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20
Jan

How to Survive the Artist’s Alley

salesmunky

New artists might find themselves in an Artist’s Alley at an Anime/Comic/SciFi/Fantasy/Furry/Whatever Con. The AA can be both a good and bad place to be. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect if you should choose to exhibit your work here. Hopefully this tutorial will keep you from feeling like a crazy monkey. :)

How does this work, then?

Summarization time!

In my experience, the AA can wildly differ depending on what kind of con you are talking about. There are fan-run cons and pro-run cons, as well as different genres of cons. For the sake of brevity, I am going to have to speak about this generally and focus on fan-run cons. These types of cons are much more common.

Fan-run cons often are less organized due to everyone working on a volunteer basis, but they often cost less to rent a table. They are very popular these days since anime fandom has become more mainstream. At fan-run cons, table prices can be low so it goes to follow that there is no skill or maturity level that you have to achieve to get into the AA. All you have to do is apply while there are spaces available. You usually do not get any extra setup time for your booth, or any security. You could also be sitting next to an obnoxious kid that needs a large dosage of Ritalin, or a professional working artist. Sometimes cons also put their guests in the AA.

Let’s Rock!

Survival Tip #1: Never Go Alone:

If you plan on going to one, bring a friend with you. You will need to leave your booth at some point to use the bathroom and eat, so having a table helper is necessary.

Survival Tip #2: Bring Food:

It is best to bring a lunch, snacks, and water. You may not have time for a break. The rooms are very dry so it is easy to become dehydrated.

Survival Tip #3: Bring a Jacket Even in the Summer:

It is also very cold in most convention halls and hotels, so bring a jacket even if it is 90 degrees outside. Nothing is worse than shivering all weekend because of some overactive air conditioner.

Survival Tip #4: Bring a Fort:

You may need to stack boxes around the perimeter of your booth for security. This is easy because usually your merchandise will be brought in boxes.

Very often the people setting up the logistics of the AA don’t take theft into account. I was at one con where the tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape with the artist’s facing inward. The problem with this was that while customers were walking around inside the horseshoe, nothing stopped anyone from walking around outside the horseshoe and stealing things.

Survival Tip #5: Set the Cash Up Right:

Be sure to bring a locking metal cash box to hold your money. Of course you should bring lots of change, too.

Survival Tip #6: Get Your Measurements:

Be sure to get exact measurements of your table before you get to the con. Sometimes the tables provided may be wide, but they could be abnormally thin. I was at one con where we had such skinny tables that it was tough getting all of my merchandise on the table. Do not expect that the coordinator is going to give you all of the information you need, because they may not.

Survival Tip #7: Hoist That Banner:

You should invest in a banner of some kind so that people can find you in the chaos. I find that ones that you can raise up high above your head work well and take up less “behind the table” space. You don’t want your logo to be behind where you are going to stand, anyway. Here is the banner stand that I use.

Survival Tip #8: Label Everything:

Label all of your merchandise clearly. Customers will not ask you for a price. I repeat: customers will not ask you for a price, so label everything or you will lose a sale.

Survival Tip #9: Vary that Price Point:

Make sure that the price points of your merchandise is varied enough to accommodate all budgets. I have things that cost .50, $1, $5, $10, $15 and so on. If someone likes your work they can buy something small if they don’t happen to have the $20 for the t-shirt. Very often they will come back next time for something larger. Before you know it – you have a regular customer. This is how you grow your fan base – allow people of all financial levels to get hooked on your work!

Survival Tip #10: Business Cards:

Bring lots of business cards that have your URL and email address written clearly on them. Place them on your table and label them with a sign that says that they are free. Believe it or not, people sometimes hesitate to take things…even business cards.

Conclusion:

In closing, I want to remind you to not look at sales numbers as a measure of your success. Getting your brand exposed to new people is a longterm investment. I have gone to some cons not intending to make a profit because my goal was to put forth a great promotional effort for my brand. It builds slowly as people recognize you and then it will pay off.

Good luck, everyone!


13
Jan

Handling Rejection and Finding Your Comic’s Target Audience

It is easy to get upset when someone rejects your work or leaves you a negative comment. We artists can take criticism personally because art is such a deeply emotional form of expression.

rejection

There is a secret to all of this. SURPRISE! Everyone gets rejected.

