My comic convention season starts in mid-summer with the Boston Comic-Con. That is the biggest con for me and the one I make sure that I attend yearly. I am lucky enough to also have several other local conventions (Granite State Comic Con, Connecticut ComicConn, RI Comic-Con, and the new Hartford Comic Con) that occur around the same time and will usually try to get to at least one if not more depending on my work schedule.
So it is around this time of year that I start getting geared up for the conventions, looking at guests, figuring out commissions that I hope to get, and gathering comics in my collection to have signed by the creators attending.
Each year, I toy with doing some posts specifically about my con prep. I figured this was the year to actually try to get it done.
The plan would be posts on:
1) Commission materials and display/sto
2) Source material
3) Funds, lining up commissions, and making a plan
4) Signature thoughts and my personal credo of etiquette
5) Other conventions thoughts
So I figured I would start at the top.
First off, I am only talking about convention commissions. You can get commissions done outside of cons that will be sent to you but my post won't really be about those.
If you are planning to start getting convention commissions, there are a couple of questions you are going to need to answer which will help you make crucial decisions on how to proceed. These were questions I didn't know the answer initially and/or have changed my mind about.
What are your overall plan for commissions?
How do you plan on displaying or storing your pieces?
Overall Plan: The overall plan is basically asking yourself if this is a going to be a finite collection or an ongoing obsession. If the plan is to get one piece by one of your favorite creators then that alters your plans about funds, display, etc. But be honest with yourself, comic book collectors are, by their nature, collectors. I thought I would be happy with a couple of pieces but it has become a really fun ongoing part of my comic obsession. Decide if this is a one time/couple of times endeavor or something more.
Display/store: The question of display or storage is important because it will determine what materials you bring to the convention. But also, it will impact how you obtain your commissions.
First off, if the plan is to display on the wall, assess your wall space! How many can you fit? Do you plan to rotate? Will your significant other agree to your displaying them proudly all over the house? These are all questions I didn't think through prior to obtaining commissions.
As a result, I changed my mind about this.
Initially, I went with loose commissions and the plan to display them on the wall.
I have subsequently switched to sketch books.
There are plusses and minuses to both.
If the plan is to store them in frames on walls, or in a slip-sleeve display book, or an art case, you will need paper.
Most artists draw on Bristol Board. And while most bring their own supply, I would strongly advise bringing your own just in case. There have been a handful of artists who have asked me to provide the material for the piece to be drawn on. I would recommend Strathmore Bristol as a readily available, affordable, quality piece of paper. Depending on your plans, the paper is available in 9x12 or 11x14 and most craft stores have a supply.
If you are planning to hang the pieces on walls, the other upside of supplying the paper is that there are frames in these sizes out there so that makes display that much easier ... and more importantly cheaper! Nothing seems to cost more than having a place make your frame.
I did not bring my own paper my first couple of times out and ended up getting pieces on the back of backing boards! Not big. Not sized for frames.
One positive about getting loose commissions is that you can have multiple commissions ongoing at the same time. You can run to as many creators as you want to and as long as they have paper, they can all be working on your piece simultaneously.
When I ran out of wall space and knew that I wanted to continue to obtain commissions, I switched to a sketch book. Again, Strathmore has all sorts of sketchbooks that are available and quality. There are spiral bound or hardbound. I opted for hardbound. They are sturdier and I don't plan on removing the pieces at any time soon. With the spiral bound, you can change your mind and remove the piece easily to showcase on a will.
I like the sketchbook for a number of reasons. One, I can easily bring my 'collection' anywhere I go. People can flip through the book.
But I also love how when I get a creator to do a sketch, they often flip through the book to see my other pieces, seeing who else I have commissioned, and seeing others approach. I also think it is a little reassuring to some artists who have been burned by people flipping pieces on EBay right after a con. If my book has a ton of sketches in it, it is doubtful that I'll remove theirs.
One thing that I have learned is that depending on the inks being used, commissions can bleed through the paper onto the page behind it. So bring 'bleed sheets', something thick like a manila folder, that the artist can put behind the page to sop up anything that might otherwise seep through. (Matt Wagner told me about this and actually gave me a manila folder to use when he did his commission for me.)
The one negative of the sketchbook is that it can become the rate-limiting step in obtaining commissions. If all your commissions are going in the book then you cannot have multiple commissions going on at the same time. So think carefully. For someone like me who loves getting commissions, I actually have three sketchbooks going on.
Even though I use the sketchbooks, I still bring paper with me just in case.
Lastly, a new way to get commissions (and something I have thought about) would be to get them on sketch covers. Almost every big release or title or even some major issues come with a blank sketch variant. So this could be an interesting way to begin a commission collection, getting actual covers done by artists and then slipping them into the long boxes with the rest of your books. It would also be a unique book making it a nice addition to your collection.
Of course, you would need to buy a sketch cover and for someone like me, I would want an appropriate title for the piece. (I wouldn't get Daredevil on a Batman/Superman book, for example.) These covers are usually plentiful at conventions if your store doesn't carry them.
My friend, who is an even more avid commission collector, gets his loose, gets them professionally framed, and hangs them in his suite of offices. Anything loose he keeps in an artist's portfolio so he can show them as well. He definitely brings his own paper.
Thus ends the first lesson on commissions and my first post on con commissions.