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!