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While I am sitting here waiting for our new couches to be delivered today I am thinking about the last time I got new furniture, and how it changed my life. It was back in the days when I was a reformed wanderer, having settled down into a quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, collecting tea cups and making the diaries that would be the fodder for my first book.

Self Portrait of the Doodler-Diarist.

My cat, Woody Robinson, used to sit on the kitchen table with his head under the lamp shade.

As a reformed wanderer, I had come into my new life in a small village on the Long Island Sound pretty much empty-handed. I gradually acquired stuff, but I still lacked a couch after a year, when my upstairs neighbor, Sid, moved out and gave me his couch. It was a nice couch, covered in a nubby beige material.

The couch was already 10 years old, and Sid had a dog who used to sleep on the couch, and his cat, Malcolm, had died on that couch, but Sid had cleaned it up so as far as I was concerned, it was up to snuff. Yay! I had a couch!

A few years on, and the couch had become a little grimy, a bit worn, but I still liked the couch a lot. So I sewed a new cover for the couch. I didn’t have a pattern. I made it up as I went along.It took me 12 hours. I was very proud of myself when it was done.

Maybe you remember page 178 of the book I wrote about living a quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, when I introduce Honey and Candy:

page 178 from When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

Here are the same Honey and Candy, on my couch, fitted with the cover I sewed for it:

(I still have the garden that I am embroidering in that last pic, with the help of Honey and Candy. Are they the cutest or what?)

But, skipping ahead a few more years, the couch had become ratty once again. And it smelled, from all the cats that had come and gone (I was in my cat-rescue days, and some cats were very stinky). And now, the couch that I had once loved so much that I spent 12 hours sewing a custom-made cover for it, that couch was not doing it for me anymore.

At the same time, I had also become stuck in quite a rut, life-wise. I felt that I was ready to move on from this incarnation of me, move on from my quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, but I really had no idea how to do it without buying a one-way ticket to, oh, let’s say Argentina. Or Scotland. Or New Zealand but that was a long shot.

The point is, I didn’t know how to move forward so I was stuck in an increasingly drab, small, and scuzzy life, and all my dithering and dead-end-ish-ness was made evident by my worst piece of furniture, my couch.

I wanted to get rid of the couch, but I was too stuck in my rut to have the where-with-all to do anything about it, so I just put a sheet over it and put off thinking about my crappy the couch and my life:

We pause here so I can tell the story of The List, which will become relevant to the couch in just a bit.

About the same time I was living with this couch that I was becoming more and more sick of, I wrote a short list of everything I wanted to in my life, on a Post-It, and I titled it: Things To Do Before I Die. I still have that Post-It.

It was a short list, just 4 things, all of which seemed impossible at the time:

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get it published.
  3. Get married.
  4. Kiss a tiger.

I have written about The List before, to tell you Dear Readers how  important it is to write things down if you want to realize your dreams. It was the writing of this list that made achieving everything on the list possible.

Everything except for kissing the tiger. I have learned that there is no ethical way to kiss a tiger  so I have banished that from The List. But the point is that I had made The List and The List had made it so that I have written a book, I have got it published, and I have married the prince charming of my dreams.

But what I never told you was that for two years after I wrote The List I was still in a slump, a funk, a rut, and I still had that awful couch. I had The List, but I didn’t know where to start.

And then on one ordinary day, in a blinding moment of clarity, I got up off my couch, went to the store, and I bought a new couch.

It was just that easy. And all this time, I had been dithering because I didn’t want to invest in a new couch, that I didn’t have the extra money, that it would be one more thing I would have to deal with, that it would present me with too many choices (none of which I wanted to make), that it would require complicated logistics that were beyond me, etc etc etc.

It was getting that new couch that kick-started my fate, that set in motion all the good things that happened to me that made it possible for me to complete The List  in five short years after I got the new couch.

All it took was something — anything — to start the chain reaction, and it turned out to be me getting a new couch.

See? The universe will reward you for getting up off your lazy ass, and making that one, lone, first, step towards your dreams. Any first step will do. You only have to lift one foot and put it in front of the other. You just have set things in motion.

I don’t have a picture of the new couch because very shortly after I got the new couch, I met Top Cat, my prince, and less than a year after that I gave my new couch away when I moved into Top Cat’s house to marry him, and he already had four couches. Plus, he had a room that I could call my own, where I wrote my first book, and my second, and my third. The fourth book is pending.

I had lived in that small village on the Long Island Sound for a total of ten years.

I’ve lived with Top Cat for 14 years now, and we finally replaced two of those couches of his, after dithering about it for a few years.

And it wasn’t until I was sitting here, waiting for the delivery of our new couches, that I remembered that I have been here before.

I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I seem to want life to stay exactly the same (no more adding on of the birthdays, no scary diagnoses, no thinning of the cat herd), while at the same time I also want it to be as full of possibilities as it used to be, when it was possible to marry a prince and possible to beat the odds and accomplish a dream. I want stasis, but I want change too. Is that so hard?

Top Cat and I are ready  to move on, somewhere, somehow, even though we’ve got a house and four couches and a ton of cats to consider. Maybe it’s time to make a new List.

And then I’m giving these new couches a year to do their magic.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May you put something ridiculously fantastic in motion.

XXOO

 

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This is how I read the Sunday paper (New York Times, of course):

That’s a lot of cat on my lap. Cindy is the black kitty near my heart and that’s Lickety on my knees. It’s been chilly here on the north shore of Long Island so I was happy to have these feline warmers in the vicinity.

Last week Dear Reader Jeanie asked about the “dummy” books I make up to show publishers when I submit a book proposal.

Normally I only do the first three chapters for a dummy but since this book is so short, I am doing the entire book (which ends up being about the same size as three chapters from one of my usual illustrated travelogues).

First, I go to Staples and spend about an hour and a half/two hours making the color copies of all the illustrations I’ll need for the dummy. I must warn you, before we go too far, that making a dummy is incredibly, maximally, and moronically boring.

After I have all the necessary color copies (at 69 cents per scan, the cost adds up fast) I go home and get the paper cutter out.

I must cut down a pile of bond paper into the appropriate dimensions of my book, known in the book biz as the “trim size”. For this book, I’m doing an 8-inch x 8-inch square trim. (Cutting paper is really boring.)

I assemble omymaterials: the color copies and the print-out the text of the book, which will also be scissored into bits:

I work at my dining room table because it’s the biggest surface in the house:

I am gluing bits of text and bits of illustration onto each page, so I have to let them dry out before I go onto the next step.

About two hours later, when I have gone thru my original manuscript page by page, and replicated each page, page by page (which is very boring to do), I will have bits of illustration and text left over. This is because I will have forgotten to make a color copy of something, or I have changed my mind about an illustration and I will re-do it, or there is an error in the text that I only discovered at this late stage of the operation:

So, I will paint something new, and I’ll sit at the computer and fix the text, and I’ll print it out, and I’ll go back to Staples to get new color copies, and then I’m ready to finish this dummy.

Thank the lord for clear plastic sheet protectors. I buy them by the 100s, and they are what makes my “dummy” books possible. For this dummy, I have cut off the top three inches of each sheet protector so so that my 8-inch x 8-inch pages fit into them like they were custom-made.

Next, I load my pages into the sheet protectors:

That’s the original manuscript above, and my “dummy” replica below.

You have to remember to load each sheet protector with two pages, back-to-back, so that they can assemble into a verso and a recto when it all comes together. This part of the operation is both fiddly and boring, but at least it means that I am near the end!!

When I cut down the sheet protectors, cutting off the top three inches, I was left with only two binder holes in each sheet protector. So now I have to punch a new upper hole into each sheet:

This dummy takes 41 plastic sheet protectors, and punching through that heavy plastic on the margin 41 times hurts. But I have to do this because I’m using a two-prong Duo-tang thingy to bind my dummy:

I have to fiddle with the prongs because they don’t exactly match the holes in my truncated sheet protectors, but that’s  not a big deal:

In the end, I have a neatly-bound dummy:

This is what the dummy looks like from a side view:

All in, each dummy costs approx. $30.00 and takes four hours to copy, print, and assemble. If I knew how to do this electronically, I would — but I’ve never figured out how to use my scanner. And, since making these dummy books is how I’ve gotten all my book contracts,  I’m not going to fix what ain’t broke.

