Confessions of a first-time Con Artist.

UPDATE: apparently I was not so awake when I wrote this. I have subsequently finished my train of thought on #6

Amusingly enough, the double-entendre in the blog title is kind of accurate. While i was attending the convention, i participated in my first LARP (live action role playing) in which the character I was playing was a thief who was pretending to be a reporter in order to steal a piece up for auction. It was as fun, silly, and confusing as it sounds. 

But on to the real reason for this post: things I learned attending a convention as a displaying artist for the very first time. The convention itself was in its inaugural year, so I felt it was a fitting start.

These are in no particular order:

  1. plan things further in advance. Although i had other projects I was working on at the time, I didn't devote enough advanced planning to this project and too many things were done at the last minute or planned then eliminated altogether because I didn't have time. 
  2. promotional items turnaround times are listed as BUSINESS days and do NOT include shipping times. to expand on #1, I ordered these cool buttons as promotional hand-outs for the convention 13 days before the convention. Unfortunately, they will not be arriving at my house until tomorrow--two days AFTER the convention--because I didn't calculate the turnaround times correctly when I chose my shipping option. I also placed an order for more business cards, but by the time I placed the order, the cost for having the cards arrive when I needed them would have been 3-5 times the actual printing costs.
  3. don't leave your registration application to the last minute. I was also late on my gallery application, because I was trying to finish a piece (also last minute...do we see a theme here?) in order to show it at the convention. Luckily, my cousin-in-law happened to be on the convention staff and was able to hold the second-to-last place for me. 
  4. know the difference between art gallery and artist alley. Ok, i'm the ONLY one to blame for this one, because it did say GALLERY and showing pieces all over the application. But the application did say a 4x4 board OR table, so i wasn't sure what I was going to get, and was kind of expecting/hoping an area to display my art with the ability to sit by it and talk to people as they came by and draw bad doodles for them. The good news is that next year, they are hoping to include an artist alley in addition to the gallery!
  5. avoid labeling prints with the convention name in advance. With the exception of the large print I donated to the charity auction, not a single print sold out of the 20 small and 2 large prints I made. Now I need to figure out what to do with all the prints that say "for Con-Volution 2012 on them." In the future, i will be writing in the convention name only if asked as a portion of any autograph/signatures. Luckily, I have a few ideas for the prints....Christmas IS just around the corner.
  6. small items will sell better. I know this because a) none of my items sold, even the cheapest one, and b) the only items I bought this weekend were under $10 each. If I had MUCH smaller originals and/or prints available under $10, I may have actually sold something. I'm not too stressed though, because i have plans in the works for interesting graphics that could lead to some cool promotional items.
  7. read instructions. I participated in the artist trading card contest and won (woohoo!) but I forgot to read the instructions thoroughly. I forgot to keep the instruction sheet which also happened to be the receipt to claim a card at a later time (good thing they had extras), I also forgot to name the piece. For the person who ended up receiving my card, the title of the piece should have been "Mister Owl."
  8. create a box with convention related materials that you keep stocked in advance. This will include any business cards, promotional items, signage, tools, etc, etc. that I will want to bring to the convention in order to avoid last minute trashing of storage areas on the hunt for the signage you know you created and you thought you still had, but where, oh, where can it be now?! This does NOT include original art, because my art should be different every year I attend the same convention or else I shouldn't be showcasing as an artist.
  9. if the convention is further than a 2-hour drive from home, take an appropriate amount of days off of work in order to attend the convention from start to finish. There wasn't a lot i could do this year, because I currently have a paucity of vacation days that will barely get me through the remainder of the year and the holiday season. I still feel bad about being the last-in, first-out artist because I had a 6-7 hour drive to the convention. Sorry to the Con-Volution gallery staff and thank you for accommodating me.
  10. smaller, standard-sized artwork = less expensive framing costs. I spent too much on framing my art. I know this for a fact, although I can't feel bad about having done so, since my display happened to be right next to the fabulous Lee Moyer and his beautifully framed  realistic originals/prints. My art is a complete 180 from anything on his board, but at least it didn't look completely out-of-place and amateur next to his work because of my fancy-pants frames. (my particular favorite is the bright green one) 

Things I got right on my first try:

  1. Don't let being late stop you from attending a panel you are interested in. You may miss some things at the start, but the rewards could outweigh the benefit. I got to be one of TWO people that got to pick the brain of Artist of Honor Julie Dillion for an hour and a half  (the other lady got TWO HOURS with her) on her art, craft, techniques, and anything else we could think of. It was especially helpful because I happened to have JUST finished my first digital piece and she works completely digital and had great things to say versioning and layering files and tracking progression in a piece, setting Wacom functions, etc, etc. it was probably my best session of the panel.
  2. make time for art. I got to draw falcons at the convention, as well as sketching one person and creating my artist trading card. It was all fun, although I did overpack my art supplies a bit. It was also a great way to start generating ideas for upcoming projects for both my portfolio and future conventions. I want to try sketching a few more of the costumed convention goers in the future, although i did get some great photos of them.
  3. make time for fun. I didn't only think about art this weekend, and i got to try games i haven't tried before. Plus, hanging out with the hubby and the cousins is always good fun.
  4. make time for rest. Yes, we missed out on some of the events at the convention because we decided to make sleep a priority, but we didn't experience convention burnout. With no vacation days set aside for recovery, this was a very good thing. 
  5. having the courage to showcase art. Artists are always hesitant about opening their "babies" up to the criticisms and scrutiny of the general public. It's a little daunting until you hear the first murmurs of appreciation and approval from people. Then it's totally rewarding and validating that I'm doing SOMETHING right. 

We've already said we're planning on attending Con-Volution NEXT year and as the convention grows, so will my skill in attending conventions.  A big thank-you to all the staff who worked the gallery or who I got to meet while I was there. You guys did a great job. 

There may be other things i've missed in these lists, but now it's time to get ready to go to work.