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Submitted on
July 23, 2013
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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! 
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ChrisMoreno Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much for your support of the Alley, Angelo. It's been felt by all of us in ways great and small, from the carpeting in the space, to the monitors displaying our work to anyone walking by. As she said, Clydene Nee cultivated the garden, and you and all your volunteers have helped tend that garden for the past three years into something that we all knew was special for all these years, but now everyone's starting to see more and more. I've been so proud and honored to be a part of Artist's Alley for many years now, and to see your organization accept that honor and run with it has been a really profound experience for me and so many others.

See you all on the Alley!
Chris Moreno
billmausart Featured By Owner Edited Jul 3, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
   The amount of commitment and conviction that you have shown for artists' alley--and the support to help improve and gain awareness for it as being the heart and soul of what Comic Con is all about, goes over and above what anybody could ask for. Even the idea of recognizing that this is where ideas are born and nurtured--and where future careers are born, thanks to fans gravitating to what they like and making it possible for artists to have the opportunity to be creative and find a voice and a place within this community... well, it would be impossible to grow without a place to grow from, and I thank you for that. For helping and supporting in ways that we simply are not equipped to do--and for doing it because you have a real love for the community. Supporting the Alley the way that you have has made it possible for me to be an active part of a community that I love and hope to be a part of in a significant way for the rest of my life-- I think that most of us would be invisible if not for that support. 
    You know, it was thanks to Clydene that I got to sit in artists alley when I applied the first time some years ago--she was super busy multitasking and headed in so many different directions, and she took the time to help me and get me straightened out. She really didn't have to-- but she did, and Im always so grateful for that. When somebody takes their time and attention to help somebody else like that, it has an effect on people. It made me feel welcomed and I felt like this community is where I belonged and that I had something to contribute. That's what you're doing for us artists right now as well-- I feel a little more important and I feel a larger obligation to work harder for this community and be at my best because of what you're doing--so for all of that, thanks, Angelo. It really is kind of a big deal:) 

   Can't wait to see everybody at the show and see how well the garden is growing-- so many people work so hard to make it happen and I want to thank all those people as well ( Couldn't get by without Larry and Allen and the guys! :) , but Im positive that all those people would join me in saying thanks to you, in particular, for revitalizing the alley and making it an amazing place for fans to be in and for artists to work in! I sincerely hope that you and Clydene will both know how meaningful all your hard work is to all of us:)       --:)

dukstuf Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Professional Artist
A big thumbs up to DeviantART for watching out for we artists. Shelly and I are most appreciative of the care and attention these fine folks offer us. Comicon is, after all, about comics at it's roots. No matter how big and fancy it gets, I hope there is always a place for creators to show off their gifts.
greenestreet Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014
BIG BIG SHOUT OUT to you Angelo for ALL you hard work! You are a God send! I know one of the main reasons I've been faithful to AA is because of you and Clydeen. We must connect when I get there this year!
Blasterkid Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014
I love deviant art and always come back here to find myself...I found this community to be a very strong and tight group which is pretty amazing with the size of this place...but it still feels intimate.

I love Deviant and it's been such an important part of my artistic journey

thank you!!!
bainst Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014
Insightful article, and a great testament to Clydene's hard work. Thanks for joining her in her efforts, Angelo and deviantART. See you all, soon! 
kohse Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Artist Alley at SD Comic Con used to be a dark, back alley that no one wanted to enter.  The lack of carpeting and table drapes made it look like a storage area where the artists and writers were stacked up until one of us needed to be wheeled out for a signing at one of the big booths. It was so dark and gloomy that fans feared they would get mugged or fed upon by artists that had been chained to the tables for 4 days. It was incredibly inhospitable the first several years I had a table there.  And to add insult to injury, every couple of years the space provided became smaller and smaller until the artists were packed in like sardines, shoulder to shoulder.  The show was painful to attend as a professional.

DeviantArt has helped raise the property value.  Now there is carpeting and table drapes so it doesn't look like storage. There are awesome monitors that cycle through examples of all the artists work.  The chairs are so much more comfortable than the old folding chairs were.  Splashes of color and better aisle signs make it actually looks like part of the convention now and not like a place you would get killed by rabid flesh eating artists devoid of humanity.  We're still packed in like sardines but at least there is no longer a fear we will feed on the fans. 

Thanks Angelo :)
amkudelka Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thank you, Angelo. Like a Schindler for the did some real good here. 
MarceloMatere Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thank you Angelo! You rock! 
kenmeyerjr Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks a bunch, Angelo!
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