Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talkies

This is going to be a bit rambling. Sort of like a shout out track on a CD mixed with some actual information on rare occasion. Drew Baker,Kat Argyle,Andy Hopp,Jason Engle and his assistant (sorry I forgot all three of your first names) were all very nice to me at GenCon and I really appreciated it. Thanks for inviting me along to those dinners. I'll assume the kindness wasn't just because I was giving out velcro to everybody.

Side note:velcro is about the only thing I nailed at my first GenCon. I brought fabric hooks too and they were a huge pain in the ass compared to just using velcro. I was also able to safely remove the velcro from all of the foamcore prints.

Kat was the bizarro version of me at the con. She was an excellent sales person, talking with such excitement and love for the work that you couldn't help but like the work as well (not that it wasn't awesome anyways). Meanwhile I felt completely incapable of hyping my own work. Actually I think Kat was one of the few who was able to hype the work and maybe that's because she was one fo the few people running a booth who wasn't the artist. Maybe most of us artists egos were too damaged and weak from having so much great art surrounding us.

Drew had some very handy vertical panel extensions. Next year I'll have to ask to have my back to Drew's booth so I can mooch off the extra space. :) . I had planned out how to put my work on the panel before arriving but you don't realize how small those panels are until you're there. Drew also had a big banner thing that stuck up out of the top of his panels. If "Joe Slucher" ever comes to be a name somebody might recognize I'll have to consider it. Drew also had a homemade display thing for flipping through his smaller prints. Very nice and affordable solution. Mark Poole had a super fancy version of the same thing. It was more like a pedestal and each page was kept semi-rigid by a frame.

Moving on, I got to meet the Aberrant guys;Simon,Tony and Bryan.They were nice enough to take me out to an Indian restaurant that required walking down a long hallway and through a grocery store. My wife can't eat Indian food so it was a nice change. Then I went with them to a gun store where it looked like you could buy various law enforcement badges. Scary. They told me how much it costs to get an exhibitor booth and I think it was $2000. It amazes me that there are any artists in the exhibitor area at those rates.

Ben Thompson was nice enough to talk to me for a bit. I was too chicken to talk to him last year about the WoW card game. Thought I'd be a jerk to walk up and ask him something about his AD job while he's running a booth as an artist. After talking to him, I think it was silly to be so reluctant last year.

Raven Mimura and I talked for a while about what's popular and clients. I was really surprised by how long he talked to me and we even did a print trade. Very nice guy.

I had a great time at the bar with several artists I'd never met. Aaron Miller was nice enough to pull me into the conversation. He's just now getting into the fantasy art field and managed to land a gig with D&D I think. We ended up trading oil paintings. His portfolio was a box with prints mounted individually. I always think of that style as more of a fine art thing so I was a bit surprised by it. He only showed about 8 pieces though so the arrangement didn't seem too awkward. I would love to know what ADs think of that presentation. It makes you really focus on the individual pieces of art rather than the whole of the portfolio. Sounds like a good tactic if you have a couple of super strong pieces that you think really fit the client well. I also talked to Mark Winters,Caroline Himmelman,Anna and Jeff Himmelman. All were very nice and I hope to see them next year. So there were a lot of Illustration Master Class alumni and WIP podcasters. All of us were talking about going in new directions with our art. :) It appeared artists liked my miniature oil paintings way more than customers. I should also probably mention my two buddies,Oliver Meinerding and Chris Simmons that I brought along and helped a lot with the booth. I think they had a good time at the bar. Me and Oliver ended up getting to work on the same sweet gig from GenCon. Also talked to Jared Blando for a bit. He's an amazing cartographer who is now moving into the illustration side of things. Seemed super enthusiastic and excited about getting into the illustration stuff.

Oliver introduced me to another local artist, Woodrow Hinton whom I have heard a lot about. He was nice enough to introduce me to Andrew Bawidamann and tell me about the weekly illustrators lunch that happens in the area. Hopefully I'll be able to go to one soon.

I also got to finally meet Billy Tackett in person. He's another Covington artist and I've been reading his blog for a while. He's super active with conventions,fairs, art shows,etc so it shouldn't be too hard for you to run into him somewhere. Kind of embarrassed that I hadn't made the effort to meet him before now. Can't really say a bad word about any of the artists I met. All of them were very nice.

Also met Thom Scott. I talked to him for a little bit about sales and he's stats flew in the face of my previous post about what seems to sell. His best seller was a guy with a shark head. He had other pieces that were much better in my opinion but that was the one that got people. I think I was just afraid to look like a fool in my previous post and suggest others make illustrations of people with shark heads.

Met Jeremy McHugh for the first time and he interviewed me for the Ninja Mountain Podcast. With a little bit of clever editing, I'm sure he could have made me sound like a complete idiot so i appreciate that I only sounded like a partial idiot on the podcast. He was just as nice as I expected although I was not expecting the pinstripe vest. Perhaps it was a clever ploy to throw off interviewees. I know I was expecting to be handed a fancy martini at any moment.

There was also a super odd meeting at GenCon. There was a company that I worked for that gave me every reason in the world to hate their guts. I mean they are the absolute worst company I've worked for and would never ever consider working for again unless there was a clause in the contract that said, "if I'm displeased at any point, I can walk away and still get paid". These guys were what spawned my Client Warning Signs journal entry. Well they came by the booth and chatted it up like everything was wonderful between us, as if one day maybe we'd have kids and they'd grow up and marry each other and we'd be related. It was mindblowing. I would have thought they likewise weren't happy with me but I guess all of the anger is strictly on my end.

I also got to meet Joe McDonald whom I did some illustrations for a long time ago. I think we were both surprised to see each other. He was looking at my booth for a while before finally going, "oh hey you did some work for me!" I take it as a good sign that my new work would be that different from the old work. I was mostly shocked by how young he was. So keep an eye out for him in the future.

I'm sorry if I've forgotten to mention our meeting. I ran into a ton of people and most of the time it was while I was running around as fast as I could while Oliver or Chris watched my booth. Not to mention, one night I slept in the hotel closet to try to escape a roommate's comically loud snoring so some sleep deprivation was going on. Also check out this video to see one of my friends in a hilariously bad Hutt costume that some friends made.

Next post will be an actual discussion of illustration. Promise.

Monday, August 17, 2009

*UPDATED*Back from GenCon

Finally unpacked and settled back at home. My son was born on Tuesday at 1:05am so it was rough leaving the family for GenCon but my wife was very understanding. I talked with her on the phone while I was gone and found out when I got home she started running a fever Saturday night and didn't tell me because she didn't want me to run home. So to sum up, I'm a big jerk and I couldn't ask for a better wife. She had family staying with her and is on antibiotics but I still would have abandoned the booth.

Anyways...GenCon was really great for meeting potential clients and other artists but no so great with the print sales. This was my first time having a booth and I've definitely learned a couple of things. Here are some notes.
1. Eye level is more important than anything else! An amazing number of people walking by never noticed a single thing on my table. I could have had bright flashing neon lights of naked ladies and I still don't think they would have been noticed. I had one of my most popular prints printed on canvas and so I had to have it a smaller size. It was on my wall so people would often walk up squinting to check it out, and then I would direct them to a larger print on my table. From there they would check out the rest of the stuff on my table. This accidental trick worked well at getting passerbys to check out all of my work. Unfortunately it hinged on them at least catching a glimpse of the canvas print.

2.People don't read but money signs catch their eye. Despite prominently having some large text stating that 11x17 prints were available of all of the foamcore mounted prints on the panel, I found that I was having to tell everyone that information. At the same time, at the beginning of the convention I had two obvious sheets stating that 11x17 prints costs X, 8.5x11 costs X, foamcore prints cost X and oil paintings cost X. People tended to see those dollar signs before anything else and would turn away, assuming that the work was not worth the price without looking. After removing almost all signage with prices, I found that a lot more people stopped.

