This is a small series made from a powerpoint presentation back in Fanime 2013, where I did a lecture called “Artist Alley: Survival Guide”, in attempt to weed out the weak who were unprepared for conventions. Each one of these is a short article of one of the topics dealt with from that panel. In the panel, I tried to make it a ‘midevil’ theme, and tried to sound as mean and blunt as possible, trying to make artist alley seem impossible for the weak. Unfortunately, at the end of this panel a number of people were taking notes on paper, and I think I gave them hope. Well shit. Anyhow, anyone in artist alley should still be aware of this stuff, even if it sounds or feels awful. All the drawings were the same things I used for the powerpoint.
A lot of time, especially for people who just started or consider starting artist alley ask me “so what’s artist alley like?” I can answer with two words: awesome, and shit (but sometimes there’s no comma between them). Haha….okay nevermind. I’d say more than half the time it’s not the happiest thing in the world, but actually the part that’s really great, I never want to forget :)
I’ll start with the DOWNSIDE. Because this is often overlooked if you’ve never asked anyone about artist alley thoroughly, at the end of the day you’ll end up very sad, screwed, maybe worse. You have to get ready before you even sign up. Be prepared before you walk in.
One experience you’ll face is that it’s a lot harder to earn money than you think it is. Okay for some of you ridiculously talented and popular people, I’m pretty sure you aren’t even reading this blog anyways. But back to point–you will see a TON of people look at your work and walk away. it’s inevitable, don’t assume everyone who looks at your work will buy it! Most people just want to look but don’t want to buy.
Another experience is conversation. Both good and bad. Usually, if you have fanart of a series you like (instead of just drawing it because it’s just popular and you don’t give a crap but you know it will sell), you will have a fun conversation. But sometimes, they get to insane tangents. It starts from topics about anime to talking about really horrible sexist and racial crap and I dunno, animal penises or something (it’s happened), you just need to suck it up. There are ways to go around this, but figuring out patience is key. Eventually, all of this will give you a better personality. For some people though, that personality only shines when you’re at cons and nowhere else. But hey, this is a great skill you get from doing it for years.
Another experience that happens DURING conventions, is you make friends. Good ones hopefully. It’s what I call ‘the crutch’. You help them, they help you. They can be more talented than you in sales and skills and whatever, you can learn from them. You bring connections. But for me, I really mean friends as in people who share the same interests as you, have as much enthusiasm as you do about what you love, and just keep you rolling. I think if I had table mates that hated me on all sides, I wouldn’t want to even sit at the table. Making friends keeps me going at cons, it’s a positive experience.
And lastly, the other experience that follows up on making friends is you build admirers. Not just people who admire your work, maybe you admire theirs. You begin to appreciate other people’s’ work. And you know, people will appreciate your work too. Well, for me, this doesn’t happen super often, but you know, when the people walk up to you and go ‘wow I’ve seen your work for so long, you’ve gone so far, and you’re so great!’ You know…fuzzy feeling that’s stronger than the comments on the internet. And just to tell you, this happens the least out of everything I just said.
Another experience is you learn to deal with money. Hell I suck with a cash register, but I can count my earnings and taxes and stuff now. I don’t think I know anything past algebra anymore, but you know, keep doing this you’ll figure out how to give back change in exact combinations of fives, tens, ones, and change. And the last experience I’ll talk about is when YOU FAIL.
Just kidding. It’s not failing. If you didn’t earn any money, and you worked like shit and you felt like shit, don’t feel like you should kill yourself. Make it an EPIC failure. This is a good experience, it’s happened a ton of times for me. You learn to get back off the ground, and don’t give up. Actually I gave up for a year, and came back writing this blog, but aside from that, this experience will keep your head high even if you’re low on the ground. So you failed, you didn’t earn money, and you think everyone on the other side of the table is an asshole. Well guess what? It might actually be your own fault and you’re stubborn. FIGURE IT OUT. Why did you fail? How can you improve? Think positive after negative. And yes, you might really thing ‘I failed because my art sucks’ and it’s a completely reasonable answer. Hell, that’s what happened to me two years ago, and I practiced and practiced. Make it an epic failure.
And so there you have it. There’s all sorts of other experiences, like what the hell people ask you to draw for commissions, or what food you eat, awesome people you met, all sorts of stuff. If you have an experience about artist alley you want to share, go ahead and comment here. There’s always a ton of really hilarious or scarring events at cons. I love making conversation with people behind the table about these things.
And today’s featured artist is:
This guy, I knew for a LONG time since my very early years at conventions. This dude never gives up. Independant comics on the table, working on his own comic while waiting for visitors. Very dedicated dude. Anyone who has gone to bay area conventions must have seen him at least once.
.……and also, please support this cause, I’m trying to help a friend out: http://www.destinylimit.net/donate/
I drew two of the designs, I am working on this game, and we’re trying to help this guy. Just five bucks will get you a cool sticker and help him out!