It can be pretty damn intimidating making the decision to set up your own table at your very first convention. Trust me, I am well aware! I was terrified.
But let me back up a bit. I attended Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2 in 2013 and immediately fell in love. It is focused completely on Fantasy and Sci-Fi art, with a bit of Pop Culture and Pop Art sprinkled in, making it easily my favorite convention to attend. And really, it’s not so much a “convention” in the typical sense, as it isn’t geared toward sell Sell SELL as much as “regular” conventions. It has more of a connect-with-the-community feel, in my opinion. I think that’s why I love it so much.
Earlier this year, as I was browsing the site for the upcoming show, I noticed something new: Artist Alley. This is the first year SFAL has had an Artist Alley, and the tables were extremely affordable ($100 early registration, $200 last minute). They SOLD OUT shortly after I made the dive and purchased my space.
I honestly felt I was not remotely ready to have my own table at a convention or show, but what better way to motivate yourself to BE ready, than to have a deadline, a goal, and a sink-or-swim situation? That’s how I work best, after all. Pressure, stress, sink-or-swim. I could tell myself forever and ever that “someday I’ll have enough work to show”, or I could set up the situation to where I had damn well better create more work or else my table will look dismal and sad.
So that’s what I did. And honestly, the pressure of knowing I needed to have more and better work to put out in front of the general public caused a decent leap in my skills as an artist. So… bonus! I created about 2 paintings a week of original characters, proving to myself that I was indeed ready for this move.
Then came the preparation aside from the creation of the art. Booth setup! I created a Pinterest board where I could hoard all of the blogs and articles about setting up a successful booth I could find. Interestingly, there isn’t a whole lot out there, or at least it wasn’t easy to find. Artists: Pin your posts!
I looked around my house for items I could use to set up my own table, and was pleased to find that everything I needed for display, at least for my first table, was right here at home. I used black wire shelving we already had on hand. This was decently effective, and until I need something more robust, they will be used again in the future.
The prints I had done were from OfficeMax. I was very impressed with the quality and recommend starting simple like this until you’re ready to offer giclee and archival quality prints. There’s nothing wrong with a brand new artist selling prints from OfficeMax when you’re starting out. No one even noticed the difference.
Next, I ordered new business cards and some postcards of my favorite paintings. I intended to sell these for $1 each, but instead chose to hand them out for free. I had also created a postcard specifically to give to Art Directors, and this is what landed me my first professional freelance illustration job for a major trading card game company (can’t wait to talk about that more!). I would say the postcards were extremely effective. Note: Jon Schindehette suggested leaving space on your postcard or business card for ADs to be able to jot notes on them. I’ll be doing this in the future.
The back actually does have a lot of white space, so maybe I won’t need to change it in the future… huh.
For my business card display, I stole an idea off of Pinterest that involved taking a paperback book and folding each page in half, and then trimming the front and back covers to size. I stuck the business cards between the pages and placed it on my table. People loved that idea! So, it’s cool to find interesting ways to display your business cards, it can generate conversation, and people are more likely to take a card than if they’re just in a pile.
I also splurged and bought a banner and retractable stand from Staples. It was also super successful and getting attention and the quality was really high. You definitely want to have your art above eye level and down, having things to see at every level. Having a vertical banner helped people to find me from a distance.
I ended up rearranging things, and placing prints flat on the table for people to peruse, but this was the basic set up. I felt it was decent for a first timer. I was super lucky because the girl behind me had a huge wooden foldable display, and it was painted black on the back, so it sort of framed my table perfectly. In the future, I’m considering getting one of those photographer’s backdrops with black fabric. I like having the “wall” behind me.
So, with all of this set up and a few prints to sell, I felt I was ready. In a future blog post (soon), I will talk about how I brought people over to my table with a bit of conversation and some canned questions!
I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to ask questions!