And now let’s talk about The Wedding.

Harry and Meghan are a beautiful couple and everyone wishes them a lifetime of love and happiness, except, it seems, the bride’s siblings. Their lovely half-sister is about to “marry up” — way, way, WAY up — and they can’t stand it.

I know it’s crass to talk about class but that is the crux of this story. For the half-siblings (none of whom seem to have a job) the resentments must be long-standing, probably starting from the time when Meghan began to get some fame and money in her acting career. But now that she’s marrying the most famous prince in the world and leaving them far, far behind, the difference in their fates must be driving them crazy. Last I heard, one of them has even staged a car accident in order to get some publicity and sympathy.

I guess we all have embarrassing relatives — even the British royals have a Nazi or two in the family and the divine Kate Middleton has that nutty Uncle Gary.

Meghan and Harry seem to be gracefully handling the fall-out from Ms. Markle “getting above her raising” , as they say in Appalachia, and which I did the day I left Pennsylvania for Paris, so me and her we have that in common.

I think Meghan and Harry will be good to and for each other and I wish them a beautiful wedding day.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I hope it’s filled with pomp and circumstance and kitties on the lap and good cups of tea.

 

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Before we get to work today, I have to ask you all something.

On Thursday three Korean-Americans were released from captivity in North Korea and der Drumpf gave them a hero’s welcome at Andrews Air Force Base:

Greeting them on the tarmac der Drumpf said: ‘These are great people. Frankly … this is a special night for these three really great people.”

But wait. Doesn’t der Drumpf dislike people who get themselves captured?


Remember? When he was talking about John McCain’s captivity as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, North Vietnam from 1967 – 1973?

I’m sure Sarah Huckabee Sanders can lie about explain it.

In the meantime, I have my own problems.

Remember how hard it was for me to get the watercolor paints to lie down the right way for a picture of Claude Monet’s famous Japanese bridge? After too many awful attempts to get those watercolors to behave, I finally settled for this:

Even though I was never 100% satisfied with the shape of these dried-up pools of water-soluble pigment, this is the image that I submitted to my agent when I gave her the completed manuscript of my Damn Monet Book because I just gave up. I truly, deeply, and madly did to want to ever, never paint that bridge again. Those railings are a horror to draw and to paint and I don’t like doing structures and there is a lot of structure in this, uh, structure.

Then this happened: Three and a half weeks ago I got on the scale at my gym and saw a number that I did not like. Immediate and drastic action was called for. OK, it was only 5 pounds (OK, 7 if I wanted the luxury of “wiggle room”; 10 if I want to be skinny but mean). I’ve been on an all-vegetable diet for 24 days and for the past week I’ve been off the booze to save calories so I thought what the hell: I’m having a pretty miserable life anyway, I might as well re-paint Monet’s damn Japanese bridge.

I intensely disliked having to draw the bridge and the vines, but I have to say that painting them was incredibly soothing. I like the safety of having to only stay within the lines.

Now for the dastardly blobby stuff that can so easily go all wrong:

Having survived this picture so far, I think it’s OK to draw in some background foliage (to be dealt with later):

I’ve mentioned before that I like it when pictures have a “bull’s-eye”. This picture’s bull’s eye is the glimpse of greenery that appears at the far end of the bridge:

Done:

Watercolor is different than oil paint (duh) in that you can’t paint light colors over dark ones, which means that sometimes you have to paint the foreground first, and then color-in the background:

I want to avoid the mistake I made in the all the previous pictures, in which all the backgrounds were too over-worked. I want to keep this picture light and easy:

The horizontal lines are wonky, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed later:

Let’s so if I can get away with going just a light wash for the floor boards of the bridge:

I’m using my trusty acrylic paint to get the saturated green-ness for the railings of Monet’s damn Japanese bridge:

In this picture the light is coming from the left-hand side, so it needs some brightness:

I am not good at doing illustrations that don’t go all the way to the edge. If there’s a technical term for that, I don’t know it. In photography it’s called a full bleed, but bleed already has a meaning in watercolor that isn’t about going all the way to the edge, so I doubt that it’s that.

Anyhoo, I wanted to do a soft-edged illustration here, which calls for a lot of self-control that I am not usually able to muster. But so far, it’s going OK here:

This (below) is what the picture looked like before I made corrections:

Well, actually, in addition to “corrections”, I had to rescue this picture by cutting out (with scissors) the foot path of the bridge and gluing in a new one because, nope, I could not get away with just doing a light wash there:

As of today (shortly before noon on Thursday, May 10) I have hit my 5-pound weight loss goal. At my age (62) it takes a lot to lose 5 pounds. I added 30 minutes of treadmill to my daily (M-F) workout and I ate a lot of cabbage stew and I substituted flavored rice cakes for Entenmann’s cookies and, as a last resort, I cut back on the wine. I also cheated. I made nachos at home on two occasions, and we got a very small pizza one night because I get extremely depressed when I have to live too long without pizza, and twice I went to a diner and had a grilled cheese sandwich. But still, the jeans feel a lot better and I’m hanging in there for 2 more pounds.

I was at my gym last week and I noticed that one of the trainers was giving a tour of the facilities to a new couple. I noticed them because the new couple were dressed as if they were ready to jump into the octagon, which was a little strange because they were not even members yet, and they were both in their late 60s (I’m guessing). The woman was wearing tights and a tank top and those fingerless leather gloves that weight lifters wear. She had a tan and fluffy blonde hair. I was thinking unkind thoughts about how some people over a certain age should know better, that when they think they look good, they should know that they actually only look good for their age when I heard the woman explain to the trainer: “I am very active. That’s why I’m so lithe.”

I adore this lady. I’m going to put that in the vault and keep it nice and shiny so it will always be a thing of beauty when I take it out to play with. I am sure that I’ve never heard a person use the word lithe in conversation before, so it takes someone really special to use such an arcane word to describe herself.

Taffy, being lithe on Monday.

Taffy, doing lithe on Tuesday.

Taffy, at his lithest on Wednesday.

We couldn’t do a Thursday taffy portrait because it got double-fleece and electric blankie cold again and a bit rainy.

Because of the weather I saw Avengers: Infinity War. I would have liked more Doctor Strange, and there is an awful lot of violence in it, but I thought the picture was dandy. Just goes to show you that movies are the premier art form.

Speaking of art, did you miss the Rockefeller estate sale at Christie’s New York?

That’s a shot of the Monet water lily picture that sold for $84.7 million on May 8, a new record for the artist.

Speaking of Monet, my agent got back to me about the  manuscript of my Damn Monet Book and she is very enthusiastic. We will submit to publishers in the next month or so, after I make more dummy books, which are a pain in the ass to compile.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your bridges be the kind of bridges that make life better, or span untroubled waters, or whatever it is that bridges could do that would make your life a wonder and make me sound wise by wishing that you all have those kinds of bridges to cross, or something. When you read this I will likely be drinking wine (finally) and feeling very at ease in the universe. I hope you do, too.

XXOO

 

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Yes, this is a boring watercolor blog and we will get around to discussing how I stole everything possible from Claude Monet for this week’s dabbling but, Dear Readers, you know we have to talk about the fire-breather in the room, Michelle Wolf.

Comedian Michelle Wolf did a 19-minute roast of Washington D.C.’s hack politicians, spineless journalists, and their pathetic enablers at last Sunday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner and she burned it to the ground. I watched the whole thing and I thought she was perfect. (Note: as of May 3, Michelle Wolf’s bit has been viewed on the C-Span site a record-breaking 4.4 million times. I think people pretty much like the way Michelle Wolf spoke truth to power.)

The best Twitter response I read, regarding the Republicans’ palpitations over the forcefulness of Michelle Wolf’s jokes (lordy and mercy me, the language!!) was: Relax Republicans. It’s just locker room talk.

The Republicans’ indignation is Fake News! Totally Fake!! It’s a witch hunt!!

My second-favorite joke of the evening was the one about lying’ sack o’ shit Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ that ended with the punch line “smokey eye”, which in case if you don’t know what a smokey eye is, it is this:

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The joke was about how she lies, and not about how ugly she is (inside and out). But it was interesting to note that when she appeared on Fox News four days later, on Thursday morning , she was not wearing her trade mark “smokey eye”:

If her lips are moving, she’s lying.

Do you think it’s because Sarah Huckabee Sanders just can’t face herself in the mirror any more?

Whatever. Like I mentioned, that “smokey eye” joke was my second-favorite part of Michelle Wolf’s routine. My first fave part of Michelle Wolf’s take-down was her several minute’s worth of material about how President der Drumpf is broke. I’m sure that her riffing on how little money der Drumpf  gets der Drumpf where it hurts him most. I LOVED it. She began:

“People call Trump names all the time. And look, I could call Trump a racist or a misogynist or xenophobic or unstable or incompetent or impotent. But he’s heard all of those, and he doesn’t care. So tonight, I’m going to try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way that I think will really get him. Mr. President: I don’t think you’re very rich. Like, I think you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York you’re [only] doing fine.”

I have always maintained that der Drumpf is not nearly as rich as he has bullshitted everyone into believing he is, mostly because everything he does is penny-ante small-time cons, and because he was and talks like a poor person trying to act like he has money and getting all the tell-tale “tells” wrong. All that glitz, and bragging, and of course his fake Renoir:

The un-funny Fran Leibowitz got it right when she wrote “Trump is a poor person’s idea of what a rich person is.”

Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a consultant to luxury brands, says that Trump is “A caricature of what wealth is — as opposed to what real wealth is,” and says Trump sold his cheap-ass “luxury” steaks, vodka, water, deodorant, university, ties, perfume, and etc. to those   “who didn’t know the difference.”

So, yeah, just because Sarah Huckabee Sanders is ugly doesn’t mean you can’t make jokes about how she much she lies. Because she is evil.

So let’s talk about something else near and dear to my heart: The Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow.

I discovered this heap o’ snow on April 12 (in a very inconvenient parking lot at a shopping center here on the north shore of Long Island) when it was still bigger than my car. I was impressed! We had not had snow fall since April 1, when a modest one-day blizzard didn’t even stay long enough for me to get out the snow shovel.

I became strangely enamored of this pile of snow, with a fondness that I usually reserve for puppies and Pinot Grigio. So here’s how our fond affair went down last week:

April 29…does this pile of snow have the grit to make it into history?

 

April 30 (I am hoping for the best!)

 

May freaking First! Historic! I want to hug this pile of snow!

This Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow deserves a close up:

This special pile of snow is about the size of a bread box, ha ha, nobody knows what a bread box is anymore.  It’s about the size of a boom box. Ha ha! Nobody knows what a boom box is any more! It’s about the size of a Selectric…OK, this is getting tedious.

I was rooting for this pile of sow. I was certain that this pile of snow had the Right Stuff, the gumption and the heart, to make it to May 2, and beyond.

So here’s what I found on May 2:

Let me explain that here on the North Shore of Long Island, we take pride in our parking lots. And truth to tell, that pile of snow was very daggy. There were candy wrappers and old newspapers and other bits of unsightly trash embedded in it, and yes, there was even a pair of socks mixed in there with the usual gravel bits and fir tree droppings:

The pair of socks, and I think that’s a chicken bone.

Well, of course the managers of this parking lot came in and cleared all that grunginess away. They also mulched the parking lot’s flowers beds. It’s a fancy parking lot.

So we will never know if our Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow could have Gone All The Way. Sad!

Let’s let Bibs cheer us up:

The temperatures were soaring here on the North Shore of Long Island this past week and we were loving it. 90 degrees yesterday! Top Cat and I hauled the patio furniture out from storage, finally, and set up our kitchen patio, and Bibs was the only cat smart enough to make use of the fine weather.

We also wanted to put the Adirondack chairs out in the back yard, and position them for sun set watching, but I can’t sit on an Adirondack chair without having the padding of a nice cushion, and all our Adirondack chair cushions were being used (and abused):

Right. Let’s get down to business.

This:

This was an exercise I did just so I could find out how Claude Monet “did” weeping willows, because it’s different to how I “do” weeping willows and he’s  the most famous artist in the world so, like, I make it a point to steal from the best:

When you look closely at Monet’s weeping willow fronds, they are much more complex than you’d think:

On the whole, I think Monet’s brush strokes are very hammy and clumsy, but I have to admit that these lines are delicate and masterful. If I was going to copy them, the task would be as challenging as if I were forging his handwriting — these strokes are very personal and individual. And to think that he did this when he was well into his late 70s!

There was only one thing to do. I had to trace them:

And of course, this tracing is only the short-hand version of what Monet does. But that’s what I used when I painted my version of his Grand Decoration (now hanging in the Jeu de Paume in Paris).

And yes, there is a huge difference between Monet’s painting and my copy. It’s not easy to copy an oil painting in watercolor. And I rarely copy paintings. But it was very instructful to try to mimic Monet, and I have to say that I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile, on the den patio (we are a two-patio family) our neighbor’ cat, Dennis, is waiting for us to come out and play:

I love it that when Dennis saw me taking his picture from the den window, he decided to pose for me but, like, all non-chalant:

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if the latest outrage from der Drumpf leaves you feeling all chalant, take a tip from Taffy:

Keep Calm and go for a roll in the dirt. Or go for a glass of wine. Wine is good, too.

Memes stolen from Yellow Dog Granny @ Blogspot.com.

 

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Yes, this is still ab boring watercolor blog so for deep artistic reasons, we will be rescuing this watercolor illustration this week . . .

. . . but only after a bit of digression [cats].

I looked out of my upstairs bathroom window a few days ago and I saw this:

That’s Taffy and his arch enemy, Bibs, napping together in the crevice that forms where the roof of the garage meets the back wall of our shed. This crevice traps a lot of dead leaves that blow out of that little woods behind our house and I guess they make a nice cushion to sleep on. I haven’t seen Taffy up there for years — but his mother, Candy, used to take him up there with his two brothers when they were kittens, and spend the day in hiding (from the big mean people who wanted to love them too much, that is, ME).

As you can see, nothing interesting is going on in the little woods behind our house, but the end of our street is pretty happening:

Spring is over-rated. I think blooming trees look trashy, and the weather is always, always a disappointment. So it was sunny for a day. Big fucking whoop.

Rather than moon about the buds and green things shooting out of the earth, I am becoming obsessed with the last pile of snow on the north shore of Long Island, which looked like this when we got back from New Orleans last week:

On Tuesday it looked like this:

And today, Thursday morning, it looks like this (car shown for size reference):

In another sign of the times, our front yard cat, Steve, has moved out of his Winter headquarters under the holly tree on the side of our stoop and settled into his Spring pied-à-terre behind the other holly tree on the other side of the porch:

His new spot catches wonderful morning sun (which Steve adores) now that the earth has done its seasonal tilt on its axis. I leaned an old storm window against the house so that, if it rains, the storm window keeps Steve and his straw nest nice and dry:

You all know that I am a life-long Cat Lady, but lately I have been thinking, and thinking hard, about getting another DoG. So naturally, this book came my way (Thank you, Universe):

This is a delightful book of essays by Delia Ephron about a handful of topics including the four listed in the title. The short essays are entertaining, but the long ones are magnificent. If you want to write, you owe it to yourself to read this book because the way she captures her distinct voice is masterful.

The long essay titled Why I Can’t Write About My Mother shows what I mean when I say she captures her singular voice so expertly. Read this essay closely and you will understand that Delia Ephron has an exquisite understanding of the way her mind works, and she has the supreme skill to get her thought process — and no, she does not transcribe it — on the page. She writes good, solid, short sentences that still whack you over the head with style and emotion. And watch how her paragraphs seem to wander away from their starting points, and how they widen the scope of the subject, all while never really straying all that far from the true heart of the matter. Talk about control!

