This was fun, maddening, scary and the best time I have ever had painting!

This was fun, maddening, scary and the best time I have ever had painting!

What a strange trip. This madness all started, as I think most endeavours do, with a conversation.  Which then lead into a tangible notion,quickly followed by various questionable behaviors, in turn culminating to this incredible experience.  Wait was that first paragraph too obtuse? You want further detail? Let me begin again.

Late October 2014, maybe it was November, nope October. Having a beer at a nearby distillery/bar/restaurant somewhere in the recesses of upstate NY with some close friends.

 

Me: So, just went to (2014) Comic Con. Gotta say, was pretty cool. Looked into being an exhibitor while I was there. I’m thinking...it's do-able. 
Friend 1: Sounds great, what would you be selling there?
Me: Prints I suppose.
Friend 2: Prints of what.
Me: Robots, what else?
Friend 2:  Duh, I know, which robot prints…dillhole.Your robots larping series? 
Me: Nah, son! Need something new, I was thinking about something more related to Comic Con.
Friend 1: Your robots in movie scenes works. I guess you could sell those.
Me: Yeah, I could go that route but I was thinking more along the lines of…
Friend 1: Sexbots.
Me: hmm..not what I was..
Friend 1: Pornbots!
Me: Dude, stop derailing me.
Friend 2: Ha ha, pornbots! That would be great, ok.. continue.
Me: ...superfriends. Robots cosplay as justice League.
Friend 2: Cool.
Friend 1: Pornbot would be cooler.
Me: (ignoring him)...set in a 9x9 grid like Brady bunch.
Friend 2: Why Brady bunch?
Me: Superfriends started in ‘79. Overlaps with Brady bunch. Also, because all that shit makes me smile. 
Friend 1: Retro...and that pop shit sells.
Me: I guess, it's really just for me. Things I like and find cool. It’s kinda like an amalgamation of my childhood interests. Plus I’m not really selling my originals.
Friend 2: Wait, The Brady Bunch was your childhood interest...as a fetus?!
Me: Reruns you asshat. Yeah, I watched all those shows; eight is enough, partridge family...all dat shit. 70’s light comedy family drama with large families...hilarious. What’s not to like?
Friend 2: Yeah, those were pretty funny. If you like lame shit. Ha ha, just kidding, actually, not really. But... you're going to do Comicon and NOT sell anything?
Friend 1: Yeah, you're going to spend all that cash to be there and NOT sell anything.
Me: hmmm, yeah. Look, I'll sell prints, I haven’t figured out the merchandise aspect yet. But paintings? I haven't really decided on selling any paintings there. 
Friend 2: So you WON'T sell if say someone comes by and says like I want your shit for like a bazillion or some shit. Lies.
Me: Not really looking to sell paintings there. TRADES maybe? This kind of thing. You know barter system. Ha ha, that would be great. I’ll trade you a painting for like a goat or something. I dunno, look all’s I know is;

1.)  I really want to do this and 

2.)  It would be a completely new experience for me because there are so many unknowns and like I said...I like doing things that scare me a little.

