The Love that Binds SDCC's Artists' Alley.

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spyed's avatar
If you participated in Artists' Alley this year on the floor of San Diego Comic-Con, in the far left corner of the Con by Hall G, then this is a journal especially for you. It's also a journey for readers, or members of deviantART who want to get a glimpse into something incredible deviantART's community does each year.

The event this year was brilliant. We are so incredibly proud of every exhibiting artist in the alley. And today, we're just as war-torn and beaten up from all the action as you are. This is my first productive cycle on our first day off in a few weeks. I probably should be doing what I imagine our other teammates are doing, relaxing! Instead, my heart is pounding, my mind is racing, my jaw clenching at times. Some things just need to be said and I can't rest until they are.

We're also proud of the patrons who visited Artists' Alley and either spoke with artists about their projects, commissioned or purchased illustrations, comic-books, etc. and supported the ~200 artists who came from afar to further their careers, perhaps shake a hand that could provide their next big opportunity. As a patron you are literally watching artists struggle and fight to realize their dreams. 

It's beautiful! It's humbling. This is the story of why this year was even more meaningful than others.

San Diego Comic-Con is a cultural pillar that has a deep responsibility to protect its most important asset: The Heart and Soul of Artists' Alley.  

Long before deviantART, San Diego Comic-Con and specifically Artists' Alley were home to the Frank Miller's and Kevin Eastman's of the world. This is where they'd go to take their ideas and their characters and give audiences a shot to try out a brand new story, meet a new set of characters and potentially get their first fans. From this they might get enough attention inside the industry to get a deal. This was one of the only ways to pursue the dream. The significance of Artists' Alley is a book to be written in the pages of history. Many of the stories we love owe their success to the Alley in a big way. It is where quite a bit of the magic behind THE CON comes from.

It's our 3rd year sponsoring Artists' Alley, and by sponsoring I mean providing carpeting, cushioned seats to protect artists backs, awesome jumbotron screens to draw in people that the Alley has never had before, and a deviantART Lounge where passers by can draw on Wacom Cintiq's using Autodesk's Sketchbook and deviantART Muro while others watch. It is all situated on the sacred ground of Artists' Alley; the Heart and Soul of Comic-Con.

If it were up to us, Artists' Alley would be in the center of the Con surrounded by Small Press, Mid-Sized Publishers like IDW, Dark Horse, Image, etc. and the big media companies on the outer perimeter. The big companies would be the first thing you'd see as you walked into Comic-Con, giving them the great exposure they deserve and pay for. As you continue to walk the Con, every fan, even on their very first visit, could deduce where the heart is and where the respect should be paid. 

This is My Garden and These Are My Flowers. And I Nurture Every Single One of Them.

For nearly three decades a woman by the name of Clydene Nee has been deeply involved in Artists' Alley. As lead volunteer for many of those years, she's responsible for the artists: who sits where, what is and isn't allowed, who gets in, who doesn't... She leads volunteers that enforce the rules, keep the aisles clean, and people moving. Set up, take down. The meat and potatoes. The grind. The work. The gears behind the Alley that keep it running smoothly. 

Artists' Alley at SDCC in 2010 was a ghost town. As I do at all Cons, I went to speak to the artists one by one. Hi. I'm Angelo Sotira. I run deviantART. I just wanted to say hello. How is the Con treating you? How is deviantART treating you? My standard fare. I love these conversations, they usually go quite well. 

Just not in San Diego in 2010. These people were angry. And it didn't take many of these interviews to understand why.

"The carpet ends right before the alley, so people don't come here." - Anonymous
"We're like some kind of ugly step child." - Anonymous 
"I can't afford this! It costs money to come here, they're raising rates every few years while providing us with less! I can't justify this for next year, no one comes by our booth so what's the point?" - Anonymous
 "These chairs are breaking our backs. It's 5 days for the Con. I'm 57 years old, I can't sit in a chair like this for 5 days. I go home early, and I'm in pain for a month after I leave." - Anonymous  (This person in particular was IRATE. Yelling. Red in the face.)

Four years ago, Clydene Nee and I were introduced by our mutual friend, DeevElliott, on the floor of the Alley. Like today, my jaw was clenching. Clydene was stern. She was expecting me. I started with my youthful arrogance.

