CREE Shimmer Wall outside of convention center, March 2015. Raleigh, NC.
On the topic of selling and purchasing art, one might immediately think of vast museums and prestigious galleries selling only the finest paintings at extraordinary prices. Although gallery shows are a very recognizable venue for art acquisition, there are other, more accessible paths that inexperienced or up-and-coming artists can take when it comes to sharing their work. For example: Selling art at conventions.
Animazement is an annual Japanese art and culture convention held in Raleigh, North Carolina. This past May, Art & Object spoke with a variety of artists attending Animazement, to learn about their experiences and gather advice for green artists interested in advertising products in these spaces.
If you don’t already have a social media account specifically for business, it might be wise to make one now. Having a social media presence could be beneficial even before attending the convention. When applying to sell art at events, some may ask to see a social media account displaying your product. If there is one, you have a higher chance of getting accepted. Even if a convention doesn’t ask about a potential account, it is still handy to give interested attendees a way to stay up to date with your work.
There are many advantages to starting small. Participating in smaller local events first can help ease you into the space before working your way up. Immediately jumping into large or out-of-state conventions can certainly work well for some artists, but it may overwhelm others. Starting small gives new artists room to breathe and provides perspective on one’s strengths and limitations.
In the early stages of a career, it is smart to focus on producing and selling things like prints and stickers. They’re cheaper to make than items like acrylic keychains and they consistently sell well. Once you get in the groove of things, do some research and see about producing buttons, enamel pins, and even shirts.
Animazement, Raleigh, NC, 2022.  Featuring art by Danny Hirajeta.
Business cards are a great way to promote both you and your artwork. It is not uncommon for convention-goers to walk around the space to see what it has to offer before stopping to buy anything. If they see something they like, one way they may remember to come back and buy it is by asking for a business card.
Similarly, some people might not want to spend money right away but still want to see your art and support your business. If there’s no time to print a stack of physical business cards, a sign with your information that people can take pictures of can have the same effect. 
How art is presented plays a surprisingly large role in how much attention it receives. For example, some people walk around the convention with their eyes generally down, looking at the art on the booths’ tables. This means that they probably won’t see the art hanging on display at your booth. Because of that, the wall art generally sells less. This can be rectified by switching the placement of your art depending on the day. It would also be useful to keep your booth organized. Some pieces may not be selling well because they are being obscured by something else. Keeping a neat space makes it easier for attendees to take in all of their options, making them more likely to visit your booth again later.
The fact of the matter is, that there will always be people who walk past your booth without a second glance. It is crucial to understand that this does not mean your art isn’t appreciated. When it comes to conventions like Animazement that are largely based around popular culture and media like movies, tv shows, and anime, everyone is going to have their own preference. Your art won’t be for everyone and that’s okay! It will always appeal to one community or another.
Yes, it might sound a little cliche, but art should be made for the artist. While making a profit is certainly helpful, the experience is half of what makes selling work worthwhile. There’s no need to worry about a potentially bad experience. Even if one occurs, following positive experiences will make up for it tenfold. Don’t just make art because it might sell well or appeal to a large audience. Conventions like Animazement or ComicCon are places where people come together and enjoy niche mutual interests, so make art of things you love.
Gail Ostbye is a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a current intern at Art & Object. She is majoring in English and hopes to enter a career in editing. When she isn’t working she enjoys writing songs in her free time.
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