What's better than having my own art of (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's) Lauren Faust, Tara Strong and John De Lancie and their characters signed and framed? How about getting it signed and framed by them six times over? What's better than that? Nothing.
Signed thanks to Jace Hidalgo and Purple Tinker. Printed thanks to C-Quel and Purple Tinker. Framed thanks to Purple Tinker.
The whole Bronycon experience, and my experience with the pony fandom in general, is that we get by with a lot of help from our friends. I've found so many amazing people who are willing to put their time, thoughts, energy and money forward to make life a little better for a friend.
Bronycon was an overwhelming experience. There were over four thousand people packed into the Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, not far from New York City. It was loud, it was crowded, and I was stuck behind my little table selling original art and other things. There were usually twelve people trying to talk to me at once. Someone I really wanted to talk to, like Sethisto or another artist or a friend from online would show up, and I'd try to talk to them while my brain was melting from six people in my other ear asking me how much the buttons are and whether that SDCC Exclusive Fashion Style Derpy Hooves is for sale. (It wasn't for sale, as I explained literally one thousand times.) I couldn't even sit down. When Nicole Oliver (Celestia/Cheerilee) stopped by, I was so surprised I couldn't even think of anything to give her. I rarely draw Celestia for some reason.
But I made it through because I had friends there helping me. I didn't even ask. Friends of mine who I'd met at previous meetups stopped by and saw that I was overwhelmed and in trouble. Without needing to say a word, they took over and ran my entire table for me, leaving me free to take a breath, or take a whiz, or talk to someone worth talking to. Kieran (Crayon) helped run my booth for most of both days, and stay in his hotel room on saturday, even giving me the bed while he took the couch. He also entertained people at the Outback Steakhouse with his inability to shut up about Transformers. He and Lee Tockar (voice of Snips/Steven Magnet) got along famously for that reason when we ran into him, Cathy Weseluck (Spike/Mayor Mare) and Peter New (Big Macintosh).
No, Derpy is not for sale.
David (Zarkith), in his Lyra-themed shirt, ran the right side of my booth brilliantly for most of both days, especially on sunday. Without David and his mother Miriam (Mare Mir) I couldn't have had my stuff packed up in time to barely get to the Artist's Panel on sunday. I stayed in their hotel room sunday, taking the fold-out couch, as I stayed up late regaling them with tales of my troubles at film school in Los Angeles.
No, Derpy is not for sale. I swear, I will cut you.
Mark Coutu from Boston had let me crash in his hotel room the previous Bronycon (January), and let me crash there friday this time, but because everyone was already asleep and I was on the floor without a pillow or decent blanket (and it was cold!) I didn't actually sleep a wink. I slept a little better the next two nights.
My friend Evan came by and helped run the booth for awhile, and my friend Courtney even popped by and helped for a bit. I ran into Evan later at a Greek restaurant with those troublemakers Purple Tinker, MyLittleDashie and her English-accented fiance. Mark and the Boston Bronies were there. They'd been vaguely cosplaying as Changelings. The EQD staff stopped by - Sethisto, Calpain, Cereal Velocity. Calpain had a labcoat on, befitting his Masters in Neuroscience. Calpain gave me a drawing tablet as a gift, and I think of him every time I use it, which is more and more these days.
The restaurant's proprietor had drawn Twilight Sparkle on the door saying Welcome Bronies! Business had been slow and she was happy to have us. After the day's sales I had twenty-seven dollars worth of quarters in my pocket and she gave me dollars for them. Somehow, probably because I kept changing tables to talk to different people, I never got served during the hours we were there. So I just started eating everyone else's leftovers. When the proprietor found out she insisted on giving me food. The food was delicious, but I was already full and trying to leave! I ate it as leftovers the next day.