3.Purchases are often made based on content rather than polish. The work I had with familiar subject matter seemed to do best. Cerberus and Thor were easily recognizable as well as the angels and demons. The gods playing a board game was also popular because of the simple fact that they were playing a board game. I could have switched the gods out with horses and I think it still would have been one of the more popular pieces. In talking with Andrew McIntosh, he made an interesting observation. At comic conventions he often does well because he's the guy doing work that isn't in a comic style or subject matter. There he could make sales based on the polish while at GenCon everyone was working in a fairly realistic painterly fashion and the contrast between different artists work is different. In this situation it becomes all about content. I'd also like to throw in that having done some of the wildly popular card games like L5R or Magic helps a lot too. Plus if you've done card games you can make deck backers and play mats which I would bet sell better because people can tell themselves that the art piece is utilitarian.

4. Raven Mimura said that in his experience awesome monsters are a tough sell since many people have significant others that have to accept the artwork as well. Makes sense. I would also say that extremely large prints would probably be out of question for many. I know if I look at my house the largest I could probably go with any art is 22in. Anecdotal but still something to think about. Steve Argyle's booth was next to mine and I think all of his prints would be too big for my house but it looked like they were selling really well.

5.Variety is the spice of conventions or something like that. I unwittingly chose a poor tactic by printing only a couple of pieces but printing a large number of each. This tactic may be doomed if only because you're trying to predict which of your pieces will appeal to people. The fewer prints tactic will lead to lower up front costs/less risk but will likely cause your prices to be slightly higher. Prices appeared to play very little of a factor though I think. Most people who asked about prices or seemed genuinely interested bought the prints and price was mostly to check to make sure I didn't have some sort of insane price. There were better artists with cheaper prints and weaker artists with more expensive prints. When I quoted prices I don't think anybody thought, "pff, why would I buy this sea monster city for $15 when I could buy this more popular artist's wizard print for $10?" We're not selling the same thing so prices should really be able to be thrown out the window and not be dependent on size. By the same reasoning nobody is looking at the cost of packs of TCG's and saying why should I buy L5R rather than Magic when there's X price difference.

6.Booths are great for getting those hard to contact clients to come and find you. There were also some clients that I hadn't submitted to because I didn't have work in their genre really. For instance, the Shadowrun art director stopped by,seemed interested and talked to me for a bit. So now he has my website information and everything and I didn't have to feel like a jerk submitting a portfolio that I felt was inappropriate. Another company has only done historically accurate books and stopped by to ask about doing sci-fi work. I never would have thought of submitting a sci-fi portfolio to them. Then there was the peripheral gaming companies that I just didn't know existed before the con or didn't know commissioned artwork. So some LARP people talked to me for a long time about getting some artwork.

7. I don't know why it took me so long to realize it during the con, but push those business cards. If somebody is casually walking by looking at your work but obviously isn't going to stop for a purchase, ask them to grab a business card and check out the website. Heck, if you have prints available on your site, you might even make a sale after the con from it. Nearly everybody that I suggested pick up a card, did so and it even encouraged them to hang around and look a bit longer.

I've hardly had time to write this with all of the baby stuff and wife's temperature spikes so later I'll have to return to update this. Thanks to all of the artists at the con. You were very nice and treated me like we'd been friends a long time. Thanks to everyone who bought prints as well.

EDIT::
Some quick tips. Subscribe to mailing lists for printing sites and you can catch some good deals. I got 500 business cards for free and probably gave out 250 at the con. Also, I got the banner for free as well. Banners can be quite expensive. I think if I'd submitted my own design for the banner I still could have gotten it for $6 but I'm just that cheap.

8.Leave a white border around your images. I printed to the edges and found that the prints would not take ink for signings. I could sign in the white areas though without the sharpie or ink bubbling up. FYI, to your amazement, some people will actually want you to sign stuff. Blows my mind too.

Anyways, the con has already led to some work and looks like it will pay for my poor decisions on the print runs.