Thursday, March 27, 2014

MidSouth Con: My First Full Con Ever

Last year, my husband and his best friend went to MidSouth Con in Memphis.  And when he came home he was adamant that I need to go with him the next time.  He had had a fantastic time and really loved the artist room and was trying to explain to me how it was set up...and quite frankly, I didn't understand.  He summed it up with, "You'll just have to see it for yourself."

So an almost year passes and I've sort of forgotten about this brief conversation until he says, "Honey, we need to ask for the time off so we can go to MidSouth Con."  When he mentioned to his friend that I was coming with, he was worried that I would be bored or need to be kept entertained.  My husband assured him that wouldn't be the case.  Never having been to a con, I was worried Roger was going to be right.

And I was delightfully mistaken (:

It took us about seven hours to drive to Memphis, which might seem like a long drive, but we're used to making 16 hour drives so for us, this was a short trip where we got where we were going and still had hours left in a day to do things!  And I much enjoyed the drive with my honey.  It's been about a year and a half since the last time we had a weekend away from the kinder.

On the way up, we stopped at the welcome center in Mississippi and I couldn't resist pulling out my cell phone for a couple of quick pictures.












One of the funny new things I learned about my phone is that I can talk to it, tell it "Cheese" and it will take pictures for me.  It delighted me to tell inanimated objects to say "Cheese" and have my camera click for me ((:

Roger doesn't live very far from the convention center, so we didn't have to worry about getting hotel rooms.  Once we got to the Con, I learned that they had gotten us the badges with the bright smiling star that meant $8 went to a great charity and that we would have access to the snacks and drinks.  They also gave us bags with incredibly informative and beautifully cover illustrated magazines and a delightful Pocket Program I kept on hand (and seriously dog earred for all the fabulous activities and panels I wanted to attend).

It turned out the I didn't cramp the guys style at all, they wouldn't have to keep me entertained, and I was pretty easy to find as most of the classes I wanted to attend all took place in one room (

I got to meet in person a friend of mine from facebook, Elizabeth who was merchanting for her ecofriendly company 4GreenSquares selling soaps and lotions as well as SCAdian friendly garb. As well as see two of my SCAdian friends I've not seen in a while and made new friends along the way.  The merchant's room was so hard to resist!  (And I didn't entirely.)  There were t-shirts that absolutely needed to be ours, as well as dice (We still can't believe we went to a gaming convention and completely forgot to bring dice....Although I bought mine to make earrings out of so...), and gifts to bring home to the offspring (which they adored).

I now completely understand why people like me, into art and sci-fi and fantasy and geek/nerd related type things adore going to Con so much.  You're spending time doing things you love to do-- with other people who also love it!

Friday night, I got to attend my first panel on Art as a business and using social networking.  This was the first time I got to meet the incredibly talented Aidana WillowRaven, Juanita Houston (who moderated and taught so many of classes that I enjoyed this past weekend) (: and Keith Wood, who at another panel I attended, provided excellent information on the legal side of doing art.

While there, I learned all sorts of goodies I thought I'd share with you, like that galleries are really good for getting your art work seen....not so much on getting it sold.  I also learned that a good printer for doing your own prints up to 14 x 17 is the 5 cartridge Epson Artisan 1430 (I'm just gonna put this here as a hint for future Christmas present ((:  ) and that Giclee prints are great for matting, framing and sale.  I was also advised to check out Zazzle (So keep an eye out!  I'll be getting my artwork there soon ((: ) and Youtube for doing process videos (I prefer to do in progress pictures and share them here) so I should look into Smilebox for creating slideshows for Youtube instead.

They also advised that Instagram is good for getting views, but it's important how you tag it.  (I'll admit, I'm not on Instagram and probably won't be.  This is where my luddite decides to show.)  Crowdsourcing is good for building funds for projects bigger than you can save up for on your own (I'll probably look into Kickstart when I get around to getting screens for my game boards)  but when you do, keep taxes and incentives in mind.  The best way to have a successful crowd source is to find successful projects in the category you're interested in and follow/ modify that method to what you're doing.