I think it was on friday that we all went to Outback Steakhouse and Kar Red Roses bought a ton of appetizers, enough to feed everyone, with the convention's money. It was on the house. I think it was saturday when a ton of people invaded Purple TInker's hotel room when poor John Joseco and Novel just wanted to get to sleep. Instead, while Tinker and Sethisto talked shop, we cracked open the new Pony trading cards from Enterplay and realized that if you read the last two sentences of any of them and added "in bed" to it, they suddenly became hilarious. The old Fortune Cookie rule. My Dramatic Reading Orson Welles voice came in very handy.
I ran into Tara Strong when she was first getting to the con. All I said was "Awesome." I then hung out outside the private VIP party on Friday, and talked to John De Lancie very briefly while he was enjoying Laser P0N-3's light show. I told John Joseco he should just go inside the private party and crash, which he did. I ran into Lauren Faust and her brother outside an elevator in the hotel, and thanked her for all the inspiration. I said I hope she gets to create a lot more shows, and she said she hoped so, too. Crayon was dragging me away at this point, hissing Come on Garrett, she doesn't want to talk to you
Something which I found funny, and which he felt bad about later. I woudn't have stayed more than a few seconds beyond that anyway.
I'm reliably informed that Lauren Faust, Tara Strong and John De Lancie all liked my art quite a bit, and were all given prints of the pieces above. In the painting of the three of them, John was amused that his hair is less grey. John tweeted the Discordlicious picture, and Tara tweeted Twilightlicious (of course), Faustilicious, and the picture of the three of them, saying "Love this!" Lauren sent her brother to my booth to ask for some prints of Faustilicious, which I was already out of. I gave him buttons and anything I had, and my Deviantart address where he could print out more. Nice guy, good with computers. He's written a screenplay.
Ah, but those posters. See, here's where the whole friendship thing really kicks in. Because friends printed them for me. And friends got the signatures you see above. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm very poor, and that I'm trying to survive and make some sort of living just doing art anyway, which is very difficult. Last year I made the decision to live off unemployment for awhile and do my own comic series, The Chosen Ones. I completed a little less than seventy pages over the course of a year - the first "book" of the comic I suppose.
After less than a year, my unemployment ran out, but I wanted to try and survive doing artwork, to see if I could really make a living as a professional artist. Ponies, and the people I'd met through the pony fandom, helped quite a bit. Plenty of people were happy to pay me good money to draw something for them (sometimes ponies, sometimes not), usually because they considered me a friend, and I considered them the same. And I felt bad about that, like that was taking advantage of them. I'd rather have been drawing things for strangers. But I worked hard and did my best, as I do with everything I draw.
I'm actually backed up on commissions now. I have been for a few months. With preparations for Bronycon (like drawing the images above) and everything else I've never been so busy in my entire life. But those commissions weren't and aren't actually enough to pay my rent and bills. Dentist73548 knew I was struggling, and sent me most of my rent for two months straight. I didn't ask for it. I wanted to send it back. But he insisted. He's having some personal problems of his own, and has always liked and supported my work, and feels I'll do better things with it than he would. That means more than words can say.
If you recognize the name Dentist73548, it's because he does the vector coloring for most of my pony artwork. That means that I draw something in black and white, and he traces it all using mechanical curves so that it's in color and will look clean and perfect at any size. To a certain extent he has to interpret and improve upon what I draw. I've had many other terrific artists vector and color my pony work, but Dentist consistently does the best job at it. His masterpiece to date is probably the Daring Do poster, which contains ten different characters based on the Indiana Jones series, all very complex. He worked for months on it.
It's because of Dentist and other artists like him that I can produce as much high-quality pony artwork as I do. It's extremely liberating to be able to draw something in black and white and not have to create the final piece in color, apart from making corrections and deciding on the color scheme. I've never been more productive in my life, artwise, and I wouldn't get that in any other fandom. You may have read about my problems getting any animators for my Doctor Who lost episode animation project, Whosprites. I feel that if the Doctor Who fandom was like the pony fandom, I'd have ten lost Doctor Who episodes animated in full by now, probably more. (And I wrote a pony episode script called Return of Trixie, so don't think I'm not a little bit tempted.)