Delia Ephron wrote movies and a play with her sister, Nora, and she really loves her DoG, Honey, who is as cute as all get-out:

When I was googling the interwebs for an image of the Sister Mother Husband Dog book cover, I came across this:

Proof that I have the best damn readers in bookdom: you, Dear Readers, can write rings around this lady and yOU DO, every week. XXOO.

This is a terrible thing to tell an author — that you “passed around” one book among several people. That is like telling an office worker she is only going to be paid one hour out of every four that she works. Well, that’s an imperfect comparison, but you get my drift:  An author wants to hear that you bought her book to give to the several people you wanted to share it with. Jeeze. Christy Childers is the name of the woman who posts her crappy postcards on the inter webs. I am not a fan.

But that’s just me, hating my life as a writer this week. It’s been eight days since my agent emailed me to say that she got my manuscript and it looked beautiful, but she would read it more carefully that night and get back to me.

Eight days.

It feels like eight weeks. Each day that I don’t hear from her, I am convinced she hates my manuscript more than she did the day before and that she hates me more and more each day and that I should retire from writing and go get useful job in a donut shop. And then I spiral downwards and sock away a third vodka on the rocks.

Last week I read something about how much damage plastic straws do to the environment, so I started to re-use my straws. The one that is currently in the lowball glass on the kitchen windowsill that awaits tonight’s pour has been in use since Sunday. (You’re welcome, Earth.)

OK, let’s get to the real reason you all have gathered here this Friday. Let’s rescue a watercolor!

There is nothing wrong with this picture (of Claude Monet’s lily pond in his famous water garden in Giverny, France) except that it has four corners. You know how I am trying to bust out of the four-cornered illustration? So I was looking at this rectangular picture and I thought it needed this:

Of course you can’t understand what those scribbles mean because , well, look at that mess; but you can see that I want to add something to that upper left hand area and add two extra corners, which I begin comme ça:

Imagine my surprise. I got the tone of the blues, greens, and yellow correct on the first try. So I continue to blob in the background foliage:

I am a huuuuuuge fan of letting the watercolor bleed into interesting splotches, so this is how I got the “pond” area soaking wet (but not too wet) and dropped in some contrasting color, and then I waited for it all to dry:

YES!!! I love that big bleed! And it works well with the already existing bleed. Yay. The hardest part is done. The rest of this rescue should be nothing but fun fun fun.

If you look closely, however, you can see that part of this beautiful bleed abuts abruptly and noticeably against a darker bit of splotch, which I will have to rectify:

I have to paint in a matching splotch:

And because the water lily pads did not exactly match up, I painted and cut out teeny little pads that I glued in, to act like sutures to the two parts of this illustration:

Cropped and ready for its close-up — and yes, you can see the “scar” between the original painting and the addition:

This will magically disappear when the printer scans it and cleans it up, much like I have done (see below) using the app that comes with iPhoto:

But we are not there yet — remember my sketch?

That scribble was all about a weeping willow tree that I wanted to introduce to the left hand side of the illustration. But I’m not totally committed to that idea, so to test it I paint and cut out a tree trunk and place it appropriately:

You might recall that I did a whole thing about the weeping willows in the Square du Vert-Galant garden on the tip of the Ile de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River in Paris in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly:

So I do know my way around a willow tree. But for Monet’s garden, I looked at Monet’s own use of the tree as a foreground device:

Here’s how I try out an idea on a finished painting: I slip the painting inside a clear plastic sheet protector and I paint on the plastic surface. In this case, I painted in the willow tree wisps in white acrylic paint (because water color does not apply to a plastic surface) and let dry. Then I painted over the white acrylic with my watercolors:

So now I got an idea of how my willow tree idea will go over:

I’m undecided. I don’t want this picture to look too busy. But I kind of like having that tree in the view. Whether the willow tree stays or not, I am cropping the illustration like this:

I might be too much in love with those bleeds to hide them with willow leaves, which might not be the best thing for this picture. Maybe it does need that foreground tree. I will dither over this indefinitely. I would appreciate your opinions.

As I type this, der Drumpf has spent the morning on Fox TV, admitting that he lied about his knowledge of the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, although he claimed that Michael Cohen only represented him in a tiny fraction of his business dealings. Oh, you have to love an imbecile such as Drumpf:

The problem with Trump’s claim that Cohen only dealt with a small part of his legal work is that it dramatically complicates his lawyers’ efforts to shield documents seized in FBI raids under the guise of “attorney-client privilege.” And it proves that he lied about the pay-off when he stated, on Air Force One ON TAPE that he knew nothing about it.

He also admitted that he didn’t get Melania a gift for her birthday today, but he did get her a really nice card. Well…that’s what you get when you marry for money, honey.

Here is another quote from der Drumpf’s bloviation on Fox TV:

“I’m fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seated people, drain the swamp, that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me, and they’re not bringing up real charges against the other side.”

The way Dumpf drops in that slogan — drain the swamp — out of nowhere . . . that is hilarious, and classic Drumpfery. Equally enjoyable was seeing the terrified looks on the faces of the sycophants of his Fox & Friends as they realized that letting Drumpf prattle on and on was not a good idea after all.

Another unhinged quote, this time about Mr. Meuller’s investigation at the FBI:

 “If you take a look, they’re so conflicted, the people that are doing the investigation, you have 13 people that are Democrats, you have Hillary Clinton people, you have people that worked on Hillary Clinton’s foundation. I don’t mean Democrats, I mean, like, the real deal.”

Like, I hope Fox & Friends invites him back real soon. It makes me happy when the world gets to hear Drumpf  doing Drumpf.

It makes me this happy:

Have a happy weekend, everyone. Re-use the plastic straws in your tipple; tune in to the Today Show on Monday morning, April 30, to feast your eyes on a pair of Brit vegans who going to show us all how to cook delicious vegetable-based food and save the world; and please go find your patch of dirt in the sun and have a good roll.

XXOO

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If the measure of the greatness of a get-away is how disgruntled you feel when you have to leave Vacationland and return to your regular life. . .

. . . then last week’s trip to New Orleans was très, très bien. Top Cat and I made our annual pilgrimage to our favorite American city for a five-day examination of how much better life would be if we spent more time laissez les bons temps rouler and less time being cold and worrying about the economy.

It’s been a cold Spring here on the north shore of Long Island, and we are at the age when we obsess over the resale value of the house.

I’m a better person when I’m warm. I bet that’s true of most people.

There are three New Orleans buttons under the “Categories” list for this blog, so if you are interested you can click onto one of them and square it (as in times-two it; this year’s trip was the best ever) which will save me from boring you with a re-cap EXCEPT FOR THIS AWESOME CAT PHOTO:

Photo taken at the open door of an antiques shop on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

In case you can’t read the message on the white pieces of paper taped into the objects on the table and bureau, it says:

Please Do Not Pet The Cats.

But I did anyway because the orange guy strolled over to me and obviously expected homage.

Speaking of homage . .

. . . in my on-going watchfulness of der Drumpf’s latest stupidity, I have to say that I am surprised that I am the only reporter, so far, who has noticed that our POSus has revealed his ignorance of English as a spoken language in his announcement of his appointment of Mike Pompeo as the new Sect’y of State, saying that Mike will be “one of the greatest secretary of states” ever.

Maybe I am too delicate for this world, but: even I know that the plural of Secretary of State is on the first noun. . . not the second. To me — the original Princess and the Pea — I find it as grating as when people use the improper past participle of “to go”.

Funny story about that (the proper conjugation of “to go”): when I was a mere lass in the middle 1970s struggling my way out of the working class into the low-middle bourgeoisie by taking courses at the local community college, I exchanged chit chat with a rather pompous young man who informed me that he was only amusing himself with night classes amount the proletariat because, and I will never forget this, he said: “I have already went to college.

I wonder what that guy is doing now, besides voting for der Drumpf.

You might have missed the news that assemblage artist La Wilson died on March 30. You can read an excellent and short account of er life and career here.

I became aware of La Wison’s work in the early 1990s, when she was quite the thing in the art world, especially as she was a woman who had come into her own at a rather late date (she was 62 when her career took off).

