All right, I posted two articles previously on what art show conventions are, and how to register for them. Now I'm going to focus on how to display for them.
I'll be as basic as I can, but uh... I've been doing this for so long that I may use jargon that's unfamiliar, or forget something that's just second nature to me. Feel free to ask any questions at all. I've been a professional framer for a very long time (over ten years but I'm too tired to pull out dates and add it up. I think we figured it was around 13/14 years), and displaying at art shows since 96.
Choosing your art
The first step after registering for your panels at a convention, is picking what art you're going to display. You want to make sure that you have enough room on your panel for everything AND the bid sheets. They take up an obnoxious amount of space. As a general rule of thumb, you can fit 9 pieces matted out to 11" by 14" on one 4' by 4' panel. They fit three rows of three pieces. Anything else and you may have to fiddle with it. I usually go one or two pieces over what my limit is (especially when I have odd sizes) and work it all out later. You can always keep the extras for the next convention.
Matting vs Framing
The one universal rule to displaying art is that it must be ready to hang. Ready to hang means it needs to be matted or framed, so that it can be displayed. Taping art to your panels is a huge no. Sticking it in portfolio sleeves and clipping it up? Another huge no.
Art is all about perceived value. What the buyer *thinks* the piece is worth is heavily influenced by how it's displayed. A cheap frame will look like a cheap frame, and honestly isn't worth the bother. Remember, most con goers have to *fly home*, and aren't going to want to cart a dollar store frame along with them for a printed piece of art (I've watched people pull the art out of the frame and chuck the frame before getting on a plane).An original is going to be protected and carefully cared for by the buyer to begin with, so they won't mind the added care of making sure the glass doesn't break on the plane.
Prints generally sell better when they're matted, not framed. On the other hand, originals tend to stand out a little more when they're framed and the frame helps to 'justify' the extra expense in many buyer's minds. So if you do choose to frame? Make SURE it's not a cheap frame. The frameless clip frames generally turn a buyer off like nothing else.
Types of mats
Matting is an interesting thing. You have a lot of choices when you mat artwork. You can cut a single mat, a double mat, decorative corners or just really fancy mats in general. This is also where convention art shows are WAY different from art galleries. In an art gallery, or a school display, the rule of thumb is white mats. In theory it distances the art from everything around it and forces the viewer to focus on the piece and it's meaning.
Well cons aren't that existential, they're all about showing nifty fantasy/sci fi themes that make people go "COOL!" So what tends to work better at cons is what works in your home. You choose colors that compliment and accentuate the piece. So don't feel that you have to mat in black or white, jump up and have a little fun with your color choices.
In general, pieces double matted sell more then single matted. Decorative corners don't seem to affect the average amount spent per piece... but it DOES draw attention to the pieces which is what you want. More attention to your panels usually means more sales. If you're able to cut decorative corners (and have the time), then by all means throw a few in there.
What is a double/single mat and decorative corners?
Well pictures speak more than a thousand words so... I've got some examples.
single mat Single matting is the bare basics. I tend to only do this if I'm in a super hurry (or if I'm only paid for a single mat). It's better then nothing, but it rarely displays the piece properly. I usually try to keep my mats around a 2" width. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but this seems to be a decent width for most images. This is a single mat:
double mats Double mats are the same as a single mat, except it has a small inside edge. The general rule of thumb is for a 1/4" inside mat. If you know how to cut a single mat, this is how to cut a double: When cutting a double mat, you cut your top mat first. Then put the inside piece back in, flip the mat board face down and use double stick tape to adhere the inner mat to the back of the board (make sure the inner mat doesn't overlap the outside edge of the top mat board. You're going to be measuring from the top mat's edge). Then you cut the inside edge out, and pop both center pieces out. (kind of difficult to explain without showing).
Double matting gives a piece a nice, clean, finished look and is highly attractive. Unfortunately I don't have any highly attractive photos of a double mat, so this will have to do:
There are all kinds of nifty decorative tricks you can do with matting. V grooves, arrows, etc. etc. I can't show them all, but I'll give a little sample to show. I've even cut celtic knotwork in a corner, it really all depends on how much time you're willing to put into the fancy stuff. If you do a LOT of conventions it probably isn't worth it, but once in a while it's nice.
.. and if you don't know what a mat cutter is? This is my personal mat cutter. Or at least a tiny view of it.
