Heyo, world!

Random plug–buddy of mine is getting her thyroid cooked with radiation and is suffering the usual severe cashflow limitations that come with major medical problems.

If you have any interest in chainmaille jewelry and so forth, I urge you to check out her site.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Working on a set of illustrations for a national summer reading program…this was one of the rejected character designs. *I* thought it was an awesome idea, and they agreed that yes, it was cool and yes, the kids in the target age-range would probably love it…but dead mermaids were maybe a little too weird for some of the more conservative adults that would be controlling the purchasing.

Sadly, they’re probably right. Even if most of the librarians reading the blog are pure awesomeness, there’s always somebody who balks at weirdness.

In a lot of projects like this, you end up sending in a couple of ideas, usually with a sketch or two and a sort of rough verbal outline of how you see it working out. Inevitably, the client picks the one you are least pleased with. This is a law of the universe, and in no way reflects on either artist or client. It’s just the way the world works.

(We did finally agree on a theme and character design and I think it’s gonna be pretty cool, and hopefully pretty entertaining…more info not forthcoming for quite awhile, though…)

Dead Mermaid

As so often happens, the original sketch had more life than the cleaned up version. I do like the little characters, though, and I think I might keep playing with it…y’know…someday, when I have time…2010-ish…

Two Animal Moments

The first, and great news–the slate-sided juncos are back at the feeder! (Well, under the feeder.) These little grey-and-white birds are my personal sign of winter. I love them.

The other was…well, inevitable, really. I was working in my studio and Gir the beagle started up downstairs in his usually beagley fashion. And then…


Good lord, I thought, did the collie step on his head?

I opened the door, and Ben stomped by me on his way to the bedroom, growling under his breath. My grasp of feline language is minimal, but I’m pretty sure that was "…stupidgoddamnDOGmesswithMEwillhe…."

I went downstairs. Gir was running wildly around the room, stopping to paw at his face. Sadly, this is pretty normal behavior for him, so I grabbed him. "Come here, idiotbrain. Did you finally piss the cat off…?"

Gir gave me a pathetic look.* Blood welled from the lengthy cat scratch scored across the top of his muzzle, and from the rather short scratch across his jowls.

"You’re lucky he didn’t ride you around the house like a little pony," I told him.

Gir wedged his head against my knees and attempted to convey that he, Gir, had been minding his own business like a good beagle, sitting quietly, knitting bandages for lepers, and the Devil had appeared and hit him in the face. (Beagles have very expressive eyes.)

"Sure he did," I said.

Gir protested his innocence. They had been festive holiday bandages. Fororphans. Who were also lepers.


Gir attempted to convey that the Devil had then eaten a whole turkey in front of him and hadn’t shared any of it, and maybe I would like to rectify this gross injustice? For the little leper orphans?

"I don’t think so…"

Gir sighed heavily, and followed closely at my heels so he could hide under the desk. I went to check on Ben, who looked at me as if nothing that happened, allowed a brief petting, and went back to sleep.

Gir was already leery of sleeping on the bed if Ben was up there–my feet need to be between them, in a kind of human demilitarized zone, but he may not come off the couch for a few days after that.

*Beagles have no other kind.

Sign of the Time (of Month)

I have been aggravated. I’m not going to get into details, because it’s really not my story, but suffice it to say, this was not the correct time of month to piss me off.

Transcript of conversation at 9 AM:

URSULA: "So, I’ve gotten as far as ‘if you ever pull that shit again, I’m gonna rip your whiny little bitch head off and fistfuck the stump." Do you think he knows what ‘fistfuck’ means? I’d hate to have to get out the thesaurus."

KEVIN: (with remarkable calm) "Probably not. You might need to draw a diagram."

URSULA: "I’ll prepare some."

KEVIN: (wisely says nothing)

URSULA: "Maybe I’ll make slides. You could show them in church. It’d be an educational experience for everybody!"

KEVIN: (torn between mild horror and morbid curiosity)  "…sort of a "this is what the Romans COULD have done to Jesus instead of crucifixion?" 

URSULA: "Oooh! If I had Flash, I could animate it!"

KEVIN: (backs carefully toward the door)

I never could figure out why people got scared when I get mad–I mean, I NEVER get mad, and I’ve never done anything horrible to anyone, so you wonder why they’d bother. My desperate avoidance of drama is almost entirely so that I don’t HAVE to get mad. Getting mad is exhausting.

A buddy of mine says that I just give off some kind of vibe that says in essence "I’m a very nice, laid-back person, and if you push me too far I WILL DESTROY YOU." I can’t speak to the truth of that, but occasionally, at certain times of the month, I hope it’s true.

Damnit, I have PMS.

This was an incredibly productive week, and I should be feeling pretty good all around, but instead I spent the morning grumpy and brooding. This should have been a warning sign that it was probably a bad time for me to, oh, start reading about uncontacted tribes (which is ALWAYS depressing reading) but I’m not very quick on the uptake.

Then I followed random links and wound up at this guy and promptly burst into tears (not that it’s not a bloody tragic story, but I’m generally not quite so hair triggered.)

I should go paint phalloi or something happy.

The Power of Comics

So last night, Kevin and I went to a reception/dinner for the Iraqi sculptor and journalist, Ahmed Fadaam.