Also, and one of the most important, is to target who wants/ needs your skills and keep up the balance between being human and promoting yourself.  (I hope I'm doing alright with that one!)  It's also good to check against other artists to make sure you're not underselling yourself.  And if you're doing commissions, make sure you ask good questions (But that's one of my favorite part of doing commissions already (:  )

Then Mark and Roger brought me to opening ceremony.  The level of energy and excitement in the room were palpable and delightfully contagious (:  Afterward we had time to take advantage of the 20% coupon the Ghangis Grill that came in the goodie bag.

And then I went to Juanita's class on leather working and made a key fob.  I ended up lightly dyeing my fingertips the same brown I did the fob, but it actually made me happy because I was worried I was going to miss out on making anything this weekend (and I've set myself the goal of at least two new things each week).  And I went to the Elements of Publishing Journeys panel.  It was in the round, extremely laid back and very education and I had the opportunity to meet and listen to the wealth of advice provided by the authors Denny Upkin, Kat Robinson, Trina Girard, and M. Keaton.

During this panel, I learned about Digital Webbing, that it would be wise to invest in a copy of Writer's Market and to be patient--becoming a published author isn't typically a fast sort of thing.  That's it's incredibly important to proof read  (lol--enough that it was mentioned multiple times) and a good idea to visit the publishing pages of the books you love to read.  Submit. Submit. Submit.  And it's better to get an agent and intellectual property rights expert after you've already sold your book.  Most agents work for 10-20 percent.  And that you have to be your own publicist.

If you're interested in self-publishing, search out with Google and people who have already published to make sure you're working with a good company.  Check out Lightning Source.  And you can use your Google-foo to learn how to purchase an isbn (check out #9), copy right, and submit to the Library of Congress.  A good place to self publish is Lulu.  But be aware that with self publishing-- you have to purchase and then store all of those books you published.  If the sell--Woohoo!  If not...Well...Don't store 'em in a flood plain.

Then I got to play DixIt.  We had a full table.  (I own this game, but haven't had a chance to play it yet, so I leapt at the chance to get to play with other and I'm so glad that I did!)  This is a really fun game where bunnies race as each person playing provides a card from their hands that best matches the description of the person whose turn it is and everyone tries to guess which one belongs to the current player.  (That's a bad description of a really funny process.  I promise.)

And in another round of firsts, I went to my first shadowcast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.



First?  Yes, I was a Rocky Horror Shadowcast virgin.  Did I stand up?  Hell no.  I knew I wasn't interested in playing virgin games with strangers.  And this year, they were very innocent on the grand scale of things.  Just passing cards down a line by mouth, no hands, no contact except on opposite sides of the card.  Even so there were plenty of young ladies uncomfortable playing.  And as the MC was getting it set up, Mark and Roger told me that last year, there were crotch twinkies.  Seriously, on the grand scale of things, this was innocent (:

It was so much fun and there were plenty of people in the audience who knew the proper responses.  All in all a delightful way to end my first night of Con.

Saturday morning, I woke up, got dressed in my skirt (and the hip scarf I couldn't stop myself from getting on Friday) and putting my hair up.  My only regret at this point was that I hadn't brought any of my hairfalls.

 And then I went to a panel on Making Art from Beginning to End.  Here, I got to meet Michael Bielaczyc and his brother Paul Bielaczyc, this year's guests of honor for Art and both incredibly talented and very laid back.  I also got to meet Melissa Gay who is delightfully real and entertaining and as high energy/ smiley as me (:

And I learned that other artists have very similar processes to my own!  Woohoo!  I also learned that when working on commissions, if it has multiple elements, it's better to create them separately so that if a portion needs changed-- you don't have to change the entire piece, just that portion before it becomes part of the whole.  Between the five of them, I learned about Daz and Poser, that Photoshop is good for adding textures and tones and that in working with traditional media, wax paper under your hand is great for working in charcoal, pastel, graphite (you know, the messy, easily smudged, "Oh look!  My art is now all across the side of my hand" medias).  And then we got into the incredible discussion about how to get good images/ scans of large artwork, and I got to learn about Chromatics!!  (If you are an artist, and you take nothing else form this blog, pay attention to this!)  Artists from all over the country (and possibly all over the world) mail their artwork to Chromatics when it's too big to be scanned locally.  It costs between $60 and $100.  The alternative is trying to figure out how to build a better light box.

