Why Artist Alley is the place to be at FAN EXPO

Sponsored feature: presented by FAN EXPO

Artist Alley is where Fan Expo comes alive. A combination of vendors, panel discussions and hands-on workshops, it’s where artists jump out from their pages and connect directly with their biggest admirers. But with over 400 artists lining the rows of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, it can be difficult to know what to expect and how best to navigate the throngs of enthusiasts.

To get a better perspective of what Artist Alley has to offer, we asked Toronto artist Shawn Daley, creator of TerraQuill and Samurai Grandpa, to help prepare fans for what is always a formative experience.

How would you describe Artist Alley to someone who has never been?

As far as I’m concerned, Artist Alley is the heart of Fan Expo. It’s an assortment of talent from all over the world who want you to check out the art and comics that they’re making. You’ll find original books, original artwork, fan art and hand-crafted items like buttons, shirts and figurines. It’s a great place to find some new favourite artists.

What do you love most about Artist Alley?

I greatly enjoy chatting with the people who swing by my table. There are some fans I only really get to see at Fan Expo, so it’s always nice catching up with them and talking for a few minutes. And, of course, meeting new fans at the same time. It seems there’s always someone interesting stopping by the table!

What are the fans like?

They’re fantastic, and almost everyone is polite and respectable. You’ll see lots of fans in costumes, typically homemade, which is an art in its own respect. Fan Expo is one of the biggest conventions in North America, and lots of the fans visit just for Artist Alley.

How can new fans best adhere to the etiquette of Artist Alley?

As a general rule, just be kind to your fellow fans who are out there in Artist Alley with you. Everyone’s just there for a good time, same as you. It can sometimes be hard to navigate due to the sheer volume of fans, so take your time and try not to push or shove. Artist Alley attracts all kinds of fans, some with mobility restrictions, so it’s important to stay mindful of others while you’re walking the alley.

Toronto and its surrounding communities are wellsprings of artists and comic creators. Why do you think this is?

Toronto is a hub of culture and houses a broad array of nationalities. Because of that, we’re fortunate enough to experience authentic cuisine, festivals and art forms from around the world all in our own backyard. Thankfully, that also includes comics and comic art. Toronto attracts creators from everywhere, so it’s no surprise that we’ve got so many great contributors to the medium.

Will you be at Artist Alley?

It’s one of my favourite events of the year, so I try not to miss it.

For someone new to Artist Alley, who are some of the artists they shouldn’t miss?

There are just too many to name, and it’ll differ person to person. I will strongly suggest, however, that anyone who’s planning on checking out Artist Alley visit the Fan Expo website and have a look at the full list of artists and creators. If you have favourite artists or books, make sure to check if they’re on the list and most certainly pay them a visit!

Who would you put on your list of must-sees?

Definitely check out Allison O’Toole and Meaghan Carter. Also keep an eye out for Saffron Aurora and Katie Sawatsky, two amazing creators who I’m hoping will be there this year. Mike Rooth, Shane Heron, Casey Parsons and Sam Noir are all usually there too. I can’t confirm that they will be, but I sure hope they are!

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