In Which Aja Talks About Displays at Conventions

I give a lot of thought to presentation at artist alleys. Not only to grab the attention of passersby, but because I want to create a memorable experience between me and the people who stop by my tables. When I have people who come to my table and tell me they’ve been following me since my days at DeviantArt, then well, yeah I’ve done a good job of resonating with my audience.

(Believe it or not, this happens at every show I’ve been to… and I haven’t used DeviantArt seriously in almost ten years.)

This year, I’ve finally decided to update my table cloth to this amazing hot pink color. When I found this color, I knew I had to have it. I’d been shopping around for patterned table coverings, but couldn’t find any that I liked. I had resigned myself to creating my own pattern and making the table cloth for next year and sticking with what I’ve used for ten years, but then I ran across this solid color, and knew it would work. Not only does it go really well with my normal color pallet, it will (hopefully) also draw attention. One glance at the table, and people will know what I’m about– BOLD PINK COLORS.

(Okay, maybe that’s a little too much pink… OR IS IT?)

I’ve also decided to get rid of the “boxed” design that I had been using with the wire cubes, and try for something a bit more open. While the boxed design that many artists use is very effective in showcasing everything you have with you, I always get the feeling of being– for lack of a better phrase– boxed in? Like there is no escape! I had done a set up similar to this at SPX and FrederickCon– although instead everything was on the table. It worked pretty well, except there was a lot of scrambling for things on my end when it came to sales because I had to store everything under the table. Hopefully, the half cube I set up on the left (my right) will alleviate the problem.  I also had to account for the fact that I’ll be selling bags for the first time, and wanted to make sure they were properly displayed.

Why bags? Well, a lot of artists that I follow and love have been doing pins, which are amazing! But my art style doesn’t really apply to the process. However, I wanted to branch out into something that’s not just prints and posters, so I ordered a [very] small amount of bags to give it a try this year. From the early feedback I’ve already received, I did not order enough. Not to worry, you can find the bags for now on sale in  my shop on RedBubble. I was going to wait until after the convention, but I’m so worried I’m going to sell out fast, I want to be able to give an option to people.

And lastly, every year I like to do something a little special for my customers at conventions, so I like to have some sort of nice presentation or a gift saying thank you for supporting me… that type of thing. Well this year, I’ve made folded these origami card holders to display my business cards.

A friend of mine in Japan presented her meishi (名刺 – business card) this way to give it a bit of flair. When I saw it , I was super fascinated by it! I’ve practiced origami since I was very little, and I had never even considered that it could be folded in this way. I told her about my passion for origami, and she offered to show me how to fold it. I thanked her profusely afterward– which lead to a very touching gift later when she game me a small ream of origami paper that was made where we lived in Saga that still makes me a bit teary eyed, but I’m getting off topic here!

I’m really pleased with how they came out, and they add even more pink to an already very pink table, but yep, I’m going with it!

I’ll be leaving for Otakon tomorrow, and my bags still aren’t packed, and I haven’t been able to find my room floor in weeks, so I should get to that. A few people have asked me where my table is, and the truth of it is– I don’t know yet. I’m one of the tables in the pending O section. Once I get my table assignment tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be putting it up on social media.

See you at Otakon! ^_~

In Which There is A Week Until Otakon!

I’m taking my own advice, and charging head first against a blank screen despite the deep terror I’m feeling looking at it. Let’s do this!

For the first time since I’ve returned from Japan, I’m going to be tabling at Otakon’s Artist Alley in one week! I’m really excited to be coming back to what I consider my “home” convention. I was so sad I couldn’t go last year, but by teeth had other plans. Thanks root canal!

I’ve promised myself this year to start prepping early, so I thought sharing my process in prepping for an artist alley would be fun and informative for those of you curious about running your own table in the future, or just wondering what all goes into being in artist’s alley.

This year I’m not focusing on the 8.5 x 11 prints like I have in previous years. In the last few shows I’ve done, people’s interest tends to lean towards my smaller items, or bigger items, but the old 8.5 x 11 are collecting dust, sadly. This year I’m experimenting with having 8.5 x 5.5 prints, which works really well with my watercolors. I’ll be looking for feedback at Otakon about the bigger prints, but if enough people don’t express a want for them, I’ll be phasing the size out of my prints permanently.

 

I just received these prints from CatPrints and am super happy with them. I even gave their holographic papers a go, which came out great…

 

This new way of approaching my prints creates a conundrum. Pricing. Price too high, no one will buy– price to low and… ulgh, I can’t think of a good rhyme here, but you get the idea. Pricing too low is not good either. While you may sell a lot (or everything), you may not make the production cost + time/effort put into making it back, which will set you back instead of further ahead (which is the goal, right?). This is why at artist alleys you generally see letter sized prints around the same price range. Because these are nice quality prints, some with the special holographic screen, I need to charge more, but what’s a good price? I’m thinking $12 for the plain prints, and $15 for the holographic ones.