Think of any celebrity. Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Audrey Hepburn are all famous. They have also suffered more rejection than you could possibly imagine. The reason they are so famous is because they got through it. The trick to being successful is to get through your first few thousand rejections. Don’t let it make you stop!

In art school they used to say that every artist has 1000 bad drawings to get out before they can start making good drawings. I say that every career has over 2000 rejections that they have to walk through before they find their audience.

There was a fandom around the pet rock. It was a rock. Yes, a ROCK. There certainly is a fandom for your comic. You can find it if you keep going.

Rejection Analysis, Your Target Audience, and You:

When you hear some negative feedback about your work, the first thing to so is look at it from a neutral perspective. Is there any validity to it? If yes, note this and use it to make your work better.

There are two types of people on the planet. There are people who are your target demographic and people who are not. Negative comments are often being said by people who never would like your comic in the first place.

It helps to think about who your target audience is. How old are they? What do they like? If you do a comic about why being a Dallas Cowboys fan in the best thing ever, don’t be surprised if a Pittsburgh Steelers fan hates you. This is good hate. You are doing your job properly.

Awhile back some random guy said that my comic had nothing interesting to offer at all. That is no surprise because he was a fan of comics that were about guys and gaming. My comic is about a girl and it is definitely not a gaming comic. Of course this person wasn’t interested in my work. It is not for him. Gamers read my comic because I am a huge nerd, but not gamers who are only into gaming jokes and nothing else. I just don’t post jokes about games every day, that’s all.

Consider the source of your criticism.

You need to plow through the people who are not your target audience and find the target audience that is yours.

Haters Rock:

I have to tell you that haters give great links! The best promotional linkage for my work has been done by people who were telling others why they hated it because they went the extra mile to describe it. People clicked to see what the deal was, and I got new fans in the process.

Rejection is a growth process like any other. It’s necessary, inevitable, and sometimes even helpful. Think about it intelligently and don’t let it get you down.


06
Jan

Your Friends and Peers Might Not Be Your Fans, but that is OK:

ohwell

I think that a positive attitude is so very important when it comes to cultivating a successful webcomic. Having a positive attitude comes from understanding when there are things that you cannot change and working around them rather than hitting them in the face with a tunafish.

For example – I was on a panel several years ago with another webcomic artist who was totally angry that her friends were not reading her comic. She stated that if she found that a friend of hers hadn’t read her comic in awhile she ceased being friends with them because in her opinion they had abandoned her. She then expressed anger that Penny Arcade didn’t reply to her email when she asked them to post a link to her comic.

She went on to spit hateful fire and venom about this so loudly that the entire audience was turned off because of her negativity. It backfired, and I haven’t seen her since on the convention circuit.

Your friends and other comics in the scene are not necessarily your target audience. I am friends with people who never read comics. They know that I draw a comic, but they just don’t enjoy reading any sort of comic.

This is OK.

As far as the big comics go – most of us veterans know each other and respect each other very much, but we just don’t have time to read everyone else’s comic all the time.

This is also OK.

No one but me is obligated to read or promote my work. I really appreciate it when people read me and post links to my comic, but I consider it to be a bonus.

A relaxed attitude is a must if you don’t want to scare people off. Not everyone is your fan. They might still be your friend. This is all OK. It’s physically impossible to be universally liked. Accept this and move forward. A positive attitude is so very important when it comes to being a brand that people feel comfortable around. Forcing people to do things they don’t want to do never works, anyway.

While you are busy being nice, you are creating real connections through friends in the scene who are more likely to be able to help you when you need it. Just remember to help them if you can in the process to get a combo bonus of comics fun!


21
Dec

Oni’s Essential Art Supplies

Every artist does their thing differently. I have changed how I do things so many times since I started working in art. This is a list of things that I personally use right now beside a scanner and a computer:

1. Alvin Draftmatic mechanical pencil:
Where to get it: Art store or Amazon

alvin

The $10 pricetag might seem a bit expensive for just a pencil. Trust me, it is worth the investment. This pencil gives such a dark line that I use it almost like ink. I go over sketches I’ve done in plain HB (#2) pencil or I just draw freehand with it.

I have 3 Alvin Draftmatics. One is filled with HB lead, one is filled with red lead, and the last is filled with blue lead.

