Back from Ring*Con

Back from Ring*Con in Bonn, the biggest Fantasy convention in Europe.

It was surprisingly close to my experience of Spielemesse Essen, when I had expected something more like Return of the Ring in Loughborough. Many thanks to Becky Dillon, Jay Johnstone, Julian Eilmann, Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Hayley Rust, Susi Knight and many others for the great weekend! I did fairly well, sold a good number of prints, met a lot of cool people and had a great many interesting conversations, though I didn’t feel at home as much as I had in Loughborough. It was mainly a movie convention, so most people couldn’t connect to what I did. I probably would have been sold out if I did movie star portraits, which was what people were expecting. Thus, Maglor was thought to be Billy Boyd, Thorin was thought to be Christopher Lee, and Maedhros was thought to be every single one-handed character in any fandom, from Jaime Lannister to Luke Skywalker. I do think I have met pretty much every Silmarillion fan there that weekend, so that was nice. But there were definitely fewer book fans than movie fans, and a large majority couldn’t connect, not even to the Song of Ice and Fire art. What was worse, most didn’t even recognise the phrase “Song of Ice and Fire”. For them, it was just GoT, and Jon Snow is a twenty-something guy with a beard.

And then there is this weird tendency to be perceived in German convention goers. In England, I sat there and just talk to everybody who walked past. Even if I didn’t talk to people, we’d exchange friendly glances. Acknowledge each others’ existence and shared literary passion.

Germans will walk past your desk building an invisible wall between them and you. Weirdly, if they stop to look, your display will still be on their side of the wall. They look at your stuff, ignore you, ignore your smiles, ignore even your “Good morning”, venture off without acknowledging your presence. At times, I felt absolutely horrible there. I just hadn’t been prepared for that. It would have been okay if I hadn’t been used to the friendliness I’d met with at Loughborough and which I was expecting here. I know now why so many stall-owners on German conventions can be found sitting there at the back will with their arms crossed or reading a book. It’s not lack of interest. It’s self-protection.
Even magnificently costumed people just look at you disdainfully if you compliment their costume. Apparently, my blue-Jean clad self wasn’t considered an acceptable judge of costume. Sorry, skimpy Daenerys outfits just don’t suit me and my evil overlord costume was in the laundry. Being normally dressed did help with the waiters and personnel of Hotel Maritim though, who seemed to view everyone costumed as a centaur or a wizard with a good dose of scepticism.

Another weird experience was that people didn’t think I was the artist. I’ve always looked younger than I actually am, but this time, I wished I did look my nearly forty years to people would actually think I was actually drawing those images, not just selling them. They were always rather surprised when they found out and a few said they’d expected someone older. A weird highlight was two ladies commenting on the heat in the hall, and when I said I was rather cold (which I always am) they said knowingly, wait until you’re thirty years older. So I’ll stop being cold all the time when I’m seventy? Cool! Can’t wait.

Apparently, the parties in the evenings were rather fun, but I always had to travel back to Jülich every day as I hadn’t booked a room. I have to say I wasn’t too sorry about that, Drinking, alcohol and partying is something else I don’t get, as little as I get Daenerys outfits above a certain body mass index (under which I’d fall as well, make no mistake). Each to their own, definitely. I just wish some of those “each to their own people” expecting tolerance for cosplays etc could be more tolerant towards those weirdos like me who wear jeans and jumpers and don’t drink alcohol.

One thing that did put me squarely into my own element, and in which my lack of costume did not seem to undermine my authority, was the drawing workshop I held on Saturday. It was horribly overcrowded and required a good deal of frantic last minute organisation, but hey, I’m a school teacher. I can do that. The workshop itself was a lot of fun and I got a lot of positive responses to it.

In the future, I’ll probably make sure to stay on the Tolkien side of events – or adjust my ideas of what to expect as well as my range of products. I’ll definitely be at Hobbit Feest in Baarlo, NL, this November, as well as (probably) Hobbit*Con in Bonn next Easter.


