anthrocon

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It’s been a whirlwind… life, really. AnthroCon was there at the turn of the month, and as always it was a wild, exhilarating ride. So many good feelings, so good to see old friends again and kindle new ones. I missed Susan, who wisely stayed in the Netherlands this year and thus avoided the harrowing trip through US customs, but my partner in fundraising, Shujin, dropped in and was an immense help on Saturday and Sunday. Shujin and I debuted a quirky live-sketch show part iron artist, part charity auction. Shujin is a DJ and we took prompts from the audience, combined with his choice of song, and I drew them. The results were… as irreverent as one might expect.

Yet through the generosity of our audience we raised ~$375 for AnthroCon’s flagship charity, Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary. I managed to scrape together another $75 from charity brush pen commissions I took, so that’s pretty neat.

Commissions were somewhat lighter than in past years, but those I got were lovely, and sales were good. I under-ordered Professor Odd Season 2 singles, and sold out of Driving Arcana Rotation 1, but I had enough of Season One—though all but one copy has been spoken for now. Anyone want a signed copy of Professor Odd: The Complete Season One? Hit me up!

Oh yes, the Complete Season One is finally out! Here is the cover (I am so proud of it):

I will make a proper art post later with the whole thing. It’s a wrap-around illustration that took me months. Whew!

I missed my partners, who were unable to make it this year due to Boyfriend moving from TX to CA to live with Girlfriend, which necessitated a quick trip down to visit them on my behalf directly after the con. This, combined with the mountain biking camp for girls which I volunteered at last week (put on by Soul Sister Cycling) and I am now woefully behind on summer business. Which business has been compacted by our upcoming trip to Helsinki for WorldCon next month. What ho! Time to get off the blog and back to work! I’m on several panels at World Con this year, not least the Diana Wynne Jones panel and a storytelling/illustration panel with (heavy breathing) Rob Carlos and (heavy breathing intensifies) Claire Wendling. Wish me luck.

Also I have several new pieces of art to share. Expect a bunch of art posts in the coming week. And by expect I mean nag me about it on Twitter so I actually do it.

Thanks.

-G

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I am currently installed at Mary Capaldi’s house, enjoying an extended vacation after the amazing hecticality that was AnthroCon. It is very wet and green and there are fireflies. It is nice.

This AnthroCon was both the shortest and longest weekend of my life. It was short in that things flew by so quickly, but extremely long in that I spent so much of it awake. One of the things I wanted to do this year was take more at-con commissions, which I would complete by sitting up late and drawing with the other night owl artists. Which I did. With abundance. Between Friday, Saturday and Sunday I managed approximately four hours of sleep, and twelve colored or shaded pictures. That’s not counting the numerous sketches I did at my table during the day.

The result was that, though this was by far my most lucrative AnthroCon ever, I spent much of it running on pure willpower, and by Sunday evening I was little more than a drained shell that somewhat resembled a human being.

Nevertheless, when asked what my favorite part was, I find myself so inundated with happy memories I am unable to answer. So I have done my best to compile a brief list.

1. Walking through Pittsburgh to visit the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. It was interesting to see the different sides of the city, the overgrown houses and cracked sidewalks and slick university streets and the walking paths that disappear into forests in the middle of the city. The museums were cool, too. There was a quetzalcoatlus northropi skeleton, and I found a Van Gogh original.

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2. Setting up my dealer’s table with my dear friend Susan. They turn off the AC in the exhibit hall so they can open the loading bay doors and people can drive their cars directly onto the floor, and by the end of it we were both hot, tired and sweaty. So we took a break before going on to the art show and went and got ice cream.

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3. Suiting as Tachyon with Graham, another Angel Dragon. It was so much fun running through the con and playing with people; Graham is an excellent companion for Tachyon and they make an adorable couple.

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4. Going into the rave dance, as Tachyon. Being in suit allows you to be even more flamboyant and obnoxious, and though everything is harder and hotter in suit, getting to play with the other dancers more than made up for it.

5. Running along the Three Rivers Heritage trail. It was good to get out of doors, and Confluence Point Park was a beautiful place to go. Several times I crossed the Allegheny and continued on to where the USS Requin, a Cold War-era submarine, was docked.

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6. Getting absolutely hammered in the Dealer’s Room after opening on Friday. I have never filled my queue so fast—and I’d doubled it’s capacity from last year. Having Susan to help with taking orders was a massive help. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed alone in the past.

7. Attending 2’s comedy show on Friday night. 2 got caught in a little bit of a social media snafu right before the con, but he came out firing on all cylinders and didn’t pull any punches. It was marvelous.

8. Sitting up late drawing with Diana Stein and company. The feeling of being in a room with other artists all concentrating on drawing, drawing, drawing is one of the best in the world. How good is it? It kept me up until 5:00 AM finishing all the orders I took that day.

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9. Learning about Parkour. At 7:30 AM the following morning. You’d think two hours of sleep wouldn’t be enough to allow you to go running and jumping around on rocks and things, but I felt surprisingly good and only scraped my knee a little bit.

10. Having the people who said they’d come back and commission me later actually come back. It was heart-warming and so encouraging. Thank you.

11. Ditching the Dealer’s Room briefly to go as Tachyon to the Dutch Angel Dragons meet. It was great to see so many other cute suits, and to join up with my beloved Graham again.

12. Crashing Matthew Ebel’s show and starting a conga line during “Normal is Not for Me.” It was fun last year when I went as myself. It was even better in suit.

13. Staying up until 5:00 AM again drawing and finishing commissions. I might have finished earlier, but I got into a fascinating discussion of Unschooling with another artist.

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14. Getting to talk to and draw inspiration from the other late-night artists. I am particularly indebted to Brenda Lyons and Dark Natasha, who helped me more than they probably know. And of course to Diana Stein, who got everything started.

15. Getting to draw in the same room as Ursula Vernon, who was kind enough to put a dragon in my Drakendillion. Also a highlight.

16. The Sunday Charity Special I concocted, on the spot, to raise money for the Western PA Humane Society. It gave me a chance to have fun with my new brush pen, and people liked it enough I was able to raise $70 for the con charity.

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17. Live-drawing 2 and Uncle Kage’s charity show. On stage. This was a phenomenal experience and a dream come true. I’ve admired 2 and Kage for years, and to be able to share a stage with them—and the main stage of AnthroCon, no less—was an overwhelming honor and one of the greatest pleasures of the convention. That I got to do it with my trusty friend Mary at my side was even better. I owe a great debt of thanks to Alector Fencer, who supplied the Cintiq for Mary to draw on, and bowed out of the show so she could participate. Vielen Dank, meine Blümer.

IMG_3746 IMG_3747 IMG_375018. Getting invited to the security after party, and getting to sample so many different single malts. I can now say with assurance that I find Jura extremely appealing, and Aberlour is an excellent starter. Irish whisky tends to come on sharp and acidic and finish fruity, and Lagavulin is still the best thing ever.

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19. Witnessing Ursula Vernon finding out she had been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Live the dream woman, you deserve it all.

