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 have a cool announcement to make. Not only will I take part in the Con*cept art show, I will be giving a digital painting presentation. Con*Cept is Montreal’s only fan run annual science-fiction and fantasy convention. It will be my first time there.
I will have some original paintings, some prints from my digital work and some sketch cards for sale.
My panel will be Saturday night at 23:00 and I will go through the steps of a typical rpg assignment. If you are going to Con*cept, make sure to stop by!
For comments or questions you can contact me at chantal (at) chantalfournier (dot) com.
I’d also like to remind you guys of my mailing list . I promise that I’m not going to use this list to spam you about trivial stuff all the time. I have an option to sign up as an art director, a collector or just a curious person, I’m going to use that knowledge of my audience to tailor my mailings. I’m not going to give, sell or lease this list. Please sign up, you might even learn something!
This is no substitute for the IMC, but it’s a good way to remember Iain’s enthousiasm or to understand why everyone was so excited about the IMC. Iain (the brain behind the designs for Queen Amidala, Darth Maul, Harry Potter, T2, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, some fantastic Fighting Fantasy art, etc) is a very positive and motivating instructor with an amazing perspective on life.
This is really worth 40 minutes of your time.
Things have been very slow at work, but apparently that’s about to change. But just because they are slow, it doesn’t mean that I just sat there and did nothing. I do studies and sketches, study Bridgeman and perspective and try to stay sharp. And this week I designed some helmets. I started with about 20-25 line drawings and then I picked my favorites and rendered them. I didn’t have any criteria other than try and make them cool and not historically accurate.
Wow, remembering what I was doing at this time last year is tough. It’s been a busy busy year and it looks like the next one is going to be even more so.
Last year in January, we were still living in Quebec city. I was somewhat involved in the Art Order community, having just finished my Hurakan piece. I used to hang out with the folks at the Quebec City Drink and Draw, and coming up with activities for the Drawing club at work. I knew I wanted to do more illustration work, but I didn’t really know what to do about it. I was registered for the IMC but I didn’t know what to expect of it.
In March, my partner got a job offer in Montreal that he couldn’t refuse, so he moved there while I was looking for a new job. I tried transferring from Ubisoft’s Quebec studio to their Montreal studio, but they just didn’t need any artists. I sent a whole lot of resumes and ended up accepting a position with EA Mobile on their prototype/new devices team. I started in May, only our apartment wasn’t available until July. A lot of logistics ensued. In the middle of this mess, I went to the IMC, and despite almost missing out on the fact that I had an assignment to prepare and getting there with just thumbnails, I came out of there with a whole new focus and a lot of motivation.
I worked worked worked on my portfolio and went to Illuxcon 3 in November. It was great and I got the chance to meet up again with a lot of my IMC mates. I also got the chance to show my portfolio to a lot of people. Including Jeremy Cranford, Steve Prescott, Jean Scrocco and Jeremy Jarvis who all gave me great critiques. I was particularly lucky that Jeremy Jarvis was there because he had critiqued my work at the IMC and I had worked hard on the aspects that he told me about. Now he gave me new things to work on, so that’s encouraging!
I came back motivated again and kept working on my portfolio. Just like with my Hurakan piece for ArtOrder, I finished a new ambitious piece: Donjon Delve, just before the Holidays. I took a well deserved rest during the Holidays, and now I’m ready to get back in the action!
I also already registered for the 2011 IMC (only 12 places left!) and for Illuxcon 4 (and I got a showcase table, they were sold out in 30 hours!) So I’m looking forward to seeing some of you guys there.
As usual, you can see my work here: www.chantalfournier.com
My posts about Illuxcon 3:
Some other artists who made a review of 2010:
Perhaps you are wondering why everyone is babbling about Illuxcon and have been for a while, perhaps you are considering going there next year and you want to know if it’s worth your hard earn money, perhaps you have been before and couldn’t go this year!
Well, it’s not going to replace the whole experience, but maybe you can get a glimpse of what you missed as I regale you with wondrous tales of … eh… lectures.
Now, let me tell you, at some points there were up to three lectures going on at the same time and I had to make some choices. These were not easy choices. I think we all struggled to choose.