Now, Dentist isn't the type to take credit for his work. You won't see a lot of our collaborations on his Deviantart. But that Twilightlicious at the top of his page? He vectored that. That Discord vs. Fausticorn? I painted the shading, but he vectored it. Let's say you're at my Deviantart and it says "Color vector version of Discordlicious by Firestorm-CAN." Or you're at Zu-the-Skunk's Deviantart and you see my drawing of Faustilicious. "Original drawing by Tygerbug." That means something. The vector artists put their time and effort into making these pieces look good. And so do I.
The Brony fandom has also given me a taste of what it's like to actually be a popular, successful artist running a booth at a comic convention. If had my own comic
well, I do have my own comic, but a comic that's successful and which people want to buy
I still wouldn't be nearly as mobbed as I am at a pony convention. Do people want to buy my original sketches and art? Well, not usually. Sometimes. But I've now learned a lot about what it really means to make an impact at a convention - down to hosting panels and having a popular booth. Whenever The Chosen Ones or some other project of mine gets successful, I'll have that knowledge.
And that's due in large part to Purple Tinker. I came very unprepared to the September and January Bronycons. The September con was only a couple hundred people in the sweaty, poorly-ventilated top floor of a building in Chinatown. It was my first pony meetup. I didn't sign up to be a presenting artist or anything, and I set my stuff up on a table only because there was space and hey, why not? I wasn't selling sketches or anything. I gave away hundreds of them for free to Sethisto and Purple Tinker, because they were the art from my first coloring book, which was basically traced from the show, and I wasn't proud of them.
That was a wonderful meetup, just hanging out with everyone and making friends in a loose and easy way.
January was bigger - attendance capped at 600 but there were hundreds of people downstairs and the place was packed. I didn't come prepared to that one either. I brought my original sketches and sold them for five bucks. But it was Purple Tinker who actually printed out some posters so my table would actually look like I had anything going on. She also put me on the Artists' panel with the much better-known artists John Joseco, Egophiliac and Pixelkitties.
Printingwise, she did the same for me for June, to a certain extent. She printed out the Lauren/John/Tara poster, including the very nice print that got signed. She printed out the Discord vs. Lauren Fausticorn piece. She used to work at a printing place, but got fired, and printed these on her own. The quality wasn't perfect, and afterward we discussed how she could get more expensive materials and do a more professional job. She did print one large copy of the Lauren/John/Tara poster in a more professional, glossy way. That's the one that got signed. It's perfect.
She had a lot to live up to - the rest of my posters had been printed by C-Quel, who did an amazing job. He bought a wide-format printer, researched inks and paper stocks, and did the best job he possibly could. His posters all look like movie posters, and are essentially watertight. You can spit and spill on them and not much will happen. At the Bronies-NYC 1-year meetup he showed me his work and I was extremely impressed. He also put his money forward so that I could get buttons made, and acrylic charms, which were very expensive. He then got a buttonmaker and made hundreds of buttons himself. He also got a laser vector-based paper cutter which can do all sorts of intricate things. Using this, he cut out my stock of stickers.
It happens that C-Quel cares about money less than I do. A very talented artist in his own right, his real focus these days is making pinata-style "paper plushies" of the pony characters (which his laser paper cutter helped greatly with). He decided his booth would be a carnival, where people could play games and win prizes. He commissioned four posters from me, all with a vintage circus theme, to be given away as prizes. One was a Mardi Gras poster with his favorite background pony, Violet. The others featured Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy and the Manticore. The Pinkie Pie poster showed her being shot out of her own party cannon, and served as the
let's say inspiration
for the Hub network's official Pinkie Pie poster at this year's Comic Con. (They originally just took my artwork and used it, but later had someone redraw it.)
As I said, C-Quel's focus isn't money. Neither is mine, really. If I can make my expenses back somehow doing drawings, that's good with me. But C-Quel
well, he enjoyed doing the research, working the equipment and helping me as a friend. But the idea of running a booth for money, dealing with throngs of people, and all that nonsense, that didn't appeal to him at all, nor did the idea of being in any sort of business partnership with me. His family's beloved dog Merlina was dying right before the convention. He was prepared to spend any money he had to keep her alive. You should hear him talk about her sometime. All that energy, life and spirit. Walking on two legs, being silly. I suppose to a pony fan I might compare her to Lyra.
