It's 2011, and I've enjoyed another wonderful convention in Pittsburgh! The following con report details my experiences over the weekend at the "Anthropomorphic Institute of Magic."
There were no hassles with my flights this year. In fact, my plane flew right by the convention center before landing. I arrived at the hotel fairly early and with little problems. My room was not ready, however, so I stowed my luggage with the bellhop and went off to pass time somewhere. By then I was hungry (trail mix at 4am does not a breakfast make), but the hotel's Pizza & Panini place wasn't open, either. Given how close it was to noon, I decided to take a seat nearby and wait. While doing so, a few non-congoers (at least, not to our con, but to another) stopped by and noticed the fursuiters. One of them grinned and said, "We've got to get a photo with them
" and proceeded into the lobby.
My patience paid off, as the eatery opened soon after and once I got some food, Tef, one of my roommates for the con, arrived by. He'd already registered for the con, which surprised me considering in the past, registration began in the afternoon. I finished eating and before long, the room was finally ready so we headed up and dropped off our luggage.
I went back down to register while Tef rested in the room. On the way, I noticed the other convention going on that was ending today. In Hall A of the convention center, there was a plethora of booths in the process of being disassembled. Many of them appeared to feature products related to mining; I'd later find out it was an energy convention, possibly regarding coal power.
Thanks to my pre-registering, there was no wait to get my badge and before long I was on my way back out after being unable to find any familiar faces in the crowd. By then I noticed a tremendous downpour outside; good thing the skyway to the hotel was completely covered.
I headed back to the room to prepare my gear for the rest of the con, organizing folders, portfolios, artwork, and basically ensuring I didn't forget anything this time. After a fair bit of conversation between ourselves, Tef and I decided to head back out and mingle. It was a convention, after all, and not to be experienced in a single hotel room the entire time. We mainly hung around the convention center, taking in the sights on the roof (surprisingly, it was totally sunny out despite the rain shower earlier) and checking out the crowds around the registration area. We even caught Cdr. Kitsune and struck up a quick chat with him to catch up on things. Our explorations took us here and there around the area, stopping at the second level of the hotel near the escalators where we saw some neat fursuits walking by (and it began clouding up again outside), and then later on we sat down at the overlook corridor viewing the Dealers Room/Artist Alley/Art Show. There, I got a text from Jake (Kiosutra) that he and his friend Candice had arrived. I told him where we were and before long our duo became a quartet.
We led them to registration, where we all passed the time with more casual conversation, mostly about Jake's piloting trials and other airplane-related talk, joined in by Cdr. Kitsune.
By that time the afternoon was descending into evening, and we were all getting hungry, so Tef, Jake, Candice, and I went down to the newly-opened Hanlon's Café for dinner. It occupied the space previously owned by Big Mama's House of Soul last year, and years before that, the famous Steel City Diner. The meal here was excellent, which I expected no less of due to the good reviews I'd heard prior to the con. Uncle Kage had even introduced the owner to the Anthrocon forums a few months ago.
Afterward, we made a stop at the nearby Fed Ex shop so that Candice could get some prints made out while Jake and I talked about upcoming video games (mainly Forza 4 and Battlefield). After that, we returned to the hotel. Jake went up with Tef and I to our room where we rested and watched The Big Bang Theory.
There wasn't much else going on at the hotel that night. The Zoo was crowded as usual, and a projector and sound system had been set up at the far end playing Lilo & Stitch. Beyond those I'd already met I didn't see any other familiar faces in the crowds, but considering it was only Thursday I assumed there would be more tomorrow.
I got a text from our third roommate, Deerock, that due to flight complications he would be arriving late that night. Thankfully, he got here safely and we were ready for the con to officially begin tomorrow. But first
Woke up early as I always did. Showered, geared up, and headed down for breakfast with Tef and Deerock. We decided on Hanlon's again, since we wanted to try their breakfast and knew that Tef would be able to eat there since the staff there was aware of his particular food allergy. Good eatin' this time, too!
