Wednesday-Due to circumstances, I was completely unprepared for GenCon. After setting up my booth it looked like a homeless person had stumbled in and tried to put their stuff up in the art show. Luckily my booth assistant, Adam Schmidt, wasn't in a panic like me and came up with some solutions that really improved the look of my display.Still, my sketches and 8.5x11 prints were displayed horribly. Next time I need to remember to at least put them in plastic sleaves so that they seem more presentable. Adam insisted that I bring in the big painting since I brought it in the car.
Thursday-Low sales. Heard from another person that makes a ton of money that his sales were 3/4ths normal at SDCC. Perhaps everyone is doing poorly. Some people bought book marks so I was happy to see those may have been a good decision. Half the people tried picking them up thinking they were free. My Mage piece seems to be the new popular piece despite my having only noticed the day of the show that these prints were off and a bit too blue and low contrast. Adam and I hung out with a friend that night and spent forever doing paintovers which was a lot of fun. It made us both wish we were working in a real studio environment.
Friday-Low sales. I was working hard on some sketches for an assignment though and was really pleased with the direction they were going. Neighbors seemed to be having a very hard time selling as well. People thought my neighbors full-color book was free! Despite having well known subjects and illustrations, his prints didn't seem to be selling well either.
Saturday-Low sales.Accidentally gave my con sketches to a friend and thought I lost them so I was really upset until my friend gave them back that evening. Drank with the other artists and then Adam and I went back to the room to do some magic card alters that we were paid to do.
Sunday-Decided perhaps I was hasty the first year to decide sales were better without price tags. I added a price list but it didn't seem to make a difference. I wanted to pack up early and just head home so as an experiment I cleared everything off of my four panels except an 11x17 mage print and a large print of Taishu. Traffic seemed like maybe it increased. I reduced it to just the Taishu print shortly after and traffic seemed to improve again. Perhaps next time I should have no more than 2 pieces per panel. Then again I wander if the lower image count would make people expect the work to be expensive. Mark Winters was across from me and does wonderful work and I thought more people should have been stopping by his booth. I think people may have assumed he was more expensive than he actually was because the images were sparse and were very nicely framed. I got the results of the charity dice bag auction and despite having done something more elaborate this year, it sold for less. Sounded like most of the stuff sold for less than last year I think. So just all around I think people are spending less.
Things to improve- Start ordering my prints at least 2 months in advance so that shipping costs don't kill me, quality doesn't suffer and I can plan for however the prints will appear on the wall. This means no SDCC. Won't be using El-Co color prints again. I got a tiny drop of spittle on a print and it sat there for a minute and it took off the black ink and left a yellow spot and the blank ink around the spot looked kind of blue after that.
Time to spend money on a banner. The current free banner is kind of embarrassing now although I can't say people really pay attention to it. Put sketches in sleeves. Reduce image count on panels. Don't put web address on bookmark.Time to start using the dreaded portfolio book on the table for people to look through for prints.
Conclusion- I don't think I'll be returning next year (although I certainly might change my mind) unless it's to help man a Dark Skull Studios booth. It's hard not to feel like I got kicked in the gut when I can't help but think, "I could have stayed home and I'd have $1200 to $1400 more in my pocket right now."I suspect the economy will still be down next year. If I actually need work next year perhaps I'll do it. Having a booth helps me get work but this year I really wasn't looking for any more work. The only thing I was looking for was print sales and I really expected to do as good as last year. I'm thinking about lowering prices for Cincy Comic Expo to see what happens. On the positive side, it was really great to see everyone in person and it looked like a couple of things I had done for people online had resulted in stronger friendships than I had realized.
Wizards of the Coast's MtG art director on the concept art side
I was kind of caught off guard by having to show to this AD as the portfolio I had prepared was far from being what I'd use to get concept art jobs. So I knew I was walking into a real slaughter. Perhaps the situation makes a good argument for having a portfolio that's easily modified between clients at a con. Ofcourse he had other problems with my work beyond the concepts but I had handicapped myself at the start.
The interviewer seemed really grouchy and I think hated me for even talking to her. Afterwards I really regretted talking to her. It appears they are looking for very straight forward step by step how to books aimed at the 6 to 13 year old age range. I was very much pitching the sort of book I would be interested in and suits my strengths (avoiding technical aspect which is a weakness) which would be about generating ideas/breaking artist block.
Others-The only others I showed to were people who came by the Carpe Chaos booth. They were video game and movie people. I've grown to think those industries' professionals are very flaky or just too busy so I doubt any of those contacts will result in work. Since I'm not really interested in doing sequential work for any major companies, there wasn't much of anybody for me to be interested in showing my work to.