Reasons why you shouldn’t support Colossalcon, part one.
Do you love and support your convention’s AA? Do you believe that people should be treated fairly, especially by a professional organization?
Then please, please spread the word about this unfair treatment. Things need to change, and we have the power to change it.
I am writing this post not only because Colossalcon used to be my favorite convention, which I have been attending for six consecutive years to cosplay and volunteer at my (now)girlfriend’s art table… but also because a great injustice has been done to the hard-working artists who attend. This con has had our love, our praise, and constant support.
But this year, we refuse to support them back.
Note: Mister Donnell Shoffner’s name has not been edited out of the above images, as he has been posting publicly on the Colossalcon FB page… as well as handling all of the AA public relations. He has been commenting as his personal FB page, which is also for public viewing. All of this information can be seen publicly. I am merely spreading the word.
Here are some general points that I’d like to make clear regarding this whole fiasco.
As you may have heard, the AA was switched to a jury system this year. The artists who applied for tables were all aware of this information. However, the artists were not informed how they would be juried… and this has caused a great deal of distress, and mistrust, among the artists.
Naturally, people have been left wondering why they didn’t get a spot. These are artists who have supported this con for many years,and whose art was always accepted… “always good enough” and who have developed convention-specific fanbases. They are now completely left in the dark… people who look forward to this convention, who work hard, and even some who travel from out of state to attend. Was the art actually judged? Was it judged fairly? Did personal biases come into play, both to the artists themselves or their artwork? There is no way to know… especially given how the jury has reacted once artists started sending in their inquiries.
Now, a jury system is all well and fine. Rejection happens, and that’s certainly life. We would never deny that. But the way that the situation has been handled has been strictly unprofessional, and oftentimes downright rude. It’s one thing to be told that you didn’t receive a table, it’s another thing entirely to be told why… which is what the artists want. That’s a simple enough task. Instead, the artists received a rudely written email, simply explaining that all artists were ranked, but their ranking (or reasons for their ranking) couldn’t be known… Here’s what it said: “The top 30 average scores were accepted right away. The next 30 were wait-listed. The final 200, while possessing scores, were not ranked in any order, because what would the point be? No one wants to be #230 on the wait list. “
It would have been a lot simpler to simply say “Here’s who got in, and who didn’t…and here are the reasons… thank you all and good luck ” rather than this very strange and shady-sounding ranking system… which is still not described in any way.
Why is all of this unfair, you might ask? BECAUSE THE ARTISTS WERE NEVER INFORMED ABOUT THE CRITERIA UPON WHICH THEY WERE JUDGED. And as it stands, still haven’t been. What good is a system if it can’t even be elaborated upon? What exactly was scored? What did this system involve? Were only certain genres accepted? Was it all new blood being brought in? Was it actually just personal bias, being covered up by a professional nature? We have gotten nothing. Instead of a little information, the artists have received defensive, poorly-written, rude, and condescending responses… none of which actually answered the artists questions. All the artists require, is a bit of information as to what they can improve upon in the future for a possible AA spot… is that truly so much to ask?
Upon receiving so-called “hatemail” from upset artists and con-goers, the first image was how Donnell responded… as you might agree, it was written towards “the few” who had sent hatemail, rather than “the many” who did nothing at all.. They contradict themselves by saying that “being in the bottom 200 doesn’t mean your art sucks or that we think your art sucks” (in those exact, and quite unprofessional terms) directly after saying “the overall quality of art was exponentially better this year.” They go on to include all accusations thrown their way, in a defensive and downright rude tone… even going as far as to deny any bribes that may have occurred, in which judges could have slept with the artists for an in.
Even more, to add insult to injury, they encourage the rejected artists to show up at the Thursday Craft Fair… at the cost of admission, of course… and to “walk past us with your twenties fanned out and make us extremely jelly.”
This isn’t professional. This is dealing with children. Who wants to support this sort of behavior? Certainly not me.
But it gets worse.
