Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anime St. Louis 2013: Reveiw for Artists



Here's the disclaimer again:
This review is not about the convention. It is simply an opinionated review from an artist's perspective to reference for anyone interested in attending the artist alley.


So here we have my third year at ASTL and it was the best weekend evaaarrr. I had a blast and made record breaking sales again this year so here we go.
 

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Venue: Gateway Center

ASTL is held every year at the same fantastic venue. If you know where this is, skip and move on. The Gateway Center is located in Collinsville, IL a little more than a half hour drive from St. Louis. It’s gigantic, offers plenty of free parking, and is surrounded by hotels and fast food. There are also 2 concession areas that sell snacks and hot food for decent prices so you never have to go too far for food. I love it there. They also always have a loading dock open for vendors and artists for easy access. Don’t have to walk through all those attendees with your gigantic boxes!

Some years you share the center with another event but I don’t think that happened this year. I didn’t travel out of the AA much but last year there was a Mommy-con on the other side and that was awkward.

Artist/Dealer Space:They've Got It Down

ASTL is one of those conventions that actually puts effort into designing an effective AA/dealer layout. Artists and dealers are in the same space but clearly divided with artists lined up on the right and dealers on the left. Each artist space is actually a 6’x8’ booth, clearly separated by waist high black queues. Also included are an 8’ table (AWESOME), 2 chairs, 2 badges, and a trash can. I never truly appreciated the trash can until I went to a show where there was only one for the entire hall.

Last year, all the spaces were parted by these really tall curtains but this year they opted for ones that were a little over waist high. It was much nicer because you could see clear across the alley at all the displays and signs. Window shopping was much easier and window shopping is all you’ll get in this AA, but more on that later.

Another problem from last year was the booth spaces were crammed together so artists were crawling out from under their tables to go to the bathroom or walk around. This year there was easily at least a foot of space on either side of every table. It’s nice to know that the con staff pay attention when we say something isn’t working. That’s a big plus because that means ASTL is actively making themselves better every year however they can. Totally worth the $75.

The room does lock up at night so you don’t have to tear down and tote your stuff around. I have never heard of a security or theft problem in the AA or dealer’s area so that’s good news.

There’s also plenty of space for traffic. The aisles were at least 8 ft (?) wide. Maybe more. But even with that much space, the AA was packed which was fantastic! The size of the AA is pretty big for a 3,200 person con and there’s plenty of artists to browse and shop from.

Variety: The Best of Everything

In my opinion, ASTL is the most popular con from the St. Louis area. From what I’ve seen, it draws a larger, more diverse crowd and the AA rarely suffers. Artists include many print artists of different styles and talents, comic artists, crafters, costumers and the whole shaboodle. Aside from variety, they also do a great job picking their artists through a juried system.

There are a bunch of us regulars who go every year and have a small but steadily growing fanbase returning every spring to see what’s new. Artists who are first timers at ASTL always get the love too and most want to come back again. Everyone’s got great attitude, perhaps because it’s hard to be sour when business is doing so well. This year the only thing I had a hard time finding was someone selling lots of stickers. Buttons also seemed to be fewer than last year and jewelry was almost nonexistent aside from me. 

There were new awesome booths selling giant cuttlefish plushies, miniature comics, and even custom cast fangs. There’s definitely something for everyone between the artists and dealers (or a lotta things for everyone).

Sales and Attendees: Lunches and Breaks are for the Meek
Attendees were fantastic. I know a lot of people who only attend ASTL and save up all year round for it. I also love to see people from Kawa or Natsu come back to say hi. The crowd is gigantic and vastly diverse so expect someone from every fandom.

If you think your original work won’t be appreciated, think again. ASTL isn’t one of those conventions that just dumps fan art. The people who go and peruse the AA truly appreciate the art. I’d say my print says were 50/50 original and fan art. Even if they don’t buy, no one holds back the compliments.

Sale were, as usual, amazing. Unless an artist manages to screw themselves somehow through travel or hotel costs, it’s impossible to not break even. Every year I break sales records at ASTL and this year was no different. You’re so busy handling conversations, transactions, requests, and commissions that lunch is like a far off dream. I don’t think we had any down time that lasted more than a few minutes before someone came over to at least talk.