John Davis Gallery

I respect her for staying true to her instincts, year after year; and for her expeditious shuffling off of this mortal coil (that’s how I want to go).

John Davis Gallery

But her work makes me want to turn all little sister in Strictly Ballroom and chide her for a bit of musicality, please!

Akron Art Museum

I cannot say what lifts La Wilson’s work over all the other Joseph Cornell imitators, but then I am quite the dunce when it comes to deducing museum-quality art. But to my eye, Joseph Cornell’s work conveys a sense of a personal mythology at work, which is to say that his boxes seem (to me) to contain stories that are told all at once, in a whispered language that we can’t quite hear, which gives them their powerful mystery and appeal.

Joseph Cornell

Joseph Cornell

Joseph Cornell

La Wilson is quite clear that the objects that she uses are purposely devoid of meaning to her. They are formal elements only, pure shape or color — and you can see that her work is more mathematical and emotionless. Oh well.

I’ve never done an “assemblage”, but I wonder, seriously, How hard can it be?

I have sent my fully completed, 48-page dummy book to my agent . . .

. . . so I have time on my hands while I await her feedback. I might give “assemblage” a go. I did some 3-D collages a long time ago . . .

1996; the quote is from W. B. Yeats.

. . . so I think I can handle the “thing-ness” nature of the art form.

If you have done “assemblage”, please let me know about the experience. How hard was it?

And that’s all I got this week, which is yet another cold, gray, harsh see of days on the north shore of Long Island. I have (in the vault) a watercolor quasi-rescue that I have not yet gotten around to showing you which is on schedule for next Friday so be warned.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

And may there be a huge-ass assemblage of sex scandal and dope deal gone wrong and Planned Parenthood affiliation in Sean Hannity’s past that his non-lawyer Michael Cohen will be obligated to testify about in all our near futures.

XXOO

Australians: Sean Hannity spews false and evil propaganda on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.I know Rupert is not your fault but, still . . . please send your surplus of flesh-eating ulcers his way.

Jeanie, this is for you:

Taffy and Bibs, who can not stand each other but cannot stand to be out of sight of one another. Is this love?

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Oh, Stormy Daniels, wondrous Star of Porn, how do I love thee? You are the celestial brightness to illuminate the cheap glitter of der Drumpf for all its tawdriness, the heavenly fire to incinerate the gas baggery of a man who has built his tacky career with the help of cons, crooks, grifters, and sleaze balls.

Dear Readers, Stormy Daniels is our Joan of Arc, our Esther, our Lisa Simpson. Stormy will save America from the sewer creatures that swamp this administration, and verily I say unto you, it will be a fine impeachment and yon hounding from office that will rid us of every smarmy Drumpf all the land, unto Donny Jr, Ivanka, Jared-by-association, unto the head spiv himself.

And then all will be as once was in the land. Amen.

I have my own spin on this. I think that der Drumpf’s biggest fear about the raids of his lawyer’s offices is that it will be revealed that he has been lying about how much money he has. I think der Drumpf is not a billionaire, and should that be revealed it would  be a humiliation worse than the revelations that he was working a porn star while his third wife had just given birth.

I have always suspected that the Drumpfs are not as rich as they want everyone to believe because I once (unknowingly) worked for a scam artist here on Long Island (more about this later) who learned his business through his affiliation with  another scam called Cambridge Who’s Who.

This (above) is a screen shot, c. 2009, of a video that is still available on the inter webs and that’s little Donny Drumpf Junior pitching the product. Here’s the thing: Donny Drumpf Jr. introduces himself smugly as an Executive Vice President of his daddy’s company, and says that Cambridge Who’s Who is the “primary business venture I’m pursuing outside the Trump organization.”

But here’s the thing:  the swindle of Cambridge Who’s Who is so cheap, so small potatoes — a few  thousand dollars per sad sack who paid to have his or her name included in some chintzy year book — that sure, I can see some greasy Long Island hack thinking that he’s striking it rich by pulling in enough money to buy himself a brand new Cadillac but WHY would the son of a billionaire bother??

Unless that “billionaire” did not exist. So I’ve always thought (well, since 2011, when I found out about it) that all  the Drumpfs were hard up for cash and resorted to these penny-ante cons such as Cambridge Who’s Who and Trump University, which was ordered to re-pay its enrollees $25 million just before the 2016 elections. I wonder how that judgement is going — der Drumpf is notorious for never paying his bills.

By the way, the scam I unwittingly worked for was called the NAPW, the National Association of Professional Women. Once I discovered that I was working for a scam artist (I was head PR writer), I began to collect evidence. It was surprisingly easy. I rooted around non-secured e-files and found Word docs about the various fines levied, frauds perpetrated by the founder of NAPW, as well as his history with Cambridge Who’s Who, and proof of the people that NAPW had cheated. I also got very lucky once when I opened a desk drawer (that I was assigned to sit at — I was not snooping) and it was full of old letters to and from lawyers and SEC regulators and old employees and aggrieved customers. Gold Mine.

I contacted women who had been legally threatened by NAPW, I contacted women who had fought back and won, I contacted other women who had gone public with their charges against NAPW. They volunteered to back me up. I took the whole shebang and myself to the Nassau County Regional Office of the New York State Attorney General and the Nassau County District Attorney. Neither office wanted to pursue the cause because I did not have “standing”, and because they seemed very uninterested in something so nickel-and-dime.

I wrote a Yelp! review with specific information about the piece of shit who ran the company, but was erased because the NAPW lawyer contacted Yelp! and had me removed becauseI wasn’t a customer and Yelp! only wants to hear from people who have actually used the service. But the Yelp! reviews that remain on the site make interesting reading, if you care.

Through long and hard searches into the dark corners of the internets I found out that once upon a time a Wall Street Journal reporter, tipped off by an inside source, had come nosing around the business a few years earlier and I contacted her. She was very interested in my docs, but she could not get her boss to sign off on the story because he was afraid of getting sued. The NAPW founder, like der Drumpf, like all con men, piles on the lawyers at the first whiff of exposure.

At the time, it felt very cloak-and-dagger, very All The Presidents’ Men.

Oh, I could tell you stories of the celebrities I tried to warn about the NAPW, like Arianna Huffington and Sara Blakley (Spanx), who were paid big bucks to attend the annual NAPW conference…and no one would listen!! When I heard that NAPW was going after Michelle Obama I was almost frantic, but luckily that never came to pass. Make no mistake: this business is a SCAM.

Ariana Huffington with NAPW spokesperson Star Jones, which gives you a clue as to the shadiness of the organization.

When I saw that I could not bring down this sleezy con, I got into several tense and threatening confrontations with management and I let myself be fired from NAPW.

By”tense and threatening”, I mean that the company had people search my desk after I left work, which I know because I made strategic friends in low places, which I tuned them about the next day. And then they staged a face to face meeting with the “head” of HR and the so-called President of the company, who tried to bully me into signing a paper that said I had been counseled that my  bullying (still a buzz word in wrongful termination suits) behavior had been acknowledged by me, which I refused to sign, and then they tried to tell me that not signing would have serious repercussion, such as getting fired… ha ha. I was the one person there who did not fear getting fired (been there, done that; and I was married to Top Cat at the time) so they fired me and I collected unemployment benefits from them, and the pay-out lasted longer than my employment. I went to Paris on their dime.

Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran at the 2014 NAPW gathering.

The file of all the dastardly deeds on the NAPW still sits in my closet, though, just in case.

I see that a lot of information about NAPW and its chiseling founder have been wiped from the interwebs, and although hardly anyone reads my blog; the files are clearly marked NAPW SCAM and they would be easy to find if I am incapacitated. You know, by foreign agents.

BTW, the chiseling founder, besides being a youngish guy who owned several Corvettes and a Maserati, had a little Yorkshire Terrier that he was very fond of and I have to say, he loved that DoG and was always very good to her. Go figure.

And did you notice something interesting about the fraud that started all this? Cambridge Who’s Who? And what it has in common with Cambridge Analytica?

Those Drumpfs must have a “thing” for the patina of the English upper classes, ya think?

