5 Tips on Going to the Right Conventions
I’ve given 5 Tips on Navigating Conventions as an Artist and 5 Tips on Selling Art at Conventions, but maybe direct sales are not your goal. Conventions have other benefits, and so today I want to talk about how to find a convention that’s right for you.
In case you don’t know me…I’m Sam Flegal and I’m a con artist. By this, I mean I sell my art at conventions and have been doing so for the last six years. I do between 15 to 25 shows a year. I’ve seen a lot, and learned a lot about doing conventions as an artist, and I want to share a some tips on how to sell art at conventions.
1. KNOW WHY YOU’RE THERE
Before you do a show you need to carefully consider your reasons for doing it. Are you there for self promotion, sales, or to have a good time? It’s possible to do all three, but your focus will affect your goals. If you’re there to Self Promote, make sure to have things to give away like postcards, business cards, and portfolio books. You want to make sure art directors notice you, walk over to your booth, and that you have something they can take away to remember you by. If you’re there to sell, then get in the business mindset. Find shows in your direct market, and/or go to big shows with lots of buyers. If you’re there to have fun, network a bit, and write the whole thing off on your taxes, make sure to have a nice set up with a few things to sell, but recognize why you’re there. Maybe it’s be better to not have a table. Perhaps look into doing a few panels.
Knowing what you’re actually looking to get out of a show is key to having a successful convention. If you get work from art directors, the self promotion was worth it. If you’re there to sell, then the money makes it worth it. If you’re having fun, then the money doesn’t matter as much; don’t force yourself to focus on sales when that’s not your goal.
2. RESEARCH THE SHOW
Once you know why you want to go, it becomes MUCH easier to research conventions and pick the right one for you. Are art directors and business people in your field attending the con? Are a lot of art buyers/fans going to be at the show? Is there an art collector who likes your work and might make the show worth your while? Are your friends going and are the parties good? Obviously there is some overlap, and you can have multiple goals at a convention, but making sure the convention is offering the things you expect is key. Nothing breeds disappointment like going to the wrong convention. NOT ALL CONS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
3. THE BOOTH QUESTION
The most obvious position for artists to be in at conventions is behind their booth selling their art, but not all artists enjoy that. Before I ever got a booth at conventions, I put together a portfolio and went to cons as an attendee. I went to panels and workshops on art and got valuable information. I showed my portfolio to artists and art directors and got excellent advice. But this is not just a method for up-and-comers and students. I’ve seen professional artists attend shows as an attendee either to meet art directors, or just hang with friends they don’t see often. Sales are not the main event for everyone.
The other side of having a booth is being comfortable talking about your art. A lot of artists HATE doing that. There’s a reason artists enjoy spending so much time alone in their studio, and for some artists, it’s because they’re more introverted. If that’s the case for you, don’t put yourself in a situation you don’t like. Either bring a friend who is more chatty, or skip the booth entirely. There are lots of ways to get noticed and setting up a booth at a convention is just one.
4. ART THAT FITS THE SHOW
Just like you need a different portfolio for different clients you also need different art depending on your goal. If self-promotion is key, have a great eye-catching display that draws people in. Show some big original paintings or prints and have smaller stuff to give away, but make sure it has contact info and website on it. If you’re more sales-oriented, make sure to have art that people want to buy with content they’re interested in. You may have to do a few shows to figure out where your art sells, and you’ll find different art sells at different shows.
I personally have three different set-ups: one for Comic Cons, one for Horror Shows, and one for Gaming/Art Shows. At Comic Cons I may get a lot of positive comments on my paintings, but they don’t sell. So I show my comic related work. At Horror Shows I focus on my more bloody and brutal paintings, as well as zombie portraits. At Gaming Events and Art Shows I focus on my paintings. I try to bring lots of originals and don’t show my comic or zombie portrait stuff at all. I even have different business cards for each type of show.
5. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
Doing conventions for the first time is a new market. Overtime you will build a fan base that’s interested in your art, but that takes time. Keep your goals in mind and evaluate each show accordingly. Try new things, and be honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your likes and dislikes. Conventions are a great resource to tap into, but don’t build them up in your head to be something they aren’t.
I hope that helps you find the right convention for you’re personal goals! I’ll see you at the next convention!
To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project, please visit: http://www.samflegal.com
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Thanks for the post! I’ve done a few conventions, but it’s always good to have an idea that other conventions can be used for different things, besides just selling.