FIRST TIME ARTIST ALLEY ART VENDOR PREP

About a year ago, I decided to take my art out into the world, face-to-face with the general public at a local convention.

The opportunity popped up to reserve a cheap Artist’s Alley table and I jumped at the chance.

I was excited!

The only problem was; I had never done a convention before. I was totally unprepared.

I found very few sources online for artist/vendor first-time prep, so that’s why I am writing this blog post.

Just a heads up, I’ve only done a few events so far, and this article will probably be updated as I learn the hard way (by trying things out!) So, with that in mind, please take what you find useful and leave the rest! If you find a way to improve upon these tips, please let me know, comment below or shoot me a message on Instagram or Twitter.

FIRST Things to Consider

  • What type of items will you offer?
  • What type of display(s) will you need?
  • How much room will you have to work with?
  • How do you want the public to interact with your art?
  • Will you be drawing live at your table?

Take a look at my setup from the May 2022 Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market:

M. R. Kessell's Art Vendor setup at the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market May 2022

You can see that I have a varied selection of items, they are:

  • 11×14 Acrylic Paintings
  • 11×14 Art Prints
  • 5×7 Art Prints
  • Postcards
  • Books & Notebooks
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Pins, Buttons, & Stickers
  • Sculptures
  • Original Misc. Drawings on Paper

HOW TO DISPLAY ALL THIS JUNK?

My first thought was to the large paintings and prints. I knew that I wanted a tall backdrop and some method to hang the art. I also wanted space for a big banner at the top, something to grab people’s attention!

Note: I am listing only items that I personally purchased and used from Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Additionally, I will link to other useful services that I have personally employed.

My next thought was to the items on the table itself.

When you arrive you’ll probably find something like this, a bare 2 foot by 6 foot table. You’ll need to jazz it up somehow.

Paintings & Prints Prepped!

As for the art itself, I wanted the larger prints to be presented in sleeves with backers, and the paintings to be framed. It looks a little more professional, in my opinion.

With your art framed and bagged, you should consider how to safely transport it. I reused the boxes that the prints and frames came in, just making sure to use extra bubble wrap.


Stamping in progress

Next question was how will customers take purchased items with them? A lot of times they have a reusable bag already, but just in case, I got myself a supply of various paper bags.

I also wanted to use this opportunity with the bags to add my own branding. I had a custom stamp made with my logo, found an ink pad, and hand stamped each bag. It resulted in a more DIY look which I really dig.


ACCEPTING PAYMENTS & MONEY THINGS

One of the most intimidating prospects of this whole art business thing was the idea of accepting payments from customers. Luckily, technology these days has made it super simple! And I think giving your customers more ways to pay is worth it.

First thing you need is cash to make change. I think you probably don’t want to have too much cash on you, but maybe $100 in 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s should be a good start. I purchased a unique/badass fanny pack from Etsy to store all the money. I never let it out of my sight.

Next, having a Venmo and/or Paypal is very useful. Make a printout of each of your account’s QR codes and your usernames to make it easy for customers to scan and pay.

Lastly, you can also accept Credit Card payments via the Square reader. You can receive a free card reader that can be hooked up to your smartphone for use with the Square app. There is a small fee for each transaction.


Some thoughts on Loading In and Setting Up

With most things in life, I’m usually late. But I try to get to the convention load-in as early as I can. I don’t want to annoy the hosts and I’m less stressed if I can beat the lines.

Definitely try to find the FAQ on the event’s website or expect a detailed email with all the instructions on what you need to do for that particular event, the rules and policies, etc.

For load-in I acquired this folding hand truck to cart the two large storage bins that hold all my art and supplies. Depending on the venue, you might need to bring your own chairs and I recommend this lightweight folding camping chair.

It’s probably good to be as organized as possible so that you’re not scrambling like a headless chicken trying to set up before the venue opens its doors. One idea I need to implement is a list of the items in each container, and also how they are arranged (for putting things back later.) This will be especially helpful if you have a lot of different types of items and if you have someone else assisting you.

Some more useful items to consider

  • A Notebook
  • Blank Paper
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Sharpie Markers
  • Scissors
  • Duct Tape
  • Invisible Tape

Another helpful thing that I still need to get is a small step ladder. Once the backdrop is set at 8 feet high, it’s a little difficult for me to make any adjustments to the banner and picture hanging system.

I’m not an expert on merchandising, but I would think making things stand up vertical would be a good way to allow customers to see them more easily.

I have found however, stacking my books flat on the table, opening one on an easel, and encouraging customers to flip through the books is a good way to go. I also periodically change which pages are displayed, just in case it catches the eye of a repeat passerby.

I am still experimenting with what to display in the magazine rack. Lately I have been putting the one-off originals along with the 5×7 prints on the rack. It’s still not a great system, when I want people to peruse the originals. Maybe I’ll need to put them in a binder.

Another thing to consider is how you will display your prices. I decided to keep things simple and printed out a price list that I have framed on the table. For big ticket items like paintings, I have individual price stickers.


LET THE FUN BEGIN!

That’s me!

Now you have all your items in place and you’re sitting, eagerly awaiting the hordes of customers that will devour your fantastic art. They begin to trickle in. Some might look at you and your table briefly and continue on, some might breeze on by without a glance.

Don’t get discouraged!

Sooner or later someone who is genuinely interested and enthusiastic about your work will show up and you’ll have a nice little chat, maybe make a new connection, a new friend, maybe even make a sale, and BOOM! you’re hooked on this whole thing.

I’m still not sure how to handle the social aspect of these events. I’m usually a very quiet, shy person, but I always try to smile and say hello to everyone who happens by. I’m not sure everyone wants to talk or even be acknowledged however, so you have to go with the flow. Maybe you’ll want to bring a book or an art pad so you have something to occupy yourself in the quiet moments.

I think it might be a good idea to have something free you can give out to the folks who peruse your table and especially for your customers after you make a sale. I have two-sided art postcards that I give away, the back side also has my name and a QR code that will bring people to my website.

If at all possible, try to bring a friend, partner, or spouse with you, it’s always good to have backup when nature calls or you need a lunch break. If not, you might have to rely on your convention neighbors to keep an eye on your stuff while you step away. Keep your badass fanny pack with you at all times!

Another idea, if you want to keep your costs low, split the table fees with another artist friend (if the event allows of course) and you can back each other up the whole day.

So far in my experience, the conventions have opened to the public at 10AM and went until 5PM. One day can be exhausting enough, but sometimes you might have to do it two or three days in a row! So pace yourself, stay hydrated, bring some snacks, make sure you eat lunch.

In the end try to have fun, make some new friends, and show the world what you do and how passionate you are.

If I can do it, YOU can do it!

New Designs, Same Old Feelings

GREETINGS MY PEOPLE!

I’ve added some new items to my store.

READ AND READ UNTIL YOUR EYES BLEED is a design that was inspired recently by a book that I just couldn’t put down. You know the feeling, right? Not blinking enough, eyes drying out, but you just need to get to the end of the chapter!


In other news, Batboy recently had a beach vacation, here are some shots of that:

Fun! Egg!

He also recently did some journaling:

“I’ve come to realize that the phrase “This is Bullshit” is NOT an acceptable daily mantra. Or is it?

I was on the fence for a long time regarding this idea. I wasn’t sure if I wanted Batboy to be as foul-mouthed as I am in real life. Oh well.


And lastly, I have a new project in the works, it’s going to be an all new adventure featuring Batboy and his squirrel-friend Merle. Like an adventure with an actual narrative. Like a story!

I’m thinking it will be a small run of printed comics, zine style, so stay tuned if you’d like to grab yourself a copy. They should be ready in time for the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market Back To School Jam on September 10th in Edison, NJ, where I will be vending!

Follow along on Instagram or Twitter for more frequent updates!

I’ll leave you with some AI generated art that I made using the DALL-E mini, I give you Van Gogh Nosferatu!

Cheesy Infomercials & Some New Art

So I needed to make a book trailer for my latest release Batboy & the Art of Self-Sabotage.

I decided on a cheesy approach in the style of all those goofy infomercials I grew up watching in the 80s and 90s.

Long story short, I had way too much fun making this parody infomercial. I hope it makes you guys laugh and you’ll consider checking out my book on Amazon.

“Don’tcha just luv the sunshine?”

In between my video editing and the continuing adventures of Batboy, I’ve tried keeping the creativity flowing with some quick pencil sketches on my Wacom Tablet. Above is some sort of woodland horror and below is some kind of friendly aquatic monstrosity.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment, you can follow along with new Batboy comics every week on Instagram and Twitter.

And remember, don’t let those pesky vegetables bring you down!

We’re Number—Wha?

We’re NUMBER ONE…I mean, err, umm, we’re number nine hundred thousand two…five hundred thirty…one!

We’re halfway there!

I usually avoid paying attention to these numbers, but I was just curious how my latest book is faring on the Amazon Best Sellers List. It could be worse, I guess.

And in other news, Batboy and the Art of Self-Sabotage received its first review! Take a look:

Batboy is all of us. Self-sabotage and all. Lovely artwork and color, with a unique voice. There's even callouts to Gorey! And as a bonus there is a sketchbook of Batboy at the end. I loved it.

