Thursday, April 18, 2019

Notre Dame fire and future

On April 15, 2019 the world watched Notre Dame burn. It was a surreal 48 hours that followed -- awaiting news on the damage, grateful for what survived, amazed that no lives were lost. (photo below by Christophe Petit Tesson)
On every trip to Paris, I would always stop in at Notre Dame. It was a comfort to marvel at the work of so many artists, dating back to the 1200s, and to see a building that had lasted through revolution and two World Wars. I would always light candles. (the rest of the photos in this post are mine, from 2016 and 2017).

Now Notre Dame begins its own renaissance. New masters of old arts will be called on. Their skills will be part of the cathedral's future.

Restoration at Notre Dame had been an ongoing project. Prior to the fire, funding was always in short supply. With this tragic event, the worlds love for Notre Dame has answered the call to support reconstruction efforts.

 The roof and spire are gone, but what survives is a miracle. The relics. The altar. Three rose windows.
The rescue efforts are a cinematic story:

We all embrace Paris. We mourn this tragic event, but we look forward with hope for the future of Notre Dame.

 New Yorker cover "Our Lady" by Bob Staake.
Link for New Yorker story on the cover:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Bertha Benz, 1800s auto pioneer, featured in commercial

Real life automotive pioneer Bertha Benz (1849-1944) is featured in this 4-minute commercial. Check out all the period details and consider all the behind-the-scenes artists that helped make this mini-movie happen.

This link lists all the credits for production crew (credit names are hyperlinks that share other work)

More about Bertha Benz and her auto trip, from Wikipedia:
"On 5 August 1888, 39-year-old Bertha Benz drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim with her sons Richard and Eugen, thirteen and fifteen years old respectively, in a Model III, without telling her husband and without permission of the authorities, thus becoming the first person to drive an automobile a significant distance,[1] though illegally. Before this historic trip, motorized drives were merely very short trials, returning to the point of origin, made with assistance of mechanics. Following wagon tracks, this pioneering tour covered a one-way distance of about 106 km (66 mi).[8][9]
Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz had other motives — to prove to her husband, who had failed to adequately consider marketing his invention, that the automobile in which they both had heavily invested would become a financial success once it was shown to be useful to the general public; and to give her husband the confidence that his constructions had a future.[10]"

More on Bertha Benz:

Bertha Benz, circa 1870.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

WonderCon 2019 - SNB (1 of 4 WonderCon 2019 posts)

Stuart Ng Books at booth 1509 was a popular stop for many artists who were attending and/or exhibiting at WonderCon.
Stuart hosted two days of signings with guest artist Daan Jippes from the Netherlands.
More on the english-language book featured at this signing event:

(three photos below from Facebook post by Jan-Willem de Vries)

This year's Stuart Ng Books booth showcased some statues
as well as a selection of books.

There is always more at the store than Stuart can bring to a Con. The Stuart Ng Books store in Torrance is just one mile south off the 405, between LAX and Long Beach airports, near the 405 and 110 interchange. Directions here on this link from SNB website:

Here's the booth after the show closes on Sunday night. The con provides tables and chairs with exhibit space. All those grids and fixtures at the SNB booth are built by Stuart and his crew.

Sunset at the end of the day...

WonderCon 2019 -- around the con and panel pics (2 of 4)

WonderCon is a pop culture celebration with a larger convention space and (in my opinion) easier access for exhibitors and attendees than its San Diego cousin.

There are panels by film industry pros (The Adventure Film: All Genres Illustrated with panelists Trevor Goring, Benton Jew, Marty Kline and Ed Verreaux)
 artists (Alina Chau, Mary Bellamy, Katie Cook, Greg Pak, and Dana Simpson)
and writers (Women on the Dark Side panel with moderator Barbra Dillon, writers Susan Lee, Megan Hutchison, Mairghread Scott and MD Marie)

A highlight of the con for me this year was attending an outstanding panel on Saturday titled "A Conversation with Women Executives." There was only time for one question during the QandA, but it was home run when audience member writer Susan Lee challenged the panelists to look not just for "young"writers (which they all mentioned several times), but also to seek out voices that might be new to writing, but older than 22, with rich stories to share. The audience burst into applause, the moderator welcomed this question, and it sparked a lively discussion where the panelists were able to clarify that "young" also meant less experienced, and that they included older writers in their quest for diverse stories and voices. 

