Originally published at Ash Evans Art. Please leave any comments there.
Sweet Dreams are made of these, how to keep your lofty aspirations from turing into a nightmare.
Most aspiring fantasy artists dream of the day they too get to go to DragonCon. It is in all appearances the big dance and not going can leave you feeling like the ugly girl who didn’t get asked to prom. They dream of a time where they can quit their job, hire their spouse and live in a fairy bliss. They wish “Oh if only I was with so and so I would make it big” Before you spend thousands of dollars, solicit yourself like a lady of ill repute and rush blindly into the abyss, think before you act. Not all dreams are what they are cracked up to be. Sometimes all that glitters isn’t gold, sometimes, well its just sparkly plastic.
Success is made of small victories not one big one. People are under some misconception that the top artists today just got there overnight and woke up one day with hundreds of orders and thousands of dollars. Effortlessly. This generation for the most part is all about instant gratification. If this sounds like you prepare to be disappointed. One show or licensing deal isn’t going to make or break you. In fact only YOU can make or break you. Take responsibility for your career. Success is like building a pyramid. You build a solid base bit by bit as you steadily climb upward. If you have an unstable foundation your whole building will crumble. Building a fan base is a process. You take it one show at a time. Start small. Start local. Learn as you go. If you book an enormous show and no one knows who you are unless you are completely outstanding you are going to get swallowed up by the chaos.
Don’t even book a show unless you have a minimum of 24 images. 5 is unacceptable. You look bush league with a folding table with no cloth and five pieces of paper on it. At least put stuff in a portfolio, or a binder. At a show you are playing on averages. The more images you have the more the likelihood lots of people will buy from you statistically increases. As you grow diversify, have different products in different price ranges to meet every budget. Dare to be different. Having a distinctive style is a hallmark of a professional. Be as professional as you can afford to be. Cover tables with cloths and have items displayed as nicely as you can. Try to get matching things, if not your booth will look like a yard sale. Your displays and coverings should show off your merchandise not compete with it.
Don’t be a lemming. It never ends well for them you know. Just because “all the other fantasy artists are doing it” doesn’t mean you have to. I mean really reading what I just wrote don’t you feel a little bit like a 5 year old? It actually comes out of peoples mouths, adult, professional people. Grow up! Get over it! Be unique because if you look like the rest of the pack you’ll blend in. Do you really want to be a pale imitation of a working artist today? Originality and diversity is one of the things that is going to set you apart in an already flooded market. The market is flooded be advised that this is going to be a tough business to break into.
Start small. Live within your means. Don’t book a convention you can barely afford, coast there on fumes and count on what you make at the show to see you through. This is a recipe for a disaster. What if you don’t do well? What if there is an accident, natural disaster or show cancellation? I have seen artists crying on the curb not knowing how they were going to get home because they didn’t have any money. Don’t let this happen to you. It is completely unacceptable and unprofessional. Don’t order product you don’t have money for or spend money you need back right away. A product could sit around forever. Personally I buy everything assuming that it will never sell. Sure it sounds a bit pessimistic but hey I never count on seeing that money again and am pleasantly surprised when I do get it back. This business when you are first getting started is feast or famine. You need to budget and save in good times and be frugal in the bad ones. If you are wanting to do a big order for something, offer to do a pre order to gage its popularity. If you can’t pre sell 50% don’t do it. Don’t SPEND the pre order money! You may have to refund it.
Licensing! Everyone wants licensing. They want to know how to get it like that is the key to the kingdom. Sure it is exposure and your art is on STUFF! Let me tell you something, It is fun and exciting but you don’t NEED licensing to have a successful career. It helps. Royalties are nice but that isn’t THE thing that is going to make you a star. You are going to make you a star. Your talent, your hard work and sacrifice. Even if you have licensing it doesn’t skyrocket you to superstardom. Companies, especially today are making cut backs, not opening up to “risky” new artists or projects and some are closing their doors for good. Licensing was they way to do it back when the economy was strong and booming. You have to adapt. Its Darwinism in this business baby. Adapt or die. Focus on your ART. Your art is what gets you these deals. Don’t want too much too fast, you may not deserve it yet.
Do your own research on products, shows and licensing. Emailing an artist and just saying gimmie!!! is only going to make you look unprofessional. No one will take you seriously. People who don’t take you seriously won’t make an investment in you. Your art is an investment and you are asking fans, companies and shows to “bank” on you. What is your art worth? I like to think you should price your art according to other artists in your skill set with your experience level. Don’t just quit your job one day because you want to paint unicorns. Your art has to be able to support you and sustain itself before you can quit. Transitioning from a job to the biz is a slow taper not an abrupt chop. You start to cut back hours and then eventually leave. It wouldn’t be wise to burn any bridges on your way out either, you never know you may need to go back one day. People fantasize about hiring their spouse or boyfriend to be their assistant. That just isn’t a viable option to a lot of people. Do you work well together? Can you support yourself and them on what you make? Even in a recession? Even if sales dip? Even if you have to pay for health insurance? Can your relationship sustain the strain this industry will apply to it? This business isn’t all the fairy glamor you see at shows. It is hard work, it can be very stressful at times. I know I can snap at my husband when he is working with me. Is it something they are even interested in? Don’t get caught up in the romance, see the reality. The more “real” and grounded you are with this the better off you are going to be.
Dreams are what make us strive to be the best we are. They help us hope, aspire and grow. Some dreams will change your life for better or worse. They can come true or not. Some dreams aren’t meant to exist in the light of day. Only you can decide what is right for you. I just ask you kindly before you go charging dragons to take a second glance and make sure it isn’t just another windmill.