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Traveling to Conventions by Airplane

Growing up, we traveled and moved a lot as a family, packing our lives up into a handful of trunks to move between countries. This constant packing and unpacking has made me efficient at squeezing my life into a suitcase.

One of my early experiences traveling to a show was for an event while I was still living in Japan. At the time we didn't own a car, and my only option for getting there was public transportation. I packed up everything I would need for my small 4ft by 3ft space at Design Festa, including a folding table, and with the help of my mom, carried everything on the train over an hour into downtown Tokyo. That was the longest I have ever walked carrying my convention setup, and every show since then has been a breeze by comparison.

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Your Work has Value

Talking with a friend last night, I realized there’s something important that is too often left unsaid. I told him “You’re work has value, all on its own”.

When discussing business options with creators, it’s common to hear them talk about aspirations to turn their illustration into books, games, cards or other products that make use of art. On the face of it, hearing about plans to make some big beautiful thing seems straightforward enough but there can be a darker subtext to it. An inexperienced artist attempting to wrap a lot of writing or game rules around the art can be reflective of the artist’s fear that their work isn’t worthwhile all on its own. Often times when I hear a pitch for a project like that, I consider how common it is for creators to undervalue their work. The urge to build up something else around the art feels like yet another manifestation of the ever present impostor syndrome that pervades the creative community.

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One Review at a Time: Etchr Bag

This is a serious bag. It’s not some simple tote you toss your stuff into. No, this pack demands respect. It’s the kind of bag you take home and introduce to your mother!

When I first opened up my new Etchr Art Satchel is was honestly overwhelmed by all the options. I had to set it down and come back after letting it all sink in a bit. I then spent some time researching all the various "modes" to arrange the bag. I got so excited I had to show my wife! This bag is crazy customizable!

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The Power of Perceived Value

Artists are at their best when they can push their artistic vision to its fullest. However, when this runs against what the majority of people might want to purchase it can be hard to make a living. So, how do we fulfill our creative vision and still afford to live?

We start from what I call a ‘minimum effective audience’ or the smallest number of people willing to invest enough money so you can afford to focus on making art. With the right strategy we can find our minimum effective audience and make the products they want to buy at a price they are willing to pay.

In my last article I talked about crafting an experience at your convention booth. This experience needs to extend to the items you’re selling. What types of items does your audience want to purchase? What type of materials make sense to print your work on? These are great questions to ask yourself to fulfill the wants of your audience and help yourself stand out even more. Most importantly we have to price effectively and offer a range of products to allow our audience to invest what they are willing to.

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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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