"What is going on here? These artists are angry. I can't tell you how upset I am. This is ridiculous. Why isn't there carpeting? Why don't these artists have decent chairs?" -  
She didn't hear a word. Her stare completely shut me down. I didn't know what to make of her. After a long pause and a deadpan stare, we started to walk. She raised her arms to the side, palms up..
"This is my Garden, and these are my flowers. And I nurture every single one of them. Do you understand?"
What are you supposed to say to THAT? I looked at DeevElliott for comfort, he gave me the raised brow look. It wasn't comforting. It was clear that I was alone now, all Dave could do was bring me to her. He had no intention of stepping on any boundary beyond that.

Needless to say I didn't get a word in edgewise for the next 30 minutes. What became entirely apparent, however, was the strength and commitment of this woman to Artists' Alley. As we walked, I noticed a deep humbled respect given to Clydene by each artist booth we passed. And for the first time in the Alley, just by walking the floor with her, I saw artists extend a sliver of that respect to the guest she was walking with, as well. It was humbling.

A chill came over me as I started to realize the significance of this woman. I connected for the first time to the roots of a community on the floor of Artists' Alley, the depths of which I hadn't scratched. Curiosity. Respect. Intrigue. God, if there's one thing that I love in this world it's the value that a strong community can create for people. 

Comic-Con 2013 - Artists' Alley

It is our third year now sponsoring Artists' Alley. Yes, the deviantART community itself is ultimately responsible for these contributions. The difference is night and day. Just read the comments to this Journal from any participating artist this year. The traffic to the alley is off the charts, the chairs for three years now are comfortable. The black carpeting lines the Alley from wall to wall. Brilliant jumbo-tron screens rotating the artwork and names of the artists in the alley high above. The jumbo-trons are strategically positioned in the aisles so that all the way on the other side of the con, you can see them. This draws people in! And with the greatest pride, the deviantART logo flies high above the deviantART Lounge inside the Alley, inviting artists to come learn and participate.

We're proud to say, this is what Artists' Alley looks like now (in 2012, still getting shots for 2013 which are even better!): 

Comic-Con-ABCs-V by spyed

A pretty bad shot from the entrance to Hall G, but you can see the droves of people: 

SDCC-floor-Alex-Wilson by spyed

The artists point of view, their tables swarming with fans: 

ArtistAlley by spyed

Packed. Absolutely packed! Exactly what deviantART is about; Entertaining, Inspiring and Empowering the Artist in All of us. In this case, we brought the jumbotrons and the carpeting and the seats... the environment in which artists could be empowered, attracting people, creating traffic and therefore allowing artists to thrive. It's basic stuff, but it just wasn't there.

A garden was nourished that had nearly died.

We Love Artists Alley!!!!!

We'd like to thank Comic-Con International for all of the progress we've been able to make together. The Con is swamped each year, and we can understand that help is needed if we're to make things better for the Alley and for Artists. We're thrilled to continue helping to make Artists' Alley the best it can be.

Meanwhile, as Clydene and I embraced in the Alley this year, tears streamed down our faces. There is much that still needs to be done... and we do need your support. So if you were in the Alley, I'm looking for you in our comments area here on this Journal. What was your experience? Share your stories.  

Clydene we want you to know: The deviantART community is here to help water and nurture your flowers. With all of our hearts, we love you and Artists' Alley. You are legend to us. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for standing strong, and brave, as you are.

Angelo and Clydene by makepictures

A photo from 2011 with me and Clydene Nee. A backpack presented to me by her, signed by all the artists in Artists Alley.

(It's now framed in a glass case at deviantART HQ.)

What was it like?

I'm thrilled to announce that later this year we're going to dig deep in to the roots of SDCC Artists' Alley so we can share the wealth of history in its past. +Watch depthRADIUS for updates on this! 

Check out our updates right from the Con! 

Please Share Your Comments!

All comments are welcome, but also this is a special invitation for all artists participating in Artists' Alley each year. I encourage you to share your experiences here on this Journal in the comments area. Share your stories of the past, tell your tales of the present, as we all look forward to Comic-Con 2014! 
© 2013 - 2024 spyed
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MarkIrwin's avatar
Clydene is amazing and always has been; my AA experience for the past 20 years has been nothing but pleasurable and memorable! she kept me with my good buddies Jonboy Meyers and Tony Washington, and made sure to swing by every year to see how we were doing. Add in the incredible upgrade by DA, and my AA experience has been spectacular. Thanks for all you do DA and Clydene!