I Hate Cons; Trying Hard Not To Make A "HTTYD" Joke Here


DragonCon; affectionately called “Nerdie-Gras” and for good damn reason. This Con is so full of energy and excitement it spills over into a debaucherous after-hours party in one of the four hotels that plays host to the Atlanta Con.




I’ve gotta be careful with this one. Also none of this is going to be chronological, I got sick the first night and spent most of the Con quietly recovering and pretending to be healthy enough to party. So things are a little hazy. But I’ll try my best.


In my last article I talk a lot about the people I met and the community surrounding that Convention. This time around, I’m fucking over it… just kidding. But seriously, it’s old hat, so let’s talk about something different.. Like the people I met at DragonCon and the community surrounding that Convention. Lost? Annoyed by my shitty attempt at being clever? Good.


While I was exhibiting and selling my wares on the dealer floor, I got to visit both Artist Alley and the Art Show section. Yeah, there’s two sections for Artists. This Con has so much Art jammed into it they need two sections, in addition to whatever Artists make it onto the dealer’s floor.


Let’s start with the Art Show which is hosted in a spacious, but not empty, hall in the basement level of the Hyatt, or the Marriott… I don’t remember.  While this sounds like a crappy place to host an Art Show, it wasn’t.


In the center of the hall was a labyrinth of post-walls where each artist could hang work for the show’s silent auction, which was huge. So much great Art was hanging by the industries best and brightest. I was stunned by the amount of sheer talent and ability hanging on the wall. Artists I’ve never seen at a convention were present showing incredible Art.


Artists like Annie Stegg Gerard and Justin Gerard (the Gerards were at GenCon but didn’t get to meet them), Dan Dos Santos, Scott Fischer(who I nearly yelled out “I follow your beard on instagram!”).


I also got to see a lot of the friends I made at GenCon and some new friends like; Andrea Sipl, whose work is mind blowing. She does so much creative stuff on top of working on the creative team that makes Archer happen.


Julie Wilmore, who had great nature paintings that were totally speaking to me. She was a joy to be around as well.


It was a great show.


But let’s talk about something much more important. Let’s talk about Todd Lockwood’s hotel room. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.


When it was first suggested that the evening be spent in Todd Lockwood’s Hotel Room (TLHR) I was a little, like “What? Srsly?” But I hadn’t ever met him before and he was a big part of my appreciation for fantasy art growing up. So fuck it. We went. We drank. Things got weird.


TLHR is the chill spot of the Convention. Plenty of booze, industry talk, dazed and confused newbies (me), seasoned vets, and new people to meet. This is where a hefty chunk of the Art Show’ers ends up at one point or another. And at the center of it all is Todd- fucking-Lockwood (TfL) sitting there, sipping Gin, cool as fuck, like a Wizard Artist.


While my visit to TLHR was short, I got some non-Pokemon related face-time with Brenda Lyons who shared an amazing story about her current book deal. I won’t hash out the details, but I will say that she got the deal we all dream about. And she’s doing work she’s passionate about and has been hustling for a long time. I believe you can hear her talk about it over at One Fantastic Week (disclaimer;I haven’t listened yet, but will ASAP)


Once Brenda was done, I needed to rest. I quietly sacrificed  2 paintbrushes and a goat in the bathroom to pay respect to the Wizard Lockwood (that sounds too natural…) and went back to my room.


Okay, I think I’ve gotta talk about my own room now. I had the distinct pleasure of being put up by Brenda (mentioned above) and Amanda Makepeace and her daughter (whose name I don’t remember, sorry!)


Man… some of the coolest people I’ve ever startled as I walked into their room unannounced, without introduction (thanks Pete). But I think I managed to put them at ease as we discovered we’re on the same Pokemon team. Mystics know each other instinctively. So the Pokemon chatter ensued and… oh yeah, this is when I invited them to TLHR. Man, things are really hazy.


Alright, so by this point, I think it’s day two of the Con. Day one, was delightful, I think. I was really out of it. Man, I don’t know what got in me but Pete thought I was going to have to bail for the rest of the Con and honestly I did too. It was bad.


