Greater Austin Comic Con 2019!!

Hey everyone! A little late on this post but I wanted to give a review on my most recent convention I attended! And it was….

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Wow what a fun weekend! Despite living in Texas practically my whole life, I had only been to Austin a small handful of times. Myself and my good art bud Jonathan Miller (Check out his work here!!) drove down to Cedar Park Friday morning. Unlike most conventions, this show was only Saturday and Sunday, which gave us the chance to set up and get to our Airbnb, which by the way…

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Look at that view! The photo doesn’t even do it justice. This was my first time booking an Airbnb for a convention, and I have to say, I think I’m ready to ditch hotels cause this beats a stuffy overpriced hotel room any day.

Once we were settled, we decided to skip out on the con’s “preview night” which instead we rested and geared up for day 1.

The convention was held at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas, which is about 30 minutes North of downtown Austin. I personally have never attended a show in this type of venue. Mostly everything was on the main floor, minus some exhibitors on the second floor around the arena. Artists and Exhibitors made up the center, while guests and voice actors’ autograph booths lined up around the perimeter. I myself had a pretty decent spot in front of one of the entrances, and directly across from the the My Hero Academia voice actor signing booths, which brought some traffic in itself. I still had some mixed feelings around this, as while yes there were many people that came by, there were times that the isle would become congested, and people walked by in a rush to get out of the mix master of a crowd, passing by booths without a second glance, or getting forced forward without a chance to stop.

My booth display!

My booth display!

The Greater Austin Comic Con show floor.

The Greater Austin Comic Con show floor.

That being said, the first couple hours of the show were slow, as I didn’t have a single sale for the first two. Things however started picking up slightly after lunchtime. One thing I have picked up on about conventions is that during the time period of 12-2, crowds tend to slow down a bit for lunch. This varies of course from con to con. But despite the slow beginnings sales definitely turned around by the end of the day. Another thing to note was the volunteers were always so attentive and helpful. Several times throughout the weekend someone came by and asked art vendors if they needed a potty break, water, changefor bills, etc. The artist alley head himself even came by with a business card and told us that if we needed anything at all, to text him so he can help us out. It was a very nice touch, and having that sort of attentiveness from the staff is very rare at conventions nowadays, so Kudos for all of your help GACC volunteers!

Another fun happening of the weekend is I met and became friends with another wonderful artist, Sarah Finnigan, who happened to be two booths down from me! Sarah and I are both a part of a wonderful online art community called One Fantastic Week, and she currently is being mentored by the creators Sam Flegal and Pete Mohrbacher. When I recognized her work I had to jump at the chance to talk to her. And guys, her paintings are so AMAZING! I of course had to grab a print of hers, and she was so nice to make a trade for one of mine. It always amazes me that the more I go to conventions, the smaller the art community becomes, as us artists always connect in one way or another. So go check out Sarah’s awesome work here! Also I fangirled a little bit as these AWESOME Ashe and McCree cosplayers picked up my print. I don’t play as much Overwatch anymore, but I gotta say I still have a soft spot for that cowboy haha!

Myself and Sarah Finnigan!

Myself and Sarah Finnigan!

Ashe and McCree!!

Ashe and McCree!!

Once Saturday came to a close, myself and Jonathan packed up and headed back to our Airbnb, where we met with a friend and spent the evening chatting on our awesome balcony, it was definitely a nice note to end the day on.

Sunday we checked out and made it over to the con for the last day, which always can either be a break or bust depending. For this con, it was a break. I had quite a few returners for prints, and when sales were over and done with, I was $50 shy of the monetary expectation I put upon myself, which I was VERY happy with, considering that this show was only two days. At the end of the day we broke down, and made the drive back to Dallas, getting caught in some crazy, stormy Texas weather, how fitting…

BUT, as every native Texan knows, if you are traveling along I-35, there’s one stop you must always make. The Czech Stop!! I’ll never refuse a good Kolache, ESPECIALLY these.