I also learned about ProGraphics.  A lot of the artists in the panel will create their original drawing, then have ProGraphics print it out on the media they will be painting.  It allows them to keep two copies of the art work--the original drawing and the full painting.  If you're going to use ProGraphics you can put clear gesso over the print to start your painting.  All in all, I could have sat talking with them all day, but there were more things for all of us to be off and doing and that hour just =flew= by!

And then it was time for Chaos Costuming (The title alone had me guaranteed to be present, though the wild hand-on workshop of creative making was also a huge draw.)  And so I got the opportunity to MAKE the hairfalls I wish I'd had (((:


And then I tracked down Loren Damewood, who I had briefly seen in the main hall the evening before teaching people how to make these intricate, complicated woven bracelets.  And he very graciously took the time to teach me how to do it as well (:


He is a phenomenally talented weaving artist in both metal and string, and has an uncanny knack for taking an -extremely- complicated process...and making it easy!  And so my costume grew by another piece.

And then I was off to the Steampunk Jewelry Making class where I got to make my very own Steampunk Shiny  (:

(Janin, those last two are kind of fuzzy pictures, aren't they?  Why yes, yes they are.  And I could take a better.  But these are from the convention in the moment, so I like them better.)

And then at 2, I got to play a game I'd first heard of the evening before.  Clay-O-Rama.  It needs a minimum of three players to be any good....and boy was it good!  Bwahahah!  We had twenty minutes to create our monster.  I made the Feaster Bunny (carnivorous rabbit with a basket of rotten egg bombs):




My fellow game players created:  Sharktopussy  (An evil cat with a shark on it's back with a killer swipe to it's dual tail.)


Scarebears (Yes, this is an army of vampiric teddy bears with knives-- this monster has the skill of multiplicity, aka divide self)


Boobzilla (A green Doni (can't resist a good Clan of the Cavebear reference) with the ability to pick up opponents with her massive breasts and drop them from 3 feet)


And H. G. Wells (a three legged not elephant with incredibly terribly luck with the D6)


This is -such- a fun and funny game.  You can't take it seriously.  You are playing with playdoh monsters out to destroy each other via poke, drop, smash, and occasional cranial-anal decapitation and inversion.  It sounds violent...but it's playdoh.  And it's -hysterical-.  I cannot wait to teach my boys how to play this game (:

Our game ran long and I didn't want to leave, so I missed out on getting to see the Iron Artist Competition in person.  Fortunately for me (and you) an attendee was kind enough to record it.  1 hour, 6 artists, and viola!  6 new pieces of art for the Charity Art Auction!


Then I sat in for a couple of minutes of Dr. Science.  Audience members could ask him any science/ science fiction question and he would have an answer....not necessarily the -right- answer...  My favorite Q&A was when he was asked, "Dr. Science, if I used a dwarf star to travel through time, would I go forwards or backward in time?"  To which Dr. Science responded that he'd done such a thing once (after procuring the ear of a dwarf) and surprisingly enough had gone -SIDEWAYS- in time.  Exact same time, exact same second, but in Jersey....Don't bother going to Jersey.  There's nothing to see there.

And then my inner 5 year old could resist no longer.  ALL convention long, the Children's Track kept getting my attention.  From Blast off (to which Mark and Roger, in unison read the description, "Make your own wearable rocket packs-- Yea!...*not fully functioning-- Boo!) to pirates and sock puppets.  But I absolutely could not resist at least -asking- if they would let me get my face painted and let me make a tambourine... and they totally did!  (((((:

So I got my face painted by the lovely mermaid:


who when I approached her said, "If you don't mind, I have an idea in mind."  And I let her do as she would.  And she matched my outfit (((:

And then my new friend Tina (who has been at many of the panels and games I had) and I made tambourines (:


