What we’re up against…

Ursula's Stuff
Kevin's iPhone photo of part of my studio stuff. And by "part" I mean "Maybe a quarter."

Kevin’s got a Flickr set detailing some of the renovation. The photos aren’t great quality, since they’re mostly taken with an iPhone at night in a dark room, but you get the gist. (Also, I’m not that fat. It’s the painter-pants, I swear!) We’ll be taking some better shots once everything is actually set up, but at the moment, I’m still in boxes and have hung no art, which is, of course, a horrifying state of affairs that cannot be allowed to stand.

But I did get my corner station put in. I was originally hoping to get some kitchen counters cut to fit–I confess, I saw a spectacular home studio using kitchen countertops and wire baskets underneath in a magazine and was seized with studio lust–but neither Lowes nor Home Depot will cut them, and the price was anyway prohibitive, even given a number of well meaning friends with table saws, so I’ve got some melamine sheets laid over Sterilite drawers, which should work well enough for the Artist Who Has Already Blown Quite A Lot Of Her Last Advance On These Shenanigans, Thank You.

I spent last night until about 1 AM assembling cheap bookcases, one of my acknowledged skills, while Kevin assembled a “craft supply station” from A.C.Moore that, despite having been stashed near the scrapbooking aisle, is gonna be AWESOME for holding my various ink bottles. Unfortunately, this object and its companion had more small fitted parts than the inside of a bionic chinchilla, and as soon as Kevin started reciting the directions–“Attach LL to CC and slot into J”–and I pulled out a random part and found that the labeling went up to Q, I screamed “I NEED AN ADULT!” and fled to the bookcases and the comfort of my power screwdriver.

Now it is time to shower and put on pants. The sooner I get all this stuff organized, culled, and put away, the sooner I can pull the bins out of the bedroom that actually have the art supplies in them, not just the detritus of studio life.

Slice of Life: Storage Division

KEVIN (surveying vast piles of supplies): Out of curiosity, how did you fit all this in your studio?


KEVIN: Can you fold space-time? Do you carry a portable pocket universe? Was the closet actually bigger on the outside than the inside?

URSULA: Pact with the devil.

(The sad truth is that the stoffice, at 400+ square feet, is actually larger than my entire apartment in St. Paul, where I lived for at least four years and where I would paint by propping canvases on the couch and kneeling on the floor.  It’s been an absurdly long and productive decade.)

Enter the Stoffice!

In one day of lunacy and madness and moving, the floor got down, minor crises got dealt with, and I have everything moved out of my studio and into the Stoffice.

Not, y’know, organized. Lots more furniture is required for that. At the moment, everything is simply stacked haphazardly, canvases are propped against walls, books are forming sliding piles, and the only piece of art that’s gotten on the walls is the enormous brass Ganesh that my buddy Reese sent me a few years back. (Kevin and I both felt that this was important.)

The contents of my studio seem to mostly consist of stacks of clayboard and foamcore and canvas and prints, with piles of artistic detritus, duck decoys, barong masks, skulls, towers of art books, and several zillion plastic tubs full of crap that was probably essential at some point and undoubtedly will be again.

I am teetering on the edge of exhaustion, and now that I do not have things to pick up and move, I am about to fall down. Tomorrow, I go buy lots of heavy objects and lug them home in the Vibe, aka The Best Little Car In The World. (Seriously, they slid an entire pallet of flooring directly off the forklift and into the back of the car. Once the forklift was removed, it sank down about a foot under the weight, but it got the load home. I shudder to think what my gas mileage was at that point, but I only had to go about five miles. )  But my desk is set up and I have internet and these are the really important things.


I tell ya, if you’re ever lacking in creative inspiration, pack your whole studio up in boxes for a couple of days and go tear up carpeting. Apparently there’s nothing quite like it to get the creative juices flowing, because I found myself digging up my watercolor trays (which hadn’t been jammed in a box yet) and scouring the handful of colored pencils that had escaped boxing because they had fallen on the floor or were ground-down nubs stuffed in a corner. I had ONE paintbrush, a size 2 round that had also fallen on the floor, and a bottle of white ink of a brand I don’t like very much, so the results were very small and quick, but I had to paint SOMETHING.

Behold the mighty Hamstersaurus!

4 x 4ish, mixed media on watercolor paper.

Vulture and Vermouth:

5 x 4 mixed media on hotpress watercolor paper

Meanwhile, today is the last day of prep. Tomorrow the flooring guys come. So I have to take up a zillion or so carpet pad staples (if I ever meet the guy who put down this carpet, I am going to throttle him–fifty million staples in the carpet pad, which apparently were required because he put some of the tack strips in upside down. How the hell do you even DO that? *I* wouldn’t even do that!)

Anyway, art is for sale, kinda too small for prints, but the originals are available, send a note or what have you.

Setting down the paint roller long enough to say…

…Merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

For those new readers, that’s the Mithraic holiday that hits around this time–I long ago came to the realization that there’s no fighting the season, so, like everybody else, you must simply slap your own name on it and reach for the liquor. And having somehow come to picture Mithras* as Ricardo Montalban circa 1970s, this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my…heart. Yes. Let’s go with heart, shall we?