Mister Donnell Shoffner seems not to know what “privacy” means, and has left his FB open to the general public… so that people can see how truly unprofessional he is. The last two images in the photoset show what he and his friends really thinks about artists… here are some highlights:
- Threatening to abolish the artist alley entirely because that’s the only way to be “fair” to everyone
- Referring to not getting a table as some sort of “defeat”rather than a growing or learning experience
- Insinuating that all artists are “entitled children” who have no concept of the world… and who only want an art table to get free admission to the con itself.
- Undermining the value of artists and their hard work, by stating that artists clearly “don’t make a living” off of conventions that they attend (and if they think they do, they’re fooling themselves)
- Treating the entire situation as little more than a joke, and posting the status on his personal FB page so that “his friends could get a chuckle out of it.”
- Insisting that “any response” regarding the rejection is better than no response… because “when you apply for college, they won’t give you as much.”
- Stating that dealers would gladly pay 4 times the amount that artists pay for an artist spot.
I repeat. He actually stated… that he feels no sense of loss from artists no longer supporting this con, because the dealers pay more. DEALERS PAY MORE.
Is that what this is about? Is it all about the money?
A dismissive and defensive rejection letter is one thing… but this sort of mindset just illustrates how narrow-minded, opinionated and uninformed people can abuse a position of power.
This ignorance and staggeringly childish behavior saddens me deeply. Many artists, my girlfriend for example.. are on the pro-level (college graduated, published, the works). She’s not a baby, she doesn’t want to get into the con for free. She simply wants to support this con, as she has for many years now, and be supported in return. She wants to be treated fairly. She’s brought money and customers to this convention… family and friends and loved ones. She believes in new artists being brought in, as well as the old ones staying… as that is how conventions thrives. And in response, she hasn’t even been given the valuable information regarding how precisely she can improve in the future, or what her portfolio should include, to be considered once again someday. Insinuations that she’s a “butthurt child” or that her spot isn’t nearly worth the same value as a dealer’s table… are all simply insulting. And we refuse to support this kind of behavior from such a “professional” group of individuals who claim to have the proper mileage and credentials to judge the work of the attending artists.
In closing, a jury system is based on trust. The way these people are acting, and their disgusting behavior towards the artists who support their con with their time and money, is destroying this trust.
All people wanted to know, was the basic info regarding the criteria upon which their artwork was judged.. so that they may know if it’s worth trying again in the future, or if they should not bother at all. Criticism is part of growing. Artists know this. But they are not able to grow when the information won’t be disclosed. Instead they get defensive responses and a “shut up and deal with it, that’s life, so stop being butthurt” attitude.
Why is it unfair, you might ask? BECAUSE THE ARTISTS WERE NEVER TOLD ON WHAT CRITERIA THEY WERE SO HARSHLY, AND RUDELY, JUDGED. Instead, we get poorly-written, rude, condescending responses… when all the artists require, is a bit of information as to what they can improve upon in the future for a possible artists spot…
To quote my very knowledgeable friend, who has worked AAs fairly for many years now: “The judges MUST be impartial and fair, and they MUST have a clearly defined set of criteria to choose from that is made public well before the deadline for application. Anything short of this will breed doubt and mistrust among ALL of the artists, even those that got in.
Without either of these, artists who didn’t get accepted will wonder whether the system is rigged or if the judges are competent. Artists who do get accepted run the risk of looking like they might have done something underhanded to get past the judges. Only when the judges are fair and the criteria is public can the art community clearly see why someone made it in and why someone didn’t. Even if only the most pro artists made it in, at least everyone would understand WHY that happened.”
This con has not been impartial, and quite frankly, I’ve lost all respect for them. They are losing my respect, my business, my vacation plans… which I have planned excitedly with for many years now.
Goodbye, Colossalcon. And good riddance until you clean up your sorry act.
Why you won’t see me at Colossalcon this year. I know to some people it’s not a big deal and the artists denied won’t be missed, but I’m sick of artists at cons being treated so poorly and with such condescension, or like a throwaway resource. The conventions I feel comfortable attending and supporting grow smaller and smaller. Here’s just yet another example. :/
I’ve unfortunately been part of this drama, and I’ve done some commenting on other forums, but I’d like to add in my two cents here, and address some of the issues brought up here.