And so on Saturday, all day long, my 'costume' got more and more elaborate (:  When I caught back up with the guys, they both shook their heads and laughed that I couldn't resist joining in on the kids activities.  And it was off to dinner at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The fried green tomatoes were divine and the the chicken well earns its claim to fame!  And while we ate, my husband looked up, laughed and said, "Honey, you're going to have to go out the back door."...Gus's has a sign that says "All hippies must use the back door."  Pbbt.  I did not, in fact, use the back door....though we were well into the meal before I realized I was the only person in there with face paint, a hip scarf and hairfalls, so I might should have (;

Then it was back to the Con for the painting workshop.  Juanita and Dee were setting up canvases (yea!  Tina was in this one too!) for a Painting with a Twist style workshop to create this piece:


They had paper plate palettes with purple, silver, black and white already in them.  After a moments hesitation, I asked Juanita if it would be alright if I didn't do the planned painting but something else entirely (From it's description, I hadn't realized this was what is was going to be and didn't want to cause problems or rock the boat) but she was totally cool with letting me paint whatever I wanted to.  So I made this instead:


I had -so- much FUN!!  Loved the company of all the people I was getting to spend time with.  And bonus: that I got to make so many awesome new things on a weekend I was sure was going to break my 'at least 2 new creations' resolution.

Then we went to the Masquerade.  Wow!  There was some serious costuming talent at this Con!  And we left with excitement at the idea of making our own costumes for next year (Right now, I'm working on costumes for my youngest and I for Fools War.  The theme is The Princess Bride.  My youngest, with his pin straight blonde hair will be going as Wesley and myself, I'll be Inigo Mantoya (:  Fools War is one of my absolutely all time favorite Meridies SCAdian events...paired with The Princess Bride?  How could I NOT go?!?)

And then on Sunday, we started with a slower day full of pancakes and delicious breakfast goodies.  And for the first time, all three of us went to the same panel.  This one on Hats and Helmets.  There were fabulous millinery creations by Mazelle Attiya, a light up Repo Man helmet and Pepakura example by another Princess Bride fan (He was dressed as the man in black), Christopher Randolph, a great modified mask done by Andy Moffitt and a plethora of awesomeness in the form of miniature hats by Lauren Kirkman.


*Squee*!!!  These incredible hats are made with a miniature solo cup under felt.  A bit of cardboard traced from the mouth of the cup twice, once to form the top of the hat and the other to form the brim.  Then a bit of a creative eye to decorate them beautifully (and believe me-- she does!) and Viola!

From this talented panel, I learned that you can take pepakura as a base and resin coat it/ use paper sculpy or bondo to create a firm form.  3m adhesive is a good bond.  And you can repurpose existing masks as a good base for your own creations.  Laminate it with  super glue and paper mache.  That, like most arts and crafts, it's about cannibalizing on the go, and looking at things with fresh eyes for how they can be modified to suit your intended purpose.

All of the panelist were in agreement that hot glue is your friend-- You just have to know which setting glue gun you have (high vs. low heat) and to use the appropriate glue.  Plastic canvas (used for needle point) is great for a millinery base and millinery wire around the flexible portions is a must so that it can bend and hold its shape.  E. L. wire/ E L tape are the go to for costuming lighting and many a creation begins with E V A foam.  Instructibles, YouTube, Google, deviant art, and behind the scenes extras on your favorite movies are all great go tos for the how tos (:

I finished up my panels with Itellectual Property, Copyrights and Patents and this was an -extremely- informative class.  I'll not go into all the technical details but I will sum it up with this:  If you are an artist, or an author, you should definitely look into copyrighting your work (link above) and speak with a Trademark lawyer in your area.

Then the three of us finished our Convention with my first concert.  (See?  All -sorts- of firsts!)  We were highly entertained by the incredibly talented Marc Gunn.  And so I'll finish this blog by sharing one of my new favorites (because ...Zombies!)  (:




Last Night I Nightmared

Every now and then, my brain decides that what it really needs (when I think I need rest) is a lightning round of nightmares.  Last night was one of those nights.