After that it was back to the room to grab our things and head for the line at the Dealers Den. We knew based on past experience that on Fridays it grew fast, though this morning we found a great spot near the very front. Unfortunately I realized that, just like last year, I forgot something. Luckily, I realized this as soon as we arrived, rather than five minutes before opening, and furthermore, it was just my artwork for the Art Show. Tef and Dee held my spot in line while I went back and grabbed my work; eight pieces matted and framed, ready for display. I returned and signed in, getting all the paperwork filled out. I was a bit nervous about this. It was the very first time I'd be displaying my artwork in a convention art show and though I didn't necessarily do this for money, I did offer bids on seven of the eight pieces, hoping to at least make a little something from my work.
After that, it was a matter of just waiting in line with the others for the Den to open. Nearby, we found a laptop playing clips of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (no surprise there, considering how wildly popular the show is, especially within the fandom. And yes, I am a brony
). Just like last year, the line for the Den lengthened considerably during the last half-hour before opening, reaching all the way to Hall C and then back around to the escalators.
When the Den finally did open, I made my way over to the Dealers I knew would fill up quick (Tef and I plan all this out months in advancewe like being prepared). I met up with Dark Natasha and said hi, taking one of her commission slots in the process, then headed over to Shawntae's table to say hi and drop off another sketchbook. Considering he was the first anthropomorphic artist I ever followed, it's always nice to get in touch with him and catch up on things. I found a number of fellow Extinctioners fans and friends there, as well. After that, I headed into the Artist Alley and found Gunmouth, taking another commission and then chatting briefly about things going on. Next it was back to the Den, where I met and commissioned Aura Moser, then found Aerokat nearby and said hi to chat a bit before dropping off another commission. I then stopped by the FurPlanet table to purchase a few books, noticing their novel collection continuing to grow (more good signs for me, a writer). Through all this, I'd underestimated how quickly another artist would fill up and missed a chance at commissioning him, but it was no biggie as I'd reached plenty of great people so far. I headed back up to the room to unload new purchases then quickly returned to continue my spree.
I found Vicki Wyman in the Alley and stopped to chat a bit; she congratulated me on taking the plunge and submitting into the Art Show. Later on I found Blackfrost (my friends and I always call her Moonie) and caught up on things, then stopped by Kitt Mouri's table and said hi, where she was thrilled I got into the Art Show and asked if I was ready to try the Alley this year (a point that Vicki had also asked me aboutI think I'm seeing a trend here
). I admitted that I didn't quite feel ready for Anthrocon's Alley yet, though I did mention my attempt at FWA. I then caught Scappo at his table in the Alley along with Spearfrost, an artist I'd played Halo 3/ODST with in the past. Here, we finally met in person. I picked up a commission I'd preordered from Scappo and bought one of his new books, then continued on after a quick chat.
As I was walking back out of the Alley, I passed by gNAW and Max (seems I'm always catching them right as they arrive XD) and although they didn't have a table today, were taking commissions in anticipation for having one tomorrow. I nabbed a spot from Max, then got into a Rock-Paper-Scissors match for one of gNAW's slots. I won the first round but lost the next two, so I conceded to the lower slot.
Back in the Den, I stopped at Michele Light's table and picked up a shirt I'd preordered, then had a brief talk about how things were going. I also stopped by Xian Jaguar's table to say hi to her and Luircin. Later at the Sofawolf table, I bought a couple of books, noticing their own novel collection had grown, as well (I actually got the author of one to sign my copy). I then caught sight of the Sanguine Productions table and bought the omnibus to the Ironclaw RPG. I admit I've never role-played before, though I'm certainly willing to try someday. However, my main reasoning for buying books like this is the sheer amount of "idea fuel" they possess. I then found Indigo's table and said hi, though she had unfortunately come down with something. I offered her some of the over-the-counter meds I'd brought with me and headed back up to my room to get them for her.
