Aggggghhhhhh! I did not know that the re-design would kick in today! So bear with me while I clean up the usual minor glitches, including a very awkward Comment button (click onto the READ MORE box at the very end of this post) And now, back to our regularly scheduled chat:
Usually this space is reserved for garden-y painting time, like this:
But today I have two important non-garden-y questions on my mind. The first one is, in regards to the illustration below,
Twee: excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental. And oh yeah, that (above) is twee, and I should know because I did it, by collage, by piecing together bits of a rose garden and bits of tea table for an illustration that, in the end, didn’t work because it was too damn twee. But I like the way I did the spoons. And the cranberry muffin isn’t half bad. But I digress.
Now here’s something that I think is
That (above) is my Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet (pictured with an actual Triscuit, the delicious whole wheat snack cracker from Nabisco which I mention because I call my teeny tiny paintings Triscuits and I don’t want to be sued for trademark infringement so I give credit where credit is due).
Twee is bad for illustration because it’s lazy. Twee depends on cliche for its effect, and cliches (whether spoken, written, or painted) are way dull — cliches are the easy way out, something for the shallow or cynical-minded to fall back on when they don’t want to put in the hard work of having an original thought. Don’t be fooled by the prettiness: “pretty” (as we all know) can be dead boring. Which, now that I’ve explained it, I’m sure you can now clearly see the twee in this picture:
I had planned to use this illustration in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly, and I was going to drop text into the blank area in the left-center of the picture but, when I took a third look at it, I saw that it was way too cute and dopey and I in the end I saved all you Dear Readers from this eruption of sickly sweet and removed it from consideration. But hey, that’s life — sometime twee happens to the best of us.
My Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet is not guilty of twee because there’s no hot cross bun in the picture. In other words, I don’t exactly know why it isn’t twee, it just isn’t.
You might remember that one-quarter of this quartet began life as this:
But those two cups were boring and ill-composed (even for a Triscuit) so I re-drew it:
And re-painted it to be less boring:
And now, because Dear Reader Nancy S. asked me to, I am giving you all the drawings that made my non- twee Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet possible:
And then we come to this baby:
Side view: Lord lordy lordy, it is sooooo much easier to paint stuff if you don’t have to deal with perspective, which turns round things like tea cups and saucers into ovals which are very tricky.
And so, while you watch me paint a tea cup the painless way . . .
. . . I want to discuss the second question of the day, inspired by The New York Times’ Social Qs column.
Social Qs is a very popular feature in the NYT Sunday paper in which Philip Galanes gives “lighthearted advice about awkward social situations“.
Recently I read this question in Social Qs:
I am a woman in my 20s and work in a small, friendly office of 20 people. My given name is Andie. I have a male colleague, who goes by the nickname Andy. To cut down on confusion, my colleagues started calling me Andie Girl or Miss Andie, and him Andy Boy or Mr. Andy. I hate it! It’s infantilizing and condescending. But I didn’t nip it in the bud, and now everyone in the company uses these nicknames, including Human Resources and our C.E.O. Is there a way to address this that doesn’t seem as if I’m suddenly overreacting?
This query was signed, ANDIE, PORTLAND, ORE.
As I hope tens of thousands of you know, I will be in Portland, Ore. on May 5 and 7, and I would like to meet ANDIE, PORTLAND, ORE. to tell her that I think “Andie Girl” is an ADORABLE nick-name, but I won’t because I totally agree with Mr. Galanes’ answer which is (short version) (long version here), that heck yeah, Andie should go have a talk with HR about putting a stop to this “Andy Girl” business because:
We should all be called what we like.
I love this answer because I happened to have had a recent falling out with someone — a relative, in fact — over this exact same issue! In my case, it’s not about a nickname, it’s about the fact that I’m an identical twin.
I’ve been an identical twin all my life, so it’s no big deal to me. Being an identical twin — believe me — is about the least interesting thing about me, so I hardly ever mention it.
