Last year I attended New York Comic Con as my very first convention. Afterwards I wrote a blog post on lessons I learned as an exhibiting artist during the convention. You can find said post here: 10 things I learned at NYCC. A few weekends ago I had the sudden chance to attend the Society of Illustrator’s MoCCa Arts Festival in New York City. The table-mate of a cartoonist named Bill Roundy cancelled the night before so I was invited to take his spot. Normally I would spend a few weeks preparing for my convention setup but that wasn’t an option this time, for good reason.
I have chosen to write this blog post as a continuation of the lessons I learned at NYCC in hope that it may be of some help to other new conventions goers who are looking for some advice. If you are a new artist about to attend your first convention, please read the post on lessons from NYCC first.
Lesson #1: Visual vomit – Don’t clutter your table!
When preparing your convention table you want a nice clean presentation that makes your work stand out, whatever it be. Too many items on display and your work will be competing with itself and the visual confusion can be a huge turn off for your potential customers, so keep a nice clean setup. The photo of my table above is actually an example of how NOT to do it. Granted I only had an evening to prepare, so I forgive myself for the clutter.
Lesson #2: Stories sell!
This probably doesn’t surprise anyone. Stories sell, human beings LOVE stories. We move movies, comics, books and cartoons for this very reason, so when it comes to your artwork; consider the story. There are several ways to go about this, one is to simply consider the story in the image: Does it tell a clear story or is it just “something pretty”. If there’s a story behind the illustration engage your potential customer in it, they’ll find the artwork all the more interesting.
You can also take it a step further and consider how can you tie your illustration in with stories – consider selling $5 booklets where you have illustrated a simple story. (Be careful of copyright here) – in my case I like drawing fairy tales and I quickly realized at MoCCa I would have garnered a lot more interest had I had booklets with my fairy tale illustrations combined with the story they are from and fairy tales aren’t copyrighted – so there you go. Worth considering.
Lesson # 3: Consider your product!
This ties in with #2 – consider what you are selling. People only have so much wall space so prints aren’t always the best way to go. Some alternative uses for your artwork can be: postcards (I’ve had a lot of success with these), calendars, portfolio zines, magnets, bookmarks or key chains. Be creative but consider your production cost also.
Lesson # 4: Save money – Consider and design your leave-behind!
When I came home after the convention weekend I had a box full of leave-behinds from various fellow exhibitors. I went through it and honestly, I threw a lot of it out. Put some consideration into your leave-behind, make it something people will WANT to keep. If you are making postcards – don’t cover it up with huge font containing your name and information, put that stuff on the back and let the artwork stand alone. That way someone might actually want to put it on their wall or fridge.
Also this is a bit of a touchy subject but try to compare your artwork to the quality level you see among other exhibitors. Be honest with yourself, if you are still at a beginner level you may be hurting yourself more than gaining from handing out business cards and what not. You don’t want to be known for doing weak work, wait with the self promotion until you have come a little further.
Lesson #5: Wear comfortable shoes!
Convention days are long for the love of.. well, your feet. Wear comfortable shoes! I made the mistake of not doing so a couple of times and OUCH! Just.. yeah, just wear comfortable shoes. For your own sake.
I hope these tips came in helpful. I’d love to hear from you if so or if you have some convention suggestions or experiences to add , please share in the comments! Thanks!