Later on, I returned to "Pirate Row" (the group of tables normally occupied by Michele Light, Heather Bruton, Caribou, Diana Harlan Stein, Terrie Smith, and Xian Jaguar) and struck up a conversation with Diana Harlan Stein; she's always fun to talk to. After that, I headed to Pegasus's table, which he shared with his wife Redkam, Ajin, Nyxsiern, and Candice, and said hi. Jake was there, as expected, so we hung out for a bit, talking more about Forza 4, and taking a break only when we spotted two particular fursuiters walking by: Rainbow Dash and Applejack from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As expected, they drew considerable attention and I photographed Jake with them.
By then I realized I'd been on my feet and in the Den/Alley for nearly five hours straightit was time for some food. I grabbed a pizza from the Pizza & Panini place and headed up to the room to eat. The Den would be closing before long, and since I was satisfied with my purchases today I decided to stay up and rest a bit. There would be an Artist/Dealer reception later on for Sponsors, anyone with a Dealer's table, and those who had submitted art into the Art Show. I was of the latter, so I freshened up a bit and ironed one of my shirts while passing time. Tef and Deerock later arrived to rest from their own escapades, but while the three of us were there we decided to head over to Tef's car and bring back the air mattress he'd brought. Once that was accomplished, we all relaxed in the room, recovering from the first day of purchases and watching America's Funniest Home Videos on TV.
When it came time for the reception I headed down to the convention center and found a fair amount of people waiting to be let in. Inside, the reception itself took place in the Art Show, where they had set up some snacks and finger foods for us. I browsed around the Art Show itself, with a wide variety of works hung up for bids. It was all very interesting to see, though unlike previous times I didn't have Jake to bounce conversations about the various works off of. I admit I was too shy to strike up any conversation with the people here, but it was still neat to overhear some of the things the artists and viewers said about the artwork. I checked my own pieces, curious if I'd gotten any bids, but the bid sheets remained empty. I wasn't too surprised; I'm a newcomer not well known and I wasn't expecting much. To be honest I was more interested in what people said about the works. The main drawback of hanging art to see in public is that you can't always be there to hear that, which I think was the only thing I was bummed about. However, I did enjoy the reception itself.
Jake texted me soon after and we met up outside the exhibit hall. We wanted to go up to the roof and see the sights, especially since we knew there was a Pittsburgh Pirates game playing at PNC Park, which we could almost see from there. However, it was pouring rain outside so instead we hung out at the overlook and conversed. Topics centered around east coast and west coast furs, given that Jake has been all across the states, and it was very interesting to hear such stories.
Later we headed back to the hotel, where I caught sight of my friend Taba, who I'd roomed with back at FWA. We stopped to say hi for a few moments, then outside the Zoo we found Candice and her friends making up a "sandwich" suit. Hilarious XD We hung out in the Zoo for a bit, but didn't see anyone else we recognized. By then it was getting late anyway, so I headed back up to the room for bed.
Breakfast once again at Hanlon's with Deerock and Tef. It is pretty good, after all. I even bought a t-shirt this time; it was set to the con's theme and I liked how the Anthrocon logo was set into a Harry Potter-style shield.
Once we finished, we headed to the Den to get in line for round two. Since it was still early we expected a good spot and got one
right in the same spot we'd taken yesterday. I pulled out my DS to pass the time, meeting a Jewel Vixens fan while we waited (I always love to meet fans; it's a reminder that people still read and admire the comic, which I hope to continue someday).
When the Den opened, I picked up my sketch from Dark Natashaa drawing of my skunk mage, Ri'kinto (wow
the detail put in was amazing). I also got my sketch back from Aura, a great drawing of my Celtic stallion, Mikaou. Since that was my ancient Raikonia-themed sketchbook, I headed back to Pirate Row and commissioned Diana Harlan Stein for a drawing of Ri'kinto, whom she took a liking to due to his design. I also stopped by Spunky's table to say hi and drop off a commission; she wore a Layton top hat, owing to her love of the character (I got a nice little compliment from her, too ^_^ ). From there, I headed over to Mongoose Ink's table, where I bought books three, four, and the brand-new zero edition of five of N'Duk the Hunter. It was perfect timing, too, as it was the last copy he had of number three. I then went to Shawntae's table and discovered he was putting the final inks on my commission. I'd requested he choose one of my R-Force agents and had that character in a sparring match against one of his Extinctioners. In this case, it was my roo engineer, Meltdown, trading blows with his flying muscle vixen, Starfox. A great piece! While he put the finishing touches on it I struck up a casual conversation, learning that the next Extinctioners issue will hopefully be gaining momentum soon. Had a cute conversation about the Pokémon cartoon, as well, before discovering that this month's McDonald's toys featured them, including a really neat Zoroark figure that Kae brought for him.