Tip: you need a table buddy. The booth already comes with 2 badges, drag a friend along to at least help you keep things running because it gets busy as all hell in between major events. I think at one point, I was working on a request and answering questions from two different people while my husband was handling transactions for three different people at once. Insane.

Staff Attitudes:   :D

I’m not going to write anything here because the staff are professional and amazing and this hasn’t changed the slightest in three years.

I will write about something new that staff did for the artist alley this year. They started a system that gives first registration priority to artists from previous years. Oh and it’s real cordial too, makes you feel special and all that. Obviously this is great for returning artists like me because it practically guarantees us a spot if we want it. Don’t fret if you’re not on this list, they open applications to the public after a reasonable amount of time and plenty of other artists still get in. I think this means the staff love us.

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So after 3 years, nothing has diminished my opinion of ASTL. I’ve heard horror stories about terrible staff or afterthought-artist-alleys in parking garages and insane policies (zero tolerance for any fan art!) that have taken down the mightiest of conventions, but you won’t find that here. Anime St. Louis puts the AA relatively high on the list of priorities and being a part of this con is a wonderful experience over and over again. If you’re thinking about doing it, keep an eye out for the 2014 app because it’s totally worth it.

I LOVE ANIME SAINT LOUIS!
Man you'd think they were paying me to be this positive. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Deviantart Accusations

UPDATE
This situation has been resolved. I was angry at the time I wrote this but I'll leave it up because it's got some educational value (or something). Be nice people. Thanks :)

 Soooo I closed my old DA account because it was about a decade old. I hopped on that bandwagon a super long time ago. I sorta used it to show more recent stuff but it was so overloaded with old watches and groups that I couldn't handle the thousands of messages every time I logged in. So today I made a new one called PaulinaChinea (cuz I'm so damn creative) and someone's already accusing me of having stolen my own work.


Now these messages are on a public DA profile therefore I can reuse them on my blog. Don't get your panties in a bunch. So at first I was mad. But then I though, ok, let's break it down and see where this even came from.

Accusation: doesn't believe I actually drew everything
Because:
  1. images were found on google
  2. at least EIGHT different art styles
Ok well I can easily account for the google search. Hell you can search something I'm indirectly connected to like "Natsucon" and find pictures from this blog because it's setup to be searchable.


So I searched "Natsucon" and if you scroll down just a weenie bit, my grab bags appear. Which are really not related except I think they were in an article about me preparing for Natsucon. That and Facebook is also searchable through Google so anything I've ever uploaded there is also open game.

Part one closed.

Part two. He or she is claiming to see at least EIGHT different art styles among the different things I've uploaded so far. Here's my current gallery.


So if you've been following this blog, you probably recognize every single one of those drawings except maybe the Chii picture. I think that one's only on Facebook because it so damn old.

All right so I have 9 images uploaded. If there are 8 styles, that means that only 2 of them are of the same style.

Ok I'll admit that Harley and Chii stick out like sore thumbs. Chii's "style" wasn't a style at all. I simply used the original CLAMP artist's character features on my own pose and image. It was a Valentine's commission for god's sake. So ok. As for Harley, she's is honestly the only chibi I'm proud of. I suck so bad at chibis, scroll down and look at the Sailor Scout buttons I'm retiring. I have moved on to a more cutesy style like my princesses.

So 8 styles is not something I agree on, unless this person expects an individual's art to be very strict in similarity. Among the others, let's point out a few things (I consider them flaws since I can't diversify my skill):

  1. Look at the clouds in Reaching, Avacyn, and Spartan. I don't know how else to draw clouds so they all look super cartoonish and swirly. I like swirls. Hell all the pictures have swirls. Water bride has the same swirl designs at the hem as the Yin Yang background and on the dress of Deathless.
  2. Look at the face. I hate to say it but the faces in the girls are... too similar. They're all kinda at the same angle and I always draw the proportions the same. I just think it's prettier. But one thing that bugs me is all the girls look like skinny teenagers. Avacyn totally doesn't look like her badass self. >_< Man and now I noticed that none of my originals are smiling... Snappity snaps. 
  3. I can't really think of a third. Perhaps my Yin Yang image has too much detail compared to the others. But that's because I never uploaded my other old stuff from the same time period. Yeah I am not redrawing that stuff. Deathless and Yin Yang are from high school and that was before I got lazy with my details :P
The rest of the DA community has been fantastic but this puts a serious damper on my mood with the site as a whole. If people are just going to openly accuse me of copying my own art, then I'll probably just deactivate my account and never use that site again. I used to get art stolen and now people are claiming I'm doing it.

