Preparing for Artist Alleys

Spring and summer in the Danish art community mean con-season and Artist Alleys. I have signed up for three cons this season. The first convention is this Friday (April 27th - 29th) and is at J-Popcon. The next Artist Alley is only one week later and is Comic-Con Copenhagen (May 5th - 6th). The third is not until August, but it still means that I have to prep for two Artist Alleys at the same time - and the deadline is closing in.

So here's a rough overview of an artist's mind when con-season is closing in.

 

How I make my Artist Alley products and pricing them

I'm a home printer. I have invested in an Epson SureColor P-400 inkjet printer. It has 8 ink cartridges and prints up to 13 in / 33 cm wide images. I want to be able to control every single one of my prints personally to ensure the best quality. I have tried a lot of different paper over the past year but Matte Cotton and Lustre-paper types have turned out to be my favorites so far. I especially adore Baryta paper.

 

Pricing my products for Artist Alleys

Printing for an artist alley is a little pricey and in the future, I might buy some of my prints online if I suspect certain prints to sell really well. One large print (A4) costs me roughly $2.50 in inks and approx. $1.50 in paper depending on the type of paper I choose for the specific print. I'm selling this kind of print for approx. $10 so I do profit from them but since I'm not guaranteed to sell them I'm not guaranteed to profit from them either. If you'd have to calculate the time I use for proofing the prints, signing them and packaging them as well, then the profit is pretty small in the end. Especially if you include the costs in ink and paper it takes to test print every drawing or if the printer leaves marks by mistake (because it happens). These are just some of the costs (and potential costs) you should have in mind if you're considering to become a home printer like myself.

In time I plan to raise my prices, but I'd rather start a little low and go higher than the other way around. Sometimes I adjust the prices a little when I arrive at the con so that I don't stand out too much from the other artists. However there are a lot of things to consider if you start comparing prices such as, but not limited to, paper quality, art quality and how much each print costs the artist to make. Even art styles are okay to include in these situations. How unique are your products?

Sometimes, if you order your prints from a printing service you might get them for approx. half the price a piece compared to what it would cost me to print myself. The reason is that you usually buy bigger bulks of your print at a printing service and therefore save some money. This way you can sell them cheaper at the convention and still make a nice profit.

 

Special artist alley prices and offers

For artist alleys, it is a good idea to have special offers - at least I have very good experience with it. So I typically offer one large print (A4) for approx. $10 and 2 for approx. $16.50 (these prices are converted from Danish Kroner). Same goes for my medium and smaller prints and stickers. The smaller they are the "bigger" the offer. E.g. stickers are roughly $2 each but you can get 3 for approx. $4. Basically, it means that a single item gets cheaper the more the customer buys and who doesn't like things getting cheaper?

I usually also offer specially priced commissions at conventions if I'm in need of a little extra cash. Thought from my experience I have learned not to take on too many commissions and not underprice myself. I think it is better to not take any commissions because the price was "right" rather than stress myself out the entire weekend, just so I can finish a few cheap commissions. That's my personal opinion at least.

 

Things I keep in mind when pricing for artist alleys

I always aim to break even from a convention. Being part of an artist alley is truly fun but not worth financially ruining yourself over. Make sure to at least cover the fees in connection with the con such as the ticket, the table fee and your print costs (from those that you sold).

At my first artist alley where I brought prints, I had no clue what or how to price them. I had some idea of what my art was worth, but I also knew that I was using a budget printer at the time and had very little experience with selling my artwork - let alone produce the prints. Before I left for the con I wrote a price list containing two price sets. One price set included my minimum prices. These were the prices that I was not willing to go under. The other price set included my preferred prices. They were higher than my minimum prices but I felt like they better reflected my art's worth. When I arrived at the convention and most of the other artists had set up their tables, I took a look around to see their prices. I especially looked at the paper quality, trying to determine their art experience and art styles. Then I found those that reflected me the best and compared their prices to mine. I wasn't too off and basically went with my preferred prices.

Don't underprice/undervalue yourself as an artist. People will see right through it and will more likely move on instead of buying your items. "Art is a luxury" I always tell myself.

