Spectrum Fantastic Art Live took place about a month ago in May, and was an incredible and validating experience as an artist having my first full-size booth and showing my project “The Aegrus” to the world for the first time. Here’s my experience with that whole shindig, and if you have any questions at all feel free to comment here or email me at email@example.com!
This year was my first time as an actual exhibitor rather than an attendee, which was a whole new experience. I drove out with some people from a large group that myself and a couple of other people created here in Denver called the “Denver Illustration Salon”. Our group is welcoming and open to all artists so if you’re ever in Denver drop me a line and come hang out with our group!
Our massive group of 15ish people all booked rooms together and drove out in a single 4-car convoy. It was awesome.
(Photo taken by the wonderful Jon Schindehette of our crew just before rolling out.)
Once we got there we had one evening to relax a bit from the long drive before rising bright and early the next morning for booth set-up. I shared a booth with an artist friend to cut the overall exhibition cost and I would highly recommend it to someone who’s thinking about showing their work at the show. Setting up our booth took longer than expected because myself and my partner in crime Dylan Pierpont each had a large 8′x4′ display for our larger prints. We custom built them to be able to fit into a smaller vehicle (thanks to Jeremy Moore who let us take inspiration from his own custom display) and transporting them wasn’t too bad.
For those who are interested in going and want to know how we made our displays, here’s a small run-down: We purchased an 8′ panel of peg board (the ones with the small holes in them) and had them cut at the store into four 4′x2′ pieces. We used long metal rods used for shelving to act as the legs, with smaller L shaped feet. The four pieces of peg board are put together using zip ties, and we used velcro to attach black felt across the front so it all looked like one cohesive display.
(My husband, AKA booth babe, helping me set up my display)
DAY ONE of SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE:
After setting up our displays we quickly busted out all of our prints and displayed them along our tables, showing people the quality prints that they might purchase along with a framed picture of print prices and convention specials.
Overall the first day was pretty slow since it was only open to those who purchased the exclusive 3-day passes. So for anyone wanting to exhibit keep in mind that while it’s great to stay positive that you’ll sell a lot of prints, that first day will mostly likely not be very successful. BUT, it gives everyone a chance to scope out the tables and get an idea of what they might want to purchase the next day. That first day was honestly just a great opportunity to be able to meet some of the other exhibiting artists and prepare for the real rush that was coming the next day.
DAY TWO, THE BUSIEST DAY OF ALL:
Day two started a bit later than planned for me because our whole group was out socializing pretty late the night before. After grabbing breakfast as quickly as possible (make sure you bring some easy to eat breakfast food in case you don’t have time to sit down!) I headed down to my side of the booth where my husband had taken command for me. I was informed that I had already sold 2-3 prints so I know next year that on the busiest day of the con: ARRIVE AND SET UP EARLY.
(Photo taken by the wonderful Melanie Yurka of me taking a look at someone’s portfolio per their request. That was super cool!)
That day was great, our booth had a steady stream of people coming by and buying prints, chatting with us about artwork, and asking for portfolio reviews which was really unexpected for me. Getting to meet everyone who swung by the booth was incredible, there were so many young people really wanting to get into digital art and so passionate about wanting to break in to the professional world.
I sold about 85% of my print sales on that one full day, which was awesome and crazy. I went to this convention expecting to sell maybe a handful of prints, and walked out at the end with most of the prints gone. It was incredible and validating to hear the public’s reaction to my project that has been brewing for over ten years now. To hear people pick up a print of one of my characters and say “Wow this is wicked awesome, what is this character all about? What’s his/her story?” It felt amazing to begin to tell parts of my very long story and have people’s eyes light up and want to know more.
Portfolio review sign-ups go live a month or two before the con and you have to be refreshing the page the MOMENT they go live. That’s the only way I got the two reviews that I did. I reviewed with Paizo Publishing art director Andrew and ILM art director Christian Alzmann, both of which were very kind and supportive people. I went in there expecting my work to get torn apart but instead was encouraged to keep doing certain things that I was doing right and also to make certain changes to my work if I wanted to fit into certain industries. The review with Christian was great because it opened my eyes to exactly what kind of portfolio to get together if I ever wanted to venture into the realm of film concept design, which is a dream of mine someday.
