Last January, I was able to do something I didn’t think would ever be available to me: I shared an artist alley table with a friend at G-Anime. I say “artist alley” loosely, since our table was beside Carta Magica's table, which is a gaming and trading card store across from St-Laurent Shopping Centre. Going through artist alley as a shopper one year and then being on the other side of the table the next was a surreal experience, but it was fruitful (albeit a bit frustrating).
As someone who shops, you’re hesitant to make eye contact with the artist, lest you get their hopes up. As a seller, your goal is to smile, say hi, and hope your expression doesn’t come off as: “Buy something PLEASE!” The biggest difference (other than the headache of setup) between the two, for me, was to be able to see people from the perspective of a seller.
When it came to cosplayers, I could see that they were most likely to motion towards merchandise of the character they were dressed as. That held true for everyone there. Each person showed equally obvious biases; through pointing out specific things, or even just mentioning something out loud in either not-so-whispers, or passing squeals. Various personalities showed themselves throughout the weekend. Everything from people who were snobby about the price (I’m sorry, but this is my work and I’d like to actually make a profit here), to people who wanted to make it 100 per cent clear that they were just looking—all of this through watching facial expressions, and subtle movements.
Sitting in one spot all weekend opened the door to semi-unfiltered conversations about the people around us—something that you don’t normally have time to do during a convention, but that sparked a lot of characterization ideas as well as observations about how people work. It also gave me an intimate view of how artists act towards other people behind the tables. It’s a different energy than the one you feel while standing across the table from them. We were all zombies in the mornings, but as the day picked up, you could tell who’d had an artist table and who (like myself) was just starting out.
By the end of the weekend, my two friends and I were all tired, slightly disheartened, and ready to go to bed for a month, but it was well worth the experience. The characters that I saw from the other side of the artist’s table aren’t something I will soon forget.
Catherine Arbour is a Professional Writing student with a background in animation and a bias towards fantasy. She frequents as many conventions as she can, mostly in the Ottawa area. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing video games, reading or knitting as part of the Spiritual Centre’s Knit ‘n’ Knatter.