November 2010

A Paltry Affair (Eastern Phoebe)

8 x 8 mixed media

My collage-y neurosis eventually gave way to this. I dunno about the framing elements, but I had a lot of fun with the phoebe, which is painted on wet-media acetate. It’s kind of a neat surface once you get used to it–I used Pitt pens for most of it, and since there’s very little adherence, I kept pushing the pigment around with the pens. So eventually I put the pens around and pulled out the needle tool I used on Sculpey years back (seriously, one of the most useful things you can have around the studio) and did a scratchboard style technique to across the bird’s back and to pick up the highlights on the branch. Really like the effect, and will probably fool with it again (and anyway, I bought a pad of a dozen sheets…)

Although now that I think of it, the bird’s tail should be a bit longer. It looks more like a flycatcher like this. Damnit.

Anyway, prints available, as usual, and the original is for sale–drop a line if interested, etc!

Wish I’d Already Started…

I wish I was halfway done with this already.

I’ve said that to my mother and Kevin so far, and neither of them quite understood what I was talking about until I babbled about it for a minute or two and they picked it up, probably more through their hard-won Ursulapathy (Ursulamancy?) skills than by any coherence on my part.

The hard part of a collage piece is starting.

At least for me.

This is the only place where I suffer the much-vaunted tyranny of the blank page–I have no idea what I’m supposed to put down, and I usually default to strips of torn book pages or manga because it at least gets SOMETHING down, and then I can build on top of it, except that sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I just have a blank page that happens to have manga on it. Sometimes I’ll glue down two elements and stare at them, and they will continue to be two elements of nothing much attached to nothing in particular.  Whatever peculiar alchemy turns them into something isn’t happening yet.

The books on collage and mixed media–I own a number, often with the vague hope that I’ll find the one with the page that says “You, Ursula Vernon, this is what you are supposed to be doing, right here, so pay attention”–suggest that you prepare a number of collage grounds so that you have them to grab when the mood is on you.

This is excellent advice.

Stupid past me, however, did not pay attention to this advice, and now current me gets to suffer, because gee, a prepared ground would be AWESOME right now, except I didn’t prepare one. (Curse you, past me! Did you really need to spend so much time milking the little cows in Harvest Moon? Why weren’t you making art?!)

Sigh. I want to be drawing birds or coffee cups or plague doctors or…something. My brain has some great ideas of what it could do if it just had a base to DO it on. It is halfway-through-collage brain. It is not starting a collage brain.

But I didn’t start one, so I’m left cutting apart dead prints and applying random scraps of art paper that were laying around the drawing table from where I trimmed them off something else, in hopes that if I just keep putting enough stuff down at random, something will finally click and become the thing I can do the thing I want to do on.

If that makes any sense.

Holiday Orders!

Okay, gang, it’s That Time Of Year–Christmas orders!

If you’re planning on ordering prints from Red Wombat Studio for Christmas, please, please, please get ’em in by Dec. 10th. (And if you’re international, then…uh…tomorrow would be good.) Later than that, and I can’t swear they will arrive on time–I am already up to my eyeballs and spend a lot of time each day printing, but my turnaround is running longer than usual at this point, partly because the Taxman orders are STILL going out, partly because my ink orders are taking longer, since I seem to have cleared out the local warehouse, and partly because Mr. Printy II is starting to age a bit and I have to spend more time jiggering his gizmos than usual (and he’s burning a bit more ink),* all of which comes together in a rich tapestry of delay.

So! A thousand thanks to the awesome people who have ordered already—you rock on toast, and I am getting those out as rapidly as possible—and please, please, please, if you want to order by Christmas, think about getting those orders in soon.

*There’s still a few more years in Mr. Printy II, but he’s been mistreated and abused and I have printed on things that the manufacturer would not necessarily approve of.  Probably in another year or so, I’ll spring for Mr. Printy III, and keep Mr. Printy II as my experimental art printer. Then I’ll finally see if I can print on tinfoil painted with that Golden inkjet printer ground.

Awkward Archipelago II

After about ten minutes, a bear in a boat came and got her. This was a good thing, because she’d been thinking about panicking–it was a very small rock–and the cat’s unflappability only made it worse.

The bear didn’t say anything. Bears generally don’t, but they also don’t usually carry oars or row small boats named the S. S. Bilberry, so she didn’t know if the bear couldn’t talk or if it just didn’t have anything it felt like saying. The cat jumped to the stern, and she got in, because the alternative was to sit on the rock and wait for the bus to come back, and she wasn’t feeling confident.

