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Roger Ash

by Roger Ash

Since the spring convention season is in full swing with WonderCon a couple weeks ago, C2E2 this coming weekend, and countless other conventions in-between, I thought I’d write about one of the reasons I love going to conventions. I love getting convention sketches. one of the things that blew me away the first time I attended a convention was that I could actually have artists I like draw something especially for me. how cool is that? since that time in the late 80s/earl 90s, comic art has become big business due in part to the secondary art market (people buying sketches at conventions then re-selling them on eBay, for example). getting sketches for free or $20 or $30 used to be fairly common. While there are still some creators who will sketch for those amounts, others will run in the hundreds of dollars. and the art has improved to match the higher prices. Convention sketches used to be pretty much that – sketches. Now, many of them are gorgeous, commission quality pieces.

Phil Foglio’s space adventurer buck Godot. This may well be my first convention sketch.

If you’ve ever thought about getting a sketch at a convention, here are a few rules I’ve come up with over the years that you may find helpful.

1)      have a budget and stick to it. There are going to be lots of artists at the convention and it’s easy to spend way too much money without trying hard. trust me, I’ve done this before. Thankfully, I like Ramen Noodles. but a better way to handle things is to set a budget. once you’ve spent that money, stop. There are other things to do at a convention that don’t cost money (getting books signed, going to panels, etc.).

Tome and Usagi by Stan Sakai. A personal favorite.

2)      Do some research. First, check the web site of the convention (they usually have one) and see who’s going to be there. Make a list of artists you’d like to get a sketch from and seek them out when you get there. artists only have a limited amount of time on the weekend and will have a sketch list. once that’s full, you’re out of luck.

Second, check the artist’s web site (many of them have one) to see if they have any info regarding sketching at conventions. Not all of them do, but knowing this kind of information prior to going to the convention can be very helpful in budgeting your time and money. Also, some people will sketch prior to conventions as well, and their web sites are a good place to learn about that. Others will set up sketches at conventions and finish them at home and ship them to you when they’re completed. Some creators will also post information about sketching through social media like Facebook or Twitter. There are other artists who choose not to do convention sketches at all. bottom line – there are many different ways artists deal with convention sketches. The more you know about this, the better.

3)      Be polite. I wish I didn’t have to write this, but I do. too often I’ve seen people be rude to the artist and/or the people in line around them and that’s just not cool.

Howard the Duck by Steve Lieber.

4)      Bring reference. Not everyone knows exactly what your favorite character looks like. I have a few beat up copies of Howard the Duck that I carry with me to conventions for this express purpose.

5)      Bring something to keep your art safe. If you’re having the artist draw something in a sketchbook, this isn’t a huge deal as a nice hardcover art book is pretty sturdy. However, if you’re getting the sketch on a single piece of paper, you should have something to protect it so it doesn’t get folded or bent. Some people like to use art portfolios while others get art sized protective sleeves (there’s often a booth at conventions selling supplies like this as well). spending some money to keep your art from getting damaged is a wise investment.

6)      Be polite. Yes, this is a repeat because it’s that important.

J.J. Sachs by George Perez. A quick sketch which benefited the CBLDF.

Another reason I like getting convention sketches is the interaction with the artist. Granted, this is often not very long but there have been some memorable moments such as Michael golden telling me his thought process while working on my drawing of Marionette from Micronauts, watching George Perez sketch like crazy at the Comic book legal defense Fund booth, or the first time I met the late, great gene Colan (you can read that story here).

Howard and Bev become ska icons in my most recent convention piece by John K. Snyder III.

I’m not sure what conventions I’ll go to this year (aside from Baltimore – see you there Sept. 8 & 9!) but you can bet I’ll walk out of them with a couple new pieces of art. If you collect conventions sketches too, let us know! Share your stories in the comments below.

Now, go read a comic!

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