Wow, FIVE STARS! Thank you, Andrew! I might have to quote you on that! Actually, I think I will right now, in a large bold font:

“Batboy is all of us. Self-sabotage and all. Lovely artwork and color, with a unique voice. There’s even callouts to Gorey! And as a bonus there is a sketchbook of Batboy at the end. I loved it.”

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – CLICK THAT IMAGE!

I almost forgot to say, HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY! I hope you had a great bunch of holidays. Since it’s a new year, expect to see some new Batboys too.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you can see some new stuff right now!

Until next time!

Batboy and the Art of Self-Sabotage (A Book)

I’m excited to announce that I’ve published my second book!

Cover artwork for Batboy and the Art of Self-Sabotage
Batboy and the Art of Self-Sabotage

Available now on Amazon! Click Here!

This is a collection of the first fifty installments of the Batboy comic, which were originally published on social media from February to December 2021. You can see a previous post about Batboy here.

Batboy is my anxious alter ego and a vehicle for some of my random ridiculous thoughts.

I’m super excited to see Batboy in print, the full-color illustrations boldly leap off the page, even though Batboy himself is far from bold. You can see a small selection of Batboy for free on Instagram and Twitter. But if you want to make Batboy your own, please check him out on Amazon.

Inking a Sci Fi Illustration and Stuff

It’s a new week and I have a few new items for you.

Their meeting place has to be kept hidden. The robots that stalk the upper surface of the Earth would never understand. The kids would be laser blasted on sight. The kids’ mission? To read and discuss all the classics of human literature. That’s the basic idea behind this illustration that I have tentatively titled “The Book Club.”

Below you can watch as I ink this rough illustration and you can chill out to the hypnotic soundtrack.

Come for the robots, stay for the hypnotic soundtrack.
killer robots stalk the surface while kids meet below ground in a bunker to read and discuss books
The overall work-in-progress.

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ!

Also this past week I revamped an old design and added to my Amazon T-shirt shop. You might recognize this slightly more macabre version of the grinning face of Tillie, an iconic sight from Asbury Park in the old days.

Click on the shirt to visit my shop or click here!

Asbury Park's Tillie as a skull on a tee shirt.

As a nerdy kid, being not super athletic or interested in super athletes, I kinda felt left out when others showed their support for their football or baseball or hockey teams. Below is a shirt I designed for other nerds like me. People who think they’re funny.

funny blue tee shirt that says "Go local sports team!!!"

groundhog celebrating a birthday with a party hat and a piece of birthday cake

Celebrate a Groundhog Day Birthday with these cards, magnets and mugs from my RedBubble store.


I think that’s about all I have accomplished this past week. I’m trying to keep busy and not let the stress of daily life derail anything.

How about you? Where are you at with your projects? Your goals?

I hope you’re kicking ass!

Until next time.

Happy New Year, I think

Welcome to my first blog post of 2021. How is everybody doing?

I spent the end of 2020 reflecting on some things I had accomplished and other things that fell through the cracks. I thought about my unhealthy relationship with social media and I pretty much avoided it. I needed to relax and recharge a bit. I did some reading, some film marathons, and I ate a lot of shrimp.

I have no regrets.

Feeling a bit uninspired after the break, I decided to mess around with a really neat AI tool from Google called Chimera Painter. I was pretty excited by the results so I made a video lesson on how to create a quick creature design with it and then take it one step beyond and refine the design in Clip Studio Paint.

I’ve also added a new design to my portfolio, as well as my T-shirt store. It’s an idea that hit me way back when I used to ride the crowded New York City subway system.

Green tentacled space alien spreads a jelly made from humans on toast
MAN SPREAD ON SPACE TOAST
(That was the shrimp talking)

Follow me on Youtube! I’ve been told my monotonous voice is good if one suffers from insomnia.

Making A Horror Comic

I’m very excited to share yet another new project that’s been in the works for a while now. I’ve been tasked with drawing a short horror comic by the hilarious and horrifying writer/comedian, Tim Vargulish.

In this latest video I give a little sneak peek of a rough comic book page, the process of setting up a comic page using Clip Studio Paint (which is a breeze, btw) and drawing a finished panel.

If you’re interested in drawing comics yourself, I highly recommend this software.

Aside from that, I’m jazzed to have illustrated the cover for Krampus Tales: A Killer Anthology, which will be available on November 24th! Check it out and maybe get yourself a copy.

Krampus creature steps out of doorway into a dark snowy night with basket on his back.

I’ve also just realized that I haven’t shared anything about my Halloween this year. Despite the nearly apocalyptic conditions, we did enjoy the holiday. I’ll cover it in more detail in my next blog post.

By the way, are you on Twitter? Why not join me for some laughs and whatnot.

Until next time!