Make Art (And Money) – Not Salt

Header photo by gamerevx

As I write this, Katsucon is a month away. I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear back about my time off request, and hoarding my plane ticket money like Smaug – protective and ready to pounce when the time is finally right.

Meanwhile, Leon Chiro has just met his Patreon funding goal to attend Katsucon.

Am I jealous? A little. Who wouldn’t love to have their cons magically paid for?

But I ain’t fucken mad.

So why are so many people mad at Leon?

We don’t bat an eye when fan artists sell prints, buy tables, start Patreons, promote themselves on social media, or use their art as a means to travel to and attend many different conventions.

The second a cosplayer does it, they’re a fame whore.

And I’m tired of cosplayers treating their peers like this.

Cosplay isn’t the precious little subculture it used to be

I came into the cosplay world at a strange time, right as the concept of “cosfame” was about to take off. People treated Facebook fan pages with the same acidity Patreons are treated with now, and I frequently saw hometown hero Jessica Nigri at small, local anime conventions.

So I get why people yearn for a simpler time. But the argument that cosplay is a mere “hobby” and should remain such is absolutely asinine.

Yes, cosplay can be a hobby. Singing or fixing cars can also be hobbies, but they can also be careers. For a lucky few, cosplay is their career, and they are widely demonized for it.

If you think that it’s great that Adele is a successful singer but a cosplayer selling prints is a blight on our precious hobby, try telling your auto mechanic that they shouldn’t be charging you for an oil change. Let me know how that goes.

Like it or not, cosplay is changing. And the people resisting this change the hardest are cosplayers themselves.

The unrecognized art form

This vitriol in the cosplay community doesn’t just stem from jealousy or a misguided attempt at defining what cosplay is and isn’t.

It goes deeper. It stems from the lack of respect for cosplay as an art form. Yes, even within our own community.

It’s a sad irony. Cosplay is amazing because combines so many art forms. Modeling, design, makeup, photography, painting, sculpting, performance – I’d argue that every single art form can be represented in cosplay. But when I started my fanpage page six years ago, I was told I shouldn’t because I wasn’t an artist.

We worship art and its creators so much that we, as con-goers, literally spend our disposable time and income celebrating them, attending conventions to meet them, buying the things they worked on and its corresponding merchandise.

Our entire culture as geeks and especially as con-goers is built around the idea that people should get paid for their art.

And yet, how dare a mere cosplayer, a mere hobbyist, attempt to do the same.

We live in an INCREDIBLE time where there are more avenues than ever for people to at least make a buck off their art. Cosplayers and other creators like YouTubers are working in creative careers that didn’t even exist ten years ago. This should be celebrated!

In turn, we, as fans and supporters, have any number of ways to support our favorite creators – prints, t-shirts, photo ops, subscriptions, Patreon, watching their videos with ad blocker turned off. Cosplay careers are possible because of this diverse set of revenue streams.

Side note: If you are confused as to why anyone would want to just give money to an artist, please click this link. This is not new nor is it exclusive to cosplay.

“But Game Grumps just sit and play video games, and Jessica Nigri just has to show up and look hot,” I hear the haters saying.

First of all, the haters are wrong here. Second of all, “bad” art is still art. And all artists have the same right to profit from their art if they choose.

All of them, from illustrators and painters to writers to cosplayers and photographers. All of them.

Besides, if artists were never paid, we wouldn’t have much to cosplay from.

Patreon is not the enemy

Now, back to our friend Leon here. I get why people are upset about how he funded his trip to Katsucon. Are there plenty of other cosplayers who have funded their convention trips in “less than acceptable” ways? Yeah, of course. That’s the reason so many people are jumping on Leon – but their anger is misplaced.

Leon made his Katsucon trip a fundraising goal on his Patreon, a site which literally exists so that artists of all kinds can be supported by their fans who all get something in return. Contributors who aren’t going to Katsucon still get whatever is in their reward tier. And those who are going to Katsucon get the chance to meet their favorite cosplayer. He’s working for that money, but he’s being treated like he’s asking for a free ride.

Just as you and I fund our own conventions and cosplays with our jobs, so do cosplayers like Leon. Because cosplay is their job. While it might seem like the common Patreon rewards take very little effort, the opposite is true – creating and packing prints, carving out time for Skype calls and Twitch streams, taking individual Polaroids to send to your Patrons, all that stuff adds up. Patreon is not about handouts or easy money. You have to put the work in.

Another side note: Leon’s goal for Katsucon was also a mere $600. I’m flying domestically and my trip wouldn’t be covered by that amount, so it sure as hell isn’t going to fund Leon’s trip from Italy. But please, keep crying about he’s asking for his fans to pay for everything.

Post-Katsu update: I didn’t  meet Leon while I was there, but I heard nothing but wonderful things from friends who went to his meetup or stopped him for a photo in the hallway. I witnessed firsthand how a friend of mine ran after him for a photo of his Gladio, and he was more than happy to stop and take a selfie even though it was the end of the day and he’d probably been stopped a thousand times. He seems like a rad dude and it’s no wonder so many people were willing to chip in to meet him in person.

If you’re still mad at Leon, add my name to your shitlist too. Not once have I ever paid for Katsucon completely by myself. Every year I ask for my trip to subsidized by people who care about me and support my art and want me to attend and have a good time. How is that any different than what Leon did?

Oh, right. I asked for that money as a Christmas gift from my friends and family, so that money is somehow better and more noble.

But no, it’s not.

Shrug it off and go back to ironing your seams or keep wasting time being bitter. It really is your choice.

If this blog post made you angry, I do have my own Patreon which barely pays for my Starbucks but fulfills my need to spite people like you. If you enjoyed my post, my only tier is $1 and you get to read all of my content early. Thanks!

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