Talented toony artist, Fursuit Fracas champion loves to perform ‘for the kids’
The past four and a half years have been quite a wild ride for Santa Clara, Calif. native Chris Dural, from his chance introduction to the furry world in 2008 to his recent Fandom’s Favorite Fursuit Fracas (FFFF) tournament win last month as his character Howee Husky.
Amid the whirlwind of taking art commissions, traveling to conventions all over the United States and meeting tons of new people, he’s thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.
Going back to his humble beginnings, Dural, an avid video gamer, was playing Super Smash Brothers several years ago and was browsing a community forum that happened to have a few furs on it.
“I met Wolfpup TK on there, and he had a pretty cool icon of an artist who was actually on (Fur Affinity),” Dural remembered. “He linked me to the artist’s page on FA, and pretty much from there I started looking into it more. I didn’t know what a furry was, so I ‘Googled’ it, and I was really interested.”
A HUSKY AT HEART
After deciding to join the fandom, Dural realized that he now had to create a character of his own to play, an identity that many new furs struggle with.
In reality, it was a no-brainer.
“I love huskies and I love dogs, but I feel like my inner personality resembles a husky,” explained Dural. “Their energy, their happiness, they like to meet other people and play around.”
“I just wanted something really cute, and I just said ‘Howee!’” he said. “At the time, I didn’t know that was an actual real name, but I decided to go with that and just put two Es.”
Dural’s husky character features hetero-chromatic eyes with one eye blue and one green, and was finally made into three-dimensional form by Don’t Hug Cacti in January 2010. The suit made its debut at Further Confusion (FC) later that month.
Like many fursuiters, the 22-year-old remembers the day he first got Howee like it was yesterday.
“I quickly grabbed the box, and I instantly wanted to put it on,” Dural recalled. “Since before I even got it, I’d been to FC, Anthrocon and Califur, and it was pretty early on in my start in the fandom that I wanted to be one of those characters walking around. I wanted to be the person giving hugs in the suit.”
As much fun as he was having in the fandom up to that point, suiting opened up a whole new world to Dural, who admits he can be rather shy and reserved in person.
“I was just really happy to get it and start doing that at cons, going to events in public with other kids and making them happy,” Dural said. “Making people happy like I do right now is really fun.”
A LOVE FOR CARTOONS
As well as Dural draws toony art, one would think he would he would be majoring in some sort of visual arts as a student at the University of California: East Bay campus.
The fact of the matter is, Dural, who just entered his junior year, is actually majoring in Computer Software Engineering and has only been drawing since 2008, shortly after he joined the fandom.
“I loved seeing other people draw, and I didn’t want to be the person that only watches other people,” Dural explained. “I wanted to get more active and involved in it, and I wanted to start drawing.”
He bought a sketchbook, and like the old saying about how to get to Carnegie Hall, he just practiced, practiced and practiced.
In what little spare time he had between school and a part-time job – and sometimes during class – Dural referenced from some of his favorite artists and kept refining his technique, eventually veering away from a semi-realistic style towards one definitely fun, colorful and toony, ala Mary Mouse.
“Blotch (was an inspiration), and in terms of toony art I love Kipper, and more recently Greevixor, Henrieke and Karpour,” Dural listed. “I just saw all of that and said, ‘I want to start drawing like that.”
And draw he did – with Dural’s vast improvement in a relatively short amount of time drawing praise by many on FA.
“All the progess I’ve done is just motivating myself to draw, learning techniques from other people… but I’m still improving. There’s still a lot I have to work on, when I have time between school and work.”
Just about everyone that owns a fursuit chooses to don their costume for a different reason. Some fursuiters perform their craft mainly at conventions, or with their own circle of friends.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, Dural made it clear that he loves using his costume for public interaction and making a difference in the community.
In 2011, he was fortunate enough to participate in and help raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in San Pedro, Calif., which remains one of his top fursuiting memories of all-time.
“My club (Alpha Gamma Sigma) that I was with in community college thought it’d be fine if I bring (Howee), I wore it and the kids loved it,” he said. “I got some awkward looks from some of the adults, but the kids were following me around and wanted to take pictures, and my club even took some donations towards the cancer project just to take a picture with me.”
Now living in the Bay area, he hopes to get involved with local nonprofit character performance organization Critters By The Bay, and keep spreading the smiles around and creating a positive impression on the fursuiting aspect of the furry fandom.
The big appeal of fursuiting to Dural, as many of those who have ever worn one would agree, is the breaking down of inhibitions while wearing a costume.
