Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thousands of Dollars Worth of Lessons From Spectrum Fantastic Arts Live!

This past weekend Monkey + Seal took the long trip over to Kansas City for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!  It was three days of being surrounded by some of the most amazing contemporary fantasy artists out there. 

The week prior was sort of a whirlwind of madness.  Seal had concept art, storyboard, and commission work to do.  Monkey had an event he was coordinating on Wednesday, then hung the latest Big Umbrella Studios show on Thursday for the opening on Friday, and he painted all weekend.  Then, it was a mad dash Monday through Wednesday to finalize transportation plans, get prints made, figure out new displays, and pack. 

Monkey ordered plastic sleeves that didn't come in on time, we didn't sleep from 1:30pm on Wednesday until we got on our plane at 2:30pm on Thursday.  There were no restaurants open by the time we rolled into our hotel at 1am Friday morning, and so we had a large amount of pretzels, snack crackers, and dried fruit for dinner.

When we arrived at the convention center the next day, Monkey started freaking out due to the sheer overwhelming amount of "big name" artists with huge original paintings and giant, framed canvas prints.  However, Seal's courage was strong enough for the both of us and as Monkey calmed down, we started to set our booth up.

Over the next three days, we got to meet some amazing artists, listen to great presentations, and we even managed to sell some merchandise.  Even though the crowd was much smaller than we had hoped, we learned a lot and came out smiling.

To be honest, it was an expensive bunch of lessons and tips (even trying to take all the budget options) we ended up investing thousands of dollars that weren't made back.  This was a bit hard to take in, but the lessons were invaluable and viewing this as an investment in our careers rather than losing money has helped ease the sticker shock considerably.
Rows and rows of awesome artists and art

 Some good take-aways we learned:
-It's painful and scary to be beginners.  However, what option did we have?  Pack up and quit and go home?  Nay, you just gotta do the best with what you have.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

-From Mike Mignola: If you never put out that dream project, you'll never have the chance for movie rights and other "big time" offers.  Expect to make no money and do it for the love of it, and who knows where it will go.  At least you've put it out on paper and sent it out into the world.

-When you're just starting out in fantasy illustration, 5-6 amazing pieces is all you need in your portfolio.  Take out all the filler, emphasize the "amazing" part.  Also, tailor it specifically to the company you are submitting it to.  Your portfolio for Magic:the Gathering is much different than your portfolio for book cover illustrations, which is much different that the portfolio you submit for editorial work.  

-from basically every presenter: DO WHAT YOU LOVE

-From Donato Giancola: Expect to make absolutely no sales from any craft fair/exhibition/expo, and just go for the love of it.  Think of it as investing in your career.  You'll always leave happy.

-We figured out that we have to step up our own game - we're working on designs for new display units as we type!

-Established artists are sometimes insecure and freaked out as well!  We've overheard numerous other exhibitors freaking out over who they're vending with as well.  One artist on a panel (who freelances full-time for Wizards of the Coast + others) said "I still feel like someone is going to reveal me as a fraud."  Sound familiar?
Overall we had a great time, got to (re)meet some other Bay Area illustrators and meet some of our heroes.  We have no regrets and are super thankful we were able to take the plunge and make it out to a whole new venue and a whole new level!

Award Ceremony honoring artists who won the Spectrum Silver and Gold Award
James Gurney receiving the Grand Master: an artist who has had at least 20 years in the art industry, who inspires others, and has made an impact in the community. He is Seal's hero.
Onwards! Towards more adventures!