The convention experience: IlluXCon 6

I recently attended IlluXCon 6 in Allentown, PA. IlluXCon is one of, if not the best, convention to attend as an artist/illustrator who is interested in the areas of sci-fi, fantasy and imaginative realism, but with as many others things in life; the experience is really what you make of it.

Socializing and Networking

When attending a convention it is key you decide with yourself what you want out of the convention. Most likely as an artist you are there for networking and to get some feedback on your work. In order to network and make friends as well as contacts you naturally have to socialize. If you (like me) are shy or introvert by nature that can be daunting to overcome, but it is a battle you have to fight with yourself to get anything out of the convention. If you do not you may as well stay at home.

This year the first day was a little tough, I was locked into a box of shyness but the following days it became much better. This was at large thanks to my wonderful convention companion Iris Compiet who is nothing short of a radiant social butterfly. As a whole this second time of attending IlluXCon was far more rewarding and less intimidating than the first time: [Click here to read Lessons from IlluxCon 5]

This was largely because having been there once before I knew more people which made it easier to strike up conversation and less intimidating to approach artists whose work I admire. If you plan on attending a convention as this I recommend you read up on the artists that are attending and perhaps try to look the ones you are the most interested in up on Facebook ahead of time, also remember everyone else, even people who have been in the business for a long time, are just as worried about how they come across to new people.

This year I got to have a conversation with Petar Meseldzija, who is one of my absolut favourite artists.

This year I got to have a conversation with Petar Meseldzija, who is one of my absolut favourite artists.

Ideas for exhibition and sale

Conventions are a feast of good ideas on how to do your own table display and which items that sell. At conventions such as IlluxCon the main draw are original art but there are still a variety of items that are worth considering next to your traditional pieces. From what I saw at IlluxCon here are some ideas:

  1. Postcards – Often used as freebies but you can also sell them.
  2. ACEO (Artist’s Card Editions and Originals) cards. ACEO cards are 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ miniature original art. It can be a sketches, more refined drawings or even mini paintings. It’s a great way to make a unique, collectible item. Iris Compiet and Betsy Peterschmidt were selling ACEO sketchcards for $5 a piece and both sold out of all they did.
  3. Sketchbooks/Booklet – Consider putting all your best sketches and/or pieces together into a limited edition booklet. Artist’s sketchbooks like these are popular and very collectible. The prices usually vary from $15 to $50 depending on the size of the booklet, the amount of pages and whether it includes an original sketch.
  4. Sketches – If you have a pile of sketches lying around why not sort through them, pick out your best, mat them and sell them. Sketches can be a great way for people on a budget to still invest in an original, collectible piece of your artwork.
Comic artist and illustrator Betsy Peterschmidt is showing some of her ACEO sketches.

Comic artist and illustrator Betsy Peterschmidt is showing some of her ACEO sketches.

Convention Highlights

Some of my personal highlights at the convention were:

Fairy Tales Lecture by Jeff A. Menges
Jeff A. Menges is illustrator in Gaming and Publishing industries, an adjunct professor, and author/editor of numerous books on Golden Age illustration. Jeff has a passion for fairy tales which he did a brilliant lecture on. He spoke of why fairy tales is such a valuable source for artists and put into perspective how they are being utilized and revived in modern day. On a personal note the lecture answered some questions for me on my own career that I have been struggling with.

The Showcase
The showcase had been revised from last year’s set up. Not only because of the new venue but also because it was two nights (Friday and Saturday) instead of just one. Further it was a much bigger space and it became really bustling. During the showcase I received some very helpful and constructive feedback on my artwork and career by established artists such as Steven Belledin, Randy Gallegos and Milivoj Cerán among others, which will help me greatly moving forward. I also had a wonderful time meeting many new and interesting people and exhibiting my artwork.

New friends and sharing knowledge
While I met many people at the convention there are some in particular I had really great conversations with and also just plain goofy times with. It’s always great to make new friends and especially ones that share your interests. The even better part about it is sharing your knowledge and being able to help one another moving forward.

The new venue
IlluxCon moved from Altoona, PA to Allentown, PA and was set up at the Allentown Museum of Art. The new venue was just so much better, the set up was just fantastic and everything was easily accessible within walking distance. Loved it!

Photos

To wrap this up here are a selection of photos from the convention. I hope this blog post has given you some insights into IlluxCon. If you are a new or young artists who have questions about the convention, please feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Lastly a sincere thank you to Jeannie and Patrick Wilshire, who hosts this magnificent event every year. You are beyond amazing.

Links:
Jeff A. Menges on Facebook
Jon Schindehette: A Checklist for Success on Convention planning
Betsy Peterschmidt’s online comic: Boys with Wings
Betsy Peterschmidt’s Online Portfolio
Iris Compiet’s Website
Iris Compiet on Facebook
IlluXCon

Kiri Østergaard Leonard
kiri@kirileonard.com

Award winning Illustrator, Artist and Creator Kiri Østergaard Leonard happily shares her experiences making a living as an artist and pursuing a creative life. She grew up in a tiny village in Denmark, left her country behind to pursue art in the bustle of New York City and now resides in the delightful weirdness of Austin, Texas surrounded by sunshine and felines.

2 Comments

  • William O'Connor

    05.10.2013 at 02:22 Reply

    Great insights Kiri- This business is very social since everyone know each other so well!

  • Mike Burns

    01.10.2013 at 00:45 Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post, you've given me a lot of ideas on how to make next Illuxcon even better 🙂 thanks!

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