“In person I’m more reserved and quiet, I don’t talk that much except with people I really know well, but in suit I get to (interact) with anyone that comes up,” he explained. “I feel more free in it, and it makes me really happy to go up, bounce around and make other people happy. I do it for the performance – I love to perform – and I do it for the kids.”
ONE SURPRISED HUSKY
Some of the nominated entrants to the annual FFFF competition go in expecting to win or at least place high in the final standings.
Dural, however, was not one of them.
“It was unexpected,” he said on his surprising, and humbling, win. “I got nominated and entered just for laughs, for kicks and giggles. Over the past previous years, there’s been some drama, and I just wanted to see how far my suit can go.”
He said he didn’t even expect to make it to the top 16, and once he got there and saw the competition he was up against – including the incredibly entertaining and popular Greifer and perennial high finisher Clementine, Dural figured his run would end.
“I wasn’t even expecting to win those, or especially against Barley, who’s super cute. There were wins by one or two votes,” Dural noted.
But once Howee got to a certain point and realized he just might win the whole thing, Dural finally started posting on Twitter and FA mentioning the competition, helping him secure a narrow 209-189 victory over Matrices, FNN’s August 2012 Featured Fursuiter.
Although he may have underestimated his fan base, the soft-spoken Dural was still surprised to have won it all, and harbored nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for his fellow FFFF opponents.
“I love Barley, I love Greifer and his performance… Matrices is great and she’s even the Guest of Honor at Rainfurrest, she’s being recognized right now for everything she does and I feel like she did deserve to win for all she does for the community.”
Dural admitted that he felt sort of relieved that he won, for the sole fact that he is now ineligible and has no other suits to re-enter, and will thoroughly enjoy watching the tournament from the sidelines in the years to come.
“It will be nice to see it from the spectator’s side, and not have to campaign or take pictures,” he said.
Dural, who recently enjoyed a fun trip to Seattle for Rainfurrest, said that the people he has met, enjoyed the company of and kept in contact with during the last four years have been his favorite part about the fandom.
“(At Rainfurrest) I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in months, or even years – you get to meet a lot of new people and grow and develop yourself in character over time,” he said. “Even if you’re shy, you get a better personality and you just learn more about yourself. It’s just really fun to meet people that have similar interests, whether it’s video games or suiting.”
ADDITIONAL Q & A with Chris “Howee Husky” Dural
Q: What is your favorite fursuiting memory?
A: I really liked the time at Anthrocon, the video with me and the little girl when I was with Vin. There was a little girl in the Dealer’s Den with her parents, I’m not sure if they were furries, but they were local people that wanted to bring their kid, and she was laughing and stuff because she saw us. We went over to her and kneeled down and started playing around, and she was laughing and giggling the whole time. Vin was squeaking like he always does, and we were giving her high-fives. And I’d also say the Relay For Life too, with all the kids.
Q: How were you able to get into that local Relay for Life event with the American Cancer Society?
A: I was in the AGS, Alpha Gamma Sigma club, kind of a college National Honor Society, and we pretty much organized events to clean beaches, do charity events and community service. I found out about (Relay For Life) through my club, and I decided to bring my suit since it was a public event. I did it for the kids, for cancer – I walked around the track like everyone else had to.
Q: What are your plans for upcoming conventions?
A: I’ll most likely be at MFF. I’d love to try FurFright, I’ve never been (unlike this year), but FC for sure, I live like 15 minutes away, and FWA, all my regular cons. I don’t think I’ll be at CaliFur anymore since I don’t live in southern California, but I’ll be at AC. I really want to try for EF (Eurofurence) but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen.
Q: Besides fursuiting and art, what are your hobbies?
A: I love to play video games in my free time, fighting or adventure. I love to meet new people, chat online, but I also like to learn. It may sound kind of strange, but people know me for loving school. I’m excited to go to school more than anything. Classes just started right now, so I’m learning a lot of new things. But not just school in general, I like learning anything and experiencing new things, and I love to travel.
Q: Here’s your chance to give a shout out to your fans that helped you through the voting rounds of the FFFF, what would you like to say to them and to the community?
A: There’s a lot of people that like my suit, but there were a lot of suits that I was against in brackets that I was sure I wasn’t going to win against, but I did. I thank all my fans for the win, and I hope that everything I do from now on will reflect on what suiters, maybe not ‘should’ be doing, but it would be nice to see more suiters helping out with the community and not giving off a bad influence on the fandom.
Editor’s note: The FNN Featured Fursuiter of the Month is a bi-monthly profile series written by Kijani. Every other month he will choose one well-recognized figure in the fandom’s fursuiting community, offering a “behind the mask” look at their characters, how they found fursuiting/furry fandom and what makes them unique as well as a snapshot of their lives outside the fandom.
The next feature will be released in December 2012.