Thursday, July 3, 2014

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! A slightly belated post.

So- this is long overdue but Spectrum was awesome and deserves some more attention, even though it was nearly two months ago. (what. It's finally been sunny in New England and I need Vitamin D)

The first couple years I went to Spectrum as an attendee. This was great because I got to see everyone and go to all the panels and stuff. It also means I got to do some recon before actually making the plunge as an exhibitor. This year, I wanted to try out this whole table thing finally and see what happened. It was a lot of fun- I met a ton of new people that I probably wouldn't have met if I was just going around and finding everyone I already knew. And most of the people I knew stopped by to say hello anyways. Spectrum is also such a good community that if I wanted, I felt completely comfortable leaving for a while to walk around or do/see a panel or two. Affordable and friendly, it was a good choice for dipping my toe into the solo exhibitor ocean. Having the smart and savvy Scott Bakal around  out was also a huge help.

It's me!
Photo by Tara Larsen Chang

Quick thoughts on a having a table for the first time: 

  • Do your research. Find out what sort of show/audience it is, what sells and what doesn't. Look at pictures of other people's booths. Email them, ask questions. I got so much good advice both before and during the convention- it was a terrific learning experience.
  •  Everything I read said bring less than you think you need, especially for a first con. Marketing says fewer choices yield more sales. With that in mind-  I still brought too much especially knowing Spectrum is not a buying crowd. I had limited choices- which was good (basically all my sales were two images) but still brought more than I needed in quantity of prints for example. 
  • Placement counts. I was very lucky to get a"sidewall" artist alley table. Traffic and visibility was great for us- but after seeing the rest of the traditional artist alley set up, I won't take the chance again and will invest in a booth. Much better for welcoming people in to look at the art and presentation. At this sort of show, where most of the reason you are there is to show to other professionals, the odd collector and make connections, presentation makes a difference. 
  • Just like portfolios- show the sort of work you want to do more of. I didn't sell a ton but had commission inquiries  based on what I brought. It also gave me the opportunity to show some work that wasn't traditional portfolio stuff  but that I loved and got some good attention.
  • Engage. Stand up, smile and chat. If your voice isn't hoarse or gone by the end of the convention, you're doing it wrong. Try to avoid having a table barrier between you and people unless your chief traffic is signatures or sketches. If you are going to draw- try to do it in an engaging way  (outside your booth or standing in a way that welcomes people to watch and ask questions) so people don't feel like they are bugging you if they want to say hi. 

Fantastic Women panel

Courtesy of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

I am very grateful to Winona Nelson for including me on this panel. She asked some great questions and gave some terrific insight. There were some smart ideas and questions. We got a lot of positive feedback and continued discussions after. My biggest regret is that we only had one hour- as this conversation clearly only touched the tip of the iceberg. Sooo much to be said about that panel, but it's being worked up for a recap and follow up by the community so for now I will just mention some brief thoughts:
  • I was worried that we'd be preaching to the choir but there was a healthy mix of both men and women in the audience. That made me very happy. 
  • There is no single way to be a woman in illustration. Even with our small panel of intelligent, thoughtful women, we had a variety of opinions and experiences both good and bad. It was worth noting that none of us had children though- and that was a POV that needed some more representation.  The general consensus from the crowd was that having a supportive and reliable partner was paramount to doing both art and family successfully.
  •  Rebecca Yanovskaya made some great comments about being a working illustrator putting it in perspective with women's roles in our society. Mainly: Illustration is a job. Mothers work all the time, so why can't that work be illustration. I think there's a lot more to be said on that subject but it's an important idea. She also talked about how it's often hard for women to feel confident in their choice of subject matter and finding their own voice in this field because of the stereotypes that still exist.
  • Zoe Robinson is one smart cookie and is a great gift as an AD on some high profile properties with Fantasy Flight. She's always thinking about how women are represented in the genre and pushing for smarter choices regarding characters in her work. She often has to fight for fair representation and sometimes educate others why a particular idea might be sexist or insensitive.  She doesn't back down from the hard questions and is very thoughtful. She made a really good analogy that, as women generally we are starting at a lower level than our male counterparts and have further level-ups before we're taken seriously.
  • Camilla D' Errico is thoughtful, funny and confident. Proof that having a great attitude about your capabilities and options goes a long way. She, like me, has had very few negative experiences related to being a "female artist".  Mostly guys thought it was neat that we liked "guy" things like comics and games and we had some very good mentors who were men. (though I don't think either of us had a lot of female influences early on) She brought up one of my favorite quotes by George R.R. Martin. He was asked, "There’s one thing that’s interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from? " Martin answered: "You know, I’ve always considered women to be people."
  • Annie Stegg is an amazing artist and unbelievably sweet and humble to boot. She talked about being hired as an artist at a company partly because they needed to broaden their perspective and get a woman's input. It's great that companies are starting to realize their shortcomings on this matter (or not. Ahem Ubisoft)  Still,  I look forward to a time when women are not considered a novelty both in the creation and in representation of the field. 
  • Winona Nelson also had some input on being sort of a lone wolf in a company. She discussed both overcoming the barriers we create for ourselves (envisioning struggles that don't end up actually being a big deal) and the real barriers such as having to to fight to get her own bathroom. (the guys had commandeered the ladies room as well and didn't want to give it up).
  • There is is still a long way to go on this subject and it helps no one to be ignorant about it. My eyes were opened to a few things that I was not aware of  about how women are treated and perceived in this industry still. The thing is- this it not an isolated trend and is indicative of a larger cultural problem that still needs addressing. Much of our obstacles as women creatives come from our culture but they also come from the barriers we erect for ourselves in response to our culture. I think as purveyors of imagination- we as fantastic artists hold a great responsibility in regards how we want women (and all "minorities" for that matter) to be treated.  Change grows from imagination. 
Courtesy of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

Courtesy of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

All in all- even though I didn't sell a ton,  it was still a good experience.  I always forget to take pictures at these things but here are a few good moments.
With Cynthia Sheppard

With Brynn Metheney

Shady KC BBQ at Jack's Stack with a bunch of shady artist folks.

Blue-Green Beauties
Zoe Robinson, Lauren Panepinto, Clark Huggins, (Lucky guy!) Rebecca Yanovskaya

Too much fun is a good thing.
Travis Lewis, Dawn Carlos, John Brassil
You can check out even more of what happened (and see me a few times too!) in these cool recap videos:

I even got a fancy professional artist photo taken by Greg Preston! He was hired by Spectrum to to a series of these and they came out gorgeous. You can check out a bunch of them on his blog here:

Photo by Greg Preston for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Alright- that's plenty for now. See you at next year's Spectrum!