20. Getting to sleep for over five hours on Sunday night.

Despite all that, I have left so many things out. There were so many people I wanted to see who I didn’t—or didn’t see enough of—and things I wanted to do (suit as Tachyon) that I didn’t get to do as much of as I’d have liked. Yet taken altogether this was perhaps the most exciting AnthroCon ever, and I will treasure the memories I made last weekend for the rest of my life.

And for everything else, there’s always next year…

*

Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also contact her directly.

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So many things to talk about! I wanted to do a special post dedicated to Alector Fencer‘s crowd-funded graphic novel project, but would you know the thing passed its goal in two days? It’s still open, however, if you want to take advantage of some of the awesome rewards she’s got going! To give you some idea of why you should help, she has kindly given me permission to share some of her art here.

Myre-the Great Black Dragon

Simply breathtaking. I could go on at length about how much I love this piece in particular, but all her work is really gorgeous. So do go check that out!

In news pertaining more toward me…

For the past week I’ve been blogging over on tumblr about my time at AnthroCon during the first week of July. So many incredible things happened I could not fit them all into one post, so I divided my trip into smaller parts and posted my thoughts on them there under the tag AC2014. Also, my general overview can be found here.

And now?

Now I am packing for yet another trip. This one will take me all the way across the Atlantic: first to Scotland (Edinburgh and the Trossachs National Park), and then to London for LonCon3, where I’ll be exhibiting my art and participating in the programmeTachyon will also be making a special appearance on Saturday evening to benefit the Furry Fandom panel. Most exciting of all, I’m hosting a Diana Wynne Jones fan meet and greet on Sunday evening! There will be a book giveaway, casual readings, and possibly cake—though that’s still up in the air due to restrictions from the venue. I’ll post more details as the date approaches.

After that, I move on to Berlin for Eurofurence, in my capacity as Elrond Drakendíl, before returning at the end of the month.

After that I have a few weeks of rest, where hopefully I’ll have a chance to share some new art with you, and then I must begin preparations for my last con of 2014: World Fantasy in Arlington Virginia.

In the mean time you can expect updates from my travels on the road on Tumblr and Twitter. I’ll also have a few new titles coming from Heliopause, including the newest issue of Apsis Fiction, which is now available in paperback and eBook! You can find direct links to where to buy either on its dedicated page on Heliopause!

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Have a great summer, everyone!
~G

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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. Rachel Carson bridge is in foreground. Taken from the Andy Warhol Bridge.

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.

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, and myself as Tachyon the Elk Angel Dragon. The bandanas were made after a design by Mary.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Auf Wiedersehen!

*

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.

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I am going to AnthroCon next month, and in order to fill up my panels in the art show I decided it would be fun to paint a bunch of cats. Me being me, of course, they had to be quirky, fantastical cats, and thus my Cats of the Week series was born! Each cat corresponds to a day of the week, with a little motto to go with him/her/them. Originals are 5″x6″ in customized to 8″x10″ mats and all done with watercolor and white ink—see the bottom of this post for more info. As always, prints are available (or you can just click on the image to go right to its page in my shop).

Sunday is warm and lazy and also full of smiles. You can hear her purring in the mid-morning and afternoon.

Sunday is warm and lazy and also full of smiles. You can hear her purring in the mid-morning and afternoon.

 

Monday often gets a bad rap, but if you treat her kindly she will get your week off to a great start!

Monday often gets a bad rap, but if you treat her kindly she will get your week off to a great start!

 

Tuesday is fierce and full of fire. He will help you be productive, but be careful you are not burned.

Tuesday is fierce and full of fire. He will help you be productive, but be careful you are not burned.

Wednesday is wise and reflective. His afternoons are a good time to take stock and make plans for the future.

Wednesday is wise and reflective. His afternoons are a good time to take stock and make plans for the future.

Thursday is opportunity with a coat of many colors. They bring the tempest with a voice like purring thunder.

Thursday is opportunity with a coat of many colors. They bring the tempest with a voice like purring thunder.

Friday blooms at the end of the week, like a warm spring after winter. Her nights are bright and filled with laughter.

Friday blooms at the end of the week, like a warm spring after winter. Her nights are bright and filled with laughter.

Saturday is wild and playful as a kitten. His mornings are good for sleeping late, or for going on adventures.

Saturday is wild and playful as a kitten. His mornings are good for sleeping late, or for going on adventures.

Within the series I wanted to have a balance between male and female cats (though since these are technically days of the week you may imagine them all as genderless if that suits you), so Sunday and Monday are female, and so is Friday, even though Friday is technically named after both Freya and her brother, Frey. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are all male, like the gods they were named after (Tyr, Woden and Saturn) but Thursday (Thor) is genderless. I chose to make Thursday the odd one out because they were already the oddball in that their element (thunder) did not have a counter-element within the series (Sunday and Monday are day and night; Tuesday and Wednesday are fire and water, Friday and Saturday are earth/plant and wind/ice). On a somewhat related note: Pokémon fans may draw parallels between these cats and the first seven Eeveelutions (Sunday = Espeon, Monday = Umbreon, Tuesday = Flareon, Wednesday = Vaporeon, Thursday = Jolteon, Friday = Leafeon and Saturday = Glaceon. The only Eeveelution not represented, due to my inability to access the fabled eighth day of the week, is suitably the Fairy evolution; Sylveon).

All the lettering was hand done, though since my calligraphy is not the best, I did use a type-based template to help me block out the size and spaces. Furthermore, the days’ names up at the top were imprinted directly onto the matboard using a print out bearing that word in the desired font, size, and placement. Laying the paper over the matboard, I then used a pencil to press a groove through the paper into the soft board underneath. The result was invisible unless viewed under the proper light, but I was able to use it as a guide to then paint the letters in watercolor, and finally outline them in thin pen. The fonts used for the days are as follows (from Sun – Sat): Dunce Cap, Betty Noir, Herculanum, Albert Betenbuch, Sleuth Serif, Party LET, and Santa’s Big Secret. Dunce, Betty, Sleuth and Santa are all by Nate Piekos, Albert Betenbuch is by Robert Schenk via Linotype, while Herculanum and Party came stock on my computer. I definitely learned a lot about lettering from doing this, and it’s made me more confident with my free-hand calligraphy.

For those of you not going to AnthroCon, I have two more art shows planned this year: LonCon3 in August, and World Fantasy (assuming I get in!) in November. Hope to see you at one or both of them!

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also send her an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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Approaching the Westin from William Penn Pl., Downtown Pittsburgh. 2013.

Approaching the Westin from William Penn Pl., Downtown Pittsburgh. 2013.

  • What: AnthroCon
  • Where: Pittsburgh PA
  • When: July 5th-7th 2013

Those of you who have followed this blog long enough may remember my report last year of AnthroCon 2012, and if you are new you may refer to that post if you ever become confused. However, if you are familiar with fantasy and science fiction cons, what comes next should not be at all surprising.

AnthroCon is a furry convention—loosely, a term applied to fans of anthropomorphic animals as they appear in fantasy, science fiction, comics and cartoons—held every summer in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. This year marked my fifth in attendance and my fourth as a Dealer.