Oh by the way, I signs all my pieces and some of my sigs are hidden.

I don't know whether I should expect a response or not, since I've actually provided examples of my progress and would like some kind of reaction buuut it's the internet and I don't expect any courtesy so I guess this is one bump I'll have to get over.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ASTL Wrap-Up

Another unforgettable year for ASTL. I'm home, sort of unpacked, and ready for some seriously needed down time from conventions.

I was really excited this year to once again break last year's record. We blew past our lofty and somewhat snickered-at goal and it's all thanks to the lovely folks this weekend. I was super excited because this was the first show to actually debut my print work as a true addition to my table. The bookmarks and prints sold were AWESOME. I was especially surprised at how well my original art sold. At an anime con, I really didn't expect to sell any but it was a pretty good 50/50 for fanart and original.

I'll have the review written up here pretty soon and new items uploaded onto Etsy. :) Prints will also be available online now and a reminder that commissions are finally OPEN!

As of right now I have no more confirmed conventions for the rest of the year. Waiting to hear back from Natsucon (July), Aoi Uma Con (Sept), and Anime Crossroads (Dec). That's gonna be it for 2013 so make sure you come check us out at a show! By July, I'll have a ton of new jewelry and prints, mostly requested items from this past weekend.

Drawings to be completed:
Rest of FFX crew (Auron, Tidus, Kimahri)
Rest of the Princesses (Merida, Snow White, Aurora, Anastasia)
Persona 4 large print
Clone Wars large print
4 original large prints

New notebooks and bookmarks will be made since I only had a handful of options this time. I will also be retiring many of my buttons. I have over 100 designs and I need to cut down. All retired designs will be clearanced at my next convention to make room for new ones. Button lovers unite!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Super Cool Feedback

I love getting feedback. So far on Etsy it's been good. Whenever a problem has arisen, the buyer has contacted me and we've worked something out to make both parties happy. This is kind of a big deal for me and I appreciate every review I get.

But every once in a while when I go to read the comments people leave, I get something awesome like this:


Creative reviews are so much fun. I mean, someone actually sat down (Jessica, in this case) and wrote a super clever response for each item she purchased. That takes time and some serious dedication! So thank you Jessica, for making me smile and letting me put this up.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Jewelry Boxes

Last year I made 3 jewelry boxes just for kicks and brought them to my shows. I sold 2 at Aoi Uma Con an one online. I had three more box bases that I've been meaning to complete and finally got around to 2 of them today. They will be my big ticket items at ASTL in two weeks and anything that doesn't sell will go online. My photos currently suck because it's nighttime and my lights just don't cut it.

So without further ado, here is the first one. I chose to do another Chobit's manga collage.





 And the second one is covered in washi paper. Washi was really hard to use. It's so thin that bubbles underneath form almost instantly.






They both turned out much better this time because I had a better idea of which cuts to make and stick where. Less experimentation, better results.Hopefully I can find more jewelry boxes to work on in the near future. It's loads of fun and really ties the table together since I sell jewelry.

Haven't decided what I'm going to do with the last one. I was thinking about doing koi again like this:


But I want to try something new. I have no more manga to cut up and use and  the clay is so hard to cover the boxes with. Deco perhaps? I have two weeks to decide soooo we'll see at ASTL.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Is It Copycatting?

So here's one that irks many artists: copycats.

In the world of fanart, it is unlikely that you will ever be the sole individual to think, "I could make a tissue box cover that looks like a companion cube!" or "Wouldn't a nyan cat scarf be cute?" There are tons of others who have thought the same thing and created something from that thought. Today I'll stick with the smallest range possible: piranha plant earrings. Yup, we're going to be that simple.

So to start, I won't say that I think only one person can make and sell them and everyone else is just copying. That would be stupid. Everyone can come up with their own designs or else just do a straight copy of the character or whatever. The latter cannot be disputed because the character already exists. The creative selling point is the design and this is where it gets touchy.

