Tagged: convention

Conventional Wisdom: Boreal 2014

I just got back from Quebec City where I attended my first Boreal convention. Boreal is a French language literary convention with a focus on science-fiction, fantasy and other speculative genres.  It has hopped about to different cities in Quebec, but this year it was in Quebec City.

Weirdly enough, due to my heavy networking on English language forums and attendance of events like Illuxcon and the IMC, most of my art and publishing contacts are American, or at least, not Quebecers. We have a thriving local industry and I wanted to learn more so I signed up! I also volunteered to take part in the programming and I ended up participating in three panels.

There is a side of me who feels like a fraud whenever I’m put in a position like that, but I manage to rationalize it. It turns out I had a ball. I really enjoyed myself and I was lucky to have fantastic co-panelists. One of the subjects was touchy (the one about misogyny) but I felt that there was respect all around, both at the panel table and in the audience. I also got to see Christian Sauvé’s conference about being a critic and a variety of panels, I visited the exhibitors room and met great people. I also had two original paintings with me, one of them being a cover for Solaris winter 2014, so I was told be a lot of people that they had recognized it, which always feels good, the other one was Un Bon Cygne.

It’s a fairly small scene but a lot of my fellow con-goers and all the staff and volunteers went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

As usual, my tips for anyone thinking of going to a small to medium-sized convention are the same:

  • Do it.
  • Wear your name tag, make sure it’s visible.
  • Bring a portfolio and business cards, take them everywhere with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach people and introduce yourself.
  • When it’s lunchtime and a lot of people are milling about, it’s ok to ask perfect strangers if you can join them. Eating with someone is a great way to get to know them.
  • Be nice and non-creepy.

Upcoming appearance: Boreal 2014

Next weekend is Congrès Boréal, it’s a small literary sci-fi/fantasy convention that’s been around since 1979. It’s in Québec City and I will attend for the first time. I will bring two paintings: SteelButt Jack, the cover I did for Solaris, and Un Bon Cygne, a new one that I’m going to show in public for the first time.

Un Bon Cygne, acrylic and copper leaf on mdf.

Un Bon Cygne, acrylic and copper leaf on mdf.Acrylique et feuille de cuivre sur mdf.

But I’m not just going to hang art and hang out there. I’m part of 3 round tables, 2 in French, 1 in English. So on Friday night, I will be in the “Fantasy et science-fiction dans les médias audio-visuels” panel from 9p.m. to 10 p.m.
On Saturday I will be on the “Fantasy et autres cultures” panel from 11a.m. to 12a.m. and on Sunday I will take part in the “To Speak and Be Heard: Geek Culture and Misogyny” panel from 10a.m. to 11a.m. I hope that my years in the video game industry and my experience as a genre illustrator will give me a perspective that attendees find interesting. I will also be found sitting on other panels, hanging out with my peers and can even be convinced to give a few portfolio critiques if you bring your work for review.


Le Congrès Boréal aura lieu en fin de semaine prochaine, c’est un petit congrès littéraire sur la science-fiction et le fantastique et c’est en existence depuis 1979. C’est a Québec et j’y participerai pour la première fois. J’amènerai 2 peintures: Steelbutt Jack, la couverture que j’ai faite pour Solaris, et Un Bon Cygne, ma dernière oeuvre que je montrerai en public pour la première fois.

Mais je n’y serai pas que pour montrer de l’art et me divertir. Je prendrai part à 3 tables rondes, 2 en français et une en anglais. Vendredi soir, je serai à la table ronde “Fantasy et science-fiction dans les médias audio-visuels” de 21:00 à 22:00. Samedi, je serai à la table ronde “Fantasy et autres cultures” de 11:00 à 12:00 et dimanche, je participerai à celle intitulée “To Speak and Be Heard: Geek Culture and Misogyny” de 10:00 à 11:00. J’espère que mes années dans l’industrie du jeu vidéo et mon expérience comme illustratrice me donneront une perspective que les spectateurs trouveront intéressante. On me trouvera aussi dans l’auditoire d’autres tables rondes, à me mêler à mes pairs et je pourrais même être convaincue de donner quelques critiques de portfolio, si vous amenez vos œuvres avec vous.

Post Illuxcon Post

Illuxcon has been over for a few many weeks now and I have yet to write anything about it. Not because it wasn’t great, but I came back completely exhausted and overwhelmed. So here I am, making a very late attempt at a summary.

There were many firsts at Illuxcon this year. It was the first time the show lasted 5 days (Wednesday to Sunday,) it was the first time it was held in Allentown (before it was in Altoona, PA,) it was the first time I had a travel companion (I went with my buddy Sybiline, whom I met at a different convention – see? conventions are important,) first time there were other french speakers I got to hang out with.

Sybiline and me in front of the main venue.

