BROM Borrowed my Ketchup and other IlluXCon Tales

This was my second year going to IlluXCon and it was AMAZING!!! This year I went with my good friend Grant Cooley, who is also an aspiring illustrator and a great artist. We flew into Pittsburgh Thursday and then drove over to Altoona, PA.

By the time we arrived on Thursday, things were wrapping up. We left IlluXCon and checked into the hotel. We hung out in the bar for a bit and then called it a night. Little did we know that this would be the last bit of sleep we would be getting for the next three days!

Friday morning started off with a bang! Grant is a gym nut, so he went to work out. Turns out Don Maitz, creator of Captain Morgan, had the same idea. When I went to get Grant so we could go to breakfast, I found him working out and chatting with Don! How cool!

At breakfast, one of my art heroes BROM, got seated next to us. Later he asked to borrow our ketchup! I know, right … pretty cool, but things were only getting started. I spent most of breakfast pointing out to Grant all the famous artists that were around the room. IlluXCon is a really special convention for this reason. Where else do you see Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell eating eggs on one side of the room while on the other is BROM eating potatoes!

Sam Flegal and BROM

Sam Flegal and BROM

Once we got to the convention center Grant and I rushed over to a panel on the Art of Self Promotion. The speakers were Donato Giancola, Ruth Sanderson, Caniglia, Boris Vallejo, and Julie Bell. They began by explaining where each of them came from and how they got their start. One thing I thought was cool was that Julie Bell didn’t get her start until she was 30. Just another example of it never being too late to start doing what you LOVE!

A few gems the group passed onto us were to always be self-confident, keep a positive attitude, and do what it takes. They recommended updating your website as often as possible and trying to be consistent on when you update it. Doing it once a week or once a month matters less than getting in a pattern of updates that’s easy for other people to follow. The last thing I really took away was this: WORK HARD and STAND OUT! It is important to have work of equal caliber as the top names in your field; if you don’t, continue to hone your craft. In order to stand out consider doing crazy hard stuff, like a illustration with thirty or more figures in it, etc…

We then went to an acrylic painting demo by Michael Whelan and Chris Moeller. All I can say is wow! One tip they shared was starting on a gray or mid-tone covered canvas. This allows you to lay in the darks and then pull out the lights. Whelan kept a hair dryer on hand just in case he saw something he liked that happened by accident so that he could preserve it. He also used a sharpened chopstick at one point to paint hair! It was really impressive to watch these two champs work!

I had to leave the painting demo to go and do my scheduled portfolio review with Lou Anders, editorial director for Pyr books. My review with Lou set the tone for most of my portfolio reviews throughout the weekend. He honed in on my Harlequin Dancer piece and said that when I had five more just like it (and she was the last piece in my portfolio rather then the first), I should start getting regular work. I was so HAPPY!!! This was the first time anyone had told me that I was close!

Harlequin Dancer by Sam Flegal

Harlequin Dancer by Sam Flegal

After that I met back up with Grant. We then ran into Eric Fortune and his friend Ray. In between witty banter and basic bull shitting, it was decided that we needed to go get some wine before the bronze pouring … yes there was a legit bronze pouring by Vincent Villafranca and it was awesome!

Between 2000-degree fire and drinks the night got off to a great start!

But, more on that later…

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