Lessons from my first con

Me at my booth with my sad art display and my homemade sign. My two boys were into it.

Me at my booth with my sad art display and my homemade sign. My two boys were into it.

On May 3rd I attended my first convention as an artist. The nice folks at Charlotte Comicon offered me a table back in November after I accidentally blew up the Internet. I couldn’t make it to the December show, but was more than happy to do the one in May.

Man, I learned a lot.

Here’s some takeaways:

Set up your table to sell stuff

I got a lot of artwork printed to sell, but I displayed it like an amateur. As you can see from the picture up top, it looks more like a gallery than a storefront. It was not apparent that you could buy my art. A few people actually asked if they were for sale. Oi.

Put up stuff for people to idly thumb through

As the day went on, I put my sketchbook on the table. It was a new sketchbook with only two images in it. Dozens of people grabbed it, presumably enticed by the first drawing, and then disappointed, put it down when they saw how little there was in it. Then I’d shrug and be all, “It’s a new sketchbook!”


Bring business cards...or something

I made some, just forgot to get them printed. That was dumb. Almost every person that stopped to talk to me asked for a card. If they didn’t buy there, it’s possible they could have bought later. Now I know even if an interaction doesn’t end in a sale, it could end in a new fan or Twitter/Facebook/Instagram follower. Next time I’ll have cards from my publisher, which should work better than writing my info on a scrap of paper (yep, I did that...several times).


Bring all the merch you have

One of the organizers of the event stopped by and talked to me a bit. Like many people, he asked me about the shirt I was wearing (I bought it from my own Teepublic store). He wanted to know why I wasn’t selling those, and my answer was inventory, cost, stock, all the usual reasons people give for going through a company like Teepublic. Then he said, “This is a con, people come here to spend their money. Give them things to spend it on!” While I definitely don’t want to end up with boxes of unsold merchandise, I’m probably going to diversify a bit for the next con.


Remember, people are listening

A few people with booths within earshot said some gnarly stuff about cosplayers. Others dismissed fans as soon as they were gone as desperate or sad, or talked about them as if they were objects and not people. This is something I already knew not to do--I work in marketing after all, also I like to consider myself a decent human--so it wasn’t really a lesson learned. More of a lesson reinforced.  

I didn’t sell enough prints to make my money back on printing them, but that’s okay. Something about walking away from the convention with a head full of new knowledge evened it out for me. Also, my booth was free, so that helped.

I just signed up for my booth in artist alley at HeroesCon in June. This is a big con, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m glad I went through this warm-up experience first. If you’re coming to HeroesCon, come find me, my booth will look super professional, and you might be able to buy a t-shirt too.


Five things I learned from my Oatley Academy Mentorship with Sarah Marino

I had the privilege of being in Sarah Marino’s first mentorship class at the Oatley Academy. It was amazing (this should not be shocking news to anyone who has listened to Sarah’s interview on the Art Cast). I learned so much about the animation industry, and myself.

I narrowed it down to five things--these were things I didn't expect to learn, but I'm so glad I did. The sort of intangible stuff you can't get from a course description.  Also, when you write lists they should always be in odd numbers.


1. ‘Working in animation’ can mean a lot of things

Maybe you knew this if you’re in art school, or live in Santa Monica, but I had no clue.  Sarah broke it down for us in our first session. There are tons of different jobs! Room for people who specialize and people who do a little bit of everything. I’m not at a point where I’m able to switch careers and work in the industry, but I now know that’s a possibility, and that’s exciting.

It’s like when someone brings a puppy to the office. You probably can’t take it home, you might not even get a chance to go over and pet it, but just knowing it’s there makes you happy.

2. It’s not just your growth that helps you grow

Of course the critiques you receive on your work are going to be helpful, but don’t tune out when it’s not your turn. Watching Sarah work her wizardry on your classmates’ images is just as valuable.

Becoming a better artist isn’t just about fixing your mistakes. It’s about thinking critically and purposefully about art in general. Sarah’s great at that. Listen when she talks—she’s earned that mentor title.

3. Research makes a difference

It’s tempting to just start drawing the second an idea sparks to life in your brain. But if you take some time to think through the little things, the big things come much easier later on.

Sarah showed us her process, and had us follow along, doing research of our own. This is the part of the class when you’re taxiing on the runway. Do it right, and you’ll be in for a smooth flight.

Also, when research involves collecting tons of rad pictures by amazing artists and photographers, it’s not so bad.

4. There’s no such thing as perfect, so don’t try to be

As a self-taught artist, I’ve struggled with living up to the Amazing Perfect Artist I have in my head. That guy does everything right. He’s not just good at cartooning; he’s an incredible painter too. Trying to be like that fictional Austin always ends in frustration. You’d think I’d stop letting him occupy space in my brain.

Over the course of the mentorship I learned that leaning into your specialty isn’t a bad thing. Self-improvement is great, but if you’re not the world’s best landscape painter, that’s okay, you don’t have to be.

Sarah meets you where you are. This class is more about helping you with hows and whys—the process as opposed to the fundamentals (anyone can work on fundamentals, spend a day drawing eyeballs, you’ll be better at eyeballs).

There isn’t a perfect version of you, but there is a better one—a version of you that thinks and works smarter. Put yourself out there and participate in the class, and with Sarah’s help, you’ll be a better you.

5. Art friends are the best kind of friends

Again, you might have known this, but it was huge for me. As we got to know each other, we started chiming in more on chat during class, helping make images better, suggesting references, sharing experiences, and more. Months after the mentorship ended, we’re still posting art, collaborating and growing.

Plain and simple: my life is better just knowing the people from my mentorship class. It’s a mini-community I’m so happy to be a part of.

You should be a part of it too.

If you’re considering auditioning, just go for it. And if you get in, make the most of it. Participate in class, share with others, friend your classmates on social media, learn, grow, and have fun.

I know I did.

Thanks Ed

Ed Mendoza is a web designer where I work. Back in September, he showed me and some other coworkers a funny Reddit thread about movie titles with a letter missing.  He suggested I draw them for my Inktober project. And so I did. When I finished, he told me I should put them in a gallery and post them to Reddit. I did that too.  

I put a thank you message to the Reddit community last week, and gave away some stuff too. But Ed, he gets his own blog post, and his own picture. When my Inktober project went viral, I told Ed he'd have free art for life. He humbly asked me for a picture of Jango Fett, when I had time.

This weekend I drew this poster--Jango Fitt, Movie Title Typos style. Thanks Ed!

I got a book deal!

I am approximately this excited. 

I am approximately this excited. 

Movie Title Typos is going to a be a book! Chronicle Books is publishing it. If all goes according to plan, you'll see it on store shelves this fall. Whoo!

If you know anything about book publishing, you might be thinking, "This fall? Man, that's a pretty tight publication schedule." You would not be wrong.

I'll be pulling an all-monther (like an all-nighter, except you do it for a month...then you probably die) to get this thing wrapped up. So if my activity online drops a bit, it's because I'm working. Really hard. 

This book is going to be great though. I'm really excited about it. I can't wait to share more. And I will...as soon as I finish it. I've got a lot of really cool stuff planned leading up to release.

Till then, I'll see you around the Internet.