  Can’t recall where we got these at, but probably Staples or Walmart.

  7. Horizontal Vinyl Banner – Price varies per footage – Another item that’s been with me from the beginning. Even though I have the nice vertical signs, I still like to hang this out in front so the front of my table doesn’t look too boring.  It was a little too big to hang behind me anyways and was rather overpowering my display! It looks much better hanging out in front. Printed at Graphic Signs Atlanta.
  8. Itoya 11×14 Display Portfolio – $11 – I had a small 5×7 portfolio on the table for the campsite to show off my work and to make room for more items, but people kept passing it by!  Eventually opted for this imposing portfolio which prompted more people to stop and flip through.  I also had a sign up sheet and business cards tucked into the plastic pocket at the front so people could leave with ways to be reminded of my existence.
  9. Trading Card Album – $5? – This small album housed ACEO and ATC organized into open edition, original, and limited edition settings. They represent my affordable offerings for the casual buyers who may not want to invest in large items, but don’t mind dropping a few bucks on cute collectible cards.  Bought from Michaels.
  10. Print Bin – $10 – Actually a collapsible file box. Bottom comes out and it folds down, making it much easier to transport than my solid heavy print bin, which now serves as a permanent inventory housing item here at home.  Found at Walmart.
  11. Greeting Card Rotating Countertop Rack – $35 – Another item I’ve had from the beginning! It is sometimes replaced by a standalone rack that sits in front of my table, but I can’t use that one on a regular basis because some shows are picky about you having items in front of your table that folks might trip on.  Little children also like to spin it until it falls on their heads!  This smaller rack houses my 5×7 and matted 4×6 prints.  Purchased from Displays2go.
  12. Binder Clips (40 pk) – $5 – Oh the many uses of binder clips!  I used them to clip the prints to the grid, to hold my banner to the table, and for fiddling with when I’m bored. They make nice talking finger puppets!  I prefer the gold variety as it looks a bit more decorative than the silver. Found at Staples.
  13. Crushed Velvet Table Cloth – $8 a yard – A mysterious number 13 I forgot to number in my photo! This silver cloth serves a multitude of purposes. First, it covers up the hideously distracting plain tabletops, is large enough to cover the entire display when you have to leave (if you have two on hand), and can also serve as backdrops for photographing products!  Velvet is great, as I’ve mentioned in previous photography tutorials.
Alternate Displays
While the aforementioned display works well for events where I’m mostly selling art, some events require a different setup to accommodate my more crafty items!
Flashback to Faerie Escape Atlanta, 2010!
The only thing that’s different here is the inclusion of a metal jewelry tree and velvet necklace, which helped bring a level of professionalism to my items that laying them flat on the table didn’t.
Metal Jewelry Tree – $20? – Mine was a Christmas present from the family so I have no clue where they bought it! I’ve seen some creative takes on the jewelry tree where people have taken branches from a real tree, cleaned them up, and shaped them to suit their needs. Then jewelry is hung off them with little leaf-shaped tags for an organic theme.
Velvet Necklace Forms – $2 – These velvet covered neck forms really make for a stylish addition to any craft table.  I bought mine at Joanns, but have found bigger ones for longer necklaces at Dawson Jones for $12.
That’s it for now! I’m currently transitioning my display to fit an art fair booth setup, so expect posts on this topic sometime in the future!

Con Report: Anime Weekend Atlanta 2010

It’s that time again! Convention report time!

Personal Stuffs

AWA has been one of the old mainstays for me in days gone by. It was the very first convention I ever attended, the very first Artist Alley I ever sold in. I always get nostalgic when I go to this con. I had many folks who had seen me at past AWA’s  (and from this year’s DragonCon) stop by to show their support and say hello. That made me feel so special and my thanks go out to everyone who came by to see me!

Check out Fev’s amazing

I left the con with some amazingly cool swag! I am the proud owner of a lovingly crafted Assassin’s belt created by the multi-talent Fev, who sculpted it herself! (You can see her creative process here). My boyfriend also gifted me with a book I’d been drooling over ever since I spotted it in the Dealer’s Room, the Granado Espada Visual Guide!

