With convention season in full swing (or, for me, fast approaching), I thought now might be a good time to post a list of handy-dandy tips for those who find themselves heading to conventions this year. I can't speak for all artists, but I think it's safe to assume that most of them would agree with my suggestions. So throw on a pair of comfortable sweatpants, grab a Kit Kat, lean back, and allow these words of wisdom to fill your heart...
1) Bring reference pictures.
In past years, I've lugged around piles of reference books.. the complete visual guides to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, superhero handbooks, etc. I'm putting an end to it this year. Way too much stuff to carry around and travel with. If you're planning on getting a drawing from me at a show, bring some reference material of the character you want. Just one or two pictures is cool - doesn't have to be anything fancy. And if you want a drawing of yourself, give me a photo to work with -- when you stand at my table and I have to keep looking at you for reference, that's just awkward for everyone.
2) Bring cash.
Most artists at conventions only take cash.. Credit cards and personal checks are a no-no. And please, no bills bigger than twenties. Our change options are pretty limited, especially when we're stuck at a table and can't run to the bank.
3) Don't introduce yourself as "Dan" if I know you as "NinjaX2000".
One thing that seems to happen to me at every single show is that I meet someone and they introduce themselves as so-and-so, and I don't recognize their name -- and then I get home a few days later and realize that I do know that person from one of my various internet hangouts, and it just didn't click with me that that was the same person. And then I feel like a jerk. So please, folks, if I know you from online, say which site I know you from and what your handle or nickname is there. I tend to have brainfarts at conventions - I also tend to recognize faces, but then can't remember names.. What can I say, my simple brain can only handle so much.. (P.S. If you've never seen me before, here's a photo. Now you'll be able to spot me at shows and won't be startled by how frightening I am.)
4) Artists: Don't ask for critiques from people who don't like giving them.
There are always the newbie artists wandering around conventions asking for critiques of their work, which is fine and cool. Personally, I'm not big into giving critiques. (a) I'm just not that guy who is comfortable being flat-out critical with somebody I don't even know, and (b) I don't feel like I'm at a point with my own skills where I have any right to be giving critiques. Telling other people how they can improve their art makes me feel like a tool. So, yeah.. Instead of going table to table and shoving your portfolio in everyone's face, instead I would recommend that you first approach the artist with a simple question: "Are you comfortable giving art critiques?" If you word it like that, you'll get an honest answer, and the artist won't feel like a jerk if he/she says no. And that way you can save yourself the wasted time of having someone flip through your stuff, only to give you a quick dismissive compliment that isn't going to help you in any way. Remember, we're there to make money and advance our own careers - you're much better off showing your work to potential publishers and employers, and scheduled portfolio reviews. They will be blunt and honest with you - much more so than any artist - and that's what will help you the most.
5) If you're sick, stay at home.
Every convention has that handful of people that show up with the sniffly noses and the cold sweats... They know they're sick, but screw it! They gotta get their con on!! ... ugh.. People, seriously, if you're sick, stay home. When I was at Dragon-Con a couple years ago, a guy came up to my table and wanted a sketch, and he was sneezing and coughing.. I did his sketch for him, and then he reached out his hand and wanted to shake my hand.. There was that awkward "dude, you seriously want to shake my hand?" moment, and finally I just decided I didn't want to be a jerk, and so I shook his hand. Needless to say, I caught whatever bug he had and was bed-ridden for the next four days. In hindsight, I should've politely told him to stay faarrr away from me. So, please, ill convention-goers -- don't come to the show and get everyone sick. That's just a mean thing to do. Karma is watching you. :P