But what do you think? To expensive? Not enough? Or just right?

 

The State of Things – Summer 2016

Let’s get the sad news out first– I won’t be making it to Otakon this year. Last week I was having killer tooth pain. Went to the dentist to find out that I need to get a root canal, and due to a stupid insurance loophole, the first day I can get my root canal is August 11th, the day before the con. Not to mention the expense of the procedure (over $1000) will require everything I’ve saved for the con (and so much more ulgh), being able to talk to people will not be in the cards that weekend either. So I made the call to not go this year. I’m really upset about this, because this is the last year of Otakon in Baltimore, and I’ve spent 17 years of my life going (almost) every year (I think I get a pass for the years I was in Japan ^^;;). But here’s to next year in DC~! As long as you can get to the con via Metro, I’ll be there :D

 

Now the serious announcement.

 

About a year ago, I made a choice. I was hot off of finishing the pages for NASA, and I needed to quickly decide what comic I was developing I would start as a webcomic for SPX. I had two projects “ready” and I had to choose which one to go with. I chose Tokyo Heart Story for a number of reasons. Now with a year of work under my belt, and only 13 pages to show for it…  I’m starting to think I made the wrong decision. It’s been a year since I started working on THS, and I’m still in the same corner I wrote myself in before even starting the comic. And it’s completely frustrating to me that I can’t make this story work, to the point every time I start to work on it again, I get stressed out all over again trying to make the pieces fit.

(But to be honest, I was nervous about it before I even launched it– the night before the site went up, I literally had a panic attack on how not ready I was to launch. This has been a constant state. I thought it was just nervous jitters, but now I know better.)

Mix in with all of that a crisis of the state of where my art is, and a drive to try to level up my drawing skills, and well, you get a mess.

Which is exactly what I feel like I am right now.

A hot mess.

So, I spoke with my circle of trust this week, and discussed the feelings and frustrations I have, and how it feels like this is holding up everything else in my life (both personal and creatively). They unanimously agreed that perhaps a hiatus would be a good choice– maybe even a permanent one. I’m not sure about that, but one of my friends suggested working on another project I have cooking for a while, and see if that either clears the block for THS, or takes over and well, then I have another project to work on. And I have to agree that sounds like a better plan. So for the next few months I’m going to be focusing on sharpening my skills, while trying to get some development work for a different series. And if I find myself starting to draw THS stuff again, all the better, right?

This decision was not one I came to easily, and I’m trying to take a positive look on this and not just have it be a project I quit. I love all of the characters dearly in THS (esp the last one that has yet to be introduced, despite being a main character T^T), not to mention the story is a very personal one for me. And maybe this is the root of my issue? Maybe it’s too personal of a story that I’m not ready to share with the world. Hmm.

 

Anyway, this blog will continue to be updated and all of you will be able to see what I’m working on. I’m trying to focus on next year, and the year after that. For the first time, I’m making a life plan. And it seems pretty great.

Thank you all for the support you’ve given me for the last year. I hope you will continue as I walk into this next chapter.

Playing to Get Work Done

sketchbook00001In my last post I discussed how Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge inspired me to stop the excuses and start working in my sketchbook again. This was kind of important to me in finally letting myself do some ugly drawings– which is a problem I’ve had since before art school.

In my mind, I want everything to be beautiful, and if it doesn’t meet a certain criteria in my head, I just stop working on the piece. Now while there is some kind of argument in being efficient and leaving a piece before working it into the ground attempting to get it to work, I have been so hesitant to make anything not “beautiful” that I’ve stayed in a very comfortable box of always using the same materials (which I am very familiar with) and using the same techniques over and over and over, and you can see why part of the reason I was having art block was that I was stuck very much in a rut. Juicy Ink’s videos showed me a way to get out of that by getting out of that comfort zone by trying to approach materials with a different perspective.

Before my art block hit me very hard, I was playing with toned paper, as I saw a slew of artists I admire starting to use it for sketches. I didn’t get very far experimenting with it then, but I liked the idea of toned paper– so I took that idea, drug out an ooooooooooold pack of Prismacolor markers (some of which were gelatinous, which was very gross), and made some toned paper of my own in my Moleskine sketchbook. The markers bled like crazy, but I didn’t care. I wanted to play, and if that meant I was going to make a mess, then so be it! And thus a punk Sailor Moon was born.

And the thing is, it didn’t matter to me that the anatomy was whacked as anything– or that I squished so many things onto the paper making everything even more wonky. I had fun. Not only did I have fun, I felt inspired. Which was not something I had felt in a long time.