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Overall, I had a fantastic time at Greater Austin Comic Con, both money wise, and socially. The con was very well run, and when attending it was very hard to tell that it was it’s second year, which is impressive in it’s own right. So special shout out to the convention’s, creator, Vo Nguyen. He did an awesome job with this show and I can safely say that I definitely will have this one on my list for next year!

Now it’s back to the grind stone and a little break for summer, which will be great for me to prep for my next show, Animefest! See you all there soon!

Cheers!

-Ashley

Fan Expo 2019 Review!!

Hello everyone!

Wow it’s been a whirlwind of activity the last few days. Between new freelance gigs, old freelance gigs, and dealing with spring fever at work, it’s definitely been eventful. This past weekend I attended my first show of the year, Fan Expo Dallas! Now I’m no newbie to Fan Expo, but being only my second year selling there, there’s still a lot to experience and learn from the artist front.

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Fan Expo has specific time slots for set up, since everything is in one hall of the convention center. Artists were allowed to set up between 7:00am and 1:30pm on Friday. Luckily my setup was fairly simple, as I had definitely upgraded from last year. For a lot of my 2018 conventions, I did the generic thing a lot of artists do, the wall of prints. Now disclaimer, there is nothing wrong with this set up per se, to each their own, but based on some research, and the approach I wanted to take my art, my display changed drastically. I nixed the hanging prints for a nice clean banner, which I got printed from Next Day Display, and moved my prints to the table, having everything on display and tiered to help fill the table space a little more, and completely got rid of my portfolio (for the time being). Not having to hang prints on a cloth or from the poles is a HUGE time saver. I also moved to having an accent tablecloth on top of my black one, in a color that I wanted to associate with myself and my brand. I do also plan on investing in a table runner with my logo and social media icons before the next show.

My 2018 Fan Expo Display

My 2018 Fan Expo Display

My new display!

My new display!

One of the caveats to Fan Expo’s booths is the small size. Tables are six feet long, and about two feet wide. Which while having an eight foot long table would be most ideal, even a wider space would be convenient. With my new display the space was so narrow, small things like my clipboard for my mailing list would be hanging off the edge, as you can see above. The space behind is also quite cramped as well, as if I recall correctly it is a 6’ X 6’ space, which for people with much more merchandise, could struggle with quite a bit. It seems that end cap booths get the best opportunity for more space, or buying two tables (which many people do), but for Fan Expo tables being $330 a pop, plan on investing at least $700 for that type of set up. I will say, that the logistics of table placement was MUCH better than last year. In 2018, in line tables were placed in common rows, but they were PACKED together. My friend Johnni Kok, who was down the way from me, had to move tables to create a space for us to exit our booths from just to go to the bathroom, which was awful. However this year, tables were still in rows, but placed in cubes of 4, giving each table an exit to leave from.

In terms of sales, it was an oddly slow weekend. Word on the street was mainly because of the con happening on free comic book day, and a horror convention happening at the same time. Friday, weirdly enough, was my best day for sales, Saturday, was slightly less, and Sunday I had only two. That’s right, two sales. It seems I was not the only one, as an artist friend of mine claimed she made a third of her sales last year. In summary, I did make table and profit, but for a few reasons. I increased my print prices, from $15 to $25, which even though I sold less than last year, I made about the same amount. And I also commuted. Dallas is about 30-40 minutes out for me, and while I have always in the past stayed on site, I made the wise decision to not do so this year to spare the hotel cost.

Despite the slow goings, I met up with some old and new friends! I always try to see conventions as a glass half full because even if I don’t always make the numbers, I get the awesome experience of talking with so many cool, like minded individuals in the artist alley. Another thing that made this weekend extra special was this show was over my birthday weekend! It’s not often I get to celebrate my birthday at a con, so Saturday night I got to spend it with some close friends. I had a blast! Outside of that, I didn’t wander the con floor much. There weren’t many celebrities of interest for me so I made the choice to be a hermit and push sales.

My good art bud Johnni Kok!

My good art bud Johnni Kok!

Met up with awesome artist Matt Warlick and snagged a print! As always I’m oh so eloquent.

Met up with awesome artist Matt Warlick and snagged a print! As always I’m oh so eloquent.

