Saturday, March 24, 2018

NakaKon 2018

This past weekend was filled with a bit of rejuvenating energy and a return of some self reflection in a more positive manner, thanks to my favorite show to vend at, NakaKon.
You know I'm ready for a show to start when I stand arms akimbo.
Thursday night was setup, which went pretty smoothly. Nothing new in the form of what I was setting up this year. I checked out the badge for this year's show to see what the winning art looked like.
There was a competition to submit a character in all 80's style. I think I needed a little more John Hughes and even more Punky Brewster aesthetic in my submission to have had a better chance at winning.
The vendor room had it's mainstay vendors and artists from some of the previous years and a few newcomers in the mix. The aisles passed my "could I drive a 1974 Mercury Colony Park Station Wagon down this?" with ease.
An hour before the first VIP attendees enter.
With the exception of Sunday, which was a little more mild in density of people per square foot of personal space, the vendor room activity was nice and active. I would love to see the return of the lounge back to the middle of the room, as I loved how people were able to shop and sit, and look and talk and compare things they'd bought, then possibly go back for more. Kind of like sitting in between innings in a football game, when it's Par 4 to the 9th frame and your bowling ball needs more Big League Chew.

Is it obvious I do not watch sports? Nor know how to use them as examples in a blog? Someone hand me my inhaler because it's about to get a lot more dorky up in here.
An hour into the show, and the vendor room was pretty full.
It's always a nice feeling to start off a show with some commissions ready to be picked up (see the three wood 4'x4' works below).

Sometimes when I start sketching, things do not end as I think they will. Case in point, the young elven maiden below was supposed to be a beastie of some sort, but that was what I ended up with.
(Left) Warming up, and adding more sketches for a forthcoming sketchbook collection. (Right) Three 4 inch wood block commissions, Mazinger z, Dry Bones, and Naruto. 
I of course got a proliferation of photos of people who bought my art over the weekend, and/or had some cool cosplays!
"Zombie" original with new owners, a very cool Tardis cosplay, and a witch cosplay of some sort.
So for the better part of the time since NakaKon had announced the show would have Steve Blum as a guest, I was all heavy breathing fan boy extraordinaire. So for those that don't know who he is, and probably how much of your childhood animated series are awesome because of him, here is his IMDB page. Go on and open that in another tab and let the awesome overwhelm you.

You see it? You good? Awesome right? Okay, back to my post. :D
New reader and first sale of the newest digital art I debuted at the show.
Something I need to consistently remember is to bring a portable fan to the show. The weather was a bit on the cool side, but once one is set up in a room full of people hustling and bustling, it gets warm.
A requested bit of work of Prince Topaz and Lady Turquoise from Robin.
So I wanted to do a play by day sort of review, but man, I am not kidding, I got so little sleep that weekend. This show is a serious high for me, like a Rocky Mountain High for John Denver (everyone under 25 years of age, go wiki that now).
Every year I attend the show, I love to stay late on Friday nights to people watch. Not in a creepy way. Maybe like in a Batman way.... which COULD be creepy. But I'm not dressed up as a bat.
NakaKon is something of a bizarre experience in all the best ways for me, as every year I see new friends see each other for the first time, friendly gaming experiences from video games to card games to people out on the green just singing, playing, running, and talking.

I don't know if there are other shows that have this sort of energy after the vendor rooms close. I know no Wizard shows do, and every other show I have participated in has some after hours sketching meetups or things like that, but for the general attendees, not so much.
Japan has WAY cooler arcade games, and seeing them here is insane.
My favorite room was the arcade room with all kinds of arcade cabinets set up. I grew up around arcades before they recently started making the whole retro feel good comeback, so seeing a room set up like this is like that old saying of the more things change the more they stay the same. Kind of like Christmas fruitcake.
These arcade games looked like Simon and Dance Dance Revolution had baby on the Borg Cube.
I'm not complaining from lack of sleep, because the fact that people wanted me to do art for them, and that was over each of the nights of the show was a welcome relief and joy, since I didn't know if I was going to have a glorious #fail weekend like I did at the last show I did. Thankfully, I did not.
"Mars Mining" has a new home, and I drew a frog with horns for this young lady.
I was super happy to finally have the first issue of Ardor find an audience. I forget how many people  that attend NakaKon are also into the indie comics aspect.
Dr. Rockso kicking cosplay, and two more new readers of Ardor!
And along that line, the conversations and new people I met, that spoke to me about everything from Pokemon, to Nintendo, to board games, to artwork,... a hearty thank you to each and every one of you all for making my weekend that much more enjoyable!
The compliment of having artwork go to new homes and previous customers is such an amazing feeling.
I did spend a good bit of time also talking about voice acting to a few people, how it started at Hallmark, how it's one of the most challenging and yet incredibly insane jobs to be able to do.
I do feel bad in that I think I only got half of the people that got things from me to have their photos taken.
I know one thing I am going to do moving forward on whatever shows I do next year (yes, this is still tentatively my last convention for the year), is get better organized on note taking, business card taking, and connections.
So many thanks to you all!
One of the last commissions I worked on was a character named Charon that I only marginally knew about, because I'd not played any of the Fallout games (but had seen the hilarious play through segments that Incognito Cinema Warriors had done sometime back on YouTube).
A commission request for Charon of Fallout 3.
Finally, as the show closed down, a bit of con blues overcame me. But, judging by the number of cards I handed out, I interacted with 289 people. To everyone of you, you all rock so very much. You all made my weekend more enjoyable just from wanting to visit, to pick up my creations, to give them new homes. I am ever humbled by that.

