This past weekend was Norwescon 42, a great science fiction – fantasy convention that takes place in Seattle. I’m early on in my adventures as an artist in comic cons, but it has been a great experience.
It was inspiring to be in an art show with so many artists I admire. I also ended up selling 10 prints and a large digital canvas and to cap it off, I was able to have my portfolio reviewed by Guest of Honor Tran Nguyen, Scott Douwes, Bryan Syme, and Chelsea Santamaria! They were all super positive and had great practical advice about how to make some of my portfolio pieces better. I also went to a bunch of great panels that ranged from world building to writing children’s books and empathy in characters. Probably about 100 people or so took my business cards.
This is my third con. The first show I ever attended was the San Diego Comic Con Art Show. I didn’t even have a badge to get into the convention proper, but the art show didn’t require it. The next con was a local con, Radcon, another science fiction fantasy convention that takes place in Pasco, WA. They have a mail order option for artists, and was also happy to find out that I sold just about half of the prints that I sent.
I’m still on a huge learning curve for these, but I can’t say enough about what a great experience they are. It’s great to get to meet and enjoy the artwork of fellow artists, but also connect with people who like my illustrations. I’m grateful to the professional artists who took the time to give me helpful feedback.
I’m graduating soon, and I’m looking forward to finally working full time on my own projects. I’ve already heard that I can send pieces to Orycon in Oregon, Bubonicon in New Mexico, and Armadillocon in Texas this summer and Fall. My next step is to have enough material for an artist alley – and of course I’ll still be working on my picture book dummy.
ADVICE FOR ARTIST NEWBIES CONSIDERING THEIR FIRST COMIC CONVENTIONS AND ART SHOWS
If any of you have any questions about conventions, just ask me. The easiest conventions for artists to send work to are those where the organization running the con collect the taxes. Conventions in California still require registering with the Board of Equalization, but it’s pretty straightforward.
There are some great blog posts and videos out there about resources for artists alleys. Here are some of my favorites:
Naomi Van Doren at 1 Fantastic Week Traveling to Conventions By Plan (how she packs)
Based on what I learned from many other con artists, I prefer to print at 11×14 inches and sell prints with a backing board in a clear bag. Sometimes if you have too many sizes, your end up paying more for supplies and the bookkeeping can be more difficult.
If I have a lot of prints to make and have time, I will order through Cat Print. If you click at the link, you will get $10 off your first order and I will get a similar coupon. I recommend getting the free hard copy proofs to adjust the exposure. The majority of prints I ordered were great, but a few were underexposed and dull. When I contacted support, they sent a return label and credited me for them or offered a 30% off a new order.
After getting to know it better, we finally love our Artisan Epson 1430 printer. The print quality can be great, but it’s also dependent on the paper you choose and buying cartridges can be very costly. At a CTNX convention, I spoke to an artist who was at the Red River Paper booth. He told me about CISinks.com. YMMV, but I only wish I had discovered this sooner. You can dramatically reduce your prices per print with this continuous ink system and also make color and exposure adjustments that otherwise could be expensive with an outside printer. I initially bought Red River paper, but their matte paper catches in the Artisan 1430 (I learned about other artists who had this problem). Instead, Finestra Premium Matte is a terrific paper, it feeds smoothly and it’s less expensive too. I just set the printer on Epson Photo Quality and had great results.
Other Convention Print Supplies
The nice thing about comic cons is that without too much $ up front, you can promote your work to prospective fans, clients, and art directors, sell some work, and get to know other artists and creatives. There are a lot of differences between cons (some are more popular entertainment oriented, others are more literary, and others more arts-focused ), but there’s a wide variety of art at these conventions and with a little research, you can find the ones that suit you best. Some of the more popular cons are getting harder to get in (need to jury in), but many are still first-come, first-serve.