IX was last week, and I am still wrapping my head around the best five days of art I know of. This was year fifteen of IX, which is hard to believe. I started attending fourteen years ago with IX 2, and save for one year when there was a family emergency, I have been in attendance. I wouldn't miss it! Over the years, I have been an attendee and displayed work in the Showcase, the now nonexistent Weekend Salon, and the Main Show. Some of the great things about IX are that art is the focus, it is low pressure (compared to larger conventions), and you are surrounded by artists, collectors, students, and mixes of all three.
GoggleWorks, where the MAGIC happens!
IX 2022 was the first event that made me feel like things were 'normal' again in a COVID world. While we needed to wear masks in all IX spaces (acceptable and expected), the rest of the time was mask optional. Reading, PA was definitely living in a post-COVID world, as there was little to no sign that we were still living in the shadow of a pandemic, which is good - as long as we are all safe. Over the past two years, I have spoken about COVID a lot on this blog because it has profoundly impacted the quality and conditions of my life and that of my wife, friends, and family. We have lost many, and sadly since my wife is an ER nurse, we have had a very different experience. I repeat all this because this year at IX, it finally has felt like the veil has lifted and that some semblance of normalcy has returned to our lives. And I ate up every single second of it.
We saw so many faces we had not seen in a long time this year. Many others are finally feeling safe as well and are returning to events. It was a truly and utterly enjoyable time. For fourteen years, I have praised IX and the work that the Wilshires do to make the event special, and I will continue doing so. It is not lost on me that over these years of attending, I have gotten a bit older and wiser, though I am feeling the age more than the knowledge. I can't stay out like I used to, and sleep is vital for me to function. That meant this year, I had to have some early nights, and I missed at least one dinner to nap so that I might enjoy the evening and still be at the booth the next day. It is not lost on me that at the beginning of IX, I would run around taking photos all day and writing a massive blog post with loads of images for EACH day. Now I can barely get any pictures of the row I am set up on, and I only release a single recap post a week, or longer, after I return home. Not having a laptop anymore has some effect on this. The other significant aspect is that I feel part of the community, not as an outsider looking in.
I wasn't tied to the booth as much as last year with the launch of the Grand Bazaar, but I spent a lot of time joyfully spreading the word of Ethra. I realized that I stood for eight hours straight on the Saturday of the event and didn't bat an eye. It was a super busy day, with loads going on, and I had gotten a lot of rest. It was exciting to see so many new faces at IX this year. There were a good number of new artists and new to me artists. The volume of new art that I could see was just the nourishment my soul needed. Once again, I have returned home with many ideas and plans for the future. I am ready to do ART again!
While I love the Main Show, this will likely be my last time in it until the completion of book two of the Grand Bazaar. I need to focus on working on the book and will need to cut corners where I can. Also, the available new work will likely be limited until the next book's completion. I had to do this leading up to book one, and after this year's IX, I knew it was that time again. I will still be at IX, and you will still be able to see what I am doing in the Grand Bazaar, but you will find me in the Showcase for the next few years.
I will talk more about numbers and such when I recap all of 2022 in two months, but IX was a good show for us again. As of the show's close on Saturday, I had hit my sales numbers for all of IX last year. In addition to good sales, I had two large sales after IX, making IX my second-best event ever, falling behind Gen Con this year. But more on this in a couple of months. For now, let's look at some images, and I will share some additional thoughts.
Beginning last year, we stopped at the Natural Bridge at the beginning of the second day's trek to IX. We didn't know what to expect last year, but this year I knew there would be giraffes!
Very hungry giraffes!
They were nice enough to allow me to get some reference images. You could feel their tongue in your hand and their hair if they dropped their mouths into your palm, but they would jerk away if you moved your hand to get a better feel. I can respect that and be grateful for this unforgettable encounter with some beautiful animals.
The elephant's enclosure is large, and there is a lot of buffer around it, but I could still get some nice images.
The danger kitty was very active and put on a show for us.
I begrudgingly left the animal behind, and we headed to IX. The start of any show is a mess as all my stuff needs to get into a building from a trailer any way it can. So there is usually a pile of stuff spread out in my booth, getting in the way of me setting up my booth.
Fun fact: More time is spent getting from the previous image to this one than from this image to the next.
And like magic, the Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia takes shape!
I found a +5 axe of thrashing!
It is not a convention without a stylish blazer.
As with most IX appearances, I drew a lot of Magic the Gathering artist proofs.
Like, a LOT.
For the artist-proof art jam, I decided to bring some markers with me and I did a selection of color proofs. If you know me, I prefer to work in grey and black ink on the APs, so this was a bit different and a lot of fun. Is this something you would like to see more of from me? Is this something you would be interested in from me? Leave a comment below!
While at IX this year, I produced my favorite or all favorite AP drawings. It was on the back of a Bribe Taker, and the prompt was to do a Star Wars bribe taker. After a few moments of thinking, the path forward was clear.
I get around this year and look at other floors and everyone's art. I just failed to take any photos. Next year... for sure!
A significant highlight of IX 2022 was talking to Eric Wilkerson’s students about art, my career, and the Grand Bazaar. It was a full-circle experience where I found myself offering advice and answering questions to the next generation of artists. Like so many did for me when I started attending fourteen years ago.
I am an adult, and I can do what I want.
One last artist-proof drawing.
Strangely, I can take loads of photos of IX after it is over. It is so strange after the show comes down and the walls and art is gone. After I am all packed up, I join those that remain and help tear down the floor I am showing on. You can never have enough hands Sunday night, and thanks to those that stayed, we were out of there in record time.
And thus ends another IX. The drive home is a lot less fun than the drive up, but this year we meet up with friends as we all drove home and had one last meal together. Also, we picked up some much needed flat files for the studio. These have been on the bucket list for a long time and now I have them and they are great. More on the flat files and a whole lot more another day! For now, we look ahead to 2023.
That's all for another exciting week on the blog. See you back here on Monday! Until then...