Well, the convention came and Merlina died, and it took all the life out of C-Quel for awhile. I remember losing my own dogs when I was younger. That's never easy, especially when they've been part of the family for so long. C-Quel, as a friend, put a lot of time and money and thought and effort into making my Bronycon experience the best it could possibly be. And now all he wants in return is a nice painting of Merlina (and her friend Maaya). He'd been thinking about a human Octavia too. I should do that as well. I've been backed up on commissions, and I really want to get to them.
I barely saw C-Quel at the convention. He stumbled in and out looking tired. I didn't see whether his carnival-themed booth, which he ran with the talented toy customizer Amandkyo-Su (Amanda) was as wonderful as he wanted it to be. I did see a lot of people with his pinatas
or paper plushies
and they are every bit as wonderful as you'd like.
As for Purple Tinker, well, she is and always will be a drama magnet. She founded Bronycon and Bronies-NYC, and was ousted after the January con after trying to take on too much responsibility on her own, overtiring herself and pushing her staff too hard. She's said herself that doing another con might have killed her, but even so she was angry to be ousted, and continues to be a controversial and outspoken critic of whatever's going wrong with this fandom.
I think that somewhere inside her is a selfish person, but everything she's done for the Brony community has been extremely generous. She's raised so much for charity and helped lots of people find their feet. She fights for LGBT causes and if you've pissed her off you'll never hear the end of it. But I and this fandom owe so much to her. I've crashed on her couch many a time, and I'm typing this on a Netbook computer called Trixie which she gave me. I helped her buy a Netbook this past con as a thank you for the prints. Awhile back I also gave her an original painting of Applejack and Pinkie Pie, now signed by Ashleigh Ball and Andrea Libman. Even when she's having money problems, a lot of money tends to be spent when she's around, and I'm never exactly keeping up with her. She took myself and Annomaniac up to the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, since he was going back to Germany. Driving in New York gave me serious road rage. On our way to the top, a recording told us to make a far right turn, so I spent the next hour saying offensive right-wing things.
Her self-harming habits can be very frustrating - she'll obsessively beat her head against the same cause until she bleeds - but in a lot of ways she represents the best of this fandom. Not to say that "All the ponies in this town are crazy," but I've met a lot of really wonderful, caring, giving people in this fandom, a lot of who wear their psychoses and broken hearts and broken minds on their sleeves. Sometimes I feel a little too normal to be part of this fandom, something I've never felt elsewhere, since I'm far from normal. But I am endlessly inspired by the genuinely kind and caring and optimistic nature of the true Brony. They are like flawed diamonds. They don't hide their cracks. They show them to you. You know exactly what you're getting. And the rest is dazzling.
This is a roundabout way of saying, thanks, everyone. Thanks for everything. You're amazing and I couldn't have done a thing without you.
And to you, too, the ones reading this, or reading my stuff in general. The people who follow me on Facebook and care about what I'm up to. The people who've supported my art and just been there fore me. Thanks. I'd name names but after such a long pony-related post that'd be cruelty to force you to read this much. You know who you are, the ones who've been there all this time.
Sunday ended with the Artists' Panel, which I was hosting this year. Yes, they asked me to. There had been a fire earlier, which had put everything off schedule. Apparently John De Lancie had stood onstage as the Meadowlands burned, grinning like a true lord of chaos. Everything was happening an hour later. The staff weren't nearby (or were too exhausted) and it was hard to get a straight answer on what was happening. Fair play to them - they ran a convention of four thousand people. That's one hell of an achievement. They had already gone to war and won.