At furry conventions the dealer’s hall is affectionately known as the Dealer’s Den, but since AnthroCon has expanded to take up more and more of the David L Lawrence Convention Center (DLLCC) it has become closer to a Dealer’s Cavern. It is a huge hall with a high arching ceiling held up with cables. Natural light filters down to the smooth concrete floor, which during AnthroCon is covered by tables under white cloths. Further to one side is a closed-off area for the Artist’s Alley (where artists may sell art through the convention, thus avoiding having to collect and remit PA sales tax themselves) and the Art Show. For three days over the weekend it serves to house hundreds of dealerships and dozens of artists.

As a dealer, AnthroCon represents a huge investment of time and energy for me. The first six months of the year are dominated by AnthroCon prep, and the final weeks are downright hectic. This year was made even more frantic because of Year of the God-Fox‘s launching the week before. When it came time to pack everything into my suitcase there were a few bad moments where I worried things wouldn’t fit. But they did, and when I arrived in Pittsburgh early on Wednesday morning I came hauling a suitcase packed with art and art-making tools.

Wednesday, July 3

Tyrannosaurus skeleton pointing the way to Baggage Claim at Pittsburgh Int. Airport. It has gotten to the point that I can navigate it with hardly any help from the signs.

Tyrannosaurus skeleton pointing the way to Baggage Claim at Pittsburgh Intl. Airport. It has gotten to the point that I can navigate it with hardly any help from the signs.

Even though AnthroCon technically runs Friday to Sunday, people begin showing up a few days early. I arrived Wednesday morning, as did my friend 2 the Ranting Gryphon, while my roommates slowly turned up over the course of the day.

However, in the early hours I was left to my own devices, and so I did what I always do when I am bored at a convention: I volunteered.

AnthroCon has an attendance of over four thousand, and this year we were expected to break five grand—which we did. When I volunteered I was put to work stuffing bags with a dozen or so others. We worked as an assembly line, passing the red plastic bags stamped with AnthroCon’s paw-print logo from person to person, each one stuffing an item of swag into it, while staff members walked around refilling our supplies. It felt like a never-ending task, but after a while the lead staffer made us stop and come over to another table, where we found this laid out for us:

Volunteers are not paid. Except in sugar.

Volunteers are not paid. Except in sugar.

After cake we went back to work. I eventually ducked out with a friend, ostensibly to go find food, but I believe we just went back to our room and napped.

Wednesday night our other roommates finally arrived. They had driven up from North Carolina and had suffered a major setback early in their trip that involved a tow-truck. A back-up car had to be acquired, and they didn’t arrive at the hotel until after 10 PM.

Which was okay, because many of the best parties at AnthoCon happen after 9. We went rambling out to the curb and hung out with a crowd outside a local pub, where we were joined by more friends.

This is me (left) with Dafydd, and my friend Susan.

This is me (left) with Dafydd, and my friend Susan. We both have mohawks!

I met Susan online in 2003 when I joined my first ever internet forum. We kept in contact off and on for years, rediscovering each other first on deviantART, and then on FurAffinity. In 2009, the year of my first AnthroCon, we both attended but never met in person due to bad communication. We later discovered that we had actually gone to many of the same panels, and I had even taken a picture of Susan in the fursuit parade without knowing it. We resolved to do better in subsequent years, and we have. However, since I am often stuck behind my dealer’s table and Susan is busy suiting, we haven’t had a good chance to really hang out until this year.

From left: my roommate Ryuu, Susan, a nice German lady named Onai, and fellow-artist Nyomi.

From left: my roommate Ryuu, Susan, a nice German lady named Onai, and fellow-artist Nyomi.

Nyomi is an artist I met online, and who was an absolute delight to get to know in person. Ryuu was one of my first friends from AnthroCon 2009, and as he is moving to Australia later this year this will be his last AC for a while. He was also kind enough to help me out with my table this year, for which I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, July 4

Ryuu and I consolidated our dragon paraphernalia to create the Dragon Bed.

Ryuu and I consolidated our dragon paraphernalia to create the Dragon Bed.

Since so much of my weekend is taken up with work, Thursday is my best chance to mingle and visit with people. After a delicious breakfast of instant oatmeal brewed in the hotel’s coffee maker we ventured out onto the streets of Pittsburgh. Even though Pittsburgh in summer is warm and humid, the convention space is kept at a temperature meant to cater to people wearing thick, heavy costumes, and so leggings and long-sleeve shirts are a good idea. I might have looked a little foolish when I went outside, but I was glad of the covering later.

I tried a new style for this year. My mother says I look like some sort of superhero robocop. But of course she would say that.

I tried a new style for this year. My mother says I look like some sort of superhero robocop. But of course she would say that. She is a Wonderful Mother.

There is no programming Thursday morning since the con is not technically open. This does not mean there is nothing to do: every year AnthroCon rents out the Westin’s largest ballroom and turns it into the Zoo. This basically becomes social central, where people can go to eat, draw, play, and generally hang out. At full swing it is a roaring cave filled with people, but on Thursday morning it was still fairly quiet. Even so I still got to see some interesting characters:

Dafydd with Aizui, a glowy-eyed green tanuki-ish thing. This is fairly normal for AnthroCon.

Dafydd with Aizui, a glowy-eyed green tanuki-ish thing. This is fairly normal for AnthroCon.

I also got to meet Kittiara, an extremely talented artist who does cool, Byzantine-style portraits of people’s characters. Susan, Nyomi and myself each commissioned one this year, and we had a great time comparing our new portraits. Mine is shown below, while the entire batch (including Susan and Nyomi’s) can be found here.

Byzantine Badge of Agent Elrond (w/ bonus Dafydd) by Kittiara.

Byzantine Badge of Agent Elrond (w/ bonus Dafydd) by Kittiara.

Then around mid-morning Sardyuon wandered in. Sardyuon is a Japanese acrobat/juggler who performs near-Cirque du Soleil-level manipulation and hand balancing in fursuit. He was a guest of honor last year and was invited back by popular demand—for which I was glad, since I was unable to see his performance then. By the grace of Ryuu I was able to make it to his exhibition on Friday night, for which there are no words. But here is a YouTube video from a part of his Sunday performance to give you an idea of what he does:

Needless to say I had to run over and get a picture. Sardyuon does not speak any English, and my Japanese is extremely limited, but with the help of his translator I think I was able to communicate how excited I was.

Myself, Dafydd, and Sardyuon, a Japanese acrobat/juggler who performs near Cirque du Soleil-level manipulation and hand balancing in fursuit.

Myself, Dafydd, and Sardyuon in his casual suit.

Sardyuon also, I later found out, created the artwork for the AnthroCon badges.

My AnthroCon badge, art by Sardyuon, with all the ribbons I had collected by the end of the con.

My AnthroCon badge, art by Sardyuon, with all the ribbons I had collected by the end of the con.

When not fangirling fursuiters I set up with some friends at a table and doodled in sketchbooks until Susan showed up in her suit.

Mingchun the Sundragon, as performed by Susan.

Mingchun the Sundragon, as performed by Susan.

The Sundragon is a suit crafted by Qarrezel and her team at Clockwork Creature which Susan has been performing in since about 2010. I have long been a fan of “Q-suits” as they are called. The fine craftsmanship aside, I love their design aesthetic, and the way they appear to be real, thinking creatures rather than a frozen-grin mask.

AnthroCon2013063

Q-heads have remarkably good visibility for a fursuit, but drawing can still be difficult.

