Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Sanctum Sanctorum

I started the week too busy with real work to polish off our office/studio renovation, but today took a few minutes (ahem, hours) to put some art on the wall. Although there are a still few floating boxes of objects without homes and knick-knacks poorly arranged, today I'm declaring the room DONE.

The final report:

East Wall: My collection of original comic art (which didn't all fit before) above the rolltop desk where I do all my drawing. The desk still needs some organizing but is functional. BTW, Mom made the stained-glass lampshade for me, and my girls made the little felt Cosmic Kid doll atop the filing cabinet. And I have an Underdog trash can. 

South Wall: The focus of our week's work: a built-in cabinet and bookcase, fully packed. Except for that little alcove at center top, which I haven't figured out what to fill with. Something special. Again, the hanging paper lantern is just a temporary placeholder, to be replaced by a short floor lamp that'll sit on the countertop below it. And I have a lava lamp.

West Wall: The countertop wraps around to hold my printer, phones, fax, scanner. I'm most proud of the bulletin board: a 2 x 3-foot piece of sheet metal in a white picture frame. My plan was to use the metal bare, but I couldn't remove the frame's glass without risk of shattering and figured what the heck: leave it in. The glass on top of metal makes it extra shiny, and strong magnets have no trouble sticking. And I still have a lava lamp.

The north wall isn't worth mentioning--mostly a mirrored closet door with a display shelf full of toys above it. I loves me some toys. I've also got a little telescope that tucks in behind the computer desk.

Karen's wound is healing cleanly, thank goodness, and will eventually fade into a faint scar that reminds her of the good times. Right, honey? Right?

I've been a little amazed by all the interest and support these renovation posts have gotten. To answer a common question: Sorry, we are not for hire. I've already enjoyed a couple of days sitting and working in my new space and must say, although the old room was cozy, this feels bigger, more functional, and more fun. I want to hang out here, which is conducive to getting stuff done.

I thought I might miss the old mess.

I don't.

And here's a picture of a dog.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

So Many Books, So Few Shelves

Trim's on. Holes're spackled. Final touch-ups are painted.

Books are loading in. I've got too many. It turns out that big mound I had piled on my floor that threatened to topple over and crush me every day actually comprised a lot of books. Who knew? Hard decisions are forthcoming.

I'm astonished how many comics, graphic novels, and books about comics and graphic novels I own. Even more astonishing is that I know a lot of the people who created them. That's a neat thing to take stock of once in a while.

Got enough shelves but ran out of shelf pegs. Off to Home Depot in the morning.

Bookshelves partially loaded. I've got quite a few more than will fit the available space. Some will probably end up in a cabinet underneath.

This was Karen's idea for the skinny center column: my literary oeuvre. The bottom shelf is WHTTWOT in English and German, with a few Adventures of Old Time-Traveling Brian zines tucked in the side. Second shelf holds a Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, Eisner, and Harvey awards. Third is Mom's Cancer in English, and fourth is the same in French, Italian and German.  The top shelf is other books that have my name in them for one reason or another--either I contributed something to them or they mentioned me. Me me me. That's what it's all about.
I think we'll be 96% done by the end of tomorrow. That's not a bad result for a hard, good week's work.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Studio City

My thanks to all who encouraged me to muster the confidence to call my office a "studio." Studio studio studio. Nope, still sounds weird.

Since my last office/studio renovation update on Wednesday, Karen and I have continued to make progress. Some of it is the sort of progress that isn't very showy: countersinking, spackling and painting finishing nails, etc. The kind of stuff you can spend an hour on and no one will ever notice but you'll know it was done right (or at least as best you could). Still: shelves are built and in place (securely, here in earthquake country) and we actually began loading some things into the cabinets tonight. It's beginning to pay off.

I have to add that, although we're dedicated, we're not grinding away around the clock. In fact, our local restaurateurs do an annual promotion called "Restaurant Week" in which they offer a prix fixe menu designed to lure in new customers, and which Karen and I exploit to revisit old favorites. So every other night this week we're stopping work around 5:30, putting on nice clothes, and going out to a very good restaurant, saving the best for our Anniversary this Sunday. We live right.

