As you may have noticed from the break in scheduled tweets and tumbles, last weekend I was in Pittsburgh for my sixth AnthroCon. I was there as a dealer of art and merch, an exhibiting artist, and, for the first time, as a fursuiter (costumed performer)! It was an incredible and an incredibly busy weekend, and so much happened I cannot possibly fit it all into one blog post. Instead, I’ll be tumbling interesting anecdotes from the con over the course of the next couple of weeks, so if you haven’t already, go follow me on tumblr. This post will deal with a general overview, and a peek as to what’s coming next.
View of the David L Lawrence Convention Center (with tiny AnthroCon flag), and the adjoining Westin hotel with Rachel Carson bridge and Allegheny river in foreground. Taken from the Andy Warhol Bridge.
One thing I did differently this year, was I made it a point to do a lot more exploring of Pittsburgh itself. It’s a shame it’s taken me six years to actually look around the host city of AC, but better late than never, right? It helped that I have recently taken up jogging, and so I was able to use my morning runs as an excuse to check out the city—mostly the river trails running up and down the shores of the Allegheny. I also finally got to visit the National Aviary, which turned out to be even more wonderful than I’d hoped. Their exhibits and staff are great, the birds are beautiful, and I cannot recommend them enough. It was fitting, too, because they were the con’s official charity this year, and so I got to see rather a lot of them over the course of the weekend. Still, if you’re ever in Pittsburgh, I highly recommend you set aside a day to see the Aviary—I can especially recommend their daily Soar show. Also, they had hyacinth macaws.
Dafydd regards the Aviary’s Hyacinth Macaw.
This year was also special because I got to share a room with one of my oldest internet friends: Susan and I met on a Pokémon forum back in 2003, and have since rediscovered each other, first on deviantART in 2004, and then in the furry fandom in 2009—though we did not actually get to meet in person until 2010. Since then we’ve kept in touch, but this is the first year we’ve really gotten to hang out together, and it was a joy. Susan is an amateur mascot performer with two amazing costumes, and it was a lot of fun suiting with her at AC. Our third roommate (and mutual friend) was Mary Capaldi, who is wonderful and amazing and draws the most adorable bugs.
Left to right: Susan as Rin the Dragon, Mary Capaldi as herself, and myself as Tachyon the Elk Angel Dragon. The bandanas were made after a design by Mary.
I mentioned Tachyon in the caption of that last picture, so I suppose I’d better tell you about him. He is a character designed by a legendary fursuit performer/maker better known as Telephone, who created a species she called angel dragons. These have since expanded in number as other artists have come up with their own angel dragon characters. Aside from Telephone and her mate, Radio, there is also Torch, Tumbleweed, Pearl, Alabaster, and Echo—who to my knowledge were all designed by different people. Tachyon was created by Telephone herself, as a feathery, horned, antlered beast inspired by a bull Elk. She put up the design back in December and auctioned off the custom-built suit to the highest bidder… which turned out to be me. Six months later I was finally able to step into his shoes (and legs and body and hands and head) and fully bring him to life. This was my first experience fursuiting extensively, and I enjoyed it immensely. It is very hot, very hard to see, and you can easily trip over things, but the power and presence of these costumes is incredible. It brought out all my old love of performing and playing with people, and I had a blast.
You can see me (as Tachyon) in action in the video below (taken by my friend Jesse, who had never used an iPhone before; bless her.)
I did not get to play around as Tachyon as much as I would have liked, but that was because AnthroCon is a working convention for me. Like last year, I had a table in the dealer’s hall and panels in the art show, and the work attendant on those things prevented me from taking part in all but the late-night fursuit shenanigans.
Not that being a working artist at AC is boring. Oh ho no. AnthroCon is the largest anthropomorphic fandom (furry for short) convention in the world, and one that many people save up all year to attend. As such, I do more commission work at AC than I do for much of the rest of the year, and most of that is done at my table. So from noon to six on Friday, ten to six on Saturday, and ten to four on Sunday, I am working, working, working.
Oh, but it is fun work. One of the great things about the furry fandom is how creative and colorful its members are, and they are so very generous when it comes to commissioning artists. I haven’t found another group of people that is so supportive of its artists and artisans, and I am warmed and humbled every time I go to AnthroCon and people practically line up to get to me draw things.
(Okay so no lines were actually formed. But there were knots of interested parties. Globs, you could say. It was great.)
Of course, the downside is I can only do so much work at my table, what with actually selling things as well (this year I brought an assortment of Heliopause books, and they all sold, amazingly) and this has always put a limit on how much work I can take at the con… and since most people want their pictures done at the con this means a limit on how much I can take in—because I do like to get out and about in the evenings; see above paragraphs regarding fursuits.
This year, however, I was fortunate enough to be invited to work after hours with several other artists, and the experience of sitting in a room with half a dozen extremely motivated people, who also happened to be amazing artists, just drawing, was an incredibly encouraging feeling. You got to say “ding!” when your piece was finished, and then you could show it around to the rest of the room.