If you search "piranha plant earrings" on Etsy, you'll see a few dozen listings pop up. 2 years ago, there were maybe 5. Now it looks something like this:


Wow those all look really similar don't you think? I'm not saying they all look like piranha plants. I'm saying that a majority of them are made to look like they are biting your ear lobes. It's pretty hard to believe that in 2 years, a load of people all came to the same idea independently. Now the very first time I saw these, they were made by lizglizz.

 

She now titles hers as "The Original YOUCH Piranha Plant Earrings". And I believe her in the claim of originality. Hers were around for a long time before the others appeared.

Things that sell well always get copied, in the professional world and the tiny handmade market. It's a fact that others will see your creations, like them and think, "I can do that too." It's the "I can make something similar" vs "I can make that exact same thing" that gets people into conflict. Most other artists have simply copied the chomping design but a few have even decided to name theirs "YOUCH Piranha Plant Earrings" after lizglizz's.

I'm not a fan of copycats unless you're making one or two things for yourself or as a gift. Then have at it. But if you're going to market and sell it, at least try to be a little original.

The other side of the argument is that the competitive market must always adapt. If someone copies your design or product, you must make it better, do something new, etc. This is a truth except that most artists operate more by personal ethics than business innovation.

That and if they have to make each item by hand, then quality will be different. Are they worse or better than your skill level? Anyone who doesn't have the eye for quality or detail cannot match up to you, even if they market theirs cheaper. Anyone who's making something that blows yours out of the water should give you a perspective as to how you can improve.

Here are the two end points:

If you're thinking about copying a product or idea to make a few bucks, just knock it off. You're creative enough to do something of your own creation and imagination.

If someone's copied something very specific of yours, you can't throw a fit or expect them to take it down. Sucks but have confidence that you came up with a good enough idea that someone else copied it. And if you can do that once, you can do it again. They probably can't.

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Important fine print:

Don't be a bastard and attack anyone that has a listing up from my image. There are no legal constraints against this sort of copying. You do not own a vague idea unless you've actually applied and paid for a copyright, trademark, patent or whatever.

Also if your listing is in the image above and you'd like it to be removed, email me. I will be happy to blot out names. If you're going to threaten me with legal action, then don't bother emailing me. Those images are on the internet and available for public access, and it's not a copyright violation for me to use your photos in a review of items.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Evillecon 2013: Review for Artists

This is my first year at Evillecon. I'd heard fairly mixed reviews from other artists about previous years and was really hesitant about going. It turned out to be a pretty fantastic weekend.
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Venue: Uummm…


So I’m finally going to give the venue its own review. Evillecon was located at the Holiday Inn Express by the Evansville, IN airport. So it’s a hotel generally catering to business people on trips, families that are stopping by, typical airport hotel. The HIE is actually a really cool hotel. Half the ceiling is glass and lets in a ton of light. However I have to say the hotel is hard to navigate. The front lobby is pretty much the entire hotel complete with all the panel rooms, dining area, and pool. Yeah, the pool was like a stones throw away from the artist alley. I think the only really weird thing was that half the rooms faced inside into the lobby so you could see almost the entire convention (and the entire pool area) from your balcony. Creepy. But many of the attendees really seemed to like this so thumbs up for them.

The biggest problem was noise. We stayed in the con hotel and had a second floor balcony facing the inside lobby. Oh my god it was ridiculous how much you could hear. I’m sure this isn’t a problem for normal stays but the convention brings in kids running down the halls and too many people shouting nonsensible things too early in the morning.

Another downer was the heat and lighting. Even accounting for the packed bodies, the hotel was hot in the lobby. There was a snowstorm brewing outside and I was sweating in my tshirt. As for lighting, daytime was great. Sun came in through the glass ceiling, sometimes blinding certain sections of the lobby. Once the sun started to go down though, it got dark. The hotel only had ambience lighting in the lobby. A few clusters of “natural” lamps here and there. Not tripping over yourself in the dark, but squinting to see when conducting a sale. There were big hanging lights but no one ever seemed inclined to turn them on despite hundreds of people running and sitting on floors and dancing everywhere.

Artist/Dealer Space: Isolated Haven

The alley itself was located about in the center of the lobby but you had to go down a few steps. Pretty cool. 6’ tables were provided and set up in a functional way with tables around the edges and a small group in the center. There was enough space for the most part and I’d say the area was pretty nice and enclosed.