2. Plain HB (AKA a #2 Pencil):
Where to get it: Any place that sells school or art supplies or Amazon.

pencil

The Draftmatic is awesome, but I find that I also need a plain, wooden HB pencil to get softer shading. I will often start a drawing in an HB, then finish it with the Alvin Draftmatic. This is like the amazing Voltron of drawing, especially if I am doing photo realism.

3. Copic Sketch Markers:
Where to get it: Amazon or your local art store.

copic

Years ago I got a set of Prismacolors as a gift. I’ve seen some good work done with them by other people, but I could never get them to work for me. The ink dried out, the nibs didn’t work well, and the ink flow was bad. I had been skeptical about Copics for years until I finally had a chance to try them. I sold my Prismacolors for a set of Copics and never looked back.

In my experience, Copics are so much better than Prismacolors that it is almost insane. Copics have great ink flow, superior replaceable nibs that just plain handle better and so far I’ve not had any dry out. For the first time I was able to get markers to work for me thanks to Copic. Yes they are expensive, but if you are a serious artist that wants to work in marker, I highly suggest you check them out.

4. T-Square:
Where to get it: Office supply, art store, or Amazon.

tsquare_

A plain old T-Square is really handy to have around. I use mine to measure stuff and to draw straight lines. Also I can pretend it is a funny pick-axe.

5. An adjustable desk:
Where to get it: Dick Blick.

Edit: I just found this one with drawers.

Here is mine (slightly different):

desk

Any desk will do as long as it’s flat, but I like mine because you can raise or lower the desk like an easel. (It is great for painting.) I have a cutting mat on mine to protect the desk. I can’t remember the name of mine and I am not sure they still make it. The desk linked here is slightly different than the one I have because it has more drawers. Yes that is a plastic lizard named Milo in the left storage tray. I’m still moving into my new office space, but Milo already has his home.

6. Flat-panel lightbox
Where to get it: Dick Blick or your local art store.

lightbox

When I sketch, I am the type of person that does not think about what I am drawing first. My sketches tend to be very messy because I use that stage to plan. It’s really helpful to redraw the image once you figure out what it’s supposed to look like. I love my flat panel lightbox. You can even store it on the wall like a painting.

If you can’t afford one, just use your computer monitor set to a white screen. I did that for awhile before I decided to buy a lightbox.

7. Digital Camera:
Where to get it: Your local computer store. (Google it first to make sure you are getting the best price!)

canon

If you don’t have a scanner or your art is too big, you can photograph your art with a digital camera. I have a Canon Powershot SD600 Digital Elph. There is a newer model out now, though.

8. A phone/organizer that allows you to always be connected to the internet:
Where to get it: It varies.

If you intend to sell your art, marketing and keeping an online presence is just as important as making the art. The best way to do that is to have a phone with internet access that has a browser that can handle most web pages. You can use whatever you feel comfortable with. I’m using an iPhone right now, but I still haven’t found my absolutely perfect device. The iPhone is one keyboard short of being almost perfect…

I do find it indispensable for keeping track of my appointments and staying in touch with business partners…but I’d still like a keyboard. It’s the best I have found so far. If I did not have my iPhone, I would never be in touch with anyone because I also work at day job and sometimes I don’t have time to do clerical things when I am at my desk at home. I can only reply to emails on my break during work, and I like being able to do it discreetly to avoid passers by prying into my business. I wish I could recommend to you a perfect one-size-fits-all solution, but I can’t yet.

Summary:

All of these things are items that I personally like, but they are by no means necessary for you to make great art. If you are just a hobbyist or a beginner, you certainly don’t need to spend a lot of money. I did not start out with anything more than a half-broken PC and a notebook because I had no money. I gradually worked up to having a small office for my business after many years of long hours.

You can make great art with a #2 pencil, a scanner or camera, a computer, and a piece of unlined paper. My advice would be to start off small and make sure that you truly need something before investing a lot of money.

I’d love to hear what some of you guys consider as your “essential” supplies!


06
Dec

Holiday Gift Idea: Robert Simmons Gift Box Brush Sets

I was looking at some art-related sites today when I came across these great little brush sets!

Robert Simmons Gift Box Brush Sets: LINK.

simmons

This jaunty case full of brushes is adorable. There are 5 options. All are $29.99. Check them out here.

I should have purchased these for myself, but I had just purchased some individual brushes. I think I’m going to store mine in a popcorn tin. Not as stylish, but I can pretend that I’m a mad scientist that really likes popcorn. And paint.

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