How to enter the Richmond comic scene right before a pandemic

Little dude and a cat creature moving to VCU and Richmond while celerating

Me and my former roommate and BFF Rowan (@wytchcrafting) moving to the big VA city together.

When I moved to Richmond in 2019, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to “blend in” to the local arts scene. I didn’t really know any artists in the area … or at least, ones that were making little doodle comics like I was at the time. I was determined to not let my Bachelor in Fine Arts go to waste (ha,ha) and I started googling COMICS RICHMOND.

Okay, some pretty cool places pop up when I put it in now. Velocity Comics (@velocity_comics) is closest to me - I popped by when I first discovered it and noticed they have an amazing indie comics section (nowadays, I have a couple comics sitting in here!!). 

The Hunt Begins, my first fantasy mini comic, on the shelves at Velocity in Richmond!!! Spotted by my most recent table mate, @g.t.McCarthy.

Maybe it was here that I saw a flyer for Richmond Zine Fest, and that kind of lit a lightbulb in my head that I could try to peddle my little comics in person and possibly meet other artists in the area (oh, how pre-pandemic days were different).

Richmond zine fest ad with little dude

I was really ready to make a fool of myself. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what sort of art I wanted to make. The only thing I could do consistently was little dude - a daily comic that poked fun at whatever stress I was dealing with. It was relaxing and relatable, and more importantly, easy to do. I compiled some of these into A Day in the Life (you can still read some of these if you doom scroll on my instagram). I also put together a smaller art zine with a Linocut cover- The Book of Stressful Monsters. Along with these, I brought my portfolio of woodcuts and original art.

My table at the Richmond Zine Fest! I learned that my table wasn’t nearly as flashy and obnoxious as it could be.

The @Richmond Zine Fest was ENORMOUS. I did not expect it at all. Hundreds of artists jammed into a hot library. I was pleasantly surprised that many people wanted my little zine and a lot of others were eager to page through my prints. I even sold a couple of original pieces. It was amazing, and totally exhausting. My one regret from this time is that I didn’t leave enough time for me to roam around meet other artists. I resolved to change that!

From my zine “The Book of Stressful Creatures”. You can see a pre-form of my knight character here.

I then attended Comic Arts Richmond (@comic_arts_richmond), which was a game changer for me. I met Amy (@amy.lovvik), my now best friend and fellow artist who has helped me through my art woes over the years. I tabled with the incredibly motivated and talented Chauer (@dedkitty_studios). I met one of the organizers, the skilled Christine Skelly (@skellyscribbles). I really felt that I had squished myself into an amazing community, and that I wanted to create something great to share with Richmond.

Amy loves to draw critters in the wilderness being weird. You can check some of their work on insta @amy.lovvik.

My final effort that year was the first annual RICE (@rice_rva) at VCU. It wasn’t as successful for me, but I took the time to talk and trade with other artists. I was building a network and still follow a lot of the comic creators I met at that time. I am really, really grateful I had these opportunities before the pandemic hit.

So, in 2022, my art feels a lot different from back then. It is constantly changing, but the only thing that stays the same is a strong desire to stay with the comics community even as it shifts online. I recently returned to RICE after things opened up, and had a much better experience. I have NOICE (@noicenorfolk) coming up, where I will be tabling with Christine Skelly, so things are coming full circle a bit. But my motivations have changed.

My goal for NOICE (which is an incredible convention I had the pleasure to attend in the past) isn’t to make some sort of monumental achievement in time to sell. This is what I had set for myself each time in the past.

Norfolk indie comics expo flyer for February 5th, 2022

NOICE flyer for 2022!

It may be my last convention in Richmond for a while, and I want to really connect with the community and other artists there before I go. I plan to focus on talking, following, and collaborating. I want to ask people what they like about my comics … what they want to see. This is really what fuels the indie comics community, I’ve realized. Hope to see you there, or at another convention to chat in the future.

<3 Shannon

Artist’s note: If you can’t come to NOICE, you can still get my comics by getting them in an awesome bundle on my web store

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