Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Over the years, Lindsay Cibos and I have kept careful sales records, charting what pictures and products were successful with audiences at anime conventions. I started writing this document as a personal meditation on what works and what doesn’t at conventions, so that I’d have a better idea where to apply myself when it comes to creating images. What I found through writing this is that I was not only creating a list of factors that contributed to whether an image sells at conventions, but also a list of traits that helped explain why some artistic endeavors appeal on a broad scale. I thought my findings might be of interest to other artists, so I’ve taken the time to compile them. I hope that through sharing this info, other artists might also be inspired to share their own knowledge on the subject of creating successful art.

Conventions: Passing attraction. Picture yourself walking through a typical anime/comic convention dealer’s room. If the convention is worthwhile, then the floor is an overwhelming sensory experience. A vast diversity of people pack themselves into living channels that run down the length of cramped aisles. Strange and horrible smells arise from the crowd, assaulting your olfactory nerves. Ambient noise rings a deafening crescendo in your ears, forcing any conversations to take the form of highly focused yells. Your eyes dart from one visual highlight to another. You’re barely able to focus on navigation or destination. Everything around competes for your attention. You find yourself drifting along with everyone else.

Within the crowd, there are other distractions. Some attendees dress in elaborate costumes celebrating characters from popular shows, video games, comics, and anime. Other attendees wear bizarre fringe fashion and fetish-wear designed to display the maximum legal amount of skin.

Every aisle in the hall is lined with venders doing everything they can to attract people to their table. They erect huge displays featuring hard to find merchandise, they shout out enticing bargains, they stand on their tables and clash enormous replica swords together, and they play J-Pop music videos on large monitors at the maximum volume.


Now imagine yourself as an artist attending the convention. You decided to take the plunge, and put down $50 for a table in artist alley. Somewhere in this chaotic carnival of freaks and fandom, you reside. You set down an 8.5x11 inch art portfolio, and wait for a tide of people to crash into your table.

Will you succeed in generating interest in your art? Will you lose your time and investment, earn back your convention costs, or make a killing at the con? Like a general following Sun Tzu’s Art of War, it all depends on what preparations you made before the event and how you handle yourself at the event.

To be a successful artist, it helps to understand your product and the marketplace. What grabs attention and makes people want to buy? To help, I’ve broken down the factors I consider important to artistic success in a tiered hierarchy. From the standpoint of a convention attendee – AKA your potential customer – they move up the hierarchy making small, often subconscious assessments on whether the piece of art is appealing. If the art passes the test, it becomes more interesting to the viewer, and then they assess the work according to the next tier. Art that registers strongly on any tier is often successful. The more tiers a piece registers on, the more success it has.

Hierarchy of Traits Affecting Artistic Success

  • Venue
    • Quality
    • Size
  • Familiarity
    • Famous Characters
    • Popular Themes
    • Popular Subject Matter
  • Appeal
    • Cute
    • Cool
    • Sexiness
  • Controversy
  • Quality
  • Price
  • Personality

Over the next several blog posts, I’ll elaborate on this hierarchy. You’ll learn what makes an impact at conventions, and why. As you look over this list, you'll find these factors don't just apply to art at conventions either. The principles work just as well in the online marketplace, and can also be used to analyze the appeal of other artistic works, including fashion, writing, or even music.

In the next installment we’ll focus on the venue, the first and most important factor on whether your art will have an impact with an audience. See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. Hello, where can I find the next installment? I am very interested in what you have to say!
    /falls off seat