Oh 2017, Where Did You Go? A Brief Retrospective and Con Report

Okay, I know it’s only October, but it feels like it was only maybe a month or two ago that I was coming in from the cold January air for my first day of training for the new full-time position at the Art Center. I hit the ground running on January 2nd, going from part-time teaching and freelancing to a full-time communications job, part-time teaching, and freelancing. It took me a little while to adjust from a largely self-regulated schedule back into the rhythm of socially-mandated “adulthood” time plus the self-regulated schedule. But now that summer camp is done, convention season is done, and I’m down to only one 12 hour day and only 5 days a week at the Art Center, I think I’ve got the rhythm of things figured out. Our podcast is picking up steam, the illustration business has been delightful these past couple of months, and the future’s looking bright. I have two more confirmed festivals, both this upcoming weekend, and then I can return focus to building up the Etsy shop and paying more attention to this blog, fancying up the website, and keeping my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts active. But for now, in this brief lull, I’d like to reflect a bit on the two biggest events of the season.

The Saga of Dragon*Con


Back when I was but a wee artling, wobbling on unsteady creative legs after the mind-blowing discovery that art was a trainable skill rather than inborn talent, I went to Dragon*Con for the first time. Amidst the overwhelming nerdy joy of being surrounded by excitable people in impressive costumes, the memory that stands out most clearly is my first experience of the Dragon*Con art show. Staring at rows upon rows of gorgeous artwork, my young impressionable brain formulated a goal: I must get into this show one day.
It took me until the year after I graduated college to get the courage to apply. I was of course summarily rejected, but I was rejected with critiques. Now I had a direction in which to improve! This proved ultimately more helpful to me than four years of undergrad. I kept applying year after year, and my critiques would change (and become a little less… extensively critical, haha), until last year I was finally accepted! My giddy excitement was soon tempered by the realization that juror acceptance did not mean placement, and placement was not in the cards for me that year.
This year, in the midst of battling a flea infestation while both teaching and helping to run the Art Center’s 70 (I kid you not, seventy) summer camps, I got the call. I had been placed! They took my money! Everything was official!
And ohshit I had less than three months to get prepared for this, the biggest show of my career. And the majority of my best work had already sold in a pretty sweet festival season in 2016. And we were going to be in the midst of summer camps for two of those months.
In summary, I barely slept those three months. My infinitely patient saint of a boyfriend who, it should be noted, had only been dating me for like a week when I got the acceptance call, bore with my frenzy and stress with admirable endurance and kindness.

So the thing about achieving goals you set for yourself in middle school… the reality is a lot like that of meeting your heroes (with the exception of Ursula Vernon, my personal hero, who is just as delightful in real life as you’d expect from the art and blog). The Dragon*Con Art Show is still incredible, don’t get me wrong; I definitely felt way outclassed there and enjoyed seeing it just as much as I ever have. But after spending so much time churning out originals, it was wee bit disappointing to discover how much of the show was prints. Prints I can do! I have prints in spades!  I could have slept!

Oh well, live and learn. I did find homes for three of my original pieces, and I sold more prints in the print shop than I’ve ever sold in a weekend, so all of that was very cool! I think I just had wildly different expectations of what the weekend would mean to me. Also I’m apparently getting too old to deal with the ever-increasing crowd size. I love Dragon*Con and always will, but I may not be able to attend in the future without a table to hide behind.

The Saga of AWA


I was able to approach AWA with a lot more calm and sanity than I approached Dragon*Con. AWA and I are old friends. I did the artist alley there back when it was its own small room, separate from the dealer area.  I still had a lot of new work left over from Dragon*Con, so I was able to take a relaxed approach and just draw the red panda I’ve been meaning to get around to ever since doing the raccoon last year.  Set-up there is a breeze (props to the AWA staff, who have this down to a science!), and I got to make friends with the very talented Ocean N’ Company during the setup.  We bonded over a shared love of pancake animals.

