I spent New Years in Austin working IKKiCON 5, where they denote the iteration of the con rather than the year because that would be too confusing! Though I am personally counting it as the first con of 2011 because IKKiCON 4 was wholly in 2010 (January 1-3) and because two of the three days IKKiCON 5 encompasses (Dec 31-Jan 2) were in 2011. :P Not that it really matters.
As it happens, the first IKKiCON in 2007 was actually my first anime con ever. I didn’t attend as an artist, but it was definitely a memorable experience. The con has grown tons and is pretty much unrecognizable to me now, especially with the series of moves from the Wyndham Garden Inn to the Hilton Austin, but there was still a weird sense of having come full circle. For IKKiCON 1, I was a freshman at UT and a normal attendee, wandering around the venue in a glorious daze. By IKKiCON 5, I was a SCAD graduate and had been working conventions as an artist for more than ten cons already.
I left for Austin a little past 1 pm Thursday afternoon, intending to roll into the city just before the sun starting setting. Thankfully, I have since hooked up an external mp3 player to the busted car mp3 player, so I was not bored out of my mind by terrible radio music for three hours. Also managed not to drive in circles around Red River and MLK for half an hour this time, so I arrived once again at my friend Dom’s place right on schedule. There were set-up hours for exhibitors that started fairly early that evening, so after dropping off my minimal personal luggage, we, along with his girlfriend/my friend Erica, set off to the Hilton. After Erica and I spent about 20 minutes putting together the hardest parts of the table, I shoved everything else under the table and we went to dinner.
Dinner was at a pretty awesome sushi place downtown called How Do You Roll? It’s similar to places like Freebirds and Which Wich, except for sushi, and is therefore awesome. It was also much cheaper than I expected, which is also awesome. I had a salmon + mango + avocado roll with liberal amounts of wasabi. Both Erica and I had been looking for another roll with mango since we had a specialty roll that included mango at a sushi place on St. Mark’s in New York, but no one offering normal sushi ever offers mango. But HDYR did, and it was good. After that, we went back to the apartment and watched Case 39, which was a pretty terrible movie, but at least it was fun to make fun of.
Got up a little past 7 am Friday morning, realized that was way earlier than I really needed to be up, had some poptarts, sat around for a bit, then was dropped off at the Hilton a little past 8 am. Dealers and artists were situated in the same big ballroom, but it was very quiet. Almost no one was there. Apparently, we weren’t supposed to open until 10 am, so I took my time setting up and getting situated.
This picture’s from Saturday, but the set-up didn’t really change over the weekend. I really need to get something better to display the badges across the middle — restringing that string every con is really annoying. Also probably going to phase out the cranes since they haven’t done very well the last few cons. The pokeballs to the top left were intended as mostly a prop since I have a ton of Pokemon-related things, but after the fifth person asked to buy one, I figured why not. I have a ton of them anyway.
I was flanked by some really sweet and awesome people this weekend too. To my right was Kevin Yan (“Yanimator”), who is too amazing to fit on one table, so he had two. He was selling mostly giant prints and a few buttons and had people swarming his table all weekend.
To my left was the similarly awesome Ladre, who was the only other artist with Touhou stuff (though at least one dealer also had Touhou merch). He was also selling mostly posters and prints, but had buttons, badges, bookmarks, and a sketchbook as well.
Really, the entire front row of the Artist Alley was full of awesome and included Nayuki-chan, Diana Sprinkle, JohnYume, and WhiteOblivion, among others. Unfortunately, it seemed that very few artists had business cards, and many of them did not set up until right before the doors opened to the public, so I didn’t really get a chance to check them out before I was locked down at my table. Still, the lovely people from Kawaii Ribbons, whom I’d met at Anime Overload and saw again at Delta H Con, were near the back, as was Amanda Coronado, a fellow SCAD grad. The alley was probably one of the most well-rounded ones I’ve seen — there was a great mix of art styles and a good variety of handmade items, including steampunk props and jewelry, plush, felt hats, cosplay accessories, etc.
But Friday was slow. Even for a Friday.