Todd Lockwood – The art of composition
Well, this was more of a show and tell than a class on composition. Todd walked us through his extensive career, and showed us all the possible ways to paint Drizz’t Do’Urden. I did pick up some composition tips, one of which is the sharp cast shadow to bring out a character who’s the same color as the background. He also had nice touches as spine elements in his wraparound compositions and he did talk about using lines of action to guide our eyes across a scene.
Jane Frank – The art of negotiation: a lecture and role-play
Jane has a most colorful style and extensive experience as a negotiator. This talk was targeted at both artists and collectors. She walked us into the different steps and styles of negotiation and she gave us tips so that we can practice. That’s right, just like everything else, getting a good deal requires practice. She then followed up by negotiating live with a volunteer and giving us a play by play of everything he did right or wrong. This talk was both educational and entertaining. Michael Whelan was also sitting to the side and giving us nuggets of wisdom as the lecture went.
Jeff Menges – Learning from the past: The influence of golden age illustration on fantasy art today.
That title was a mouthful. This one was interesting, but I don’t think it’s going to change the way I look at art or the way I work. I found looking at parallels between contemporary illustrators and their golden age counterparts to be entertaining, but I already look at the past to get inspired and I already knew about other artists doing so. I learned new stuff about Dover publishing (Jeff works there) and I picked some new names of artists to look at but it might have worked better as an article in, say, Realms of Fantasy than as a lecture in a crowded room of overexcited people.
Dave Seeley – Dollars & $sense: How to keep the financial from sabotaging the creative
Another mouthful. Here Dave walked us along the path of his career and the choices he made. He made it very clear that this was his path and that someone might have done differently, and it was nice that he was not shy about spelling things out and giving us numbers. He talked about reliability, about agents and what they can do for you, about doing shows and getting your name out there, about the difference in pay in advertisement jobs and publishing jobs. It was very down to earth and I’m sure it was a serious dose of reality for many attendees.
Donato Giancola – The business of freelance
Donato moderated this panel that included Greg Hildebrandt and his agent Jeannie (if I understood well,) Michael Whelan, John Jude Palencar and I think that’s it. Microphones would have been nice for this one, even sitting in the 3rd row, I had a hard time hearing everyone. It was interesting, and I have to say that the point of view from an agent was the most educational for me. I was a bit disappointed that some of the younguns like Dan Dos Santos or Steve Prescott have not been included, starting a career in the age of the internet is very different than starting it 30 years ago.
Lars Grant-West – Dragon design, a naturalistic approach
That was amazing. Lars used to work in a zoo and he knows his stuff, he talked about many factors that can and should influence dragon design. How scales work, what bird feet looks like, the weight of horns and antlers, how wings are built in vertebrate (birds, bats, pterosaurs,) muscle placement, jaw structure, teeth, you name it. He had brought specimens (casts, skulls, antlers) for us to handle and marvel at and had an extensive slide-show to support his explanation. All of that with a serious side order of carnivourous beetle management and the science of roadkill. This lecture will definitely change the way I draw fantasy animals.
Now, I might have done some different choices if I had not attended the IMC last year (and if I was not going back next year) but for now, I made the choice that my business knowledge lags behind my art knowledge and it tinted my selection of lectures for this IMC.
As some of you might know, I spent the last few days in the scenic (but very small and far) town of Altoona, PA. I was there to be part of the 3rd edition of Illuxcon and I had the chance to mingle, chat and see lectures by some of the best fantasy/sci-fi illustrators alive.
Some of the people I got to hang out with happen to be part of collective blogs that have their own art podcasts.
I got to hang out with Christine Mitzuk, Allen Douglas and Sam Kennedy of Drawn Today. Drawn today is a blog all about drawing everyday. It’s formed of amateurs and young professionals and the podcast covers a lot of basics. I found the episodes about IMC especially useful, to know what I was in for.
I also had the pleasure to spend time and mangle the english language in the company of Drew Baker and Jeremy McHugh of Ninja Mountain. I also met Prof Herbert who is part of episode 59, and I met Ralph Horsley briefly who is a regular contributor! I already knew Drew from last year’s IMC but the others are brand new friends. Ninja mountain is the home of a bunch of working professional illustrator who have been podcasting for a while, the last episode is 85. They talk about everything from tools to Jon Schindehette (who seems to be their favorite subject) and are not afraid to put their necks on the line in the name of podcasting.
And I can’t finish this post without a pic of some of the sweet books and prints I got there.