For those who don’t know it, Granado Espada (or Sword of the New World) is an MMO which is an alternate history of the settlement of ‘the New World’ mixed with fantasy elements. As such, the character designs and settings are influenced by 18th century flair with the extravagant stylization of anime and video game design! You can preview the book here to see what I’m talking about. It is GORGEOUS and I intend to use it as a springboard for inspiration for my own characters’ wardrobes.


Where would a con be without amazing costumes? You can see my photo album here!  And now my mini cosplay awards!

Most Creative – A young lady who cosplayed the art book version of a character from Trinity Blood.

Most Original – Taokaka, the creepy cat character from the BlazBlue fighting game that NOBODY cosplays.

Most Humorous – The guy dressed up as bacon! He tortured us all with bacon cravings every time he walked by in the Alley.

The Business Stuff

Despite the positive experience with meeting old friends at this con, I had a terrible selling year here compared to last year, where I made twice as much. I did, however, do better in the art show, no doubt thanks to the art show’s new location at the front of the room.  I barely broke even this time around and I have decided I will no longer be selling in the Alley at this convention.

I’ve made this decision for multiple reasons, mainly the fact that I feel I have outgrown the Alley. While other artists charge $15 for two 8×10’s, I’m selling a single 8×10 print for just as much. While I had very meticulously hand-crafted leather carved masks for $45 at the cheapest, there was another table selling plastic ones for $20. Meanwhile, other artists were selling quick commission sketches for $5 a piece, something which I simply cannot do.

I feel this Alley caters to a younger audience with a limited budget while my art appeals to a more mature audience with a larger income. I’m planning to try for Dealer’s Room next year and if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll probably be showing up only to put my work in the Art Show and to visit with friends.

I just feel too old for this con. I don’t have the enthusiasm for anime as I used to in college and would rather just watch it in the comfort of my own home cozied up with tea and a few close friends.  For this reason, I have a feeling I won’t be attending any anime conventions unless I can make Dealer’s Room, and even then, I am not sure I’ll do well there either.  I just don’t have the energy for it anymore, especially when it seems anime conventions don’t bring in a decent consistent profit for me.

Maybe it’s my style? (I am very non-anime) Maybe I just can’t compete unless I bring prices down? (Something I am unwilling to do).  Either way, I feel this is a natural part of my business evolution and while I give a very fond farewell to anime cons, I am looking forward to spreading my roots to other events that are catered more to my interests.

C’est la vie!

I sold not a ONE of my X of Swords prints at AWA! Since I can’t sell them elsewhere, I’m having a sale. Check it out! Help me get rid of them as I can’t sell them legally elsewhere. Only a very limited number available!

Con Report: DragonCon 2010

My last entry covered most of my personal experiences with this year’s DragonCon. Now, it’s time for the convention report which I try to lean more towards business and artist related matters.

In a word, this DragonCon was a LIFESAVER.  I’ve heretofore done horribly at most conventions this year, as far as sales (but wonderfully as far as networking).  Not only did I break even, but I made a good little chunk of change to put towards my table fees for Atlanta Comic Con in December, and then some!

My display at this year’s DragonCon, 2010.
Introducing Shay, the Sassy Mannequin Head!
I attribute my success this year to a few changes in my table and gallery display. Last year, my table had barely more than prints stocked on top of it and no vertical motion at all. This year, I was able to project products from the table surface with the help of gridwall cubes, my new mannequin head (lovingly named Shay), and a couple of velvet necklace forms. I’ll be doing a post later with a more detailed breakdown of the evolution of my table and where I got my supplies, for the curious.
You can see more views of my gallery panel at my Facebook fan page.

As for my gallery display, my experiment of description cards next to the big pieces added a level of interest that enticed people to stay longer, as I suspected they would. None of the framed originals sold, but I did sell a decent amount of matted embellished prints, which proves that adding a special touch to your display really can make a difference! I don’t think I’ve ever sold that much out of my gallery panel in the few years I’ve been displaying in the show.

