New studio

After those last two entries I feel we need a bit of a pallet cleanser. So let’s take a tour of the new studio, shall we?

Welcome! From behind a tree on the north face of a residential building to the obstruction-free east-facing window of a building in the industrial district. None of these photos had to be edited for light. I have to pinch myself. This is what it looks like on a cloudy day. 

Modifications to new studio include: new desk lights, a real kneeling stool for when I decide to stop standing, and things that were on (and next to) the desk are now underneath it. I am trying to keep the desk as clear as possible: only art work or current sketches are allowed up there. (Well, and the radio, until I can mount it up on the wall somehow.) (And the tea cup. And…)

Additional modification: the addition of a computer lab. 

Before, whenever it was time to upload some pictures or edit something in photoshop I had to scoot all the paint and paper around to clear a space for the laptop. I really, really like everything to have a HOME, it lends calm to the chaos. Now the computer has a home. This space will also double as a mailer-prep station. 

Here’s a better sense of what 8×8 means. It’s a small space that can look deceptively large on camera, when you’re only looking at parts of it at one time. It doesn’t feel that small, partly because once I’m there I just see my desk and get right to work. But also, I think, because of the ceiling.

I am not sure how tall it is at its peak, but I know that this plant is about as tall as I am. Maybe taller. And the green thing is taller than I am, so the vaulted ceiling have to be at least over twelve feet. It gives a nice spacious quality to the space, despite my cramming furniture in here. Feels nice and airy. Feels NICE. It’s the only place I want to be right now, which is exactly how its supposed to feel. In fact, I oughta get back there right now. 

Sauntering into the tenth level of hell

When I first realized Spike the Cat was coming to live back in 2008, I did what any self-respecting nerd does, which is I went to the library and tracked down a book on cats put out by the humane society. I like to be a good Girl Scout and be prepared should the worst happen, so I skimmed through the fuzzy warm chapters and took great pains to familiarize myself with the chapters on mishaps and medical emergencies. 

So when I saw my cat straining and straining and straining in the litter box Tuesday afternoon I did not wait around, but called my vet who referred me to an emergency clinic. And our acquaintance with Feline Lower Uniary Tract Disease began. 

FLUTD is a fairly common, potentially deadly thing that occurs when little crystals form in the bladder. These crystals can become stones, which can cause blockage or rupture of tubes, renal failure, total system collapse, et cetera. Cats aren’t very big, and the tubes in question are very small, so the distance between “normal cat” and “death” seems frighteningly small, in some cases maybe only a few days. 

The crystals themselves probably don’t occur in every cat. From what I’ve gathered they seem to be caused by any number of things, but stress is a major trigger. And if your cat is the sort that gets a little worried when a pillow from the couch is knocked onto the floor and stays there for a day or two, (what?! Why is this like this? Will it be like this forever? What else has changed? Do all of the existing rules still stand? I’ll have to test each rule, one by one, to reestablish order,) you can see how removing the DESK and SCANNER and other ART STUDIO THINGS — items the primary cat-care-giver uses at all times of the day — leaves a giant hole in the tiny apartment. And in the mind of my cat.

Add to this my sudden routine change of being at home all hours of the day to spending hardly any time at home at all. From the cat’s point of view we may as well have moved EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE HOUSE into another building, and start living with STRANGERS, and TWO OTHER CATS. I shudder to think what happens when we really do that, here at the end of July. 

FLUTD has no cure, but is mitigated through keeping the neurotic creature calm, keeping him under close surveillance, keeping him indoors, and putting him on special crystal-busting food. 

I paid the vet a month’s wages to find all this out, and then armed with medications and the new food, we headed home for the Operation Monitor Urination phase of his illness. This turned out to be very, very trying. 

Okay, that’s putting it mildly. It was hellish. It was utter futility and anguish. It was a cat who seemed to be dribbling pee no matter where he sat. On the furniture, on the wood floor, on the paper bag filled with paper to be recycled (?), on the bed, on his own bed, in front of the food bowl, in the laundry basket, and later on ME when he was trying to get some snuggle-comfort. 

Misery was yesterday. In a dark apartment, on a hot day, stinking of cat’s urine, trying to pile objects onto the couch, chairs, and bed to dissuade him from being on them. Face swollen shut from hay fever (unrelated to all this, but an inconvenient nuisance, as on a bleak day this would be enough to make a person feel awful.) A bathtub filled with all the items that had been soiled and needed to be washed using the following formula:

[1/4 c of cider vinegar] + [regular detergent] = [no pee smell, clean items].

