The Case for Artist Alley

This is a hard blog for me to write, but here it goes.

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2017 wrapped up yesterday, and I have to be honest; It was not a good year for me. I made the risky choice of putting more of my own artwork forward than I have in previous years and reducing the amount of fanart that I displayed. I did still display it, but it was not as heavily featured. This year, I wanted to put my name out there and show who I am as an artist.

On a financial level, it backfired greatly. Realistically, I should be throwing in the towel, hanging up my Wacom, licking my wounds and… well, giving up.

And sadly, I’m not the only artist in this position.

Why is that?

The Problem

I think there were several factors in this, some of which were my own failings. I’m going to acknowledge those first.

  1. Me

The first would be my display. It looked cluttered, and although I tinkered with it as the weekend went on, it still looked messy and a bit unappealing. I get that. Honestly, I think it’s a bit what my brain looks like; My thoughts and ideas are all over the place. Had it been tidier, who knows? Maybe it would have been more pleasing to the eye and invited more people to look.

The second issue is how plain my table looked. I didn’t particularly stand out. They changed our regulations for table displays a couple years ago, and I think those just spooked me into not putting a tablecloth on, or decorating my crates that I hang stuff on. I took notes on what I saw other artists doing, and I hope to incorporate those in the future.

The third and final issue under the me category is… well, me. I’m a naturally shy and introverted person. I’m also a bit socially awkward. Starting conversations doesn’t come naturally to me. Now, in comparison to the previous five years, I’ve improved. But have I improved enough?

2. Artist alley

Artist alley itself has a couple of problems. The first one is the sheer size of it; this year there were two artist alleys, and the one in the hall I was in has grown. This isn’t exactly a bad thing – it’s great for us artists! – but I think it’s a bit intimidating to see, and to walk down. It also becomes overwhelming.

The second problem is I think there’s an attitude that exists that Artist Alley is full of amateur, wannabe artists. There may be some truth to this, but not for all of us! Alright, I might be, but my two neighbours certainly aren’t!

3. The Public

This overlaps a bit with my last point. I don’t know that the average con-goer takes artist alley seriously. There are certainly those who do, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know that it’s true for the majority.

So many times it felt as whoever was walking by was walking through Artist Alley out of some sense of obligation; It felt as though they didn’t really see you, or your work. That’s disheartening. I had a few people literally stand in front of my booth to look at something a row back behind me! When I’d try to engage them, they’d walk away.

Now, some people did engage me, and that brings me to my last problem – I don’t think the average person knows how to support an artist in Artist Alley. They don’t think about what we had to pay to be there – which, by the way, registration for Artist Alley this year was $295 before tax! – or what we paid for our displays, our merchandise, and for many people the cost of travel! That’s also not taking into account the hours we spent working on our art, making sure we had everything ready for Expo.

I had many people tell me that they loved my style, and to keep it up. Many stopped and laughed at my posters, and one gentleman told me that “I clearly had talent,” and to “keep it up!” These comments meant so much to me and I don’t mean to downplay them; I really did appreciate every single one. I can’t state that enough.

However, it’s just not enough.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I know some people (especially here in Alberta) are in a place where they can’t support local artists as much as they would like, and I understand that! I also know my style isn’t appreciated by everyone, and that’s okay.

However, if you do appreciate an artist’s work, and you I able to support them, please consider buying something little from them. Heck, even something as small as a $1 sticker goes a long way. If everyone who had expressed interest in my work had bought a sticker from me, I wouldn’t be in a position where I have to consider not returning.

A Possible Solution

I have to give Greg credit for this, it was his idea. If you know you’re going to a convention, set aside $5-$10 for Artist Alley. If you find an artist you enjoy, buy something small from them (if they have it). A sticker, a button, a sketch card, a small grab bag. Who knows? You may end up finding something else that you love as well!

Now, I’m not saying support random artists if you don’t like their style; someone, somewhere does, and it’s okay if you’re not that person. However with hundreds in Artist Alley, there’s got to be at least a couple artists that you do enjoy!

I’m also going to put my money where my mouth is. Every convention from now on, I’m setting aside at least $10 to spend on other various artists, and I’ll showcase my findings and those artists here!

Basically, this post comes down to this: Support your local artists. Even a little bit helps.

Well, that’s enough gloom from me. Happier posts from here on out!


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