It may be easier to cut mats with just a 2" border all the way around, but you'll end up with a really odd sized outside edge. In general people enjoy being able to pop their newly purchased art into a ready made frame. So when cutting, try to cut to standard size frames.
What are standard sizes? Well... here's a list. 4"x5" 4"x6" 6"x8" 5"x7" 8"x10" 8"x12" 8-1/2"x11" 9"x12" 10"x13" 11"x14" 12"x16" 14"x18" 16"x20" 20"x24" 22"x28" 24"x30" 24"x36" 30"x40"
There are also some odd standard sizes coming out now that scrapbooking is popular. Many people can get square frames easily now. 10 by 10, 12 by 12, etc.
Worse comes to worse, mat to whole numbers (for example 12" not 12 1/8"), because there is always the option to buy a 'frame kit'. It's a frame that you buy the length and width seperately, then put them together yourself.
Bagging and finishing
Now that you have your piece matted, you realize that it's... well... not protected very well. Sure it's stiff, but what now? Do you tape the edges all around or something? (the answer to that is no).
The only tape you should have, is a single piece of artist's tape along the TOP edge of the print. Artist's tape is a white, low tack tape that's also very low acidic (I've heard acid free, but haven't seen a package that says acid free on it). What's the big deal about that? Well have you ever had to take tape off of an old poster? Notice how the poster is discolored where the tape was, kind of yellowed? Artist's tape won't do that (at least not very much). It's also easier to peel away. It may not matter to YOU, but if you want repeat buyers, showing care for the pieces in the long run is going to earn their respect.
So you have the piece tapped in, now you need to use a backing board. PLEASE don't use cardboard. It looks terrible, and cheap. 1/4" Foamboard is usually the best stuff to use for backing board.
Finally... bags. You can shrink wrap your piece if you have access to a shrink wrap machine, but since you can't guarantee the conditions of where the art will be, changing temperatures may cause unsightly wrinkles in your shrink wrap. You want the piece to be as viewable as possible. So... to pimp my favorite place, Clearbags.com is a great place to get clear, resealable bags. They come in different sizes, just make sure you buy the right size. (for example. An 11 by 14 piece should have a bag that's at least 1/4" wider. To make room for the thickness of the mat board/foam board.)
Print shop differences
Pieces being displayed in the print shop don't necessarily have to be matted. However it IS a good idea to at least bag them (preferably with something stiff behind them, though not necessarily foamboard). Remember, people will be handling them quite a bit.
Last minute things to remember before shipping your art off
After you have your pieces matted, it's a good idea to do a last minute double check of your panel space and to plan exactly how your pieces will be displayed.
I usually tape off a section of my floor the size of the panel I have, then I literally lay out my art in the way I want to have it displayed. Remember that if you have 2 or more panels, they probably WON'T be laying flat, so don't plan on being able to overlap pieces onto the other panels.
If you have a camera, taking a picture and printing out your layout would be good, otherwise just draw a quick diagram. Even if you're hanging the pieces yourself, it makes your set up *extremely* fast. But if you're not there to hang, having a diagram ensures that your pieces will be displayed to their best advantage. (in otherwords, not just shoved up anywhere they can fit them. Volunteers are usually extremely busy and so don't always take time to display pieces to their best.)
Do a double check and make sure all your art is labeled, and has it's bid sheet. Then pack your pieces as carefully as possible.
Alright. I've killed you guys with words yet again (I'm never less than longwinded, sorry). Hopefully this all helps you guys. I'm not sure if I should do anything about after con stuff, like taking down your art. Let me know if there is ANYTHING else you'd like me to write on, I'd be happy to.
And really... if you do end up showing, best of luck to you.
So, hopefully you've got a basic idea of what a sci fi/fantasy convention art show is, the question is... what's next? How do you get your art into the show?
I'll be breaking this journal up into the mechanics behind registering and such for the cons.
Choosing your con
This part is... well it's kind of tricky. It takes experimentation, research, and word of mouth before you settle on what conventions will be your regular ones to send to... or attend.
My favorite place to start is with this site: [link]
The guy who does this is pretty up to date on what's going on with all of the cons, and provides various ways to sort it all out.
Another place to go is [link] It's a yahoo group that was set up by the original art show director for Dragoncon (he's since stepped down and there is a wonderful couple who run it now). They have a calendar area that lists conventions as well.
