Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post 264-I love my Texas...

I'll post a picture in a bit, I just need to get this off my chest while it's still fresh on my mind. I just got back from a long day at work, but I got an e-mail. I know I've talked about the possibility of branching out in terms of conventions, going to out of state ones, but besides the economic climate, I keep getting reminded why I avoided them in the past.

On the heels of the news that Wizard World Texas died, there was barely a tear shed. It was like the state of Texas rejected a transplant and realized the transplant was unnecessary. The flash of a Wizard World show brought little to our community, and the fun part of the show was essentially hanging out with our usual local crowd and fellow Texas comic folk. Essentially it was a Texas show with walking room...and that was the problem. Texas art collectors and supporters love the intimacy of being near the artist and asking lots of questions. We love our live art, and we love to hear all of the latest tips, tricks, techniques, and get an inside scoop on the latest technology and media (any material used to make art for those who haven't taken Art I).

In the past year I've really allowed the spirit of the Texas shows envelop me like a warm blanket. The people running the shows respect the little guy, they respect new artists trying out new things, and they support it in a big way. Not that they reject big name artists, but they love genuine people trying to make it against all odds doing something outside the industry standard...ultimately, it is a love of art and folks of the fine artist mentality.

Many whose only experience or knowledge of Texas is in Pee Wee's Big Adventure might be led to believe that Texas is this place out of a spaghetti Western set, where people all talk with drawls and say y'all...well, most people do say y'all...I don't, but that's because I was born in Indiana...but that's just it. Texas is full of transplants, kids who were born all over the world, but burgeoning industries of the 70's, 80's and 90's (me) were 'dragged' to Texas by a parent who was transferred. I had misconceptions of what it would be like here, I thought there would be tumbleweeds everywhere (they're only in some places, you don't see them that often, but that's not the point), and I thought that you could only eat Tex Mex food. But Texas is a mish mash of people with dreams, with aspirations, and drive to make better lives for themselves. It's a miniature country, and it's become self sustaining.

Getting to why I am writing this. Some of you may have noticed I kind of blew off recapping Baltimore...that's because it kinda sucked. I'll be honest, aside from hanging out with friends and meeting one of the greatest comic art collectors ever. It wasn't a great show, we had bad placement, like really bad placement. There wasn't any thought into who was sitting next to whom, and you're all fighting against the biggest names in the industry for a share of the money. People don't go to that show looking for the new guy, they bring their money to get an Immonen sketch, and if I had a chance, I probably would too. But the disparity in placement is like a slap in the face. Add to that the overall way that the fans were to try and talk with or sell things to. It was like they thought we were evangelical zealots trying to change their religious perception. People would run, or when they'd take your card, and you tried to talk to them they'd run, like full out RUN as if they boosted something from your table. Hardly a good environment.

But I fought my way nearly to cost, but I didn't get to ENJOY the show. That's the problem with working a day job and having to go out of state. I got in late, didn't get to set up before the show, and never got to rest until the end of the day. By the time things died down, I didn't feel like going and hanging out with people because Baltimore at night makes me think of last year, which was like living through a version of Friday the 13th. You have to walk everywhere just like any other con, only it's more humid, and more hostile than going to other shows.

SO...back to the e-mail. I have been wanting to branch out to some other shows and put out my feelers to to see if I could get a bite, or just gather a feeling for if I wanted to spend a bunch of money (even though it's a rough sell to make it back). Essentially figure out if it would be worth shipping paintings across the U.S. and dealing with the logistical nightmares.

I basically got an e-mail where you can easily read between the where a person holds up their index finger, middle, and ring, but they're only doing you the courtesy of not dropping Mr. Index, and Mr. Ring...get my drift?

I'll spare you the details, but it ended with trying to sell me a table in a separate spot for an amount that is cost prohibitive. I'm not Charest, I can't pull down numbers to make both the travel (425 for the flight) and the table (too many hundreds to think of selling items and sketches to make back), not to mention lodging and travel to and from the hotel to the airport etc. Also, the table I would purchase would undoubtedly be in a portion of the convention center where I'd be lucky to have people walking by to ask how to get to the bathroom.

Sure, the locations for the Texas conventions are pretty small, but you get maximum traffic and exposure. Being in a large center, the space is daunting and ultimately hides you from prospective supporters. A few years ago, at this same show, I was sitting with a friend, and the folks sitting with us were trying to sell things to people in the line in front of us. Around 100+ people in line for a well known artist that was doing free sketches. Now tell me, with someone with a proven name undercutting you, how can you sell anything!?!?!?! Nobody will want to jump out of line to go buy something from you when they're about to get a free sketch!!!! THEN, once they're done, they'd have spent a few hours waiting through the line, so they are ready to go somewhere else or home, so even IF they were interested in you at one point, their mind is on the free goodness they just got. It's insulting of the well known artist, who probably didn't have to pay for a table, and made his money with a couple commissions. It shows a lack of respect for the new guy entering the field.