I'd gotten a text from Gunmouth that my sketch was ready for approval, so I headed into the Alley and got that squared away. It would be a pic of my R-Force agent, Rain Dancer, in a pose showing off her flexibility; couldn't wait to see how it turned out. I also found Max and gNAW nearby and got my sketchbook back from him, where he'd drawn a piece featuring my sword dancer, Kaili, facing off against his rival, fellow dancer Ïsara. A gorgeous turnout with a humorous quote at the bottom to complete it, going along with a prior image Max did in the same book back at Furry Weekend Atlanta.
Jake waited in line with me as I paid for the sketches thus far, then we headed up to his room where he got a laminator for Candice. While there, I also got to listen to some of his mixes; really good stuff there.
We headed back down and browsed around, seeing other artists and stopping at LizardBeth's table where I bought the latest comic compilation of her webcomic, Broken Plot Device. I also stopped by the FurPlanet table to say hi to Fuzzwolf (I didn't get the chance yesterday) and met Zia McCorgi, author of the furry superhero novel, Save the Day, which I'd complimented him on at FA a few months back. After that we parted ways. I stopped at Caliosidhe's table and caught up with things before getting in a commission request, then headed to Kacey M.'s table and dropped off another commission, having recently come up with a character I wanted to see in her beautiful style. I then caught Jake back at Pegasus's table and hung out a bit more with everyone. While there I decided to commission Gaby.
Later on, it was back to the Alley for more perusing. I found Bonitis's table and stopped to say hi. He happily pulled out the commission sketch he'd done for me back at FWA, a beautiful piece of my fennec girl, Ellie, decked out in a sparkling belly dancer outfit. He was happy to work on her and it definitely showed in the level of detail (all those beads
). He said the colors will be out soon. After that, I caught David Lillie as he was passing by and we stopped to say hi to each other and ask how things were going. He didn't have a table this year since his wife Liz was out of commission, but he told me she was doing fine, which I was glad to hear.
At that point it was almost time for the Fursuit Parade to begin, so I headed out with Tef and found a position to watch from, joined later by Jake. The Parade itself was great, though I'm not sure how well my photos will come out since there was a lot of glare coming in from the windows behind the suiters.
Once that had ended, I headed back into the Den and stopped at Aerokat's table, where I chatted with her and her husband with a brief mention of the Swat Kat cosplayers that were in the Parade, which immediately got her attention (she's a big fan, heh). I went back to the room to drop off more books, catching Harley Badger (another I roomed with at FWA and local friend) on the escalator.
In the room itself, I found Tef resting and we showed each other our commissions. I mentioned I wanted to snag a few more, since some of the other artists I wanted to commission were either full or not attending, so he asked if I'd checked out some of his go-to artists, Red Dog and Kyote. I'm a watcher of Red Dog and had heard a lot of good things about Kyote, so he brought me down and showed me to them, where I managed to get on their lists, as well. After that, Jake and I decided to do our ritual Art Show browsing, though time was short. As before, it was much more satisfying to comment on the artwork to a friend, and there were plenty of conversation starters this year. When we arrived at my panel, I smirked and said, "Well, I dunno about this guyWait, I got a bid. Two bids!" I was stunned. Two of my works got bid on! That was quite encouraging, and became even moreso when I headed to the Mature section and discovered two more of my works had gotten bids. Four pieces in total, over half of what I'd put up for sale. I felt really good after that.
