Monday, May 14, 2007

Bristol Expo 2007 Report

They used my poster design on the banner! Hurrah!

The Bristol weekend started out looking as if it might be a bit of a disaster - but in the end it proved to be one of the best Expos I've been to. So let's start out with two thank you's; first to all of you who contributed to our charity drive for Draw The World Together. Over the weekend we raised £48, helping push the grand total to a whopping £1450!

Second, a big thank you to everyone who came over to say hi, ask a question, show work or buy stuff; also to those of you who got sketches and agreed to take part in my "rogue's gallery":

Some of those who got sketches over the weekend; click on the photos to see full-sized versions on Flickr.

This Expo was the first one where me and Ian had taken a table and bought in a load of stock to really have a go at running a stall (previously we'd sold stock from a corner of the Asylum Books & Games table, but this was a much bigger operation for us in terms of planning.)
Things had gone wrong from the first; we'd hoped to get copies of the hardback of The Great Game, so we could sell Scarlet Traces trilogy sets; infuriatingly, the book came out just too late, and worse still, we couldn't get stock of the new Scarlet Traces edition from Dark Horse in time. We eventually got a few via Titan, but not at the preferential rates we'd have got from Dark Horse; the result was that Ian had to shell out over £600 on books before we started. On top of that, my re-order of bookplates was unaccountably held up; despite putting it in in plenty of time (and having another print order made at the same time form the same firm arrive promptly), the package didn't arrive until after I'd departed for Bristol.

The result was that I departed Edinburgh in a foul mood on Thursday with a suitcase full of books, heading by train to Sheffield where I was due to pick up more stock that's still stored at my mum's house before getting a lift down to Bristol with several boxes of books.

Queuing for the replacement bus service at Newcastle

At least the trip down would be straightforward - all I had to do was lug my heavy case down to the Waverley Station, and after that it was just a question of sitting on the southbound express until we reached Sheffield.
No such luck, of course - there'd been a freight train derailed at Newcastle, so we were all to get off and transfer to a bus service as far as Darlington. The thought of having to lug my insanely heavy case on and off a bus was matched only by my despair at the length of the queue (left). Luckily, after thirty minutes' queuing, a southbound train was announced, and I managed to get a seat. Although my "direct" journey ended up needing two changes and got me there two hours late, I'm at least comforted by the fact that much of it was on an old reconditioned InterCity 125, which was far more spacious and comfortable than the Vile Bloody Virgin Voyager I'd been booked on.
The last leg of the trip, from York, did involve squatting in the space between carriages for an hour or so, but as that was on a Vile Bloody Virgin Voyager I'm not sure I was any less uncomfortable than when I finally got to sit in one of their pinchingly-narrow airline-style seats. Grumble wumble.

The next morning, my mum's feller Jim (mentioned here before for his repair of my old Wacom tablet) helped me load the car in the rain and we set off early to avoid delays due to bad weather. In fact, by the time we'd reached the motorway, things had brightened up considerably, and the run went very smoothly; the worst part was finding the entrance to the car park for the exhibition hall.

The Exhibition Hall before the rush started

We'd arrived just before midday, and they were still putting out place-cards on the tables in Artist's Alley as I ran back and forth with my suitcase and boxes of books; naturally our table was at the far end of the convention. I had a serious fanboy moment when the middle-aged chap who was setting up further down the hall came over to ask if I knew where the backing boards were, and turned out to be John M. Burns, my childhood hero and possibly the first artist whose work I learned to recognize, aged four or so...

Getting to the hotel to book in was complicated by the heavens opening - see left for some idea. I'd decided we'd need a float for the table, so I went into the centre (ten minutes' walk) to get some cash.

The rain in Bristol falls mainly on... me

Now I bank with NatWest, possibly still the biggest bank in the UK, yet as I trudged through street after street in the siling rain, I came upon just about every other bank or building society you could name, without finding what I wanted. In then end, it was 4.25, all the banks were shutting anyway, and I gave up. I turned for home, and bugger me, there was a NatWest right where I'd been looking a minute before! The bugger had been hiding from me! I dashed in and with something like a minute to go, got the float out, then squelched back to Temple Meads to meet Dr. F from the train.

Saturday morning, I managed to get the start time of the Expo wrong, so all my plans to arrived early and set out stock and do price lists at leisure went for a Burton (many thanks to Dr. F for eventually taking us in hand and getting us organised, by the way).

Me making a meal of sketching; photo by Lisa

My impression of the two days of the Expo is that they only lasted an hour or so each; a whirl of sketching, signing, selling, conversations and daft jokes. Dr. F dragged me off to have a lunch hour on the Saturday (spent with our mates Terry Wiley and Dr. Beef), but otherwise I was at the stall all day.

It should have been shattering, but in fact I was buoyed up by a wave of good will from everyone who came over. I'd also tried a new system this year regarding sketching; for years now, I've done very finished sketches, almost like finished artwork, but I found that drawing that way for long periods at conventions was putting a strain on my hands.

Ian Edginton signing artwork at the table

This time I'd decided to do simple pen sketches for free, and charge for the really finished ones. I'd no idea how people would react, but everyone who got their free sketches seemed happy enough, and I was surprised how many people shelled out for finished drawings. It did help too; my hands were much better than usual, even after a very busy weekend.

All in all it was a fantastic time, and as usual, it was terrific to meet the people who actually read my stuff; this blog has given me a much better sense that my work doesn't just vanish into the aether once I've finished with it, but there's still nothing quite beats meeting readers face-to-face.
The flip side of this is that I didn't manage to catch up with many people in the evenings; I managed a good chat with Gary Erskine, and Irma, Lady Buckingham* on the Friday, but on Saturday night I conked out too early to really catch up with anyone. I didn't even manage to see much of the exhibition hall; but I did manage to sneak off for a few minutes on Sunday morning to do something I've meant to do for years - I got this sketch from John Burns:

Pencil sketch by John Burns: William Costra was the villain from Burns' SF-strip Countdown, which ran in the comic of the same name from 1971-73.

*for complicated reasons to do with Spanish nomenclature, when Irma Page married Mark Buckingham, she didn't simply become Mrs. Mark Buckingham; she once jokingly said she liked "Lady Buckingham" and I'm not the sort of chap who can resist bellowing "Milady Buckingham!!" across a crowded bar...


Anonymous said...

Aww, there's lovely.

That's one of the things I've missed the most about not making it to the last few Bristol cons...

No annual D'Israeli sketch!

I also love your enthusiasm for the simple, dopey gag, and often puns, too... Silly jokes require the minimum amount of brain-power to understand, thus creating an incredibly efficient "energy to amusement" ratio.

Anonymous said...


Quick note to say thanks for your time and effort.

I'll try and get some pictures of Gav's tattoos for you when I see him next week.

Alan (with one L)

Noisybast said...

Hi Matt,

Good to see you again at Bristol. Hope the hand held up OK!
Sadly missed getting a sketch from you on both days - Next time, D'Isreali, next time!

-Matt (the other one)

Unknown said...

nicolas - cheers!

alan - that Gav's a class act - I was very impressed with the way he dived in to help when Dr.F was struggling with a heavy suitcase as we were leaving...

matt - sorry mate, the only thing about being so busy was I found out later I missed out on seeing several people, your good self included...

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed you managed to maintain your gentlemanliness even in the face of such difficulties.

Always a pleasure to meet you at a con.

Tony said...

Great report. Thanks for signing XTNCT, and for the words of advise/ encouragement. Very motivating!