My friends at Frostbite Cosplay!! They killed it as Reinhardt and Bastion from Overwatch!!!

My friends at Frostbite Cosplay!! They killed it as Reinhardt and Bastion from Overwatch!!!

In summary, I’m still on the fence about coming back next year. I’m leaning towards yes, mainly because despite the over average booth cost, and slow sales, it is a local con, so it is nothing lost nothing gained as long as I make somewhat of a profit. I did also gain some new subscribers which is also a plus. With a change in dates happening next year, I may give it one more go to see what happens. In the end I always will go to Fan Expo, as an artist or attendee, as this show has become a staple in my year.

What’s done is done though. Now it’s time to rest and gear up for Greater Austin Comic Con!

Cheers!

-Ashley

Art Blocked

Ah, art block. The bane of every artist’s existence. Nothing feels worse than your pretty little brain feeling like a dry sponge needing the hydration of creativity, and the struggle to find that lake of inspiration to get it kicking again. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve become art blocked. Seriously, it used to be so bad even my mom (who is not art inclined AT ALL by the way) used to give me crap about it. I’m probably even slightly a hypocrite because when I’m stumped myself during my creative process I don’t practice what I preach.

But over the years, I’ve accumulated a few tips that have helped me whenever I am going through an artistic dry spell. Now some of these things you may halve already read on someone else’s journal or article, but I’ve found that these tips are common for a reason. They work!

Tip #1: Stop Making Art

I know, it sounds weird. Cause I’ve been there, sitting and stewing about what I should draw, or how to proceed on a piece, or even hating making art in general. us artists like to call this burnout. But I’ve found that stepping away from the tablet for a few hours or even a day can help reset your brain. Take the time to go engage in something non art related. Go for a walk, take a trip, play a video game or watch a movie. As people we get our inspiration from things that we enjoy, people we meet, or from the outside world, so take the time to go engage in those things. Which brings us to the next tip….

Tip #2: Seek Out People

As artists, our tendencies tend to be introverted. We sit at our work space, for hours a day, in our own world painting and creating. And I can’t blame anyone cause honestly? It’s cozy and comfy. However, I actually believe most successful artists also are somewhat extroverted, whether it is a part of their personality or not. I’ve found that getting out and talking to other people and fellow creatives helps to get an outside perspective. One of the places I get to chat with people are conventions (which are a whole other beast in itself). These events are loaded with fellow creatives from many different backgrounds, and since a large chunk of them visit in the artist alley, it’s always enlightening to talk with them about art. Now cons aren’t the only place of course to meet people, try local art groups, drink and draws, or workshops. Overall hearing other people’s experiences in art help to get me inspired to try out some of their suggestions. It’s always beneficial too to get outside critique from these people, as they might have a suggestion that you never would have thought about before when you are working on a piece.

Tip #3: Break Your Ceiling

I’d like to share a little story with this one. When I was in college, I was finishing up my mentor-ship with my professor, who was well rounded in knowledge of digital painting and concept art. I remember sitting down and talking to him about my progress artistically in the class. I was struggling at the time, feeling like my art wasn’t improving like I wanted it to. Now my mentor put up with me for a year and a half, and when we approached this problem he told me this.

“Your art progression is like the stories of an apartment building. Every time you improve, you move to the next floor, where the amenities get better and better. The next level may have nicer furniture, and the next level may have better appliances and a better view. The thing is, the higher up you move, the more comfortable you get, and once you feel you’re living the life of luxury, and you’re at your comfiest on the top floor, it’s time to break the ceiling. otherwise you will be stuck in limbo.”

In summary, I thought I had all the knowledge I needed to succeed as a digital artist, thus I stopped focusing on my technical skills. I didn’t worry about learning more about color, or anatomy, or composition. I worried about just creating illustrations, but when it came to the point of creating something that incorporated a concept I didn’t understand, my art suffered for it. So if you have art block, it may be because your artistic knowledge has surpassed your skill set, and thus it would be beneficial to go back to some basics, such as doing master studies, or watching tutorials on YouTube that cover the concepts you are struggling to master. So bottom line, get off the top floor and break your ceiling. Level up your art game. Analyze what you are struggling with the most and find resources to help tackle it.