The Con itself was great. The hall we were in felt super intimate as the ceilings were really really low, which I’m not accustomed to. Somehow, having less vertical space made it feel less crowded.


I took a bunch of photos, but a recent phone failure smashed those to pieces. I’m going to link some from instagram, sorry for the fail.


Setup went smoothly despite the enormity of the booth. DragonCon is pretty well-organized in that everything happens the day before.  I feel like we’re going backwards here. Let’s get back on track.


By day three, I was able to spend some time on the Artist Alley floor, which was above the dealer’s floor. It was massive and spacious and had an arcade in the center. And Bob Camp was there!


Pete and I actually started that day walking that floor critiquing and learning from the different booth-setups. If you haven’t done this, like I hadn’t, this is invaluable time to learn. We picked up a few neat tricks about presentation and merch choice and discussed them as we made our way back to start day three.


Sales were very slow for me that day. I’ve gotta point this out because this was my biggest learning event at a Con thus far. If sales are slow, use that time to figure out why. Not so much so you can try to fix it right there, but so you can learn from it and problem solve when you have time to really think about it.


If you can come up with a quick solution on the spot, great. But I couldn’t figure out why things were different that day. I made zero sales that whole third day. I used that time to observe how people were interacting with my work, what questions they were asking, which pieces got the most “touches”. I also got to see where some of the roadblocks were. Thankfully those were easy to spot and fix, immediately.


Most important is that it is time to be self critical about your Art since you can look at it through the eyes of the people actively trying to decide if they like it. They come right up, look and express clear disinterest, or excitement, or curiosity. But you can easily tell what is and isn’t working.


Alright, enough shop talk.


Day three ended with being treated to drinks by the folks at Twitch. Ashley “FakeGamerGirl” Paramore was a fantastic host. She brought us to the coolest fucking speak-easy I’d ever been too. Not that I had been to a speak-easy before… anyway. There was a red phone booth and you needed to dial a secret phone number which opened a secret door...FUCK IT WAS AWESOME. The drinks were some of the tastiest ever as well.


This outing led to me at Pete figuring out it’d be a good idea if we started a twitch stream. We did. And it’s been awesome. I thank Ashley for the encouragement to get involved.


Let’s wrap this up with my favorite time at DragonCon. The Marriott. The Marriott was great.


This is why. Just one photo. Just one moment. If you haven’t clicked any links to photos yet, this is the one.


Thanks everyone. I’m off to New York Comic Con next. I promise to backup my photos and remember more names.

Notes;  While I don’t remember Amanda’s daughter’s name,  I do remember that she quietly caught an Aerodactyl while we talked shop and didn’t say anything… the girl has a got a killer instinct! She was great!


10 Things I learned at DragonCon

  1. Good Cons are all about what you put into it

  2. Bad Cons are all about what people want to get out of you

  3. If you balance 1 and 2, you can have a great Con experience.

  4. Be your best salesman by letting people choose your work.

  5. #4 doesn't mean to stand there silently, leering at them with a little drool on your chin. Saying “Hi” is easy.

  6. Be careful of the kind of jokes you make with visitors. Humor is a tricky thing.

  7. If you give people a chance to decide to treat you with respect, they will. Brush that chip off your shoulder.

  8. If they don’t; move on. It isn't worth ruining your day.

  9. If you can stay at a hotel hosting Dragoncon, do it. Even if it is on the floor, next to a drunk guy wearing a zombie leisure suit. 

  10. Eat at the Majestic. Order anything you want, this is easily one of the most low-key “dives” I’ve been to and it’s perfect for post-Con chillaxing.

    Stay tuned for my full Dragoncon write-up!


I Hate Cons; My First Gencon

As the title implies, I don’t enjoy Cons; Comic book conventions or any thing of the kind. Aside from the normal assumptions about cons (which are exaggerated); body odor, expensive and low quality food and long lines, I mostly dislike the experience of being an Artist at a Con.


I’ve had people try to haggle my prices down on original art, books, commissions and have even had them offer group discounts if they bought something from my booth mate. It's awful and sometimes disrespectful to the craft I am spending my life mastering.


But this is not unexpected. It’s part of the job. They know I need them. I go there with my prints and originals and books and ask them  to buy my stuff. They’ve never heard of me, I’m not famous. I’ve never even been on the front page of Reddit. While I do my best to enjoy myself, I’ve never looked forward to the event and usually come home broke and tired. Admittedly, I enjoy my time with my friends and peers, a great deal.


My colleague and friend Pete Mohrbacher asked me to attend a con with him this year to promote and sell our book Angelarium, which I had been declining for a year now. I grumbled, resisted and labored over the decision, but was persuaded in the end to attend my first gaming convention; Gencon.


After a late night flight, 2 uber drivers (one got lost), a leaking air mattress I had to share, 2 hours of sleep and nearly dying in the shower, I arrived at Gencon


The people who attend Gencon are a breed onto their own. They come to this con not snag the latest exclusive or get a rare comic signed, or to buy cheap art. They come to play. Because they love it. (Because of that, they want to buy Art that they love as well.) Everywhere people were playing games, trying new things, talking, laughing and just being happy to be gamers and at the best gaming convention on the planet.


But this isn't about them. Or how they opened themselves to new things (including my book), but about the community of artists that attend and show at Gencon. Community might be the wrong word, family might be more accurate.


I saw people genuinely care for one another here. They bickered, they fought, they supported one another and cheered them on. Advice was given about booth setup and product choices and most importantly they stuck together (The industry then came to them). At most cons the artists disperse to one industry party or the other . This group found excuses to hang out together, even going as far as attending dance club en masse. (See my list of things I learned at Gencon to get some tips about Con Clubbing)


The art show was run wonderfully by Barbara Fisher and Deisel of D&D fame. These two came around and introduced themselves to everyone there, even those of us not on the bill. Which was unnecessary as everyone knew them. From the look of it, they were like parents coming around to see what their kids were up to. It was really a charming way to start the Con Thursday morning.




And we were off! The doors were open and people were already stopping by the booth to check out what we had to offer. I imagine the same was happening with everyone else, so I didn’t get to meet anyone until after the first day closed.


Once it did close and booths tucked away, the Artists seemed to “clique up” and go their separate ways. I expected this. What I didn’t expect was for each clique to find their way to the Hyatt bar, which served as sort of a clubhouse for the Con’s Art show. I got to bounce between groups and introduce myself as the writer and designer for Angelarium (I only had to clarify once that I am NOT Peter Mohrbacher or his “boothbitch”. An easy and funny mistake to make, but “you-know-who-you-are”, I had to call ya on it :P). Which was a first for me. I don’t often(or ever) make appearances to promote the book. Something I am glad to be rectifying. Everyone was welcoming and quick to start a conversation.


The first night was filled with scotch, introductions, art talk and good times. Best first day ever.




Friday was a little more social as we had some Art Show’ers come by and say hi. My buddy Allan Panakal was a champ and introduced me to EVERYONE. Allan is seriously the best hypeman on the planet. This guy got me in front of everyone I needed to and made it incredibly easy to fit in. He also makes some pretty interesting work. I had never described vector art as “painterly” until I met Allan.


That night I got to hang out with Allan and his cadre of ne’re do wells and went to a party thrown by the guys at Dog Might. These guys throw a hell of a party and the best part was that this was an entirely new and separate circle. I got to talk about games with gamemakers (and makers of gaming accessories) It was great. It was different. It was a blast. After it all, I met up with the rest of the Art show at, you guessed it, the Hyatt. It was Dance Club time.


I’m going to hazily gloss over the details, well because *REDACTED* and *REDACTED* *REDACTED*  *REDACTED*  and suddenly, Pete *ahem, I mean* *REDACTED* was passed out under a tree with a *REDACTED* tied around his ankles. IT WAS AWESOME!


