Brightly colored costumes. Celebrities strolling by you before you realize what’s happening. Signed comic books. One a kind commissioned sketches of Zatanna. Panels where people ask ridiculous questions. Spending way too much money.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: Convention season is upon us again! We went through the lull of winter, where we all got complacent and lazy – but now it’s time to bust out your Flash spandex and figure out what comics you want to haul around the convention with you to be signed, because conventions are about to steal your geeky soul. In a good way.
And hand in hand WITH convention season, we have the ever beloved events. The exclusive tweetups, the awesome rooftop ifanboy parties, the comic book band concerts… and the live art! Oh, the live art, the quintessential comic book convention event – a place where you can see some of your favorite artists on stage, making incredible art on canvas and live model alike, as you drink and dance to an awesome DJ.
This is the second year in a row that I have put together a live art event for Emerald City Comic-con, and this year I actually know what I’m doing (last year, admittedly, I was COMPLETELY winging it). I’ve been a lot more organized and knowledgeable with my planning this year, and it’s even officially through the convention! As such, I feel that perhaps I can actually be an authority on this topic now… and I want live art at every convention, because it is a fantastic event with potential for charity, and it’s always a great, great time. So why not write a handy guide to THROWING a live art event? Oh, that’s exactly what I decided to do.
Throw Your Live Art Event During a Convention
Unless you live in a magical land where well known comic book artists are plentiful and comic book fans populate the entire city, unless you throw your live art event during a convention you probably won’t draw a very big crowd. During a convention, your city will fill up with hordes of geeks who are itching to party, prepared to spend some money, and will be more than delighted to see Jim Mahfood throw some paint on a canvas for their enjoyment.
Try to Coordinate your Live Art Event WITH the Convention
While there’s nothing wrong with throwing a live art independent of the con, it’s a lot better for you and the convention if you team up. Why? Well, you have the benefit of telling artists and attendees alike that it’s official (which, to be honest, if you are not completely deep in the comic industry and everyone knows who you are, will really help you with your credibility.) So make sure you’re planning your live art event enough in advance that you can pitch it to the convention you plan to throw it over and see if they want to help out. They can probably throw some sponsors your way and include you in the convention programming schedule, which will really increase the exposure of your event. And if the convention has an auction for charity, you have the option of donating the art made at the live art event TO the auction! (That’s where all of the art from my ECCC Live Art events goes. Seattle Children’s Hospital!)
Okay, so you have decided to throw this event. You have a rough idea of what’s going on. You probably set a date and contacted the convention. Now you have to populate your event with artists. Get ready to send the same email out a LOT. You’re going to be perusing the internet for contact information, or harassing the convention that you have potentially paired up with to provide you with emails. Leave no stone unturned – there’s nothing wrong with contacting upwards of 50 artists as long as they will be at the convention. Unfortunately a lot of them may decline (but never maliciously). Some of them may have never HEARD of live art. So when you email your potential talent, make sure to include these things:
What is your event? What is live art?
When? And even if you don’t have a venue solidified yet, where you’re hoping to throw it.
Make sure the tone of your email is professional and well written. You don’t want these artists to think that you’re some mouth breathing fan trying to lure them into an abandoned building somewhere.
Get big enough name artists so that [more] people want to come
While you can populate your event with a lot of lesser known artists too, try to get one of two big names attached to it. People like Jim Mahfood, Ben Templesmith and Paul Pope are usually down for a live art event, and if you grab one of them they will usually bring along the rest of their posse.
Use local talent!
Reach out to people who may not necessarily be comic book fans, but fans of art in general! If there are one or two well known local artists, let them get the chance to network and get some great exposure while painting alongside other talented artists. It draws an entirely different crowd and adds variety to the show.
Find a Venue
This is an important one. You can have the greatest line up of artists known to man but without a venue you’re pretty screwed. You could always do it guerilla style in an old warehouse or an abandoned parking lot, but I cannot save you from the wrath of the law.
