Monday, September 12, 2016

What I've Learned From Rose City Comic Con So Far

Rose City Comic Con 2016 just wrapped up yesterday. What an amazing experience! It was my second time exhibiting my artwork there with my friend Heather. We shared an exhibitor booth this year; last year, we were in Artist Alley. There were some marked differences between these two areas of the con regarding setup and presentation; overall, the spirit of fun pervades!

Our 2015 Artist Alley setup! Tight quarters, but a LOT of fun.
Labor Day living room practice setup!
This year's exhibitor badge: EPIC.
Camille helps Heather set up her table display!

Heather and I both invested in banners this year. They make a HUGE difference in attracting people!

Allyson peeks through our banners; Heather stands before her completed display.

My Oaxacan Barn Owl Dragon is ready to greet attendees!
Heather and I used a postcard display for our 5x7 prints.
One customer, Brittney, bought all four of these ATCs I offered!
Thank you SO much!
I rearranged my display a bit Sunday morning before the show floor opened. 
Little dragon sketch I offered as an original.
Hummingbird bean! (Hummbeanbird?)
Sketchbook commission with a Neverland theme!
I drew a pirate cat.

Caffeinated hummingbird!

 Sketch commission of a family's adorable conure! They saw me drawing the caffeinated hummingbird and asked if their conure could be the exact opposite: calm and drinking tea. I was more than happy to oblige! I took reference photos from their phone before I got started.

Finished caffeinated hummingbird. Bird buzz!
Pirate cat, now with color!
My Kia Rio5 was stuffed to the gills!

Preparation and setting up for a convention is the most stressful part of tabling and exhibiting your work. I read many articles last year about tabling in Artist Alley. One of my favorites: 10 Tips for Success in Artists Alley! By cross-referencing multiple articles - and learning through trial and error - I came up with a personal "con survival kit" (AKA "Don't Forget These Items Or You're SOL"):
  • power bank (mobile charger)
  • paper bags (for customers)
  • tablecloth / drapery
  • Square readers (mag stripe and contactless/chip)
  • cooler: food, coffee, water
  • hand wipes / Airborne
  • signing pens / markers / pencils / inks
  • Post-It Notes (signage)
  • tiny binder clips
  • con sketchbook / current sketchbook
  • business cards and postcards (giveaways)
  • phone and power cord
  • original art (with separate display)
  • cash box / print sales book / wallet
  • extra print slips
  • wire shelf panels and connectors
Heather and I had a huge advantage this year over last year: our friends Camille and Allyson helped us set up and man our booth! Not only did we have more space, but we had amazing people to keep us company. Another bonus: I didn't catch con cooties this year. YES!!

I will admit: I was worried for much of Saturday. Attendees expect to find artists in Artist Alley, but not necessarily at the exhibitor booths. RCCC Artist Alley tables had completely sold out by early February this year, so I'd asked Heather about sharing a booth instead.

Last year, I told myself, "If I happen to break even on the table cost over the course of the weekend, that's awesome." Much to my surprise, I broke even on the first day! This year, I dreaded that I had invested too much in promotional materials and new prints to break even at all. But, as is often the case, my anxiety was unfounded. If I'm not doing this because I want to, why do it at all? It takes time to establish yourself as a professional. I'm going to do my best.

My con / guest sketchbook! I got the idea from another artist and first used it last month during Artist Alley Comics Fest. It's a great way to greet visitors and start conversations! I encourage contributors to leave their website or blog addresses so I can follow them back.

Camille bought me an Amethyst Funko POP figurine. SO CUTE. ;__;

This year's haul: small, but beautiful. I bought Andrew Kafoury's No'madd graphic novel; Benjamin Dewey's new Stranger Things print; and I traded a print of my Oaxacan Barn Owl Dragon for Katie Croonenberghs's wonderful sketchbook collection with a custom drawing on the back page! Behold:


TL;DR: cons are incredibly fun. They take work, and it's best not to set your expectations too high about what you'll earn back. But as long as you connect with your visitors and make new contacts, you can lay down stepping stones for your career goals. That's the most important thing I've learned so far.

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