Anyhoo, let’s not end here on a Drumpf note because :

Republicans, don’t take this personally. This is also how I feel about cilantro.

In other, more important news, this is what it looks like here on the north shore of Long Island (as of Wednesday, April 11 ) and yes, those are piles are snow:

That’s my car. Every large parking lot still has some daggy bits of Winter left on it. Sad.

And the other day I was giving kitties their breakfast and I discovered that someone’s mousie. . .

. . .  had dived into the cat food bowl:

I picked it out of the kibble and tossed it into the dining room. But the next day, the critter crawled his way back to the breakfast buffet:

Again, I picked it up and tossed it into the dining room, but the next day. . .

. . . the mousie was taking cover (under Bibs’ pink bowl) so I let him stay. He’s been on the breakfast mat ever since. His name is Jephte, after my Number One No. # 1 Reality TV hunny.

I have become totally hooked on this season’s Married at First Sight. I  keep wishing for the best for all the adorable couples, but my man Jephte has shown himself to be the person most capable of awesome personal growth and self-reflection and change. He started out as such a huge prick, but since then he’s become kind, loving, thoughtful, and caring! I love his heart, and I love the way he loves his heart’s mate. I have high hopes for him and Shawnice:

Shawnice is a very cute girl without makeup, but she is AMAZING with make up (she’s a make up artist). I give her major props for spending so much time on camera without make up, because she is a total dish when she puts on the war paint and there’s another girl on the show (Molly) who won’t be seen on film without thirteen layers of mascara. If you’re watching the show, you know what I mean.

Speaking of the quality time I spend with my TV, and although some of my die-hard Drumpf hater friends have tried to talk me out of it, I am still watching Roseanne.

I cannot wait until Michael Fishman gets his own story arc, but this week’s episode which featured the daughters, Becky and Darlene — titled Eggs Over, Not Easy — was totally brilliant. Brill-ee-ant.

 I’ve watched it twice and I’ve cried each time.

But I also cry when I watch Married At First Sight (these beautiful young people are so meant for each other and I just wish they will know that when the eight week experiment is over), and at the video that shows a color blind kid when he gets new “sunglasses” and can see color for the first time . . .

. . . and at the first chorus of Band of Heathens doing Hurricane. . .

. . . and when I think that thanks to our blessed Saint Stormy, Patron Saintess of Democracy, that we might soon be rid of history’s most sordid, stinking, stupid pustule that ever oozed upon the office of the President of the United States…

I just want to cry Hallelujah.

Which, by the way, when k. d. lang sings it, also makes me cry. But then, I’m usually drunk when I pat me up some k. d. at the 2005 Juno Awards in Winnipeg and at my most maudlin.  Canadians. What would American culture be without them?

Top Cat always tells me that my blog posts are too long.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And have a good cry. It’s good for the soul.

XXOO

 

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Late last week, on my daggy kitchen patio, here on the north shore of Long Island, this is the picture I took of the last, final, good riddance daggy pile of snow of the Winter of 2017-18 (Taffy strolled by just in time to give a sense of scale):

Ha ha. This week (April 2) all the rumors of another Spring snow storm came true. This is just one reason why Spring is my least favorite season. The other reasons are because it’s just a tatty, disappointing time of year.

Taffy doesn’t care if it’s Spring or not. He enjoys hopping and dashing around in the stuff any time it’s new and fresh and fluffy:

But it does tire him out:

Meanwhile, I, the completely crazy cat lady, worried that our front porch feral cat, Steve, might not have enough protection against this vicious Spring storm, so I rigged up some extra coverage for him (can you see him tucked up in his fleece-covered heating pad scooched into the straw nest that insulates his plexiglass hut under the other plexiglass lean-to behind the holly bush under the front porch eave?):

But let’s get down to business. Let’s do the Cross My Fingers Last Champagne-O-Meter of the Winter of 2017 -18.

This is what we woke up to, on Monday April 2 morning, on the den patio at approx. 7:00 AM:

One half hour later:

8:00 AM:

By 9 o’clock AM the Champagne-O-Meter had a really cute topper of snow:

Which this guy knocked off:

It was forecast that the snow would stop at 10 AM, and at precisely 10 o’clock AM, the snow stopped (how do they do that?), giving us a maximum snowage of this:

And let me tell you, it was beautiful. Every tree and bush looked like a big white fluffy feather, the world was whisper quiet, and the coziness was off the charts. Then it warmed up and got a little rainy and by 5 o’clock PM it was down to this:

And Taffy was down to this:

So, yeah, we’re back to the daggy end of Winter again and, now that I am finished painting the Damn Monet Book, I  am stuck working on the most daggy part of being an author: writing the book proposal.

This is the part where I show my publisher why the world needs one more damn book about Claude Monet, who is something of a cottage industry in the art world. Any museum director worth her salt knows that, if your gallery is running a deficit, all you have to do is put together an exhibit with the word “Monet” in the title you’ve got a sure-fire way of raking in the dough.

From 2016 to 2017, the money-maker was Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse that even got a theatrically- released film made out of it. The accompanying book of the exhibit is 328 pages long, weighs over five pounds, and costs almost $80.

That’s Monet’s painting of chrysanthemums on the cover. It proves my thesis that the only flower that Monet could paint well was the water lily.

This year the cash cow will be Monet and Architecture, which the Royal Gallery in London hopes will fill the coffers and which follows up on the 2010 spectacle, Claude Monet, a Retrospective that was held at the Grand Palais in Paris that drew 913,000 visitors in four months, the first show in France in over 34 years to out-pace the King Tut blockbuster of 1976.

It’s these kind of stats —  plus showing how the comparable best selling books are actually crappier versions of your own book which will out-sell those crap books — that you have to include in a proposal about your proposed Monet book. You need to show that there is great public demand for stuff about the Prince of Impressionists (965,000 people went to see a Monet exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago in 1995 and added $393 million to the economy of the Chicago metropolitan area because 72% of visitors came from outside the city), and how your humble book (48 pages; much, much smaller than a breadbox; light as an impression of sun rise; and kind of cute) will fulfill an overlooked yet lucrative niche in Monet-branded consumer goods.

Photo credit: Joel Comm, fellow author.

This is the very worst part of writing a book. Except for all the other parts of writing a book. Basically, writing a book is torture, but having written a book is bliss. Except for all the things that you wish you change if only you could start all over.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is whether or not this cat is dead:

This is how my 17-year old Coco sleeps on her heating pad on her Ikea chair. Every time I see her like this my heart stops because I think she’s dead. I wish she would sleep like a normal cat and stop giving me mini-panic attacks.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is that big shiny gold cross that Laura Ingraham wears:

She’s very Christian, and did you know that for Christians this was Holy Week? And that Holy Week is the one week when Christians don’t make fun of kids who survived a mass shooting in their school? Because, you know, while decency might come naturally to other people, the people who wear big shiny crosses have to have a special Holy Week to not be a shit.

Laura Ingraham has been practicing her Christian values since college, when she was the editor of a conservative newspaper at Dartmouth in the mid-1980s that secretly recorded a meeting of closeted students who were seeking support from the school’s small Gay Student Association—and then released a transcript of the meeting.

Meanwhile, count me in as a member of the Church of the Advertisers Who Pulled Their Ads Off Of The Laura Ingraham Show:

TripAdvisor 

“TripAdvisor believes Americans can disagree while still being agreeable, and that the free exchange of ideas within a community, in a peaceful manner, is the cornerstone of our democracy. We do not, however, condone the inappropriate comments made by this broadcaster. In our view, these statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency.” (Yeah, that’s the cross that Laura wears.)

Wayfair

“The decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values. We do not plan to continue advertising on this particular program.”

Liberty Mutual Insurance

The insurer has pulled their support for Ingraham’s show because her comments were “inconsistent with our values as a company, especially when it comes to treating others with dignity and respect.”

Bayer

Miracle-Ear

Ruby Tuesday

Atlantis, Paradise Island

Jenny Craig

Nutrish

Hulu

Stitch Fix

Expedia

Nestlé

Johnson & Johnson

Office Depot

Somebody say Amen.