I also tried a strategy of marking up my after auction prices higher than quick sale or minimum bid prices, which made the need to bid more immediate lest one be forced to pay more later. This year I had a minor bid war over one of my matted limited edition pieces, which has never happened before.  A losing bidder actually came to my table to buy the print directly from me after he couldn’t bid higher, which proves having a bazaar table presence in the Alley is also a smart thing.

Once again, it seems my usable art sold better than my prints. The addition of my hobby items, including leather masks and keychains, was the driving force behind the majority of my higher priced sales.  I all but sold out of keychains and half of my masks, the most expensive being my limited edition January Mask at $135. (Amusingly, this mask sold to a tall bearded gentleman in handsome red leather armor. It actually suited him quite nicely!). This once again proves that people like art they can use.

Speaking of higher priced sales, I would not have done as well without my credit card terminal, which accounted for nearly half of my sales.  It’s made back its cost many times over by now!  I’m currently using First National Processing with a $22 fee while my terminal is active and a $7 statement fee when it’s deactivated (with low cost transaction fees and no limit on total sales).  I have a Nurit 8000 which I got for $200 included with a new member special offer when I first joined (a steal really!).

I had considered using my phone for running transactions, but reception has been very poor at nearly every con. Since the Nurit connects with satellites directly, it has no problem with reception and batches and authorizes cards wirelessly without having to call everything in via a phone. I’m bound to a 1 year contract, but if things keep going well, I’ll be sticking with First National for my credit card processing needs.  The only thing I don’t like is you can’t turn it off and on each month, you have to leave it activated for a few months at a time to be considered ‘seasonal’ before being able to turn it off without being charged a fee.

My charity “Bag of Holding”.

Anyhoo, back to the show!  As always, DragonCon’s art show staff was amazingly fast, helpful, and organized!  The addition of a traffic officer to help direct artists during load-in was a godsend.  Many thanks go out to John and Anne for being completely amazing organizers!  This year we did charity fund-raising for the Lupus Foundation by decorating Bags of Holding. How lucky for me that the Lupus symbol was a purple butterfly!

Things I learned this year:

  • Draping canvas over a backdrop frame lets you pin images to the back.
  • Banners hanging in or above gallery panels look really good AND give extra exposure for your name!
  • Never hurts to have signs in your gallery panel saying you also have a table in the artist alley/exhibitors hall.
  • People came to my table first and bypassed the panels. Seems like traffic is drawn to where they can meet people before they ever head to the panels.

Things I want to do next year:

  • Move to the exhibitors hall. Looks like the sales would be even better there! (Anyone in need of an exhibitor booth buddy? I’m in the market to share!)
  • Find a groovy way to display my books which will be out by then!
  • Find a better way to display my banner. Backdrop set is a minor pain! Those knock down ProPanels look super professional AND would fit in my little hatchback.
And that about wraps things up for this year!  I’ve left the show with many ideas for the future and the usual inspiration to do better next time.  Thanks for a great show, everyone!

Con Report – Imagicon

I’ve just returned from Imagicon in Birmingham, Alabama! While my personal artist alley sales were modest, enthusiasm from artists and congoers was pretty high all weekend. I get the feeling from the amount of curious and perplexed parents peering in at us from around the corner that the scifi and fantasy fandom is still a little new in the area.

Come buy my shinies! Or my evil eyes will get you!

Or perhaps it’s because the main part of the con was held in the middle of exhibits nestled in the belly of the McWane natural science center in downtown Birmingham? Most people were there to let their kids bounce around interactive exhibits and maybe learn something scientific along the way. This was good in that we got a lot of foot traffic from museum-goers, bad because many of them weren’t interested in the art show or dealers room and had no clue why they were standing next to an Alien in the elevator wondering whether they should cover their children’s eyes or not.

In truth, there weren’t many signs that even mentioned Imagicon was there. No signs outside the building and most of the noticeable signs tacked up by the elevator which said the 3rd floor was closed for Imagicon, sending mixed signals. There was even less signage to indicate the location of the art show, though due to the art staff’s quick thinking, computer printed signs appeared around the 2nd day. Even still, the traffic through the art show was minimal and I only sold a single piece (Archangel Uriel, which persists as my top seller, despite being an old piece).