First, let me say that I am sixth on the waiting list. I have no idea what this means, as they also did not tell me WHY I am on the waiting list above or below people - they didn’t give ME any of the criteria they were looking for. I do not know anyone on staff. I have DEFINITELY not slept with anyone on staff (not that I feel that should even be brought up - THAT was definitely unprofessional). I am a resident of Ohio (does that count for anything in con?) The email I received was short, to the point, and did not bring up any juried system (I didn’t even know it was juried). My position on the waitlist is what it is - and I am instead planning on doing a different convention that weekend instead, as the staff there have been willing to work with myself and another friend. My convention cohort Becca (nattosoup) was one of the 200 who was unranked, and her email was not as pleasant or concise - rather, it did involve this mention of the 200 unranked artists, and we both found it very rudely worded, but not enough to send hate mail (though she did comment it was rude on her twitter). Becca is also a professional artist - she has even done work for VIZ and LEGO - and we are both unaware of the judging credentials they used. My big issues are really the way this situation has escalated and this particular colossalcon staff person’s accusations against the artists.
I am a professional artist who gets paid to do artwork (illustration and comics.) I use conventions to sell my artwork and make money, yes, but honestly, I couldn’t make a living off of conventions. (Some people do. I’m just not at that point.) But more than making money, conventions are important for making contacts both in and out of the art/creative community - fans, other creators, talking to your audience, promoting your work, possibly even finding jobs (which has happened for me multiple times at cons).
LET ME REPEAT THIS BECAUSE ITS IMPORTANT. AS AN ARTIST, CONS ARE NOT SOLELY ABOUT MAKING MONEY. IT IS ABOUT CREATING A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS AND FANS. IT IS ABOUT PROMOTING YOUR WORK, MAKING CONNECTIONS, AND GETTING BETTER.
Now, that being said, art is not a very well-paying profession to begin with (and why not? I’ve talked about this some, but its an argument for later.) In our younger years especially (before we may or may not find some fame) we have to kind of scrape by. But much of this is often because the time and effort spend in creating art isn’t valued as work. (hint: many artists make LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE for what is a very skilled profession that takes years to become competent in). Many of us do this because it is what we love. Because we cannot picture ourselves happy in any other job. Regardless, we don’t have a lot of money to play with often, and conventions are expensive (for hotels, food, attendance/table, travel - just the cost of BEING at a convention - I often pay over $500, often as much as $700). This also doesn’t take into account money I spend producing the works I will sell there - not materials to make originals, not printing costs, not the time or effort. As an artist, I can’t afford to do this for fun. This is part of my job. This is part of how I get noticed by publishers and editors (yes, some do attend anime cons, though generally only the bigger cons like otakon and acen and some west-coast cons.) This is how I make connections in the comics and illustration industries and pick up freelance work. This is how I get face time with people, and that gets people reading my work. But it is also how I do get some income - and I NEED conventions that I attend to essentially pay back their cost, or I can’t afford them. I want to make $600 at a con so I can continue to make work, continue to make comics, and continue to meet other fans and creators. But these are not vacations.
Almost all artists who work professionally and attend conventions don’t get to leave their tables much. They pay two to five times the cost of an average attendee to be at the convention and see the inside of a room or the back of a table the whole weekend. I attend almost no panels (I often do not have a table assistant to watch my table if I was to leave), I do not get to participate in cosplay competitions or do any of the activities other attendees do. I don’t get to go see guests. I don’t get to go to concerts. I don’t even get to do events after the alley closes (if it closes) as I often have take-home commissions to do that evening in the hotel. Additionally, we very often do not get any of the swag other attendees get, and are treated like nuisances by staff (yet there are people sleeping in hallways, or causing disturbances, or getting their body paint all over hotel property, etc.etc. Generally, artists are very well behaved.) It seems then like we are paying two to five times the amount of other attendees to have the privilege of being tied to a 2x6’ piece of wood and wearing ourselves out all weekend.