So eventually we had the vague idea that the Artist's Alley would be open for another hour, and that the Artists' Panel would be an hour later too. No one came to get us - I was sort of expecting that there would be people there pushing us around, making sure we were on time. That was a big mistake on my part to expect that. I'd have to pack up my table and then get immediately to the panel. That was difficult. I couldn't exactly get my stuff to the hotel inbetween. Thankfully I had Zarkith and Mayor Mir, and Crayon was still around kinda. We packed up, late, and they took most of the stuff between them and left. We had to leave a big 32-pack case of water behind. Someone might have put it onstage later. I don't know. I wasn't going to pick it up and walk around with it all night. I took some stuff onstage with me.
It was all pretty confusing. Eventually we started wandering toward the stage, and that included most of the artists for the panel - John Joseco, Pixelkitties, WillDrawForFood, Tsitra360, Speccysy, Chibi-Jen-Hen. Everyone was looking very confused, expecting someone to tell us what to do. Other artists and friends were there too. People had been asking me all day if they could be on the artist's panel. I said they only allowed seven people and I'd already made my decisions long before. It was a difficult decision, and etc. That didn't stop people from asking all day. Kar actually promised Tim Kangaroo he could be on the panel, I think, and I had to say no to him, even though he's done a lot of art for Bronycon. I also had to say no to the guy who does Dr. Adorable, which is a pretty great blog. And ToxicMario. There was no sign of Celebi-Yoshi, who was supposed to be on the panel. We had Mario but no Yoshi.
Celebi is 19, and travelled with other people who wanted to leave the minute the con ended. So she had to leave, and told the staff to let me know about it. That didn't happen.
I was just wandering around confused like an idiot. I'm kicking myself in retrospect, but still I was kinda leading the group. "Well, if I don't pack up my booth now, this panel won't happen." And still, as I was packing up, people were trying to buy 50 cent stuff and haggling over the price! "Oh, now that I've seen it, 5 bucks is too much." No, Derpy's not for sale.
"Well, if we don't walk toward the stage now, this panel won't happen." Waiting for Yoshi. Waiting for Yoshi. "Well, if we don't get onstage now, this panel won't happen."
So I walked onstage. We all did. Sergeant Sprinkles, author of Cupcakes, was there too. Didn't say a word the entire time. We went onstage, and sat there, confused, staring at the audience. Waiting for
Yoshi? Eventually someone walked up to us and asked why we weren't saying anything yet.
waiting for Yoshi?"
Oh, right. If I don't start talking now, this panel won't happen. I should have realized that a long time ago.
So the panel was a lot shorter than it was supposed to be. I had time to ask questions to everyone on the panel two and a half times. There were some very good answers. Chibi-Jen-Hen was nervous but turned in better answers than just about anyone. WillDrawForFood did a perfect impression of Billy West's Futurama voices - Fry, Farnsworth, Zoidberg. Another artist (not on the panel) does a perfect Lewis Black.
And Pixelkitties was particularly good. We had spoken via email about how this really is a fandom about friendship, and the minute that a convention and the fandom in general becomes about power and money (ticket sales) and who's more "famous," we've lost. I started to talk about that and she understood, so we ended on that, not getting to talk to John and WillDraw and Tsitra for a third time.
Having decided that Twist was worst pony, I'd asked people to draw pictures of Twist, and someone actually did. I heard later that most of the audience couldn't hear anything. In general people weren't laughing at the jokes or understanding my calls for applause. There was an embarrassing moment where I asked people to clap for Chibi-Jen-Hen and no one did until I yelled for it. People did clap for Egophiliac, who had decided not to appear, but who I made sure to mention (along with Tim Kangaroo, ToxicMario and Dr. Adorable).
I asked the audience if they could hear, and they said they could hear me, since I was talking straight into the mike and holding it. I had the whole panel do the same. Apparently Chibi-Jen-Hen, for her relative shyness, was the only one who could be heard clearly from some seats. Tsitra360 was quite quiet and I look forward to hearing the panel posted online at Everfree Radio so that people can finally hear us! 21 days later it still hasn't been posted. The livestream had gone down that day, possibly due to the fire, and because of that Sunday's panels didn't get posted, I guess?
