Pia shares Her Dark Half - Issue #8 - San Diego Comic-Con 2022

When I posted my last newsletter (an interview with horror writer Mark Allen), I realized that the next edition would come out right smack dab in the middle of San Diego Comic-Con. Since that event is the pinnacle of creativity, it fits right in with my scheme to get you to creatin'!

You see, I've been lucky to attend SDCC every year for almost two decades, starting during my days at Sony Online Entertainment (which is now Daybreak Game Co.) and well, yes, I'm still one of those rabid fans that celebrate July as Comic-Con Season. Once I left the gaming world, I got my Professional Badge credentials due to my film work in front and behind the camera.

SDCC was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic and I had accepted it (slowly), because we had bigger fish to fry. When it was canceled again in 2021 and I couldn't make my annual trek to Nerdvana for a second year in a row, I began to spiral into a low level depression and battled a really stubborn artist/writer's block (which I talked about briefly in my personal blog before I started this newsletter.) Then there was the SDCC Special Edition on Thanksgiving in 2021, but it felt suppressed and it lacked that... je ne sais quoi... spark (in my humble opinion). It bummed me out even more, because it made me wonder if SDCC would ever recover.

A New Hope...

...see what I did there?

But here we are and SDCC is finally back, in a big way! There are so many great panels in the schedule this year and they often overlap, which makes it quite the challenge to decide which ones to line up for and which ones to sacrifice for another. This is the stress that so many con-goers excitedly 'complain' about. Too much good stuff!

So, what does this have to do with today's newsletter edition? The reason why I want to talk about SDCC is because it did and still does have an impact on me as an artist. First of all, it is hugely inspiring to see so many other artists and their work. I cannot overstate that!

You get to talk to them, watch them work, ask them questions, exchange tricks of the trade and make new friends and follow each other on the socials and see their new projects, and on and on! You learn, observe, make notes and gather info. You charge up your creative battery!

Then you take it all home and hopefully get back to creating while still riding high on all that stimulus you just absorbed over the last few days.

That is, of course, if you're able to go in the first place; and it seems to get increasingly difficult to buy a badge, pandemic be damned! Like I said, I've been lucky. If you don't have a ticket and you have the means to travel to San Diego, there is still quite a lot to do and see and you can find some great tips here. There are so many events planned around the convention center and in the Gaslamp Quarter, it's near impossible to keep track!

Then there's the San Diego Comic-Con Art Show! And guess what - It's free and open to the public!

You don't need a Comic-Con badge to check it out. Not since they moved it from the Sails Pavilion inside the Convention Center over to the Manchester Grand Hyatt next to it.

What's the big deal with the Art Show? Now we finally come to the crunchy core of this newsletter... and let me tell you a story:

Getting out of the comfort zone!

Back in 2011, as I walked around San Diego Comic-Con, I came across a small section right under the big sails on the top floor of the convention center. It was the first time I spotted the SDCC Art Show and I was immediately intrigued. There's rarely a line and you're greeted by volunteers who ask you to please not take any photos of the artwork. They also keep any big bags you might be carrying in a safe spot for you. I walked through the aisles, marveling at all the original creations. From fantasy themes to pop art, even unique handmade jewelry and, of course, displays of the nominated books and comics for the year’s Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

My mind was racing: "How do you get to display your own art in this show? Oh, it's a silent auction? How does that even work? How do you qualify as an artist? What are the criteria? How much does it cost? Would I be able to get in? Oh, probably not. These are all professionals. Me and my little chicken scratch doodles and my weird and dark stuff...pfft..I don't stand a chance. I don't want to waste my money even trying. I've never done anything like this, 'cause I'm just not smart/talented/connected/rich/motivated enough. I'm not worthy!" Anyway, those were some of my thoughts back then.

Thankfully, I did get some answers after I summoned the courage to talk to the helpful volunteers at the show. I had assumed so many things right from the start (a habit I still struggle with) and almost talked myself out of even trying. I got over my anxiety and decided to go for it. Fast forward a few months - they approved my artwork and I was beyond stoked; and I felt sort of accepted 'officially' as an artist!

I sold two paintings in my first Art Show and I was overjoyed! I took it as an encouraging sign and decided to go for it again the following year, and the next year, and the next... up until 2019, when I had to skip it because I was so busy with film production and I couldn't commit the needed time and focus on new art for the show. And then, well, Covid happened.

Between 2016 and 2018 I got more serious about my art and decided on a theme. My 'Little Warrior' series was dedicated to anxiety and mental health awareness and I donated some of my earnings to the non-profit organization TWLOHA. It's a cause still very close to my heart and I'm considering creating a new series for it next year.

