When Wizard World returns to the Austin Convention Center next weekend, there will be celebrity guests and panel discussions and lots of cosplay and lots of very nerdy stuff to buy or just gawk at. There will also be local art.
Every year, the Artists’ Alley section of the convention features artists showing, selling and talking about their work. This year, Austin’s Theresa Schlossberg and Julia Mann will be two of the participating artists.
Schlossberg has become a bit of a veteran on the comic con scene – she’s shown and sold her work at dozens of conventions in Texas and beyond over the last several years. She’s a traditionally trained artist and a lifelong comic book and science fiction fan, but for years resisted merging those two parts of herself.
“I went to my first Star Trek con when I was nineteen, but before that I didn’t even know that the con world existed, because my mom was not very supportive of my nerdiness,” Schlossberg says. “She just would look at me sometimes and say… ‘I don’t understand you.’”
Schlossberg says her mom forbid her from buying comic books as a kid. “So my stepbrother would sneak them to me,” she says. “So I read X-Men a lot… and I just loved it.” From there, she grew to love Stars both Trek and Wars and pretty much immersed herself in fandom and geek culture.
“It’s always been a part of my life, but I never thought of putting it into an art form because I’m trained traditionally in art,” Schlossberg says. “I was told… ‘Don’t do the geek stuff because it’ll hinder your ability to be taken seriously as an artist.’” After spending a few years trying to make a living as a more traditional artist, Schlossberg came to realize that the works people responded to the most were the nerdier things she was creating for herself, as a hobby. She was advised to try selling some of that work at comic cons, and was surprised to find that she really loved showing and selling her work in that environment.
One of Schlossberg’s specialties is her oil work – a mix of her own semi-abstract painting style with subject matter based on Star Wars, Star Trek, and other sci-fi properties. She’s also started doing more illustration work, including several mashups of pop culture characters.
Mashups are very popular among the comic con crowd, which is something fellow artist Julia Mann discovered when she started showing at conventions earlier this year. Like Schlossberg, she also grew up as a budding artist and an X-Men fan. “I would collect the X-Men cards and start drawing them,” Mann says. “Or I’d actually collect the Wizard magazines and draw those characters.”
After spending some time painting murals for kids’ rooms and working on commissioned illustrations, Mann decided a few years ago to start drawing for herself again. “I just went back to what I did when I was young, which was ‘okay, what are my favorite characters?’” she says. She started to post her drawings to Instagram, she says, as a way to keep herself accountable and to make sure she drew something every day; she soon realized that the art that was making her happy was also making other people happy.
Like Schlossberg, she was encouraged to go to the cons and eventually decided to give it a try. “I never realized how much fun it would be,” Mann says. “I am a very, I guess, shy, introverted person. And I’m completely different at a convention. I’m talkative… it’s not scary to talk to people about art all day long. I had no idea that I’d be able to encourage kids and adults and seventy-year-olds to get back to drawing. It just sparks joy in them and I didn’t even know that side of it.”