In the first nightmare, I lived in a subdivision on the side of a hill.  We were the second house from the bottom on the left and the road led up in a loop through the subdivision.  In every house were favored television families from my childhood: the Huxtables from The Cosby Show, the Lubbocks from Just Us Ten, the Bradfords from Eight is Enough, the girls from The Facts of Life, the Winslows from Family Matters, the Keatons from Family Ties, the Tanners (and their 2 uncles) from Full House, the Seavers from Growing Pains, the Bundy's from Married with Children... you get the idea.  It was prom night for the oldest teen in each house so they were all dressed up and everyone was taking the prom pictures as the kids were getting ready to head off to the big school dance...but we were in a monster movie.  So Carrie was there as well as a herd of zombies and families were having to band together to defeat and avoid some classic monsters.  That was the other twist-- everyone had seen the movies these monsters came from, so you had a pretty good chance of defeating them...as long as someone had on hand what you needed.  Unfortunately, it also included aliens that melted people leaving nothing but a pile of clothes.  So there were clothes of what used to be favored television family members from my childhood all over the place.  And then I startled awake.  But I wasn't really awake yet.  And I headed for the rest room where I almost tripped over a pile of clothes.  I picked it up and dropped it into the hamper as I ran into the living room...where my husband was sitting playing on his computer after coming home from the nightshift.  I just turned around and went back to bed because I didn't want to tell him I'd been worried he had been melted by aliens.

And promptly went back to sleep where I nightmared that my husband and I were back in high school and we were riding a city bus on a school field trip into a major city from some sort of academic challenge.  There were over a hundred buses full of students, but I made sure to get on the same one he was on--but kids had sat in the seats around him and he hadn't been able to save me a seat so I ended up sitting with the goth kids at the back.  Once the bus pulled out, you started hearing screaming from other buses.  The driver didn't stop.  We passed a bus that was suddenly overrun with werewolves.  I warded our bus against werewolves.  But then suddenly the row in front of my was filled with three vampires that fit in nicely with the goths around me.  I realized I probably stood out like a sore thumb in jeans and a t-shirt amongst all that black and pancake makeup.  And the lady vampire was trying to get me involved in a conversation.  She wanted to know if I'd won my competition, and I said "competitions.  yes." but I wasn't really watching her.  I was watching my honey as the students who had been around him started to vanish.  She leaned in closer to me but I stood up and walked over to the now open seat because I realized the other two vampires were feasting their way through the bus and I didn't want them to eat my husband.  As we held hands, there was a flash of sunlight, the sound of hissing as the monster of choice was foiled...

And I was taking the family through an art museum.  We'd brought all of our nieces and nephews with us but as we went through, I realized we were like the Munsters family.  Ours was full of monsters.  One of my nieces was a vampire, which was all fine and good as long as you had snacks on hand or she'd go looking for her own.  One of my sons was a zombie, which was largely okay as long as I kept thread and needle on hand to reattach parts as they fell off.  My other son was a werewolf, which was okay because it was the middle of the day.  We weren't the only largely monster family in attendance, but the more impressive part were the entirely humans.  They weren't trying to kill any of us.  That was monster discrimination.  And if a human was eaten, maimed, or killed, it was a very victim blaming society that they should have recognized the monster they were dealing with.  And then everything went slapstick-- the kids scattered as we passed through a revolving door.  Trapped between two planes of slowing spinning glass, I could see, but not stop them as they went every which way.  Once it revolved and I could walk in, my husband and I split up to gather all the kids.  Most of it was uneventful.  Several of them were staring at art pieces and commenting that it looked like monsters they knew.  But my youngest niece had gone in to play blocks at the daycare, dropping both her favored toy...and her snack...and was in the process of eating the daycare director.

Thankfully at that point, my alarm clock went off and I couldn't be happier to have to get up.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

100 Days of Happy: Day 18

Day 18 was marked with a brief power outage in the morning when we started our day at the day job....and a much longer power outage for the last forty minutes of the day.





It gave my coworkers and I a chance to just visit, which I always love because the ladies of RVLI are fantastic (:  It also gave us the opportunity to play with the flash light should we choose to venture into the back half of the office, appreciate how much light comes in through the front windows, and see where the emergency light is located.  All the while, the computers serenaded us with the song of their people while participating in a ritualistic survival of the fittest death match around us.