What really made my weekend was shmoozing with other artists in the show who attended the panels. I felt like we were really able to give people good ideas in the website development and business panels, even if the number of artists hosting the panel on business outnumbered the people in attendance. It’s a great feeling to be around all these other folks making a living doing the same business of art and convincing one another that we’re not insane for it! I took some great notes on art licensing at Ash Evans‘ panel, who is an inspiring professional and outspoken lady.

I met a couple of ladies who also recognized my Ezio mask from the LeatherMaskArt group on DeviantART. Such a small world, it is! I put my mask to a stress test wearing it all day Saturday and even walking down the street to a hotdog stand, receiving many strange looks along the way. It was a good draw for my table, even if only a special few recognized its inspiration.

All in all, the show has a good heart, but just needs to work out it’s advertising and signage a little better. Art show staff was helpful and receptive and I’m sure the show is going to get more traffic as they improve their setup, especially with the enthusiasm of those involved in its management. I hope that if budget allows, I’ll be able to attend again next year!

Stay tuned for a little video I put together on what we packed for the convention. It will be up on my YouTube channel shortly!

This has been your con report from Angelic Shades. Sasser signing off!

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…

DragonCon Diary 09 – The Rush Begins

Diary Entries Thus Far:
Dragon Con Diary 09: Pre-Con Prep
Dragon Con Diary 09: To Charge or Not to Charge?
Dragon Con Diary 09: The Rush Begins
Dragon Con Diary 09: The Calm Before the Storm
Dragon Con Diary 09: Matting Madness!
Dragon Con Diary 09: The Aftermath
Dragon Con Diary 09: Video & Photo Stream

With a little over a month until Dragon Con, it seems like it will take a miracle to get everything I’d like to do done. Now it seems I’ve been accepted into the Artist Alley of Anime Weekend Atlanta (table 38), which means I’m preparing for this convention at the same time as Dcon, since AWA is a mere week after it.

The plan? To sell off any extra I might have leftover from dcon at AWA, but also to have enough prepared so that there will BE extra items for the pandering after Dragon Con. San Diego Comic Con has just finished so I’m hoping my artwork will be returned in time to use for the next few cons. I’m also hoping I did well so that any sales will help fund the incoming round of craziness!

Without further ado, here are the ultra fun lists of my progress thus far!

Things I’ve completed (Hurray!):

  • Finished my layout for my art show panel at Dragon Con. (Get a sneak peek at my layout here)
  • Applied for and waiting on my EIN (employer tax ID number) so I can be eligible for merchant status and fun things like credit card chargers
  • Ordered print and products for standing inventory and sorted it into an Access database
  • Started keeping better records of receipts and invoices in Quicken
  • Got a shiny beautiful vinyl banner for my table printed by my awesome brother, Roland.

  • Things I’m currently doing:

  • Working on a new batch of cameo and art tile necklaces
  • Sketching the centerpiece painting for my Dragon Con layout (It needs to be done by August 15th for a contest I want to enter, as well!)
  • Developing a hopefully healthy addiction to green tea

  • Things I still need to do!:

  • Work on designs for my three ceramic piggy banks for the charity auction. I’m thinking a Three Muses theme with gold leaf and rhinestones! I love some blingy pigs.
  • Fill two Itoya portfolios with pretties for people to look at
  • Ponder if I’ll need a pvc frame to hang my banner on or if I can use my backdrop set to double as a hangy thingie. Experimentation is in order.
  • Mat about 40 or more things! I’m avoiding this currently because I REALLY hate matting. I also want to play with the mats by dripping some paint on them or doing some custom designs in acrylic. Still pondering what to do!
  • Received my dcon barcodes and now ready to attach lots of sticky things to my stuff bound for Dcon’s artist alley and art show!
  • Design and print bookmark brochures for my freebie items
  • Working on a makeshift homage costume of Dawn just for kicks (because I’m masochist and don’t already have enough to do). Currently searching for a corset and preparing to make a leather mask and wrist rose.
  • Organize an unofficial little luncheon for artists at the con. I’m looking into reserving space at the Brazilian restaurant, Fire on Brazil on Saturday. Will be sending emails about this one as soon as I know more details!