As the kids say on the Internet, Pictures or it didn't happen:

Various bits of trim and a door drying in the driveway after being painted white by Karen. There's a LOT of trim.

Striking my best James Bond pose (no, really, that's my BEST!) after screwing the first two bookcase shells into studs and the cabinets. By the way, that crummy paper light fixture is just a temp placeholder. I don't want you to think less of me.

I joked a while back that it's not an official home improvement project until Brian bleeds. So far I'm wound-free. But Karen took one for the team today, opening up a bloody gash on her finger (temporarily contained here by a band-aid that didn't hold for long). We really wondered if it needed stitches, but it stopped gushing shortly after Karen passed out. (Just kidding about the passing out but not the stitches.) It was my fault. I feel terrible.
The right side of the cabinets, set up for work: A printer, a Rolodex (adults, explain what that is to your kids), the house phone, an office phone/fax (adults, explain what that is to your kids), and my large-format scanner. The computer desk visible at lower right will slide over to fill that gap.

This is about how we left it today. The four big cases are 2 feet wide, the skinny center one is 1 foot wide. One of my favorite books is provided for scale. Still to come are vertical trim pieces for the bookcases, trim for the countertop edge, and a lot more shelves.
Finally, to keep you whiners happy, here's a dog with sawdust on her lips. It pairs well with dry spackle.

We may finish before Monday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Progress Report

Day Five of Operation Office/Studio. Encouraging signs of progress. End in sight. Donner Party-style cannibalism averted.

Yesterday we painted the ceiling and trim white. Today the 25-year-old Navajo White walls turned Sterling Gray. Hard to tell with this photo's lighting, but the paint on the wall from about my elbow down is the new color. I'm cutting in at the ceiling line with one of my art brushes. Not that I'm OCD or anything.
This is how far we got today. A rolltop desk is at left, my computer desk at right. Again, it's hard to tell, but the walls are a light gray that really looks good against pure white. Almost accidentally, we seem to be moving toward an "Industrial" style. The cabinets are from Home Depot; they're meant to be upper kitchen cabinets, which means they're only 12 inches deep--ideal for a small room. Tomorrow I'll build countertops as well as bookcases atop the left wing of cabinets up to the ceiling. Despite my use of power tools, remarkably little blood has been spilled to date.
Man and dog, both exhausted by their day's labors.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fibber McGee's Closet

I'm too young to have heard the "Fibber McGee & Molly" radio program during its original heyday, but fell in love with old radio comedies in my teens and quickly made up for the time I'd wasted waiting to become an embryo. One recurring bit involved McGee's closet which, like many things, played better in the sound-fueled Theater of the Mind than it did when translated to film in 1941:

But you get the idea. And I bring it up because that's my office/studio.

Karen and I just finished emptying it at the end of Day 3. It took a while because Karen set the very reasonable course of sorting through everything on the way out, rather than getting it all out and editing it later. So we thumbed through piles, poked through files, and overfilled two large rooms with the contents of one small one. Relieved of its cork, the office exploded like Mentos out of a bottle of Diet Pepsi.

Following my last post, some wiseacre made reference to the program "Hoarders." Which I'm so not. I may be sentimental, I may even be lazy, but I'm not a hoarder. It's just that things come in and never go out. For instance, a 5.25-inch floppy disk with a label reading "Save until September 2001." A decade of self-employment business records. And I parted with the three thick binders totaling about 2500 pages of raw research I did for Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow. I figured if no one had called me out yet (except Jim O'Kane, curse him) they weren't going to.