Sybiline and me in front of the main venue.

The whole lasting 5 days thing came with its lot of changes as well. There is now two parts to the main show, one that lasts the whole five days and a weekend salon that was also juried but was only held on Saturday and Sunday. The life drawing and live music events were merged together and held on Thursday night. The showcase which used to last 4 hours was now twice as long, Friday and Saturday evenings.


I was on the waiting list for the showcase and only learned that I had a table less than two weeks before the show so I had a lot to prepare. Traveling across the border with paintings is a problem because while there is no duty on art, I’m not allowed to work in the U.S. and selling art would be working (weirdly enough, I’m allowed to have a booth and to take orders for sales, but not to actually give the art to the buyer, even if it’s already painted.) So I only brought Pink! as a display piece, and some prints as “promotional material.” Had I had more time to prepare, I could have shipped the originals to the show in advance. I’ll know for the next year. Two nights of showcase is a lot, the artists in the main show have to man their table for much longer, but finishing at midnight twice in a row takes its toll. And after 11p.m. there aren’t that many visitors doing the rounds.

Will Dudla was nice enough to send me the picture the picture he took when he visited my table.

Will Dudla was nice enough to send me the picture he took when he visited my table.

Main show

As usual, the art in the main show was stunning. The new venue offers much higher walls than the old venue and some of the artists really took advantage of it. Michael Whelan and Donato Giancola had massive pieces that would have never fit in Altoona. I’m always overwhelmed by how nice almost everyone is at such events. I have a problem recognising faces and I’m often embarrassed to be recognized by people whose face I don’t remember (wear your name badge people!) The embarrassment is compounded by how much some artists get out of their ways to explain their techniques, answer question, review portfolio and offer precious advice even when you are obviously not in the market for their paintings.

Weekend salon

When youhad the weekend salon to the main show, you get a gigantic event. A lot of new faces there and also artists who had been in the main show in the past. The weekend salon is a lot less work, the artists only have to be present at their tables for two days instead of 5. The down side is that it was very hard to hang around the weekend salon because the space was smaller than planned (apparently the museum floor plans were not very accurate!) and everyone was there at the same time, since there was only two days to see everything and there were still lectures and demos going on. I was very glad to see friend of mine have tables i the salon, it was a great way to introduce new artists to Illuxcon.

Lectures and demos

As usual, there is so much good programming that I had to make very difficult choices. I mostly went to demos and practical lectures: Nonie Nelson on anatomy, Jason Cheeseman-Meyer on perspective, painting demos by Jeremy Wilson (I found his way of working very alien, I guess that’s a good thing) and Armand Cabrera. I also went to the Schindehette/Ruppel talk about concept art vs illustration and the M:tG panel, and the Hildebrand talk about colors (which turned out to be about anecdotes and Michael Jackson and not so much about color theory.) Overall, I felt more rushed than other years, like everything was crammed together and I never had enough time to see what I wanted to see but I really enjoyed what I got to see.


Of course, there is even more to Illuxcon. Meeting new friends, catching up with old friends, meeting people I had known online for a long long time for the first time, seeing some I had not seen in years. Talking to heroes and discovering new inspirations. Of course, no convention is complete without swag and this one is no exception. Aside from a crapton of business cards, I bought two great sketchbooks. I really like books that have process pictures, either just drawings or drawings with finished pieces.

Sketchbooks by Randy Gallegos and Allen Douglas along with interior shots for the respective books.

Sketchbooks by Randy Gallegos and Allen Douglas along with interior shots for the respective books.

Here lie links.

The only upside to being so slow is that a ton of other people have already posted about Illuxcon and I can make a list of posts. Ha!

Armand Cabrera’s painting demo

Recap by Eric Super Villain on Massive Fantastic , with a video

Review by Juan Carlos Barquet, IlluXCon Student Scholarship winner

Mike Burns’s notes from the lectures and panels.

Jane Frank’s superlative and glowing review. Jane is an art dealer specialised in speculative art and has given very interesting lectures on business at Illuxcon over the years.

A lecture by Jane Frank at Illuxcon, posted by Drawn Today podcast.

Jon Schindehette, art director extraordinaire’s Illuxcon review.

Advice to students out there

This post comes from a conversation I had with my colleague Britt Snyder (You can see his portfolio here ) when he came to Montreal for MIGS and afterwards on Facebook. Britt teaches in a Interactive Media & Game Development program and we  concerned ourselves with the perception that some students have that all they had to do was to get their degrees and all the video game company doors would open for them. It is also a follow-up of my account of the MIGS career fair. I thought this might be of use to some of you out there on the world-wide web.