The crowds seemed pretty average in size, though this could be because the room was laid out in a very space-efficient manner and there was plenty of space for everyone to wander. And so people wandered a lot. It was lovely that IKKiCON was so well-organized, but ridiculous, crowded spaces have their advantages too, I suppose. I had one commission the entire day, but at least the commission was of a character I really like drawing:
Even the cosplayers seemed pretty lackluster for the most part, though this may also be because I’ve been to a lot of cons by now and it’s gotten harder for me to be impressed or surprised. First con in a while where my first cosplay photo wasn’t of something Pokemon-related, and it came in the late afternoon, too. Real guys cosplaying bishounen is always a treat though:
I also found Waldo:
And the girl with the giant Pikachu plush that I saw at AO but never got a picture of!
Friday seemed to drag on forever. I entertained myself by drawing lots and lots and lots of ACEOs and con badges. I’m pretty sure I drew 20+, non-commissioned ACEOs and badges over the weekend. It is a little sad, I guess, since those items don’t usually sell very well, but I like drawing them anyway, and it’s better than sitting around twiddling my fingers all weekend, I think. In all, I drew 13 ACEOs and 9 new con badges over three days (not all of the cards and badges shown below are from Ikki, but most were):
The exhibition hall closed down at 8 pm; I chucked everything that wasn’t hanging under the table and was gone by 8:30. Erica made delicious pasta stuff for dinner and then we watched the Machinist, which was an amazing, amazing movie. Infinitely better than the previous night’s choice.
Saturday began exactly the same as Friday, and I arrived at the hotel in plenty of time. I wandered around the dealers’ half of the exhibition hall to scope out the merchandise even though I really didn’t want to spend anything. The dealers had a pretty good variety too, and I spent some time talking to one of them about a lot of random things, including sales, hours, taxes, and the dollar falling against the yen. The variety is apparently due to no dealers really knowing what to stock anywhere. Some products from some series will stay in stock for years and then suddenly disappear all at one convention, but it’s the same for a lot of artists as well, including myself. I also was somewhat reassured to hear that the dealers also had a slow Friday, even as far as Fridays go.
But Saturday still seemed slow. In the two hours that we were open before noon, things did not seem much different from Friday. The dealers directly across from me selling kigurumis, hats, and masks seemed bored to death. I still had a lot of time to work on random ACEOs and badges, and cosplayers were still mostly average. I did find a pretty cool Lt. Surge though.
Also: some sisters cosplaying Marisa and Reimu.
Things finally started to pick up a little in the afternoon, and I was hit with a series of fun portrait commissions. It was a nice chain — a couple wanted them specifically to use as avatars for online forums, and while I was working on them, two others watched and decided they wanted something similar!
My table was situated directly under one of the lights in the room. This was great except for the fact that if I tried to take pictures of stuff I did, I would cast a huge shadow directly on top of the page since I usually lay the picture flat on the table and take a photo from right above it. Thus, I ended up just not taking photos of a majority of the stuff I did this weekend, but comparison pictures of commissioned portraits and their owners is always fun.
Then there was a short wave of awesome cosplayers, including this bloody Grimmjow with creepy contacts:
Adventure Time~! (These guys were just so cute.)
Actually, speaking of Adventure Time. The Finn cosplayer I took a photo of at AO showed up again at IKKiCON along with some friends! They hung out around my table now and again and we had some nice, short conversations. They also commissioned me for some fun sketches, including Geek Boy/Briefs. C: Commissioning me for fandoms I am already fangasming over = bonus points for you!
Meanwhile, a pair of awesome Soras:
Actually, I think the Lion Sora was also at AO and I just never got a picture of him. There were lots of other repeat con-goers I saw at AO, which is not at all surprising since they’re both in Austin, but it was still really nice to see familiar faces! Three Texas shows later, I think I’m gradually settling into the con circuit here, and it is nice.
At some point, Matt Frank surprised the hell out of me by showing up at my table. It really isn’t shocking that he should be at IKKiCON, but I hadn’t seen him in like four years! (He had been among the folks I had gone to IKKiCON 1 with.) We only got to chat briefly, but it was still cool seeing him again. Maybe if he decides to table at Comicpalooza, I’ll see him again there.