 

sketchbook00002

Taking that inspiration and rolling with it, the very next day I used the same technique on the very next page, this time in yellow marker (the only other marker that was working well), and basically drained it covering one and a half pages with it. And just started drawing. It takes me so long to just draw, I loved how quickly I could just leap into getting an idea down and putting it to paper. Normally, this is such a struggle for me, I will waste hours trying to think of how to pose something before I even touch the pencil to paper. This was game changing. I started playing more, experimenting with pencil and colored pencil to see what it would look like instead of inks– on the yellow it looked amazing— and then decided to see what would happen if I used my white gel pen, and boom! I got a great three tone technique that I could accent with colors.

 

I finally found the thing that clicked.

 

But, as I mentioned, the markers were solidifying, so continuing to make pictures like this using the Prismacolor markers wasn’t really an option. But really, those markers were almost 15 years old. I’m amazed they made it that long. Using my Copic were out, because coloring large swatches of color are very good ways of killing Copic Sketch markers in a hurry.

Enter Copic Wides.

 

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I love these markers so much. They are the perfect color palette for me, and they are so versatile in what they can do.

I’m not sure why I like this technique, but it gets me drawing without fussing. It might be the patterns that just emerge in the block of color? When I make a solid swatch of color, there just isn’t any of the blank page hesitation that I usually struggle with– and it might be something so simple as that, but it has really helped me. I’ve started to play with the shapes in the marks that are made and suddenly, I have an idea for a drawing. So instead of waiting days/weeks to open my sketchbook until I have a perfect idea to sketch, I’m opening my sketchbook daily and playing with colors and shapes until I have an idea. And really, I think some of this experimentation has lead to stronger work then I have done in recent months.

IMG_3587

 

I’m still trying to figure out how I can hone the technique into a finished piece, as the solid color swatches give the drawings a rough, unfinished, feel to them, but I love the raw energy that the marker strokes lend to anything I draw on top. I need to work with it more, push a little further, but I feel as if I have made a real breakthrough here. I might finally be finding my artist’s voice in all of this experimentation.

 

 

So many things.

So watching a blinking cursor doesn’t get a blog entry written. If it did, I would have so many missing blog entries written.

It’s been six months since my last blog entry, and so much has happened, and yet so little?

I’ve worked through a tremendous art block, worked on pages like a madwoman, gotten incredibly sick, re-injured myself, and I could go on and on. Like I said, a lot.

But instead of cramming everything into one blog entry, I’m going to try to spread things out a little bit so I have, you know, other blog entries to write in the next coming weeks.

 

So how did you break out of your art block?

In some ways, I’m still kind of in it if I’m going to be honest. But I stumbled upon Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge (which you can watch in all one convenient playlist here) just as she started it, and went through the journey with her, and realized 1) I too have not been giving my sketchbook the attention it needed, 2) I haven’t played with any new techniques in quite a while, 3) I was going a little crazy constantly working in black and white and I desperately needed to play with some color 4) If I didn’t start to try to break this block, I would be SOL when it came to summer convention time (which *cough cough* is coming up very quickly on my heels, compounding the pressure to produce things, making the block all the worse).

anatomy001Because I was struggling with some anatomy on the pages of TS, I decided to focus on that to begin with. Most mornings for the last two months, I’ve spent around half an hour doing anatomy studies ranging from one to five minute sketches. But not without guidance. I’ve been re-reading the Loomis books in my spare time and taking notes. This has resulted in a 100 page sketchbook almost being filled in this time– which is something I haven’t been able to do since SCAD.

The massive improvement under these few weeks of dedication cannot even be expressed. But the more important part is that it allowed me to make some ugly drawings, which is something that I don’t normally do. I usually will abandon a drawing if things look wonky the instant it does, but I forced myself to at least finish it, and then identify what went wrong.

Things I learned:

  1. I draw heads small to over compensate my tendency to draw heads big when I’m working without a reference. This is something that I will never understand why I do, but I’m getting better at keeping the head size consistent with the rest of the body.
  2. gesturestudies001I draw too fast sometimes. I start to rely on what I know, and not what I’m observing. I used to be much better about this, but I think it’s because I have such a limited amount of time to work on things now, so I don’t want to waste time observing (perish the thought!) and that’s a really bad habit to get into– thus I’ve spent most of this time trying to get myself OUT of that habit. Because of my short time allowance for art, I also start to get impatient with anatomy studies after about 30 minutes. It’s staggering to think I used to take a two and a half hour class on it twice a week in college, and now here I am struggling to make it half an hour. Is it my attention span? Is it because I want to work on other things? When did doing such basic studies become so hard to do?
  3. My anatomy skills are even rustier than I thought, and I need to keep this up.

 

But that was just the beginning. Next, it was time to mix it up a bit– which I’ll talk about in my next entry.