Because the alley was in the lobby, you had to tear down and set up every day. There was no real separation from the rest of the convention so no one even left things under the table. To my knowledge, there were no thefts or vandalisms of display items. This of course means that there are no hours set. Some artists left early, some stayed until they were falling asleep. It started to look kinda wonky because some tables were deserted and BAM there’s a lonely artist hanging out here and there. But what am I saying, I prefer to make my own hours anyway.

There was only one entrance to the alley, the other paths were roped off. This seemed to create a bottle effect with traffic as people trickled in. I spoke to someone while out walking and they claimed they hadn’t even been to the AA by Sunday because all the openings were roped off and they couldn’t find a way down.

Wifi was provided by the hotel and was open to anyone who wanted to use it. The strength was pretty good for how many people were probably accessing it at one time. Always a bonus for those doing commissions or taking card.

Variety: The Usual


Evillecon for me is a new circuit of artists so I saw tons of new things. For the most part, the artist alley is pretty on par with what you would expect. Fanart prints, a few comics and novels, accessories and a few crafts. It was pretty well balanced between prints and crafts although there were very few artists offering commissions. I’m not sure if that’s a St. Louis area thing or what.

I of course found a few things I loved. One artist that I met last year in KY was there and she was selling customized Monster High dolls. Holy hell if I had the money. I also saw a bunch of headbands, leather masks, bead sprites, etc that I really wish I could’ve gotten my hands on. A pretty good variety for anime and geek fans of all types.

Sales and Attendees: Slow But Steady

Because my art is my career and not just a hobby, I’m a little more critical about this category than I really should be. I will say that the attendees were great. It was a very relaxed atmosphere the entire weekend and that’s not always the case at some cons. There was plenty of appreciation for all types of art so no one was being left out. I didn’t hear one rude or negative thing all weekend and that’s a super plus.

Ok so no nastiness but here’s one that threw me a little. Three separate people came by and took pictures of my things. This has NEVER happened to me at other shows and I thought it was common sense to ask before you take a picture of someone’s booth or products. But yeah, three different people at different times. One took a picture of the booth so whatever, but the other two snapped up close pictures of not just one or two things, but of each panel on my earring rack, every “section” of bookmarks on display, and so on. I was so surprised I didn’t even react. Maybe they like my stuff, maybe they want to copy it. Whatever the case, this miffed me a little.

Sales were mixed for artists. I think for a show it is ok/good. You’re certainly not bustling the entire time but you get enough traffic that you’re not bored or falling asleep. I think the longest I went without someone stopping by the table was maybe 15 minutes, and the longest time between sales was 2 hours.

Another artist pointed this out to me: big ticket items sold really well. I heard the vendors room was doing crazy awesome this year, and every other person was carrying something from a vendor. Many of the artists sold quite a few big ticket things as well. Most shows, junky dollar items go fast but apparently not at Evillecon13. This is important if you sell mostly little items or if you are wondering how many big ticket items you’ll want to stock.

Staff Attitudes: Good Con, Meh Hotel

I didn’t have too much interaction with staff. I’m not sure I could’ve identified them to you aside from the guys at registration wearing the Evillecon shirts. -_- I certainly didn’t have any problems and the couple that I did talk to were fantastic and very enthusiastic. Our wonderful AA director was super duper awesome and very friendly. Oh and prompt on emails which is always triple brownie points with me.

Hotel staff is not normally one I get into unless there’s an altercation but here we go. The hotel staff were friendly for the most part. Emphasis on that last part. Some of them were very obviously impatient with the convention and were pretty unprofessional and, I can’t believe I’m going to say this on my blog, ghetto. Not like oh they live in the inner city ghetto but like snapping fingers in your face and giving you attitude when you ask the bartender for water ghetto. So take that as you will.

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Evillecon overall was a very fun show to attend. I met a ton of super cool people including artists, locals, promoters for other conventions, and vacationers who were caught off guard. :D I’m very excited that the show was such a success because I definitely want to go back next year if I can. They’re opening applications for 2014 this October so keep your eyes open if you’re interested. And next year I’m totally doing the Magic tourney. God I’m so sore about missing that. >_<