A couple showed up and commissioned two copies of the same badge idea, so they could each have one. This was challenging already since I was cramming three characters (the couple and their cat) into the picture, but having the duplicate the image was definitely not something I was used to having to do. They are not exact clones by a long shot, but they couple seemed happy, and that’s good enough for me. x3
Despite the commissions though, Saturday did not pick up in the way I, or any of the other artists, had hoped. Ladre mentioned that his profits thus far on Saturday were about half of what he had at the same time last year at IKKiCON. Both he and another artist theorized that this might be because things were laid out very differently last year — the dealer’s room had one exit that forced everyone to go through the artist alley, which was in a separate room, so everyone got more traffic. This year, we were all in the same room, and there were multiple exits that were all situated along the last row of artists.
It’s funny how these sorts of things play such a huge role. MomoCon 2009 remains one of my most profitable cons ever because of a similar set-up — the entire floor that contained the DR was a huge, crowded, fire hazardy mess, and all attendees were more or less forced into the smaller AA room where Cat and I were tabling at some point as a result. This and the fact that our room was, for some reason, the only room on the entire floor that had working air conditioning, meant that a lot of people who might not normally seek out Artist Alley ended up in there anyway, and thus, mad profits. But in more open set-ups, such as AWA 2008 and EXPCON 2009, as well as this IKKiCON, there is no set path for attendees to travel on, which leads to lots of meandering, and some tables getting more overlooked than others. This was especially bad for the artists in the last row, and Amanda reported doing terribly from her place facing the exits.
I kind of think this could have been solved by just limiting the room to one exit. Otherwise, I think the exhibition hall was wonderfully organized as far as setting people into rows and aisles go. I like being in the same room as dealers as well, though this is mostly because it just seems tidier to me. Logically, it is probably better for us to be separated because of these facts: dealers prefer shorter hours; artists prefer longer hours. At IKKiCON, we all closed at 8 pm. This is pretty late as far as Dealers’ Rooms go, but pretty early as far as Artist Alleys go. The dealer I spoke to Saturday morning complained about the hours and sided with the idea that shorter hours gave attendees less time to make purchasing decisions — less time to check out everything and come back later. Most artists, including myself, are on the side of “more hours means more chances to potentially sell things.” This is especially true when a good percentage of con profit comes from commissions. At cons were DR and AA are in separate rooms with different hours, artists tend to see a surge of traffic after DR closes because shoppers have no where else to browse.
But yeah, Saturday closed on a rather muted note. My expectations at the end of the day were that I was probably going to make just about average or a little below average for the weekend, which is a little sad since IKKiCON was the biggest con I’d been to since March.
One plus for Saturday was that I traded for a bunch of buttons from JohnYume, WhiteOblivion, and Ladre though. More swag for my hat, awwwyeah…?
Erica made The Best Lasagna Ever for dinner and also revealed Dom’s recent beer exploration acquisitions! Not being a fan of beer, I only had a few sips, but I ate the hell out of that lasagna. (Seriously, I ate more than the both of them combined. I am such a trash can.) Then, continuing the previous two nights of trippy psychological movies, we watched Jacob’s Ladder. I was severely disappointed, but it wasn’t as bad as Case 39.
Once again, Sunday started of the same as usual… except I left my con badge at Dom’s place, necessitating his going back to retrieve it for me. <_< Thankfully, the folks guarding the exhibition hall knew me by then and I managed to carry on setting up while Dom rushed back to the apartment. After being delivered my badge, I chatted briefly with Chuck, who I had spoken to at AO as well. He had also been having a pretty slow weekend up to that point, but at the end of the conversation, he bought a copy of Rainbows and Rainclouds! ♥
I wandered around the room again, but it seemed all of the other artists and dealers would continue to take their time showing up, so I went back to my table to start drawing well before we were officially open. I chatted some with Ladre and the steampunk jeweler sitting diagonally behind him, but then Kawaii Ribbons frontgirl (whose name I still embarrassingly do not know and forgot again to ask, ahhhhh) showed up for another commission! It would be similar to the one I did for her at Delta H Con, but with her new dress and with her husband in a similar outfit that I got to make up. It was super fun! I have a not-so-secret love of drawing frilly dresses, despite that I would probably never, ever wear one. x3 They are so cute, eee.
Then! One of the lovely people that commissioned me for similar portrait pairs at AO commissioned me for a new one with a different friend. I told them they were too fashionable to be at a nerd gathering. XD They reminded me a little of my old roommate Christine.
And then another rather fashionable lady commissioned me for a sketch portrait. (She came back later with a friend who got a similar portrait, but I forgot to take a picture of that one.)
And here is a break for a Teddiursa (and her trainer, presumably)! Those pawwwsies. So cuuuuute.
Sunday is apparently the new Saturday. The crowds suddenly came to life. Sunday is apparently also Commission Day, except many attendees reported that a lot of the other artists weren’t taking commissions, especially as we crossed from morning to afternoon. Not surprising, considering we were closing down at 4 pm. But hell, I draw fast. It’s hardly past noon. You want four con badges? Bring it on.
This order was a rather delightful surprise, really. The commissioner, a lover of random side characters, had originally asked for an obscure Yu Yu Hakusho character, but decided to ask for a Raditz badge instead because she actually had reference in the form of a figure she’d purchased. As I started work on Raditz, she decided she wanted three other badges. Mewtwo is easy. I have Pokemon stuff all over the place. Piccolo is also pretty easy and she had a keychain for reference, though I remembered his design pretty well anyway. Zarbon, however, required quite a bit of work. There was no reference. She was certain there no merchandise of him existed with any of the dealers. Neither of us have a phone with working Internet (though I did have Twitter access all weekend). She started stopping random other attendees and asking if they had a phone with Internet. Soon enough, she had recruited several others to her cause. Eventually, this effort produced not one, but two phones with Internet and suitable reference pictures for Zarbon.
Protip for potential commissioners: print out references beforehand, especially if you like obscure characters.
It is hilarious though, because well after the fact, I found that Ladre apparently had a phone with Internet (that I used briefly to look up additional references for Mewtwo because my bookmarks had his face rather deformed), but he had not overheard any of the previous. OH WELL. It was nostalgic getting to draw DBZ characters again. Back in the day, Akira Toriyama’s style was among the first I started emulating when I started drawing anime.
The commissioner also decided to buy the Mirai Trunks badge I had made at some point Saturday. Yay!
There were a bunch of other smaller sketch commissions that filled up Sunday afternoon, but I didn’t get photos of most of them. One very nice fellow commissioned me for a page of tattoo ideas given the subject of a three-tailed kitsune in a bamboo grove. I really liked how some of them turned out and he seemed to like them to, so maybe I will eventually get to see a finished piece, even if he commissions someone else to do the actual art based off my idea.
So somehow, Sunday turned out being better than both Friday and Saturday combined and brought up my total to well above average. How did that happen? Last day, shorter hours, everyone wanting to spend the rest of their budgets? Ah, who knows. Maybe it was a total fluke. Maybe it will be a lasting trend moving into 2011. I guess we’ll see?
Overall, IKKiCON was a good con. Though Friday and Saturday were kind of slow, the attendees, other artists, dealers and staff were all great. Seriously, IKKiCON was one of the most organized cons I’d been to in a while. To be fair, I basically never stepped out of the exhibition hall, but everything always seemed in order to me. Things happened more or less on time; the staff was responsive and accessible; the layout of the dealers and artists were very organized, and everything just seemed to go smoothly. This, after the chaos of AO and Delta H Con, was a very, very welcomed change. My only real complaint is one that I have for many other cons — when attendees pick up their badges, they get the con program and various flyers. Artists get nothing! Hell, our badges weren’t even laminated. :C I eventually got a con program because someone left one on my table, but it’d be nice to have one ahead of time!
But yeah, other than that, it’s all good. As many of the same folks are running Ushicon next month, I hope things will go similarly.
My confirmed conventions for 2011 thus far are: Ushicon, which is the first weekend of February in Round Rock, TX — only half an hour out from Austin; Anime Matsuri here in Houston in March, and then Comicpalooza, also in Houston in May. I’m really unsure about everything after that right now, but I suppose A-kon, AFEST, AO, DHC, and Oni are all the ones to consider…