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Why I Hired a Photographer

You may have heard that your portfolio is everything, and that to attract “the right kind of interest”, you need to focus on a beautiful portfolio above all else. But what if your goal, your business model, is not to attract art directors or freelance clients? What if, instead, your aim is “simply” to delight your audience and to invite your collectors into the world behind the scenes?

I recently found myself firmly in the latter camp; what follows is my experience working with a photographer, along with a few tips on what to think about if you’re considering hiring one yourself.

Last year, my website was ready for a major overhaul. My vision for a new online home included more backstage images of me in the studio, as I wanted my brand to revolve around the artist in her natural habitat. The end goal was not just a place to show off my art, but a glimpse into my life that could foster a deeper relationship with my collectors. I wanted to draw people into the whole story, not just the painting on the cover.

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Pledge Drive Mode - How to grow your Patreon

Patreon is an amazing tool for creating a passive income. Rather than pushing to build something new and involved, it allows creators to earn a living by doing the thing they want to do every day. Once you’ve got it all set up, it’s safe to leave it on the back burner. Popping in occasionally to give it a stir and check the spices is recommended but you don’t need to slave over it the way an online store requires. Patreon’s passivity is one of its greatest qualities, but it can also be one of its greatest weaknesses. After your launch, new member tend to join slowly. That’s fine if you’ve got other stuff going, but if you want to invest in Patreon more deeply then you need accelerate its growth by switching into pledge drive mode.

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Connecting Across the Con Table

I began tabling at conventions in 2016. When you’re just starting off, each new tabling experience is new and exciting; I was hungry for feedback after waiting so long before getting my work out there in that way, and seeing people come across my table for the first time and react with enthusiasm is so rewarding in itself. But each convention takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes no time at all to become aware that you’re going to have to decide which cons you want to keep doing and which ones you don’t.

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Should I or Shouldn't I? - 10x20 Vendor Booths

I recently returned home from a whirlwind two weeks, exhibiting at my first ever 10ft x 20ft vendor booth at both AwesomeCon and C2E2. I know a lot of artists like myself have debated whether it is financially worth it to upgrade out of Artist Alley and move into larger more expensive vendor booths. I hope my recent experience can give fellow artists some insight into the pros and cons of such a move.

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How I Leveled Up My Convention Setup Over 5 Years

My very first convention was C2E2 2014 and I had exactly eight — that’s right, eight — illustrations displayed on a half table. My work at this time was mainly fan art. No banner to speak of. I had two portfolios for people to page through, and when they selected the art they wanted, I signed and bagged it on the spot. It wasn’t exactly an expert set-up to start, but the art community welcomed me. They loved my style and I sold out of almost everything I had. I couldn’t have been happier! I mean, it was my first rodeo and it was a success.

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Cons are Hard - C2E2 2018 Wrapup

It’s the morning after C2E2 2018 and everyone in my house is a complete zombie.

Throughout last year, I worked to hire a dedicated salesperson to sell my work at conventions without me. Having Elaine take over convention sales for me has been amazing. The work she puts in has allowed me to focus on my health, my work and my family. Having not personally attended any conventions in nearly 6 months, my big takeaway from coming back is how fucking hard these things are.

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One Review at a Time: LED Light Box

One of the things I wanted for my studio was a light box. I do a lot of ink work these days and I like to sketch digitally. In the past I chose to print out my sketch as blue line and ink over the top, removing the blue lines later in Photoshop to produce a clean digital final. I love original art, and for awhile I've wanted to find a way to produce crisp clean original ink drawings.

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1FW Community Celebration - Miranda Meeks at SLCC

One Fantastic Week started with a simple idea. Sam and I wanted to share the kinds of conversations we've had at cons with a wider audience. We didn't know where that would lead, but we knew that if all learned from each other, that we'd all grow stronger together.

Recently, we've been seeing a lot of really amazing examples of independent success from around the community and we wanted to start highlighting them. Rather than refine down the stories into a real blog format, I just want to post them as they happen. This is a recent conversation with one of our community members who I reached out to on Facebook. Oddly enough, these sorts of convention reports are starting to become a common feature of my inbox.

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Peter Mohrbacher Comments
Last Call for Workshop Tickets

Over the last few years, I’ve built a business I’m really proud of. Not only because it makes enough money to support a comfortable life for my family, but also because it’s built entirely on the back of my own personal artwork. By paying close attention to the lives and businesses of artists more experienced than myself, I’ve created something that will sustain me financially and creatively for the rest of my life. As a repayment to the community that’s helped me achieve this, I’ve been working to hold the door open for other artists who aspire to the same goals.

I want to help you make a comfortable living, making the kind of art you want and selling it directly to your fans. 

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Peter MohrbacherComment
Angelarium x Nima - Cross Promotion in Action

Over the last 2 years, I’ve only ever made artwork for Angelarium. No fan art, no commissions, no freelance. It’s been great but I'm developing an itch.

The success of the project has had the wonderful side effect as well. By voting with their money, the fans of Angelarium have completely priced me out of the freelance market. There is no client I’ve encountered that can come close to matching the value that my fans put on my work. Getting to tell a bunch of low ball commissioners ‘no’ has been a pleasure but I’m starting to wonder if I’m building too high a wall around myself. I really do want to work on other projects sometimes, but it’s hard to justify when the pay is so much lower.

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The Generalist, Art as Science

As artists we are often told to specialize. I think some of that comes from the advantage of mastering one technique at a time. In sales, specializing or focusing your product line is also key. However, the opposite option is not as often discussed, but is equally as valid—that of the generalist.

The generalist is an artist who approaches art like a science, a series of skills to be mastered, based on a foundation of art history, and with the ability to transition into any chosen field within the wider art market. Ron Lemen is one artist that comes to mind who has chosen this path.

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Sam FlegalComment
Learning to Find Your Path

When describing the journey we take to better ourselves as artists, we talk about a “career path”. Sometimes this is envisioned like a walk through a forest or scaling a mountain trail. These metaphors fail us too often because it supposes that there is an intended goal to achieve, a peak to conquer. The problem is that conquering a career goal often leads to a dead end. Each time we can no longer move forwards, whether it's because our goals have been met or because they've been cut short, will inevitably require significant backtracking to find new routes. Doing this over and over again, it's easy to see how twisted these paths really are. This world we're navigating is a maze. A huge and daunting maze without a clear goal or solution.

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How I Doubled My Convention Income - ACen 2017

I’ve just gotten back from Anime Central 2017 and I want to share some results of my ongoing experiments. This year, I had a 120% increase in sales from my last time as a vendor. To put that in context, I was getting a 10x return on my investment in 2015. That’s enough of a jump for me to want to talk about what went right so that you can reproduce the results for yourself and for science!

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How to Sell Your Work at a Convention

Selling my artwork at comic and gaming conventions has had a huge impact on shaping my path to becoming an independent artist. I’m writing this today as a way to say thanks to the artists who have influenced me and to pay it forward to new artists breaking into the world of sci-fi/fantasy/comic art! For the past year I’ve been able to take the lessons I’ve learned, some good art, and make a moderate living wage by only freelancing and exhibiting at conventions. What follows are some of the key practices that have led to my success with selling my work at conventions!

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