If you are going as an attendee or exhibitor do not be afraid of the portfolio reviews. These guys take the entire day to review everyone’s work because they genuinely want to help all of us improve and reach our goals/dreams. Every art director I met was everything but scary, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to any of them and ask them to look at your work.
(Here we have a good chunk of our Denver group along with some other friends all dressed up for the awards ceremony!)
The awards ceremony is something that both attendees and exhibitors look forward to each year. It’s a chance for everyone to get dressed up and head over to the very elegant Midland Theatre, one of the nicest theaters I’ve ever seen. The awards for the Spectrum book are awarded with heart-wrenching speeches and funny jokes, then at the end the title of Grand Master is bestowed upon one very influential artist who is looked up to by many. Last year when I went it was Brom, and this year I already had an idea of who it might be. When the Star Wars song “Duel of the Fates” started playing through the theater I instantly knew who the Grand Master would be for 2014. It was none other than Iain McCaig, who has inspired an entire generation of artists by creating an abundance of characters in film such as Darth Maul, other Star Wars prequel characters, and many of the film character designs for Harry Potter. Since I basically owe my career to this man, I cheered and clapped so loud that my throat and hands were sore. Well deserved Iain, well deserved.
DAY THREE, the LAST DAY OF SPECTRUM:
Day three was nothing like day two at all. It was much more laid back, and MUCH less traffic at the booth. The nice part about that was that I got to walk the show floor and grab some artwork from other artists. This was also a great chance for several art directors to swing by the booth and talk about possibly doing work for their companies without the crowds buying prints.
The last day was amazing for me because I got to chat with my art idol, Iain McCaig, and have him sign my copy of his book “Shadowline” that I’ve had for a while. That was a huge deal for me, I owe my art career to this man who designed Darth Maul, the Harry Potter film characters, and so much more. When I told him this, he hugged me then flipped my book open again and wrote in huge letters at the top: “MAKE US PROUD!”
So if you want to do a table or booth at this convention, don’t freak out about not having time to check out the other artists. Friday and Sunday the first and last day of the con you will have plenty of lulls in the crowd to go explore the show.
OVERALL, the whole booth experience was AWESOME. Got to meet so many amazing fellow artists who I’ve never met before and some who I’ve admired for many many years. Among several others Karla Ortiz and Wesley Burt stopped by to check out my booth and chat which was just awesome, they are both just such awesome and crazy skilled people. Plus Karla has to be one of the most fun people I’ve ever hung out with – make sure to say hi to her at these kind of shows if you get the chance!
A lot of people ask about the cost of exhibiting and if it’s financially worth it and all I can say is this: Yes you will lose money. The question is, how much? I think it varies per person, but for me I ended up making back almost double what I spent on the entire trip from print sales and jobs that I got from people who liked my work which was way above my expectations. I came home with some extra prints but not many since I sold most of them. The great part about that is then you can sell them online to anyone who didn’t have a chance to make it down to the con. It was worth the money because of the in-person networking I got to do and the chance to meet so many artists I look up to in a setting where my art was displayed for all to see.
I will most definitely be back next year with a booth, possibly sharing with a friend again or maybe just trying to hold down a booth of my own. Either way, whether you’re a student, a pro, new to the industry, or just an art appreciator, you’ve gotta come down to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and enjoy the magic of so many amazing artists grouped together in one place.
*I’m currently selling a small handful of left over prints online via PayPal with free shipping, drop me an email if you’re interested!*
Some links to everyone mentioned here, check them all out!
The Denver Illustration Salon: https://www.facebook.com/DenverIllustrationSalon
My Partner in Crime, Dylan Pierpont: http://www.dylanpierpont.com/
Iain McCaig: http://iainmccaig.blogspot.com/
His book, Shadowline: http://www.amazon.com/Shadowline-Art-Iain-McCaig/dp/1933784245
Karla Ortiz: http://www.karlaortizart.com/
Wes Burt: http://wburtconcept.blogspot.com/