I just got home from IlluXcon in Altoona, PA. Chris and I traveled and roomed with fellow illustrator Cynthia Sheppard and her husband, which was a ton of fun... and very very helpful, as Cynthia went to the first ever IlluXcon last year and was a wonderful guide for this one =)
The Main Show, Altoona Heritage Center
Structurally the convention has a few main "areas" of interest:
1.) The show at the Heritage Center in downtown Altoona. This is the most amazing display of fantasy and science fiction artwork to ever occupy the same space. We're talking originals by Donato Giancola, Michael Whelan, and Brom here. And, even better, 99% of the artists displaying were there behind their tables ready to chat or sign a print.
2.) Networking, ie hanging out. This might actually be the #1 attraction. Freelancing can be a lonely business... one of the biggest highlights of the convention was getting to chill with fellow illustrators. I've never been too keen on bars, but the bar at the Ramada on Friday and Saturday nights when it is jam packed with awesome illustrators is another matter all together.
3.) Portfolio reviews, both formal and informal. There is nothing that beats exchanging portfolios, giving and taking critique with the best in your field. I was absolutely floored by the useful and encouraging comments I received, by the "greats" who took the time to sit down with me and help show me the next steps in my path. A very deep and special thanks to: Ruth Sanderson, Dan Dos Santos, Jeremy Cranford, and Lou Anders.
4.) The convention programming. Here I must admit I didn't go to nearly everything... but things I did attend, such as the Art Director Q&A and the "Art of Self Promotion" were quite helpful. We spent a good deal of the car ride home, brainstorming/daydreaming about how various items on the list could be expanded next year.
5.) The fledgling "Saturday Night Showcase." Where those of us not in the main show were able to show and sell prints from our own tables. -I can't wait to see how this expands next year.
And so much more...
Cynthia and I also started an interesting thing with my Nintendo DSi and the homebrew application Colors! The "game" involves one artist starting a sketch, then passing it to the next participant, who adds to the image and so on. As you can imagine, this is huge fun in a room of illustrators. Below are the collaborative sketches from this year. Cynthia and I worked primarily on the first two, then as part of a group (including Zelda and Christine) on the later two.
What I personally took away from the convention to follow in a later entry.
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