Spectrum Live was fantastic, but not very profitable.
Get it? Fantastic Art. Yeah, it was a stretch. Give me a break, I don’t drink coffee.
I didn’t really expect sales to be huge, but ever the optimist, I was hopeful.
However, I do think it was, on the whole, a huge success for me as a first-time con exhibitor.
My detailed digital style in Adobe Illustrator takes me a long time. Most of the fantasy images I’ve produced in the last year have taken over 100 hours of computer time. That figure doesn’t include the hours I spend in research for reference and finding tutorials on techniques to create the visuals I envision in my head out onto the computer screen
I suppose it would be easier to use Painter or Photoshop to paint, especially since 99.8% of all tutorials for fantasy art are created using those programs, but I am in live with the graphic look of the vector program.
I had a long-term plan to create several new pieces of art specific for the fantasy genre. My idea was to age my art up to be more appropriate for an adult market. More on how successful that was later.
I planned to prepare for Spectrum in the months and weeks leading up to the event, so I wouldn’t forget anything or freak out too much leading up to being in the public eye for the first time in ages.
Part one of the plan was to create new pieces. I was able to paint 4 pieces with adult characters. Along with pieces I created for my kid lit needs, I had 12 images to put on display on my booth. I purchased a space in Artist Alley. This SFAL was the first time the less expensive option was available and I was happy it was. The price difference between the weekend tickets for me an my husband as attendees and the cost of the booth was minimal and we planned to go anyway. The booth was a 6′ x 2′ draped table. There was a 6′ space behind the table shared with the vendor in the other aisle.
After I selected the art I planned to exhibit, I was at a loss as to what sizes, how many and on which paper would be best. In the end, I guessed. Since I was on a tight budget, and wasn’t sure how my art would be received, I decided to use an archival photo grade paper which I could print out on my large format Canon printer. I chose 11″ x 17″ and 8.5″ x 11″ standard sizes. I ordered the paper and a complete compliment of inks. My Canon has 8 ink cartridges; C, M, Y, K, R, G, PC, PM. After the paper and ink arrived, I started printing. I printed a few images a day when I needed a break from other projects. By the time Spectrum Live came around I had dozens of images in two sizes. I placed each one in a protective clear envelope with a board backing.
In March, I volunteered to help at the local Wizards World Comic Con. I took the opportunity to haunt the Artist Alley there. My game plan was two-fold. I was considering the possibility of vending at next year’s Wizard World, and I wanted to see which vendors were having the most success. I’m still undecided about doing Comic Con, the booth fee is pretty high. But, the informal information I was able to receive in my observation while walking the area showed me that the vendors with only prints seemed to be having the least amount of traffic. My Spectrum plan up until that point had only been prints.
Change of plan.
I needed something to stand out from a sea of prints.
I’m not sure how many of you know, but I also create hardened leather masks. Totally fantasy creatures. I pulled out my current stock, took inventory, and made plans to produce 5 new masks, my best sellers, the ones I can’t seem to keep in stock.
This brought my mask inventory up to 18. Normally, when I sell masks at an event, I use a shelf. However, the shelf would have taken up most of the table and blocked me from interacting with people. I had to come up with some other way to display them, one that was inexpensive, and didn’t take up a lot of horizontal space. After investigating a lot of display options, all of which would have run into hundreds of dollars and not really worked for the masks, I had an epiphany. I bought a weighted metal wire shoe tree. It was less than $100, even with shipping and would accommodate up to 48 pairs of shoes. Not a perfect solution, I’m sure, but it would work!
That left one item. In all my research, (I know, I love my research) everyone advised having a booth banner. Again, I wanted to keep costs down. I also didn’t know if I would be able to attach the banner to anything, either on the front of my booth or behind the table. I opted for a 5′ stand with a vertical banner. My logo is horizontal, also, the original was create in Photoshop to display on business cards and my web site. The file I had was way too small for a banner. Plus, the young girl on her flying paintbrush is so specific to kid lit, it really wouldn’t suit the SFAL audience or event.
I ended up grabbing the fox from the art I created for my first quarter postcard mailing. After creating half a dozen different permutations of a banner, I finally decided on one and sent the files off to the printer. And crossed my fingers.
It was 9 days before Spectrum, and I had my prints, masks, banner and display pieces, freebies in form of postcards. I also had one of my children’s books. I did a last-minute Google search on Artist Alley advice and decided I needed to add a mailing list sign up and a low-end price point item. I brainstormed and came up with what I dubbed my mini framed collector art. I printed out a baker’s dozen of mini images about 1.5″ x 2″ and put them each in charm frames from Hallmark.
The day before Spectrum I packed it all up into as few packages as possible and tried to breathe through my pre-show nerves.