Angry Artist Alley! What do THEY want to buy?

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So someone asked me on Facebook: Juri Renee  What cons do you sell your comics at that you have found successful?

Juri’s Deviantart: [link]

answer: Many, many years ago it was at anime conventions. As work changed, I did not really fit in to those cons anymore, as demand for original artwork was very low. One of my best experiences was at Hypercon or Kinyoobi Con (i forgot which one). It was one of those conventions that didn’t have much of a reputation but I ended up with more commissions than I could handle in the same day. I decided to pursue my art in another darker direction though, but it didn’t fare too well with my audience. The years after, it was not so great anymore. In fact, I saw a lot of moms dragging their kids away from my artwork telling them ‘not to look’. Sadly, either I had to changed my work, find another convention, or leave. It was a dumb move for me, but I decided to change my work to fit the crowd better. Fast forward years later, where I had a talk with Anthony. After that talk, I reverted back to what I loved to draw and just not care if other people hated it, and appreciate the ones who did like it.

I would love to mention a guy called Anthony Leano for my change in work. He is in charge of finding panelists in Sac-Con and Sac-Anime and I see him all the time. Actually I didn’t know that he was in charge of anything at cons until last year, but I am quite aware that he is more experienced at this than I am. He gave me a small talk:

“The cons I found successful weren’t about how many people were there. Nor was it how well done your work was either. They were the ones where the people who liked your art bought it.” 

Why would I say this? No matter how professional your stuff looks, if consumers at the convention weren’t looking for that, they’d turn their heads and walk away. As my work strayed farther and farther from generic anime-style like artwork to what it is now, the less my work was looked at in anime conventions. Fast forward about two years, when Attack on Titan gets popular for gore and intense action was the new hype for animation, people became more tolerant of my work.

Anyhow, here’s my timeline of work. If I sound sarcastic when you read this, I am not. But take it with a grain of salt, because everyone’s work has a different impact on other people.

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Examples: (early drawings like this got me hundreds of bucks by end of the day) (then my work started to change ‘style’) (what my work looks now) This was one of the far more popular pieces. 2009. This was when Gurren Lagaan got very popular. Probably the prime years of my wallet cash, when people would actually start asking me to draw for them. Key Ideas: Find out what’s ‘hip’

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.This piece was done in 2011. At the moment, Deadman Wonderland was an underground kind of series. I’d say it’s a decent work of inking, but when people saw it, it looked a bit ‘dark’. People pretty much glanced at it. Around this year, I started noticing a decline in sales. Parents were dragging their kids away from my table because the work seemed a bit too ‘dark’. From earning around a hundred to only fourty dollars at a convention (despite going to bigger ones)

Key Ideas: Drawing an unknown series is risky because people almost always want  the popular generic fanart at anime conventions. When someone really DOES see it and know the series, you can grab attention though. HOWEVER it can also be a double edged sword, as many other tables would be thinking the same. So sometimes having some obscure stuff can allow for better audience for certain niches. In the end, the best way to think about it is to do what you love, and the right people who love it will come.

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A year later, when I only earned forty bucks, I took a short hiatus to reflect on what the hell I was doing. I think this was the time when I just stopped caring what other people expected from my work, and just do what I like myself.

 

 

 

Sakura

 

 

 

I think this was about 2013, when I decided to find inspiration from other artists. One of the artists that I look up to was colorblind, and he introduced me to Pentel Brush Pens. I took inspiration from people like Jonathan Wayshak, Barron Storey, and Mike Mignola, then I played a whole lot of Street Fighter, and watched a shitwad of action anime, and and stuff just kind of brimmed into this mashup.

 

 

set2a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward to 2015, where I realized that illustration never came easy for me, and I loved my nitty gritty comics more. Literally, zero f*cks given that it’s not anime-style, that it’s dark and gritty, there’s almost never color, and it’s a comic. If you don’t like it, well I’m not sorry it doesn’t meet your standards (lol I’ve become so salty).
tsumugi

Food for thought: I stopped selling at conventions around February 2015 to rethink some of my work, toss out most of my old stuff, and also received some very insulting comments from several people online. Although I walked out of conventions, immediately afterwards, projects and commissions opened up. So sometimes, if you need a little break from conventions, it might just be more rewarding to just work at home instead for a while.

 

 

But…WHY DIDN’T I EARN MUCH AFTER 2011?
(Read this article for even more detail)

You need to make sure you’re sitting behind the right convention to sell your stuff.

The reason I wasn’t selling very well at big conventions was that they were all practically ANIME and indie conventions. Some old conventions actually started off as comic conventions, but because the world of Japanese media grew, people lost interest in my work at those particular conventions.

Specific conventions attract different customers who actually have something else in mind. Of course, sometimes an artist that has completely different work will pop in and grab a ton of attention, but for myself, through experience, it has never happened with my own work, personally. Here are some ideas:

Comic Conventions: Tables here are the most expensive of all other themed conventions. Beginning artists, professionals alike. These conventions celebrate more of the professional/self published, and artist and customer understand each other far better. If your work is unique, and you have a decent knowledge of comics, this is a good choice. You can often meet professionals here if you have questions or you find a hard time with getting into the business. I would like to mention Tone Rodriguez for really bringing my hopes up as a comic artist. Great for the ones who want to break into comics. But if you’re not ready to earn back that hundred fifty for that table (some are more expensive), it might not be the best idea. Commissions are often based on popularity and skill of artist

Regarding crafts, I have seen so much variety (from clothes, masks, steampunk, toys, mugs, etc) that even I can’t tell you about this one. I usually go to these things to shop for comics. But in regards to that, comic conventions are definitely better to sell comics than anime conventions in my opinion.