Generally local cons will sell much less than the big 'name' cons, like dragcon, gencon, comiccon, etc. etc. If you hear everyone and their dog talking about it, then check it out, see if you want to try. The problem is, everyone's art is different and has different appeal. So what sells well in one venue, you can't GIVE away in another. It's all trial and error.
Now once you've chosen your con, the next step is registering. Generally if it's between two and three months before the con, I like to call/email the a.d. (art show director) first and make sure there's still space. Conventions have a limited amount of space and once it sells out... that's it. They also tend to fill up early so you really are looking a few months in advance to book your space. Especially if you're mailing in, because you need to give yourself time to get the art to them (most cons that except mail in art have a deadline to receive it. And it is rarely the actual date of the con).
Do they have space? Great. Now you need to register. Each art show is different on *where* to get the forms from, sometimes you have to poke around their web site or ask the a.d. directly. But the first piece of paperwork you need is your registration. This takes care of reserving your space, is the legal document saying you've read, understood and will abide by the art show rules, and gives the a.d. your contact info and where to send the check to. This is an important piece of paper.
There will be a section for mail in artist's specifically (if the art show accepts mail in art), and also one for agents. I'll explain about that in the next section. Also a question about if you want art in the print shop.
Fill it all out, then mail it in with your payment for your panel. If the a.d. doesn't get back to you about receiving it, it's always good to check and make sure, just in case something's happened. You dont' want to send your art if they don't have the space reserved. And that's it. You're registered.
Mail in art and Agents
If you can't attend a convention in person, you have two other options for getting your art there. You can mail your art in, but there's always a chance that the show doesn't accept mail in art (they'll say yes or no in the rules). And there's having an agent carry your art in for you.
Mail in art
The pro with mail in art is that you can show at more cons then you could possibly attend in person. The con is... you have no bloody clue what'll happen to your art from the moment you put it in the mail until it comes back home to you. There's a lot that can happen, though generally luck is on the artist's side and it tends to be okay. But you are always running a risk when you mail your art anywhere.
You will have to provide a check for the return shipping, and remember... specify that in case your art ALL SELLS, do you want the empty box shipped back to you. Some people do, some don't. It's also good to provide a return shipping label in the box as well, so the A.d. can just slap it on the box and there's no worry that the address might get written wrong. It's all done.
And don't forget. Not all cons accept mail in art. Why? Because the a.d. has to store that art until the art show, unpack and hang it, then pack it up and mail it back out. That's a LOT of extra work in an already packed schedule. But most a.d.s consider it worth it. So just make sure that mail in art is accepted before registering for a con.
Agenting is when you have someone come and put your art up for you. They're your agent, and acting on your behalf. This can be both good and bad... mainly for the same reasons why mailing is both good and bad. One thing, the registration form WILL ask if you want the check made out to the agent or to yourself. The only time you should ever have the check made out to your agent is if you have no physical way of obtaining the money yourself (say you live in another country. You could check with your bank and see if they accept international checks, but that's... not always the case. This is when you make sure your agent has a way to get you the money, usually paypal is the easiest way.). Otherwise the convention art shows will mail the funds directly to you, so again.. no reason to have the agent handle your money at all.
With agents, make sure you've given the proper information to the a.d. and if necessary have signed an agent release form (some cons require these, most don't because they consider the registration form the agent release form as well)
things to remember with both cases
Either way you go, one thing you NEED to remember is that you will not be there to fix things if something happens. So the first thing to do is label, label, label. I mean everything. Sure you have bid sheets on your artwork, but I can't count the number of times I've opened a box with the bid sheets everywhere BUT on the art. So make sure each piece is individually labeled with at the *very* least it's title and your name.
Make sure all of your paper work is filled out. Don't assume it'll be taken care of by the agent/a.d. If you're a mail in artist, I can guarantee the a.d. won't have time to fill out your paperwork for you, and they'll just box your art up and send it back. Your agent will probably be nicer. So fill out every single bit of paperwork!
Make sure when shipping your art, that it's packaged as best as possible. PACKING PEANUTS ARE A STUPID, STUPID THING. Don't use them. First off, they settle and they shift so that the art presses through them *anyway*, but secondly they get all over the place. It sucks to open box after box of packing peanuts. If you must use them, bag them. Seriously get some bags from walmart or something and stick them in them, tie them up. That way they'll provide a little more support for your art and won't go flying around everywhere when the box is opened.
Plus I guarantee you're going to hate those packing peanuts when the a.d. ships them back to you. Yes.
Just what is this ' print shop' you mentioned?
The print shop is an optional thing that most con art shows have. When you have the art show, you're limited to one piece of each image... because it's a *show*. The print shop is kind of like the retail version of the art show. People put in post cards, various products like buttons and such, WITH YOUR ART ON IT, and most importantly... prints.
You can put multiple copies of one image in the print shop and set a base price for the prints. Now one thing to remember about this? *don't* kill your art show sales. I've watched people put images up in the art show, then offer the *exact same print* in the print shop for cheaper. Then wonder why they never got a bid on their pieces. Always try to have variety, and don't put what you have in the art show... in the print shop.
Now if you have originals in the show, the print shop is the best place to sell prints OF that original. In fact, make a little bitty sign (remember, you don't have a lot of space on that panel), saying that prints are available in the print shop. People will move on to get it if they want it but don't have cash for the original.
The OTHER paperwork
Well once you have your space, you know how the art is getting there, you realize that there's MORE paperwork involved in this art show business.
The basics are this. You have a control sheet, and bid sheets. If the art show has a print shop then you'll have to have a separate control sheet for THAT art.
Don't forget to keep a copy of the control sheet for your own records. Not all conventions send you back your control sheet, they just send you a check and a list of what sold. It's good to have one for your records, just in general.
The control sheet will have the identical information that's on your bid sheets. Your name, piece title, and the sale amounts. When filling out your paperwork make sure it *all matches*. You don't want to have your min bid on your bidsheet not match the one on the control sheet.
Ending this journal for now
So now that I've killed you with MORE WORDS I'll end this journal. My next one will be on displaying your art, so that should be a little more helpful for people in general, not just for congoers.
As always, questions? Throw them here and I'll address them on the next one.
Hey there. I've been asked by... several people... to post these journals up as news articles. I'm not so good at writing so I usually keep this stuff to my own journals.But... well when someone asks, I tend to say okay. And I've probably miscategorized this since I've never posted a news article before. Anyway, onwards.
This is a series of posts on science fiction and fantasy convention art shows. What they are, what to expect there, how to get your art in the art show, and just what you should and shouldn't do. I was the art show director for Conduit (a convention in Utah) for several years, and have been asked back to run Mountaincon's new art show (they've never had one before, so I'll be building it from scratch). I'm also a regular attendee/participating artist at conventions all year round, so I'll be giving a viewpoint as both an artist and an art show director.
I'm just talking shows in the us (since I have no experience with shows outside the us). I'll be focusing on the 'typical' art show, rather then the exceptions to the norm. Always read the rules in every con art show to make sure you know what's up. This particular journal is more of an introduction to art shows, what to expect, etc. I'll do another journal later about displaying art, registering and so on.
What is an art show?
A typical convention art show is an area set aside to display the artist's work, and offer it to sale to the highest bidder. The show is set up with pegboard panels to hang the work. The way the panels are set up is... well different depending on each con's resources and the size of the convention. But the art shows do their best to provide the best lighting to all the panels.
They normally have a silent auction that lasts the duration of the convention, and then on the last day they have a live auction for the pieces over a certain number of bids.
Con goers wander the art show throughout the duration of the convention, so it really is like a gallery of fantasy and sci fi pieces set up for a limited time.
What are the panels like?
Panels are typically 4' by 4' pegboard. Sometimes they're painted, but most of the time they're the nuetral brownish color that the pegboard comes as. Because you can't hang art down on the floor (most states have handicap laws that require displayed art to be over a certain level), the panels are usually mounted about two to three feet up off of the ground.
The artwork is hung by S hooks in the pegboard. Matted pieces have bulldog clips to hold them onto the S hooks, if you are attending the convention, bringing little extra bits of matboard to put between the mat and the bulldog clip will prevent dents in your matting. Framed pieces REALLY need to be strung with wire rather then the little teeth hooks, because the teeth hooks don't hang very well and are easy to knock off, breaking the glass in the frame.
What is the auction like?
The cons usually run their auctions fairly similarly. You have a bid sheet that you attach to each piece of artwork. It has a space for your name, the piece title, the medium it's done in, or if it's a print. Then it has a space for the minimum bid, the direct sale, and the after auction prices. (some conventions don't have an after auction option). Finally it has lines for people to write in their bids.
