For 12 years I have now been taking a major piece of my summer's creative energies and devoting them to a single event, the San Diego Comic-Con. This past convention was no exception, and turned out to be the one of the best years yet: from sales, hanging out with friends and the development of new business. Years ago, I had a few questions put to me, as I was gearing up for another West Coast trip and making the move from an Artist's Alley table to that of a booth with my friend Stephan Martiniere. I have included my answers from back in 2003, and find them quite relevant even today:
Why the booth at Comic Con?
In today's uncertain world of commercial illustration, I have found it best to diversify, not only my subject matter, but also my markets. I have attended the San Diego Comic-Con over the past four years and have understood there is the potential for major commissions and sales of originals to those who attend and are interested in the comics and movie markets. This year saw a ten fold increase in sales/commissions from last year. It was amazing. The decision to acquire a booth space not only opened my work up to an increase in traffic on the main sales floor (The old Artists Alley where I was previously is at the end of the enormous hall), but the appearance and size of my display demonstrated I was serious about my art and laid the suggestion for others to do so as well; from fans, to artists, to potential clients stopping by. 75,000+ attendees is a number of interested buyers you WANT to reach. (note, the convention is now ~ 150,000+)
What are some of the products and services you offer?
At my booth the number one product I sell is me, the artist. I am there in person to meet with prospective art directors from publishers to movie directors/producers who might stop by to be considering my work for a major project or even a small commission; I am there to talk with other professional and review portfolios of those who wish to become professionals; and lastly I am there for the thousands of fans who are either familiar with my works within the genre or are first timers who have never heard of me before. All of these types of people purchase prints, books, and maybe originals of my art to remind them of the style and intensity of what I do. I make sure I have something for everyone, from free handouts to high quality paintings.
Any thoughts about the future or plans? I'll be back to the Comic-Con, with even more epic work and a greater selection of prints. As long as I find clients who wish to commission the greatest challenging works I can embrace, I will always follow that lead.
My attitude and advice about this convention hasn't changed a bit in the eight years since answering those questions. I still believe it is one of the most important events to attend if you wish to develop your career in science fiction and fantasy illustration - either through walking the floor of the exhibit hall, to obtaining an Artist's Alley table, or putting out some hard earned cash for the full booth space. Time and time again I have been rewarded for the effort, many times the payback occurs years later, but the benefits still out weigh the cost. I tend to choose ways to invest in my career for the long haul, and believe you have to if you want a long arching successful career path.
To be candid, last year was my worst year at the con. I thought of packing it in. I told a good friend that unless a miracle happened this year, I wouldn't be back. Well, next year will be my 13th year attending, and I am glad I was proven wrong...
Attending conventions is a core foundation element to my self promotion I have thoroughly enjoyed to participate in as a professional artist. The people you meet at these events are as passionate about art as you are, and there is nothing as much fun as arm (and leg!) wrestling at the Westin Hotel at midnight on a Saturday with friends and fellow artists roaring in laughter around you.
If you make it to next years event, stop by the Donato Arts booth and say hello...I'll be happy to talk your ear off (or take you on in arm wrestling)!
My wonderful booth buddy, Stephan Martiniere, and Dylan Cole, the highly talented matte painter. Stephan and I made the move out of our start in Artist's Alley and have been together on the floor since.
Jon Foster in a live demonstration in 2008.
Two new friends I made this year, Stephen Crowe and Paul Tobin of Weta.
Jon Schindehette and Robh Ruppel at the Westin Saturday night.
Hard-core fans at the convention!