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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yeah in the last post I said I was too lazy to do more than one post about Illuxcon. I lied. The fact is I was exhausted and couldn’t think of more to say, but now that I had time to sleep I found out I have plenty more to say. So I’m probably going to do this post about stuff I have learned there and one more about people I have met there. I hope I’m just not going to lie again and not do a third post. Sheesh.
About setting up a table:
- Test the pens you plan to use to sign prints on the prints you plan to use them on. I found out over there that my gel pens would not write on the printed parts of the print, so I had to sign on the white part. I bought a felt tip silver pen now, but I still have to test it.
- 12×18 prints take a lot of space and it’s not easy to find frames for them, 12×16 is more common, even if it doesn’t make much difference on the space on your table. I don’t think it made a difference on my sales but I discovered that shopping for frames before the con. I don’t want my clients to have problems framing my art, so the next prints will be 12×16.
- Even if visitors pick up your prints, they still want your business card, they do different things with them (I nearly ran out of business cards.)
- I surveyed people on my different styles, it gave them something to talk about and it was an ice breaker, I made people spend more time at my table than they would have otherwise, without making me look like a sales person. There’s also the fact that I was there not expecting to sell anything, so it helps.
- People don’t read signs, at least handwritten signs. I had a sign saying:”These small prints are free, pick one” but maybe two visitors in the entire show have read it I think. I had to tell them to take one. Some of them didn’t really believe me and kept asking :”Are you sure?”
- You should not expect amazing sales of prints in the showcase, because you are competing with the main show for money and wallspace. I know some people sell originals in the showcase, or books. I only sold two prints and that’s because it was prints of Lily and Notre Dame des Fleurs, a style that was quite unique to me, so there wasn’t anyone in the main show doing the same only better.
About meeting people:
- It’s perfectly ok when the time for meal comes to go see a bunch of people milling in front of the door and ask them if they are going out for dinner and if you can tag along. It’s easier if there is anyone in there you have talked to previously, but seriously, sometimes you think it’s all people who know each other and you’re surprised once at the restaurant to find you are in a kind of spontaneous mob.
- Sometimes you really want to talk to someone at their table but other visitors come along and the person wants to be a gracious host and greet everyone stopping by. It’s fine to show your portfolio and chat, but be aware that you are not the only visitor and some other visitors might actually buy art so they need to be talked to.
- Take your portfolio everywhere, you never know when someone will want to look at it.
- Conversation pieces are good, you want people to remember you. Dorian Iten gave me a beautiful hand drawn business card. It’s the first time I ever get one and it’s a great idea. If everyone was doing it, it wouldn’t be as good an idea however. Find your own thing.
- Wear your name tag, people might have talked to you and subsequently forgotten your name. A subtle glance at your nametag is less embarassing than admitting they forgot your name. They might talk to you more if you wear it! I know I do, and I’m terrible with faces. Nametags are a life saver.
I’m just back from my second trip to Altoona. When I first crossed the border, the agent asked me where I was going, and when I told him his bewilderment was obvious. I had to explain that I was going to an illustration convention. His answer:”Illustration? Like, cartooning?” I debated trying to explain the difference but decided against it and he just waved me through. Yes, it takes a pretty good reason to make the 11 hours drive from Montreal to Altoona, but Illuxcon is all the reason I need.
Last year I did a series of posts on Illuxcon, but this year I’m too lazy. I have to say that I sat on amazing lectures. Jane Frank gave one of her usual very informative business lectures, Robh Ruppel, Jon Schindehette, Zoë Robinson and Lauren Panepinto, I learn how art is prepared for a museum exhibit with Rachel Klees Anderson and many other panels and lectures. I was also in the Showcase for the very first time. It was a very good experience, I got to give away a lot of small prints I had made for the occasion and to get a lot of (good) feedback on my work. I was polling my visitors on which of my styles they liked the best. It turns out that the opinions are very evenly divided, but people who like my traditional work have a more emotional response to it that the people who liked my photoshop pieces better.It seems it just can’t be clear cut, decisions decision!
Since I’m too lazy to type a more complete repport, I’m leaving you with Chris Burdett’s posts.
I can be honest about it: I’m not a veteran of conventions. Con*cept was my first convention as a panelist and as an exhibitor. I signed up at the last minute because I learned about it at the last minute and had to make up for lost time by working very hard. I also got the last spot open for a panel which means I was scheduled at 11pm on Saturday. The good news is there was only one panel at the same time, and it got cancelled. I learned about Con*cept at the last minute, which means I didn’t do that much research before signing up. You can imagine my surprised when I got there and found out we were only 4 in the art show. Con*cept is entirely run by volunteers and the last few years have been rough and the art show head was missing or something. So yeah, something to check for next time.
On the other hand, a surprising number of people attended my panel, given the size of the con and the time it was scheduled at. I had a great time explaining the process of producing commissioned art and then I gave a painting in photoshop crash course. I got very good questions and the attendance were nice and curious. I also got good comments from the people visiting the art show (it didn’t take them very long!) The good thing was that the prints table was manned by volunteers and that left me free to attend some panels so that made up for the fact that I didn’t break even vs my costs for attending the con. The other thing that made it worth it was the people I met. I attend the IMC and Illuxcon and forums and that means that most of my art friends are in the states or overseas, now I got to meet local artists, at last. One of the artists I met was EveChat and we are going to team up on up coming local conventions together. I’ll post about it here as soon as everything is official.
So I don’t regret attending Con*cept but I will check my expectations next time.
It’s been a full week since my visit to Montreal Comic Con. It’s enough time that I hope the worse of the frustration has had time to settle a little. I say that because it was not the best of experiences. It was only my third visit to a convention, the first having been Illuxcon 2010 in Altoona Pennsylvania and the second having been the Montreal Mini Comic Con in december 2010. Illuxcon was all kinds of awesome and I have written about it at length. The mini con was pretty nice, it was small, I got to talk with artists who had tables, to look at everything I wanted to see, to attend very lame amateur wrestling matches and I generally had a good time.
Now, the real Montreal Comic Con, they kept announcing new guests, and hyping the batmobile and the Back to the Future DeLorean. Stan Lee! Adam west! Burt Ward! And plenty of entertainment celebrities I had never heard of. There was a lot of advertisement and it promised to be a big event. Now, I’m not a big fan of american style comics, I don’t really care for superheroes and I hardly watch any t.v. so that wasn’t my draw to go there. I wanted to see if it would be worth my while to get a table there next year.
I managed to convince my boyfriend to come with me because I wanted a second opinion on business oriented stuff. He wasn’t too keen on it, but in the end he decided to come. I bought the tickets online and we went there around 1h30 on the Saturday. Big mistake, it was crowded and everyone was confused, the logistics was lame and there were cues all over the place. Was had to wait in line for 1.5 hours to get in. Once in, it was so crowded that it was not always possible to go in the direction you wanted. There were so many people in front of some tables that we could not even see whose table it was. All in all it was a pain, I managed to talk to some artists who had useful insight, and we did see some cool stuff, most notably the preview that La Gallery had of their new Pin Up show. We didn’t stay very long and my thought was: I never want to go there again, my boyfriend concurs. The Comic Con organization did apologize on Facebook, but it would take very good reasons for me to set foot there again.