Monday, November 25, 2019

CTNX 2019

CTNX is now in its 11th year.
This became a nostalgia weekend for us... recalling decades ago in the pre-SNB days, just attending shows. Back when conventions were a hobby we enjoyed for fun.

 We still enjoy them for business, but especially this weekend because we were shopping at the booths, meeting up with artist pals and colleagues.

Stuart Ng Books has been an annual exhibitor at CTNX since the very first year in 2009 -- and planned to again this year, but when he went to sign up, the booth space had already sold out. Since we already had booked the hotel, we enjoyed a slower paced weekend, still full of fun.

The Marriott hotel and convention center is perfect for this event.. especially now that it felt more relaxed this year. Maybe that was just my perspective since SNB didn't have the extra pressures of exhibiting. The vibe overall was youthful, enthusiastic and eager to learn. The size of the event this year didn't overwhelm the facility, which is great because it's such a special place, recalling for me the early 1990s of pre-internet era bookfairs held there. This year, access to the restaurants was faster, both on site and across the street. Lots of little things like that made everything easier. I enjoyed this saying on the coffee mug at Denny's.
My random conversations with attendees confirmed that they were having a great time and enjoying the many opportunities to meet artists and learn from the programs and events. There were large booths for major studios and a lot of emphasis on portfolio reviews and career building.

Picture perfect weather helped too.. especially for all the outdoor events like live model sketching.

Below artists Tom and Tony Bancroft are hosting a spirited interactive interview session with fellow Disney studio alums...
 Amenities like lots of free water stations throughout the Expo grounds...
 and a handy cafeteria-like food option in the central courtyard...

were important reminders for attendees to stay healthy and hydrated while they were busy at the event.

This back-pack was fun to see...

If you're a student or aspiring animator, this Expo is a great fit.
Here are the Bancroft Brothers meeting fans at their table.

I enjoyed shopping at several booths.. here are just a few examples..

Melanie Hopper
Her coffee mug series is a terrific example of doing fan-art right.
Fan art is a gateway to connect with followers.. but you want to do in a way that helps them segue to your own unique brand and work. Here she celebrates the Potter fandom, but also imbues it with her signature style of wreath art. 

Isabelle Angell
This table for artist Isabelle Angell (right) won the engagement award, thanks to the artist's friend who was comfortable chatting with attendees.
I adored this little print.. and got Isabelle's permission to photograph it for this blog post. When I reacted to the print as I walked by, her friend engaged me and soon I was chatting with both of them. 

If you're a shy artist, that's fine.... but then you need to find that extrovert to help you when you table at cons. If you want to make a living with your art you have to build a fan base. You have to connect with those 1,000 people who will buy $100 a year of product from you. Sounds impossible, but these numbers aren't unrealistic.. especially if you live in areas with a high cost of living. It's doable.. but it takes engagement with your audience. At shows. Online. Never underestimate the value of the friend/partner/colleague who will a advocate for your work to the audience at a con or event. 
More art and contact info for Isabelle below...

Sketch Wallet
If you're a fan of the Bancroft Bros Animation Podcast
Then you've heard them talk about one of their sponsors: Sketch Wallet. It's a wallet with a handy notebook and pencil tucked inside. Well I finally bought one and it's a super nice product. 
I'm no artist, but I got one with the lined notebook option. It will be a nifty way to take notes on artists I meet while I'm at conventions and store business cards from them. This will be really helpful for writing my convention blog posts.

Chris Ayers
My pen pals get these small prints instead of a card.. and it's terrific that Chris includes a business card with each print. Very important. Help each piece of art you sell help fans of it find you again.

Here's Stuart chatting with artist 
Britni Brault
Where I got more prints for my pen pals... 
A book and print by Natalie Murrow
Look how she adds a "thanks" to her signature on the back of each print! Making that personal connection with the fan that bought it. 
Garden themed postcards by Megan Dillon
Excellent branding on the address area of the postcard! 
Stickers and cards for my pen pals at the table of Amber Rankin
Do you see the Hedy Lamarr tribute??? 

Behind every great artist, there is often a partner who is just as talented...
artist Brett Bean
was also selling charming (no pun intended) jewelry designs by his wife Julie..
I will make good use of the middle one below... as I feel a deep kinship with the "significant otters" of the world...

Artist Elsa Chang
excels at putting her art on a wide range of merch.
Note cards. Mugs. Tote bags. Zippered make-up bags. Enamel pins. One year she even had umbrellas!
Make it once. Monetize it so many ways...

 All the treasures inside the artist exhibitors tent...
and the lovely venue.. make this Expo an annual treat