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.
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.
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.
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!
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!