So when Susan took off the head I asked if I could try it on. She most generously said yes and what followed became known as the brief appearance of the Dark!Sundragon, who went trolling around the Zoo surprising people and messing with them. I was amazed at how attracted people were to the character, and didn’t seem to realize it was the same person inside who had been sitting only tables away for the past two hours. I could barely get two feet without being accosted for a picture, and I have to say I quite enjoyed the experience.

Dark!Sundragon with a rather surprised Dafydd.

Dark!Sundragon with a rather surprised Dafydd.

Q-Suits usually run into the thousands of dollars, due to the fact that they are unique and hand-made. It is my dream some day of commissioning a partial version of my Elrond character, but until then I shall have to satisfy myself with borrowing bits off my generous friends.

Thursday afternoon consisted mostly of setting up in the Dealer’s Carvern, after which I was called away to dinner with friends. Myself and a few hundred others attempted to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the roof of the convention center, but were forced to vacate when mother nature rolled in her own fireworks in the form of a thunderstorm. After the rain cleared I took my annual walk down the fountain path which runs beneath the DLLCC. This year they added colored lights, which made the place look particularly wondrous.

The "fountain path" beneath the DLLCC. It leads to a dock on the Allegheny River.

The “fountain path” beneath the DLLCC. It leads to a dock on the Allegheny River.

Friday, July 5th

My dealer's table as it appeared on Sunday. It was the first chance I got to actually take a picture.

My dealer’s table as it appeared on Sunday. It was the first chance I got to actually take a picture.

Friday morning was a cramped thing. I had to shower, breakfast, and get my art hung in the Art Show all before noon. This may not sound like a hard thing to do, but when you have stayed up past midnight the night before it can really eat into your morning. Also, to make things interesting for us dealers, members who had bought a Sponsor or Supersponsor membership were allowed into the Cavern fifteen minutes early. I did not find this out until it was 11:45 and they opened the doors while I was still getting signed in to the art show. Fortunately I had signed Ryuu up as my assistant, and he was able to open shop in my place while I hurried from the corner of Hall B (where the Art Show was) back to my table (which was conveniently located as far as was physically possible from the Art Show).

Fridays at AnthroCon are always busy, as people hurry to grab commission slots from their favorite artists. I had never really noticed this before, until this year when several people decided I was one of their favorite artists. It would be the start of a very busy weekend.

Dealers do not get a lunch break. We are obliged to bring a lunch to our table or rely on the generosity of fursuiters who lend us their fake bacon plushies.

Dealers do not get a lunch break. We are obliged to bring a lunch to our table or rely on the generosity of fursuiters who lend us their fake bacon plushies.

For a dealer, busy means good. Despite the fact that I received very few pre-AC orders, once AC was actually happening they came thick and fast. I became quite good at navigating the route between my table and Lizard Laminations, who did a great job laminating all the at-the-con badges I made.

 

A "Standard Badge" for a young man who goes by Glelin in the fandom. It was his first con badge and the first commissioned rendition of his character. I tried to do him right.

A “Standard Badge” for a young man who goes by Glelin in the fandom. It was his first con badge and the first commissioned rendition of his character. I tried to do him right.

Badges are unique pieces of art furries use to identify each other at cons (sort of like real-life avatars), and they are frequently laminated to protect them from food and drink or being bent, crumpled, or crushed. Lizard Lamination uses super-thick laminate, much better than the stuff you get at FedEx/Kinkos, which can actually take the abuse a working badge will be put through. For this reason I only offer laminations on my badges if I’m going to a con where Lizard will be operating.

AnthroCon is interesting in that it is primarily a fandom-con. People go who are fans of anthropomorphic animals, fantasy and science fiction. You do get professionals like Ursula Vernon, Peter S. Beagle, Stan Sakai and others (guests of honor this year were Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon), but for the most part everyone who is there is there to 1: have fun and 2: have more fun. It does not have the commercialized feel of ComicCon or the “I must make contacts!” undertone of World Fantasy. Nevertheless I seem to make more contacts at AnthroCon than any other con. I makes me think the best way to make contacts “in the biz” is to just put yourself out there and do your own thing as best you can—and the people who want to work with you will come and find you.

After a whirlwind day at my table I stuffed some pizza (courtesy of Ryuu) into my face and ran off to catch Sardyuon’s show. Afterwards he came and sat by the edge of the stage and signed cards, con badges, and anything else that was handed to him. In the crush by the stage I glanced over and saw Larry Dixon, whom I’d met briefly at WFC last November, and I said hello to him.

Larry Dixon is quite a character. In the somewhat stiff and professional atmosphere of WFC he was like a breath of fresh air. He seemed perfectly at home at a fur con.

Mr Dixon, usurping the Chairman's Throne, flanked by the two Logistics Crew leads.

Mr Dixon, usurping the Chairman’s Throne, flanked by the two Logistics Crew leads.

Directly after Sardyuon, was one of the main attractions at AC: 2 the Ranting Gryphon’s perennial comedy show. This usually causes a line to form outside the doors to the (monstrous) Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom that stretches the length of the convention center, and so I was eager to go get in line. I was prevented, however, by 2 himself. He came in just as I was leaving, and I ended up sitting with his friend DJ Ear while he entertained some other early birds who had managed to sneak in.

2, with his iconic shaved head, is a true furry celebrity.

2, with his iconic shaved head, is a true furry celebrity.

2 is a consumate performer and a dear, sweet man who makes truly horrible things somehow funny. This year he told a dramatized version of the time his apartment was raided by the FBI and made it sound hilarious. I don’t know how he did it. This is why he is the professional comic, and I am not. Anyone interested in his work can check out his official website.

Afterwards I wandered over to the artist and dealer’s reception, which is basically a meet-and-greet for dealers and artists since the latter especially don’t have much time to socialize. After that I went back up to my room and worked until 1 AM getting badges done. And then it was…

Saturday, July 6th

Saturdays are interesting. The Dealer’s Cavern is open the longest (from 10 to 6) but often business is the slowest. 2 and I share a hypothesis that this is because Saturday is when people look in their pockets and realize some of that money must go toward food and travel, and so most of the shoppers who come through the hall on Saturdays are of the window variety. Even so I still managed to make sales, and the slower business allowed me to get work done on my commissions from the day before.

Since 2010 I have occupied the table space adjacent to 2. I do this partly because he is my friend and I enjoy spending time with him, but also because he attracts the most interesting people.

My friend Zylana (in back) and the fursuit performer Telephone, at 2's dealer table.

My friend Zylana (in back) and the fursuit performer Telephone at 2’s dealer table.

Telephone is a fursuit character performer. She is a terrific dancer and this is what she sounds like in person.

Saturday was also the day I met Shi. What happened was this:

Wandering the den before opening (which is the only time I get to wander) I came back the table directly behind mine and saw perched there three incredibly cute hand-made sloth dolls. I particularly liked the black one, but the dealer was not there at the time. A few hours later, when she eventually showed up, I asked how much the sloths were. I then died a little inside and went back to my table.

A few hours after that I looked around and saw that several of the sloth dolls had been purchased. Furthermore, the black one (my sloth) was currently being ogled at by a couple of girls. I found that my dead bits inside were now reanimating themselves as angry zombies. Clearly something had to be done.