29 thoughts on “Back from Ring*Con

  1. Jenny,
    Schade, dass Du solche Erfahrungen sammeln musstest. Ich glaube aber auch ein Großteil der Deutschen trauen sich auch oft nicht, Kontakt zum Künstler aufzunehmen.
    Siehe es doch als Kompliment an, solche tollen Sachen kann nur ein Künstler mit viel Erfahrung und dementsprechendem Alter produzieren :) Ich würde dann gerne ihre Gesichter sehen, wenn Du nach weiteren 20 künstlerischen Jahren deine Werke vorlegst… was erwarten sie dann ??

  2. Hi Jenny,
    It was great meeting you and I totally admired your art work.
    I’m glad you wrote how you feel. I have to say, I sometimes feel the same. I’m Dutch, and you would think we have the same mentality and attitude as the German. But I sometimes feel a bit lost. A lot focused on the movies is in English, but the focus on the books is in German. And although I do speak German, a complete panel about a book that you didn’t read in the German translation, is a bit hard to follow. And a lot of people you don’t know are closed, it is hard to make new friendships. Maybe those parties would help, but I’m not a party-goer either.
    I do hope to get to meet you again somewhere, because I missed your workshop this weekend.

    • No, I know that the Dutch are a lot more easy-going and relaxed than the Germans, which I really appreciate. Talking of which, maybe you’ll meet me at Hobbit Feest in Baarlo! I’ll probably do a workshop there as well.

      • Unfortunately I won’t be at Hobbit Feest. Would love to come, but I have to work on Saturday and I will be leaving for NZ on the 21st, So I need to get packing, since I have to work on Monday and Tuesday. But maybe HobbitCon, or otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities…

  3. Danke für diesen aufschlussreichen Bericht aus Künstlersicht. Wirklich schade, dass du solch negative Erfahrungen gemacht hast. Es ist, glaube ich, ein bisschen so, wie mit Kunden und Verkäufern im Geschäft. Die meisten Kunden versuchen, den aufmerksamen Augen der Verkäufer zu entgehen, da die meisten lieber in Ruhe für sich im Laden stöbern. Auf der anderen Seite ist eine Veranstaltung wie die RingCon aber natürlich darauf ausgelegt, dass Leute in Kontakt miteinander treten und das unhöfliche Verhalten, das du beschrieben hast, ärgert mich persönlich auch sehr! Ich hatte auch einige Stunden Standdienst im DTG-Raum und teilweise ähnlich Erfahrungen gemacht.

    • Hast du auch den Eindruck, dass das ein typisch deutsches Problem ist, Julian? Nun kann man natürlich argumentieren, dass in Loughborough die Basis wirklich bei allen ziemlich die gleiche war, aber ich finde dieses Verhalten sehr… deutsch. ;)

      Interessanterweise tauten die Leute erheblich auf, wenn ich mich als Künstlerin zu erkennen gab. Vermutlich hätte es geholfen, nebenbei dauernd zu zeichnen, aber das Licht war dafür zu schlecht, und selbst wenn ich es tat, haben die Leute noch nachfragen müssen…

      Hey, nochmal Lust auf ein Treffen in den Ferien? Nächste Woche vielleicht? :)

  4. Good Eru, this print of Maglor behind you! I hope to see it one day :D World gets smaller and smaller, perhaps I’ll get a chance to attend the same con one day. Are you going to Worldcon in London 2014? I was thinking of it, but the longer I think the more expensive the entry gets ;)

    • The Maglor is actually a rollup that use as my sort of advertising space. :) It’s got my name and website on it at the top. I probably should have added a photo so people realise that’s me. :P

  5. Hi!
    It’s really sad to hear that even the German cons can be this bad.
    Here in Hungary, people are usually just too drunk to even notice the pictures on the stand… :(
    At least cosplay is too expensive for most of our con goers. (this phrase hurts, i know)