Have a great weekend Dear Readers. May all your snow be melted, and may all your cats be alive.

 

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First there is a sunbeam, then there is no sunbeam, then there is. This is Candy and her son, Lickety, at 12:07 in the afternoon :

And this is them, at 1:04 on the same afternoon:

How much energy does it take to keep up with the sun beam? Apparently, too much.

We’ve had on-and-off sunshine this past week, here on the north shore of Long Island. For Kirra and all you snow-starved Ozzies, this was the Reverse Champagne-O-Meter last Thursday morning:

Friday morning:

Friday afternoon:

Saturday morning:

Saturday afternoon:

Sunday afternoon:

And then it became too criminal to keep a bottle of Extra Dry Champagne out in the 50-ish degree weather so I rescued it (it’s in my fridge, ready for when the painting goes so horrible wrong that Vivian needs and deserves  the bubbly). So while all the snow in my yards are melted, I happen to live on the sunny side of the street. There is still plenty of the white stuff on the shadowy side:

Since Dear Reader Kirra and others who do not own ice scrapers might not know how snow falls, it stands to reason that they might not know how snow melts, which is not pretty. My neighbor around the corner from me  lives on the daggy side of the street:

In my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, (now on “back order”, which means that it’s scarce and copies are going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon) I described this stage of Winter snow as appearing like lumps of dirty laundry piled up in people’s yards.

Snow, at this point of the melt, looks sad, and shredded, and trashy, and not at all picturesque.

And yes, the piles look daggy, an Australian slang word that never fails to make me laugh out loud because (FYI)  it refers to the dried faeces left dangling from the wool on a sheep’s rear end:

There are a lot of daggy piles of left-over snow here on the north shore of Long Island:

See that little snowball in front of the Snowman Who Has Ceased To Be (below)? I think it’s his head:

I’m easily amused. This made me laugh.

But this is not a time for levity. I recently discovered that I, and all others who wield a paintbrush, are being replace by an outstanding app called Waterlogue. This app, which sells for a mere $3.99, turns your photographs into pixels that look a lot like an excellent watercolor:

Worst of all, it can do — in the touch of a button — architecture.  This (below) would take me a lot of tears and weeks of rescues to get right:

This, above, is a view of Amsterdam via Waterlogue. The original photo was not supplied and yes, I see that the canal needs some “coloring in” (it does not read as water in this pic), but, still: Yowza!!!  I can not compete with the precision of all those linear structures (the line of row houses). This is a fantastic app, and if could figure how to buy it (because I’ve never bought an app in my life, and this one only works on hand held devices like my iPad or iPhone and not on my trusty desk top computer WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??) I would snap it up. I would have so much fun looking at someone else paint all my photo references that I would be occupied for days and days and days! And then I would kill myself because I have been replaced by an app.

Luckily, just as I was contemplating whether I had a hose that would fit the exhaust pipe of our champagne-colored Camry (I hear carbon monoxide poisoning leaves a very pretty corpse), I read a New York Times (January 14, 2018) review of a new book called: Craeft, An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts.

The reviewer, Michael Beirut (a partner in the design firm Pentagram), begins: “As daily life becomes increasingly virtual, it might seem like a paradox that making things by hand is suddenly big business. Stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby feature aisle after crowded aisle of sequins, tassels, imported papers, chenille stems and pompoms. Etsy, the e-commerce platform for selling homemade goods, features nearly two million active sellers serving 30 million eager buyers. Busy creators produce one-offs using 3-D printers in “maker spaces” at major research universities as well as your neighborhood’s progressive elementary school. All this activity was worth $44 billion last year, according to the Association for Creative Industries, a group that was once, in cozier times, known as the Craft and Hobby Association. Part therapy, part self-expression, our homely obsession with crafts is poised to take over the world.”

I hope this love affair with the hand-made is true. I hope that’s why an almost-out-of-print copy of my hand-made book When Wanderers Cease to Roam is selling for $500.00 on Amazon, but I think the guy who posted that $500.00 price tag is on drugs, because you can get a “good” used copy for 10.99 (but “good” is a condition that “may include highlighting notes”, which in my capacity as the manager of our local library’s used book store means we would throw it out… where was I?).

Illustration for NYT review of Craeft, by Nicole Natri.

Oh, right. I was hand-making something that an app couldn’t do in order to justify my existence. Let’s paint!

I’m illustrating the last page of my Claude Monet garden book, which I think needs a certain view off the famous Japanese bridge over Claude Monet’s water lily pond:

Trouble is, I want to change this photo into a different season, and a different time of day, and different weather conditions, and I want a lot less structural detail of that damn bridge. So I cropped the photo and drew this:

This was a big mistake. Usually, I draw on tracing paper velum so I have a template to re-use in case I screw something up. But here, I drew this bridge directly onto the watercolor paper (90 pound Canson) because it is a very intricate view of those twisting wisteria vines that grow over the bridge and I was erasing a lot and I just lost my mind. And getting the gentle arc of those railings took a lot of actual measurements, little dots that put in a row and connected to get the spacing correct. I cannot tell you how much I dislike doing this kind of drawing.

And since I have drawn directly onto the Canson, it means that I have to make this pic work because I do not have a template that I can re-trace, in case this goes bad. If it goes bad, it’s sayonara because I do not intend to re-draw this shit ever again.

I thought long (about an hour, including a tea break) and hard (ouch) about how I was going to make the changes that I needed for this picture, and then I went Oh, hell, just do it. So I started with the background:

I just took a wild guess at the shapes and colors and all I can do is hope it will turn into something, because it looks like crap as of yet. Next, I make blobs of purple and blue to represent wisteria in bloom:

First rule, when you paint in blobs of color, is you have to make sure that the blobs make interesting forms that look elegant all by themselves. But don’t over-do it.

In this pic, I know that I want my foliage to be back-lit, so I layer in a first wash of yellow, and apply green shades over that, keeping in mind that these yellow- green blobs also have to make interesting shapes, and try not to over-do it:

The right hand side of the painting will contain most of the darkest bits of the picture:

I hope I didn’t over-do it. I have a tendency to over-do it. I have to concentrate on keeping it light.

Add masking fluid over the rails of the bridge, and add the waters of the lily pond:

I don’t know about that “water”. I hope it works out. At this point, I became uhappy  that the wisteria leaves looked so blobby, after all, so I decided to add detail, but not too much detail:

Remove the masking fluid and paint the railings. There is still plenty of time to screw up this picture:

After I added bits of dark green that I thought were necessary for the composition, I decided to leave the vines un-painted, as these forms are very interesting and painting them will, I think, flatten them out. I don’t want to over-do it.

Here is the finished picture, followed by the original reference photo so you can see how much of it I have I re-imagined:

See what I did there? I just did what Michael Beirut, in the conclusion of her review of the new book Craeft, says is the most is important thing that humans can do in this age of virtual, mass-manufactured consumerism:

“Factory manufacture robs us of a special something: contemplation.” In writing this, the author of Craeft, Alexander Langlands, is not talking about the big questions of human existence, but of the hundreds of small ones that go into something as simple — or as complex — as building a stone wall: “Which to use? How to work it? Where to strike it?” In the end, this is the case he makes for craeft. At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.

Contemplation. If you paint, or draw, or make anything by hand, you know all about those hundreds of little decisions you make while you are focused on not screwing up. Making something by hand is totally absorbing, and feels as high-risk as tightrope walking, but at the same time feels Zen-ish; peaceful, as if you are connecting with a part of you that is timeless and outside of “you”. If you know what I mean.

Like what Taffy and Lickety do naturally:

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your sun beams wait for you to catch up, and all your slumbers be under the soft paw of a kitty.

 

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Ah, the Vernal Equinox. On Sunday Top Cat and I took to our favorite north shore cove with our trusty plastic wine glasses to crack open our most recent Champagne-O-Meter to celebrate what Top Cat calls the Kiss Winter Good-Bye toast. There was a  brutal wind blowing in from the icy tempest of the Long Island Sound that brought tears to our eyes and froze us to the core and made us regret every life decision that brought us to that place at that time, but these are the conditions that make the bubbly taste twice as good.

