by Wincy Aquino Ong

At the Emerald City Comicon, there was one area of the exhibit hall called the Artist Alley. The Artist Alley was a labyrinth of booths where comic book writers and artists talked to fans, sold their books, signed autographs, or sketched commissions for a price.  I had the blessing of being able to chat with some of these hardworking wizards of intellectual property. Funny thing was I was half-expecting these megawatt artists to have a battalion of assistants who would at least count the change for them, but lo!, the spirit of DIY possessed the halls. It was punk-rock shopkeeping at its most intimate level.

An artist sketching commission at the Artist Alley. DIY promotion at its best!

Indeed, the sight of these humble artists hunched in their booths, drawing for their fans, with their floppies and graphic novels stacked on the table, their little metal cash boxes beside them… it makes you want to stop whiling away hours on the Internet and start getting your own ideas out there in the world.

As an entrepreneur-in-training in a business program, I take inspiration from these artists who took matters into their own hands and bootstrapped for success.  Nothing can spell DIY more than renting out a booth in a trade show and hawking your wares yourself. Talk about disintermediation. Talk about not knowing where the artist begins and where the retailer ends.

The nugget of wisdom to take home here is that creation is only half the picture. A book or a CD or a film that is never seen by eyeballs might have better uses as a door stopper or a coaster. Selling your art is the greater half. And yes, getting out your little brilliant idea out into the world takes a whole different set of virtues. And seven new words for ‘headache’ to boot.

Batman artist Chris Burnham at his booth.

With that said, much credit should be given to the entrepreneurs of intellectual property as much as to its creators. Think of it this way: Entrepreneurs devise ways to create a revenue system around a non-physical object, an abstraction, a story – truly, that is no easy feat at all!

The greater half of the picture is the art of selling. And selling is truly a skill that takes the patience of a monk to master, no different from learning a martial art or playing the violin.

Remember, children: If you don’t sell your art and nobody sees it, your art is creative masturbation.