As soon as I saw black sloth was back on the stand I ran over, whipped out my card, and bought it.

And that was how I acquired the newest member of my family: Shi the Death Sloth.

Shi being held by her maker, Nevask.

Shi being held by her maker, Nevask of Icy Paw Studios.

Shi was originally a him and named Ryuk after the death god from the manga Death Note. However, after due thought I decided he was actually a she and named her Shi, which is Japanese for “death.” Nevask agreed this was a suitable new identity.

Shi and Sally (last year's addition) quickly became friends.

Shi and Sally (last year’s addition) quickly became friends.

On Saturday (thanks to Ryuu) I was able to briefly escape my table and go see Matthew Ebel’s show. Matt is a madly talented performer, singer and songwriter, and this year he was encouraging people to dance along. After a day and a half of sitting at a table this was a pleasant change.

Dafydd insisted on coming. He is adamant about keeping me as his Assistance Human. I say to him, do you see me making twitter accounts for Sally and Shi? Of course not! (Yet.)

Dafydd insisted on coming. He is adamant about keeping me as his Assistance Human. I say to him, do you see me making twitter accounts for Sally and Shi? Of course not! (Yet.)

After that came what felt like a waterfall of events. I went back to my table to relieve Ryuu, did a couple of badges, packed up, and then ran (literally) up to the fourth floor to catch the last half hour of Whose Lion is it Anyway?

Whose Lion, as it is known in the fandom, is a furry version of the popular TV show hosted by Drew Carey. In the past it has been run by a pair known as Alkali and Sema, who are active improv folk. It has been my favorite panel every time they host it and was the place where Ryuu and I first met. (I did three musical references in a row, he was the only one who got them, we went for drinks, the rest is history.)

This year however there was a bit of a kerfuffle, and the panel was set to be hosted by someone else. Then there was a further kerfuffle, and the panel was re-scheduled to Saturday afternoon with Alkali hosting (Sema not being in attendance). I knew I had to go, even if it meant sacrificing any chance of getting a decent seat for Kage’s Story Hour (which started the moment Whose Lion let out).

I ran out of the Dealer’s Cavern, up the escalators, across the sky bridge, up more escalators and then into a theatre-style room filled with chaos.

As it turned out, I had entered, with perfect comedic timing, a lightning round of Scenes From a Hat. People kept coming up to me for the rest of the con complimenting me on my performance, when all I had done was walk in at the right moment and act surprised.

The highlight, however, was getting to play Film Noir with a truly anonymous fur (seriously, his badge was blank). Film Noir is a fairly advanced improv game with more complicated rules. I am not a very good improv actor, but I wanted to play and I’d missed most of the panel. Alkali called me up, probably because I’d only just walked in and was very enthusiastically waving my hand, and we proceeded to do a very bizarre scene involved cheerleaders and broken escalators (which eventually became covered in fish). People laughed, though, which was what mattered.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Kage’s Story Hour, performed by the chairman of AnthroCon, Dr. Samuel Conway, is always a treat. I worried that I would not get a good seat, but a funny thing happened: even though I was one of the last people into the room, because I was on my own I could walk to the front middle section and pick one of the single seats that had been left open by the audience’s dislike of sitting near strangers. I squeezed in between a large man with a leopard tail and a tall middle-aged man with a prominent adam’s apple and found myself close to front and very nearly center.

Something a little different this year were the ASL translators for 2 and Kage’s performances. Watching them try to keep up with the fast-talking performers (not to mention keep a straight face) was entertainment in its own right.

Against all good sense I spent Saturday night hanging out with friends, first in Con Ops (much to the chagrin of the staff there), and later in a very crowded suite at the Double Tree. It was a rather unique experience for me, sitting in a crowded room filled with conversation and just getting to be. I didn’t feel like I had to engage anyone—I already knew most of the people there—and I was able to sit and enjoy listening in on snatches of speech while eating M&Ms.

Dafydd prefers candy to booze. He is a responsible dragon.

Dafydd prefers candy to booze. He is a responsible dragon.

After the party got too loud I wandered back to my hotel. I have been warned about walking in that area of Pittsburgh after dark, but that night all I saw were gaggles of happy, marginally drunk furries. Perhaps it is a dangerous place to walk alone in the middle of the night, but not during AnthroCon.

The intersection of William Penn Pl and Liberty Ave, midnight on Saturday.

The intersection of William Penn Pl and Liberty Ave, midnight on Saturday.

Once back up in my room I worked until 2:30 on badges, and then passed out.

Sunday, July 7th

Self portrait of Sunday's outfit, tea in hand.

Self portrait of Sunday’s outfit, tea in hand.

Sunday is a bittersweet day. On the one hand, if I’ve made it to Sunday I am fairly certain I will survive, but on the other I am sad the con is coming to an end.

This Sunday, however, I was actually a little glad. Three nights of less-than-optimal sleep was taking its toll, and my body was beginning to protest. I sat down and worked straight through, churning out the last of the badges. The final one was a standard I made for a young man going by the name of Kizzneth. He had placed the order Friday morning and came by on Sunday just as I was starting to color it. Since Ryuu was absent I had him come sit behind my table and watch me work. That was fun; I like having the commissioner on hand to bounce ideas off of. It was also fun listening to his reactions as the drawing slowly took on life.

Then it was a whirlwind of packing (Ryuu swooped in and picked up my stuff from the art show, bless him) and another dash to get into the Charity Show. This is a double act that 2 and Kage do every year to benefit the con’s charity, which this year was an equine rescue service.

And then…

Then something marvelous happened. I managed to organize seven of my friends and we all went out to dinner together.

Anyone who has tried to organize a meal at a con knows how rare this is. We dubbed it DinnerCon, and it was the perfect capper to the weekend.

Susan, Nyomi and Ryuu on the way to DinnerCon, which was held at a little Indian place on 6th. One of the few restaraunts open Sunday evening.

Susan, Nyomi and Ryuu on the way to DinnerCon, which was held at a little Indian place on 6th, one of the few restaraunts open Sunday evening.

Monday, July 8th

And then it was Monday. I saw my roommates off one by one, stuffed everything back into my suitcase, and checked out.

Then I went and found Nyomi and Susan sitting in the Westin’s coffee shop, and we had LobbyCon for three hours until they had to get on a bus. Susan is from the Netherlands and wants us to come to Eurofurence—held in Germany—next year. Nyomi, who is rather like me and lives in an isolated community for the rest of the year, wanted to try to go to more cons a bit closer to home. For this reason we are now planning on attending Midwest Furfest in Chicago this November.

Dafydd meets Susan's new friend.

Dafydd meets Susan’s new friend.

After walking them to the bus stop I had one last lunch at Fernando’s (which had been my go-to place all weekend), bade a tearful good-bye to the staff, and then headed for my hotel to meet the shuttle.