And to the incredible crew, especially my wonderful friend Beth, who heads up the vendor room, at NakaKon. Thank you for consistently being that convention that cares, that tries, that succeeds, that listens, and that grows better and better each year.

And any of you reading this blog post, if you've not, PLEASE fill out this survey and add your email address, and be entered to win tickets (courtesy of NakaKon) to BABYMETAL, playing in May at the Uptown Theater!


I didn't get much shopping at all this year, but I did pick up a few things...
The one vendor who was closest to me just happened to be selling Japanese candies and Sega Saturn games. My wallet was angry with me.
So I have to tell you all about how totally not have ANY chill when talking to someone who is one of the major influences in your voice over career.

It was in the waning hours of the show late on Sunday, and my booth had seen as much action as a Micheal Bay free movie, so I was reclining and playing some Fire Emblem on my phone. I was musing about how hungry I was also getting when I happened to look up from my phone, and saw Blum walk past with someone else (who as I later realized was Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and whom I am a fan of as well).

I said to myself, "Oh that's Steve Blum." Looked back at my phone, and then my eyes widened, and that tiny voice in the back of my brain screamed "THAT'S STEVE BLUM!" and evidently my tiny voice and my legs are in sync with each other and I used that chair you see below to jump OVER the pipe and drape to get to him.

Mind you, I COULD have just walked 3 feet and walked AROUND the pipe and drape like a normal person, but where is the fun in not acting like an off balance cut rate ninja jumping over red drapery and totally not landing a super hero landing, instead almost twisting my ankle because I'm not 17 anymore even though my hobbies say I am?
(Left) The chair that I used to leap over the side pipe and drape to run after Blum. (Right) Thank you Steve for letting me get some quick words and a few photos.
So I ran up behind him and Mary, who were looking for something in the vendor room, and proceeded to smoothly and slowly interject with "Mr. Blum? Steve? Steve Blum? Hey! HI! I'm that guy from Twitter? The one who posted the thing? About meeting you?"

TOTALLY COHERENT facts are my specialty. Along with ninja jumps over pipe and drapes.

I think Steve was a bit bemused and I didn't even let him answer as I was like "Oh man, I just wanted to say hello, and tell you how big of an influence you've been in my voice over career, and how when I did my first audition and every audition after that, I kept this little piece of paper with what you said in your interview with Chuck and Stacey on VO Buzz Weekly about how 'the audition is the job' and how I consider that my good luck charm and you kicked ass as Wolverine, and omg your work on Cowboy Beebop as Spike, and..."

-[note: mind you, as I am inventing the worlds longest run on sentence right in front of Steve, my voice decided that I was no longer my current age, and instead decided to emulate a 13 year old boy going through puberty]-

"...and I really had wanted to make it to your panels, but I have a booth here in the vendor room, and so I was not able to, but I saw you and I ran down here to say hello and thank you also for saying good things about Keanu Reeves in the interview you did, because he just seems like just such a nice guy and a generous actor."

SOMEHOW, I managed to draw a breath in there, and Steve and Mary were so super cool that he offered to take a photo with me, and I handed my camera to Mary (not even acknowledging that she was this super cool kick ass vo artist and director in her own right that I was a fan of as well), and they asked me if I was a vendor, I said I was an illustrator and had a booth set up just a few feet away, but they had to head to something else in just a moment.

I walked away totally on nerd cloud nine, and holding onto my phone like Gollum held onto the One Ring, and told everyone after that about the encounter, in complete total THX certified dork level cringe factor.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

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