Just wrapped up another great weekend in Pittsburgh! This was my sixth year attending and second year dealing at the world’s largest furry convention. People travel by car, bus, train, and plane from many states and countries to celebrate animal characters together at Anthrocon. Every year brings new experiences and surprises, and this was no different – for one, I was asked to draw an official image to advertise the charity performance! The weekend was a whirlwind of activity that ended far too quickly, but my fond memories of friends and fun make all the hard work worthwhile.
As always with furry conventions, I and many other attendees are often known by fan names, so I’ll try to keep things clear in this report! I’m known in these circles as “Nyomi Naomh.”
Wednesday, July 2nd
I arrived in Pittsburgh with Susan, and we quickly met up with our friend Goldeen “Agent Elrond” (or “Rondie”) Ogawa. The three of us settled into the hotel room. This was my first year staying in the Courtyard Marriott instead of the Westin. The Courtyard is known to be preferred by artists and dealers for its quieter atmosphere compared to the main hotel, and I definitely appreciated the chance to draw or sleep without distractions from noisy neighbors. We had a dinner scheduled at the Fish Market in less than two hours after our arrival, so we put on some nice clothes, then briefly parted ways to take care of errands and touch base with other friends.
At 6:30, the three of us converged on the restaurant to meet up with Chiaroscuro (Dealer’s Room director), Witchiebunny (staff member), and Uncle Kage (the chairman). Dinner ensued. Crazy convention stories were told. I got completely lost in the menu of unfamiliar seafood and was blamed for finishing Kage’s wine. The sushi and sashimi I ended up with were delicious. I said little and listened to much!
Dafydd and Lily with sushi.
The rest of the day was spent drawing and meeting up with other friends and artists. I slept very well.
Thursday, July 3rd
I spent some time in the social area (called the “Zoo”) drawing and touching base with more people. Mid-morning, I dropped by Con Ops to pick up the bugdanas, as I’d had them shipped directly to the convention. The staff wasn’t able to locate my package at first, but after some emails to the screen printer about the tracking, we managed to find it – it was there all along but under the wrong name. I went straight back to my room and tore it open to find the bugdanas exactly as I’d hoped they would be! It was thrilling to see something I’d designed end up being produced as a real object. I set aside enough for the online preorders and put the rest in my dealer’s bag.
Registration opened a little early, and I headed down there to find no line at all for dealers’ reg. Witchiebunny got me my badge and ribbons in less than a minute. I passed the time until dealers’ setup by doing a survey, drawing some more, and coordinating plans with friends. A few hours later, my assistant Jeff/”Keys”and I carried my stuff into Hall B and got my table assembled. We helped Rondie a bit with her table, too, since she was right next to me. The art show allowed early hanging for dealers this year, so Keys helped me put up the highest pieces, then let me finish on my own. It took a few hours to get all my setup done. I worked up quite the appetite for dinner.
My table, freshly set up and ready for Friday’s crowds!
I suggested pizza to Keys and ended up spending hours in his room with old friends and new acquaintances. We chowed down, talked, and shared a ridiculous game of Super Mario 3D World. I excused myself when it started to get dark and returned to my room to get a little more work done before the morning. At one point I needed a break, popped into the Zoo, and found another person who really loves moths. Meeting lots of people who were interested in bugs, both real and anthropomorphic, was definitely a highlight of this year’s Anthrocon.
Friday, July 4th
Before the Dealer’s Den opened, I managed to get some breakfast and coffee and finish a bit more work. Rondie had just got her first fursuit and decided to surprise 2 the Ranting Gryphon (a popular furry comedian and Rondie’s friend) by showing up in it without telling him. 2’s favorite fursuit performer is Telephone, an angel dragon; as Rondie’s Tachyon is of the same species design, the two suiters showed up together and made mischief with each other and a foam pickaxe. I got footage.
In order: Tachyon, 2 Gryphon, and Telephone.
The first half-hour of business went a little slower than usual, but things picked up as the day continued. Last year’s enthusiasm for badges was replaced by a lot of requests for sketch commissions. A stack of sketchbooks remained in rotation on my table and in my working bags for the next 48 hours. I had a lot more fun completing the sketches than I used to, though, so it was no trouble.
Customers picked up a only few zines and bugdanas on Friday, but button sales were steady throughout the weekend. I have repeatedly observed a pattern of sales in which custom art is bought in greatest numbers early in the convention, while merchandise and other items do better from the middle to the end as people see how much money they have left after commissions.
I ducked out of the dealer’s room a few minutes early and made it to Uncle Kage’s Story Hour. For those unaware, I have been live-drawing during Kage’s performances and online streams since Midwest Furfest last year. Usually the results are a half-page or so of doodles preserving various moments from the performance, but with Kage’s character (a roach) speaking or acting instead of the man. I found a seat in decent view of the stage and got to work while Kage told of conventions past, saké blunders, and a lost passport, among other things. The results are in my mischief section along with all the previous sets of doodles.
After the show, I zipped away to put on my dress clothes and attend the Artists and Dealers Reception. This invitation-only event is held in the evening after sales and show hours to allow those busy selling or creating during the day to view the show at their leisure and enjoy some refreshments. I grabbed a coffee (with a lid, of course), then browsed along with my new moth friend from the night before. Viewing the show largely with other artists created an interesting atmosphere: one in which we could freely discuss any given piece, technique, subject, or composition. I lingered long enough to view some sections twice. When I left, the fireworks were still going, and I sat by a window to watch.
Of course, there were sketches to draw and badges to color for Saturday. I returned to the hotel room to work again!
Saturday, July 5th
Saturday is the longest sales day of the convention. I worked on custom art all through dealer’s hours while customers came by to pick up or check on their work or to purchase some of my bug merchandise. Bugdana sales were best on this day, and purchases of “Bug Goes to the Con” were pretty strong. Performers in fursuits bounced around at all hours and took over the hall for a spell during mid-afternoon during the parade, which proved a great opportunity for both photos and uninterrupted working time. There were apparently 1,326 animal costumes in the parade this year!
A playful gryphon stopped by for a bit of attention!
After hours, I grabbed some dinner, then headed to the relocated Zoo for a themed art jam. Some of the artists and friends who attended I hadn’t talked to since the year before! A big poster was passed around for everyone to draw on, but I didn’t add anything this time to avoid getting food on it – there was a Dippin’ Dots vendor in the new Zoo and I decided to try it out. The servings look small but are unexpectedly dense!
The last official dances of the con were held this night, but I didn’t get to attend. I still had work to finish! This is the first year I couldn’t go to any of the dances, which was pretty disappointing, but the demand for my art felt encouraging in contrast. I drew in the hotel for a while and planned to join an artist-only quiet workroom Rondie and I had been invited to, but then Amber/”Miss Mab” asked if I would like to work with her. Since we were familiar with each other (I wasn’t sure who would be in the other room), I took the personal invitation and drew in her room into the wee hours of Sunday.
Sunday, July 6th
A happy customer with his new bugdana! Photo by Antnommer.
I had two more badges to finish this morning but managed to wrap them up pretty quickly. With the end of the con in sight and my mood and energy lower than usual for Anthrocon, I decided I wouldn’t push myself to finish any more work on-site, only accept projects I could bring home. I also granted myself half an hour of personal time to shop and look around the Dealer’s room since I hadn’t yet had an opportunity. This was a planned allowance; I put a sign on my table the day before to clarify my hours for Sunday since I knew I would open a bit late and close early.
Sales were slow, which is normal for Sunday. I finalized arrangements with Keys to pick up my paperwork and any unsold pieces from the art show. By 3pm, I had my table packed away and checked out of the Dealer’s Den. This gave me enough time to get to the Spirit of Pittsburgh ballroom for the charity show! I’d drawn a poster for the show at the request of Fox Amoore (a musician and one of the performers) and intended to live-draw the events as I had for the Story Hour. This time, Rondie decided to live-draw, too – she’s done many, many drawings and show covers for 2 over the years, so between the both of us, most of the best moments of the show were depicted. We managed to get seats in the very first row, which had consequences…
At one point in the show, 2 and Kage were seated at the edge of the stage and happened to look down. Kage said something to the effect of, “Oh look, there’s Nyomi drawing furiously in the front row!” Fox piped up to point out that I had drawn the poster, and then 2 sung Rondie’s praises at length, calling her “lightning pencil.” According to the charity results post on the Anthrocon site, the show alone made $7,350 for the National Aviary – that’s 735 tickets sold. The room was packed, so I’m assuming most if not all of those ticket-holders attended. That’s a lot of people to get a shout-out in front of! Afterward, people even came up to the front wanting to see what the two of us had drawn.
Closing ceremonies followed on the heels of the charity show, but I couldn’t bring myself to attend – somehow, the sense of closure it normally offers seemed inappropriate, as the con was just peaking for me. I talked with Keys briefly about the results of the art show (“Two for Tea” sold after a mini bidding war!), then Rondie and I gathered friends and went down to the same Indian restaurant as last year for a repeat performance of “Dinnercon.” I am making an effort this time to remember the name of the delicious appetizer I was previously only able to refer to as “the cheese thing:” Paneer Pakora. Most of the same people from last year came again, though there were a few new faces. Dinnercon has a wonderful way of bringing people of different talents and spheres together on an equal playing field to meet and get to know each other.
I insisted on going to the last unofficial party known as the “dead dog dance.” Rondie and Susan got into their costumes; we all loaded up on glowsticks and wore bugdanas. The party room wasn’t too active when the three of us got over there, so we hung out briefly in the Zoo for a last hurrah. Then I happened to hear a piano and followed the sound down one floor. Fox Amoore, Rhubarb the Bear, and Cosmik were playing and singing what seemed to be an improv concert with crowd participation. I managed to squeeze up next to the piano and join in singing probably a dozen songs or so. Participatory music was a major force in my upbringing since I was raised with my late dad’s love of folk music, so this event was magical for me in multiple ways. It ended the con on a beautiful high note and offered a real sense of completion and closure. For a while, all my worries were gone, and I was able to sleep well that night.
Adding more conventions to my circuit last year allowed me to get my work greater direct exposure as well as provide more opportunities to see friends who live far away. I’d like to do Midwest Furfest (Rosemont, IL) again and have already made arrangements to attend and show work at Further Confusion (San Jose, CA). Until then, I have many projects to tackle and am offering regular commissions again. You can also check out some of the cool stuff I debuted at Anthrocon in my Storenvy shop – if you wanted something but couldn’t make it, I’m more than happy to ship it to you should it still be available!
Here’s to greater opportunities and more adventure in the months ahead!
All photos © 2014 Mary T. Capaldi unless otherwise noted.