At once worried my cat might be near death, and trying to keep myself from wringing his foul neck with each new squat. Trying to work out WHERE on earth I was going to fold the laundry lest I risk further contamination. Hours and hours of this. All the while keeping the litter box as pristine as possible, as every other potty break was IN the proper receptacle, and we needed to see how much was being deposited.

Dawn is breaking on this our third day of Operation Monitor Urination, and it looks as though our vigilance has lead to victory. To my knowledge there has been no pee outside of the box since yesterday, so while we have not conquered it once and for all (for alas, it cannot be,) it is at least contained, and we are aware of it, and I am a little ashamed to have spent an entire blog entry just talking about cat’s urine, but that’s how it is with cat’s urine. It’s a rancid, foul thing that seeps into every crevice and has a way of lingering long after you thought you’d taken care of it. Let’s hope the same cannot be said of Spike’s overall health. 

The best laid plans of mice and men

Today is the first time I really sat down and looked at the calendar to work this out: thirty three days. A little over a month. That’s how long it’s taken to get the studio fully moved in.

The kinks are not worked out yet — there will no doubt be a massive shuffling of papers as everything finds its final true home — but all the major furniture is in there, most of the originals are in there. Everything that is going in there is pretty much THERE, and that’s a tremendous relief.

I would have finished moving two and a half weeks sooner were it not for a tricky bit of business surrounding painting the floor. The original floors were a dark cool grey — approximately the same color as the graphite of a number two pencil, with a bit more light blue in it, which was corresponds to nothing in my pallet nor in my soul, and simply had to go.

I am not daunted by hard labor, but I probably would have reconsidered this somewhat impulsive idea if I had stopped to think about what painting the floor actually meant in terms of time. Clean the floor immaculately, and let it dry completely. Then a coat of primer, left alone 24 hours to dry. Then a second coat of primer, a further 24 hrs. Then a first coat of floor paint, about 24-48 hours, depending on the weather and humidity levels. Then the second coat, a further 24-48 hours. And then you LEAVE THE WHOLE THING FOR ALMOST A WEEK so it can “cure”.

So, best case scenario, painting a floor takes almost two weeks. And this is assuming you’ve chosen the correct color. 

Yeah. 

Should you also find yourself in the spot I was in, with a freshly primed floor ready at long last for color, do not do what I so vainly did. Do not assume that because you know the color-family and overall feeling of the color you want, you are therefore able to pick something immediately from the color swatches and order the paint right then and there, without first bringing the swatch to the room itself and considering. Because all sorts of things that affect a color’s tone, mood, and feeling in a room, and NONE of those things are things an illustrator has to worry about when painting a picture. 

The knee-jerk reaction color was decidedly all wrong, particularly when you allow for fluorescent light, natural morning light, and blindingly white walls. It was not the wonderful deep gamboge hue I have come to love and admire so strongly, but something else entirely. Something awful. It was a dissonant chord, made all the worse because it was close to the chord I had wanted. And I was so focused on process (that is, the mechanics of getting a floor painted amidst a busy work schedule and nervous floor plan rejiggering*) that it didn’t occur to me until the SECOND COAT OF PAINT that I was painting lemony, bright, aggressive, jittery color rather that what I have come to think of as my deep deep center. 

*Honestly. These three weeks were hell. I haven’t even mentioned that I had been planning for a 10 ft x 10 ft space when in fact the space was more like 8 ft x 8ft. So that was its own little disaster. I would like to thank homestyler.com for its helpful, if not entirely customizable, interactive scale models that let you drag things around in a tiny virtual version of your future space, long before you are able set food in there, as that helped a LOT with the final planning. I am still using it for our House Move later this summer.

Anyway. So I rescheduled with the friend with a truck, unpacked my art supplies and desk, and waited for the second color’s coats to dry and cure before we were finally able to move furniture in.

I’m not showing you many pictures of this, because it’s embarrassing, but it was a great lesson in HASTE MAKES WASTE (although, there are wonderful places you can donate your incorrect paint, so all is not lost. The only thing wasted was time.)

And now I have a glorious sanctuary to work in, filled with me very favorite things and making think my very favorite thoughts. All setting me up to do my very favorite things. And it’s a great feeling. Pictures of this sanctuary very soon!