You are currently viewing Artist Alley Adventures — FanExpo Vancouver
Step aside Disney, there's a new "happiest place on Earth".

Artist Alley Adventures — FanExpo Vancouver

If you want to admire independent artists’ work in person, art shows, galleries, and craft fairs are not the only settings to do so.

Artist Alleys—areas of an event solely dedicated to artists of various skill levels to display and sell their artwork in various forms—are fairly common in popular culture conventions as well. The amount of artwork showcased by local artists is a major appeal of many geek-culture conventions.

Some of the larger popular culture conventions held in North America include New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, Emerald City Comic Con, and Anime North. FanExpo Canada held in Toronto every year also attracts thousands upon thousands of attendees.

I’ve volunteered at and attended FanExpo Vancouver every year since 2014. And despite not nearly matching the scale of FanExpo Canada, this doesn’t take away from the legitimacy of the event; interesting film, television, internet, and comic guests; and my favorite part, it’s artist alley full of gorgeous and inspiring work.

An important distinction between galleries and craft fairs is that much of the art found in convention artist alleys falls under fan art:

Artwork created by fans of a work of fiction and derived from a series’ [whether it be from a video game, film, television, etc.] character, setting, or other aspect of that work.  —

Despite being unique and intriguing, fan art’s value is a controversial topic within the artist community. Arguments against fan art frequently include the lack of originality of the work and it’s impediment on Copyright regulations, as characters and/or settings showcased in fan art are not owned by the “fan artist”.

However, there’s something truly inspiring about seeing artists recreate well-loved characters from their own perspectives and in their own styles.

Media inspires other media. 

A cycle of reincorporation is present in all different forms of art—and it makes many artists of all sorts wonder if anything is truly original. In this case, characters on the big and small screen can easily be translated into another creative medium; in other words, it shows that all different types of media are interchangeable and allows people to revisit familiar works in ways that are new and unfamiliar. But more on the fan art vs. original art argument another day.

The point is, art can be experienced in a never-ending list of ways. Popular culture conventions is just one outlet. Conventions give artists the opportunity to put their work into the world, and attendees the chance to soak it all in.

So if you were ever considering visiting one of these events, I highly recommend that you take a stroll through their accompanying artist alley.

My favorite pieces of artwork purchased at the convention are these two prints:

Svend Gregori My Neighbor Totoro Fanart
Svend Gregori My Neighbor Totoro Fanart
Sharon Leung Moana Fanart
I spent so much time speaking with Sharon Leung at FanExpo 2018, it was incredible and her prints are beautiful!

FanExpo Vancouver 2018 Haul

In all honestly, I’ve yet to see My Neighbor Totoro, but this print by Svend Gregori was too gorgeous to pass up. The most compelling type of artwork in my opinion, is that which builds a setting and truly takes you there. I refer to these types of illustrations as “Art that Teleports” (follow this link to visit my Pinterest board if you want a better sense as to what I’m referring to).

A print of Moana created by Sharon Leung in her iconic introductory scene. This gorgeous piece was painted in a live competition known as Park’s Edge Paint Off. Not only did Sharon win the competition, she later touched up and scanned her work to create prints.

I met so many other group and individual artists, including Baylee Jae, Jackie Droujko, Pax Avalon, and Maxine Art just to name a few.

Being in a space completely dedicated to creative minds is incredible. And I used this opportunity to seek out advice for beginner artists from successful people who constantly put their work out into the world.

If you visit an artist’s table, take the time to ask these creatives about the inspiration behind their work. It’s truly motivating to hear about other artists’ stories. And if you begin to visit various local conventions, it’s great to recognize these artists and revisit your previous conversations. Plus. it’s even more rewarding when they recognize and reach out to you.

Author’s Note:

Note that popular culture conventions come in all shapes and sizes. Some require a purchased ticket for entry, and others are free to the public; some include various events and panels; and others are solely an area dedicated to artists and vendors for selling their craft.

Find out which conventions are being held in your area by visiting

Leave a Reply