But was that the end? Of course not! AnthroCon is so huge you will still run into furs clogging up Pittsburgh’s airport on Monday afternoon. So I had AirportCon with a couple of fursuiters (out of suit) at my gate until my flight left. This was very nearly a disaster since I get terribly airsick unless I am heavily medicated. As I had learned to my distress on my outbound flight, Dramamine does not work. I know that Scopolamine does, but that is rather hard to get a hold of in the US. Thankfully my aunt came to my rescue and told me to try Bonine, which she used when she suffered from vertigo. After phone hunting on her part I was able to locate some in a RiteAid within the airport, and to my intense relief it worked like a charm.

I am relating this on the off chance that there are other Dramamine-resistant people among my audience. Do try Bonine (active ingredient Meclizine Hydrochloride). It works on different channels than Dramamine, lasts longer, and does not make you as drowsy.

Passing by the T-rex skeleton again, now heading home.

Passing by the T-rex skeleton again, now heading home.

All told this was a very good AnthroCon. Even though I didn’t sell much in the art show, the proceeds from my table more than made up for that. Based on a casual elevator conversation with Ursula Vernon this appears to have been the case for most exhibitors.

Next up for me is the aforementioned Midwest Furfest, but before that I have a lot of work to do for Heliopause Productions—not to mention personal commissions and the continued release of Year of the God-FoxBusy busy busy artist/writer will be busy busy.

And of course it’s never too soon to begin preparing for next year…

Shi, Dafydd and Sally say I should get back to work.

Shi, Dafydd and Sally say I should get back to work.

Goldeen Ogawa has been active in the furry fandom since 2008, where she is better known by her furry handle, Agent Elrond. Her fursona is a chimera, and she keeps an active art blog on her FurAffinity page. If you have any specific questions about furries or the furry fandom, you can send Goldeen an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets

 

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Flags flying outside the Westin, Downtown Pittsburgh, on Thursday June 14th.

  • What: AnthroCon
  • Where: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • When: June 14th-16th 2012

Report:

As previously described, AnthroCon is a furry convention, which means it’s about three times as fun as any other kind of convention. It has a special place in my heart, as it was my first ever fur con, and my first time meeting one of my personal heroes—the comedian, 2 the Ranting Gryphon. The story of how we met has been told many times, by both of us, but since my readership on this blog may not have heard it yet, I see no harm in laying it down here. First, it is a good idea to be familiar with 2’s sense of humor. To do that, please take a few minutes to watch the video below. (Warning: contains some swearing.)

Since 2003 2 has had an on-and-off internet show called 2 Sense whose archives got me through long hours of sketching, cleaning, and inking comics. So when the show began a new season in early 2008 I decided it was time I gave something back (as the show was free). So I drew him a picture. It was, by my standards, a rushed job. It was a sketch of a scene from the end of the last show. I put it up online and emailed him a letter with a link to the picture. In the email I told him in no uncertain terms that he would be getting a cartoon sketch inspired by the show for every new show he did.

Imagine my surprise when I heard this same email read out aloud on the very next show, URL and all.

I have not missed a show since. (Barring vacations and holidays, for which I always gave him advance drawings, and did covers afterwards.)

I have since learned that 2 was skeptical about my ability to keep my promise. However, early on he offered to send me shows in advance so I could do covers for them. This more than anything cemented my resolve, and I have come to be best known in the fur fandom as the 2 Sense artist. It is not a bad gig.

2 and I did not meet in person until summer of 2009, when I had been drawing covers for 2 Sense for over a year. Though we corresponded regularly in email, I was still quite shy of him—within the fandom he is a proper celebrity, and carries with him that same sort of celebrity aura that puts him in a class somewhat above and beyond the average person—and when I approached him at his table I was so nervous I could barely speak coherently.

However, I had not got two disjointed sentences out when he peered over the table, read my badge, recognized my name, and fairly demanded that I come around and give him a hug.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

The author and 2 (and Dafydd) at AnthroCon 2011

There is a special feeling for me, flying into Pittsburgh. AnthroCon consumes the city like a benevolent virus. Furries, easily recognizable by their bright colors, tails, collars, distinctive badges and general air of congenial queerness, fill the city, casting the locals very much in the shade. And it starts early: waiting for the shuttle in the wee hours of Thursday morning I found myself sharing the sidewalk with two young fursuiters. For each this was their first AnthroCon, and we spent a most enjoyable van ride from the airport to downtown. AnthroCon literally starts and ends in the airport: leaving on Monday I can still find furries wandering forlornly around the terminals, waiting for their flights. This is known informally as “AirportCon” and can make the long waits much more enjoyable.

Technically, AnthroCon is a Friday-Sunday event, but since so many members arrive on Thursday or even Wednesday, the con is practically week-long. As a dealer, I spend the majority of Friday, Saturday and Sunday metaphorically chained behind my table, so Thursday is the day I get to visit with friends. As previously mentioned, 2 is an exceptionally busy person, and at AnthroCon it is impossible for him to go more than twenty feet without being accosted. When we are at our tables we are too busy selling things to share more than a few jokes and requests for change, so practically the only time we get to relax is Thursday, before the con, in the sanctity of his hotel suite.

Except this year the sanctity was most gloriously ruined by a gentleman called Fossil. Fossil is a tattoo artist (you can see his work here http://www.fossiltattoo.com/ ), responsible for a number of very interesting body decorations. This year he was sharing a room with 2, 2’s friend Tally, and 2’s fiancé who has so many fandom nicknames I will just refer to him by his real one and call him Dan. I had never had the pleasure of meeting Fossil before, though I had heard of him (he did a tattoo for 2—not a tutu, sorry—a year or so ago). And when I say it was a pleasure, I really mean it was a pleasure to meet him. Fossil is a laid back, soft spoken, fiercely professional but easy-to-get-along with kind of person. In short, a pleasure to meet. I’ve never seriously considered getting a tattoo, but if I did, he would be the person I’d go to.

This year the person getting inked was Dan (and, I would later find out, a string of other happy furries who kept Fossil in business, filling the little suite with the sound of his tattoo needle all weekend). What made it special for me, was that the tattoo in question had been designed by yours truly. The original artwork was an enormous thing done with ink and Copic markers on A4 bristol board…

 

But was re-sized and simplified by Fossil to something more realistic…

 

Because I had to leave to man my dealer’s table, I did not get to see the tattoo finished. However, I was present for the beginning…

 

And left them with my own interpretation of the scene:

 

I was, altogether, awed and amazed and honored.

Now, the first thing people say when they see Dan’s tattoo is: “Hey, that looks kind of like a Lincoln logo.” They are right, it is a modified Lincoln symbol. It had to be modified to allow the kangaroo to be draped over it and for the thing to fit on his arm. But the Lincoln bit is important. Many years ago Dan brought his battered and scratched up Lincoln to AnthroCon and invited everyone to draw on it. It became known as the AnthroCar and is the subject of epic ballads to this day. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement, but it was a bit of a phenomenon.

In a piece of serendipity, as I was leaving their hotel who should I run into but this gentleman, recently returned from active duty, with his own battered truck, inviting people to draw on it.

 

Needless to say, I immediately dubbed it the AnthroTruck and added a piece of my own scribbling:

 

Then it was time to sit in the Dealer’s Den for the rest of the day.

I do not remember much; it was a blur of faces and friends and sales and order-taking and in between, frantic work. One of the perks of commissioning an artist at AnthroCon is getting the result of that commission before you go home. So as well as having to be at my table in order to sell anything (which applies to most dealers) I also had to be working. The only chances I got to see the rest of the room (which was enormous this year) was during my mad dashes to use the bathroom. On the first of these trips I picked up a friend from a dealer of stuffed animals.

