The Artist Alley gives artists a chance to branch out

Published on Friday, 09 March 2012 in The Calgary Journal

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo provides local artists a venue to sell their art

THUMBEDITArtist-Alley Johnny-LuuWhen John Luu isn’t working his day job as a sales representative for Sony’s PlayStation gaming system, he is focusing on his art.

An artist from a young age, Luu said that he was the type of person to often neglect other high school classes in favour of art class.

“I often just draw comic book characters, but this is the year I’m trying to get into drawing more of my own creations,” Luu said.

A look through his workbook reveals drawings and sketches of famous superheroes, such as Batman or Wonder Woman, which he is preparing for this year’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.

He originally started off at a smaller expo at the Red and White Club, then moved to the Calgary Expo when it first started in 2006.

Luu is taking part in the Calgary Expo’s Artist Alley, a collection of local artists who participate in the expo by showcasing and selling their art. A walk down the alley reveals different and unique takes on characters in pop culture today, ranging from the cute characters of “My Little Pony” to lesser-known cult favourites like “Deadpool.”EDITArtist-Alley Johnny-Luu

Johnny Luu and one of the drawings he’s preparing to sell at this year’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
Photo by: Jeffrey Medhurst

The Artist Alley is one of the few chances Calgarians have to see local talent in the city. There are only a few conventions a year that give this type of opportunity.

“There’s a lot of talent in the city that people don’t see unless they come to the expo,” Luu said.

Stephen Hodges, spokesperson for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo said the Artist Alley came into existence when the show itself was created. The show’s founder, Kandrix Foong, was once also a comic book writer who travelled the country adding similar conventions in other cities, all of them having an Artist Alley where the local talent would showcase their art.

“When Kandrix came back to the expo and had the vision for the expo in his big, beautiful brain, he knew that it needed an Artist Alley,” Hodges said.

At this point the Calgary Expo has sold 90 per cent of the tables available to artists in the expo, with the event itself still being two months away.

Opportunities for local artists

Another expo veteran, Michael Rieger, said that he usually walks away from it with an extra $1,000 or so in his pocket.

“I couldn’t make a full time job out of it, but I make some good money,” Rieger said.

EDITArtist-Alley Mike-Rieger

Mike Rieger shows off his cartoonish renders of the cast of Firefly for this year’s expo.
Photo by: Jeffrey Medhurst

More than just a chance to earn some money, however, the Artist Alley is also a chance for artists to network with one another – and for a lucky few, it could be a chance to break into the comic book industry. Luu has been working hard every year to try and get his name out there.

“I promote myself as much as possible to try and get that network base and hopefully branch out into the industry,” Luu said. “It’s one of the hardest industries to get into, so the expo is really good for that.”

One of Marvel Comics’ talent scouts will be at the show this year looking for fresh new faces and ideas to enter into the expo itself, said Hodges.

“What’s great about having an artist’s alley at the show is a chance for the local artists to network with the industry bigs.”

Even if they aren’t trying to break into the comic industry, other local artists such as Rieger, who works professionally as a graphic designer, can still use the opportunity to further network themselves in different areas.

“I hand out more business cards then I can count,” Rieger said.

Fun’s the name of the game

Despite the challenge that comes with breaking into the industry, artists like Luu still say the Calgary Expo is still a lot of fun.

“Every year’s been great. They pull off a good show. Even those of us in the Artist’s Alley get treated pretty well,” Luu said.

“Even if you’re not a comic fan, you were once a fan of Digimon, or Spider-Man, or He-Man,” Hodges said. “Everyone has that inner geek, so I think when you stroll down Artist Alley you can embrace that inner geek and remind yourself of your childhood and then post it on your wall proudly back home.”

And Hodges said he thinks meeting the artist who drew that new poster on your wall is just as valuable as an Adam West autograph.

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo takes place April 27 – 29.

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