This was posted here at http://news.deviantart.com/article/38501/ and I thought it might be helpful to artists. The original post belongs to:
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.