 

My Artist Alley setup and shop design

After last con season, I invested in a set of storage cubes. I saw a lot of other artists use them and got very excited about the possibilities for future setups. This season will be the first time I'm using them and I have a pretty good feeling about it. I already made some initial test setups and they're shown below.

 

Sharing your artist alley table with a friend

For J-Popcon 2018 I will be sharing my table with a friend, and we will have a setup close to what can be seen in the images below. We have this idea of mirrorring the table across the middle but I have so many products that I will probably be all over the table by the end. My prints as well (hah!). I'm sitting on the left and my friend will be sitting on the right as the corners indicate.

vores-setup.jpg

Solo setup for artist alley

For Comic-con I have a much smaller table, and I will not be sharing it with anyone this time. The test setup so far looks like this:

comiccon-aa-setup

I'm doing more tests next week once J-Popcon is over. I will also do a proper entry with pictures after the cons and talk about my experiences in the artist alley.

 

Self-promotion

Artist business cards

I've made new business cards again this year. I want to make a new card every year. If for no other reason, then just to have my newest artwork on the cover. Below you can see my evolution of business cards so far. I attended my first artist alley in 2015 doing only commissions - not bringing anything to sell other than that. I didn't attend any artist alleys in 2016 so my business card was the same for a long time, but when I got back into attending in 2017, I made two new cards with the only difference being the little icon on the back which would fit my current avatar on the internet at the time.

businesscard-history

This year, for the first time, I'm going with round corners. A lot of the business cards I have collected from others over the years start to show damage in the corners. I thought going with rounded corners might counteract that a bit. I do not spend a fortune on my business cards (yet) so I usually go with some sort of economy printing service (Vistaprint so far). I might try to order from a different place next time to see the difference in quality.

 

Neat-looking promotional items for artist alley

I wanted to make a banner or a roll-up this year, but I didn't have "the right artwork" for it yet so maybe next time. I think it looks very inviting and professional when artists have a banner, a little sign or a roll-up with some of their artwork by their table.

I'm also hoping to bring a tablet where you can sign up for my newsletter. Using a tablet to show off your Youtube videos is also a great idea. I like to make a specific artist alley playlist for this purpose and let it play on repeat somewhere where people can see it.

In the future, I plan to have a mini-portfolio to hand out along with my business cards. Especially to potential clients.

 

Artist alley attendance shoutout on social media

This year for J-Popcon I made a small collab with my friend whom I will share the table with. We're both posting the collab on our Instagram accounts. I like to show my followers the table plan of the artist alley as well to let people know where they can find me.

Below are the images for our Instagram accounts. I still have to figure out what to do for Comic-con.

instagram-artist-alley-01
instagram-artist-alley-02

A list of my Artist Alley products

This is a list of the products that I will be bringing along to my Artist Alleys this year:

  • X-large prints A3 (limited designs)

  • Large prints A4 (approx. 10 different designs - most of these are not available in other sizes)

  • Medium prints A5 (approx. 5-7 different designs - most of these are not available in other sizes)

  • Small prints A6 (approx. 6-8 different designs - none of these designs are available in other sizes)

  • Stickers (approx. 10 different designs)

  • Some original drawings sold at a higher price

  • Prints with traditional finishes such as gold paint

  • Some misprints and old clearance prints

  • Artist Alley commissions

The list below is new products that I consider to be on my WISHLIST and some of it available next year or through my shop later this year:

  • Badges

  • Zipper bags

  • Notebooks

  • Bookmarks

  • Planner stickers

  • Enamel pins or acrylic charms

  • A zines (small artbook - usually with a specific theme)

  • Colouring book

  • Shirts with original gothic/fantasy themes

 

There is a lot more I could talk about, but this post is meant to be more of an insight into my head right now rather than a complete guide. I hope you can draw some inspiration from my thoughts. The first convention is Friday this week. Then there is less than a week until the next one. I still have some designs for both prints and stickers that I need to finish, so I better stop writing this post and get back to work, hah.

If there is anything you'd like me to include in the post-artist alley blog post let me know in the comments below.


