Artist at 15th annual Youmacon celebrates community

Alyssa Ochss, Contributor

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Chilly weather didn’t faze anime fans — young and old — as thousands flocked to Detroit this past weekend to enjoy Youmacon, an annual anime convention held in the TCF Center (formerly the Cobo Center) and the Renaissance Center.

According to the Youmacon website, the convention started off with just about 1,000 attendees in 2005, and by 2014, that number grew to just over 16,000. This sudden growth in attendees between the year marks it as  “one of North America’s fastest growing conventions.” Every year, Youmacon celebrates the ins and outs of everything from Disney to superheroes to the latest released anime. 

The convention hosts a plethora of different activities, including panels, unofficial photoshoots and meetups and autograph sessions from esteemed guests of the anime community. One of the biggest features of the event is the Exhibitors Hall. In this room, artists of varying styles sell their art and novels to fans. 

Veterans of conventions as well as first-timers are able to sell their art if they get approved to join the convention. However, like with anything else, these artists have to hone their craft and all start somewhere.

Dani Cojo, artist, writer and a former staff member of The Oakland Post, sold her art to the masses, but her books were her top seller. In addition to her artwork, she and her husband, fellow OU alum Edd Bunch, sold copies of her new novel, “The Art of Falling.” Though this was Cojo’s first time selling at Youmacon, she has attended other conventions in the past, such as Shutocon in Lansing.

Cojo started drawing at a young age since her dad went to the College for Creative Studies. Her art style changed along with the things she watched, starting out with shows by Butch Hartman, such as “Danny Phantom,” which inspired her to develop her style into a more anime-based look.

“Once I got out of high school and in college and [was] kind of dabbling in my own type of style, it kind of became a combination of a more traditional American cartoon style and the Eastern anime style,” Cojo said. “I kind of found a healthy balance between the two.” 

Since Cojo had been going to Youmacon prior to tabling as an artist, she knew about selling at conventions before she started. 

Though tabling at a convention can be intimidating, maybe no one is going in completely blind — with the help of online Facebook groups for the Artists’ Alley and help from convention veterans. 

“There’s a really great community on Facebook if you get accepted,” Cojo said. “For example, the Youmacon artists, everyone gets together and asks questions.” 

Along with selling already made prints and novels, Cojo also sold commissions or art drawn at the convention. Cojo said restrictions she found when tabling at the Exhibitors Hall and drawing these commissions include her own limitations for how much she could draw in three days. 

Cojo said the advice she had for other artists would be to just continue to draw and hone your craft. 

“It’s to always keep going and keep drawing,” Cojo said, “and if you don’t like it, that’s OK, keep it in a scrapbook somewhere, don’t throw away your art. You can always go back and look and see how you’ve improved.” 

Along with the size of the convention, the artist community grows every year to include newer artists. Cojo saw how well the artists bond immediately when they were setting up.

“I feel like the community now is even bigger and better than when I first started,” Cojo said. “When I first started, I felt very new to the scene and didn’t know who to talk to or what to talk about, but now I feel very comfortable being able to go to any artist.”