The heart of a comic convention is without question artist alley. This is the life blood of many conventions with its aisles of art ranging from classic comic book characters on a sheet of paper to unique creations from the depths of the artists minds realized in 3D. Artists most of the time are paying money to be able to sell their work at a convention and while they are are more than happy to interact with you (and look forward to it), sometimes attendees can have a negative impact on their sales, mindset, and overall experience without even realizing it. I spoke to almost dozen artists, soliciting feedback, stories, and suggestions to put together this article that will hopefully give you some tips on making your experience and the artists’ experience that much better at the next convention. All of the artists contributing to this article will remain anonymous but the group is made of a variety of local and national artists who sell traditional comic book art to hand crafted merchandise. Again, this isn’t mean’t to point the finger but simply suggestions of do’s and don’ts next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of artists at a con.
Let’s start with some of the situations and actions we should try avoiding. Just about everyone I spoke to had a universal complaint: Haggling. Respect the prices set by the artist. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask if the artist has any deals or bundles available, just don’t start naming your own desired prices. “Unless an artist explicitly says they are doing deals/bargains, especially on the last day of a con, don’t haggle or push if an artist has already said no.”
The next one is something I see all the time and you can visually see the change in the face of the artist as time goes by: “Don’t block an artist’s table for a long time. Artists want to talk you to! They love seeing you! But artists pay for a table at a show to sell art. If you spend 30 minutes standing in front of their table, you are potentially blocking them from making more sales. Say hi! Buy an art! Chat for a few minutes, and then move along so they can be open to talk to other people.” This was another situation almost brought up by everyone I spoke to. There are many different scenarios where blocking the table can happen, such as taking photos of a cosplayer right in front of a table, stopping to chat with your friends, or just literally stopping in front of a table to wait on someone your meeting up with. These are all different ways it has been mentioned but just be mindful of blocking tables.
I am totally guilty of taking photos at artists tables without asking which is something I never thought much of but after several of the artists I spoke to for this article brought it up, I will ask permission going forward. “Encourage customers to ask the artist if it is okay to take pictures of their work and items.“, “Don’t take photos of the artwork. Or at the very least, ask for permission first. Be understanding that many artists will not appreciate it.“, “Always ask first if you are going to take pictures of what the artist is offering.“One artist mentioned it because other individuals might be inclined to stealing the idea “Unfortunately not artists have integrity and like to copy or paint over other artists works to call their own“.
Be mindful of the art on the artist’s table as they can get ruined in a split second. A few of the comments on this were “Don’t put food or drinks on table where it might spill. If you do have a drink in hand and no one there to hold it for you, say when buying a piece, many times we will make space or hold it for you.” “Don’t let your child man-handle the arts and wares on the table. It’s just not cool.” “I know chips are a popular snack but please be careful handling art a table, I’ve had a Doritos residue end up on my stuff more than a few times.”
Lastly for the things to avoid, this one should be the most obvious but apparently not if it was mentioned more than once. Don’t be rude. Maybe the artist’s style isn’t your thing but that doesn’t make it trash.
What do artists love at conventions? Handing out business cards! Never hesitate to stop to say hi and inquire about a business card. “Definitely ask an artist for their card! They want to hand them out. Or if they are out, ask to take a picture of their info.” “Do take a business card or snap a pic of our banner that may have our contact info. Especially if you are interested in our comic or want a future commission.” “Take a business card, they are free!” Multiple times have I gotten home from a con and thought I would remember the name of an artist to give them a follow on social media but I just couldn’t remember their name. Asking for a business card definitely helps prevent them.
Just because you stop to speak with an artist doesn’t mean you are required to make a purchase. “If you see something that catches your eye, stop and look. Feel free to look at their portfolio. We understand it’s day one and you are looking.“”Say hi! It’s okay to make small talk with an artist! It doesn’t mean you’re committed to buying something from them.” Stopping to say a quick hello and complimenting their work doesn’t cost a thing but it might just work in your favor do the road.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether you’re looking for something in particular or maybe you want to get a table at a con one day and you had some questions, feel free to ask. If it something that will take more than a few minutes to answer, offer your email address (just don’t push them to follow you on social media).
Thanks again for the all artists you contributed to this article. Hope to see everyone at a convention soon!