Convention Conversations Pt 1

Alright, I mentioned in my last blog post that I would talk about how I brought people to my table with more than just my display. Your display can only get you so far. It brought people to my table, but more often than not all it did was get their attention for a second. Beyond that, it’s up to the artist behind the table to bring them over. For an artist just starting out, this can be pretty scary, especially if you’re an Introvert. Keep in mind that nearly half of the population are introverts, and introverts aren’t comfortable walking up to a booth or table and striking up conversation with a stranger.

I am an introvert. I’m not good at small talk, I can’t blather on about chit-chat topics like the weather. Strike up a conversation about deep philosophical topics, and I’ll talk your ear off, but “hey-how-are-you” will end in a long awkward pause in the chatter. I don’t know much about what it’s like to be an extroverted artist, so hopefully all of you social butterflies can find some value in my posts, too!

So, having realized this about myself, I then reminded myself of what it was like to be on that side of the table, back before I had my own. I certainly was not the type of spectator who would walk up to any artist and ask questions, especially an artist I admire. I still quiver at the thought of opening a line of conversation with Dan Dos Santos or Greg Manchess. Believe it or not, I’m easily intimidated!

Now, I understand that I am still a veritable nobody in this industry and I do not remotely view myself as being on the same level as, say, Donato Giancola. However, the simple fact that I have a table displaying my art conveys a level of confidence to viewers that I may not necessarily have. The person attending the convention as a spectator doesn’t know if I’m a professional working artist, and every single one seemed to assume that I was. That can be intimidating for those who are artists themselves looking to get into the industry.

The first thing I did was observe for a bit. I noticed a few different types of spectators:

The Wanderer – This convention-goer generally sticks to the center of the thoroughfare, gazing over all of the art they can see from a distance, and usually does not approach a table unless something they are specifically interested in catches their eye. They are the most challenging to wrangle in, and I haven’t found a good way to pull them over to my table yet.

The Browser – They love to flip pages. Sketchbooks, portfolios, and art books are their favorite. They can look down at the book, flip pages, and move on.

The Dabbler – The Dabbler is highly interested in every kind of art, especially the kind they would love to produce themselves. You generally catch them stopping and staring at a piece for a minute or two, and if they like an artist’s work, they might slow down around your table and make quick, fleeting eye contact. Be ready to engage them, they’re extremely interesting, at least to me! They are doodlers, sketchers, self-proclaimed “dabblers”, and high school students. They want to create art, and are curious about how to get where you are, behind that table, selling your wares.

The Chatterer – Chatterers do just what their name implies. They’ll talk your ear off! Extremely personable and excited to be where they are, they love to talk to any and everybody. They can be really fun to talk with if you’re a fan of chatting!

The Treasure Hunter – These guys and gals are cool. They fascinate me. They look for whatever it is that they particularly like, and revel in the “Find” of a piece of art that they can take home with them. They will be carrying a plastic bag bursting at the seams, full of obscure and little known work they bought from artists all over the convention. If you’re also a Treasure Hunter, they’re pretty fun to talk to. They love showing off their treasures.

The Collector – Similar to the Treasure Hunter, these attendees will usually have a few prints they’ve picked up, but those prints will generally have a theme going. All from their favorite artist, or M:tG cards, or a type of creature, etc. If you have what they love, they might stop by.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but this is a good jumping off point for my next part: How to bring them over.

Before I delve into the canned questions and comments I whipped up for myself, I’ll talk about how to know when and who to open up a line of conversation with, and the results you may experience. Look for that in the next blog post!

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