I hope you all have a lovely holiday, either full of family and friends or largely devoid of them if that will make you happier, which given some people’s families is not without precedent. Now, I must get back to painting the Stoffice, or it will never be done and I will be gazing at the little edge on the top and bottom which will be just slightly darker than the rest and eventually I will go mad and not in a constructive way.


*Yes, I am aware that Mithraism was an extremely fraternal faith that wouldn’t have had much use for me. I took that class in college too. On the other hand, they’re all dead and I’m not, so I can afford to be magnanimous. Fine. Corinthian. Leather.

To Ur –>

So I had a crazed day, picking up the flooring, painting, packing up the studio, discovering that they had shorted us a box of flooring, picking THAT up, driving to another Lowes to get the thing that they forgot to order, etc.

I got home to find a package waiting from my parents, which included, among sundry gifts, a handwritten genealogy from my mother.  I was preparing my eyes for rolling–I do not find this as fascinating as she does–but when I unfolded the five pages of snaking names with small handwritten notes and carefully calligraphied names of nations*, I had to laugh.

The first two pages, ending in me and my kid brother, are fairly straightforward. It includes the great grandfather and the mannish trick rider and a number of others with notes about how they died coming to America, how this one was a brandymaker shot by the British in 1666, the one Increase Mather wrote about who was massacred by Indians (accounts of the battle would indicate he rather had it coming) and my personal favorite, the minister and noted oriental scholar defrocked for impregnating a maidservant, who later came to America with a number of followers. His wife was very angry with him–“Well, she would be,” Kevin pointed out–and hit him with something which, owing to my mother’s handwriting, appears to be a carp. (Probably not ACTUALLY a carp, but I rather like this version.)

After the first couple of pages, however, Mom started having some fun with it, so a number of generations are skipped over and indicated with rather long arrows, and we get into the really illustrious relatives. If this sheet of paper is to be believed, we are distantly related to several kings of the Visigoths, a couple of Baldwins**, Emperor Charlemagne, a terrifying number of Frankish dukes and sundry Burgundians. (Those arrows clearly cover a LOT of ground…) Since some of those figures can be traced back to positively mythical roots and Mom really likes her arrows, my family tree now includes several Norse demigods, Brunhilde, Lud of the Silver Hand, Bran the Blessed, the Tuatha de Danann, Joseph of Aramathea, Cleopatra, and a suggestive little Ptolemy x Alexander? although there aren’t any offspring off that particular shoot.

At this point she hit the limit of the paper and available mythology, and simply put arrows running off the page labelled “To Troy—“> and “To Ur—>”

Kevin, it must be said, greeted the knowledge that I was hypothetically descended from Visigoths with great aplomb. “I can see it,” he said.


“Not known for their tact, the Visigoths.”

“Oh c’mon…I’m sure they said “excuse me, pardon me, coming through,” when they sacked Rome…”

Generally I find family trees quite tedious, but I gotta give her a big shout-out on this one. I always wanted to be related to Lud of the Silver Hand.

*I appear to be mostly from Prussia.

**If memory serves, one of them had leprosy!

No pain, no gain…

The great remodelstravaganza that will consume most of this month is in full swing. We have dragged out most of the non-essential furniture–the rest will probably go tonight or tomorrow, leaving only the Highly Essential Stuff which will go this Saturday, followed by the tearing up of carpet and pad on Sunday. The kids have–with a lot of prodding– been very good about purging their unwanted crap, but man, I’m glad we’re taking up the carpet–I’m tripping over paper scraps and rubber lizards and one-bump Legos* and swear to god, if I ever find the inventor of Lite-Brite, I’m gonna tie ’em to a chair and spend two hours screaming “MY GOD, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE WROUGHT?!”

Meanwhile, I started painting like a fiend yesterday. That first swath of butter yellow across the grungy contractor beige was positively divine. I felt like a light bringer. (Honestly, I would have been astonished if it HADN’T made a huge difference!)

But it is a large space. And I painted…a lot. And now my quadriceps ache like the devil, because I did that thing where you stand on your toes to push the roller up as high as you can go**  and I kept doing it for an entire can of paint + primer, and naturally I felt great and productive and then this morning I woke up and felt like I had been beaten with hammers.

But it will be worth it! The room will be GLORIOUS! GLORIOUS, I TELL YOU!

*Can be combined with stairs to make one of the most lethal weapons known to man.

**Those over six feet tall can sit this moment of sympathy out.

Seymour’s Birdhouse

mixed media 5.5. x 5.5ish.

My sketchbook indicated that Arnold had a brother.

Still fooling around with the birdhouse shape. Interestingly, I think it works better when it’s more vertical, or maybe just when it has a deeper overhang on the roof shape–the near-square of this one came out somewhat less dynamic than the first birdhouse.  But that’s why we play around with the shapes!

Anyway, original for sale, prints available, drop a line as always!

Now I have to go paint the Stoffice.

Arnold’s Birdhouse

mixed media assemblage 5 x 7.5

I had doodled Arnold, and felt he needed a home.

Put this together from clayboard and foamcore wrapped in rice paper–coat the back in ultra heavy gel, and it becomes surprisingly sturdy!–covered with various papers and random bits. Original for sale–drop a line if interested–and of course, prints are available.