Home Comics Art Paris Comics Expo changes artists’ sketching policy

Paris Comics Expo changes artists’ sketching policy


[A shot from the Indie tent at Angoulême]

It is generally accepted among those who have been to both that European comics festivals are superior to US comic-cons in the respect paid to artists, the quality of exhibits, the treatment of guests and the fact that some take place in ancient castles. All the FB posts about leisurely four hour dinners with other guests would be the envy of a US show. However, in one respect artists at Euro festivals have it a bit harder than is customary in the US: at many festivals, particularly France, it is customary for artists to do free sketches for attendees, and these are not expected to be quickie sharpie doodles, but detailed drawings, sometimes in color.

It’s a lovely custom, but the practice has now become hours of sketching for giant lines of folks who sometimes turn around and get right back in line. And of course some of the sketches are immediately bayed. When I was at Angouleme I witnessed the sketch lines at the publishers tables, and they were prodigious, with folks camping out overnight to be first in line. Artists told me that the signings/sketching periods were intense. And some folks told me that the custom was being reconsidered.

I’m not sure exactly where I stand on this—I’m sure there is a tradionitalist view, and I’m sure some would say a two hour sketch-a-thon is a trade-off for the leisurely four hour dinner. However, one French show, the Paris Comics Expo, is changing its policy to one more in line with the US: Artists in artist’s alley can sketch IF THEY WISH, but no more mandatory drawings. And they will be able to charge for drawings, as they do in the US. There will still be one hour signings at publishers booths where the sketching rules apply. The Paris Comics Expo is a bit more of a US-type show, with mainstream guests and a few celebrities. They sent out the following letter:

Hello everyone,

Starting this year, we have decided to change an important aspect of our convention—the artist alley. We’ve spent a long time looking at how to improve the way we run artist alley to ensure that artists are treated fairly and that as many fans as possible are satisfied.

Sadly, the “French system” in place in many conventions, where artists come to draw gorgeous pieces that are given away to either a small handful of lucky winners or to the very courageous who wake up at 2AM to be the first in line, seems old fashioned, out of date, and pretty unfair to, well, mostly everyone.

What fan has never been angry when someone who won a sketch from a lottery system knew nothing about the artist who drew it. Who hasn’t been frustrated when a free sketch is immediately sold on famous auction websites without any retribution going to the artist?

We sincerely believe it’s time to change this incredibly unfair and outdated system.

Beginning with our third annual “Paris Comics Expo” at the end of this November, we will let the guests and artists take control of their tables in artist alley. This means that every guest, not only the actors, will decide the conditions and costs of sketches and signings. Additionally, every guest will also be present for one hour in their French editor’s booth (the whole schedule will be available on the website).

We’d like to reiterate that the purpose of these changes is really to be able to satisfy as many fans as possible instead of catering to the same “sketch chasers” who come to every single convention. Requiring attendees to pay artists for elaborate and time-consuming sketches (do we need to be reminded once again that it is the artists’ job and not just their hobby) will probably generate lots of outraged comments, but we are convinced that most reactions will be positive and enthusiastic and that these changes are going in a good direction. Just to be clear, fans and artists will communicate directly about these conditions—we will not be involved and certainly will not receive a commission from these transactions.

We will try to communicate everyone’s decisions as soon as possible so you can plan to have a great weekend at our show.

The present editors will decide and announce the artists and the conditions for signings and sketches that take place in their booths.

It is a difficult time for comic book artists, and we sincerely hope that this new system will make them more available for their true fans while creating a fairer system for everyone.

There’s more at the Paris Comics Expo FB page. Now, I have a few lovely Euro-style signed books that I treasure—but part of the complaints seemed to be that some of the recipients of sketches had no idea who they were getting them from and just wanted to ebay the art. I’m sure there are nuances to this policy change that I’m not aware of, but it’s another sign of the times with how the con/guest/fan interaction is changing around the world.


  1. Hello,
    I live in France and I’ve been quite jealous of the US system where you can pay for the drawing you get, because it means you can actually enjoy the con! (instead of spending most of your day standing in a line…).
    The lottery system is especially frustrating when you’ve come a long way to the con (which means booking trains and hotel) to see (and – let’s be honest – get something from) your favorite artist and learn that you’ll get *nothing* because you’re not one of the winners. Since I live in Paris where several cons take place and somehow wanted sketches from artists that weren’t so big at this time, I’ve never had this problem, but I understand the disappointment of the fans who live far from big cities and come for super famous artists.
    The “French system” is also frustrating when the popularity of an artist is completely underestimated and that a “first come, first served” system is quickly changed to another one (lottery or tickets) when the organizers realize there’s way too many people interested in a drawing or a sketch (it gets even funnier when said organizers completely forget to warn us of the changes on their website >.>).
    Also: being one of the first visitors to enter the con sometimes means having bought an expensive ticket (“Premium pass”, something like that) to be sure to skip the wait. If you do this because you know everybody will rush to a certain editor booth where a superstar will draw something for free on a “first come, first served” system, in the end it’s like having paid for it, it was just… disguised.

    And that’s just talking from a fan point of view. I assume that offering free drawings to people that may sell them on eBay the moment they get it is infuriating, especially when you know that artists really aren’t rich (a change in the pension system that was announced a few weeks ago made several artists talk about how much they earn during a year and, to be honest, I don’t know how they manage to live with so little money).

  2. I received also this mail from the PCE and wish them good luck with giving the info in advance for every artist before the con.

    There is a problem here for sure. The free sketch is a nice french tradition but, most of the time, the people in line:
    – don’t give a sh.t about the artist and just want another drawing of batman/siderman… to add to their collection.
    – want to sell the drawing right away after the signing
    It’s fans who know the artists work, whom followed what he has dne, purchased his books, who should benefit from the free sketch policy

    Frankly, I have never paid and will probably never pay for a drawing by an artists I like. I purchase his books, sometimes several time to offer it to friends but, I’m probably old fashioned and sentimentalist about it, but everytime I receved a drawing from an artist, I really took it as a very kind and gentle from the artist to say “thank you to follow my work, to purchase it all over the years and to apperciate it”.
    And in fact, I can really see in some of the drawings I have from artists I met that it’s really this: not only are those gorgeous but it’s connected to a small talk we had, when I tried sometimes awkwardly to make them feel that their work is making me feel good and happy.

    I gues letting the artists decide is the good way to go. Nobody will never stop an artist to make a drawing for you if HE wants to.

    What would be very nice would be if this policy would let some time free from the artists to talk during an open table or something similar to their fans or people who are interested in their work. Most of the time, the travel costs are so high that the US comics artists in french con have to stay sit in line and draw like monkeys non stop.

  3. When I attended the Erlangen Comics Salon in 1994 (my first comic con!), I was gobsmacked at the artists doing sketches.

    One of the biggest lines was for Don Rosa, a guest of Ehapa, the German licensee for Uncle Scrooge and other Disney titles.
    Ehapa had a lottery system, handing out tickets. I got one, waited in line for about an hour, and then requested and received a fully rendered Uncle Scrooge drawing. I think it took about thirty to 45 minutes.

    You can handle this a few different ways:
    Buy the book, sketch comes free. (Detail depends on the artist. Prose novelists just sign the book, so the fan should be ecstatic to get a sketch.)

    Lottery. Easiest way: Tickets. Some are blank (tough luck), some have a specific time. Or raffle off full sketches at the end of the day, while the artist does quick sketches at the booth.

    Adam Hughes once did $5 quickie sketches during the first hour of a show, with the money going to a Katrina relief fund.

    Oh, and the sneaky solution: Only sketch in the book! The eBayist must then pay $20 for the book, and sell the whole work online, which means the buyer will read the work (If they have not yet done so)!

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