Besides, maybe there was a Starbucks on one of these islands. There was a Starbucks everywhere else on earth, there was probably on the surface of the moon, and while she might have gone Beyond The Fields We Know, it didn’t seem likely she’d gone beyond the reach of Starbucks Corporate Headquarters.

10 x 14 mixed media on coldpress watercolor paper

The first thing they came to, however, wasn’t a Starbucks or even a Caribou Coffee. It wasn’t even an island. It was a number of small pilings, and on each one was a creature about the size of a beaver, with mottled spots and an incredibly loud voice.

“Look!” shouted one. “It’s ORANGE!”

All the creatures began laughing like hyenas, despite the fact that there was nothing orange anywhere in sight.

“It’s a STAIRCASE!” said the second one, and all of them cracked up again.

“No, it’s a CIGAR STORE INDIAN!” screamed a third one, and they all laughed so hard that one of them nearly fell off the piling and had to crawl back up, giggling.

She had no idea what to make of this. If she had gone mad, her madness clearly lacked any internal logic whatsoever. Perhaps a chai latte was not strong enough to clear this up–possibly pastries would be required, or maybe anti-psychotics.

The bear had a serene expression and was poling them past the pilings. The very tip of the cat’s tail was twitching.



“IAMBIC P-P-PENTAMETER!”  The creature was laughing so hard that it took several tries for it to get through “pentameter” but the hysterics that greeted this sally were clearly worth it.

The little boat drifted past. The mist rolled in around them, muffling the yelling.

“That was very strange,” she said to the bear. The bear nodded. Its breath smell like basil and (faintly) rotten fish.

Behind them, very distantly, she heard a cry of “FEWMETS!”  The cat sighed.

The S.S. Bilberry sailed on.

(And again, I have no idea. But the original is for sale, and prints are available.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Given that I’ve spent probably the balance of Thanksgivings in my life nowhere near my family, I don’t really get into Thanksgiving all THAT much. But I do like the food, and Kevin’s gotten me somewhat back into the spirit since he’s been doing a Stray’s Thanksgiving for years, and lots of our friends tend to show up for that.

This year, owing to general fatigue, we are actually doing an honest to god traditional Thanksgiving with his family, and Kevin is cooking this thing he dreamed up that involves a pork loin marinated in hard cider with apples, crystallized ginger, and tart cherries. It will either be amazing or horrifying, I’m not sure which.

My mother called, and we spent a few minutes reminiscing about the family, which is always entertaining, because generally Kevin is staring at me in baffled horror after about five minutes, just from hearing one side of the conversation.

“Uh-huh…uh-huh…Aunt Shirley with the plate in her head or Shirley who started wearing burkas–right, right. What did happen to Shirley with the plate in her head? Oh. Well, she probably stood in the sun too long and went funny…uh huh, uh-huh…Oh! I was wondering, who was it who stabbed her husband with the fork? They had the obnoxious shelties? Oh, was it Ev and Al? You would have stabbed Al, too? Well, that’s all right then. Uh-huh, uh-huh…Lecherous Uncle Charlie? I never heard of him….uh-huh…which one from Snow White? The hag or the witch-queen–oh dear. Given the choice, you’d really rather look like the witch-queen…uh-huh. She owned an island, you say? Donated it to a monastic order? Well, that’s nice….uh-huh, uh-huh…wait, how many times did Grandma marry your father? Three? Oh, gotcha. That’s a shame. Well, she probably wore him out. Now which one was the Irish babysitter who used to talk to “her sister” in the mirror? Mrs. Ferguson, right. Convinced Grandma that the Little People were going to get her, huh? Hmm. I just remember her saying “Stick your head in de toilet, beat your head against de wall!” Wait, that was a different crazy Irish babysitter? Good god, what kind of neighborhood did they LIVE in? Oh, well, Wyoming. Oh, right, the mannish trick rider lived down the street. From the circus. No, the rodeo. Well, it was Wyoming, you could probably make a good living in the rodeo….oh, that’s a shame. Well, yes, that does tend to lead to divorce….uh-huh…Good for the priest, then! And what happened to…really? Good lord. How DO you punish a goldfish? Uh-huh. Good lord, that’s awful. So okay, she’s married to the serial goldfish mutilator, and….?”*

By this point, Kevin is staring at me and his head has twisted so far around that he looks like one of those hungover owls, and I am forced to cover the reciever and say “It’s okay! We’re not actually related to the one who married the serial goldfish mutilator! Which is good, because I think her son became a serial killer, but since nobody can remember his last name, we can’t actually look him up.”

