Comic Non-Sans: Artist Alley is a Learning Experience

It’s been a long time indeed since I made Artist Alley my home at conventions.  Multitasking or plain ol’ con wanderlust will take over before long, and if you’re easily distracted it’s very easy to find yourself needing to “stretch your legs” a lot more than you ought to.  And by “stretching one’s legs” I mean being gone for extended periods.

So when I began re-observing things at my table at Nekocon this year, I saw that despite nine years of experience in the draw-things-and-put-them-online arena, I still have a lot to learn (and re-learn) about artist presence at cons.  And it’s going to change every con, but this weekend I have a fair number of stand-out “fine, I’ve learned my lesson” moments.

For one thing, fanart is tricky bidness. Once you start throwing in percentages, numbers of prints, nature of merchandise, moon phases, etc., it starts to seem like more trouble than it’s worth.  But when you find yourself sat next to a table making a killing with “Hetalia” fanart prints, you sort of start rethinking the effort put into such things.  In this particular case, the rules said no more than 30% of one’s table could be taken up with fanart.  If you’re one of those people who comes armed with six crates of stock, it’s not difficult to get away with piles of fanmade product.

One future con I’m eyeing has no fanart restrictions, and another takes it down to table space and number of prints sold.  But given the success of my corner-mates — and the people walking by asking if I had anything with “Inu Yasha” — it may behoove the artist to start working at that.

Expanding on that, table placement is also tricky bidness. It’s all well and good to be placed by a door or towards the front, but if you’re by a big seller with lots of merchandise, you run the risk of having a line form in front of your table … so that, no matter how flash your setup, you may get hidden anyway.  I actually had my table shoved backwards on several occasions by people eager to get “Bleach” pins.  Similarly, a note to big sellers: if you find that your cluster of observers is stretching out beyond your table, do your neighbor a bit of a favor and try to rein them in.  Most people are far more polite than I am.

I actually managed to up sales and notice by a tiny bit in the middle of Saturday simply because I decided to shuffle the table layout around. No lie.  People were asking if I had business cards and completely missing some rather shiny buttons … but once I moved both front and center, suddenly the eye was far more drawn and people were nabbing cards and taking notice of stuff that had been overlooked ’til then.  I’m not sure why this is, to be honest.  Perhaps because it’s where the artist sits, perhaps because it’s just a natural point of focus.  Not sure if that means move your rubbish stuff to the outside or what, though.

One thing I learned from my aunt, who’s a ceramic artist and does many shows?  They never come back. If you’ve ever sat in AA, you know exactly what I mean.  Okay, that’s not always true.  Some do show back up on Sunday.  But I re-learned the hard way that those should be considered a pleasant surprise rather than the norm.

Also, completely independent of that?  People are dicks. And that’s not any sort of jaded sociopathic observation.  You’ll likely run across a jerk, maybe two, who flat-out defy all other classification.  Example: this weekend, proceeds from some of my items went to the Epilepsy Foundation.  A prospective customer was eying an item of mine, and when I informed him of this, he slapped said item back down on the table and walked away rather quickly.  (I have heard far worse stories than this — ask some artists sometime at a con about their worst encounters.)  It’s likely something to do with proximity, especially if you’re someone very few people have heard of.  I’m relatively sure I’m not allowed to recommend any course of action that begins with the phrase “Jump over the table” so I’ll leave it at that.

Which leads into my final point — don’t be a dick. I was once told — okay, told a lot — that I’m sort of (in)famous for being sarky and it’s expected of me in writing and con interaction.  I’m fine with this.  But I found myself fielding something I’ve never been particularly comfortable with, which is the old “Your stuff is really great.  By the way, I’m an artist, too” followed by the sketchbook.  Perhaps it’s that sad little feeling that they’re there for that reason only.  Perhaps it’s that realization that you’re about to spend half an hour listening to your visitor tell you about his “Sonic the Hedgehog” fan comic.  But — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — listening to that little voice deep down that says “Be nice, this could well be you” does make you feel a bit better in the end.

Now, if someone shows up asking for a “Sunday discount” or tells you that your stuff is ugly or not worth being in AA at all … go ahead and be a dick.

It feels a little odd writing articles on this stuff while still learning as I go, I’ll admit.  There will probably be more of these as I go, to be honest.  Learn and grow with me, gentle reader.  Oh, and laugh and stuff, because I know I’m a riot when I’m confused.

Posted on November 9, 2010 at 17:08 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , , ,