Best Practices for Setting Up and Selling Your Art at Conventions

This article originally appeared over on the PACT website. Pact stands for Professional Artist and Client Toolkit and it’s a tool to help freelance fantasy, sci-fi, comic book and other illustrators negotiate a better living for themselves. I’m a member, and you should be too.

With convention season in full gear this year. I wanted to re-share some tips on convention best practices.

SamBooth

Best Practices for Setting Up and Selling Your Art at Conventions

In case you don’t know me, my name is Sam Flegal, and I’m a con artist. By this I mean I sell my art at conventions and have been doing so since 2009. I do between 15 to 25 shows a year. I’ve seen a lot, and learned a lot about doing conventions as an artist. As a member of PACT, I’ve been asked to share some of the things I’ve learned.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you’re a genre artist with an interest in setting up a booth and selling your art at conventions. That said, before you plan on selling your art at a convention, you should go to a convention or two as an attendee. The best starting experience you can get is to go to cons and check out how other artists and vendors have tackled the problem of set up, signage, and sales. Take notes and photos (with permission) of the things you like and think work well, in addition to the things you’d rather avoid.

Once you’ve gotten a few conventions under your belt, you should be ready to jump in! The first thing to evaluate is how will you sell your art, and at what price. Prints and originals are the most common, but merchandise with your art on it can work well, too. Regardless of what you plan to sell, you will want to make sure to have a sign with the price clearly displayed. If you are going to sell originals, having each piece labeled with a printed price tag is also key. Remember, hand written signage and prices make people think of a yard sale, where stuff is cheap and all prices are negotiable. There’s a reason every major store in America has printed price tags and signs. It works! Take the extra effort to add value to your appearance at a convention.

The next step is to consider how you plan to display your merchandise and set up your booth. It’s important to have something behind you; otherwise, your booth will look empty. The easiest method is to purchase a banner and banner stand. Make sure your name, website, and best piece of art all appear on your banner. Most conventions provide you with a 6-8 ft. table, but often do NOT provide a tablecloth. A black sheet is a cost-effective way to have your own tablecloth. In order to display your art, get a few small easels for the pieces you want to feature, and a small bin to hold your other prints. Once you’ve gotten everything, practice setting it all up at home before the show. Best to avoid surprises on site!

The last couple of things you’ll need, at a bare minimum, are business cards and a portfolio. Make sure your business cards have your name and contact info. I like to put a painting on the back. I also like to have a leave behind piece to give to Art Directors and other folks who might give you a job. I print my portfolio in little books for this purpose.

When deciding what prints to bring, there is a lot to consider. Just because a painting is a favorite of yours or even loved by your Art Director doesn’t mean it will sell at cons. Deciding what prints to sell is something every artist struggles with. Unfortunately, the best way to learn is to get out and do it. In order to start you’ll need to have prints. There is no easy answer, but I can offer some basic advice.

My recommendation is to pick 6-10 of your favorite portfolio pieces and have prints made. Doing ten prints of each should be a good start (you shouldn’t have to invest too much, and hopefully won’t get stuck with lots of extra prints). After you do a few shows and see what sells, you will better know what prints you need to bring more of. I recommend sticking to standard frame sizes for your art. 11”x17” and 12” x16” are the most popular sizes. A good starting price is $15. You will also want bags and backing boards for your prints.

Now it’s time to go to the convention! One item that will help a lot is a hand truck. You can get a small one for about $25 at the hardware store, but I strongly recommend investing in the larger sturdier hand truck at around $80. It’s not uncommon for a convention’s loading zone to be far away from your booth. Save yourself the trouble and heartache of lugging art precariously through a show, only to drop some prints (or an original) and damage it all because you got the small hand truck.

Once you’re all set up with your nice looking booth, great merchandise, and proper signage you’ll find that the hard work is far from over. The reality of conventions is that you have just set up a sales booth and you are its main employee. It’s up to you to sell your own work; just having a booth is not enough. I’ve seen amazingly talented artists fail because they did not engage the customers. In contrast, I’ve seen average artists sell a ton of art all because they hustled on the sales floor.

At conventions there is a ton of cool stuff competing for the attendees’ time and attention. You are competing with games, toys, and attractive people in cool costumes, at the very least! The best practice I’ve found is saying “Hi” and acknowledging everyone who passes your booth. My sister helps me at some cons, and she is amazing at engaging people. I’ve seen her go from complimenting an attendee’s purse to selling a print in no time flat!

Once you’ve gotten their attention, the next thing is to steer the conversation to your art. A great way to do this is to say your name and tell them, “I am the artist.” The typical response you will get is, “You drew all these pictures?” From there you can say, “Yes” and ask them which one they like. Keep the conversation about your art as much as possible.

Finally, one of the toughest things is to ask for the sale. “Can I bag that up for you?” “Did you want that print you liked so much?” “Which print are you getting today?” It’s hard, but it works. Over time, you will develop your own sales style. When you’re getting started the most important thing is to have fun. If you look like you’re having a good time then people will approach you. If you sit down, arms crossed, looking pissed because you’re not selling stuff, people will avoid you.

Good luck! Hopefully I’ll see you at the next convention!

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

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Red Skull Demo

Last weekend I did an oil painting demo at Mid South Con in Memphis, TN. I had one hour to paint whatever I wanted to demonstrate. I picked the Red Skull. The photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

One Fantastic Workshop Preview

I’m excited to share that I’m on the faculty for One Fantastic Weekend, a four day workshop for art entrepreneurs. The workshop will be four days of creating art and attending lectures on the business of art. It’s going to be in Nashville, TN from November 5th through the 8th, 2015.

The faculty consists of artists with a mastery of image making, a passion for teaching and successful art business. Myself included the instructors are:

Annie Stegg Gerard, Justin Gerard, Sean Andrew Murray, Sam Flegal, Peter Mohrbacher.

This is a chance to learn from a diverse group of art entrepreneurs, where there will be an environment to learn, talk business, talk art, and apply that knowledge immediately. Students will spend all four days engaging with the instructors and each other to better themselves as art entrepreneurs.

Seats are filling up quickly, but there are still some left. The deadline for the first payment is March 31st, so sign-up now!

To find out more and sign-up go to: www.onefantasticweekend.com

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

Liberty or Death

"Liberty or Death" Oil Painting by Sam Flegal

“Liberty or Death” 18″ x 24″ Oil Painting by Sam Flegal

My latest painting features my take on a Norse Valkyrie. In Norse Mythology, Valkyrie serve as Odin’s warrior women and the “Choosers of the Slain.” As with Odin there is a strong connection between the Valkyrie and the raven. The other main task of the Valkyrie is to hold the holy mead horn at the great hall in Asguard.

For “Liberty or Death” I did a series of videos showing my process:

And here is the tone drawing:

"LIberty or Death" 12"x16" tone drawing by Sam Flegal

“LIberty or Death” 12″x16″ tone drawing by Sam Flegal

The drinking horn design is based on the work of Brian Marshall over at Where the Gods Live.

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

The Collector – New L5R Art

"The Collector" 18"x24" oil painting by Sam Flegal

“The Collector” 18″x24″ oil painting by Sam Flegal

The card’s name is Moto Daigoro, but that’s not the name of my new painting. My new painting is called “The Collector.” A while back, I was asked to do a skeletal rider for Legend of the Five Rings. Other than he being undead and on a skeletal horse, the assignment was pretty open. Sometimes this can be frustrating, but this time I decided to dig in and loved it!

Here is the story I came up with:

A Necromancer sifted through the bodies of fallen heroes after a great battle. Upon finding his chosen warrior, he nailed two magic scrolls to the corpse’s chest plate. This caused the warrior to animate, but what the Necromancer didn’t count on was that the soldier’s soul still hovered nearby; and upon the animation of his body he returned, filled with hate. The undead warrior’s first action was to break the wrists of the Necromancer and tear off his hands. This prevented the magic-user from ever casting spells again. Death’s soldier then breathed a last breath into his fallen steed and the two corpses set off in search of more hands.

"The Collector" 12"x16" tone drawing by Sam Flegal

“The Collector” 12″x16″ tone drawing by Sam Flegal

With this story in mind I found it much easier to create. It helped form little details all throughout the painting. It also made the project much more enjoyable. In the end I am very happy with how the painting turned out.

showimage

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

Con Nooga 2015

ConNooga

This weekend marks the beginning of convention season for me, and I’m really looking forward to it. My first con of 2015 will be Con Nooga in Chattanooga, TN. Con Nooga is a lot of fun, it has a great convention space, and an excellent dealer’s room. In the evening there are lots of parties and shows. I’ve really enjoyed Con Nooga in past years, and I’m sure this year will not disappoint!

So if you’re near Chattanooga, TN come onto Con Nooga! Make sure to stop by my booth in the dealer’s room and say “Howdy!”

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

Frigg – Lady of Secrets

Frigg Lady of Secrets

“Frigg, Lady of Secrets” oil painting by Sam Flegal

 

In Newark, UK the Odinist Fellowship is building a temple to the Heathen Gods.

Here is an excerpt from the public announcement:

“The Odinist Fellowship have announced the opening of the first new heathen temple in England!

‘The Odinists of England, have after a lapse of over a thousand years, at long last acquired a temple of our own.’

The first new heathen temple of England will open soon in Newark in an old Tudor chapel erected in 1556. This is a fascinating development in the history of religion in England, and may even signify the return of a popular Odinist religion.”

I am very proud to have been selected to create a painting that will hang on the wall of this Temple in the United Kingdom. As anyone who follows my art knows the Norse Gods and Goddesses are a strong passion for me. It is truly an honor to have been a part of this project.

For my part I was asked to create an image that showed the Goddess Frigg gazing into her magic casket. Inside which she sees all the secrets of the world. Although she knows all (even possibly more than Odin) she tells no one. She is the Lady of Secrets, teller of none.

You can see the painting above. Here is the sketch for the painting:

"Frigg, Lady of Secrets" Pencil and Copic on tone paper by Sam Flegal

“Frigg, Lady of Secrets” Pencil & Copic Tone Drawing by Sam Flegal

A big thanks to Ralph Harrison and the Odinist Fellowship for working with me on this painting. In particular Ralph’s vision and knowledge of runic lore was most helpful.

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To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com

To be the first to get special offers and news about my art sign up for my Newsletter: HERE

STAY STRANGE!

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