The best part of cons is making the rounds of Artists Alley and the exhibition hall to see familiar faces.

Unlike past years, I didn't take nearly enough photos of all the indie artist pal booths and tables I visited. My bad! Here are some links so you can see them and their work:

Here's a quick peek at some items I picked up at this year's con from Alina Chau, Joie Foster, Corgli, Flat Bonnie, David's Doodles. Special thanks to Wannabe Press, publisher Russell Nohelty, for the super cool logo pin!

WonderCon 2019 -- in it for the experience (3 of 4) UPDATED 4.5.19

Indie artist Brett Bean and I were discussing the changing demographics of convention attendees. He said something that codified what has been happening over the last few years.

People aren't buying things. They want an "experience."

Yes, of course, over time the age of the crowds impacts the items and activities they are interested in. Still, there has been a huge shift in what attendees want from comic cons, and the reasons why they go...

It used to be that a large number of attendees went to conventions to purchase items for their collections. After decades of attending and exhibiting, I've seen this audience decline. At this WonderCon I saw only a handful of vendors with vintage toys, or film items like posters, stills or books. In the pre-internet era, cons were THE marketplace for collectors to connect with vendors of rare and unusual items related to comics, sci fi, films and pop culture. As the cons themselves crossed over to pop culture familiarity, where even non-fans had these events on their radar, the motivation to attend shifted as well. Memorabilia and other collectibles became less rare, and easy to find on the internet.

As the conventions require more funds and logistics to just attend, there is little time or money left to be a collector of tangible items. More and more attendees want to document their own experience of the convention --- as a live-stream video, or hash-tagged social media posts. Below is an example of just one pair of attendees documenting their walk through with a camera and microphone...
Getting "freebies" from the booths of major studios or publishers, participating in pop-up interactive photo-ops or product launches, seeing the Cos-players  --- that's what attendees come to comic cons for. Yes, there are still a few die hards who are shopping the exhibitor/vendor booths and attending the panels. There is still a healthy crowd of shoppers in the Artists Alley areas --- but they are often buying fan art, not original IP (intellectual property).

This year at WonderCon I saw two interactive pop-ups from major players that were free to participate in while on the grounds near the con, but just outside the entrance, so a convention badge wasn't required. I couldn't help but wonder if this is the beginning for WonderCon of what has happened at San Diego Comic Con, where there is a circus of free activities for a block or more surrounding the convention.

The "Bumblebee" booth -- with photo-op -- promoting DVD launch..and giving away free rucksacks. This was part of a #findbumblebee tour.

Also this "Game of Thrones" tent..

 Where (again, for free) attendees and/or the public could preview a product launch...
in this case, a make-up collaboration with Urban Decay..

And use the backdrops inside the tent for photo-ops...
Plus get a free set of enamel pins as they exited the tent ... (photo below is from an online listing offering these pins for sale)
Pop-ups like this also tend to get press coverage:
Link below features prices on some of these make-up items....
Con exclusives are big business. Attendees will wait in long lines.... a typical case is the line below for con exclusive Funko Pop figures..
For indie artists and small exhibitors --- it's nearly impossible to compete for customer dollars in this environment. For the customers who want to shop small, the expense and logistics of attending the convention leaves little in the budget for buying collectibles. And as indie artist Brett pointed out, the hobby of collecting is changing.  Many young people are used to the availability of images on-line, and lack storage or display space in apartments where many roommates are required to meet increasing housing expenses.

Wearable items, such as t-shirts, hats and pins, and small art items such as prints, seemed to be the most profitable wares for small exhibitors.

Artists have to have their hustle on -- in the best way possible -- these days. Engage your audience. Offer value and an experience. Here are two resources with great tips on building and engaging an audience online and at cons:

The longest line I saw at WonderCon was for the "Exploding Kittens" booth -- a highly entertaining vending machine/puppet-show type experience that sells and promotes a card game.
The game was co-created by Elan Lee, Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal comics site) and Shane Small, whose Kickstarter launch for the game became a record-breaking success in 2015, earning more than $8 million dollars in pledges.

Sample interactions with the Exploding Kittens vending experience can be found on You Tube:
More on the Exploding Kittens booth creators and behind-the-scenes in this link:

Another sample You Tube video with more interactions. 

This VOX video shares the Exploding Kittens $8 million Kickstarter story, extols the rewards of crowd building, and is also a cautionary tale about trademark and counterfeiting...