How I Started in Conventions - A Story and Some Advice

The Start.

March 5, 2017. Magenta. A Mystic Messenger event in Makati. I found the event in Facebook, as I browsed my fandom-filled newsfeed with my latest craze at the time - Mystic Messenger. I knew I just had to take part of it. It took me about three days to finally decide to click that SUBMIT button on the sign-up form, because I couldn't bring myself to do it out of irrational shyness.

The promotion banner I made with Wabi Sabi, my table partner for Magenta.
It was my first-ever convention after a long battle with self-doubt whether I should put out my fan works to the public. I've been a commissioned artist for as long as I can remember. All my works were always for private eyes only. I was terrified, but thrilled, about the thought of going public. This time, my client are the people who will see my work, I thought.
I only had the essentials with me that day; products of days of practicing a table layout on my desk, a week of sleepless nights, a calloused hand, and an empty pocket from spending on my first capital. Armed with a bottle of Cobra to battle my sleepiness, I marched into the small event place onto the table assigned to us. I was nervous, seeing other artists with their full setups as we await the start of the event. 

Then came in the guests. Then the music. I remembered smiling a lot, laughing a lot. Explaining what my little Fold'EM Magnetic Bookmarks are and what they do. Seeing lots of smiles and amazed eyes. I was ecstatic.

A peek from inside our table. Video courtesy of Narikeen. He says he's sorry for the wobbly camera lol

The whole day passed by quick, and I finished another bottle of my trusty energy drink. I found myself with an almost-empty table, my heart (and pocket lol) full. I left the event early, around five in the afternoon feeling sick. Either way, the magnetic bookmarks I just conceptualized about three days ago sold out and we no longer have anything to sell. The way home, I was in trance. 

"No freaking way."

For me personally, I found it hard to believe that my works were appreciated by local people. For almost four years, I worked as a private illustrator online exclusively with international clients - thinking that my art had no place in the local community. I was afraid that nobody will appreciate what I was doing. I was wrong. 

A few months later, I joined my next event, Otaku Expo 2017 in Megamall. And then the next event. And the next one. And here we are in 2018. 

An advice to those who want to jump in.

1. Just start. 
Just sign up when you see that call-to-action posts by event and organizer pages. 
Take that leap of faith. 

2. Make something unique.
Bring something new to the table. It will help you in the long run to establish 
a good sense of identity and branding. 

3. Make friends and connections. 
The local artist alley community is small, and most likely, people know people who know people. 
Start learning how to networks. Having lots of friends in the community will help you survive all the event burnouts, emergencies, and the need for table buddies from time-to-time. Don't fret, after all, we're all in this community because we all love art, anime and games - you’re sure to find lots of people to connect with!

4. Save money.
You'll need money to sign up to events and make merchandise. That's a given.

5.  Avoid drama and don't start it either.
There's drama here, as there is anywhere else. However, it isn't healthy to take part in it, nor start any. Snuff out any conflict as soon as you can, and always keep your feet on the ground. Your future self will thank you for it. :)

6. Practice your art and never stop striving to improve.
There's always room for learning. Always.

7. Never forget to have fun.

Event burnout is real, so don't forget to legit have fun in each event. Go support other artists' work, meet your friends, greet familiar faces, partake in the event activities if you still can and just take in the surroundings. You can never be too tired to not appreciate good anime music and being with a lot of people who share the same love of the hobby as you do. 

 ✧ ✧

Within more than a year doing booths and tables in local conventions, I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of most events. And while it may be true that there are a lot more artists that have been artist alley cats longer than I have, I just wanted to share what I've learned so far. I don't claim to know it all - HECK - I WANT to learn more about the industry! This is a really fun - albeit a physically exhausting world. Let's keep on learning and improving together, shall we? 

PS: It's been YEARS since I last blogged.
Feel free to suggest topics or anything you want me to write about! ^__^