For a start, I thought I’d give a brief idea of where I’m coming from. I have never gotten a studio job by sending a resume cold turkey. My first job I got because  people from the company came to do interviews at the school where I was studying (NAD Center.) To be honest I was very lucky because it was long ago when there were less game schools and they were looking for 2D animators at a 3D school. I was hired because I was one of the few who knew how to draw before getting to that school. I also was one of the few who had a very cute demo with bright colors that might work for a kids game. I shouldn’t have gotten that job, I didn’t know the first thing about 2D animation! But it gave me contacts and experience and several published titles under my belt.

The other jobs I have had, people I knew who worked there referred me. Being vouched for by other people and having shipped titled and the names of big companies help a lot, but things still aren’t a breeze. Even with years of professional experience, you can’t expect to find a job just like that. There are many specialties in art and each position requires a different combo of skills. Have too many skills and someone thinks you are spread too thin. Have too few, you don’t fulfill your role. Add to that the styles of the game the company publishes and it’s even harder to find the right position. I thought that by getting my first job in a studio I had made it and everything would be easy after that. Finding that I had to keep working by myself and improve whatever the position I had reached was a rude awakening.

For freelance work, I have found that it’s all a question of having work in your portfolio that looks a lot like what the client wants. They don’t want to imagine what you could possibly do. For example, I’m unlikely to ever get a gig doing hard sci-fi, I have not a single robot or spaceship in my portfolio. A hefty client list also helps.

My take

While no one would expect a dental hygienist to clean teeth by herself on the weekend beyond the needs of their classes to make sure they have a job upon graduation, unfortunately the same is not true for artists. Everyone can see at a glance how good you are and the competition is fierce. Art is not a protected title, anyone can give it a try to make it with enough hard work. You can’t increase scarcity by restraining training and even if you did, more non-credited schools would pop up. I did some research into art education recently because I’m considering teaching and I have found out that the number of schools in the province of Québec that teach some variation of art or design is staggering. The access to these classes in the public establishment is often limited due to limited  positions available upon graduation but there are many many private schools that sell their services to students who think that what they need is a degree. Some of these programs are very intensive which means that the student gets their degree faster, but also that they have less time to practice on the side.

My advice

If you are in school, you need to get better than anyone else in your class at the thing it is you want to do. You probably won’t be better at everything but most programs teach a variety of skills. You need to find one that you are exceptionally good at. Also, compare what you do with what you see in the types of products you want to work on. No one is going to hire you to make their product look bad. Of course, art director’s will give you pointers and you will learn from your work mates, but you should be able to do SOMETHING that would fit in an existing product.

It’s not worth applying for jobs where you don’t have multiple samples of that particular specialty. I’ve seen that a lot. People with portfolios full of life drawings trying to get jobs in comics. People with portfolios of school work trying for senior jobs. It’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

You want to do concept art, you do several items that look like they belong on the same screen. You want to model, you need several models of different things. You want to animate you need several different animations. Not just walk cycles. And no 1 model, 1 animation, 1 button, 1 texture, 1 life drawing, 1 this, 1 that because that’s all homework. Everyone can tell if a portfolio is full of homework.

At the MIGS career fair there was an art show. There was no jury, as far as I could tell, if you paid, you were in. I was looking at some of the stuff asking myself what the person was thinking. It didn’t look like it belonged in a portfolio, even less on a wall at an industry event. It’s a good thing no one’s going to remember them so it won’t haunt them later, but it’s 25$ gone to waste because someone didn’t compare their work with industry level art. There is no use in promoting your work if it is sub par.

Promoting yourself is a different thing. Getting to know people before your work is of professional level might help you in the long run. Let people know that you are a nice person with a good attitude is a good thing. They might remember that when your art is better. (Note: this doesn’t mean you should stalk industry professionals, this is creepy.)

And since software and feedback is easier to come by in school it’s best to work your ass off when you are there. Because you will have to do it afterwards too, and the more you do it in school, the easier it will be after. It’s the 10 000 hours and all that.
In hope this helps!

Never miss a convention again

…at least, if you miss it, it will be by choice or lack of budjet, and not because you didn’t learn about it until the following week. I just stole the tag line to the web site I am posting about. Fanevents.info is all about listing conventions and festivals so you can discover new ones and plan your convention season. You can register new events and see who else is attending an event. Of course, it’s brand new so some events are missing, but the more people use it, the more complete it will be. If you are planning an event, go and list it!

I have friends who go to cons (un message bilingue!)

An announcement/ Une annonce

I’m a relative newb when it comes to being an exhibitor at conventions but I’m  working hard at it. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I had the idea when I was at the Mini Comic Con on Montreal a few weeks ago to start a Facebook group for dealers and artists who go to cons. The goal is to get feedback on which conventions are good for dealers, tips for setting up tables and pricing and find people to share tables with or maybe car pool. Most of the conversation happens in french and it’s mostly centered on cons accessible for people in the eastern parts of Canada but if you are a dealer or an artist in conventions and you are interested, drop me a line on Facebook!