The Den, Alley, and Art Show were about to close by then, so we headed out after only having seen about two thirds or so, not wanting to get caught in the rush to the elevators. I did have enough time to get my art from Spunky (a snazzy pic of my R-Force agent Spectre) and gNAW (an awesome drawing of Haywire, a supervillain who fights against the R-Force).
Once the Den and Alley closed, I wasn't really sure of what to do next. I did know, however, that I hadn't eaten in a while, so I got a Panini (didn't want to eat nothing but pizza this whole time) and headed up to the room to eat, where I found Tef resting from the day's activities. I spent some time up there resting myself, nearly falling asleep from energy crash (I'd been on my feet for hours once again).
After resting, I went downstairs to see who was around, catching Tef in the Zoo and soon getting a seat at Shawntae's table where he was sketching with Ken Singshow, Luircin, Dreag, and a few others. Red Dog, Phantom Shotgun, and Roz Gibson dropped by, as well. Red Dog asked if anybody had any white shirts they were willing to donate toward her Rarity costume; I'd actually considered packing a few of those Wednesday night, but decided not to in order to save space. Whoops XD All the while, a netbook on the table played the Ponies Anthologya parody clip show of shorts from, you guessed it, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I wasn't kidding about its popularity
I began work on a sketch myself, and we noticed the projector nearby playing an old werewolf film. Shawntae mused that if they started playing Pony videos they could get at least half the room flocking over. The rest of the table dared him to go up to those running the projector and suggest that, which he did. It turned out they were already planning on something like it, and moments later the film stopped as they prepared. The screen saver even showed the Pony cast in a sort of vector art style which immediately drew some cheers throughout the Zoo, proving our assumptions.
Before long, everything was ready and they played the recently-released (as in, released during the convention) video of Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Medic," which drew a sizeable crowd to watch that only grew when the Ponies Anthology clip show came on afterward. During the viewing, we were joined by Jake and later on, Indigo in a fursuit. We hung around watching a few more videos they'd posted up, but after a while I realized it was getting late and
I wasn't tired. Shawntae and Jake had already gone, but I wasn't ready for bed yet. I wasn't sure exactly what to do, but I felt like doing something besides sleep. I headed up to my room anyway and looked through one of the books I'd bought from FurPlanet, then got a text from Deerock that he'd finished a gift sketch for me.
I went down to the Zoo to pick it up, finding him at a table next to Jim Groat. The sketch itself was of my fursona with a bo staff, in a kung fu pose and outfit (Dee's specialty, and it looked awesome). I sat down with him and tried a bit more sketching while a French cartoon played on the projector nearby. I think I made some decent progress, though nothing really substantial came from my work that night. After a while, Deerock began packing up to head to the room and I followed, finally beginning to wind down from the day.
Last day of the con
One of those bittersweet feelings as you realize that, while there's still plenty to do before the day's over, once it does end that's it for the con.
I got up early as usual and cleaned up then geared up. This time, we didn't really have breakfast plans so Tef and I headed to the Den line. Upon arriving (at a spot slightly closer than yesterday and Friday's spot), I had a breakfast of trail mix while waiting. Draeg soon joined us and we gathered our plans for the final day in the Den. Strype came along soon after, followed by Corey Fox and a few others (including a Solid Snake cosplayer who had photo of himself "assassinating" Rainbow Dash in cosplay). The conversation eventually gravitated toward guns and tanks, which was perfect as Jake had arrived just in time to toss in his two cents; he'd served in Iraq and drove tanks. It was uplifting to see the group shaking his hand and thanking him for his service.
When the Den opened I headed over to Gideon's table. He was full on commissions, but I did manage to get a quick, $1 "brony badge" from him. I then collected a sketch from Diana Harlan Stein, a brilliant piece showing Ri'kinto. Diana loved working on the character and really wanted to do more with him, which I really liked hearing. We discussed some possibilities for a future piece. I also dropped by Caliosidhe's table and picked up a sketch of Melon (cute as ever in her style), then got my sketch of Ellie from Red Dog (very elegant), and then Lana from Kacey (beautiful as I'd hoped). While browsing, I also decided to grab a last-day commission from Heather Bruton, since she was open and had time. While there I bought one of Xian's print magnets, then stopped at Aerokat's table once more right as a cosplayer in a well-done Ezio Auditore de Firenze (Assassin's Creed II/Brotherhood) outfit was perusing her work. I got the chance to chat with Aerokat and her husband about video games, a conversation inspired by said cosplayer.
