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DoKomi - Reflections and Practical Advice for Artist Alley (Part IV: The Sitting)

Welcome to part IV of this series! The last post focused on the customers and here I'll be focusing on the sitting. And oh dear, it's been a year since that post and more than that since my first Dokomi, which is when this series started... oops. I have since attended many cons and markets, so this is no longer really just about DoKomi, but maybe that's actually a good thing.

As a reminder for the division of this series, this is where we stand:

  1. The Customers

  2. The Sitting

  3. The Prices

  4. Expectations vs. Reality

So, this segment is actually going to be pretty short, but that doesn't make it any less relevant.

If you are at a con, you will be sitting. A LOT.

A whole work day. Just sitting. Maybe drawing here and there, maybe selling here and there. But mainly just sitting and trying to look pleasant and approachable.

And does the sitting get tiresome! - Especially if you're having a bad sales day. So be prepared for the scenario in which you sit for 8-10 hours in self-pitying boredom.

But if you're lucky, you'll have at least one person to sit with you. It is very, very nice to have a helper at your table. It can be a little cramped, especially since the area behind the artist stands is usually bursting with artists' spread out suitcases and merch, but a helper is still definitely worth the tight quarters and the extra fee for your stand. For example, having a helper sit with you doesn't just enable you to go to the bathroom whenever you want, having a helper makes the entire business aspect easier. One of you to find and pack prints, the other to take payments. This division of labor can make things so much less hectic and, frankly, a lot faster.

But be warned: As tempting as it is to think that you'll be able to leave your stand whenever you want if you have a helper, prepare to sit for most of the con anyway.

In practice, your helper can cover for you for short bouts of time, but they're not there to just stand guard over the table while you watch a karaoke of the Digimon theme song on the main stage for the fourth time. In my experience, this is because you know what you're selling better than anyone else. You just won't be able to leave your stand in other people's hands so easily. Even trained helpers will struggle to find that one obscure print you have hidden in a folder somewhere or will panic when your pay-on-site device isn't getting service. And then there are the con-hon hunters and fans who stop by your table 30 seconds after you've left to try and get something directly from you, the artist. (And it's always 30 seconds after you've left.)

So if that hotdog stand has a line that could have you waiting for 30 minutes, double-check with your helper to see if they want to cover for you that long. After being unable to complete a sale because they couldn't find something or awkwardly having to tell people that they're NOT the artist for the sixth time, they might just rather stand in the hotdog line for you and bring you back your lunch.

But that's okay because YOU'RE THE ARTIST! And people are there to buy YOUR art and maybe even talk to YOU! It's just weird to buy something at an artist alley and then realize that the person on the other side of the table isn't even the artist.

So you'll definitely want and need to stay at your table for most of the time. If you were hoping to check out the entirety of the cosplay contest or multiple show acts... either recalibrate your priorities or make sure you've got an exceptionally well-equipped helper who knows what they're in for.

(OR share your stand with another artist! That's a possibility that I haven't personally experienced yet, but I see it all the time and it seems to work for a lot of people really well!)

So tl;dr: as the artist you will sit through most of the con, so don't expect to enjoy it the same way an attendee can. And if you have a helper, that's great! But don't make them sit at the stand for hours while you wander off.

A photograph of a pencil drawing of a winged snake with a will'o'wisp girl
But sometimes the sitting can be productive for getting conhons done!

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