Everyone, this is Sally.

 

Sally is an Octopus, but for some reason a lot of people called her a squid, which was disappointing. Sally is only the second of my traveling companions, the first being my little fuzzy Welsh dragon, Dafydd, who took Sally’s arrival with his usual good humor.

 

They soon found common ground, however, when it came to posing with fursuiters. Here they are with my friend Reylith (not sure who the photo-bomber was, though).

 

Sally, however, is a bit more aggressive than Dafydd when it comes to being held. Here she is attacking my friend Susan in her sun-dragon costume, while a melodramatic skunk watches in horror.

The sonic screwdriver, it does nothing!

Sally was great fun to have at my dealer’s table. Matthew Ebel, who in addition to being my roommate was also my den neighbor, had fun play-acting with her.

 

And there was much rejoicing.

However, once the Dealer’s Den closed, I got to tear up the evening. Few pictures exist of these antics (thankfully), though videos may surface on YouTube later. One never knows.

 

2 does a new stand-up show every AnthroCon, and this year he was put on Friday night. They give him the Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom, the biggest room of the house, and he all but fills it. To get anywhere close to a decent seat you need to show up at least an hour ahead of time and stand (or sit) in line. Having to close down my Dealer’s Table and then eat dinner quite prevented me from doing this, so one can imagine how pleased I was to find a front-row seat reserved for me. It’s not something I like to ask for—I would happily watch his show from the very back of the room, sitting on the floor—but the thought means worlds to me.

The show was hilarious, as always. 2 has a cathartic kind of humor. It’s a little sharp-edged, yet relaxing at the same time. There is a lot of magic in AnthroCon, and I think a big part of it is his show. It puts you in the mood to see the humor in everyday life, and once you can do that you are ready to really enjoy yourself.

Now I should talk about Fernando. You may remember him from my last journal. His little café was going to be shutting down the month before AnthroCon, but the furries rallied, raised him a truckload of money, and he was able to stay open. He might have been able to stay open indefinitely, but the owner of the building he leased had already decided to sell it. The upshot, however, is that the new owner will allow him back for a week next year. In the meantime, the money raised by the fandom will allow him to settle his debts and close out in style. For my part, I presented him with his very own distinctive character badge (I believe I was not the only one).

 

I also got one of the T-shirts.

As a part of the fund drive, 2 and Dan offered to host a little party for people who donated over $100.00. Of course, once news of this got out, there were many who donated just to get in. I didn’t have that kind of cash (I did sketches for those who donated $5.00 or more), but a kind and generous donor gave me one of his extra invitations so I was able to go anyway. However, I was made to swear not to speak about what happened, so here is a picture of Dafydd riding a the adorable Nexus Folf:

 

There was much rejoicing. Dafydd also came with me to Dr. Jenner’s cocktail party on Sunday evening. He even helped me drink my cocktail.

 

Dr. Jenner is an Australian fellow who writes and illustrates the Doc Rat http://www.docrat.com.au/ webcomic, and the party was co-hosted by the chairman of MiDFur, Australia’s largest furry convention. It is difficult to hang out around Australians without desperately wanting to go visit their country. Something about their accent makes one forget the 13-hour flight. Evil little buggers. Also at the party was a very cool lady who had a little blue griffin which was kind enough to sit on my shoulder long enough for this picture to be taken.

 

All in all, it was a most enjoyable con, and I was desperately sad Sunday evening when I had to go into the deserted Dealer’s Den and pack up my table.

 

Among my other regrets was missing out on Matthew Ebel’s concert on Saturday afternoon. Something about having six commissions to finish by 3:00 PM the next day prevented me from going. Nevertheless, he is a world class performer and the decision was not an east one. Happily, I was still able to close up shop early on Sunday to go see the Charity Show.

AnthroCon, like many furry conventions, is a non-profit organization that picks a charity every year to hold fund-raisers for. This year it was Hello Bully, a bulldog rehabilitation organization. In addition to onsite donations there is also a charity auction, and 2 and the chairman of AnthroCon, Dr. Samuel Conway (known in the fandom as Uncle Kage, which is pronounced “KAH-gay” no matter how much the newspapers get it wrong), do a duo stand-up show which costs $10 a ticket. This year they were moved to the biggest ballroom, and last I heard the numbers for the amount raised for Hello Bully was somewhere in the $20,000 neighborhood.

The Charity Show is always fun. Everyone is relaxed and Kage can start to decompress from the stress of running the con. This year was extra special, as in the middle of the show 2 invited Dan up on stage and proposed to him.

There was much rejoicing. And a good deal of high-pitched screaming. Dan had to shout his “Yes!” over the noise of the audience.

Because of my time spent behind my table, for all intents and purposes working, AnthroCon tends to speed past at an alarming rate. Every year I am sad to go, afraid that the magic is gone for good. But so far, every year, it always comes back.

 

For someone such as myself, who spends most of her time thinking in magical, unreal places, AnthroCon is unusual in that it brings a little of that magic, for a little while, into the world of the real and the tangible.

Goldeen Ogawa has been active in the furry fandom since 2008, where she is better known by her furry handle, Agent Elrond. Her fursona is a chimera, and she keeps an active art blog on her FurAffinity page. If you have any specific questions about furries or the furry fandom, you can send Goldeen an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets


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The Author's "Fursona", Agent Elrond the fedora-wearing chimera.

This week I am flying to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, as I have done for the past three years, to attend AnthroCon, the world’s largest furry convention. The trip is partly business: I have a dealer’s table where I sell pictures, prints, comic books, and commissions. But it is also for pleasure: I have a lot of internet friends who I only get to see in person when we all convene in Pittsburgh for a weekend in June, and AnthroCon boasts perhaps the best evening party programming of any con I’ve ever attended.

When I tell people where I’m going, they usually react in one of three ways.

Option one: Confusion.

“Oh, that’s nice… it’s a what kind of convention?”

Option two: Thinly veiled revulsion further veiling their extreme interest.

“FURRIES? Aren’t they those… you know, fetish people?”

And, rarest of all, option three: Excitement.

“A Furry con? That sounds awesome!”

Options one and two are by far the most common. It seems that the general population either doesn’t know what furry is, or has got the wrong idea of it.

So I thought now would be a good time to lay out a nice clean explanation, so when I come back in a week to write about it you won’t be confused when I talking about “fursuiting” and “headless lounges” and “fursonas” and the like.

*

I’ve written this much, and I don’t know where to start.

This is because there are as many definitions of “furry” as there are self-identified furries to explain it to you. Everyone you ask will have a different answer, but I think it is safe to say that they will all include these basic principles:

1. Furries are humans (it is important to remember that) who like animals.

2. No, not in that way. We have a word for that, it is called bestiality, and it is something that furries look at with about the same amount of disgust as a pediatrician looks at pedophilia.

