Friday, April 28, 2017

Dos and Don'ts, Ins and Outs of Filling Convention Commissions

Over the years, I've completed thousands of convention commissions.  I'm quick, consistent, and have a few distinct styles that I work with for conventions.  While I do offer more detailed commission options, by far my convention styles are the most popular options. 

As a co-curator for How to be a Con Artist, I'm always pushing original content.  Comics, mini comics, sketchbooks, commissions- the field is flooded with fanart prints, and if you want to be able to compete (sales wise) you need to offer something distinct.  While I'm possibly gutting my own bottom line by helping you guys out, I hope you'll remember me fondly with cash at some point in the future, say at MTAC or APE.

Convention commissions sound fairly easy on paper.  Get money, draw thing, repeat.  But there's a lot beneath the surface that you need to take into account before you start accepting those commissions, lest you ruin the market so carefully built by artists before you.

Although I've written about conventions significantly over the years, my output on convention tutorials has just about dried up on this blog.  If you'd like to see that change, join my Patreon community and help support future content.

What are Convention Commissions:

Convention commissions are commissions filled at, or directly after, a convention.  Commissions are usually paid for upfront to cover time and materials cost, as these are designed to be fairly inexpensive commissions that are quick to complete.

Although convention commissions are generally completed in traditional media, there are some digital artists who also fill convention commissions.

Before you offer commissions, you'll need to figure out:

What Types Do I Offer:

For me that's:
Pencil (at con)
Ink (at con)
Copic+Ink (at con, new)
Watercolor- Basic (at home)
Watercolor-Detailed (at home)
Marker (at home)

Pencil (at con)

Ink (at con)

Copic+Ink (at con, new)

Watercolor- Basic (at home)

Watercolor-Detailed (at home)

What Styles Do I Offer:

For me, that's:
Very simple, cartoony (pencil, ink, w/c)
Very anime inspired, cartoony (pencil, ink, w/c, marker)
Anime inspired, comic (pencil, ink, w/c, marker)
Realistic (watercolor only)

Why do I offer commissions?

For me, the reason is:
I want everyone to be able to own original art that speaks to them, and I want people to stop buying prints from places like Walmart, Kirklands, Michaels, ect to fill their homes.  I realize that most people feel they cannot afford original art, so I try to offer something at every price level, to train a new generation of people to love owning and commissioning original art. This means my prices are much lower than average, which also means I take a LOT of heat from my artistic peers, and it means that I have to work much harder to make the same amount of money.  I would not recommend my methods to everyone.

Why do I price what I Price?

My prices:
Detailed Chibi, pencil- $10 each
Detailed chibi, inked- $15

Mini watercolors- price generally varies by size- always generate a custom quote
Detailed watercolors- price varies by complexity, size- always generate a custom quote
Copics- price varies by detail, size- always generate a custom quote

For me, the reason is:

Despite accusations, I am not trying to wreck the art market.

I enjoy creating art, I create a lot of art quickly, and so I often have an excess of pieces created from studying or learning new techniques.  Rather than sell these as prints and having these pieces rot in storage, I price them so that they can go home and live a life on someone's wall, as a treasured original piece of art.

While I do offer more expensive commissions in realistic art styles, the main focus for customers is on my inexpensive, easily filled commissions, so that tends to get the most attention.

In the end, you need to find a pricing structure that is sustainable for you, your creation materials and methods, and your desires.

What Materials To Use:

As a SCAD kid, I am infinitely comfortable with non photo blue lead, graphite, and ink.

As an internet artist, I have developed styles with alcohol markers, watercolor, and for digital art.

So I work with what I'm comfortable with, and as I develop new styles and abilities, I test run those on my Youtube channel before offering them as commissions.

My materials:
Non photo blue lead (Color Eno Soft Blue)
Mechanical Pencils
Soft Graphite (B)

Kuretake Fudegokochi
Pentel Pocket Brush

Colored leads (color eno)

Select alcohol markers (Blick Studio Brush markers and Copic, usually)

Sakura Koi watercolor set
Fluid watercolor paper

Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, SoHo, Holbien watercolors
Canson Montval, Arches, Fluid 100 watercolor papers

When trying to decide if commissions are right for you, consider the following:
  • Do I draw well in high pressure situations?
  • Can I draw with people watching?
  • Do I enjoy drawing for other people?
  • Do I enjoy other people's characters and backstories?
  • Can I draw in one style consistently?
  • Do I have the energy to fill commissions for the duration of the show?
  • Can I draw using physical media, or find a way to fill commissions at the show using the media I'm most comfortable with?
  • Can I handle filling commissions and sales at the same time?
  • Can I draw quickly enough for this to be worthwhile?

When first offering commissions, it's wise to offer commissions you can fill at the show, to help build up trust.  Once you've established that trust, you can start offering mail in, and more expensive options.

  • Know your strengths, and market to that
  • Do your research ahead of time
  • Promote your services
  • Purchase commissions from other artists- it's good con karma!
  • Practice commission types ahead of time
  • Have examples prominently displayed
  • Have your materials prepared ahead of time
  • Be flexible

  • Don't accept at-con commissions that you know you are incapable of filling to the customer's satisfaction.
  • Don't steal another convention artist's style for your commissions.  Word gets around.
  • Don't deliver sub par-commissions
  • Don't work until you're wrecked - it's better to wait until you are fresh than to deliver a poorly done commission.
  • Don't insult another artist's work to make a sale
  • Overpromise and under deliver
  • Default on a transaction without delivery or refund

If you enjoy my art, and would like some of your own, you can always commission me at home too!  All options shown above are also available online- email me for a quote.