Recap: Furry Weekend Atlanta 2016

Jonathan Vair Duncan, a.k.a. Stigmata

It’s likely you already know who I am if you’re reading this, but in case you found this through Medium and haven’t heard me before, I’m an artist most people know by the name “Stigmata”. Since 2008, my unique art aesthetics and philosophies have built a reputation in the furry fandom. My intense drive for purpose and a curiosity planted me among these amazing animal-people, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of them. I wanted to share a brief recap of my most recent convention: Furry Weekend Atlanta.

After 13 hours of driving, my housemate/friend Deo and I arrived. I knew after attending since 2013 that this was the most fun of the large furry cons. Not only does it have the best merchandise, the most responsive staff, and was the premier of the contemporary furry dance/music scene, but it has the same facility as Dragon Con: the stunning Marriott Marquis. Skywalks connect the hotel to four Fed Ex/Kinkos, several Starbucks, and many tasty dining options for even vegetarian/vegan folks (shoutouts to Aviva by Kameel).

My work life always brought me to conventions, but last weekend was the first time I attended a con as a vacation. At FWA I offered no commissions, spent no time thinking about my existing commission queue, and fully immersed myself in the present. Feels like the first real vacation I took in years because it really was!

As mentioned previously, I did hold two panels at the beginning of the con. The panel I premiered, “How To Fix a Life With Furry Art”, was an illustrated story on why I created vulnerable personal work and how this pulled me out of the darkest spot of my life.

The emotional struggle to document all that was rewarded with great discussion from new and old friends alike! I know the thought of attending panels at a convention can feel inconvenient or uninteresting, so I am quite proud that my panels now include great attendance and always end with people engaging with me long after our scheduled time is up!

+90 minutes after the talk was done, these weren’t even all the people who wanted to hang out and dialogue!

I met some lovely academic scholars of fandoms on Friday afternoon, and they made sure to attended “Try Harder!”, a panel about the psychological/spiritual implications of taking on furry commissions, before making good use of the Q/A time in the second half. These same folks at Aca-Media also mention me in a brief recap that made for an entertaining listen on the drive back home. I’ll be sure to update here with relevant information.

Mask by Eric Strother, glasses found.

This focus on lecture over commission work suits me. I’d rather spend my career doing personal work through my Patreon and delivering messages to inspire others, but until this years my Patreon had been my Plan B. Now it will me my Plan A-Z.

Deo lent me one of the fursuit heads she made, which marked the first time I got to “suit”. It’s a simple black wolf head, and I paled in comparison to her lively character, but it was a lot of fun all the same! There isn’t a feeling quite like having a new physical appearance, and realizing I had to exaggerate non-verbal communication to be an effective communicator with a mask on was a challenge that helped me view day-to-day discussions in a whole new light.

Decent visibility, plus the jaw moves when you talk! Just needed some black claw gloves and I’d have been golden. Her character designs deserves their own blog post, for sure.

After seeing the work of Mallory Hodgkin in the Artist Alley, I knew I could trust her with Resin (my black hare character used in my art self-therapy). I commissioned a sketch from her which will later be finished up as a collaborative piece! Deo and Ishaway had later surprised me with a collaborative sketch, so a three-way to a completed Resin image is also in the works! Seems 2016 will be the best way to commission/collaborate with more artists in the future.

I’m at a point in my life where I have the luxury of weaving fun, art, self-help, friendships, and real-talk into commerce. I now only surround myself with company that makes me a better person. When I hear the horror stories of artists following their dreams and then burning out years later, I’m thankful I tumbled far off the beaten path. I started my art discipline expecting to flourish in the entertainment industry, but as I focus my career and personal life more intently on loving myself and those around me I know am in the right place in my life.

-J

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Jonathan Vair Duncan

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Jonathan is an artist and educator with a knack for finding what people need. He’s okay with talking about any subject. patreon.com/jonathanvair

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