The (not so) secret life of a fanartist


I’m the girl in the office who does those weird Japanese cartoon drawings. I’m not a designer, I’m definitely not an ‘artist’. But I doodle a lot, and once or twice a year I dress up in a school uniform and go sell stuff at conventions.

So. I do anime/manga style drawings. Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t something I’d publicise. Now, it’s kind of (I say that loosely) acceptable and quite a few people know what you’re talking about. Some even find it cool (or at least, that’s what they say to your face).

A couple of years ago, I realised that this ability can buy me money* and fame* and so I ventured into the world of conventions. This means getting a table at a nerdy event (I share with a friend) and selling stationery with my fanart printed on it.

What does it involve?

  1. A lot of drawing
  2. Realising you haven’t drawn as much as you’d like
  3. More drawing (furiously)
  4. A short-lived break during the printing process
  5. Dragging everything to the convention centre
  6. Getting stared/laughed at on public transport
  7. Sitting behind a table for 12 hours and trying to smile
  8. Repeat (6) and (7) for 2-3 days
  9. Burn out

Sounds tiring, but there are benefits.

It’s an experience (of course). You meet other fanartists.

It can be entertaining. The best thing is when men want to buy prints of half-naked women. They have tactics.

A big one for me: you can get free food at the end (example: £40 worth of extortionate rice balls).

And last, but of course not least – it’s fulfilling! Who would have thought that people would pay REAL MONEY for something I’d drawn? I may not be an accomplished illustrator, and I definitely have a long way to go before I’m in any way satisfied with myself. Yet when someone wants to buy something, when someone gets excited about or admires your work, and even wants it on their wall, that’s really something.

I bet someone’s wondering this, so: yes, I do cosplay (dress in costume). But you try sitting behind a table for 12 hours in a wig and 5 layers. In summer. So we keep it simple (ie. sorry, no interesting photos, ask another time).

That’s it. My random hobby. I’d like to add that I never took art GCSE or beyond. Just did a lot of doodling! Don’t feel like you have to be ‘qualified’ to give something a go.

PS: if you want to check out my drawings, go here.


Helen Belben  |  Senior Account Executive

Publicis Resolute

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