Let me start off this post with introducing myself. My name is Kat G. Birmelin and I graduated in 2010 with a BFA in illustration. Since then I have done work with a few small press publishers in the game industry, and recently have taken to exhibiting at conventions.
I have been attending conventions such as Gen Con since 2004 where I first began to show my portfolio around in the hopes of getting help from critiques by artists already working in the industry, as well as art directors. The community has been rather warm and helpful to those seeking to improve their craft with the hopes of one day getting work in the industry they so love.
I first heard about Illuxcon a few years ago on one of the older platforms that hosted ArtOrder, a small community fostered by former WoTC art director Jon Schindehette , and since then had continued to hear about the show from friends and professional artists I follow online. Illuxcon is a five day tribute to science fiction and fantasy artists with a strong focus on traditional masters of the age. We can all thank the Wilshires for the creation and fostering of the show, their dedication to the field and those who work in it, as well as those who are fans, really shines through.
The convention can be broken down into a few parts: There is the main showcase in the Allentown Museum that runs for all five days of the convention. Then there is the weekend showcase, which is located downstairs from the main show and runs for Saturday and Sunday. Finally there is the weekend showcase that runs Friday and Saturday evening, and is located in the Holiday Inn. Outside of the showcases, the convention also hosts a bevy of seminars/lectures, chances for portfolio reviews (there is a chance to sign up ahead of time, but carry your folio with you incase an opportunity presents itself), as well as drink and draw event (this year ran by Aaron Miller (thanks Aaron!)).
Illuxcon 7 was my first time attending such a show. I felt nervous in the months leading up because I hadn’t shown any of my work in about 2 years, and this anxiety only intensified when I found out that I was able to receive a last minute table for the weekend showcase. Luckily for me I was going to be in good company with friends who had attended the show in years previously, though two of us were exhibiting in the showcase for the first time. We had a bit of a pricing party one night to help us overcome our trepidations, and we had a fun time on the drive into town.
Once we arrived and check in, we walked a few blocks over to the museum to pick up our stuff. Cost for the convention alone (not including travel cost and hotel/food) is $175+ another $75 for a table in the showcase if you are fortunate enough to snag a space before they sell out. It became apparent that this convention was meant for professional artists, artists working towards moving themselves up their career ladder, and collectors rather than the type of crowd you would see at comic con. Because of this I feel that the general atmosphere of the show is like a huge family reunion of creative from all walks of life, and immediately felt any anxieties I had suddenly slip away.
The main show was packed tight with exhibiting artists, assistants, and attendees drooling over the large variety of artwork on display and for sale, as well as rubbing elbows. Wednesday proved to be a bit slower since a lot of people were in transit, or else would not arrive till Thursday. I felt this was the best time to chat a little more with those in the main show, and was delighted to do so with Justin and Annie Gerard whose adorableness as a couple was only multiplied by their shared talents and compassion for their craft and those with shared interests/talents. I was also able to run into Sam Flegal on opening night, and find out how his week had been going.
The remaining days of the show was spent in drinking in a number of paintings whose exquisiteness can only be fully appreciated in the flesh, as well as talking to a great many or the attendees, and experiencing a few of the seminars available. Of these I enjoyed Winona Nelson’s seminar about the Art of Magic, which explained the process by which she was able to get her first assignment, as well as take a look at the process by which a few of her card art is made. This included the original art order, her creative process, and a bit of behind the scenes in regard to buyers of original pieces.
Showcase tables for IlluxCon 8 go on sale Dec. 10th, 2014 at 10 pm. The cost is $250 and they sell out within minutes so set your alarm.
As mentioned, this has been my first experience at Illuxcon, however; this was not my first time exhibiting as a vendor of my art. I had a few things ready since I had already started exhibiting at conventions earlier in the year, but as I also mentioned Illuxcon is a far cry from comic con.
The space is limited in the weekend showcase, which is held in the Holiday Inn. The space is carpeted and tables are provided, as well as chairs. There are a few base rules to displays, the most important one being not to hang anything on the walls in a manner that would destroy them, and fellow artists were able to MacGyver their way around this in a number of ways, from grid wall/ cage panels, to easels, art panels, or simple banner displays.
My friends and I found spaces near one another in case we needed to borrow supplies, or simply wanted someone to keep an eye on our things for a few minutes while we looked around ourselves. Aside from my friends I was glad to make acquaintances with my neighbors Daneen Wilkerson and Tanja Wooten. The showcase ran through the evening and was open to fellow attendees (while the convention focuses on traditional art, there are still artists who attend and show working/selling digital art prints).
I admit to feeling anxieties kick back up again during this particular time since all my work was brand new and never shown before, but it wound up being a wonderful experience. I managed to sell a few small original pieces (I didn’t have any prints, though I had bookmarks to give out with information on my etsy shop, as well as business cards with my website info). It was great to get feedback from the attendees on my work, and to my pleasant surprise was able to learn of some new companies to submit work to that I had not previously thought about.
Also did I mention….who knew how many artists buy one another’s work!?! What a wonderful thing to be surprised by not just to see happening throughout the weekend, but to have happen first hand as well!
Final Thoughts & Highlights
Some of my favorite things about my first time at Illuxcon:
- Meeting long time internet friends in person at long last! You know who you are.
- The ladies of sci-fi/fantasy illo dinner
- Meeting professionals that I not only admire for their work ethics and beautiful art, but look to as role models as I continue to discover the paths my work will lead me on.
- Swag- Not only was I able to make my first time purchases of original art, but took away a bunch of swag from tons of friends and amazing artists
Illuxcon, all in all, was and is a wonderful experience. My advice to those attending for the first time is to just be open to the experiences and opportunities. It’s a safe environment: don’t be shy about sharing your work or your interests in those exhibiting because that is the entire point of the show. And if you can, find and talk to Mr. John Jude Palencar (ask him about his experiences and you will find yourself immediately charmed and put at ease for the entire rest of the show). And once again thank you so much to the Wilshires for creating such a great space for us, we will always love you for it!