As to getting in for less money. Yes, I have done many conventions where I have also done panels or artwork for the convention in exchange for part or all of a table or badge cost being comped. However, let me tell you what these would cost if bought from a professional artist or professor. As a holder of a master’s degree, I am qualified to teach at the university level, meaning I could be teaching those $3000+ classes a quarter at scad. I could be charging upwards of $150/hour for my time. I am instead getting maybe $50 worth of table/badge for free. As an illustrator, I charge at least $200 for a single image and its reproduction rights (that is important, btw - selling reproduction rights is just as much of the image.) Doing artwork for a convention could mean as many as 10 illustrations (thats $2000 for those of you who dont like math). And again, I may get comped at most $200 worth of stuff. No actual payment, just compensation. Now, conventions need programming, and conventions like having nice covers for their books, and badges for attendees, and flyers to put out at other cons, and attractive merchandise. There are some cons that would prefer to hire professional illustrators (or certain illustrators), and not all artists or panelists suit the needs of every convention, but this is a viable trade of goods and service.
The other big thing that should be brought up here is the way artist alleys are handled. There are several different systems in place for getting tables at artist alleys: lottery, first come first serve (fcfs), and juried. While no convention may ever owe us an explanation of which system they use, it definitely helps with applications for artists. Unfortunately, lottery systems do get people who have “friends” or “cousins” that will also put in, trying to increase the chances for an artist. FCFS systems get people hovering over the refresh button to make sure they get a spot (sometimes crashing servers.) Juried cons should be the most fair of all these systems, then, however it is hard on artists who are younger and developing (as they may not be good enough to compete with more established artists/craftspeople). However, we would LIKE to know at least the qualifications of the judges are. WE would like to know what we are being judged on (amount of fanart? quality of work produced? and what counts as “quality?”) What about crafters versus traditional artists? What about webcomic artists? Are the judges looking for more established webcomic artists to draw in crowds? Do they want more local artists? Do they want to avoid artists and crafters who have what seem like “mass produced” work? Are they looking for people who are very popular on certain sites? Are they looking for people who produce a lot of fanart? Knowing this ahead of time will give us an idea of what we are being judged on (rather than just a scale with highest points being given priority - and what makes the points the highest? Are these art college graduates with a good education on a variety of styles and techniques? Are they lookign for good execution? Good techniques? Good anatomy? Artists who mimic anime styles? Artists who use more realistic styles? What are we getting judged on?) Now, it can be hard to judge people on all of these without a professional degree, and many AA staffers and judges are volunteers. BUT if they ARE professionals, I would like a professional-to-professional respect of telling me what they are looking for. If they are NOT professional artists, I would like to know that, so I don’t begin to assume that my art is wrong for some reason. If they are looking for somethign “more anime” (I have had this told to me once before) I would like to know this so I know either not to apply next year or to change what I submit.
As for vendors versus artists: Vendors and artists both pay to be there. Art tables vary by con, but generally cost $100-300. Vendor tables can cost $200-2000. This is a severe price gap. Generally artists don’t like moving into the vendors table because of this price difference. But there is also supposed to be different restrictions on vendors - artists are generally either hobbyists or individual business owners on tax forms, and that puts us in a separate tax bracket than companies. We are generally one man operations (or one woman) where as these companies that have anime merchandise in teh vendors room can be multi-million dollar corporations. I have heard people argue that we aren’t competing for the same dollars, but thats false. People come to anime conventions usually with a set budget, and often if they cant’ find anything from an anime they like in the dealers room they’ll come to the artist alley to look for custom artwork. But if they can find mass-produced merchandise, they will often buy that instead (why? I don’t know.) This puts artists at a severe disadvantage. To then put dealers in the location of artist alleys is unfair to us as we are in some senses competing with walmart. They are going to come in, price gouge, pay their employees minimum wage, and run the local business out. But it also means you are telling people who create webcomics, comics, animation, storyboards, and other media you like to consume that their original product is not as valuable as a cheap chinese toy based on an anime where most of the animators never earned a living wage. (and all of the profit is going to these retailers.)
