San Diego Comic-Con 2015 (Allen William’s booth to the right)
by Donato

The San Diego Comic-Con International is coming up in three weeks and the summer/fall convention season is beginning to gather steam.  From San Diego you can move onto GenCon, WorldCon (World Science Fiction Con), DragonCon, IlluxCon, New York ComicCon and World Fantasy – just to name a few of the heavy hitters.  You are guaranteed to run into scores of professionals, artists and art directors alike at any of these events as well as hang with serious fans of the genres numbering into the thousands.

Stephan Martiniere’s walls are blank because he sold all of his large framed prints!

Over the years I have met and made friends with a wide range of attendees, and created deep lasting bonds with fellow professionals like Stephan Martiniere, Cathy and Arnie Fenner, Dylan Cole, Greg Hildebrandt, and Kirk Thatcher to name but a few.  Others I have been lucky enough to shake their hands and begin to know them better – John Howe, Roger Dean, Joe Haldeman, Moebius and George R.R. Martin.  The list is huge, and all began because I attend these events first and foremost as a fan.

Signing the 2015 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar with George R.R. Martin in San Diego

Being sincere about what you are interested in and love will trump any need to be a completely ‘successful’ professional to engage in compelling conversation before the eyes of other professionals.  I know I would much rather talk with an excited and educated fan or young talent than feel the pressure to look at someones work, pro or amateur, who is trying too hard to ‘make it’ at that event.  There is so much more to a convention than just making sales/acquiring work in the moment.

Here are a few thoughts on how I approach a show like San Diego Comic-Con, which will be my 18th straight appearance this July.

I typically bring a wide range of materials to a convention/tournament event.  This includes not only artwork and items for sales, but images which I feel are major, recent pieces and offer insight into my aesthetics and direction where I am proceeding in my art.  
Booth at 2015 San Diego Comic-Con
I avoid bringing weak pieces to an event, as these impact negatively on the perception of my body of work.  Not to say I never miss the mark, but I prefer not to have that work out in a public forum.  With that in mind, I do not attend events to only focus upon sales/recouping my expenses.  I look at a convention as a gallery exhibition, I am there to make a statement, to show accomplishments and themes with the art.  
Justin Sweet at IlluxCon in Allentown
I am also at a convention to socialize and make myself available to other fans, professionals and artists. I tend to not focus upon sales and intensive sketching, locking me into place, seated, disengaged.  I prefer to keep open and be willing to engaged in discussion on various topics and enjoying the moment.  Check out Justin Sweet here and how he is painting so he can face outward and engage anyone who comes by his booth.  Brilliant!
To facilitate open discussions, I often have an assistant at events like the San Diego Comic-Con, Spectrum Live, and Illuxcon.  As you can imagine this is wonderful help for sales, as assistants can handle a transaction while I am in heated conversation. But they can over cover my back side so much – most fans would prefer my signature than my assistants’! 

2015 IlluxCon in Allentown Art Museum

As for specifics, my booth involves numerous logistics beginning with a complex back exhibition wall, display structures, print racks, tables, and signage typically taking 2-3 hours to set up. Items for sale at this coming Comic-Con convention ranged from $5 oversized Magic Print Cards (set of three),  to $25 – $60 giclee prints, $30 books, $45 DVD’s,  $100-$1200 original drawings, and lastly $750 – $9,000 original framed oil paintings.  I offer something at nearly any price point, and I have numerous free postcards and brochures for even the cashless attendee.  I make sure that if you like my art, you can take home an experience with it, or with me.
Bob Self’s Baby Tattoo at San Diego Comic-Con