And here is the remarkable thing that might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t met a working artist: there was no critique, no critical feedback, whatsoever. Basically everyone paused in their own work to “oooo” and “ahhhh” over the finished piece. This was not a critique group. These artists were not there to improve their craft; they were there to work. But being able to see the amazing stuff they created also helped me up my own game. It was a nurturing environment, and being allowed to work in it with them was an honor and a pleasure.
The picture that kept me up until 2:30 AM Sunday. But Dark Natasha (darknatasha.com) had kind words to say about it, so that was worth it.
On the subject of professional artists and critiques, one of the highlights of this AC was getting to hang out with Alector Fencer, who does breath-taking digital painting. Like Giger if Giger had a thing for plants instead of phallic skeletoids. She is utterly amazing and utterly gorgeous and indubitably German in the best way possible, and while we were touring the art show at the Artist and Dealer’s reception on Friday night, we stopped by my panel and she took me by the arm and said, very quietly, “May I give you a little constructive critique?”
I felt my heart sink. I do not like getting constructive critique on my finished work. Most of the time it is either something I already know about (and was hoping would not be noticed) or it is not so much critique as it is a negative statement.
But Alector had been nothing but kind to me so far—and besides, have you seen her art? If she had a critique, I wanted to hear it!—so I smiled and said, “Sure.”
“Okay,” she said. “Here is my critique: your work is fucking amazing.”
Now imagine that being said in a sexy Berliner accent.
It was like getting a shot of concentrated happy straight to the gut. I was floored. It was the best critique I’d ever gotten. Especially as it came from the person who painted this.
Alector is currently crowd-funding an original graphic novel project, called Myre (pronounced mi-ré), and you can follow her on Twitter for more updates.
The author with Alector Fencer, or: a portrait of two jet-lagged artists.
There were so many cool people at AnthroCon this year, I will try to mention as many as I can. Shoutouts of course to my friend Renee, who was working Reg and Dealer’s Den staff and could not be my table assistant but it’s okay, I forgive you; also to Jesse for following Tachyon around on Saturday night and taking pictures—thank you so much! I missed seeing Fox Amoore’s release of his new album, sadly, but I have the CD and listening to it on my drive home made the traffic bearable. So many thanks to my friends Mary and Susan for putting up with my wet athletic clothes hogging all the towel racks—you are both saints! Getting to eat bagels and vegemite with the Aussies at Dr Jenner’s party and having a look inside his personal portfolio was lovely, as was meeting his adorable wife Nonna (thank you for returning the bandana I left in your room!) In fact, all the Aussies were great. I want to go visit you guys so bad. Thanks again to Diana Stein for her support and encouragement, and best regards to all the other SkyPro fursuiters and fellow angel dragons—we will meet again!
Angel dragons, l-f top: Pearl, Telephone, Radio, Tachyon, Alabaster, Echo | l-f bottom: Torch, Tumbleweed. Photo by Justin Cheetah: http://justinthecheetah.tumblr.com
And of course I have to shout out to my dear friend, 2 the Ranting Gryphon, who got me into this mess in the first place, and continues to deliver top-notch stand up comedy, even in the face of extreme stress (he moved house weeks before the con) and high expectations. It is really hard for me to describe his AnthroCon show; it is somehow bigger and better than any other performance he does, and the kind of laugher he generates is unique. It’s visceral, cathartic, and consuming. Like getting your body cleaned out with the kind of humor that scorches a little, but leaves you feeling better afterwards. All I can say at this point is: go buy his DVDs, and if you are ever in a position to see his live show, do it.
To all the friends I met, however briefly, even if I don’t mention your name here—even if I don’t remember your name—know that you are in my heart, and I will think of you fondly, and look forward to the day when, like a comet to the sun, we all come streaming back to Pittsburgh.
Fireworks over Confluence Point Park, 4th of July, as seen from the docks by the DLLCC on the Allegheny river.
Every time I land in PIT for AnthroCon, and I tell my shuttle driver how happy I am to be back, they usually give me odd looks. I know that Pittsburgh isn’t glamorous the way San Francisco, Chicago, NYC or even Philadelphia is, but to me it will always be special—and now that I’ve had a chance to explore it, I can categorically say that it’s got something to be proud of—even without us funny furry people taking over downtown every summer.
Looking forward… July is going to be a hectic month for me, but hopefully I’ll have some art to post for you. I’ll be busy with take home orders from AC, and then in August I am traveling to World Con via Scotland, and thence on to Berlin (Hallo Alector!) for Eurofurence. I’ll have art in the show at LonCon, and I’ll also be hosting a Diana Wynne Jones fan meet and greet. I may have art for sale at Eurofurence, but there are no solid plans as of yet.
On the book side of things: we are overdue for another issue of Apsis Fiction, but I hope to have that out the door soon. There is also another episode of Professor Odd, and the first dedicated issue of Driving Arcana. Lots to look forward to. Lots to do. I am currently thrashing my way out of a Bouragner Felpz novel, and Corianne has been giving me ominous looks since I’ve been writing this instead of her story. Time to sign off.
Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. She goes by Agent Elrond (or variations thereof) in the furry fandom, and also answers to “Rondie.” To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also contact her directly.