The two biggest drawbacks to conventions are the preparation time and the recovery time. Preparing for a con can take upwards of a full week for me, and often the prep has been going on for a week before that while I try and tie up the loose ends of my usual responsibilities. Making a list, checking it twice, color correcting and making prints, wrapping prints and sketches, pricing things, organizing proofs, and packing everything up, all eat tons of time. But it's time I am prepared for. I know it's coming.
What I'm never completely prepared for is the recovery. By the end of any given convention, I am sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and cognitively impaired. If I attempt to get work done in the 48 hours immediately following a convention, it is always slow, sloppy, and mediocre. I just don't have it together. So, I try and catch up on menial tasks like mounting sketches or blocking in large fields of color. Maybe I'll update my spreadsheets or collect reference for upcoming jobs.
I have found that even conventions held in my home city have this effect, despite allowing for sleeping in my own bed. I still need to get up early, and unlike conventions that require hotel stays, there is an actual commute to the venue.
How long it takes to return to a level of normal functionality seems to vary. Some cons require just an extra day. Others I still feel the effects of a week later. Because of this variability, planning my post-con schedule can be quite difficult. In fact, I have gotten into the habit of planning for the worst case scenario. Should an entire week of fumbling occur, I build that possibility into my schedule as best I can.
Last year, I attended seven different events. Several were conventions, the rest Magic tournaments of different varieties. All required prep time and recovery time. On top of that, the time that the actual appearances consumed was quite substantial. Add to that a month away from home for a work gig and a permanent relocation to a new city, and you have an artist looking for some time to breathe, and hoping for a more relaxed 2011.
Some folks really dig the travel and are energized by it. I find it to be exhausting. Which is why I'm seriously considering leaving my year's schedule at the three appearances I have ahead of me for the rest of the year. Boskone is done. I have a Magic Grand Prix in Providence, RI in the spring. I will be going to Japan in June for a Magic Pro Tour event. And I would ideally like to make it to IlluxCon in November.
The major player missing from that list is GenCon. While I haven't ruled GenCon out just yet, I'm definitely leaning toward staying home. I have not had a summer off in about 10 years. The trip to Japan already makes this year no exception. Due to the convention season, I end up working more nights and weekends in order to make up the lost time and maintain productivity. This means that I have even less time to enjoy the good weather, less time to spend with my wife, and absolutely no time for personal work.
Maybe it's the lack of sleep talking. Or maybe it's the wide-eyed hopefulness of my wife at the thought of an August to ourselves. I can't rightly say. But something that I certainly realized during a trip to Rick Berry's studio this past weekend was that given the choice of how to spend my time, I'd rather be painting. And it's quite possible that this year I'll get to do more of it.