Je suis relativement débutante comme exposante dans les conventions, mais je travaille fort quand même. Je suis certaine que je ne suis pas la seule. Pendant le dernier Mini Comic Con de Montréal, j’ai eu l’idée de fonder un groupe Facebook pour les exposants et les artistes qui vont dans des conventions. Le but est d’avoir du feedback sur les différentes conventions, d’avoir des trucs pour les tables, les prix, de trouver des gens avec qui partager une table ou avec qui faire le trajet. Beaucoup des conversations sont en français et on est surtout concentrés sur les conventions accessibles aux gens dans l’est du Canada mais si vous êtes un exposants et que vous êtes intéressez, envoyez-moi un message sur Facebook!

Some Friends/Des amis

I meet all kinds of wonderful people when I go to cons, and I see al kinds of surprising things. Here are some new friends.

Mike Rooth.

Mike was our “across the alley” neighbor. He spent a lot of time working in front of con goers, I think this might explain his success.


Eve was my tablemate. I think our themes fit well together without competing. For some reason, she has a lot of cute stuff, but her zombies were the most popular.

Catherinette Rings.

One of our neighbors was Catherine of Catherinette Rings. Her partner crafts the jewelry and she helps a lot with the sales and logistics and some of the design. We had time to chat and I had time to look at their beautiful steampunk sculptures.


I also had the pleasure of hanging out with Kanthara a.k.a. Karine Charlebois, comic artist and storyboarder extraordinaire.

Conventional wisdom: Mini Comic Expo 2011

Last Sunday, I attended the Montreal Mini Comic Con at Place Bonaventure. I was sharing a table with my friend Eve. Even though I did not attend any panels, for there weren’t any, I learned a lot and I’m still processing everything that happened. This was only my 3rd convention as an exhibiting artist and the 2nd time I had a table (after Illuxcon) so it was the first time I attended with the goal of selling work. Illuxcon was really  a promoting and learning experience for me, I wasn’t expecting to sell anything.

Eve at our shared table

The Mini Comic Expo, or Mini Comic Con or however you want to call it is almost more of a fair than a real convention. There isn’t any content, just dealers and artists. I was expecting visitors would be there wanting to buy, and some did buy, but it wasn’t very profitable for me or my neighbors. I’m sure some of the dealers made money and I’m not blaming the visitors. It partly confirmed my hunch that people who go to comic conventions want to see characters they know. It’s not the perfect place for fantasy art. I don’t know that I would have been much more succesful even if I had been working on well known fantasy IP’s. However if I was working on M:tG, I sure as hell would have tried to get next to the card game stores’ booths.

Me with the table

I’m still learning how to address passersby without scaring them into thinking that I’m trying to pressure them to buy. They truth is, I often just seek their impression of the con itself and want to know what they have enjoyed so far. It’s far more general market research. I have also learned from other dealers that this is not a very good event for artists who do anime. I’m also learning that 10am to 5pm is a long time to spend at a table if things are going slow. By 3, a lot of us were looking at our watches and many of the younger attendees and cosplayers were starting  to act up and show their wariness, including but not limited to a game of tag, some acrobatics, lots of noise and some drama in the ladies’ room.

Finally, I’m glad I went. It was not very financially rewarding but it was a good place to practice my salesmanship, and the FSM knows it needs practicing.

Mini Comic-Con December 2011

Attempt to draw an elf in a plausible armor. Drawn in the art show at Con*cept.

There is going to be a small Anime and Comic book Expo on December 4th 2011 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at Place Bonaventure. It’s by the same people who organise Montreal ComicCon in September, but much smaller and I don’t expect any line ups. There weren’t any last year, at least. I’m not sure there is going to be much in the way of panels or activities, but there are going to be around twenty artists tables and a hundred exhibitors. I will be there, sharing a table with EveChat so drop by and say hi.

They are also going to announce the guest for the big even next September and there is going to be a big Innistrad M:tG tournament organised by Carta Magica.

Admission 5$, free for kids.


Il y aura une petite exposition d’Animé et de BD le 4 décembre 2011 de 10h à 17h à la Place Bonaventure. Elle est organisée par les même gens qui font Le ComicCon de Montréal en septembre, mais c’est beaucoup plus petit et je ne m’attend pas à des files d’attentes. En tout cas, il n’y en avait pas l’an passé. Je ne suis pas certaine qu’il y ait des panels ou des activités mais il y aura une vingtaine d’artistes et une centaines d’exposants. J’y partagerai une table avec EveChat alors passez me voir!

Il y aura aussi l’annonce des invités pour le ComicCon de l’an prochain et Carta Magica organise un tournois de M:tG Innistrad.

Admission 5$, gratuit pour les enfants.