After an intense two months of what felt like non-stop travelling, I've had some time to quickly catch my breath, and I wanted to share some processing I've done in the mean time.
This July saw both Jonathan and I return to Anthrocon after taking a year or two off. In contrast to the half dozen other furry cons we show at regularly, the vibes at AC were... different? As the largest of the longest-running furry conventions (formerly the largest furry con), there seemed to be a lot more people in attendance who were very specifically looking for what they already knew and liked, and who failed to read the mood of my work or meet it on it's own terms. Obviously you expect some degree of this to happen in the context of tabling at a convention, but it felt to be in higher contrast here, and a few interactions in particular felt sour.
Once back home from Anthrocon, the accumulated effects of looking back at this mismatch plus feeling the pressures of trying to prepare my body of personal work for Gencon led me to manifesting a few major changes.
First, I decided that I shouldn't be spending any extra energy on trying to appeal to furries. A lot of my fantastical work will cross over and offer appeal there naturally as it is; I still love doing dragons and other creatures! But the vast majority of my work only appeals to those who are already introspective enough to meet it where it is; in furry, most of the attention will go to work which is more immediately accessible, that is striving to be broadly relateable and direct.
The primary reason that most of the cons I do these days are furry cons is because while it's a space that I do enjoy showing up to, it's also the target audience of my partner Jonathan, who works primarily within the furry fandom. We love working as a team, and when I show up and bring our professional setup, it's easy to stand out in that space. It's still our primary source of income that gets us through the year.
On top of that, I still have found furry cons to be more emotionally receptive to my work than the average comic con; those I must choose very selectively! For example, C2E2 is more entertainment industry focused and is one of the only cons I've ever done that wasn't profitable. Meanwhile, Emerald City Comic Con, run by the same company, has a more indie focus, which has led to it always being my absolutely most successful con. The cultural differences between Chicago and Seattle also are a huge factor there. As it is, there are only two or three mainstream cons that I feel are receptive enough to my work for it to be worth my showing up there. If most of the attendees are going to wait for hours in lines to spend all of their money on celebrity signatures, it's not the con for me.
Suffice to say, it's hard for me to find an audience that responds to my work. Whenever I can find people whom my work appeals to not just on the surface, but on the deeper meanings as well, I'm so appreciative and grateful. But when I do find those people, I know that my work means so much more to them.
It's partially because of that reason that I don't want to compromise on devoting my energy towards the aspects of my work that are the most important to me. As it was, I wasn't doing much in the way of catering towards furry tastes for the heck of it. But I'd entertained the idea as a means of finding some middle ground that was at least doable. In reality, though, I need to just be focusing on continuing to develop the work that I'm the most hungry to create.
This also means that going forward, I won't be publicly taking commissions any more. This is something I'd entertained the idea of before, and I had shifted my language around commissions at cons. I had begun saying things like 'I'm available to do commissions that are in line with the themes and moods of the work you see here", but overall I've found people to largely ignore that statement in favor of inserting what they were looking for. In one particular case at AC, the person I was talking to didn't even look at the work when I gestured to it, and arranged the conversation in such a way that I am convinced that his major intention in the conversation was to make me uncomfortable when he finally revealed that the subject matter he wanted was focused on depictions of his character taking delight in a specific flavor of violence (the only subject matter he ever commissions, apparently).
In general, the conversation over commissions was starting to make me feel used, more often than not. People would see my ability to render things well and completely disregard the what and why of said paintings. That's not to say I haven't had plenty of wonderful clients, both past and potential, who were in love with my work for the very reasons I produced it in the first place. And I don't want to dismiss those people! But having the conversation at all feels as though it distracts from focusing on the work that's already on the table, at this point.
For the majority of you reading this post, nothing will be changing in a way that I expect you'll miss. I know there are still a handful of you out there who had been hoping to commission me some day, or that had already discussed such with me. If that's the case, feel free to reach out! I'd love to see about working together with people who are invested in my personal work, to create pieces which feel as though they already belong in that body of work.
But it does mean the end of a more traditional approach to commissions for me; probably no more character commissions, or anything with a lot of art direction. I want to focus on concepts and feelings and explorations that I've not been able to afford time for as of yet. And more than anything, I'm really excited to share that journey with you all.
Thank you again to everyone for your time and understanding, and as always, please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions!