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!

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