Friend 1: Yeah well, fits. YOU scare me a little.
Friend 2: What, you need goats? Why does he need goats?
Me: No, just saying. Just using that as an example, you know barter system back in the day I dont need goats...wait...maybe.  What can you do with a goat? Goat cheese. Nevermind.  Like whatever I need/don't have. 
Friend 1: I know what you’d do with a goat. 
Me: Ok...wait for it...FU.  Stop projecting your secret fantasies on me. Can we get off the topic of goats?
Friend 1: I know you get off on….ok ok, fine I’ll stop I know you're trying to be serious. By the way...not really your strong suit.  You gotta stop setting me up with those lines.
Me: Dick. Can we go back to the paintings now, you goddamn infant.
Friend 2: Oooh, I’ll trade you my bike for that Fear and Loathing painting. 
Me: I don't want your busted cafe project.  I have one already, one that RUNS. No, but that's not what I'm talking about here.  Comic Con, I think I’d like to do that.
Friend 1: Sounds like you don’t even know what the hell you’ll be doing there. So why are you doing it? It’s not cheap.  
Me: I know, I love comics and being part of Comic Con appeals to me tremendously. Maybe...ooh idea, live painting. Like I did at the Portuguese Festival and the studio tour. ‘course that was a way smaller scale... live painting in front of THAT many people is a scary challenge.
Friend 1: Live painting...live painting of what? Robots, I know but what...
Me: Dunno, something I like I...maybe a tryptic of Batman, Supes and Wonder Woman. It's in October so maybe 3 horror icons, Freddy Kruger, Jason from Friday the 13th and...I guess Pinhead?
Friend 2: I dunno about the horror theme...
Friend 1: Dude. Do the movie scene series, your Kurt Russell tryptic finished yet?
Me: No, plus I’m thinking I should do a completely new painting set for the ‘Con.
Friend 2: Oh the ’Con, really. Your soo cool calling it the ‘Con. You sound like a dick.
Me: Oh, Double FU. Yes the ‘Con.
Friend 1: Ok, so you are going to do a series of that brady bunch thing you were talking about AND a live painting. All this and you're NOT selling them? Bro, you never make any sense. Comic Con is cool, I know work takes me there but again it's not cheap. 
Me: I get it, I am aware of the cost. Let's just put that aside, I am just throwing some ideas up.
Friend 1: Ok so, where? San Diego, ‘cuz I can tell you right now. Tough as shit to get into.  You have to win like an Eisner award to even get a chance for a review. Seattle, that's the show.  Thats where all the REAL artists go. If you're intent on doing this insanity...Do Seattle. Seriously...go to the Seattle ‘Con. Your artwork is original, I doubt they would turn you away.  Speaking of which did you talk to the NYC ComicCon people? You need to be accepted first. This all means shit if they reject your application.
Me:  Naw, yeah you told me about Seattle already. But I’m thinking NYC. Its close and I don't have to worry about shipping whatever. Oh and I already showed them my stuff and they were psyched about it and said I would have no problems getting in, so I’m good there.
Friend 1: True. But seriously, why Comicon? How about a Gallery show? 
Friend 2: Dude, he's so stubborn, I told him that already. (looking at me) YOU are an ARTIST. YOU should do a gallery show. Galleries are where people who do...BUY art. They don't sell cars at Hot Topic...just saying.
Me:  Yes, yes, yes. I know, but I really don't like the whole gallery scene, just kinda rubs me the wrong way. Im looking for MY audience, pretty sure they go to ‘Cons rather than ‘Wine and Cheese-ers”. Plus, and I think I mentioned this to you guys before. When it comes to painting I follow my instinct and it has never failed me when I do. My instinct is telling me NOT to do a gallery show.
Friend 1: Your instinct is telling you to be broke and give your shit away, huh?
Me: No it's just not the direction it wants to go...I pay attention to my instinct, and learned to trust it.
Friend 1: Ha! Is that what it said about (your ex)? 
Me: Ha ha, you're hilarious. Douche.
Friend 2:  Ok my bike AND my Hellboy maquette for your Fear and Loathing painting…huh? I know you love that maquette.
Me:  Damn, I do love that maquette…but ah, no. Plus it's not even finished.
Friend 1: Ah nevermind, look at him. He’s going to do Comic Con anyway, I know that look. Why did you even ask our opinion?
Me: I didn’t I was just telling you what I was thinking...plus I like hearing the milquetoast point of view.
Friend 1: Eat a bag of burnt choads,(finishes beer) ok where to next?
Friend 2: Well I got a full tank of gas and a hankerin’ for cheesesteaks.
Me: Tony Lukes? It’s a hike though.
Friend 1: Down.
Friend 2: Ohhhh yeah, Tony Lukes! You read my f’n mind Gilo! 

Upon my return from my ventures,I had now tasked myself with this notion. Robots in cosplay as the justice league in the brady bunch 9 square grid. This means 9 individual paintings.  9 paintings which need to be photographed. 9 paintings that needed to be merchandised, then there was the logistics of the show, which I had not even confirmed yet. Shit.

I put this is sparse information in a gantt chart that looked like this:

Much like every gantt chart in existence, that drop dead date was hard to enter. Even harder to look at.

Luckily my last consultant job was for a german lux auto brand with ridiculous deadlines. I padded some time for misfortunes and delays and made sure to hit milestones. That was the main reason I managed to keep my spotless record of never missing a project deadline.  So…should be good, yeah?

Here was the challenge in a nutshell:

1. I have NEVER done a convention for this type of work.
2. I have NEVER done anything at the JAVITZ or at that scale.
3. I have not even started painting this series.
4. shit.

Ok, now I have a rough timeline for deliverables based on GD wishes and dreams (see how I talk…business lingo kid!) and now the question is: JUST HOW THE HELL DO I START THIS MADNESS!

Firstly:
Define what I wanted to accomplish. This was to my underlying mantra for the whole show. Helped me define my scope and parameters early. I use this as my guiding principle for the decisions to follow.  If there was any question of how to prioritize my resources...all I had to do was ask, “Does this fit into my definition of what I wanted to accomplish.”  This seemingly unimportant first step helped tremendously when I had some tough choices to make regarding funds and time.