I’m not sure where the tradition of having artist alleys in conventions originated (though I’m sure someoen will tell me). I’m glad they tolerate us having fanart usually (many of us would rather not, but it attracts many attendees and fans to our table, and gets us connections. It has even sometimes landed people jobs.) However, many MANY of the artists who are now making comics and webcomics and animations professionally got into these things because they too were fans of manga and comics and anime and cartoons. We started out tracing and copying characters that we loved. We used these skills and eventually moved onto our own stuff. And artist alley is a great way to learn and still make some money towards fulfilling our artistic dreams. They allow us to meet other creators and get an audience and even give us some validation as artists. And we’re glad they exist. We want to do our best to make them good experiences.
I do understand that almost all con staff are volunteers. And as volunteers they do not get paid, they are doing this because they often love anime and in theory love artists (though sometimes I wonder if is because they like positions of power). Many conventions with a panel of judges have volunteer judges as well, who are often also staff members (but oftentimes staff members who have been attending for years). I understand that they are putting in a lot of hours for free to try to organize artists (which yes, can be like herding cats) and sometimes we can seem ungrateful or needy. As a teenager I did stupid stuff and was probably not as nice as I could have been to staff. And I really apologize for that. I also understand that this may be this person’s first year doing AA staff at all. Yet, there are MANY artist alley staff that have been nothing but professional and kind and helpful to artists (Thank you Ribbit and Becca of Anime Weekend Atlanta!) And the replies and the escalation of this situation are very unprofessional.
I apologize if I trail off in sentences or lose my train of thought, I jumped around with this a lot, as there was a LOT I wanted to say.
TL;DR: I’m angry about how this particular colossalcon staff person is handling all this. I would reconsider colossalcon at a point in the future if they were to replace him and make the judging criteria public, as well as possibly the judges qualifications. Giving us no feedback is not as much of a problem as telling us “the top 30 were given a good score” as they give no qualifications on what that score hinged on. As a professional artist who gets paid to do comics and illustration, I find many of the outright accusations very offensive and uneducated. This is me trying to help provide some education as to why this is offensive to artists. There are some staff and conventions that are great, and I wish they were all like that.
As someone who has worked in conventions before, let me start out by saying that a jury system seems highly suspicious and unfair to me. Know what is fair? Posting clear registration dates and taking applications on a first-come first-served basis.
Despite what this man is saying, judges are people, and they will always have a bias on what art they like and don’t like. Judges can be replaced, and that means the overall choices will change. Even if the artist is the sweetest person who has always supported the con, and was even one of the first to purchase an AA ticket, if their art isn’t approved by the judge, then they won’t get in.
And, yes, he is being unprofessional. Taking on a joking tone can be seen as such, but it might be an attempt to lighten the mood. However, no information is given, as you guys have stated. They’re breaking their own convention rules, and just…I am disappoint in this.
Okay, no. One, there is a Dealer’s Hall for a reason! Dealers pay four times as much (or twice as much, in smaller conventions) so they can sell their wares in the main hall and make sure they are seen! While I am unfamiliar with this particular convention and its layout, Artist’s Alley is generally lower-key, with cheap folding tables and unforgiving metal chairs, outside the Dealer’s Hall. In some conventions, I’ve seen tables behind pillars and under staircases and basically out of immediate sight. To ask a dealer to pay for one of these tables is a huge insult and a quick way to lose dealers. After attendees, dealers are the next biggest source of income for a convention. And many of these dealers know each other and are friends with each other. Piss off one and you can piss off many, and may even get blacklisted.
Two, AA tickets are so much cheaper because of the reason above. Additionally, in convention terms, artists, though popular, don’t bring in as much money as attendees or dealers, and let’s be honest, AA is not a major attraction for con-goers. Hardly anyone I’ve seen has decided to pay for a convention just to see the Artists. Most people generally just wind up there. However, I also know that for many artists, conventions are a huge source of income, and conventions are there to serve the artists. They are paying to be there, just like everyone else (save the guests, who are being paid to be there), and should be treated with dignity and respect.
Again, I know very little about Colossalcon, but just from reading this, I am appalled at the poor service this convention is providing their artists and stand fully behind everyone affected.