by Connie R. Tistic
FROM THE ARCHIVES is a series of featured articles from previous Exaggerated Features. This article was originally published in the 2016 Pre-Con Issue. For access to all the Exaggerated Features, join ISCA today.
This is written for all you wannabe con artists (you know, as in CONvention artists) out there who have no idea what to expect at the convention and are too afraid to ask. And it’s also for all of those returning artists who are too scared to admit they can’t remember what to bring. Whether this is your first or fifth convention - yeah, you know who you are - this is written for you. Think of it as an advice column. I’ve been to enough cons to be considered an expert on the subject, if I don’t mind saying so. It didn’t hurt that I, like all members, have access to the old Pre-con EFs online either. But let’s cut to the chase.
Stay at the same hotel as the con!
Book early and use the code to save some dough. Save even more dough by sharing a room. Don’t know anyone? What a way to change that - share a room with a stranger! See the ISCA Members Facebook page for others who are in the same boat. The ballroom is open 24 hours. So if you don’t like your roommate, you can always just draw in the ballroom until the sun comes up. And it seems someone ALWAYS falls asleep in the ballroom. But that’s when people suddenly revert back to slumber party prankster mentality - especially the guys. Don’t be surprised if you wake up with artwork on your face and the whole process documented on social media when all you were trying to do is get some shuteye.
Plus, if you stay at the same hotel as the convention, you won’t miss out on anything. I stayed at an offsite hotel one time. Worst thing I ever did. I saved some cash but really hated leaving the convention room to drive the 10 minutes back to my hotel. And some, if not all, of your room fees could be tax-deductible. But you better check with your tax guy about that. You do have a tax guy, I hope!
How it Starts
Check-in and pick-up your badge, swag bag and t-shirt starting Sunday afternoon. Where? Oh, you’ll know. As soon as you walk in the hotel lobby, your Spidey senses will start tingling and you will quickly be drawn (haha, get it?) to your own kind, your artistic brethren, your tribe.
Make sure you check in early if you can so you don’t miss the evening icebreaker reception with finger foods and cash bar and, if you are lucky, tater tots! That’s right, tater tots. You are welcome to bring sketchbooks. And you will want to stick around for “Art Fight.” This energetic and friendly competition gets everything into full swing. And what is the first rule of Art Fight? Don’t talk about Art Fight. You’ll just have to go and find out for yourself what it’s all about.
What to Pack
It’s just like packing for any other week long trip, except you got to plan to be drawing for a week.
Art Supplies. What should you bring? Whatever you want to draw with. You wanna draw with crayons, bring crayons. You wanna paint with coffee, have at it. But whatever you bring be VERY careful when you make a mess. If you are going to paint, bring a freakin’ drop cloth or something! And clean up after yourselves. I ain’t your momma. If you are bringing a tablet or laptop, bring an extension cord, power strip and printer. Or else how you gonna get those pretty pictures out of that contraption to put on your wall? Wait—what? Oh, ISCA is providing a printer too, but I would still bring my own, just to play it safe.
Don’t forget about restrictions on the airlines. Don’t bring flammable paints or supplies like craft knives or razor blades in your carry-on luggage. Find out your airline’s rules soon.
Basically, bring everything you think you might need. The nearest art store will require a drive. Don’t bring promotional signs, banners or displays or try to sell merchandise. If you want to do that, read the rules and get a vendor table.
Easel /drawing board. The ballroom will be full of tables and chairs. But that’s about it. So bring an easel or drawing board unless you like craning your neck to draw on a surface that is perpendicular to your body.
Layered clothing. Just because it’s Phoenix (San Diego, for you 2018 attendees), and just because it’s the middle of the desert, doesn’t mean you won’t be freezing your butt off in the ballroom with 200 of your new buddies, or old ones.
Swimsuit. It’s a must if you plan to swim or hot tub it.
Party attire. The final night of the convention is capped off by the Awards Ceremony and banquet. Some dress like it’s prom all over again. It’s your chance to dress to impress or make a statement. Or not. Up to you, my friend.
Install Google Translate on your smartphone. With the worldwide membership in ISCA, you are gonna need it. How else will you be able to ask that guy from France if you can borrow his box of crayons de couleur???
What you can expect
You’ll be creating caricatures of other people at the convention. You will be given a section of wall space with your competition number on it about 2 feet wide. You can draw any size you want, but you are only allowed to post inside your allotted wall space. Don’t be a Putin and encroach on your neighbor’s territory. That just ain’t right. See the convention rules on pages 6-7 in this issue to read all of the space regulations (Note: Convention rules will be available on the website shortly).
You should put up your caricature work as soon as you can. Don’t wait until the last day. It’s fun to see the competition room slowly get plastered with artwork as the week progresses. By the way, all work that you put on the wall must be created in the competition room during the convention. Not your private room. Not your studio at home, before the convention. Remember, the competition room will be open 24 hours a day all week long.
Don’t be shy about approaching people. If you see someone doing work that you like, go ahead and bug them about it. Find out what they’re doing, where they’re from, how they got so good. Go ahead, be annoying. That’s one of the main benefits of this con — rubbing elbows with other artists and learning from each other. But if you can see that they’re trying to focus or laboring to get a piece done quickly before the deadline, maybe give them some space. Usually a good way to tell if someone doesn’t want to be bothered is if they’re wearing headphones and listening to music. Likewise, if you wear your headphones, you will be putting out an anti-social vibe and may miss out on some camaraderie.
There are organized competitions throughout the week, like the speed competition and the likeness competition. The general competition drawing ends on Thursday afternoon. And all the members then vote for their favorite pieces in multiple categories: abstract, retail/party style, realistic style, most exaggerated, best black and white, best color, most humorous and so on. A lot of people come intent on competing and winning. But do not feel pressured to impress or win anything. If you focus too much on the competition aspect, you will be stressing yourself out and not enjoying your time as much. Just do the type of work you really want to do, and pick up what valuable nuggets that you can from others.
All the awards are given out during the banquet on Friday night. Don’t be a schlub. Dress up! The banquet is open seating and the dinner is included in your convention fee. But again, it’s a cash bar. And tip the bartender! After the ceremony, whether you’re crying or celebrating, we all give our artwork to the people who we drew during the week. So be sure you take photos of your work and other artists’ work before the banquet starts. You won’t get a chance later.
If you are odd-looking, you probably got drawn a lot and will be going home with tons of artwork from others, so plan a way to get these home without destroying them in your luggage. If all else, have them shipped home, and be sure to get them insured!
On the flip side, try not to burden someone with a giant, two ton caricature that they have to figure out how to get home. If it doesn’t fit in someone’s luggage, it’ll be hard for them to get home.
Hanging your art
Put the art that you make up on your wall with the nice blue painter’s tape that is distributed by ISCA. ONLY USE THIS TAPE!!! Do not use anything else to put up your artwork. Not scotch tape, not super glue, not rubber cement and definitely not push pins.
If this is your first time, and even if it’s not, the amount of amazingly awesome, jaw-dropping art you will see will Blow. Your. Mind.
Draw from life
With the advent of new technology, many artists are using these tools to make life easier. It is so easy now to take a picture of someone in the ballroom, run back to your secluded drawing corner and begin work on your masterpiece. But by doing that you miss out on something very important: FREE live MODELS!! Sometimes people will set up drawing circles to do just that: draw from life. Don’t miss out. If you see a circle, join in. If you don’t see one, start your own. If a circle spontaneously forms around you, don’t be frightened. Just go with it.