“Showcase my work and this new series for Comicon. Hopefully attract some robot painting followers. Have a fucking blast at the con.”

Painting Phase:

So with the initial concept stated, the goal was to realize its execution. How do I start? What would the overall layout be? How would the characters be positioned? Color scheme? I had no idea. Well guess I’d just better start.

Step 1:  Grab a shit load of canvas boards and start comping. Square canvas boards 12”(30.48CM) x 12”(30.48CM)  is a good size to comp since the final output will be roughly 60-70% larger 20”(50.8CM) x 20”(50.8CM).

Step 2: I began with rough shapes and taped dem shits to the floor. Why? So people can step all over them during the kickoff party. Again, why right? Part of the process. Why? Well, I found that if i fell in love or became precious of any of my sketches it was hard for me to change or correct due to the urge to keep a beautiful part of the painting.  Even if it threw the rest of the painting off (I will explain this in further detail when I get to my difficulties with Robin-top left in another post).

If I am precious with my art, then there's no room for growth...so stomp on these, please!

If I am precious with my art, then there's no room for growth...so stomp on these, please!

Step:3: Start to paint on finished size. 

Shit thats a lotta canvas.

Shit thats a lotta canvas.

Step 4: Paint paint paint. This was my schedule for 3 solid months: 

Work til 5 then Paint til fatigue (I think the gym rats call that a super-set), ignore everything else because your self induced deadline demands it. Girlfriend pissed because you're spending all your time in the studio? Doesn't matter, keep painting. Your favorite band is playing? Doesn't matter, keep painting. Glorious day out, take the bike out and ride down the to the shore? Doesn't matter, keep painting.  I think you get the point. (CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW FOR SLIDESHOW)

 

(INSET PAINTING GALLERY HERE)

Step 5: Varnish or “flavor seal” dem sombiches, makes it more better.

Step 6: Panic that your shit is no good, drink some more scotch and ignore that title fucking voice.

Step 7: Photograph for prints and/or merch.  

Step 8:  Merchandize. Merchandize what? Damned if I know at this point. This was going to be a tricky procedure, since I really had no idea of what to sell. Prints were very boring, everyone does prints. Also I remembered at the show lst time when I bought prints I hated having to carry them around in a delicate fashion as not to have it damaged.  Smaller things proved less perishable so I was thinking a card set.  The square format of the paintings made that an easy notion.  

While talking with a co-worker in the office the notion of cards came up and he pointed me to a printer he uses.  On their website I saw magnets and thought, whoa these things would look good on a fridge, it's the one space that even the micro apartments of NYC have.  Bingo-Bango! That was easy.

These were very popular.

These were very popular.

 

Now all I had to do was get them made, hopefully in the right timeframe. Getting the photos ready and coordinating with the printers to color match would add an undetermined back and forth collaboration. I had used some of my padded time to get the photos set, how was I gonna do this?

After thinking about it for a bit, the main reason the back and forth would take time, even with the online proofs meant that shipping was an issue and would eat into my already withering timeline.  Hmm.  Local printers! That way I can do spot proofs and cut a lot of back and forth time off.  Luckily I still had contacts in the print world and knew a local shop that was more than happy to do this with me, especially after I told them what the final product was.  Lucky!

Oh and needed shirts for the crew!

Oh and needed shirts for the crew!

 

Step 9: Bust your ass working your 9-5 to get enough scratch to pay all the printers, exhibit promoters, and ship/transportation to show. Obvious, right.  Well my friend did say it wasn't cheap.

Step 10: shit nerves, repeat step 6.

Pre show checklist:  This was a handy thing to have leading up to the show.

Well the time flew by, heres what I had on the pipeline:  Merch, booth materials, displays and show schedule...ok.  

The set up: Day 0

Enlisting the help of one of my friends - the SASSQUATCH! I piled all of my junk into a Yukon XL and drove all of it down to the exhibitor setting of the Javitz.

Luckily the boys at ReedPOP (the company that runs NYCCOMICCON) gave me the skinny on getting in early and waiting online.  NYC is a huge pain to get around in, especially those who have to install, deliver or pickup bulk items. I have more respect for the trucks UPS guys delivering in the city now.  What a pain in the d**k. However, those cats at ReedPOP really know how to organize. The setup was crazy simple, after the materials were forklifted onto the showfloor we set up. This is where my planning came into play.  I recreated the booth both in my studio and backyard to what it would look like when I got there. Done.