Tip #4: Switch It Up

Sometimes, when you get stuck, it might be best to change your pace in regards to the medium you are using. I mostly am a digital artist, but one media I have come to love accidentally is sketching in ink. There’s something about the thinking process behind creating a drawing in ink, knowing that whatever mark you make will not be editable. Now I’m no Kim Jung Gi (while I always aspire to be an eighth as good as he is), but the switch to traditional media is always a nice break from staring at a screen. So whether you draw mostly digitally or traditionally, make the switch every once in a while. The concepts from one medium definitely transition into the opposite media, and you never know, maybe your digital painting just needed that fresh ingredient you learned while working traditionally.

Tip #5: Stop Caring about your Art (and other’s work)

Yep, I know. That sentence seems like sacrilege in itself. But as artists, there are times where we care WAY too much about the work we create. Now don’t get me wrong, of course we should always strive to create great, meaningful work. However, sometimes that passion controls our emotions about our art too much. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to the people we look up to as creatives, and thus, we lose sight of our own artistic process. We forget to stay in our own boat when it comes to improving our art, where instead of putting pride aside and tackling the concepts that we need to learn or are struggling with, we begin trying to replicate what other artists are doing, with the hope that it will be just as good. Well news flash, and I’ll be blunt, you will NEVER be as good as that artist. Not because you aren’t talented, or not driven, it’s because you aren’t that person. You don’t share the same experiences and influences as everyone else, and that’s the beauty of art. Art is an expression of our minds and souls, that’s what makes it to important and valuable. So when you try to copy your hero, you’re creating a red herring, not something in your own artistic voice.

I’m sure there are a hundred and one more things I could touch base on, but overall I hope I touched base on some big ones. Art block is common for every creative, so if it hits, switch up your routine! Monotony can sometimes be the biggest killer, so don’t forget to break your routine!

Good luck!

How does I art blog?

Y’know, I always had a fondness for writing, but ever since I graduated college, I thought my days of typing words for four page essays were behind me. Obviously, I’m an artist, thus creating illustrations was the most comfortable form of communication to share the inner workings of my weird mind. That’s why when I decided I wanted to make a blog I was stumped. What the heck do I even try to talk about here? Art? Well duh, but what else? How I get ideas? That picture of my dog I took yesterday? Well for those of you that have the smallest curiosity of what I would even write here (God bless you), my answer is…..I don’t have a freaking clue.

To be honest, I came to the conclusion that not knowing is totally okay to me. I decided recently that I really wanted another outlet to convey my inner thoughts and musings outside of the typical Instagram post or portfolio update, and that meant I wanted to be as open and raw as possible. Social media is nice, but constricting verbally, and I want to connect with my audience on a more personal level. I want them to know me outside of the pictures I paint, to have an understanding of why I create what I create, or do what I do. I want to share my world (as uneventful that may or may not be).

Also, at the moment I am a full time teacher. I love sharing my knowledge to help people with artistic endeavors, whether they are at the beginning or in the middle of their journey. Art isn’t a secret, and it always boggles my mind when I see other creatives treat it as such. It’s not a competition. Artists thrive off the ideals of the world, we create based on new knowledge and experiences, and that includes other artists. I feel that if I have any sort of helpful insight that I can contribute to somebody, that’s a win for me, not a loss.

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on”

-Albert Einstein

So in summary I want this blog to not only be musings of just the paintings I make, convention journeys I take, or thoughts on random aspects of my life, but a place that people can take away some small smidgen of information that will be useful, whether they are a creative or not.

That being said, I can’t promise there won’t be some silly happenings I decide to post about, cause that’s just how I tick. I can be like night and day. I can either invest the most contemplative and serious of thoughts in a conversation, delving into personal ideals or moralities, or laugh for ten minutes cause someone said the word pumpernickel. So, in hindsight, if me spitting word vomit on a page has piqued your interest, buckle up friends cause it’s going to be an interesting ride, so I hope you enjoy your stay.

Cheers!

-Ashley