Saturday: The Reckoning


Saturday was more of the same, great people coming by the booth and “oo-ing” and “ahh-ing” and reaching into their wallets to buy stuff. Oh and hi-fives. I got a lot of hi-fives. I got interviewed by the charming people at 7LANDHAND, walked around a bit and took pictures.


End Saturday.


Every year the show runners host an awards ceremony  for the artists exhibiting that year. I’d never heard of it, in fact when I asked around, this was kind of a Gencon secret (Sorry!). After the events on Saturday every artist in the alley piled into a hot ass conference room and got in line to buy beer.  


I didn't have any expectations for this event, as I wasn’t billed and no one knew me. So I was able to relax a bit and spectate. What I quickly noticed was that everyone was relaxed and happy to be there.


An hour later, we got to it. Barbara and her jury (Sorry I can’t remember your names!) Stood at the front of the room and began calling out categories and winners. I won’t get into the specifics about who won what (Except the part where Pete ran up and shoved people out of his way to get a cellphone picture of Ania Mohrbacher collecting her prize) The special thing about this Award ceremony was that everyone in the room was there because they wanted everyone to win. Not following? I’ll clarify.


People showed up not to see if they won, or to see who else won. They came because this was a celebration of the Art show. Everyone who got a prize, was representing everyone in the room. Everyone won. Everyone cheered. (I might have been the only near to shedding a tear though.) It was the Art community I’d searched my whole life for. It was so goddamn special. I only hope I get to come back and maybe become part of it. Please? I’ll bring punch and cookies!


Enough blubbery.


More con. More Awesome.


Enter… Sunday: The Beginning of the EEEEEEEEEND.


I happily spent the morning running around to the booths in the Art show and said some early goodbyes, since I was catching a flight before the Con officially closed. I swung by Jeff Miracola’s booth to say bye to him and Silvia Acevedo, easily two of my favorite people.


I stood at the booth, making my last few sales and noting the lack of “Sunday Bargain Hunters”. A Go’er even was so kind as to give me a boxset of Frazzeta toys, just because I was admiring it. The guys at 7LANDHAND came by to say goodbye and offer me a board game they were demo-ing. This was the total opposite of my previous Con experience. Bleh, again with the waterworks...


Everyone was great; Con Show’ers and Go’ers alike. I closed out my day by having a fist fight with Allan for taking and sharing pictures of me sleeping in the booth. (I promise, naps and fights were staged and performed by professionals. Don’t try this at home kids)


I checked in for my flight, sat down; glowing from the great times and caught my first Snorlax right there in the airport.






Next week I’ll be in Atlanta for Dragoncon and I’m worried. Worried that it won’t be as great as Gencon and worried that it will be better, thus diminishing my Gencon experience. It’s kind of a great place to be, because in either case, I’m still very excited to attend. Wish me luck!  If you liked this Article and want to see more Con write-ups, say so in the comments. Cheers!


10 Things I Learned At My First Gencon

  1. Peppy Diner is the only restaurant in Indiana. PERIOD.

  2. Tawny Fritz will cut you given the right circumstances.

  3. Tawny Fritz will flip coins out of your hand in ANY circumstance.

  4. A leaky air mattress leaks twice as fast even if you like the dude you’re sharing it with.

  5. Gencon people are really kind and generous. (The guy who gave me a Frazzetta toy box set, just cause, is a fucking champ. And Australians are wonderful and are patient interviewers.)

  6. Walgreens sells air mattresses at Midnight.

  7. CVS doesn’t.

  8. Go to every event you’re invited to (if you can), especially if it is outside your circle, genre, comfort zone. The guys at Dog Might were super cool and throw a great con party.

  9. Don’t wear a backpack to a dance club. I know it sucks to run back to the hotel to change, and unload your gear, but you also don’t want to carry it around when you want to shake your ass.

  10. Shake your ass. Even if you’ve got 30 lbs of gear on your back.

I will have a more detailed write-up on my Gencon experiences coming soon!