Booth materials loaded into place.

When I go t there, my area was marked off and my materials were fork lifted into this pot. The setup took like 1 hour max (just like my test in the back yard) , with monitor and pop up walls holding actual paintings. Done.  All before noon, time to go to the pub for lunch and a beer. I'm awesome! Until, a couple o' beers and a double cheeseburger burger later - casually strolling to the area to clean up and leave. Getting back in, there's this dude with a clipboard waiting for us at my booth.  He’s standing there and says “your booth?

Booth version 1

Booth version 1

Booth after Floor Police make us move EVERYTHING to fit.

Booth after Floor Police make us move EVERYTHING to fit.


Me: Yes.
Floor Police: Your are 4 inches outside of your mark.
Me: Yeah I know but the pop up walls kinda stick out but it's not too bad.  Just a couple of inches over (seriously it was like 2).
Floor Police:  Actually you can't have them outside your mark. Safety hazard. Please fix immediately or I will have to close your booth.

Great. What was a 1 hour setup became an ordeal of maneuvering the popup panels and artwork to fit. Problem was -  the collapsable walls that held up my signage was JUST making the current mark, now all that had to be reset. Damn. Oh well, right.  3 hours of shimming and moving around walls led to frustration and some frayed nerves, but as always; needs must as the devil drives and we somehow managed to make some adjustments.  4 hours later it was done- we had to squees the pop up wall a bit and drape the signage with wires, not as great a setup as planned but again: needs must...blah blah.

Sketched some jibberish on the plastic covering the canvas just for a good and off I went for some sleep before the big day.

Sketch for Live Painting, typically how I sketch most of my paintings;)

Damn the amount of bodies moving through this place is insane! 

Outside on opening day. Damn. What did I get myself into?

Outside on opening day. Damn. What did I get myself into?

Day 1:
As crowds poured in I began attacking the canvas. With headphones on, I began the task of getting this thing done.  I usually paint with music and I think maybe the nerves got to me at the start but it soon settled down and I became very comfortable. Periodically, Iwould take breaks and talk with some onlookers or folks who bought magnets, prints or raffle tickets.  This process kinda came organically. Painting until I needed a break- worked well.  But I found that for the most part I was painting more than I was taking breaks. This was due to the fact that I really wanted the basic image to start to appear so that onlookers could make sense of what I was actually making.  Worked out well, but left me little time to really engage with the audience.

Fortunately my crew handled most of that.  This was a boon since, even thought I paint the base layer fast. It still required my full focus and attention.

Off and running, amidst the chaos - here's the progress from end of day 1.

Off and running, amidst the chaos - here's the progress from end of day 1.

Day 2: 
This day set the tone for the rest of my painting throughout the convention.  More of the same from day one. However since the basic structure came was easily discerned by the crowd, it gave me more time to talk to those interested in the work and allowed me more time to grab beers and sandwiches from the cafeteria area and relax. This was rather more relaxed than the fist day.

Day 3:
By now this had become a groove that I settled in on.  It was I would say the best day, slowed the painting down a bit more and really got a chance to talk to more folks about what I was doing. 

Day 4.

Day 4.

Day 4:
Well this was the last day. Man, that went fast.  With the base painting near completion, the raffle was drawn at 4 pm and the tweet was sent out to the winner and later was posted on the website. No answer, but since we had raffle ticket holders throw their phone number in, we contacted them and they were ecstatic!

Finished after CominCon and delivered to Raffle winner!

 

Final thoughts:
So what did I get out of this madness? What didn’t I get. For me , this was the best example of follow your instinct in practice. I generally use that principle to guide my decisions regarding painting. Instinct drives my color selection, themes and painting style. 

Follow your instincts - this idea means more to me than an inspiring social media post. I trust my instincts fully - your subconscious guides it. Your subconscious, IMHO is always looking out for your survival. I think its part of that tiny bit of primordial jelly in our cerebral cortex that we inherited from our ancestors. Can’t take credit for that last part. I got it from “Day of the Dead - G. Romero; although he was talking about Zombies and their insatiable instinct for human flesh. I’m using it here because- well because it fits and… it sounds awesome.

Anyway, I think my participation in NYC COMICON 2015 was the best example of that so far. We will see how my instinctual rejection of gallery show and in turn the whole art industry will play out:)

This was a challenge I gave myself, something I wanted to do based on the underlying notion that if I really wanted to do something-anything-what would it be.  So glad I did that, I meet fantastic people, was part of an amazing event and redefined what I could do when I do not limit myself. 

My takeaway can be best described as; Goddamn that was fun!