Industrious Illustrating #45 – Conventions/Fairs

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! This week I’m going over the different types of events that artists can sell their artwork at and discussing basic information about their audiences, event sizes, etc. The general idea is that artists can pay a fee (anywhere from $50 for a small event to $300-$500+ for larger events) to an event’s organizers to rent out a table space (anywhere from 6-8 feet or more) that they sell at during show hours while the event is ongoing. The money earned from these can be pretty respectable (anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for the top-performing artists), but part of getting there is knowing what types of events are out there and whether or not their audiences will want to purchase one’s work.
Disclaimer: I’ll be mostly going over pop culture-related events because that’s what I’m most familiar with. There’s lots of fine arts-related events that are also worth considering that you could look into on Facebook Events or similar if that’s more of what you’re interested in, though!

Indie Comics Fairs

Indie comics fairs are typically small one or two-day events (a few hundred to a few thousand attendees at most) with programming and an artist alley highlighting independent comics artists and their original creations. Some of the bigger fairs of this type are the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo in Boston and MoCCA in New York City. I’ve never tabled at one before, but I enjoy attending them to look for zines, short comics, and original art prints — not so much popular culture fanart or non-paper types of merch — and most of the audience seems also be primarily interested in those types of merch.

Some local events worth checking out if you want to buy from and meet independent comics artists are A2CAF at the Ann Arbor District Library as well as the Detroit Zine Fest. And if you yourself make comics, these events are worth a try to make sales and reach out to potential fans of your work!

A recent A2CAF promotional image

Comic Conventions

Comic conventions tend to be larger than indie comics fairs, happening across a full three-day weekend (Fri-Sun) with thousands to tens of thousands of fans in attendance, and they focus more on highlighting big-name comics artists and Western pop culture celebrities as well as selling photo-op and autograph opportunities with them, although some comic conventions lately are trying to appeal to a broader nerd audience by bringing in anime voice actor or internet celebrity guests. Some of the biggest comic conventions in the country are San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). The audience for these events tends to skew older with more of an interest in Western media and pop culture, though there’s also generally a decently sized audience for other forms of pop culture such as anime and video games. I’ve never tabled at a comic con before as of the writing of this post, but I am planning on tabling at Motor City Comic Con Fall in Novi from November 10-12 this year! I’ll likely write up a post afterward talking about how the convention went and sharing any insights I gained from trying out a new type of convention to sell at.

Motor City Comic Con’s logo.

Anime Conventions

Anime conventions are the type of convention I most frequently sell at, as most of my work appeals the most to anime fans either by being fanart of popular anime properties or being of a subject matter that anime fans tend to like (e.g. cool robots, cute animals). They’re typically focused on Japanese pop culture and animation, but lately properties from other regions of East Asia such as South Korea and Mainland China have become popular as well at anime cons, and many anime con attendees are also fans of Western pop culture media and video games. I’ll be tabling at Isshocon (also in Novi) in January 2024, which is a new first-year anime convention that I hope to see grow into a larger con. I also might be at Youmacon 2023 in Detroit next weekend (November 3-5) if I get off of the waitlist, but we’ll see about that.

Youmacon’s logo

If you want to try tabling at pop culture conventions but the several hundred dollar table fees and large crowds of larger conventions are too intimidating to get started, I highly, highly recommend applying for Con Ja Nai if you want to sell any kind of art that appeals to an anime or pop culture fan audience and you’re currently a student at UMich. Con Ja Nai happens every early April on a Saturday inside the Modern Languages Building with free admission, panels, a maid cafe, and a decently sized vendor hall/artist alley to browse. While Con Ja Nai is a small one-day college convention held by UMich’s anime club (Animania) that attracts a few hundred attendees at most, it’s very cheap to table at (about $15 for a 6 foot table space), the selection process prioritizes University of Michigan students (no need to deal with the lottery/jury applications gauntlet of bigger conventions) and the money is pretty good for the amount of attendees the event gets. Applications typically open around February or March and are typically shared in the Animania Discord server and/or on the convention’s website, so keep an eye out for that. I’ve actually posted on this column about tabling there a few times in the past, and I plan on doing so until I eventually graduate and move out of Ann Arbor.

A previous promotional image for Con Ja Nai.

Other small events?

While I did say earlier that I don’t have experience with fine arts events, there is a similar small art fair at the University of Michigan called the What the F! Art Fair that is still accepting applications until tomorrow, 10/28 (at the time of publication) for women, queer, and/or BIPOC artists to sell their art in any medium. I’ve done it twice and got the vibe that the attendees care mostly for looking at and purchasing original fine artwork, which isn’t what I sell but could be perfect for a different artist! You can find the application link here (note that I am not associated with the What the F magazine in any way whatsoever).

And that’s all for today! If there’s any topics you guys want me to cover or go into more detail on, please let me know in the comments! 🙂

Robin

I'm Robin (he/they), a third year enrolled as a User Experience Design student. I'm especially interested in eventually professionally creating artwork for entertainment such as animated films, books, and video games. I want to share my artwork with a wider audience using this blog, and I also want to open up a conversation about what goes into making illustrations and artwork both on the creative and business sides..

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2 Comments on "Industrious Illustrating #45 – Conventions/Fairs"


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Gina
3 months 27 days ago

This is super helpful, thank you!