You’re going to want a venue with a stage and a lot of space – concert venues work well (but make sure to book ahead as FAR AS YOU CAN because concert venues book out very quickly). A lot of venues will donate their time and space for minimum fees (sound engineer and staffing fees, usually) if your event is for charity or if you think you can draw a huge crowd that will spend a ton of money on booze. Make sure you are completely clear with the event coordinator of the venue of what live art actually is – it is a messy, paint filled affair. Obviously you will put plastic all over everything in advance, but this is definitely something you need to make them aware of. You don’t want the venue having an aneurism the night of because they didn’t know what they were getting themselves in to.
Also, it is valuable to check out the venue BEFORE you completely solidify your dedication to that location. You may have been there a million times for shows, but during the day and with a clear idea of what you need it may look completely different. Block out your event in your mind and get ye to the venue!
Unless you are independently wealthy or have a sugar daddy/mama, you’re going to want to get some sponsors. Why? Well… things cost money. Especially art supplies. Be prepared to spend 400 to 500 dollars on paint, easels, canvases, paint rollers, paint markers, plastic to prepare the venue, etc etc etc. Budget out your potential costs ahead of time so you know how much you need, then start begging. Local comic shops work well. Also hit up the convention, other conventions coming up, geeky websites or comic book publishers. What do the sponsors get for throwing money at your event? Offer them a logo on your event poster, as well as the option to hang up banners at the live art event. Advertising at an awesome event!
Buy a LOT of art supplies
No, seriously. Buy way more than you think you’ll need. Stock up on a ton of canvases (I usually think 2 to 3 per artist). Artists are going to collaborate, spill paint, paint each other, and go artistically crazy – you don’t want your event to stop short because you ran out of paint.
Get a DJ!
Music is important. It helps set the mood. If you don’t know any DJs, post on craigslist. Make sure they have their own equipment (unless the venue has that) and go from there. It’s completely up to you and your budget on whether or not you want to pay them or not, but keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for. Also, make sure to know your audience – a comic book crowd is not going to like top 40 hits.
Market like crazy!
Tell your friends, make your friends tell their friends, make a FB event and invite everyone you know, send the FB event link to people on twitter, make posters and plaster them all over your city, make postcards and leave them at any business that will have you. You want this event to be successful, right? You have to make sure people know about it. Wouldn’t it be awful if you put all this work into it and no one showed up? Yeah, you could get really wasted with the artists by yourself, but they will probably be pretty disappointed in you and the event, too.
Have Everything Planned at Least a Month in Advance
While I am guilty of being the queen of procrastination, the sooner you have everything solidified for your event, the better. There’s nothing worse than hustling for money you don’t know if you’ll have, a venue that’s only loosely committed, or artists who just aren’t sure. Make everything set in stone as soon as possible. It will relieve your stress levels!
This year I’m having scantily clad female AND male models for the artists to paint on. I’ve been to other live art events where gift bags have been given to the VIPs (have VIPs if you have the fundage!) Have another crazy idea? EXECUTE IT. There is no set formula or rules to how a live art event should be, so if you have a great idea, add it to the roster.
Now you have all this newfound knowledge! Please throw a live art event at a convention this year – it’s a great new form of entertainment that I’d love to see popping up more and more places. And if I’m at the convention where you’re throwing it? Well, you better believe I will be there, the rest of the ifanboy crew in tow (even if it is just their faces glued to popsicle sticks).
And if you’re going to be at Emerald City Comic-con this year, here’s the Facebook page for the live art event I’m throwing. RSVP, invite your friends, come get drunk and watch awesome artists make awesome art. You know you want to.
(If you still need clarification on what a live art event IS, check out my article from last year about them: here)
(All photos are taken by Molly McIsaac a the ECCC live art event last year)
Molly McIsaac likes unicorns, Polaris, coffee ice cream, and jet setting off to random places with no explanation. You can follow her weird antics and adventures on twitter.