Candy celebrated the arrival of Spring in her usual fashion. . .

. . . while her idiot son did his usual thing:

Don’t you love Taffy’s little bunny feet?

SPEAKING OF BUNNIES:

 

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my hard copy of the John Oliver book about a bunny called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which is No. 1 on Amazon and out-selling the book by Charlotte and Karen Pence (daughter and wife wife of Drumpf Suck-Up Artist Mike Pence), also about a bunny called Marlon Bundo, who is actually the Pence’s own pet bunny. You can click onto the link to learn about how this book has gotten Fox News’ undies in a twist, but because this is a boring watercolor blog I want to deal with this book from a watercolor-centric point of view, OK?

This is the Pences’ book:

And here are Karen (the watercolorist illustrator) and Charlotte Pence, with Bundo himself:

Marlon Bundo is a really cute rabbit. But Karen Pence is not an illustrator; she’s a watercolorist-in-ist: compare the book covers, and the Bundos. One has personality and smooch ability  (by EG Keller), the other is a drab little amateur dabble that didn’t get the ears right (by Karen Pence, who also didn’t get the feet right).

Here are some of Karen Pence’s other cliche-ridden housewifely pictures, exhibited at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

No, no, no, no. The world does not need another badly-drawn cardinal on a poorly-painted snowy bough, no matter how nicely it’s framed.Here is my favorite review of Karen Pence’s watercolor exhibit at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

Brain surgery is very difficult. Watercolor technique is not that difficult a medium and I speak as someone who paints in it (and oil) and has taught it to well over 1000 students over nearly 30 years. What is difficult is originality. Ms Pence is competent at a basic technical level but her work is safe, pedestrian and impersonal. Originality requires a willingness to take risks and/ or to invest a deeper personal investigation into the process. (One problem with this work is that a photo with a simple watercolor filter applied digitally would look pretty close to this work.) I am happy she is finding satisfaction in her hobby but the only novelty here is that she will be doing it while married to the VP.  ( Well said, Carol Griffith, professional watercolor artist.)

Here’s Karen showing off her art at the Indiana State Fair:

OK, let us digress. I saw this photo of Karen and I taught, Yep. That’s the kind of “kicky” print blazer that a boring watercolorist wears when she wants to look “arty”. This is me, speaking as a lady in her 60s: Karen, you’re making all of us look bad.

In the same google search this came up:

So this is what you wear to the Inauguration Ball for the Demise of Democracy… oh, lordy…  I say this with peace and love, honey: if you are on the hefty side of Granny Clampett and your boobs are drooping down to your elbows, this is not a good look for you, Karen. Peace and love.

OMG. I just looked her up, and Karen Pence is one year and two weeks younger than I.

And yeah, since Mike and Karen Pence thinks it’s OK to stick their sanctimonious homo-phobic Christian noses into the privacy of American citizens’ sex lives by pushing for federal and state legislation to outlaw choice in matters of reproduction and who you can love and how, I think it’s alright for me to make fun of her old lady dumpiness which she lets hang out in public for all to see.

On another tangent, this is the official bio of Karen Pence’s writing partner, her daughter Charlotte, the author of the poorly illustrated Bundo book, on the Amazon website:

“Charlotte Pence graduated from DePaul University in 2016 with a degree in English and Digital Cinema. Her written work has appeared in Glamour Magazine and publications affiliated with the University of Oxford, where she studied as an undergraduate.”

Oh for christ sake… the “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford” was, in fact — and you can look it up because this is totally true — the student newspaper.   And she “studied” at Oxford during the junior year she spent abroad under the aegis of DePaul University. DePaul. Which has nothing to do with her mother’s insipid watercolor illustrations but, you know, DePaul.

So, please, go buy a copy of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo because it’s a delightful book with outstanding illustrations, and because all the proceeds go to Trevor Project and AIDS United, and because you fucking hate Mike Pence.

Thank you.

Back to the agony of illustrating my own book (sadly, not about a bunny called Bundo):

Last week I left you hanging in suspense over a rescue operation for a crappy watercolor illustration of the lily pond in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, which looked like this:


I did some research, otherwise called looking through my big Monet art books, and found a Monet painting that had a tasty color palette that I thought would work nicely with the evening vibe I am trying to accomplish in my little illustration:

Pink and lavender are going to be the dominant colors of the lower half of my picture:

I am using my Grumbacher paints (light blue, darker blue, purple, fuchsia, and a sea green) to do most of the heavy lifting, with dabs of vibrant Winsor Newton greens (Sap and Hooker green) and Cobalt blue for flirty prettiness.

My tactics for this rescue are to avoid the mistake I made last time. Last time, I tried to paint the water in one big swoop…but I am not a swooping kind of painter. I am a miniaturist, so I have to tackle this expanse in bits. I forgot to take a photo of the first bit, in which I laid down the dark green on the “water” near the bridge and the willow. But here’s the next bit, where I covered another narrow band by bleeding some delicious blue-green into pink:

Then I added lily pads:

For the last part of this picture I want to make some large, bold bleeds, even though I know that this is something that I am not very good at. So I practice:

I lay down my practice sheet on top of the Picture in Progress to see if it works:

My original thought was to leave that lower right end of the picture blank, in order to balance the “blank” spot in the upper left side; also, I’m thinking of dropping text into the picture there.

I do another practice sheet:

And then I decide to paint the whole lower part of the picture, so I practice some more:

This is how many times I did a “dry run”, so to speak:

I feel ready, willing, and able to finish this picture. But before I do, I make the fatal mistake of applying masking fluid to the very bottom of the scene:

I like everything about this picture except for the masking fluid. It was a dumb idea:

I did it because I have a little trick that I’ve used before, that worked in this picture:

You lay down masking fluid in an attractive circular pattern — don’t over-do it — to make little eddies of swirling water:

But this trick just doesn’t work in this picture:

NOPE.

I would have been so happy with this picture if only I had not put in those stupid swirls.

So, it’s back to Square One for the third time:

How boring is it to watch me paint? I could continue showing you how I re-re-rescued this illustration, but I get the feeling that you’d all rather watch snow fall in my backyard.

Cue the Last Champagne-O-Meter of 2018, dedicated to Dear Reader Kirra, in the Land of Oz:

I guess you’ve heard the news that the east coast (of America) celebrated the first full day of Spring by getting slammed with a snow storm on Wednesday. I set a new, improved Champagne-O-Meter out on the top of our little cafe table on the back patio so I could shoot it from the picture window of our den instead of having to trudge outside into knee-deep snow to photograph it on the lawn.

The snow started to fall around 8:30 in the morning. I took pictures of the Champagne-O-Meter about every two hours.

And then it got too dark to take photos, until the next morning:

This is what the back patio liked like (the Champagne-O-Meter is in the center of that cafe table):

OK, that’s enough excitement for one blog. Sorry to drag you away from the calamity, but this is a boring watercolor blog so I must take you back to our current watercolor rescue, which I promise will be quick because like you, I am getting pretty damn tired of seeing this lily pond. Remember, we started here:

The first re-re-re-paint wasn’t right:

But the next re-re-re-paint was just right and so, finally, we are DONE:

As I type this, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is still the No. 1 selling book on Amazon.com. The first printing of 40,000 sold out in four hours, so Chronicle Books is rushing a second printing of 400,000 to be shipped to to independent bookstores asap.

Charlotte Pence has tweeted that she has bought this book, too, even though the book portrays her father (the odious Mike Pence) as a stink bug: “I have bought his book, “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President.” “(Oliver’s) giving proceeds of the book to charity, and we’re also giving proceeds of our book to charity, so I really think that we can all get behind it.”

That seems very gracious of her, on the surface, but remember that she’s the girl who claimed that she’s been published by “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford”, and she’s got a degree in digital cinema from DePaul (DePaul), so she’s obviously crafty, and ambitious, and wants a career in media so what better way to suck up to John Oliver/HBO than to tweet a nice thing about Oliver’s book?

Well played, Christian creep opportunist, well played.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. May you and all the bunnies you hop with be happy and bouncy and free to be.

XXOO

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