The making of a Princess

Step by step of a Digital Painting

One of my latest commissions was a drawing of the beautiful Princess Daisy. I exported out screenshots of some of the major steps in my digital painting progress and wanted to share them as inspiration to anyone who would find it useful.

step01.png

Step 01:

The Mockup

I usually develop several mockups - especially if the artwork was commissioned or if I have a lot of unclear ideas about the direction of the painting. If the artwork was commissioned I ask my customer to pick a mockup for me to continue with. If I'm just making the painting for myself I usually experiment with some thumbnailing before deciding which mockup to continue with.

In few cases I grow too attached to several mockups and I end up developing a little on all of them, turning them into proper sketches, before making a final decision.

step02.png

Step 02:

Lineart

It is 50:50 whether I decide to do clean lineart or go straight to shading/coloring on top of the sketch. At the moment I'm not focusing so much on cleaning up my sketch after I started painting on top of it, so if I want to make sure the sketch was properly cleaned up I just do lineart instead. I usually create clean lineart when the artwork was commissioned by a customer.

In reality it is probably the undecisive 'me' that kind of want to let go of lineart but just loves doing it as well.

I use a custom Photoshop brush with transfer to create lineart and I usually pick about 80% black as my tone for lineart. Sometimes I throw in a little hue (fancy word for color) as well.

step03.png

Step 03:

The flats

This is probably the least entertaining part of coloring. T H E F L A T S. My latest process is just to have a single layer containing all the flats. I might paint the different colors on each their own layer but once I'm done I merge them together into a single layer named 'flats'.

If I want to later, say, select all the hair, I just place myself on the layer containing the flats and use the 'magic wand tool' to select the hair, then I move onto the layer I want to work on while the selection is still active.

I used to keep the flat layers seperate and then shade each individually using clipping masks. However I often got lost in the amount of layers that piled up so I eliminated the amount by merging the flat layers together.

The lineart layer is on top of my layer of flats.

step04.png

Step 04:

Initial shading

I use a standard soft round brush for this step. I select some shades I want to shadows and highlights and make a new layer on top of the flats (still below the lineart layer).

The purpose of soft shading is only to indicate where the shadow and highlight areas are. Imagine that all the flat colors are the "midtones" and on this layer I paint in some highlighted areas with ligther tones and some shadow areas with darker tones.

TIP: When you select shadow and highlight colors, rebember to slightly shift the hue as well to get some variety into your color scheme.

step05.png

Step 05: First render

It is finally time to start working on layers above the lineart layer. This means that everything I paint on these layers are going to replace the lineart underneath. This used to be very frightning to me! I could never imagine wanting to work on top of my lineart and (gasp) replace it?! However once I figured out how cool it looks to use contrast in tones and color instead of lines to define features on the characters I got addicted to it.

In this step I also color the lineart. I simply make a clipping mask on the lineart layer and start coloring the lines.

I use the same brush for shading as lineart, only bigger. It also has a brother-brush which is exactly the same except it doesn't vary in size according to pressure. Those are my main brushes. When I find it hard to blend properly I use a custom brush for the 'smudge tool' to help along.

In this step I also changed one of the hands on Daisy because it looked ridiculous.

step06.png

Step 06: Corrections and second render

After shading and inital rendering I'm starting to add a little texture as well (mainly using custom texture brushes). It is also time to take a step back and reconsider my choices of color. I, personally, tend to start out too desaturated (it looks muddy) and turn up the saturation later in the process. I also adjust the overall light setting in this step using adjustment layers in Photoshop.

When I am satisfied I move on to the final corrections.

step07.png

Step 07: Final corrections

During final corrections of this piece, I noticed that the left shoulder (Daisy's right) looked weird compared to the other shoulder. It worked on the mockup - perhaps even on the lineart, but once I started throwing in colors it became clear there was something wrong, so I corrected it.

Sometimes we just don't see it because we work on the drawing for too long. Once I tell myself that the painting is finished, I wait until the next morning to post it because in 90% of the cases there is some small adjustments that I want to make. I simply cannot see the small mistakes because I've been staring at the painting for hours.

And finally I add a background!

Princess Daisy_final.png

Final version

As I had predicted, the following morning after I had declared the painting "done", there was some minor adjustments including making her face a little shorter and narrowing the neck.

This was an overview of my painting progress. I hope you find it useful.