Artists Alleys are one of the busiest and most popular areas of any convention. You can find everything from black and white sketches to full coloured prints and meet anyone from independent comic artists to well-known Marvel and DC contributors.
For me, I’ve always looked for artwork that has something unique that stands out, so when I though about this topic, I decided that I would switch gears a bit, and ask the artists themselves what it’s like to work at a convention. I am a fan of the following three artists, who were kind enough to help me out and share their various backgrounds and convention experience.
They are new artist Liz Parkes, and Fan Expo regulars, Ken Wheaton and Alex Chung.
I am starting the first of three blogs with Liz Parkes. She is new to the convention circuit and I thought that she could give us a bit of an insight of what it is like for someone who is just getting started.
My husband and I met her this past March at Toronto’s Comic Con. It was her take on Daredevil that caught my eye. Unlike other prints which typical portray him in full costume, this was a great sketch from the Netflix series and I loved how Liz put the name in his glasses. That weekend we took home Daredevil and a few other of Liz’s pieces….
So, I’ve asked Liz to tell us a bit about herself….
It’s cliché, but I’ve loved drawing ever since I was a kid! So when I found out there was a high school in my city that actually taught a visual arts program (Canterbury High School), I jumped on that real quick. For four years I had a fantastic group of teachers who taught me a diversity of visual mediums, from printmaking to acrylics to ceramics. To this day I still find it a little weird when people say how they hated high school, because I had such a blast.
Right now, I’m going into my fourth year of Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Animation program (already anticipating all the all-nighters I’m going to pull to finish my thesis film…), and am hoping to be a storyboard artist when I finish! Comics are also a huge passion of mine. I pretty much think if I ever find myself being able to fully support myself making comics, I’ll know I’ve made it.
...and something that may not be well known?
Hmm… probably a little know fact about me is that I love writing. Sadly, the same can’t be said for finishing. I have a ton of half-written stories on my computer. Even a couple of books. It’s awful. However, I am in the process of writing a graphic novel and I’m determined to complete it!!!
When did you start attending conventions as an artist?
I’m newish to the con scene- I started 3 years ago and have done 5 artist alleys since then. Being a student, I’ve been keeping my conventions pretty local. My first artist alley was Ottawa Comic Con in 2014. When I didn’t completely bomb it like I thought I would, I continued on for the two following years. In my limited experience, it’s been my favourite! I’ve also done Pop Expo (also in Ottawa) and Toronto Comic Con. Toronto was super convenient since my school is close by. This September I’ll also be doing Fan Expo.
What is your opinion of how conventions promote artists? Do you feel that you are being supported as someone who is still “new”?
If you’re new to the scene, I definitely think cons are a fantastic opportunity to get your stuff noticed. I’ve gained quite a few followers on social media from conventions, and after a while, you’ll see the same people coming back year after year to visit your booth. There are a lot of people who attend cons especially for artist alley, and I promise that at least one of them are gonna like your stuff!
What is the best thing that you get out of attending conventions?
It doesn’t matter how many times it happens, I’m always amazed that people want to give me money for my art. So probably that, the joy I get from knowing someone that likes my art enough to buy it, as corny as that sounds.
…Also- THE FUDGE STANDS!
What is the worst thing about attending conventions?
I love conventions, so I really don’t have a lot to complain about. But to write something really trivial-sometimes I take on so many commissions (because I’m a people pleaser who can’t say no) that I literally don’t have time for a lunch break. I devour the entire fridge once I get home. Always have time for a lunch break, kids!!
How has attending conventions helped promote you as an artist?
Like I said, you start to develop a following, especially if you attend the same cons. I advertise my tumblr on business cards, and if people like my stuff enough they’ll usually follow me there as well. In my opinion, Tumblr is one of the best platforms out there today for artists wishing to gain a bigger audience. Gaining followers from conventions who help to further promote my art by showcasing it on their blogs is like gold.
What is the best/worst or strangest commission that you have ever been asked to do from a convention fan?
Oh man, I’ve been asked to draw a lot of strange things and I’m forgetting all of them. Once there was a guy who asked me to draw Ariel in her pink dress crying in bed with an arm wound… it was weirdly specific… I also get asked to draw a lot of ships, many that I never would have thought of …once I was asked to draw Margaery Tyrell x Loki.
What advice would you give to an artist that wants to use conventions as a way to promote him/herself?
Do it!!! Sometimes you just have to push yourself; you can’t wait till you feel you’re ready. But don’t do anything last minute, give yourself plenty of time to prepare the art you want to sell. Show your best stuff! And make business cards!
Thanks Liz, for giving us the chance to see what it takes to get started as a convention artist and enjoy yourself at Fan Expo this year!
For more info. on Liz Parkes, check her out at http://eklixio.tumblr.com/
Remember to keep and eye out for my next two blogs on fellow artists Ken Wheaton and Alex Chung.
Text © Written In Geek blog (2016) All rights reserved
Pictures © Written In Geek blog or used with subject’s permission (2016)