At mid-clean yesterday. At bottom right is one of my computer monitors. I still need to do some work this week, so will maintain a bare-bones office of computer + printer + phone to get the job done.
I picked up this Galactus helmet giveaway at Comic-Con a couple of years ago. It's cool but takes up a lot of space, so I asked Karen to take one shot of me looking hungry enough to devour a planet before consigning it to recycling.
Speaking of Karen, she's behind that heap o' recycling somewhere. Behind her you can see the books beginning to pile up on and around our dining room table. It got worse. Much worse.
We've kept two document shredders going for two days, tearing up any paperwork with sensitive info (do you realize that people like dental insurers used to put your Social Security Number on everything?!). Ours is the little one on the right and its motor overheats pretty quickly, so we borrowed the industrial-strength shredder on the left from our neighbor Larry the Fed. 
Today we loaded up the minivan with paper recycling. It filled the car and this wasn't all of it. We took an insane amount of paper to the Recycling Center. Hundreds of pounds, no exaggeration. I heard my house's foundation breathe a sigh of relief.
Atop the pile: the box my Eisner Award came in. Like the Galactus helmet, it was neat to have but not worth the space it displaced. So we took a photo to remember it by and sent it to its reward. The box it's sitting on is labeled "Brian's Crap." The box speaks the truth.
The room tonight. We'll pull out the bookcases and some other furniture in the morning, move the big stuff into the middle of the room, and start painting tomorrow. If we're able to move.
I remember being in college and proud that everything I owned--my entire life--fit into the back of a Volvo station wagon. I liked being that guy. Sometimes I'm seduced by the idea of unloading it all and roaming the highways in a little RV or sailing the seas in a little sloop. It's an appealing dream I still hope to pursue someday. After the fire, which with luck will look not at all suspicious.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tapas du Jour

Odds and ends today. What I really oughtta do is post smaller bits more frequently instead of saving them up and blogging all at once. Probably not gonna happen.

* * *

My wife Karen has taught our pup Riley some neat tricks, including fetching the newspaper every morning. A couple of days ago we decided to record it, understanding that standing in the driveway with a camera would distract Riley from her duties. Which it did. Still, she got the job done:

The real miracle documented here isn't a dog fetching a paper, but the fact that someone still subscribes to one.

* * *

Karen and I are dedicating the next several days to redoing my office (it seems somehow pretentious to call it a "studio," but it is where I make all my comics in addition to doing my day job). It's a spare bedroom in our home that hasn't been painted since before we moved in, way back in the 20th Century, and is long overdue for a refurb. The challenge is that the room is packed: books piled in front of overflowing bookcases, storage boxes, crap atop crap. It makes for a cozy bear-den-like environment I actually find quite comfy, but even I concede it's time to run a river through these Augean Stables. The only way this'll work is if a lot of things leave the room and don't get back in.

The goal is a neat, clean office with crisp light gray walls and white ceiling and trim. We can't move the furniture around too much--it'll only fit and function configured as it is--but we're going to install cabinets for more storage and construct a built-in bookcase on top of them along the entire length of the back wall. If my calculations are right our bookcase capacity will increase slightly but we're still going to have to get rid of some books. We'll find them good homes.

Here are a few "before" photos. Maybe I'll post some in progress, and will definitely share the "afters" in a week or so. We have a motto in our house that "It's not a real project until Brian bleeds." I will be employing power tools. Wish us luck.

* * *

Finally: tomorrow--the fabled and fated Ides of March--is the 25th anniversary of the Best Day of My Life. Happy Birthday, Pooters. We'll see you tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ask Me Anything

A few years ago I did something here that was kind of fun and interesting, and thought I'd try again: Ask Me Anything.

For those not familiar, it's an Internet thing in which everyone is encouraged to ask me anything and I promise to answer as best I can, no matter how stupid, personal, insulting, trivial or outlandish. I do reserve the right to deflect or refuse. But try me; we'll see what happens. Leave a question in the Comments and I'll reply there when I see it. Keep it cleanish.

As before, my great fear is that no one will ask me anything. Rather than be horrified and embarrassed that no one reads or cares, I will take that as confirmation that my blog has already been so amazingly informative and forthcoming that I've already answered all potential questions. Self-delusion is a powerful ally.

And if it's too pathetic, I can delete the whole thing.

Ready? Go!


Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Dog and I Are Joining the Circus

Riley is deep in rigorous training. It's about time she started earning her keep around here. "Cute" doesn't pay the bills.