Tag Archives: Promotion

A Coffeehouse Comic Exhibit

I can’t think of too many things that are more compatible than sipping a coffee and reading the latest online comics. So what could be more natural than to have a coffeehouse comic art exhibit?  By definition a coffeehouse is a place where coffee is served and people gather for conversation, music, and other informal entertainment. Coffeehouses, as businesses, want and need events and attractions to add to their social draw for patrons. Comic artists always need more audience exposure for their work. A coffeehouse comic exhibit merges two mutually beneficial needs.

Obviously the first step for the comic artist is to locate one or more local coffeehouses which are looking for future exhibits. It’s as simple as making a few personal visits and making the appropriate inquiries. You may get turned down occasionally, but more likely it is just a matter of coordinating a time in their in-house gallery schedule. This article chronicles just such a showing that my daughter, Rachel, ( @lastres0rt ) recently put together to promote her art and online comic Last Res0rt.

Jig Saw Poster

Rachel is currently a grad student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and not far from campus, there is a classic example of a coffeehouse appropriately named Urban Grind. “Urban Grind was created with the the true coffeehouse culture in mind.” It’s got an eclectic comfortable atmosphere, regularly scheduled music events as well as open mic poetry readings and free WIFI. How can you go wrong with that? Most importantly the owner likes to keep the look of the Urban Grind fresh by having frequently changing art exhibits by local artists displayed on the walls. For Rachel it was just a matter of presenting herself and asking for the opportunity. The owner’s response was positive and a tentative date was established.

With a showing date established, the artist now has to determine their personal goal for their exhibit along with an overall theme. In Rachel’s case she wanted to promote both her comic and her graphic design skills. She chose to present a mix of poster designs and re-prints of actual comic pages. Based on the space available she determined that she would have 16 pieces in the show, 4 posters and 14 pages, a book promo cover and an “about the artist” information poster. She also planned to provide 4×6 printed post cards as a convenient take home item for customers.

Post Cards


Wanting to keep the cost down and focusing on the artwork itself, Rachel decided to mount each piece on simple black foam core boards. The Urban Grind has a utility railing that runs along the top of its walls and their typical method for hanging art is by using clear fishing line suspended from hooks connected to the railing. To simplify the process, binder clips made for an inexpensive but effect way to connect the suspended nylon lines to the art.

The arrangement of pieces was determined by the physical layout of the displayable space available attempting to provide a visual continuity that transports the viewer’s eye, building their level of interest as they navigate the walls.

Visually moving around the room.

Until the eye finds the main gallery wall.

A blend of Coffee and Comics to delight the senses.

An opportunity to reach a new audience.

Creating Artist Sketch Cards

As a comic artist, I’m always looking for ways to connect with my audience and also to find ways to earn money to offset my expenses etc. Recently I decided to create a series of artist sketch cards to have available for sale at conventions. In this article, I’ll try to give you some insights into how I’ve gone about the process.

The first decision I had to make was the format for my cards. There are a lot of  people who make sketch cards on a small format roughly 2.5″x3.5″. You can even buy these standard sized cards with a light blue frame outline and the words “sketch card” printed on them. But, I wanted to work in a larger size closer to the normal panel size of my comic. That meant that I needed a card that was approximately 6″x6″. I also wanted the cards to work well with ink and/or colored markers. My preferred surface is vellum Bristol board. As it turns out Strathmore makes a nice 300 series of vellum Bristol board in a 6″x6″ pad. Depending on where you buy them, they cost between $1.40 and $3.00 for a 20 sheet pad.

As you can see in the photo above, I’ve taken the plain 6″x6″ sheet of Bristol board and customized it with an outline panel frame with the titles “BugPudding” and “Artist Sketchcard” and my copyright signature. In order to do this I take the sheets out of the pad and run them through my computer printer. I made the template for the cards in Adobe Illustrator set up on a canvas that is 6″x8″. Then I save that off as a PDF document and use that to print on the Bristol board. The reason I layed the template out on 6″x8″ instead of the actual 6″x6″ size is because the standard paper size my printer expects is 6″x8″. Even though I’m actually printing on a sheet that’s 6″x6″.