For those of you who don’t follow NPR obsessively, he was an artist, a native of Baghdad, who saw his studio and life’s work destroyed in the looting following the overthrow of Saddam, and began working as a journalist and translator, reporting the collapse of Baghdad and the attempts at rebuilding for NPR and the New York Times. You can read a much more detailed account than I can give–it’s a fascinating, frequently painful story, and his first-hand reports from Baghdad, "Ahmed’s Diary" would wake grief in a heart of adamant.

When Kevin found out that he had come to the US and was having an art reception, knowing how much I admired the man’s work, he got us tickets. I have mentioned before, I think, that Kevin is a keeper.

It was a lovely dinner, and–well, "moving" doesn’t even cover it. He was speaking about his latest sculpture, a copy of which is now on my bookcase, called "Grieving Woman." The inspiration was simple–on his beat, he would often see between sixty and a hundred dead bodies a day, and most of them were men. He said that at the morgue, or at the site of the car bombs, he would find their wives grieving, an image that got burned into his brain week after week, and which he tried finally to excise by sculpting it.

At one point in the dinner, as various people on the staff were chatting with the various guests, it came up in the usual fashion that I did comic books, and one of the producers said "Oh! You have to talk to Ahmed–he just got a deal with DC to turn the diaries into a graphic novel!" So when an opportunity presented itself, I went up and introduced myself, and congratulated him on the deal with DC.

This may sound like an insipid conversation starter, given the man’s life, but it’s very hard to fangirl over someone’s pain. Besides, I don’t know crap about war, or atrocity. Nobody has ever wanted to kill me. I make a living as an artist, but my hamsters-wearing-hats is so far from the sort of art this man is doing that calling them both by the same name is a tragedy of language.

Comics, though, I know. Comics I can talk about with anybody, anywhere, with enthusiasm.

And this quiet, soft-spoken man, who had been telling us matter-of-factly, without emotion, about the horrors of life in occupied Iraq, cracked a huge grin and practically bounced on his feet, and began telling me how excited he was, because he’d grown up on Superman and Batman, and to be working on a comic for those people…!

Here’s a guy who slept with an AK-47 next to his bed, in anticipation of somebody breaking into the house at any moment to kill him and his family. Here’s a guy who has seen more death and ruin come to his home than any human should see in a dozen lifetimes. Here’s a guy who had to flee his country because of death threats against him as a Western collaborator, who had been speaking about the resentment Iraqis feel towards Americans, who hasn’t seen his family in months, and cannot go and visit them because he will be denied reentry to the US if he leaves.

And he was excited to be doing a comic.

More than excited, he was suddenly animated, telling me about his art submissions for the proposal DC had sent him, and how he had taught figure drawing and how they were having to work out the art style for the comic, and then there was much mutual commiseration over illustration deadlines. "A hundred illustrations? Brutal!" "Eighty in six weeks? How could you see afterwards?"

This is the power of comics.

I have said before that readers will give you more and forgive you more, and feel with you more in comics than any other medium. And I still don’t know why that is. I’m an artist, even if most of it IS hamsters wearing little hats, and I’m a writer, and I have stared at the process from both ends, and three volumes of Digger* and an Eisner nomination and a graphic novel for kids with Penguin later, I still don’t know why. Whatever bizarre alchemy occurs between the word and the art, I cannot point to it and say "There. That bit. That’s why it works."

All I know is that it works, and comics have power. I gave up believing in magic–mostly–long ago, but if I had to point to somethingin the world that’s magic, it would be comics. They shouldn’t have such power. They shouldn’t be able to change the world. But they do.

Thank god.

*Four, once I get everything mailed off…

filthspigot  and I should not be allowed to communicate. She eggs me on. She tries to convince me that I could totally sell 500 winged phalloi plushies (the minimum order, and no, I really couldn’t, although it’s a helluva deal to get them made…) 

And then she starts talking about Valentine’s Day cards….


Phalloi With Heart

…I am having way too much fun with these things to be healthy.

Also, go read her essay on why Obama should not get a Goldendoodle, because it’s hysterical (and I’ve met the dog. She does not exaggerate.)

More ACEOs!

Two more ACEOs, and two more ACEO auctions. The price point for these seems to be right around $30, so that’s probably what I’ll be charging for the originals in the future, but I figured I’d do one more batch, since one’s handpainted and all.

ACEO — Send Tea
Send Tea Auction

ACEO — Winged Phalloi (Mature content. I think.)
Non-DA link
Winged Phalloi Auction

And heck, time to give this a try–I’m offering a limited edition print of the Winged Phalloi piece, because I find it amusing. The prints are equally wee (I cannot swear up down and sideways that they are exactly 2.5 x 3.5, as I’m having to cut these by hand, but they’re in that ballpark, and have a thin white border.) I b’lieve I can probably risk my fingertips to the paper cutter in order to make twenty of them. So–LE of 20, signed, dated, and numbered on the back by the artist, and…um….let’s start it at $10 apiece, plus $3.50 US shipping, or $5 international. I have no idea how fast these will go, or if anybody will want one, so we’ll do the usual First Come, First Serve thing–post below in the comments, then send me an e-mail. I always save out the first and last of the edition, so the first eighteen commenters who say "I want one!" get one.

And if there’s some kind of unforeseen crazed demand for these things, we’ll come up with another method next time for people in other time zones and whatnot.

ETA: Phalloi are now officially sold out! Thank you all for the interest–please send me an e-mail at ursulav (at) metalandmagic.com to claim your phalloi. Include the name you commented under here, if you would, so that my recordkeeping squares, and we’re all good!