However, when I was growing up, being an identical twin was a huge pain in the ass. I’m talking from an 8-year old’s point of view when I say that I hated being a twin on my birthday and Christmas, when me and my sister were treated as one unit, meaning that we got one birthday gift to share, one birthday cake to share, one Xmas gift to share. . . you get the picture. Now, as a grown up, I have a more mature understanding of the gift-giving situation and I understand that my relatives were simply being cheap bastards so, for the most part, I have disowned them.
But the one thing that still chaps my butt (as they say in Texas) is when me and my sister are still referred to as “the twins“. If I were a singleton, I’d always be called by my own name — a common courtesy that many of you non-twins take for granted, right? But because I’m a twin, I don’t get a name, I get a unit designation, a stupid catch-all, a de-humanizing label, etc etc etc. — I think you get my point, that for whatever reason, I hate it when me and my sister are called “the twins”.
So when a relative recently wrote an email in which me and my sister were referred to as “the twins”, I emailed back, and I said please, don’t call me “the twins”. Thank you.
In reply, not only did this relative answer “No”, she responded “Absolutely No” with a long, angry note about how it’s ridiculous of me to object to being called “the twins”, how it’s the truth that I’m a twin, that she likes it that I’m a twin, she can’t fathom why I don’t like being called a twin, etc etc.
So I gave her the old FU and we are no longer on speaking terms.
The point is that I don’t have to justify it, I don’t have to explain it, I don’t have to come up with a good enough excuse to you; you don’t have to agree, you don’t even have to like it. All you have to know is that I don’t like I don’t like being called “the twins” and say, as any kind-hearted or civilized person would, Oh, I didn’t know that but now that I do, I will not call you “the twins” because
We should all be called what we like.
So the second question of the day is:
The thing I like about this tea cup is the way it sits on the paper, like it’s an ideal tea cup, or the idea of a tea cup, or a design for a tea cup, a pattern for a tea cup. I think this form would look nice in a trio (suitable for framing), like this:
Each tea cup would be painted with a different pattern, maybe even modified in homage to some memorable cups of tea you’ve had in your travels, like, say, that tea cup with the square handle in that Paris cafe near the Louvre:
Or that delicious cup of Assam with the tea bag hanging out of it, at the boulangerie in the Opera metro station:
Or that nice hot cuppa with a sugar cube and spoon the cafe facing Sacre Coeur:
The possibilities are endless, and not at all twee.
Before I go, I must thank all you Amazon Commenters for your lovely 5-star reviews. No, wait — I can do better than “thanks”! Remember, I did this:
The Super Duper Triscuit Quartet Give Away is destined for one of you lucky Amazon reviewers to win (you don’t have to buy the book on Amazon, you just have to review it there, such is the reality of the modern day book biz).
But wait there’s more — WE HAVE A WINNER!
We have a winner of my Monet’s Boats Triscuit and that winner is the Commentor who goes by the name of:
Top Cat chose #72 as the wining number for this contest, and Snap had the guess that came closest to that number without going over it — and Happy Birthday too! Snap, please email me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com so I can send this miniature masterpiece your way.
Another big huge Thank You goes out to everyone who tuned in to GardenChat with Bren last Wednesday to watch me LIVE on internet TV and joined me in my little fake talk-show set and saw how smoooooth I am in front of a camera:
One last thing: If you have a story about how you got rid of an odious nick name, or if you’ve chosen to be known by a name other than the one you were given at birth, please please please let me know in a Comment below. To me, it’s a wonder that so many of us hang on to the randomly assigned name we were given by people [parents] who , let’s face it, have their own agendas when it comes to naming their offspring. Right?
Have a great weekend, my Wonder Ones.
See you in Seattle on May 3! And Portland (Oregon) on May 5! Check me out on the EVENTS page!
And next week, as I have promised Commentor Lynn from NOLA, we will do this: