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Jamie · Updated Sep 27, 2014 · Interviews

Spotlight: The Con Artists of Anime Central

AnimeChicago’s Spotlight interview series highlights local organization leaders, artists and personalities. We’re chatting with Ryan Weimeyer of The Con Artists, an informal drawing circle that runs all weekend during Anime Central.

AC: Who are The Con Artists? What do you do?
RW: The Con Artists is a pile of people who sit and draw in the lobby of the Hyatt during Anime Central. We’ve been doing it for the past 5 years and are in no way affiliated with the convention nor the artist’s alley. It’s a fairly spontaneous operation. The way it works is that me and a few friends sit down in an open area, put out a ton of paper and drawing supplies and just wait for people to come join us. We encourage everybody that walks by to sit and draw with us. And we keep a collection of the drawings from every previous year. So we often get people coming back year after year just to find their old drawings. It’s a neat alternative to the convention itself.

AC: What inspired you to create this informal drawing circle?
RW: I’ve been going to ACEN since 2000. After the first… 7 years, it really started to lose it’s charm. I don’t really buy that much swag anymore and the events were getting repetitive. The value of the badge was not worth the value of my experience. One of my favorite things to do at ACEN is to stay up super late and meet all the cool people that are willing to stop and hang out at 3am. I suppose in 2008 we just started drawing out of boredom. People would come by and ask if they could draw too. So we made a sign that says “Come do art.” We collected all the drawings and put them up on a deviant art account. Ta-Da. It was a thing.

Each year we come back with more supplies and run out just as fast.

AC: What are some challenges you face running this group?
RW: The more popular we get, the more room we take up. We have started to bleed into the walking areas and we always seem to run out of paper. I’m always nervous that the Hyatt people are going to tell us to stop taking up space or blocking traffic or something. We often have to do rounds of cleanup because a lot of people leave garbage when they leave (jerks (us included.))

Another fun aspect of running it is that I cannot leave… really. Since I’m usually the only one running it, it somewhat precludes me from any other goings on like room parties my friends often throw. I assume they hold it against me. There are a few other guys that help me out so last year I was able to get the appropriate amount of drinking in between shifts.

Our biggest issue is documentation. We’ve got well over 500 pictures now and it’s getting hard for one person to carry all these drawings back and forth each year. Every year I try something new to share the images. The first year was a Deviant Art and in 2011 I made a giant collage. But it’s a lot of time to scan and clean up hundreds of drawings.

Also, since we are all inclusive… we’ve been getting a lot more stick figure drawings. So while I don’t want to discourage anyone from hanging out with us and doodling, they are starting to dilute the archive that is already growing too large.

AC: Are there plans to improve upon or change the format for 2013?
RW: Nope. Bring more paper? Maybe be less handsome so less people want to come hang out with us?

AC: What is your favorite story from Con Artists so far?
RW: Not surprisingly… there is a fair amount of flirting going on between some of the beautiful/handsome people that sit down and hang out with us. Two years ago there was a boy and girl that were talking and having a good time, etc. Well this year I found out that they are dating because they met through us. And, they are both really cool people, so I was happy that some tangible good came of this whole thing.

There are a bunch of great people I’ve met. Unfortunately I have the worst memory so I forget most of them. But at least it always feels like I’m meeting new people. You meet some real personalities doing something like this. Some people even just come by to tell stories.

Oh right we had a guy come by with a violin or something last year and just jam with us for a few hours.

Also I liked the guy that hated anime and drew an awesome picture of dinosaurs and phallus in protest of anime, I guess.

AC: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists?
RW: Draw. Do it as often as you can. I’m not really an artist despite the fact I do art in many forms all the time. I’m actually a game developer and although I have a history of art be it web-comics or game art or my animation minor… I’ve never really considered myself good enough for much of anything. It’s more a casual hobby. I have trouble expressing myself through my art, the older I get. It’s a muscle you have to keep in practice or you start to lose it. I have other forms of expression that I’ve long since changed focus to and for the most part, con artists is the only time I draw anymore. It’s pretty intense to come up with ideas to draw for 3 days straight but it always works out and I make some cool stuff.

I’ll leave you with this: One of our pickup lines to get people, whom often say, “I can’t draw,” is to respond, “Neither can I. That doesn’t stop me.”

Thanks very much to Ryan for sharing his experience with The Con Artists. Join them in the Hyatt lobby at Anime Central 2013, May 17–19.  Are you an organizer or know someone who would be interested in sharing with us? Contact us at info@animechicago.com.

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