You are absolutely, definitely 100% encouraged to approach artists you admire at conventions. As someone who has been on both sides of the table- the busy artist AND the nervous fan, I can appreciate both situations. And as someone who's been in both positions, I can offer some advice that should help ease anxieties about what's ok and what isn't.
1. If you can, message them ahead of time! Let them know you'll be there, and ask when a good time to swing by and chat would be. Most artists are beyond delighted to meet up, and can recommend a time where they won't be swamped with other customers.
2. If you want an artist to look at your portfolio, doing the above will definitely help, but if you meet an artist for the first time at a show, and would like them to look at your portfolio or sketchbook, please consider limiting how many images you show them. Up to 10 should be fine, but any more than that gets overwhelming for the artist. You should also wait for a time when the con is slower, or arrive early (Fridays are usually good, early Sat is usually ok, but Saturday afternoons and Sundays can be very hectic for commission artists). Please be respectful of the artist's time- they're tabling to make money, so if you can afford to do so, please purchase something. It doesn't have to be expensive, but if you like an artist enough to ask for their opinion on your art, you should like them enough to want to support their endeavors too! Time spent looking at your portfolio is time not spent working on commissions or engaging customers.
3. Please don't take photos of the artist's booth without permission. It's become very common for artists to rip off other artists' designs and ideas this way. If you'd like to take a photo so you can remember to visit the booth again, or to show a friend who might be interested, please ask first- and let the artist know that's why! Otherwise, just take a business card.
4. Please DON'T hit on artists while they're working. Conventions are a work environment for many of us, and we are there to make money.
5. Please don't critique or insult the artist's work. If you don't like it, don't buy it and move on. Tabling at a convention is not an invitation for critique, and this is seen as rude.
6. Don't be a booth barnacle. Spending more than 10 minutes at a table (especially one where you don't yet know the artist, and don't intend to buy) just because you are bored is a huge distraction to the artist, and it deters other customers from buying.
7. Don't invite yourself behind the table. That's the artist's personal space- they keep their supplies and money back there.
8. If you don't know the artist well, please don't be offended if we can't accept your home made baked good. If you really want to bring a treat for your favorite artists, something that's prepackaged is usually welcome.
9. Some of us are great at remember names, some of us are good at faces. I personally remember commission customers best. Some of us do so many conventions that everything's a blur. Please don't be hurt if we don't remember you immediately.
10. If you've arrived early, and we're still setting up, please be respectful of that. Some of us will encourage you to go ahead and look, some of us would rather focus on setting up, and may ask you to return later. Saying 'no, that's ok' and continuing to hang around is distracting and rude.
11. Don't worry about coming across as shy or awkward- many of us are the same way. You're perfectly fine.
12. Don't worry about coming across as over eager either- your energy energizes some of us!
13. If an artist seems busy, or doesn't notice you at first, please don't bang your hand on the table, snap, or whistle at us like we're dogs. Just say 'excuse me' in a voice that's loud enough to carry over the noise of a convention. I promise, we're not ignoring you (unless you've broken a couple of the above mentioned suggestions), we're probably getting organized, promoting our con appearance on social media, making sure our finance apps are working for the show, sorting money, or working on a commission.
14. If you are an artist who has benefitted from the knowledge, advice, or experience of another artist, it is considered a professional courtesy that you go over to the front of the table, check out their work, and say hi. Anything less, unless the con is just ridiculously busy and you don't even have time to pee, is rude and dismissive of the work they've shared with you. There is no requirement to buy (although that's a fantastic way to say 'thank you for the hard work you shared so freely'), but you should at least respect them enough to be interested in their work, even if this work doesn't directly benefit you as a convention artist. We do not exist as individuals, we do not table in a vacuum, and no artist is so well off that they wouldn't appreciate A: your thanks and B: your support. If you can't make time at some point to go over and say hi at their tablefront, you could always make it a point to check out their shop, their website, and shoot them an email. Artists who have freely shared their experiences are trying to contribute to a better artist alley community, and deserve your recognition.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
How To Approach that Artist You Admire At Conventions
Vigilante comic artist, illustrator, and comic craft blogger at www.nattosoup.blogspot.com. I have an MFA from SCAD in Sequential Art, which means I'm highly educated in the art of drawing funny picture books. I specialize in comics aimed at young girls, and enjoy the finer things in life- seinen manga, whiney autobio graphic novels, and science fiction.