Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up on my event experience.

I had a wonderful weekend. I must admit though, I had a lot more fun last year when I was just an attendee and not an exhibitor. But even though I love my artist job, work is still work, and not as fun as play-time.

I realize it looks like the people behind the tables are mostly just sitting there, but being on display, answering the same 3 or 4 questions everyone who stops by your booth seems to have as if it’s the first time, and being cheerful and smiling for a 9 hour day without anything more than a bathroom break if possible is very tiring.

Since I’ve been to umpteen book signing events and given as many workshops for my children’s book promotional efforts, none of that sort of thing was new to me. Being in a huge room full of artist, many of whom are better than me, or more experienced, or (yikes) award-winning super stars was a new experience entirely. At the events with the children’s books, I was often the only creative, and more usually the only illustrator. Big fish, small pond. You know the deal. At Spectrum Live I was a minnow in the great big ocean. Talk about feeling intimidated.

Still, many of these wonderful and talented artists are people I know from my IMC experience or people I’ve connected with via social media. Not total strangers, in fact, some are dear friends.

The thing about Spectrum is that everyone I spoke with, without fail, was complimentary and helpful. It’s like being a room full of brothers and sisters. They may give you a hard time once in a while, but they are never anything but totally on your side. That’s one thing that was quite different from the general events I’ve exhibited at in the past. There may have been less friendly stuff going on but if there was, I didn’t see it or hear about any.

I was all nervous about what I would find when we finally arrived at Artist Alley, but I needn’t have been. There was plenty of space behind and around my table to place my banner and store my containers. Since I had done a quick run through on a table at home before packing up, it took about 20 minutes to set out all my merchandise and settle in.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up
practice table at home
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up
practice table at home

Friday was the initial day, and we got there shortly before the doors opened to the general public. I tried to do a quick run through once my table was set up, but a combination of nerves and a headache that would not quit helped to make that less than successful. When the announcement that the room was open for the general public came over the loud-speaker, I went back to my table and stayed there the rest of the afternoon.

The table on my left, the one across from me and the one next to that remained empty all of Friday. I could see people glancing down the aisle but just continuing past and not making the trip to the end where I was situated. I told myself not to worry, Friday was a slow day and Saturday would be better. I showed my husband how to use the Square on my phone and added the tax required for Kansas City sales to the app. I smiled at anyone who ventured down the aisle past the empty tables and chatted with the people at the tables behind me.

Activities for Friday night included a meetandgreet cocktail, the premier of an artist at work movie and late night live model sketching. My husband I skipped the cocktail hour to eat a nice sit down meal and arrived in time to get good seat for the premiere. Sadly, my memory is being cranky and I can’t remember what it was called. It was basically an autobiographical look at several people working as fantasy illustrators answering the question “how do you do what you do?” I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was hoping to glean useful information on furthering my career in fantasy illustration. Maybe other people did, but I found the show a bit repetitive and on the long side. Seems the most important thing to succeeding in the fantasy art world is being in the right place, at the right time, and knowing the right people. Oh and working really long hours at perfecting your craft. Yeah, that.

By the time the movie was over, I was literally falling asleep on my feet. I never made it to the sketching. Oh well.

Saturday was a beautiful day. The weather was delightful and after a leisurely and filling breakfast, we headed over to the con. I again tried to take a quick run through to see all the other artists, but only made it to the second row of booths before the doors opened to the public.

I headed back to my table. My left-hand neighbor wasn’t around yet, but the team across from me were setting up. They had a few pencil sketches and some pen and ink drawings but not much else. People started stopping at my table and looking at things and asking questions. At some point the table on my left (really two tables) got set up and the artist started a brisk business. He had oodles of sexy pin-up gals in poster form, a few 3D selections and an amazing backdrop display. His prints weren’t archival and he was selling them singly or in a bunch with a discount. His tables were mobbed most of the day.

I’d signed up for two portfolio reviews. The first one was with Lauren Panepinto, the Creative Director for Orbit Books. Lauren is a connection from Facebook, so we “know” each other a bit already. In fact, she’d visited my website before Spectrum and was familiar with my work before I even opened my portfolio.

I was very nervous, I have no idea why. Lauren’s first comment was that my work would be perfect for children’s illustration. O.o

I told her, I already worked in kid lit and wanted to expand into fantasy book covers. She was very helpful in explaining what I needed to do to ramp my art up from kid appropriate to what would be needed to be useful for Orbit. She was complimentary of my style, but as hard as I tried to be “adult” I missed the mark. By a lot. That was discouraging. But, she was very specific on what I needed to do the level up. In fact, my 10 minute review stretched out to 18 minutes and would have gone longer, but the next hopeful was waiting his turn. Color me embarrassed.

My next review was with Andy Christensen with Fantasy Flight Games. He also said my work would be perfect for kid lit. :/

The piece he liked best was actually one I’d done in watercolor and not digitally. His comments basically mirrored Lauren’s with the added caveat of having to be more painterly to be acceptable for FFG properties. He did suggest studying the Android NetRunner art for inspiration as the metal space (as opposed to meat space) characters would be most suited for my Art Nouveau leaning style. Only much more painterly than what I do now.

I have my work cut out for me.

Meanwhile, back at my table, my husband was doing his best to answer questions about my art. He deserves extra sushi! I rearranged my table to make room for my portfolio and sent my husband off to get himself some lunch.

The table mates across from me had become just one guy. He spent most of the day with his head down buried in his sketch book. The table next to him was still empty and would remain so for the entire con.

Sales picked up after lunch. My biggest seller, to my surprise were the mini frames. I sold half of them. Of the prints, the 8.5′ x 11″ ones sold.  People loved the masks, but not enough to buy them. That was a big surprise and a bit of a disappointment.

From my experience, I’d say most of the people who stopped by my table and spoke with me were students from the local area art colleges. They wanted attention and time, but being students, were disinclined to spend money.

The people who purchased prints from me were people who already knew me and were familiar with my work. This was also a surprise, but a pleasant one.

Lots of people picked up postcards and business cards. Some also signed up to join my mailing list.

Saturday evening was the Spectrum Awards Ceremony. My husband and I went back to the hotel immediately afterwards and were asleep before 10. When did I get to be such an old fart?

Sunday was another beautiful day, as well as being Mother’s Day. I didn’t expect much in the way of sales because of that, but I sold as much Sunday morning as I had all day on Saturday. Because of the long drive back home, I packed it in by noon. I took some time before we left to try to see more of the rest of the show, but my energy just gave out and I only made it about halfway through before giving up.

All-in-all, in conclusion to my Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up, I’d say I had a positive experience for my first ever art con. I did learn a few tricks on how to set up my booth better, and decided I need to get me one of those awesome backdrop displays. But that will be somewhere into the future, because from both the ADs’ comments and those of others, my art isn’t quite ready for the fantastic art venue.

If we go back to Spectrum next year, (I hope we do) I want to go just as an attendee. It was more fun and less stressed for both me and my husband. I can’t work ALL the time after all. Plus, I want to hang with my friends, something I was unable to do at all this year!