New Approaches To Convention Sketches

As regular readers know I’m a big fan of convention sketches. I try to pick up a few every convention I attend; check out my Comic Art website for a gallery.

The tried and true method of attaining conventions is to get to the artist’s table before they arrive, wait in line, find out if they’re sketching, determine the price range, put your name on their list and then pick up the sketch before the show ends. This leads to frustration and anxiety because while you’re waiting for artist A to arrive artist B arrives and fills their list for the entire show, then artist A announces they’re not sketching. Then you walk by their table an hour later and you see them sketching; you stop and mention they said they weren’t sketching and receive a reply that they changed their mind and yes their list is full for the show. I will this hadn’t happened to me, repeatedly, but it has.

Luckily for us fans this interweb thing has taken off and most artists are now online. This allows for two things: the artist to communicate their schedule, rates and availability and the fans to track and or stalk. I’m finding artists have a website, Twitter account, Deviant Art page and a Facebook wall with only one of them regularly updated. Use the time before a show to find out which one is active and then follow it for convention information. Once you find them it wouldn’t hurt to email or post a question about what they’re doing at the convention. If you can’t track down the artist before the show be sure to mention how great it would be if they shared this information beforehand; hint, hint.

Earlier this year Paolo Rivera was in Toronto and he put on his blog that he was doing head sketches and it was so much (can’t remember but it was $80-100) and he was taking a list for the weekend. As I paid for my Daredevil head shot I thanked him for posting the information. These are key details as you now know price, availability and schedule.

Some artists take a list for each day, some for the entire show and some only do sketches while you wait. Each has its merits but I like to put my name down and continue exploring the show instead of waiting hours and hours in line until it’s your turn.

Even better are the artists who take a list of commissions before the show; they complete your request at their leisure and you arrive at the show and pay them. Awesome! Every time I’ve done this the finished product has been far better than what was produced at the show.

Unfortunately both of these scenarios won’t work if you have a sketch book you want something added to. Themed sketchbooks are a lot of fun but you’re tied down to one artist at a time while you wait, unless you’re running multiple sketchbooks, and at that point what’s the point.

Skottie Young posted this on his blog.

I’ll be setting a new method for getting sketches at SDCC this year. I will have 2 prices. $80 for the normal sketches of licensed comic and movie characters I usually do. Meaning, if it exists already, you’re in the $80 zone. Even if it’s your own character, that already exists. $60 will be for those who allow me to just make something up. Something completely original and one of a kind.

You can ask for a Robot Hippo and that puts you in $60. You ask for Deadpool, along with the other 80 people on the list getting Deadpool, that gets you $80. I’m going to do my thing on both, so don’t worry. Just one will be cheaper and much more original.

Now, this has nothing at all to do with anything legal or moral or ethical or whatever. I’m not taking a stand against anything and there is no soapboxes near me that I’m trying to stand on. I just want to start creating some more original art at conventions and what to encourage you to get something like that from me.

Interesting, no? Let the artist draw what they want and invariably you’ll get something superior to a specific request. Rivera was working on Daredevil this year so that’s what I asked for: he knew the character intimately and did a fantastic job. The two examples I’ve included in this post is Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez and Dr. Doom by Jim Cheung; both characters these artists were handling. As well since the whole creator owned business exploded some artists will only draw characters they created or those in the public domain, so when you’re stalking them online determine what it is they’re doing now so you won’t be disappointed later.

If you still want a specific character be sure to have at least one good reference comic. picture or printout with you. I’ve had the joy or requesting Dr. Fate a few times and the artist trying to do it from memory. Trust me, you don’t want this.

It’s worth noting that a lot of artists are only doing head shots to save time and get to more sketches for fans. Be sure the character you want is unique enough to come across with a nice head shot. Slam Bradley is not a good choice.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

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  1. For quite a while I’ve had artists just draw whatever they want. I’ve gotten some really cool sketches, usually much more than I paid for because it gives them a chance to do something different. Lately I’ve asked a few artists to do self portraits in their style. Thats been really interesting.

  2. I love saying whatever and letting them play. I’ve also got some great self portraits. One of my favourite pieces is a self portrait by Rick Taylor. And my Milk and Cheese of course.
    Milk: #^%$ your stupid comics!
    Cheese: Hard!

    Only problem is you face the chance you get one of the cadre who have decided if they are told whatever you get Jar-Jar Binks. But then, my new sketch book starts with an awesome Jar Jar by Ramon Perez, so…

  3. I picked up my IDWs DD Artists Edition last night and it looks awesome. I’m debating whether to break open the shrink wrap and actually look inside… I may have to source a second book… one to have and one to look at.

    Has anyone read Chip Kidds Batman yet… Death by Design. I think this is review worthy, no? Chip Kidd is a designer (like moi) best known for book covers. He’s also a bit of a celeb in the design world in the same way guys like Jim Lee are known in the comics world. He has a deep relationship with comics, having designed many comic related books and this is his first attempt at writing. I haven’t had a chance to read my copy yet… maybe this weekend.

    You guys should implement a “bump” system. Have the more popular posts go back on top. This will facilitate more dialogue and traffic by keeping interested topics active. For all the effort you guys put in… why not go all the way and add links as well. Do a swap with other related sites. I’m sure you know that Google references all this which will lead “surfers” to this site. Essentially, you’d be designing a net.

  4. Okay, I took the shrink wrap off the DD art edition… and the inside is also awesome. As expected, the blacks are a little soft due to the CMYK printing, which is normal, but it’s all been adjusted so that it pops.

    What I especially like is that the art pages are floated on the page so that you see the full original from edge to edge with a margin. Flysheets are included to simulate separations which would normally be done as a paste up on clear acetate. There is one page that has been reproduced from a proof which is noted and disclosed. The cover has matte laminate with gloss spot UV on the letters, the pages are an uncoated wove finish, thicker than the usual book paper.

    There is the usual introductory write up, up front and some extra pencil pages at the back. Mostly it’s pure art without being over designed. I studied each page (being careful not to accidentally crease or leave finger marks) and all pages were well registered. No visible bit mapping which is still common among comics (believe it or not) which I hate.

    The question is… is it worth the $135 + 13% sale tax that I paid? Hell yeah! Note to retailers: I would have paid up to $200. Apparently the book is already sold out and many opportunists have it listed on eBay from roughly $100 to $200 + shipping ($35?).

    On Amazon this morning, the Book Depository was offering this book at $102 + $35 shipping which is roughly what I paid. By evening, they’ve jacked the price up to $129.99.

    There is also a limited edition (250) available that is signed by DM and comes with a slip case but the asking price for this on eBay is anywhere from $350 to $400 and up. In my opinion, this is way too high and not worth your hard earned money. Besides, the cover image on the retail version is soooo much nicer and half the value for me is right there! I’m not a big fan of “limited” runs and variant covers. I feel this area of the market is deceptive and takes advantage of people emotional state… so, buyer beware.

    I’ve put my book back in it’s corrugated packaging that it came in and lays in a secret drawer that my wife doesn’t know about… never to be seen again for a long, long time. If you’re an art lover, this book is worth picking up… and do it quick before the sellers keep jacking up the price!

  5. The signed and numbered variant is a SDCC2012 exclusive and is $200 but must be picked up onsite. If you know someone going it may be worth it.

    Charlie, books are only charged 5% GST in Ontario so if your local comic shop is charging the full 13% HST on books then you need to have a word with them.

  6. Hmmm. I did notice that Chapters charges 5% but my comic store and many others charge the full 13%! I’ll have to ask about this… Does this apply to reg comics as well?

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