Thursday, August 20, 2015

Convention Preparation - Health

This too could be you if you don't take care of your health!!! Photo credit David Mills
 Stay hydrated and don't eat junk food. (Unless, of course, you normally subsist on it.)
Wendy Martin

This is what you'll end up looking like if you eat too much junk food!!
Something which is not often thought about until after the convention is health. As artists we are always in such a rush to have the work prepared in time that we often forget this very important aspect. Conventions can be hotbed for germs and getting "concrud" will be inevitable unless you take some precautions. Here's some advice from some professional artists;

Health tips!! WATER. Hydrate like it's going out of style. Vitamins vitamins vitamins. Eat well (have snacks in case you can't get away for meals), try to eat as little junk as you can, try to eat healthful, SLEEP WELL. Pass up on 4 am partying if you're tired.
Tawny Fritz
Make sure you have everything you need on hand. 

 The best tip I've ever received was to bring a "MacGyver kit" filled with tape, packing tape, duct tape, pencils, pens, scissors, safety pins, paper clips, Aspirin, band-aids, etc.

Get yourself "kitted out"....
And now this is one for the ladies, so if you're a guy reading this be prepared for some girl talk...

If you’re a lady and it’s close to that time of month make sure you have what you need - tampons, pads, pain killers... I found out the hard way getting caught out with an unexpected period and no tampons or pain killers, I had to ask if someone had a tampon in the public toilets (there were no sanitary dispensers in the convention toilets and the nearest pharamacy was too far away to get to in a hurry) thankfully someone was able to help me out :) 

Not the kind of protection that will help at that time of month... though at least the cloak is red...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Convention Preparation - Booth Presentation

A good thing to remember when designing your booth display is to make sure it looks inviting, fun and has a cohesive theme to it - keeping in mind your brand.

I really wanted to emphasize booth design this year, something that I hadn't really played with before. I grabbed a bunch of fake reptile skin of natural colors to really go with the whole dragon theme of my booth and I also found three small decorative chests that were rustic looking and covered in thick (fake) crocodile skin. I found some red velvet on clearance at a fabric store and placed it in the chests over some fluffy cotton to display all of my prints and a few originals. We draped the remainder of the red velvet throughout my booth and had many people come back just to see the "eye candy" that was my booth, according to them. My sales were through the roof this year with that set up and it reinforced my brand as an artist.

Crystal Sully

And lighting might be a good factor to keep in mind too. 

led lights to light up all of the art on my table drew customers to the booth like moths to a light. I'm never going to exhibit anywhere without using lights to properly display my art. For the giant 6' Dragon print I had behind my table the light really brought the piece to life and helped sell the massive print.
Crystal Sully

 The placement of your prints can assist with better sales according to Afton Kern.

After getting my table set up I removed most of the stuff in front of the prints, leaving the portfolio open so that people who stopped by could look through it. People were highly interested in the sketchbooks, and I sold all of them. I noticed that this was the case for other artists as well, books are very popular! 
In order to use your space to the maximum advantage create a series of levels to show off your work.

For Spectrum this year I tried using a table top sign and borrowed some Pro Panels. The sign worked ok but I discovered I needed to create tiers, sort of terrace all the stuff on the table and give the sign some height. Loved having the panels.
Christine Mitzuk
Christine offers some more tips for her Gen Con experience here
Here's another example of staggered tiers by Kiri Leonard which amazingly enough she manages to fit into a large suitcase!

 Another way to display your work is the use of panels as shown in Elizabeth Leggett's space...

I just bought some metal panels (Graphic Display Systems) and they're amazing for shows you're driving to. I ended up ordering the table 'feet' as well so I can set up a half panel on a table top. I got the two-piece panels so I can fit them in my car, and I plan on bringing them to Spectrum this year so I can have a display behind my table.
Brenda Lyons

Places where you can get some of these panels; 

Pro panels -
Armstrong Panels - 

Metal screen panels -

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Convention Preparation - Prints, Paintings and Displaying Your Work

Having small matted prints are great to sell to attendees according to Kirsten;

“This is because many attendees are traveling by air and want something sturdy they can pack in a suitcase.” 

(NOTE: she’s in America where they have great conventions all year all over America… sigh). She continues ;

“…mat the mini prints in precut 8" x 10" matts. Tell your buyers it's an easy size to find a cheap frame for. You can even use a postcard service for the printing, though make sure the quality is good.”

“We have done matted prints, loose prints and backed prints at our various shows. For us the loose print on backing board in a clear bag is the best.”

Vicki Williams (wife of Allen Williams)

"I have a flipbook of available prints and keep the copies under the table, bagged in crystal clear sleeves ready to go. I organize them with sticky note tabs popping out so I can just flip through."

Christine Mitzuk

 Consider matting, framing and hanging your originals for display. “To show people how awesome they would look in their house.”
Vicki Williams (wife of Allen Williams)

But when choosing what and how much you bring to the convention be careful that you don’t overstock. According to Kirsten Zirngib Facebook feedback doesn’t necessarily equate sales.

I considered Facebook a test for how my 3D printed jewelry was received, and all the positive feedback made me think I might sell out. So I put a lot of time/money into making a bunch. ...And I sold only a very small fraction at the actual show. I didn't even see some of the people who said they'd come buy one. Point is, start with small runs, likes/comments don't translate well. 

Kirsten Zirngibl

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Convention Preparation (and Survival) For Artists

Ok so originally I was going to cover everything you needed to know in order to run a booth or a table as an artist at a convention within this one blog post. I asked a couple of friends if they'd like to offer any helpful advice or tips they could give towards this post... The response was HUGE!

So instead of tackling everything today, I shall be splitting up the posts to cover such topics as Booth Design, Print/Sales/Stock Preparation, Con Etiquette, Artwork Presentation, Health, Business stuff... It will be fun - I promise you! In the meantime if you need more information NOW than I recommend you check out the artist Kiri Ƙstergaard Leonard's blog she did a whole category on convention tips.  And now I give you some of the highlights I have come across so far...

Presentation Of Artwork:

many artists like to keep all their originals in a portfolio, we (Allen and Vicki Williams) like to have some matted and framed up on the wall to show people how awesome they would look in their house. 

Vicki Williams (wife of Allen Williams)

Booth Presentation:

“led lights to light up all of the art on my table drew customers to the booth like moths to a light. I'm never going to exhibit anywhere without using lights to properly display my art. For the giant 6' Dragon print I had behind my table the light really brought the piece to life and helped sell the massive print.” 

Crystal Sully


“Stay hydrated and don't eat junk food. (Unless, of course, you normally subsist on it.)”


"the absolute most important thing as far as both making sales and having a good time? Talk to people. Cheerfully talking to people, even if you're not feeling super cheerful, greeting people when they make eye contact, and never pushing sales on them, has been the biggest thing for me."


“I considered facebook a test for how my 3D printed jewelry was received, and all the positive feedback made me think I might sell out. So I put a lot of time/money into making a bunch. ...And I sold only a very small fraction at the actual show. I didn't even see some of the people who said they'd come buy one. Point is, start with small runs, likes/comments don't translate well.” 

Kirsten Zirngibl 

“And inventory! can we talk about inventory?! Have a starting inventory then take an ending inventory, that way you do know what has sold. Keeping count throughout the show is never perfectly accurate”
Vicki Williams (wife of Allen Williams)

Stay tuned for more to come!...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Scarlet Witch Re-design - What Women Want In Women's Characters

Hi folks it's been awhile! Sorry for the silence, just been re-settling to life back in the suburbs of Western Australia after getting back from my 3 month trip overseas at the end of last year. I've been setting up a new studio space, working on some illustration ideas, looking for a "regular job" and just trying to cope with a really hot summer!

The original Scarlet Witch as seen in Marvel comics (pretty awesome image by Frank Cho) next to my take on the character as displayed in the Muddy Colors post

Something happened to my art work recently... it got caught in an online conversation maelstrom due to this article "What Women Want...In Women Characters" written by the creative director of Orbit Books Lauren Panepinto. It featured a whole range of comic and game characters re-designed by female artists like myself working in fantasy art. The concept arose from numerous conversations had in the Facebook group Women In Fantastical Illustration (WIFI for short, if you're a woman and an artist and would like to join send Lauren a message on Facebook). It was a fun challenge to work on and many of us discussed the different ways to tackle the re-design of a character who is usually presented as a sexual object rather than as an interesting subject like her male counterparts. Because the group is so diverse (we come from a wide range of backgrounds, art styles, techniques and from all over the world), the way we interpreted the challenge was going to be equally diverse and varied.

Since Thursday (5th March 2015) when it was first posted, the article has been talked about all over the internet. It got re-posted on Mary Sue, i09, reddit, NeoGAF and even Cosmopolitan! I have never been a part of a topic that has been re-talked about by so many people... it was a bit of a shock...

A sample of the comments for the re-designs

So I thought I'd have a look at what people were saying... some of the comments were really great and some of them... not so great... I really shouldn't have looked. It got a bit nasty, though it could have been a lot worse and some re-designs got a lot more flack than others, especially the re-design by artist Anna Fehr of the character Samus's (Metroid) Zero suit. 

Anna even had to edit the original post to respond to some of the nasty comments she got about her re-design. Here's the link to the high-heeled version she was talking about.

I really shouldn't have read some of the feedback... but I did and now I feel the need to respond or at least to show my design process behind the image - and yes I did do my research :P


I started with some sketches and 2 different ideas on how to portray SW.

The first idea was to tackle the time in the Scarlet Witch's life when she pretty much had a mental breakdown and almost destroyed the Marvel Universe.

"The Scarlet Witch seemingly gained powerful reality-altering abilities from "Chaos Magic"; however, this proved to be an uncontrolled aspect of her mutant power and created a great mental strain on her. An unintentional remark by teammate Wasp about Wanda's lost children apparently drove her over the edge. She suffered a nervous breakdown and lashed out with her new power, subjecting the Avengers to a savage assault and apparently killing Agatha Harkness and some of her teammates. Others were injured or affected by various odd outbursts and incidents. The remaining Avengers gathered including a number of reservists." Marvel Wiki

I wanted to portray a slightly crazed witch holding the two children she wasn't supposed to have.

Watercolour, ink and gouache on Bristol Smooth

The second idea I had was of a teenage version of the Scarlet Witch just learning and trying out her new abilities.

Since time was of an issue and the whole concept was to actually re-design the costume I chose the second idea (and I shall re-visit the first idea another time).

I was going to push the typical "gypsy" look (ie frilly shirt, embroidery, coin scarf, hoop earrings etc) then while doing some research I realised that the term "gypsy" was actually an offensive term and the portrayal of their style can be more theatrical than factual especially with the contemporaries.

So instead I thought to change direction and instead focus on a look reflecting a modern nomadic type who is of Romanov descent living in America. This article in particular helped with my concept. I liked the idea of picturing her as a young late teen/early 20's girl not long before she gets involved with the Avengers. I placed her in the country against a fence on a country path (I love old paintings in particular those done by the Pre-Raphaelites), trying out her new found powers. The bracelets, head scarf and red flowing skirt is a nod to her Romanov background as well as a precursor to her eventual costume in the Avengers. The Chucks were chosen because Chucks are cool and fun.

Some of the images I pinned on my Pinterest page

With the look worked out I started working on the final painting, starting with the original drawing, which was lightly sprayed with fixative. The layers were built up slowly with masking fluid covering some areas to ensure small items didn't get lost.

Watercolour and gouache on 300lb hot press Saunders watercolour paper

The final word on this is a collector contacted me the other day to ask if the art work was still available for purchase :) So no matter who likes it or doesn't like it the important thing for me who wants to make a living and a career out of this, is this - someone liked it enough that they were willing to pay to own it. I win.