The Salt Lake Comic-Con was intense this year! Sooo many people. I'm still figuring out how to be a good exhibitor, so I'm not going to speak to that, I have a lot to learn. But I feel like I made the most of being an attendee in the years before I became a professional. What I mean by that is being a student, not just a fan and not necessarily in school, but as someone eager to learn and who really wants to be part of the pop-entertainment industry as a creator and contributor instead of just a consumer. I clearly remember being on the other side of the table, feeling like an outsider of a club I so desperately wanted to be part of.
As a student of my heroes (I still am, but the opportunities to learn take a different form) I saw the Con as my only access to them face to face. I went to my first Con out of state. I was a student in college and scrapped together the money it cost, prepped and stressed over every image in my portfolio, and set out grateful and hoping somebody would give me 5 minutes of their time. My experiences were priceless and worth every penny. Those moments definitely helped pave the way and open doors. I can't thank enough all those people who gave me those 5 minutes.
1. I got a portfolio together that represented my immediate ability level. Only my best work, which is always the newest. ~12 images of the work I want to be doing, on quality paper. Your portfolio is who you are. Everyone has hope and potential but it's what you've done that matters. There is no excuse for poor prints or old work that you could top now but haven't. If you want to know what your objective strengths and weaknesses are, you need a current portfolio to put them all on display.
2. I knew exactly what I wanted to be. Whenever anyone asked, the ticket taker, fellow attendees, especially the pros I talked to, I had a clear answer that set the context for a unique and useful portfolio critique. When asked 'What do you want to be?' and your answer is 'I don't know,' no one will know what kind of advice to give you. Generic questions get generic answers.
3. I answered their questions and I listened to their answers. Excuses are shortcomings, so I didn't put them on display in my portfolio. They aren't asking you why an image isn't better, and an excuse won't save it or change their mind. They're telling you how it could be better. Your hero wants to share with you the tools that will help. Acknowledge your short-comings them for what they are, then go home and get rid of them. That you can't see your weaknesses only illustrates why you aren't better. So listen.
4. I always asked for a critique, not a job. Let's get real, everyone wants a job and they know you want one. But the reality is that they're not giving out jobs, they're giving out critiques. If you impress them, then maybe they can put in good word for you later. So do that. People are impressed by those who are prepared to better themselves, no matter how good you actually are.
I always walked into a Con extremely optimistic that all my fresh best work would finally buy me the acclaim of those I admired, I was confident my work couldn't be any better. And I always walked away feeling knocked down and eager to leave the trash behind that my freshly opened eyes saw in my weekend old portfolio. But most importantly, I left knowing I could do better.
Next Con rinse and repeat.