Having decided on the size and format of the blank sketch cards, I’m ready to start making cards. I wanted to have two types of cards. One type is for pen and ink drawings and the other type is pen and ink that is then colored with markers. The plain pen and ink cards are faster to make and therefore I can afford to price them for less then the colored cards. Basically it takes about twice as long to do the additional marker coloring. In either case the first step is to do a loose blue pencil sketch over which I render the pen and ink drawing.

In general I erase any blue pencil lines that show after the ink has dried. I could leave them, but it’s an old habit.

Above is a photo of the basic tools that I use to make the sketch cards. Starting with the Bristol board, I use waterproof ink both black and assorted colors. My normal style in the comic is to ink in assorted colors so for some of my sketch cards I reproduce that look. For others I just use black India ink. I use my trusty lead holder with 2mm blue lead and a lead pointer. For the actual inking I use dip pens as well as Winsor Newton series 7 sable brushes. I also have a jar of “Pro-White” for making corrections and of course my handy Sakura cordless electric eraser.

I prefer to use Copic sketch markers for my coloring. The aren’t as flexible as using a brush and watercolors, but much faster and easier. Let’s face it, time is money.

Above is an example of an inked and colored sketch card. They aren’t as nice as if I were digitally coloring in Photoshop but these are “old school” hand drawn and colored sketch cards not digital prints.

Above is an assortment of my sketch cards. I want people to be able to handle them at the conventions when they pick out their favorites therefore I needed to protect the art by putting the cards in a self sealing clear plastic bag.

I buy these self sealing clear plastic bags sized 6-7/16″ x 6-1/4″ from a company called Clear Bags. A hundred bags cost $6. The seal is great and it allows the bag to be easily opened and resealed if I need to add an additional autograph ect.

I also take blank sketch cards to the conventions for the occasional on the spot special request, but I really am too busy to do much of that during a normal convention so I try to make up a big stock of cards in advance. I’d much rather be talking to people and showing them the comic and save my drawing work for in the studio. I hope you got some good ideas from this article. If you have any questions, or other thoughts, just leave a comment.

Convention and Show Display Design

My daughter Rachel and I both publish comics on-line. Her comic Last Res0rt is now almost 4 years old, while my comic Bug Pudding has just completed its 9th month. One of the ways that we promote our web comics is by attending conventions. It is a learning experience in many ways. First and foremost, it is a promotional opportunity, but it is also a marketing research opportunity. Conventions and shows provide a great way to gather first hand input from your readers and potential readers. Conventions are also a great opportunity to sell merchandise that can help support your fledgling publishing efforts. In this article, I want to share some of our experiences and conclusions and in particular I want to share the design of our ever evolving convention and show display.

Success at a convention can be measured in many ways and you need to plan your convention presentation to maximize your desired goals for that particular show. The first place to start is with the design of an organized and eye catching display. Here is a picture of  one of Rachel’s early attempts. It’s only a 3 foot wide table space and pretty simple, but it was a start. One of the first things we both learned when looking back at this photo was to ask ourselves the question ” what does the presentation of the display say about our brand?” As you can clearly see in this first attempt, the answer is “not much”.

In 2009 Rachel and I did a major “make over” to her presentation and the results can be seen in this next photo. The branded image has improved considerably.

The addition of  the banner makes quite a statement. The previous display said ” I’m a artist.”  This improved display says ” I’m an artist and I have a web comic to promote.”  But even with this major branding improvement we quickly learned that our visual presentation needed additional improvement. Shows and conventions are very busy places, attracting people and communicating your desired message requires using all of your presentation space to the max. Here is our latest evolution.

We are taking full advantage of all the visual planes and utilizing the vertical space not just the horizontal table space.  One important lesson in promoting your brand at a convention is the simple reality that on average, at most, you are going to get about 30 seconds of mind share from a visitor to your presentation before you lose their attention.  So the more you can present quickly the more you can hope to communicate your message.