As I continued to browse, I finally began to feel satisfied about this convention experience. I'd gotten the chance to hang out and chat with numerous people, bought plenty of great commissions and books, and had enjoyed my time here this weekend. Even so, there was this twinge of desire to do more, like I wasn't ready to call it quits yet. Oh well, there was still quite a few hours left before my shuttle arrived.
After Jake showed me a video of Ice Pilots on his Android, I went up to the room to pack up and managed to get a late checkout for free, giving me more time. I then headed back down for more browsing, collecting my commission from Heather Bruton (very pretty work of my warrior mare, Akosha), then back again to check out for good. Having stowed my luggage with the bellhop (my shuttle still wouldn't arrive for a while), I ate a late lunch at the convention center's concession stand. While eating, I noticed the line for the Art Show sales pick-up growing fast. It was around its closing time, after all, so I decided to go ahead and collect my unsold art.
Upon reaching my spot in the General section I paused, noticing two pieces were missing and the other two had been bid on. They all sold! Not only that, but one item, titled "Confrontation," featuring Khalil, had gotten into a bid war and closed at ten times the initial bid I started with. I was stoked! Having nothing to carry out there, I headed to the Mature section and found the same thing. Two items already gone, and the third one already bid on, waiting for pick-up. The only one left was the single piece not for sale (due to having used my friends' characters in it along with a free, non-commercial version of Terragen). I was stunned. All my artwork sold in the Art Show. Kazie and Scappo were nearby, helping me with the initial sign-out process after conversing about the works of Jeremy Bernal that had sold (Scappo was Jeremy's agent this year). I finally signed out and exited with the final, not-for-sale piece, which featured a trio of dolphin characters. One of them belonged to Shawntae, so I headed over to his table to show him I'd framed it. While there he gave some helpful advice regarding perspective for future works. I then stopped by Moonie's table, where she and Jake congratulated me on my success, especially for a first time. Jake and I both agreed to do a collaboration for next year, suddenly inspired by this.
Jake and I hung around a bit more before I noticed how late it was getting. I made my rounds, saying my goodbyes, and then ended up at Pegasus's table where I killed the extra time hanging with everyone there, collecting my commission from Gaby in the process (a beautiful piece showing Akosha).
Finally, it was almost time for my shuttle to arrive, so I said goodbye to Jake and the others and headed out for good (overhearing a few other congoers saying, Goodbye, Anthrocon!" as they exited). I waited in the lobby, smiling at the antics of fursuiters interacting with some visitors and their children (always fun to watch). I wished I could have done more at this con, feeling like I might have missed some opportunities, but looking back on it, there was a lot I'd already done. Still, I immediately began looking forward to Midwest Furfest
The ride to the airport was smooth, though I encountered a bit of a fiasco upon arriving at the check-in kiosk. The flight out to Atlanta was cancelled, likely due to severe weather, and worse than that, the system could find no record of my reservation. Nothing at all, as if I'd never even made the reservation itself. After a few minutes off to the side trying to figure out how to find a confirmation number, a voice popped into my head, Didn't you reserve on a different carrier?
I'd forgotten that my return flight was on a different carrier than my flight to Pittsburgh, and it also had stop in Charlotte, not Atlanta, so it wasn't cancelled. Once I had that figured out, I checked in and made it through like normal. The lady at the ticket counter, upon noticing my hometown, struck up a casual conversation about how they used to pass by there frequently. Heh, small world.
The flights back home were fine, and I made it back safely. The overall convention experience was a good one. It was a pleasure to hang out with my friends again after so long, and already I can't wait for the next con.