AWA itself was a delight from start to finish.  I got to see many familiar faces, both old college friends and people I met at the booth last year.  The cosplays were all excellently crafted (I saw like a billion Taakos and got obnoxiously excited about each one) and every person I had the chance to talk to was friendly and a joy to be around.  The fluorescent lighting might have been a little wearying after three days, but the people at AWA bring this infectious energy that just leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Two particularly delightful moments stood out to my admittedly fried and frazzled memory.  One was when cosplayer Silver Glass Productions returned to my booth after taking home the cozy raccoon last year to let me know that she’s now decorating a room around that color scheme.  The second was when Murrshake handed me an awesome sketch page they’d done, telling me that my work had inspired it (though I think they’ve got a better handle on hatching than I do).  I probably reacted like a crazy awkward sparrow to both of these instances because I am a barely functioning human, but they filled me with so much joy and confusion and gratitude that my brain just kind of short-circuited.  Do check out both of their work though, because both the cosplay and the artwork are lovely!  The sketch page is now on my wall-of-motivations, and I’m looking forward to seeing what both of them get up to in the future!

 

Thank you to everyone who has wandered this way from AWA, and to everyone who has kept up with my work over the past few years!  I know this blog is sporadic at best, but I’m still alive, still arting, and still appreciative of all your support and good vibes.  Now to dive into Inktober and my last two confirmed festivals of the year!

 

Celebrating a Year of Freedom From Desk Work

Savannah Pagan Pride was this past weekend, and it was awesome.  Last year we had to set up in sheets of rain, nearly ankle deep in mud, so just having a sunny day was a huge improvement in the experience.  The festival itself was lively and full of friendly faces.  It’s one of those where everyone is kind and open, and you have no end to interesting conversations.  Sales weren’t bad either, which was also nice, but even if they had been abysmal it would have still been a good festival.  I also got to reconnect with an old college friend (and am now regretting not spending more time hanging out when we did live closer than four hours away).

Savannah was also significant in that it marks a year since the fates forcibly ejected me from my toxic day job and set me afloat on the turbulent seas of a full time art career.  It’s not been an easy ride, but it has been both educational and rewarding.  In the space of this past year, I’ve done more festivals than I used to do in three years, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the experience.

First, know thine audience.  When I found a repeating festival in Marietta that only cost $40 a week to vend, I was very excited (most start at $100).  I signed up for it, got accepted, aaaaand learned that Marietta has a very small population who is interested in monsters and foxes eating people-food.  One telling moment came when a woman bustled into my tent, demanded to know if I had any landscapes (I didn’t).  She then slammed through my prints before disdainfully asking “Is this ALL animals?” and leaving without another word.  I think I only made $17 that day.

Monster-in-the-Rain

It wasn’t all “animals,” but yeah, it was pretty close.

I was on the point of despairing that I was just a crap, hack artist who makes stuff no one likes when I decided to pull out of one of the Marietta weekends to do the smaller Atlanta Pagan Pride.  There, in addition to meeting many delightful people, I also made about as much in a day as I used to make with four days of full-time office work.  I might be a crap hack artist in at least some opinions, but I’m one who’s learning which people don’t think so.

Also, summer festivals in hot climates aren’t worth it.  Not even when they’re free to vend.  Everyone is hot and angry and just wants air conditioning and won’t take much time to browse.  If you have anything metal or glass on your table, you risk burning people.  And, come tear-down, you risk some serious heat-related medical problems.

Luckily, summer is my busy season as an instructor at Johns Creek Arts Center.  I’m approaching my first full year as an art teacher, and it feels like I’ve found a second calling.  The first year was hectic; as a new teacher I had plenty to learn about the kinds of projects that work for a classroom of kids aged 7-10.  I used to be terrified before each class, but after keeping a room of 26 students reasonably behaved while teaching them to draw a face in profile, I feel much more confident going into year two.  Now that I don’t have to make every lesson plan from scratch, I should also have plenty of time to work on my own portfolio.  This year my goal is to find a more cohesive look for my work, following the advice of the Dragon*Con jurors (I passed jury, but was waitlisted for actual floor space.  One step closer!).

All in all, I’m very optimistic about year two of no corporate shackles.  Now to knuckle down and get drawing!