Another "side effect" of getting out of my comfort zone was that it emboldened me to try even more SDCC related adventures and I submitted my art for their annual Souvenir Book. (Unfortunately, this year, it's only a downloadable pdf). The idea was kind of a joke to me at first, figuring that there's no way I'd ever make it, because they get thousands of entries every year. But it was free and I thought why not! SDCC lets you choose a subject that the Souvenir Book will focus on for that specific year - for example an anniversary, a specific artist or special event, and you create your own art interpretation related to it. I was drawn to the 75th Anniversary of Catwoman and went to work on it. I remember spending oh so many hours on it over several days, using traditional methods first (watercolor and ink), then uploading it and working on it digitally. I got really into it and figured, if it doesn't make it into the book, at least I'll have a cool piece for myself. Finally, after about 2 weeks, I think, it was done. I sent it off, crossing fingers. Here's the thing - you don't find out if your art is included until you get the actual copy of the Souvenir Book handed to you when you arrive at San Diego Comic Con!

I remember purposely not opening the book it until I found a quiet spot (so I could hide my disappointment if my art didn't make it and needed to cry). I went upstairs to the hospitality suite, which was still closed, and sat down next to the wall on the carpeted floor, along with a few others in line. I nervously turned the pages, till I hit page 90...and shrieked with excitement! To my utter amazement, my art was included and then some! It was given a full page! People looked at me like I lost my mind, and after I explained, some of them broke out their own Souvenir Books and had me sign the page. I had to pinch myself a few times, seriously questioning if I had fallen asleep on the floor and was just dreaming it all.

Then followed a 5oth Anniversary piece for Star Trek in 2016, which also got a full page, and one more painting which got a quarter panel in 2018 for Frankenstein's 200th Anniversary.

While this all feels a lot like tooting my own horn, my point here is:

Get the ball rolling! Make that first step, try something new and bold, step outside your comfort zone!

You just never know where it will take you. Things might get going slowly at first, but at least you start! It'll feel weird and it'll be scary and a bit nerve wracking, but that's just part of your growth. I promise you, your creativity will expand exponentially, if something like that can even be measured!

If you're interested in being part of the SDCC Art Show, (they also accept mail-ins), you have pleeenty of time to prepare!

You have at least half a year to create your art and go through the application process. And to take away any excuses or a mindset similar to my own back then, I'll save you the mental anguish and offer some key info and links in a nutshell:

  • You have to be 18 years or older

  • You can be an amateur or professional artist. You don't need an agent.

  • You can enter original drawings, paintings, sculptures, and pieces of jewelry or other original 3D art.

  • You need to fill out an online application and submit a sample of your artwork or provide a web page URL showing the type of work you do. They just want to make sure you don't want to enter seriously graphic stuff like violence and porn.

  • It costs $35 to reserve your spot on a pegboard which is 4'x4', or a display table. Check back on their website later, because I don't know if that is still the same fee next year.

  • Before you apply, read the rules (scroll down to bottom of that page).

  • Don't wait until the last moment either, before the Art Show fills up. Go to the SDCC website and check the Art Show status for 2023 a couple months after this year's convention is over. Note: Getting accepted into the Art Show does NOT give you access to Comic-Con itself. If you want to attend SDCC, you still have to get a badge for it.

  • Again, read the rules first and find out if this is for you. It is genre specific!

  • If you decide to go for it - have fun and also, I'd love to hear from you! Let me know!

What do you say? Did that whet your appetite? Are you thinking about it? Do it...dooooo it!

Knowing that attending Comic-Con in person is a really tough one for many, I have some suggestions that hopefully can still help you get something out of it from the comfort of your home:

  • Many panels will be available to the public on YouTube after SDCC. Here's a plethora of playlists of past SDCC editions on San Diego Comic-Con's own YouTube channel. I'm talking about hundreds of panels and recaps to catch up on! Don't just focus on the big Hollywood stuff. There are so many artist and writer panels to choose from and they always have invaluable advice!

  • Find your favorite artist or writer on their socials if you haven't already. Sometimes they post extra content after SDCC.

  • Bookmark the SDCC website, follow their social media to get updates for Art Show, Souvenir Book and other important info to stay ahead of the game; and be prepared for next time!

I'm excited to be back in the Art Show this year and giddy to do the ritual all over again: Fill out all the paperwork for the show organizers, pack up and label the paintings, take them down to the convention center before Preview Night and check in with the Art Show people, get partnered up with a (so far always) enthusiastic volunteer, who helps with hanging the art and get everything ready.

Speaking of...I'm way behind this year and I better get crackin' and finish up!

That's it for today - as always, have a creative weekend!

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Thank you from the bottom of my black little heart!

Dark Greetings….and ‘see’ you in two weeks! Or maybe I'll see you at SDCC!


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