Industrious Illustrating #59 – AMKE and the Grindset

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! Honestly, I forgot to make a post last week because I was out of state for Anime Milwaukee and was focusing entirely on running my Artist Alley table to the best of my ability. I almost forgot again this week because I’ve been figuratively (and literally!) running around trying to make merch orders/re-orders before my next convention at the end of the month. Anyway, here’s what my AMKE table setup looked like this year:

Overall, I did pretty solidly — my revenue was on the higher end of the middle in terms of revenue I’ve made at conventions in the past — but Milwaukee is a fairly expensive city to visit and I’d bring more premade food with me next time to cut down on costs. Otherwise, I’m fairly happy with my profits and I’ll be back if this con accepts me again next year.

On other note, something I’ve been thinking about this week is that even though I do anime conventions instead of art fairs or other events because I specifically love fan culture and engaging with fellow nerds, turning my online shop and convention tables into nearly a full-time job on top of schoolwork is extremely exhausting. I’m almost grateful that I didn’t apply to any cons in April besides Con Ja Nai (Umich’s own one-day anime con!) and I haven’t gotten into any conventions in May (RIP Fanime, ACEN, and MomoCon) because otherwise my entire year would just be convention after convention interspersed with grinding out new merch designs. For one thing, even though I get a lot of merch design requests it’s not like I actually have to constantly make new designs — I’m only just starting to do out-of-state conventions this year and most attendees haven’t seen my work before! For another thing, if I just constantly work myself to the bone chasing higher revenue, would the extra money really be worth burning myself out and making me forget why I’m doing this as a gig instead of working a more “normal” job? Also, all of this is taking away energy, attention, and time I could be spending working on original projects or seeking out other potential jobs/careers, such as doing commercial illustration or user experience design/research. I definitely want to focus more on those during April and May.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy making new merch — I do this precisely because I love the process of researching and designing new merchandise and making them into reality — but I also can’t remember how to enjoy that process without giving myself space to decompress and relax. I think that this weekend I’ll focus on doing house chores and taking “me time” (probably playing video games and taking walks) so that I can remember what it feels like to be a human being and not an art-making machine.

All of this makes me wonder whether or not I should consider being a traveling freelance artist a viable job path in the future rather than a profitable hobby. I mean, what happens if there’s a year where I’m not accepted into any major conventions and my online sales aren’t enough to make up the difference? But also, another part of my brain reminds me that just about every industry is being shaken up by AI and other changes in the economy at the moment, and a regular salaried job would also place my livelihood at the whims of external forces. The best any of us can do is diversify our income streams and not place all our eggs in one basket, whether that basket is a corporate job or self-employed freelance. Maybe this isn’t as upbeat and hopeful as I wish I could be, but this is a column about my journey improving my art and trying to make it viable as a career, so I think it’s to everyone’s benefit that I’m candid and frank at least on occasion. I hope all of you have a great restful weekend, and see you next week!


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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1 Comment on "Industrious Illustrating #59 – AMKE and the Grindset"

2 months 9 days ago

I appreciate you talking about the toll this takes on you emotionally. I know it’s hard to balance everything, especially when, like you said, it feels like having multiple full-time jobs. Please do take time to rest! And if you choose this path full-time (and I think you could!), I hope you’ll take time to keep a balance!