Bids are done in one dollar increments, and in whole dollar amounts. No one wants to fiddle with change, so when setting your prices, choose accordingly. (In other words, don't price it 19.95. Just make it 20.)
The amount of bids it takes to send the piece to auction depends on the convention and how many bidders they normally expect. The more bids to auction, the more bidders they have which is a good thing. Normally it's about 3-4 bids sends a piece to auction. The reason for this limitation is that the art show has a limited amount of time to do the auction, so can only send a few pieces. Thus... they send the pieces that are fought over to settle it out in the live auction. And the live auction really is that. An auctioneer holds the piece up and rattles off taking bids till no one wants to bid anymore.
What are min bid, direct sale/quick sale, after auction prices?
Minimum bid is exactly that. The minimum amount you want to sell the piece for. Be warned, MOST pieces go for the minimum bid, or maybe one bid over. So make sure you're not selling yourself too cheap, you need to be comfortable with this amount.
Direct sale/ quick sale is if someone doesn't want to risk loosing the piece to another bidder, they can buy it outright. You want to make sure this price is considerably higher then your minimum bid price. Now one word about this, if someone has already bid on the piece, and not the direct sale amount... you can't turn around and buy it at the direct sale price. You have to play the auction game at that point.
After auction price. Often times conventions will hold their auction early enough that they can reopen the art show and allow people to come in and purchase art that had no bids on it. This price is similar to the direct sale price, in that they're not competing with anyone to purchase it. Make sure it's not below your minimum bid price, that's just bad business practice. As far as that... well it's up to you. I know some people price this lower then their direct sale price as sort of an 'after we're closed sale', others price it higher because you should have gotten it cheaper when you had the chance, and still others price it at the direct sale price. It's a personal choice for each person and there is no right or wrong answer here.
So what kind of fees am I looking at paying?
Obviously the convention needs to get something out of this, so there are fees to showing at an art show.
The first fee you come across is when you register for the art show. You pay a 'rental' fee for your panel space. The fee is different for each convention, and the more attendance a con has, the higher the fee will be. The *average* price is around 10-15 dollars per panel. Some cons are considerably higher (dragoncon being one of the more pricey cons).
This fee reserves your space, and allows the convention to maintain and upkeep the panels (they take a beating every year), as well as cover their overhead.
The second fee comes when the show is over, and the art show cuts you a check for your sales. Conventions take a percentage of your sales. Normally it's about 10%.
Finally, you have to pay for all of your shipping costs, if you're a mail in artist. That includes shipping the unsold art *back* to you, so you need to include a check for the shipping fees.
Is my art safe in an art show?
The number one concern of EVERY art show director, is protecting the artwork. Those of us who run convention art shows (I'm being asked to run another one this year, yay!), do it become we have a deep love for artwork, and we are there to do our best for the artists.
So the first rule in EVERY art show is... no cameras. No cameras are allowed a all. The only exception to this is that usually an artist is allowed to take a picture of *their own panel* and *their own work*. Some art shows have a release form for you to give permission for the local news to include your art in their broadcast (meaning they report on the convention while standing in front of the panel). But a person cannot come into an art show and photograph people's art.
The a.d.'s (art show directors) usually spend the entire convention there manning the art show to keep watch. Conventions have security, and volunteers, who's entire purpose is to keep the art safe. (obviously teh amount of people involved differs with every con).
The other commonly used rule is that bulky costumes have to be watched, or sometimes aren't allowed in at all. It depends on the convention and how widely spaced the panels are, but sometimes people are asked to remove wingsn, horns, etc in order to avoid inadvertantly damaging art.
And of course most cons limit bags into the art show.
There are other rules depending on the individual cons needs, but every con has them with the interest of protecting the art first and foremost.
ending this journal for now.
So that's a basic idea of just... a convention art show. Obviously there's a TON of information that goes with showing at them and so on. Ask your questions here, and when I post the next segment I'll do my best to make sure and answer all of the questions too.
There's just so much information to give out that I don't want to cause brain meltdown from reading all this text *chuckles* So I'm breaking it up into pieces.
The best references come from magazines and random photos u have around the house but most of all drawing from life. This is an essential part of any 2D art form.......every artist learns this as they grow.
So take a sketch book, canvas, whatever you like to work on and start with some rocks or a bush. Believe me you'll learn alot more about how to use both sides of your brain through live drawing then from any photo!