  6. Now I just red your entry – the first comment was only after seeing the photo. What a sad story, but then I remembered last con I attended and I see I rarely talk to people behind the desk unless I buy something or want information, or they talk to me first. The other thing is no artists on this side of Oder ;) only book stands of publishing houses or gaming companies. And people are more talkative so I guess if you appeared at a con here they would talk to you, but probably would not recognize a lot of characters on your artworks – they would get LotR easily, but might have problems with The Silmarillion. Still I feel we are more book fans than movies in Poland and our cons are mainly books centered, with RPG sessions, game rooms and anime related events plus Star Wars of course, Polish Garrison of the 501 Legion is always present :)
    And the Worldcon I asked you about is all about books, not movies nor games. Book fans convention :) GRRM has already confirmed his presence, I hope Terry Pratchett will be there as well. Thus I must find a way to get there, it’s the closest and most reachable area Worldcon takes place where I could attend. I will not fly to USA or anywhere else, but London is close and easy to get, only at the moment too expensive for me. During last Polcon I went to lecture about Worldcon thus my information of it. You can find more here, together with the confirmed guests list:

    • I’ll definitely be looking into WorldCon. Sounds wonderful! Let’s see if the world still exists after December 21st, and then I’ll make plans. XD

      • Haha, it will exist, If Erich von Däniken says it will then it has to ;) I attended a lecture with him at Polcon this August, among other things he was explaining the Mayan calendar, in theory it ends on 22 XII and starts again, but the real date is different since we’ve got a bit off calculations.
        Coming back to cons – there is also a big convention in Scotland or Ireland right after London, some people have already made plans to attend them both. You can check that other, too, though I do not remember it’s name.

  7. I have been running the Convention gamit in the US for about four years now and there are several things I learned. There are some events where I will gladly return because it was fun, exciting everyone was friendly and then there are others that were either mediocre, hard or unpleasant. It might be because of the audience, the location, the topics or bizillion other factors. Or it can because you have boobs and that scares them.

    It is still hard when people won’t acknowledge your existence or even seemed shocked when you tell them that you are the artist, not my brother or one of my friends. But I have come to accept that is part of the world and take in stride. You are a fabulous artist and I hope you don’t let your bad experiences get you down too much.

  8. Das ist wirklich traurig, naja und auch witzig. Mit siebzig sind die Wechseljahre vorbei und du frierst doch wieder :)
    Auch gibt es so viele jüngere die schon super malen können. Und die unsichtbare Mauer von der du sprichst kenne ich auch. Irgendwie immer unangenehm. Was hast du denn beim Zeichenworkshop beigebracht?

  9. Hallo!
    Ich hab genau dasselbe Problem. Ich bin 18 und alle meinen immer ich bin zwischen 12 und 15. Vielleicht auch 17, aber niemals volljährig. Das nervt schon ziemlich^^ Alle sagen dann immer, dass wennman älter ist froh sein wird jung auszusehen. Selbst dann wirds nicht besser. Leute glauben sogar, dass meine Mutter irgendwas um die 30 ist, obwohl sie fast 50 ist. Ihr stört das sogar jetzt noch. Die Aussichten sind wohl nicht gut.^^
    Ich würd ja so gerne zu einer der Veranstaltungen kommen, wärs doch nicht so weit weg. Niederlande wird sicher besser^^ ;)

    Liebe Grüße aus Österreich,
    Johanna Stöttinger

    • Ich musste mit Ende Zwanzig noch den Ausweis vorzeigen, um Alkohol zu kaufen (nicht, dass das oft vorkam).

      Meistens freut mich das wirklich. Für voll genommen werde ich normalerweise nach wenigen Minuten Gespräch – aber wenn man mir die nicht gibt, dann sieht’s halt traurig aus ;)

  10. Das mit den Wenigen Buch-fans ist mir auch aufgefallen, was ich mir ehrlich gesagt auch etwas anders vorgestellt hatte… aber wir wurden auch seltsam angeschaut als wir zwischen durch mal in einem Gang standen und munter über das Haus Finwe diskutiert haben (irgendwie als ob wir total fehl am Platz wären… also der Blicke nach…)
    Das was du schildert tut mir wirklich leid.
    Ich kann leider nichts dagegen machen, aber möchte mich dafür bedanken, dass du das Wochende noch unvergesslicher für mich gemacht hast (ich bin es nicht gewohnt, dass Menschen die mich getroffen/kennen gelernt haben [Jahrelang mit mir in eine Klasse gingen] sich an meinen Namen erinnern oder bemerkenm, dass sie mich schon einmal gesehen haben)
    Oh und was ich noch sagen wollte das 8-Kopf-Schema hat meine Zugfahrt (bzw das in der Landschaft stranden) angenehmer gemacht…

    Das mit dem Alter ist eh eine seltsame sache… mit 14 wurde ich gefragt wo ich mein Auto geparkt hatte… mit 19 musste ich meinen Ausweis zeigen, als ich eine DvD (ab 16) für eine Freundin zum geburtstag wollte… und seit ich in Gießen bin, war es egal (aber ich habe eh das Gefühl dass in deser Stadt gerne mal beide Augen zugedrückt werden)

  11. Oh Jenny, I’m really sorry for reading Germans were so cold. :( If we could imagine a Ring*Con in Brazil, I can assure people would probably know few about the Silmarillion and a lot about movies again, but they would be far warmer to the artists. You would be smiling and laughing all day long. And your Lord of the Rings’ group painting would be pointed by every single Tolkien/GoT fan who passed by.

    (Jut to add: Here in the country we have several european colonies which became cities in the colder-weather region. A friend of mine from this area explained us once that we had to prepare ourselves to visit cities of German culture because there people are waaaaaay too cold and we would feel mistreated and ignored, but that that was the German way to be, and they act like this naturally. Apparently not all of them, eh?)

    I wish the next event you’re going to, Hobbit Feest, will be far better than Ring*Con. Good luck!

  12. Sorry to hear you had these experiences, Jenny. Judging from what I have seen on quite a few events and conventions the sheer size of things changes a lot and if you get people with a movie background rather than a book background that changes a lot – not saying that all film and tv series’ fans are morons but a decent number of them are …

    And you won’t be able to compare Loughborough with any other convention – these were old school Tolkienists and I have (with the rarest of exceptions) never met so nice, supportive and friendly people in my whole life. Although I love Ring*Con (having co-founded it ;)) I have to say that depending on the communities involved the atmosphere changes substantially…

    • It *is* interesting to find out the rules of the biz, as it were. Having been to Spiel Essen last weekend, I actually think it might have been better for me – not artists alley, but the actual convention. It’s actually rather art-oriented, which I only realised when looking at Essen and Bonn side by side.

  13. Pingback: Hobbit Feest « Jenny's Sketchbook
  14. Hmm. Ich bin vermutlich auch schuldig, Leute hinter Tresen gerne mal zu ignorieren… Ich kann mir zwar kaum vorstellen, daß das der übliche Grund ist (oder gar ein typisch deutsches Problem), aber ich bin einfach zu schüchtern, ein Gespräch mit Fremden anzufangen, erst Recht mit einem Künstler den ich bewundere. Interessant mal zu hören, wie sich der Betroffene dabei fühlt – erfährt man ja sonst nicht, da es logischerweise zu keinem Gespräch kommt… und man ist so beschäftigt damit, sich selbst furchtbar zu fühlen, weil man einerseits die Bilder bewundern und andererseits im Erdboden versinken möchte, daß man gar nicht dazu kommt, darüber nachzudenken, wie unhöflich man sich gerade verhält. Und nein, ich war in diesem Fall nicht unter den Gästen, aber ich werde in Zukunft versuchen, daran zu denken und es nach Möglichkeit besser zu machen.

    • Mir ist es neulich auch passiert – auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt! gott sei Dank merkte ich es, fing mich rechtzeitig, und unterhielt mich sehr lange nett mit dem Standbesitzer…

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