Crazdude’s Artist Alley Beginner’s Guide Pt. 2

Supplies, documentation, preorders, money and security were covered in the previous post which can be read here. 

Setting Up Camp

Since I work with bright colors, I like to draw attention to my artist alley table with my art and the help of a colorful table-cloth (a yard or two of fabric should do the trick. I also was fortunate that my husband had some wire crate storage units which converted easily into a display for my badges and keychains to clip onto.

File_000(3)Make sure you have your business cards out and ready for passersby who may just want to grab your info for later. I also had special cards made for people that liked something I had or a style of artwork and wanted to remember to commission me later. I was able to give them a card with my info on one side and my artwork on the back.

I also made a banner but it was too big for the standard table space you get at a convention. If you want to create a banner, its safe to make it 2ftx2ft or smaller.

I was so nervous about my first artist alley that I brought a ton of supplies and really only used 1/3 or less of what I brought. The same for Anthrocon but their rules are far more restrictive on what you can even bring to the alley. So long as your car and your hotel room have enough space for a tub full of materials, go for it. But remember that you may not be finishing whole commissions in the alley (I finished mine at the hotel room since that’s where I had my laminator plugged in) so you may be able to pack pretty light in terms of bringing materials to the alley. Paper, pencils, erasers, pens, and coloring tools should cover it pretty nicely. I managed to use my backpack and my toolbox of markers at Anthrocon and I could keep a lot of my display, cards, etc in one or the other.


Healthy Artist = Happy Artist

With out you there is no art. You have to make sure you are alert and personable. The best way to keep in tip-top shape (especially when you don’t have an assistant) is to pack what you need for the long days in the alley. Read more about this topic here!

  • Hydrate: I brought a gallon of water for my first artist alley at FurTheMore ’16 which may have been a little excessive but better than getting headaches from being dehydrated.
  • Pack some Snacks: Having snacks to keep your energy up and your mind clear are always a great addition. Compact high-energy food stuffs like protein bars or trail mix are far more optimal than Cheese crackers and gummy bears (which were such bad planning on my part but so delicious.)
  • Find an Alley Ally: For a happy artist, snacks shouldn’t be all that you are eating while in the alley. You need a real breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So if you can sit next to a friend (or make a new friend!) who can watch your table for you, that would be best so that you can take turns grabbing food or snagging a coffee. Having your alley ally watch your area will also help for when you need to use the restroom!
  • Prepared for Messes: You may also want to pack hand sanitizer, tissues, and paper-towels. I have needed them at every con whether for sticky spills or sloppy sneezes.
  • Get Moving: You may feel a bit exhausted from the long day but if you can spend a half-hour dancing after the alley closes, that can help get the blood pumping after a long day of sitting still!
  • Revitalize: Don’t forget to maintain good hygiene and sleep habits. A post-alley shower is a good time to multitask: clear your mind, figure out a plan of attack, and feel refreshed for a busy night of art! Having a room with other artists who are also there to work may be the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep so you are rested and alert for every day you are in the Alley.


Always be aware of your time

Asami 1/4 page bust badgeBefore getting to a convention, I keep a mental note of how much time every commission offering takes so that I don’t get overbooked for “at-con” commissions. I learned from my experience at Anthrocon ’16 that colored pencil badges are a tough at-con offering since they take so long and end up hurting my hand after a badge or two. I have decided to make those take-home only commissions. The same is true for the full-page high-detail marker badges; it just takes too much time to complete at the convention.

Many people will want their commission to be completed and picked-up that weekend but they also understand that good work takes time and are willing to wait and pay for shipping. At the point where I draw the line for at-con commissions and offer take-homes, I charge for shipping and take their contact info; address, email, telegram, etc. I also make sure they have my info too; give them a business card or message them right in front of them to confirm it is the correct telegram or email account. Don’t be afraid to draw the line and start offering only take-home commissions when you are overbooked. It’s better to be pessimistic about completion timeline rather than make unrealistic goals that will only disappoint you and your customer.

Every time I take an order, I estimate the completion aloud for the customer (like “As early as tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest” or “End of day tomorrow”) and continue to add on to my mental timeline with each additional customer until I get to a “Mid-to-late Sunday” unless I am staying until Monday morning and there are customers staying until Monday well. Also, I say “mental timeline” because I manage to remember but definitely write it down if you need to! And as always, keep your customers updated if the estimated time cannot be met. Customers are usually understanding if you communicate honestly with them.

EDIT: If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of offering commissions at con, there’s nothing wrong with taking them all home! Just be sure to get their contact information so you can stay in touch during the commission process. More recently, I have resigned myself to taking all orders home. My goal is to be commissioned at cons during the day and relax or have fun with friends after the dealers den closes. That way I’m not whimpering inside at the thought of a sleepless night when a customer tells me “Have fun!” It is in everyone’s best interest for me to work on commissions in the comfort and organized chaos that is my art studio rather than a dimly lit hotel room with less than half of my materials! When I travel, I don’t have the ability to take all of my supplies with me so now I just bring a few essentials and leave the marker collection at home! Also with all the excitement of the con, it is hard to give each commission the attention it deserves.

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