Sunday, October 22, 2017

TetZooCon 2017

I had an amazing time at TetZooCon last year, and at the time I hadn't been sure whether I'd be able to attend another one in the foreseeable future. I'm happy to report that I will (at least for the next few years), and I did!

TetZooCon has grown in size over the years, forcing it to move away from the lovely London Wetland Centre (where it had taken place in the past) this year to the student union of the University of London. A small price to pay, but I'm certainly happy for its success! I hear that it may switch venues again next year to accommodate yet more growth.

One of the "advertisement slides" that was projected on the screen during coffee breaks featured TetZoo Time. (This was also the case last year, but I'd neglected to take a picture.)

Like last year, all the speakers were excellent and covered a fascinating diversity of topics. No doubt Darren plans to prepare his own summary of the proceedings, so I will abstain from a comprehensive overview. Dani Rabaiotti's talk on animal farts (yes, really) was particularly memorable, and Beth Windle's talk on thylacines (rightly) elicited emotional responses from many attendees. Also a shout out to Aubrey Roberts (fellow member of the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath), who did a talk on excavating and researching marine reptiles from Svalbard.

Beth Windle also made an incredible thylacine cake, which was tragically dismembered and consumed during the convention.

This year's paleoart workshop featured an attempt at creating two murals through the combined effort of the attendees. Each person was assigned a different Mesozoic animal (all tetrapods, as far as I'm aware) and then directed to draw their animal on one of two gigantic sheets of paper in the correct time period (which were labeled on the sheets). We were meant to draw everything to scale, but that didn't exactly happen, probably due to ambiguity regarding the size of the provided scale bars. In addition, the fact that there were separate scale bars for the background and foreground quickly got lost as the event went on. Loss of consistency is probably inevitable for any impromptu creative project involving so many people, but, most importantly, I think everyone had fun.

I was assigned the traversodontid cynodont Exaeretodon. My rendition turned out to be less than impressive, but I did include a couple of fluffy babies for extra cuteness. (Despite my simplistic art style, speed-sketching is not one of my strong suits, especially when dealing with a body plan I'm relatively unfamiliar with.) Steve White added a Morganucodon standing brazenly near the much larger synapsid, evidently considering it too cartoonish to be afraid of. Natee Puttapipat drew a Plateosaurus in the background, which deservedly went on to win one of the workshop prizes. I didn't catch the name of the person who drew the Coelophysis, apologies! I added a few small critters to the remaining white space (more on that later).

My friend Jack Wood (who I first met on Tumblr) is a much better paleoartist than I and accordingly put his skills to much better use. He also deservedly walked away with a prize for his work.

Another Tumblr friend, Northwyrm, drew some laughs with her "Hipsterlophodon".

Having finished drawing our assigned taxa and seeing the large amounts of blank space remaining in the Triassic sections, Northwyrm and I set about adding more Triassic animals, particularly pseudosuchians. We also (reluctantly, at least on my part) tried to draw some plants after some prompting by Mark Witton. Upon noticing that someone had drawn in an anachronistic flower in the Triassic, we felt obligated to come up with an explanation for it...

I gave a better performance at the TetZooCon quiz than at the workshop, miraculously managing to scrape second place in high scores again! I picked out from a selection of prizes the dinosaur book by Johan Egerkrans (which he later generously offered to sign), who is an inspiration to practitioners of stylized palaeoart everywhere.

In addition to reuniting with friends I met at the last TetZooCon, I also met Joschua Knüppe, Michael Lesniowski ("Xane"), and Rebecca Groom (of Palaeoplushies fame and occasional comic inker for TetZoo Time) offline for the first time. Will the entire TetZoo Time production crew ever convene in the same room? Stay tuned...

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