Now understand me, I know that in the internet, it is easy to put a hostile voice behind words, and in the past I might have had that sentiment. But I'm pretty close to indifferent.

Sure, it was insulting how I was brushed off because I'm a 'nobody' in this business, but whatever. I'm making moves, and climbing up the ladder as best I can. I'm still probably going to this convention and sitting with some friends that have extra space or didn't have to pay for a table, just because it's one of the few conventions outside of Baltimore that all my friends go to, and I ain't going back to Baltimore any time soon.

I am pretty much set on not going to any out of state conventions and just saving money for local ones and going with my usual crews. Easier to make a profit and use it to pay for creating new pieces, and that's ultimately the reason I do MAKE ART!!! I don't care about just making profit...or I wouldn't be doing the style I do. But I need to constantly create, improve, and hang out with like minded people, and Texas offers all those things without the stress or disappointment. Even a disappointment at a show is covered up by a meal with 10 or more friends who you've know for years and give you grief because they care!

I know I was born in Indiana, but after living 15 years here (3/5 of my life), I feel like a Texan.

So, I better wrap this up or it'll take up the whole length of the page. I love people of all over, but there are many instances where conventions have lost their way, lost the heart and original meaning of having a convention: a place to find cheap comics and meet the creators. Conventions used to be in church basements, or like the small ones my brother and I went to in Indiana in a hotel lobby no bigger than a Denny's.

My philosophy about this business is having fun, avoiding stress and unnessecary hassle over this business. Art should be fun, and the minute it is work, it's lost its focus for me. I have a day job, and even that is fun, so why should a convention be so much work?!

If you want a fun convention, and are in the northern portion of Texas next weekend, hang out with me at Dallas Comic Con and I'll talk endlessly about anything you want. I'm bad about that, I can talk to you for hours about pens and environmental effects on various ink types...but if that's your thing, I'm your guy. Other fantastic Texas conventions: STAPLE!, and CAPE.


David said...

Well said. Texas is a great place, and Dallas specifically has been good to me.

Craig Zablo said...

Doesn't it feel better to get that off your chest?

One of the things that I almost always regret from any show, is that there is just not enough time to see everyone or do everything you want. I always try to make it a point to look at every table to see what's out there, but there just isn't enough time... ever.

A friend of mine who is a BIG time art collector and I have opposite views when it comes to new artists. I would rather have a cool piece from an unknown than a so-so piece from a big name artist. He won't get anything from unknowns. My argument that they may become name artists holds little weight with him.

As for me, with my limited budget I have to try to map out my options before the show. That's where artist websites come in handy. Even if I've never heard of you, before I go to a show I'll try to check out your art online. If I like what I see, I'll be sure to look you up -- it may not mean a purchase, but it could lead to one.

At any rate, from one former Indiana boy to another -- hang in there, brother. If you can ever make it to Heroes or MegaCon, you can count on at least one sketch sold!

Jeremy Hughes said...

well said... if you ever get a chance Art Fest put on by MoCCA in NYC is such a great experience because it's focus is on artists and small publishers only. when you take out the merch guys and the bootleggers it really focuses a show and gives it a really awesome environment to discover new folks. granted NYC is way expensive, but i think most people like to go even if they end up not breaking even because of the experience.

give me a head's up if you are ever thinking about it. i still have contacts in the organization.


oh and if i can make it next weekend for the con i'll definitely stop by and say hi.

samax said...

yeah, Texas is a nice place. i'm born and raised here, so i know the good and the bad, but i like the comics scene here...

Miked! said...

As a Kentucky resident who only makes it out to a couple of East coast shows, this is sad news. Meeting you at Baltimore was the highlight of the trip (along with getting to chat with Dean Trippe and Jason Horn again), and you made at least two die-hard fans with me and my girlfriend.

I hope you do find some cool shows outside of Texas to go to, because otherwise I'll have to find my way to your state to be able to talk with you again and most likely get on your nerves with sketch requests. Artists like yourself are the reason I go to shows, discovering Trippe and Horn at Baltimore '07, and you the following year, along with numerous other people whose works I wouldn't have been exposed to. In that regard you can put me in Mr. Zablo's camp of seeking the thrill of finding fresh and unique takes on producing comics.

Regardless I'll be following your work with or without shows, so if doing less shows leads to you enjoying creating more, then as a fan of what you do I'll get the added bonus of hopefully seeing more of your stuff.

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