Beyond this, the interpretations are flung to the four winds. To some people “furry” is a hobby. They buy the cereal with the tiger on it, they have old “Bugs Bunny” tapes that they still watch. To others it’s a way of life: “fur houses” are not uncommon, as furries tend to stick to one another (insert your own favorite joke about personal hygiene here), and their entire social life inhabits a world made up of other furries. To some people it’s a pursuit: there are a great many artists in the Fandom (as it is called), from painters to writers, musicians and sculptors. Most famously there are the fursuiters; those brave men and women who don thick, faux-fur suits with big-eyed smiling faces and dance around for the enjoyment of others.

Since the fursuiters are the most visible (they are incredibly photogenic), they are often considered the face of the Fandom, but not all furries are fursuiters (though most fursuiters are furries). The fursuit (colloquially spelled as one word) has been the source of some colorful rumors that have taken hold of the public imagination, and when used as a component of a sexual fetish it is what a lot of people think of when they hear the term “furry.”

I used to try my best to debunk this, because of all the furries I have met (and I count myself among them), none of them have had any interest in using their $3,000 dry-clean-only suit in sex play, and they are a little touchy about people taking what, to them, is a perfectly wholesome, innocent, friendly activity, and casting it in a “dirty” light.

I am not entirely comfortable with this either, since I’m sure there are people who have fursuit fetishes, and I don’t think it’s right or fair to shame them. Also, Dan Savage has started using the term “furry” to refer to this fursuit fetish, and after what he did to that poor Santorum fellow I’ve decided it’s best not to fight him. (Please note, links likely NSFW.)

And it’s not as if furries on the whole are particularly puritan bunch. In fact, they are probably the opposite. I want to stress that this is because they are human, not because they are furry.

So nowadays I sort of shrug and say “they are people who like to fantasize about anthropomorphic animals.” If a person is intelligent enough to get past the word “anthropomorphic” they are usually smart enough to grasp the nuances of the Fandom. If not, they at least know well enough to smile and nod.

But in this venue, where I have you at the mercy of my words, so to speak, I can afford to go into a little more detail. I mean to describe here, without judgement, my own personal observations from living, talking, and partying with furries.

Imagine a world where geeks rule. All kinds of geeks. Start chanting “3.14159…” and by the “9” you should have at least five people chanting along with you, and two of them will continue on several more digits. Similarly, you could start singing the end credit song for either of the Portal games and by the second verse you should have a full chorus. Bronies abound here, as do all kinds of gamers, coders, and fantasy and sci-fi nerds. All sorts of fandoms are united by their common interest in the magic of talking animals, under the umbrella of furry.

You get a lot of, if not quite atheists, then alternate spiritual beliefs. The Furry Fandom is perhaps one of the few places in the world where a practicing mainstream Christian orMuslim has to carry themselves with the same sort of care that Wiccans and agnostics have to everywhere else.

There are also a lot of gays. Reason for this being that, whatever perceived discrimination exists for furries, it is an anthill compared to the mountain of Coming Out, and the LGBT division, when ranks are combined, so far outnumber the straights that a heterosexual man must broadcast his straightness the way most gay men broadcast their gayness… everywhere else.

Of course, the straight men who feel comfortable wandering into the jungle of the fandom naturally self-select to be the laid-back variety who take getting hit on by a gay man as a compliment.

There are perverts. There are furries into BDSM, and some very interesting fursuits come out after 10:00 PM. There is some of the weirdest porn you’ll ever find on the internet. And you’ll find it right next to the cutest picture of a bunny with a butterfly on its nose that you ever did see.

The fandom, being defined and redefined by the roiling masses of its members, is a kaleidoscope of lifestyles, opinions, and levels of personal hygiene.

They are some of the friendliest people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. And I don’t mean that in the “teeth on edge,” “toe the social line,” forced kind of friendly. With furries you get the confident, relaxed congeniality of weird people who know that, however weird they are, there are people in this hotel who are weirder, so why worry? You’re here, you’re furry (or at least furry-friendly); that means you’re family. You are wearing a spiked dog-collar and a blue mohawk, he has a puppet tentacle on one arm and the 4th Doctor’s scarf, and the man over there in the fishnet shirt with a six-foot long dragon tail has a game of Apples to Apples, let’s have fun!

(Yes, these are all real people I have met. And we played Apples to Apples. And it was fun.)

Furries will teach you to look past the weirdness. They will spoil you with their openness, and their pretty much universal acceptance of whatever oddities you possess. (Unless you’re a Twilight fan, in which case you’d better bring a riot shield.)

Furries carry a kind of magic about with them, a sort of “Anything I can dream of, I can try to do it!” I’ve been to ComicCon, and I’ve been to World Fantasy, and I’ve never seen such a high concentration of actively creative people as I have in one hallway lounge at a fur con. These people are not waiting for agents or publishers or producers to come along and buy them, they are actively making their comic, their costume, their short film—whatever. They have bypassed the waiter and gone straight into the kitchen.

They are also generous. They appreciate art and the artists who play such a vital role in illustrating the purely imaginary characters that, in these peoples’ imaginations, are more real than the humdrum of everyday existence.

You can find within the Fandom both the most noble aspirations of the human soul, and some of the most head-banging stupidity of rumor-mongering drama queens.

In short, furries are people. They are imaginative, slightly weird people who like to pretend they are animals, but that is just the thing: they know it is pretend. They are not crazy or deluded; by understanding that their imaginary world is just that—imaginary—they are probably more sane than the rest of us.

Them. You. Whatever. I seem to have been adopted by the Fandom, in more ways than one. I call myself a furry, and to other furries this seems perfectly logical, though a lot of my non-furry friends seem a little confused that I hang out with the same group the suit-wearing victims from “that CSI show” belonged to.

But by now, you shouldn’t be. Because I have already told you that the furry fandom includes all sorts of different people. So it should not be too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that it also includes me.

If you want to go to a furry convention, I highly recommend it. You don’t have to be a furry or have a fursona (an animal character you associate with yourself). I told you, furries are friendly, they know how to party, and they love it when regulars show an interest in them that is not thinly-veiled-disgust-veiling-extreme-fascination. Aside from AnthroCon, there are many smaller furry cons across the North American continent at all times of the year. In Europe there is Eurofurence, currently held in Magdeburg, Germany, and Australia has MiDFur, held every December in Melbourne.

Finally, I’d like to end this with a video that shows, better than anything I could say, what furries are like. It is the conclusion to the saga of a little sandwich café in downtown Pittsburgh that was going to go out of business because of the recession. This café has been a favorite of AnthoCon-goers for years, and when news got out that we were going to lose Fernando’s, it was decided we should do something about it.

My personal financial contribution was quite small, but I take some pride in the fact that the badge design I made for donors became the official badge of FurnandoCon 2012, and can be seen as such in the following video.

The man in the white lab coat doing most of the talking is Dr. Samuel Conway, CEO and chairman of AnthroCon, Inc. The somewhat harried young man in the blue shirt and the scar over his right eye is Fernando DeCarvalho, owner of the café. He got that scar defending his furry customers from a homeless delinquent.

And that’s furries.

 

Goldeen Ogawa has been active in the furry fandom since 2008, where she is better known by her furry handle, Agent Elrond. Her fursona is a chimera, and she keeps an active art blog on her FurAffinity page. If you have any specific questions about furries or the furry fandom, you can send Goldeen an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets


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