How I Comiconned My Kids Into Being Art Connoisseurs

…And Why I’ll Do It Again at This Year’s Comicon


My kids conned me into going to the Phoenix Comicon last year…

…but I conned them into being art connoisseurs.




I was interested in what they were interested in.


And gave them a nudge.


Normally, I’m all about life storytelling, and I encourage my kids to write their stories (and everyone else I can get to listen to me). Lifestory writing helps heal old wounds, it clears your mind, and helps you become a more resilient person. (Check out the Real Life Resilience podcast for more info on that, or head over to the 4 Simple, Proven Methods to Writing the First Chapter of Your Life Story in Just 7 Days)


But writing is art, and art is art, and I just couldn’t pass up a chance to help my girls see themselves as art connoisseurs.


This is me and my older daughter…



Yeah, I was conned into gluing my hair into bat ears…sort of.

And wearing a bat girl shirt and cape.




I like to think I dressed like bat girl in the interest of helping my kids become art connoisseurs.

Yet I was clearly underdressed….



I’m not above humiliating myself to teach my kids a couple of life lessons:

#1 — Dress your mom up for comicon at your own peril

#2 — Discover the joys of art and become an art connoisseur


I was successful in both.


Are Anime and Art Mutually Exclusive?

Aside from the pure entertainment value of seeing others dressed up, comicon had a true artistic aspect.


The exhibit floor is filled with artists of all kinds. It was a joy to see the variety of art represented…even though it wouldn’t have made the cut in one of those fancy Scottsdale art galleries.


I really don’t care for anime, manga, or that genre of graphics. But my girls do. So I was interested because they were interested in it.


I listened to them as they talked exclaimed over the superhero costumes and the long lines of near-famous actors.


One-by-one we looked at every booth in the exhibit hall.


Every. One.


And they were looking at art.


Find Art That Starts a Conversation

Gavin Gray Valentine of was one of those artists that caught the attention of my teens. 

Photo by Gavin Gray Valentine at


As we strolled by the rows and rows of trinkets, art, costumes, and swords and shields to purchase, Gavin’s art started a conversation.


(And anytime you can get your teen to talk, take advantage of it!)


“That’s cool, look at that!” “What’s that one about?” “I love the colors.”

“I wonder how he does it.”


They were drawn to the characters he drew, and the colors. And they were curious. 

Photo by Gavin Gray Valentine at


I pounced.

“Let’s ask him how he creates his art,” I said.


They balked. He was too cute, he was too busy, you can’t ask things like that.


They thought they were not important enough to ask questions from an artist.


Pay close attention, parents!


I’ve seen this thought-flaw before, and I couldn’t let them get away with it. So I urged, nudged, cajoled, bribed and embarrassed them to ask their questions of the artist. And they did (after we stalked his booth 3 or 4 more times).


Gavin graciously described how he created his art and they actually had a lovely conversation with him. They admired several of his pieces.


Then I went further. “If you like his art, why don’t you buy a piece?” They looked at me…

…and a lightbulb went off in their heads.


Aha! We can spend our own money on art!


The next 20 minutes were involved in the decision-making process of which piece they wanted, and how much of their precious saved dollars they should spend. I praised them for finding art that they appreciated and for starting their first art collection.


This was the magical moment my teens turned into art connoisseurs at comicon.


Newly-Minted Art Connoisseurs

I’m grateful to Gavin for his art, and his conversation. His work really resonated with my teens…and so many others at comicon. Gavin enjoys connecting with teens:


“I think that my work resonates with a younger audience for a few reasons. My artwork is heavily inspired by the things I love from when I was a kid, but I don’t necessarily have kids in mind when I’m making my art. For my work, there is something familiar and inviting, possibly the animated quality line work and vibrant color. This most likely feels familiar, because kids have been exposed to animation through movies and cartoons.”


More important than being familiar, Gavin wants to challenge kids.

(Thank you Gavin!)


He wants to show young people something that they have to think about, and he makes sure the art doesn’t talk down to them. He explains:


“I see a lot of younger focused art that looks like it was made for a younger audience and I think kids can see through it. Kids need things with deeper meaning, just like adults. So much of what is being created is devoid of a deeper meaning.”



Vaughn “Valentine” Barker at is another artist whose work we loved.

Photo by Vaughn Barker at


Vaughn also loves to connect with young artists. He loves that they’re full of questions about the hows of making his work. He loves passing along his knowledge to the next generation of artists.


“I think teens and young people resonate with my art because of the empowering messages and diversity that I strive for. They see themselves in my art. There’s a lot of great stuff to see at cons and I feel that teens especially are looking for art that reflects their likes as well as their world. At a comicon a few years ago I had a really young girl (maybe five or six) who was attending her first convention buy my ‘Dream Like a Girl’ print because it looked like her. My heart melted.”


Vaughn started out working on large-format oil paintings after school, but it started to feel too much like work, so he set out to make art fun again.


He’s always felt that women were poorly represented in popular art, so he wanted to create something that better represented the strong women in his life. He says:


“I believe that representation matters, so I do my best to make art that everyone can see themselves in. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone light up because they’ve managed to find strong, positive art that looks like them.”


We definitely appreciated that in his art.

The girls bought these pieces:


 Photo by Vaughn Barker at


One of my daughters has turquoise hair, and “shut it” is a favorite phrase of hers. The other is an introvert and a writer. Both were perfect!


Thinking Like an Art Connoisseur

As we anticipate this year’s Phoenix Comicon, the girls are already talking about what art they might buy.


Now they’re thinking like art connoisseurs!


Vaughn has built up somewhat of a following over the years as he returns to comicons he’s previously exhibited at. He loves the fact that he gets return fans:


If it’s a show I’ve done multiple times I even get people coming up to my table and excitedly asking ‘what’s new?’”


My two new art connoisseurs and I will be asking “What’s new, Vaughn?” this year at the Phoenix Comicon. And they’ll be sure to add to their collections from Gavin Gray Valentine too.


And perhaps they’ll become patrons of other comicon artists.


Because my kids are now art connoisseurs.


I’m glad my kids conned me into going to comicon. I’m thrilled they’re now weaving art into their life stories.


p.s. I’m already planning this year’s comicon/momicon costume! Any ideas for me?



This article was originally published on Medium.

Stacy Brookman is a Resilience and Life Storytelling Expert and produces the Real Life Resilience podcast.


She helps smart, outwardly confident women who secretly have low self-esteem issues due to an emotionally abusive partner to take back control and begin to develop the resilience they need to be themselves again. Her free monthly webinar will give you 4 Simple, Proven Methods to Writing the First Chapter of Your Life Story in Just 7 Days.


Life is a story…it’s never too late to start telling yours.

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