On a personal note, I find the atmosphere at these conventions much more positive, and I often find myself going to these more to shop for comics and meet artists than actually selling, since opportunities to meet world famous artists are more common here than at anime conventions. My overall experience was that business is just average, but the people I meet is above average. I end up walking out with new knowledge of some sort to apply to my work, and/or just a LOT of swag. 

Anime-specific Conventions: I say ‘anime-specific’ as in the description of the convention IS  an ‘Anime’ convention. Some are not called that, but happen to have a lot of ‘Anime’ artists. I know that word means ‘comic’ in Japanese, and the style can mean a lot of things. But why do I call it ‘manga’ or ‘anime’style? Think about that for a second. Okay you can stop thinking for a second. Or keep thinking. But what’s the first couple things that just popped up in your head? Naruto? Bleach? EXACTLY. This genre of art, this demand. Don’t expect too much commercial exposure here anyways. Few are professionals walking around a convention like these looking to hire people. Places like these are loaded with hormone-rushed teenagers and adults in love with a fictional character a bit too much (I’m one of those as well). There are lots of moms dragging kids there too, so you have to watch out. The first thing that pops out to a consumer is the fanservice delivered on your artwork. Draw Kirito with no shirt and his sword+jacket, the girls AND guys will be flinging at you. I use the word ‘fanservice’ but I also mean very dramatic moments in the series which bring back emotions to the viewer. For example, a death scene, or a character rising up from the ground. Second is if they recognize the series. A picture of Sakura kissing Naruto on the cheek would grab far more attention than a drawing of Gasai Yuno kissing Yukiteru(Mirai Nikki). Also, when you’re asked to draw them as an anime character, slap some ‘anime’ eyes on a circle, put the same color shirt and hair on it, and you’re done (sarcasm). I’ve never seen an unsatisfied customer staring the most pathetic attempt before . Not at my table, not at others. Nope. The whole concept of them being an anime character seems to blow their mind. None of these concepts requires a Da Vinci to handle it.

For craft artists, I can simplify it to this: ‘Kawaii is the way-ee”. Cute stuff is awesome. Nerdy cute stuff, even cuter. I don’t think I need to say more here.

Exception: Yaoi-Con is a 17-years-or-older convention. Because moms don’t bring their kids, and the people are old enough to understand the effort we put in this, original art is a bit more celebrated here. Also, you can put more adult stuff in front.

In my personal experience, my work used to sell really well at anime cons, but the more my work changed, the less business I was making. I’ve tried fanart vs. non-fanart, and for me, fanart definitely sold much better than non-fanart, but when I did art trades, a lot of the time the artists would want my non-fanart prints. I’d still say that my highest business yield are anime prime conventions, just because the fanart usually revolves around anime series or cartoon series often seen by anime fans.

Indie/Craft Cons: These emphasize artists the most. They vary from professionalism to really indie. I will explain the ones that are ‘Indie.’ These are usually handmade work, self published, or hand crafted. Because they’re varied, here is just one idea I picked up: Make sure your work looks ‘hand-made’ and/or ‘unprofessional’. It seems, from my experiences, that things that have been set into online printing presses are barely looked at, while comics that have been hand made/screen printed and stapled sell MUCH faster. Quite a number of them look like shit to me actually (not the art, just presenting it). Even more are the black and white printer paper copies that look rushed. Also, making it unique and artsy helps. It’s hard to interpret that idea, you just have to figure that out on your own. Do not expect many commissions at all here. People are as broke as you, lurking at tables. Unless the customer is aware that they can ask for commissions, don’t expect much from here.

Regarding crafts, these conventions are the most erratic, so I can’t give any specific advice here, sorry. All I can say is that I like buying homemade soaps :3

This is all speculation from my experience and some experience from other artists who have gone to these small ones. 

Exception: LARGE indie comic cons, such as Alternative Press Expo has been regarded more for very serious individuals trying to get into the art world, although it is for indie artwork. These should be regarded more as ‘comic conventions’ and not ‘indie’ conventions even though the intention is for indie artists.

Cultural Events: These sucked for me the most. All I can really say is to keep your work unique. Because it celebrates a culture, there are many other people obviously selling the same thing you are, or can also see a professional company/business/store that has it right in front of the window for cheaper. I can’t say more to this, because I’ve never had a positive experience with it. They’re usually boring anyhow, since people walking by are just there to browse and not buy.

So there you have it. Don’t buy a table where you’re not sure you can earn back enough money to hit the green zone. But it doesn’t hurt to try it at least once in your life to have that experience. Click for article.

Some food for thought:
This is just a personal blurb, but I think if you want to sell fanart themed work, you should like what you make. It shouldn’t be art that is forced on to you because some random person online really wanted you to make it and you didn’t even feel like drawing it. I think artists should make up their mind on doing their favorite things instead of doing something they don’t even know about or even care about. So make something from the bottom of your heart. It may not be the most popular character from the most popular series that you don’t even like, but it’s something you put your heart into, and those are the ones that build friendship bonds between customer and artist. 

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  1. Pingback: Angry Artist Alley: Not Selling Much? | Jackie Lo Art

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