I am not sure if this reassured Kevin at all.

I am occasionally glad that so much of my family, while illustrious–or at least eccentric–is also dead, because as fascinating a bunch as they must have been, I think Thanksgiving might not be the peaceful drama-free zone that I currently enjoy if they were still roaming around stabbing people with forks and committing each other to mental hospitals and so forth. (This is not to say that I WISHED them dead, but as they have mostly shuffled off this mortal coil on their own, I’m cool with that.) I am quite fond of the very small living family I possess–the broader extended bunch are perhaps best as legendary figures unlikely to actually show up at dinner.

So happy thanksgiving to all, and may your family who actually shows up prove fascinating, but only in a good way.

*The scary thing is that I did not make up a single word of that, although I did cut a lot of “uh-huh”s and left off a number of bits for length. Also, my grandmother did in fact marry my grandfather almost three times, but family legend has that he told her “You better hurry it up!” and then expired shortly before the third wedding could actually go through.

Dreaming of Paintings That Don’t Exist

Had one of those mind-bending dreams that make you sleep late. The yard was flooding, and there were strange frogs and enormous lizards with orange dewlaps in it. My mother was frantically rearranging the living room, while the yard continued to flood.

Then strange people started showing up, and I was wandering around hearing snippets of disturbing conversation–“The giant’s child is dead. I will visit her now,” and “I hear he has a bone-dog for sale,” and then, because dreams are basically absurd, “I’m Mork from Ork!” (Leaving aside the bit about Mork, there was a great deal about bones.)

There was a plump, rather goth woman there who seemed to know what was going on, so I pulled her aside and said “What’s happening here? Why is everyone talking about bones?” So she took me to another building, past all these crowds of strange gawky fairy creatures. The building had a great many doors–some of the doors very short and stacked on top of each other, so they looked like cupboards or doors in a morgue–and on most of the doors were paintings. They were bright pastels, very strong colors–sort of like the work of Tom Perksinson or Tony Abeyta, but without the Native American imagery. Each image indicated something about the creature or room behind the door, all part of some bizarre shamanic fairyland, and I remember thinking “If I can just remember these paintings–this could change the way I paint, but I’ll never be able to remember–”

Which is always frustrating, because the truth is, there probably isn’t anything to remember. The brain is a remarkably skilled charlatan, and the odds are good that it didn’t bother to generate any great masterpieces, it just kicked the bundle of synapses that generates the feeling of looking at remarkable art.

And I know this, because it’s happened before.

I just wish it didn’t FEEL so real, because damnit, on some level, I’m convinced some of those paintings that didn’t exist were really amazing.

Awkward Archipelago I

All she wanted was to go to the coffee shop. It had been one of those mornings, and yes, she was trying to save money, but damnit, she needed a chai latte. She deserved a chai latte.


8 x 10, mixed media on coldpress watercolor

Then things got a little weird, and there were people on the bus that didn’t exactly look like people, and the bus driver was a narwhal–a narwhal!–and there is absolutely nothing that prepares you to discover that the bus driver is a large marine mammal, so she stood there, staring, while her change clicked into the little box and then the door was closed and the bus started and she had to go take a seat or fall down.

The first open seat was next to a tabby cat wearing a mask. The next open seat would have put her next to a guy who looked fairly normal, but he had wet eyes and was breathing loudly through his mouth, whereas the cat was sitting neatly with its tail over its toes and gazing thoughtfully out the window.

It’s okay, she told herself, I’ve just gone mad is all. A little caffiene will fix it up nicely.

And then the bus let her off at something that definitely wasn’t the coffee shop.

It looked like a very small rock in the middle of the ocean, actually. She could have sworn that she signaled for the usual stop, but–well–small rock. No barista. Hmm.

The cat got off with her.

She still hadn’t gotten her latte.


There’s actually a follow-up to this in the works, if I can ever get it finished…

Mixed media of the really mixed kind. Did the sketch on brown paper as part of series of doodles of this poor girl on these really bizarre islands, decided I needed to start from the beginning, scanned it, cleaned up the linework, laid down a digital underpainting, printed it out on cold-press watercolor paper, which does really peculiar things to dark colors (mostly just rendering them very flat and undifferentiated) and worked it over with acrylic paint, ink, and colored pencil. The end result is about 8 x 10 and I guess for sale, drop a line if interested!

And don’t ask if it’ll be a series, because you KNOW how that works.

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