Monday, September 29, 2014

Artist Alley and Race

Ok so here’s a new one. How does race affect you as an artist in an artist alley, or getting in to one for that matter?

There’s tons of stuff floating around about cosplayers who get ridiculed and hated on because of their skin color or even their size. Sounds silly, eh? But yes, chubby girls are told they can’t be skinny characters and black boys can’t dress up as white characters. This makes so much sense, because when people cosplay a character, it’s all about what’s real and not in your imagination.

Ok off topic. That didn’t take long.

Two years ago I received an email from an aspiring artist asking me if it was easier to get into artist alleys because I was Asian and anime is from Japan. Last week I received an email from a girl who explained that she was denied a table because she is black. While these are very isolated instances, I figured it would be good to address this.

So my idea of racism is when someone is overemphasizes the importance of race. This is a much broader definition than most people probably use. By importance I mean that they put too much thought and stake in it, positively or negatively.


  • A white restaurant owner tells a black couple he doesn’t want black people eating in his establishment.
  • An Asian student receives a minority scholarship because they are Asian with a GPA greater then 3.0.

One is clearly negative, and one would be considered positive. Denying service because of race is racist, but to give me a scholarship because I’m Asian, but not give a scholarship to white students with a GPA over 3.0, is also racist. Make sense?

So part 1: Does being Asian help me get into the artist alley?
No. Not in the least. No one is looking at my application like, “Oh hey, that’s an Asian name. She’s in.” Not to mention the fact that both my first and last name have Hispanic roots. Don’t ask. I have never seen an app that required you to include anything other than contact info and a portfolio.

Aside from the fact that there are differences between Koreans, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and all the bazillion other Asian nations, most of those countries have a history of warring with each other and themselves. There is no all encompassing brotherhood that is a fast lane for all Asians, all blacks, all whites getting into any part of a convention. Being Asian doesn’t get me a ticket in. Plus I’m Chinese, not Japanese.

If you haven’t already seen or experienced, artists come from all colors and walks of life. We do what we love, and we gather to express it (and pretend like we’re making a decent living off of it).

Part 2: Denied from the AA for being black.
I investigated this one a little bit. The AA she was denied from was in fact a juried alley. However, it was a pretty big convention in its 9th year, with 25 slots and probably hundreds of applications. It’s located in a predominantly white state. And by predominantly I mean the census says it’s 88% white. When I asked her why she thought the denial was because she was black, she said that she’s gone for 5 years as a regular attendee and has never seen a non white artist. That was it.

I explained to her that the state she resides in is pretty remote, so very few out of state artists are probably traveling there. With the state make up being so imbalance, it was possible that the unanimously white crowd was simply a mathematical probability. After a much longer discussion, she finally resigned the race card and has decided to boost her portfolio and try again next year.

Out there in the great wide world, there might actually be a convention or two that is run on the wrong principles, but they won’t stay around long. Don't let your misunderstanding of racism put you in a mindset that it will hinder or help you. If a convention specifically tells you that's the case, that's a different story. Every convention I've been to does not have staff that are like that so it's extremely unlikely.

Art should have no boundaries like race, gender, or if you’ve got a third eye. Be professional, have a rockin portfolio, and be ready to not eat or go to the bathroom for 12 hours and you’re set.


  1. Definitely agree with you. Good thing you could convince the girl to improve rather than sulking on something she could do about and probably what’s not even true. People, in generally, are likely to blame on something or someone and couldn’t something about it. It’s easy to do nothing. Lol at having easy in the artist alley being Asian. It’s like that Asians are grown being influenced by manga/anime. Can be, but more like in Asia. Dunno…yea. Sometimes, I hear comments like “omg she can draw so pretty. I wish I can do that” “yup, she is an Asian and can do that” Like Asians were born with standard specs like “mad drawing/artistic skills” and not earn respect of hours and hours of hard work. Oh well. Maybe just join the club. “you can draw so pretty” “thank you, being Asian. Lol. No just kidding, it’s more like years of practicing. You can do it to.”

    1. Once in a while I think we all like to entertain excuses why sales are bad or things aren't going like we'd hoped. ^_^ As long as we keep reality in perspective! Thanks for reading :D