  • And somewhere during all that, I’ve got to keep working on my book, which is coming along nicely! I’ve reached the halfway mark and will soon be able to reveal a little more about what has been secretly keeping me busy for the past few months. I’ve got many more plans for the future AFTER the con, but I’ll save that for another entry.

    Right now, let us drink in the glory and the caffeine of the pre-con rush!

    DragonCon Diary 09 – To Charge or Not to Charge?

    Diary Entries Thus Far:
    Dragon Con Diary 09: Pre-Con Prep
    Dragon Con Diary 09: To Charge or Not to Charge?
    Dragon Con Diary 09: The Rush Begins
    Dragon Con Diary 09: The Calm Before the Storm
    Dragon Con Diary 09: Matting Madness!
    Dragon Con Diary 09: The Aftermath
    Dragon Con Diary 09: Video & Photo Stream

    When last we left our hero, she was buried under a deadly pile of things to do! But with truth and justice (and coffee!), she has managed to whittle down the lists into something like this:

    I’ve managed to do much of the following for Dragon Con this past week:

  • I split up the print inventory between the print shop, art show, and table at the artist’s alley. Phew! Got a butt load of prints to handle this year! About 3 times the amount I’ve ever had at about 27 pieces for the show, 64 for the print shop, and about 50 more for the table itself. Got all the paperwork turned in with a week to spare instead of the night before!
  • I’ve entered said inventory into Microsoft Access and categorized it all. Egads! Organization?? It can be done!
  • I’ve made about 20 new glass tile art pendants and am waiting for some new cabochon settings to arrive so I can play around with a more elegant jewelry design.
  • Planning an Artist’s Alley Table
    I’ve been researching displays of other folks at artist alleys and there’s a few things that I’ve noticed everyone seems to be doing.

  • PVC Display Frame – This seems like a neat way to display your banner and any signs or art you’d like to draw attention to. Displaying the banner across the top of the frame would be much more visible than hanging it from the front where casual browsers will block it. It looks a little ghetto, though. I’m trying to think of ways to spruce it up.
  • Display Portfolios – I still need to sit and prioritize what goes into the portfolio people will be browsing through at the table and make sure there isn’t anything family unfriendly in it. I’m pondering limiting the portfolio to 10-15 of my best pieces, or raising the number to give people a longer journey through the art?
  • Brochures? – I’ve read of other artists who hand out a brochure showing their process, contact info, links, and fun biographical info about them. I’m wondering if this would be worth the extra expense so people have a freebie to take with them?
  • Freebies – Buy 2 prints, get 1 free! Or maybe not. Things are costing me much this year and I am not sure if a sale like that would be smart. Perhaps I can do that on the last day?

    But of course, there will also be free candy with shiny stuff on it to lure people in! Besides that, there are still many things to do! Including the matting of prints and art for display and making sure everything is autographed, bagged, tagged, and ready to go.

    To Charge or Not to Charge?
    But then what happens when people want to pay? I am considering accepting credit cards, but that has opened up a whole other arena of information to explore.

    First off, most of these places charge per transaction and a monthly fee and require you to be a business (which I am not just yet.) Also, there’s extra equipment to carry and so many choices of services that it makes my head spin!

    And let’s not forget how easy it is these days for people to pay with a fake credit card at the expense of the poor sap (me)! It has me considering accepting debit and cash only.

    The Legend Continues…
    Sadly, I won’t be participating in the Dawn Lookalike Contest this year to give my friend some time to really put her all in it, but I am still planning to deck myself out in the 3 tears of the Goddess, tragedy mask, and wrist rose/chain she is so famous for. Now, I just need to sit and make all of that too! (Masochist much?)

    With 52 days left, and counting, it seems there will be never a dull moment around here!