The cosplay contest was going on in the other panel area. The Meadowlands is just one big room, and they were loud as hell. There was very loud thumping music, and tons of cheering. Apparently Spider-man had jumped up onstage. Tsitra was speaking and I could barely hear him, and I was just a few feet away!
I joked about it. I treated the next room as being another panelist with something to say, and asked it questions. Eventually I just screamed, DAMN YOU COSPLAY HALL! FROM HELL'S HEART I STAB AT THEE! YOU CAN COSPLAY IN HELL!
A minute or two later, hundreds of people walked from the cosplay hall to our panel en masse and sat down. I guess I'd piqued their curiosity.
I was being funny, I hope. Talking too much, for sure. Taking advantage of the situation to say a few things that were on my mind. It was hard to escape the feeling that we were trespassing. That we weren't supposed to be here. I swore, at one point, then asked if I was allowed to swear. "Can I swear? Should I just never stop swearing?"
No one laughed, at any point. I think they'll laugh when it's online. I used to do standup in Los Angeles, and the trouble with Los Angeles is everyone's pretending to be someone they're not, so if you do standup and play an idiot character, they take you as face value, like that's who you are. There's no irony, no layers allowed. It makes what Andy Kaufman did seem more and more impressive in retrospect. I've been thrown off enough comedy stages to have the feeling, deep down, when I host something, that, well, they won't get my humor and I'll never be allowed to do that again.
At that point in the day though, I'm not sure anyone was even paying attention. Even if they could hear.
It was a pretty fun panel with talented people on it. It's the most I got to talk to Pixel (and Jen) the entire convention! It still hasn't been posted online so I never really heard any reaction to it either way.
It was probably 36 minutes into it when a very tired Punchline ran up to the stage and hissed, "You need to wrap this up. NOW."
So I did.
I'm not sure why it was so urgent, as closing ceremonies didn't start for another half hour or so. The Bronycon staff all took a whole lot of bows - too many but still greatly deserved, all things considered - as the remaining voice actors and guests stood around awkwardly. This was loud. You could hear it. Rocket bellowed. There were laughs and cheers of the sort our panel hadn't had. John De Lancie came out with a calculated look on his face. It seemed he'd seen a lot from this fandom now, good and bad. He'd borrowed a Brony shirt to wear, at his panel and here. He said simply: "I am with you." Huge cheers. "You will change the world." Huger cheers. Then he left. Laurent from the documentary (I think that's her name) was walking around with an arrow sign taped to her butt. He handed her back the shirt, I think. Through the curtains. There were mute goodbyes and hugs from some of the cast and crew, stolen moments.
Purple Tinker had a surprise for me. I had to catch up to her somehow. I did, eventually, leaving others behind. I didn't eat all day. That happened a lot. Bronycon just took over. If I ate, it was because Evan ran up to me with a burger.
Her surprise was a 13x19 print of my painting of Lauren, John and Tara, signed by all of them. It was and is glossy and large and looks a lot better than the other prints she did for the con.
She got it framed. We went to Walmart and bought frames for five different posters. She paid, as far as I can tell. She paid for the trip to the top of 30 Rock too.
A friend of mine, Jace Hidalgo, had braved the lines and spent the time and money to have all the rest of my art signed. He got the one of Lauren, John and Tara signed too. I have two of those now. Signed by all three.
Lauren/Tara/John. Signed by Lauren/Tara/John, thanks to Purple Tinker. Printed and framed by Tinker. Other copy signed thanks to Jace.
Discord/Fausticorn. Signed by Lauren/John, thanks to Jace. Printed and framed by Tinker.
Three 'Licious posters, signed by Tara, John and Lauren, thanks to Jace. Printed by C-Quel. Framed by Tinker.
Other gifts of Bronycon? Mug and Gummy toy from Pixelkitties
well, I talk about that in another post.
Yeah, so Bronycon was pretty neat. Exhausting, but fun. Secret, but fun. I owe a lot to a lot of people. Thanks to every single one of you. Let's do it again sometime.