One of the challenges presented in designing a display for shows and conventions is the logistical transport of the display itself. So when we were determining how we wanted to expand our presentation, one important consideration was to keep it simple and easy to set-up, break down, and haul around. As far as our current configuration, it all fits into a couple of small tote boxes and a backpack. Another important consideration is that the design has to flexibly be reconfigurable to suit different spacial arrangements. Some conventions allow for 3 foot table space, some 6 foot spaces and some 8 foot spaces. The goal of the presentation is to best utilize the space available.

The vertical frame that we use is constructed out of commonly available components. As seen in the diagram above, the basic foundation uses an amazing product call an Irwin Quick Grip Clamp. It’s a pistol gripped clamp that easily adjusts and clamps to the provided convention table. (see photos below). Rising up from the Irwin clamps we have 3/4″ threaded PVC pipe, the kind that is sold in hardware stores for yard sprinklers. I chose threaded PVC because it makes for easy and secure assembly of the structure. We use an assortment of in-line couplings, tee connectors, 90 degree elbows and snap-on tees as shown. The snap-on tees provide for adjustable “out riggers” which add significantly to the flexibility of this design. The choice of 12″ lengths of pipe also contributes to the ease of adjusting the dimensions to fit an available convention sized table as seen in this 3 foot table version of the display.

Notice the usage of the out riggers as a way of maximizing the vertical space even in a small display and how their positioning can be adjusted depending on the location of your table space in relation to the surrounding tables.

Below you can see the Irwin clamp installed on a table. These things are amazing. They’re not cheap at around $20 each, but they work great.

You may be able to find a less expensive table clamp, but it will be hard to beat these Irwin clamps for ease of usage in set-up and break down of your display frame.

Hanging art or signage from the frame is accomplished using 1 1/2″ binder rings and medium binder clips. As shown below.

I hope that you will find this display design information useful and don’t hesitate to share your own ideas. One last tip that is often over looked by artists planning a convention is build a mock up of your display presentation prior to each convention. You will save yourself lots of last minute surprises by putting it together in advance. Also it gives you time to evaluate how well the set up addresses your desired goal for the showing. You can make sure that you have provided clear and consistent signage and that you are getting the most out of your precious space. OK, it’s show time.

Writing In The Sand

There are a lot of talented people who want to publish there own web comic. I want to share some insight about this type of  undertaking. If you are someone who wants to have your own comic or you have already begun trying to publish a comic, keep reading , because I want you to succeed.  First off, you must embrace certain realities that exist. (1) There is a lot of competition for eyeballs. (2) Nothing matters beyond attracting and holding readers because playing to an empty house is not fun or profitable. (3) Doing a comic is fun, but also really hard work. (4) Writing and drawing the comic is only part of the job.

An Early Model Page of Monroe, a turtle.

To attract readers requires significant work in the form of promotion. And promotion is like writing in the sand on the beach, it has to be done over and over relentlessly, because the waves keep washing away your writing. Also, promotion is totally outside of your comic web site. The comic web site is your publishing platform, nothing else.

When you get a potential reader to land on your site, you have to grab their attention and convince them to return regularly. And, because most people have the attention span of a house fly, they have to be constantly re-attracted. Fancy websites are out there by the millions, it’s the content of the comic and the other content provided by you, the cartoonist, that makes or breaks your presentation. If your content provides the reader with what they want, they will come back, if it doesn’t they won’t. It is just that simple. So focus on what your potential readers want and provide that through your content.

The site itself needs to provide a comfortable place to view the content and clear easy access to the content. Beyond that, it should be totally invisible, the site isn’t the content. I see that mistake all the time, where would be publishers spend all of their time and effort on the look of the web site and totally miss the important stuff.  If you want to publish a comic, your goal is to get yourself up and running on a decent publishing platform. Then your real work begins, which is producing great content and the relentless self promotional work. It doesn’t matter if your comic is great, if no one ever sees it or reads it. It will just die of loneliness. And don’t be confused by the fact that you are a brilliant writer or a super great artist, talent is essential, but there are plenty of talented people who never get discovered or recognized. So, get yourself a big stick and get busy writing in the sand. And, if you get tired of writing with your right hand then switch to your left hand, but don’t stop. If you don’t want to promote, then you don’t want to publish. They are all part of the same thing.