Author's Posts

Monet’s Garden at Giverny, that is.

Then we lay in the masking fluid:

This is the Grande Allee, of course, at Monet’s garden at Giverny (in September, when the walkway is full of nasturtiums):

Lately I haven’t been painting in sky so this means it’s done:

Full page illustration, 8″ x 7″.

 

Yes, I’ve been working on my flower-painting this week. All you have to do, in order to get better at something at which you stink (see last week’s post), is to just keep at it. I painted for HOURS to get the hang of this. I’m just saying what Thomas Edison said: Sweat It Out, Dude, If You Want To Invent The LIghtbulb.

I’m just saying, too, that there is no need to traipse all the way to Giverny to see a spectacular garden when chances are there is a treasure closer to home. And where I live on the north shore of Long Island, there is a wonderland that we call the William Cullen Bryant estate. Top Cat took us there this past Sunday, about an hour before sunset, to see the last of the magnificent Fall foliage:

I ask you, does this even look real? (Note half-moon bridge made of stone in background.)

As George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, said in the live-in-studio recording of For You Blue on the last ever Beatles album, Let It Be of 1969: “Elbow James is got nothing on this [something].”  I really should Google that line.  It’s been 43 years since I first heard For You Blue and all this time I’ve never had a clue what George was saying, except that it comes back to me at times like this:

Giverny’s got nothing on this corner of Long Island. Yes, that is a perfect little knot garden on a cliff high above the beautiful Long Island Sound, the view from Mr. Bryant’s back porch.

And this is his sunken garden, next to the parterre, which is a lawn for some kind of bowling game, or croquet, I believe.  Oh, yes, Top Cat and I love this garden at the Bryant Estate, in Summer, Winter, and Fall. (I don’t care for Spring so I’ve never been here during those tacky months.) I count this garden as just one of the many benefits of being Mrs. Top Cat, because without him I would never have known that such a darling acre of Earth existed.

But I ask you, why schlepp a whole two miles from your house when you can probably find beauty in your own backyard?

This is Dudley of the Backyard Cats, catching the rays at 6:14 am this morning.  In my backyard, the rule is: Wherever There Is a Sunbeam, There Is Probably a Cat Making The Most of It:

Candy, in camouflage.

Joined by her son, Taffy.

Oscar, in igloo #2.

Bibs, tosey in igloo #1.

Phil, our resident baby possum, enjoying the cat food buffet. We LOVES our Phil. But he shuns the sunshine, so I took this photo at twilight.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and avoided the dangerous topics of conversation that can torpedo a family get-together in these yappy, noisy, bloviating times. But as it’s a holiday of Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to you all who read this blog,week by week, giving me your wonderful feedback (see last post re: work-in-progress — I LIKE the “empty space”  advise you gave me — thank you!)

I am so very grateful for your company!

 

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This Claude Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies (1905) was sold at Christie’s New York last week,on Nov. 7, for $43,762,500. Yes, that’s 43 million, seven-hundred sixty-two thousand, five hundred dollars. This is of great interest to me because I just happen to be working on the “Monet” chapter of my Damn Garden Book (sketch, below, in progress):

All the ladies in this picture are versions of me.

Now, if you’ve read my book Le Road Trip you’ll know that I was not really thrilled with my last to Monet’s garden at Giverny — it was crowded and overgrown (in my opinion) and I was in a bad mood. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the garden from several previous visits and it is those memories that I am trying to communicate. Also, hey — it’s GIVERNY. What garden memoirist can get away with writing a Damn Garden Book without including GIVERNY???    Here’s my illustration of the view from Monet’s bedroom window (a view he was particularly fond of):

Yeah, I know. I’m really crappy at painting flower gardens. Truth to tell, I’m not that crazy about flower gardens, and it shows.

I would much rather gaze at the Japanese maple tree in my front yard than at Monet’s waterlilies, to tell the truth, especially at this time of year:

And the Japanese dogwood tree on the patio is no slouch in the spectacular foliage department either:

If you look real hard you can see Bibs eating his breakfast from his pink bowl in the background, on the left.

Oh! Frost on Fall leaves is ten times more poetic than dew on a rose petal!

And I can tell you: there is nothing at Giverny to compare to the awesomeness of the American Elm tree near my house on Long Island:

I’ve never been tempted to pick a single flower on any of my visits to Giverny, but when it comes to a hundred-year old American Elm…

Here I am putting my crutches to good use to nab me an American Elm leaf to paint. (This photo was taken by my friend Melinda last month — my knee injury is healing just fine and I only use crutches now for whacking at stuff that is annoyingly out of reach.)

Even my dear husband, the Great and Wonderful Top Cat, knows better than to bring me roses. When he wants to be romantic, this is what he brings me:

This is what I love! A bouquet of beautiful fall leaves! My Top Cat gets me, he really does.

Monet had his obsession with the waterlilies  (he painted 250 canvases of his water garden at Giverny from 1899 until his death in 1926) and I have my obsession with Fall leaves:

One of the pages I am most proud of in my book Le Road Trip is page 56:

I am proud to be the first person to have calculated the going rate of a Monet waterlily painting down to the square inch, which was at that time  $23,319.00.

I think this is valuable information in quantifying pricelessness, in that a Monet painting might be so astronomically/mind bogglingly expensive to buy (see above, $43,762,500) that it might as well be priceless, but nothing is truly priceless. Remember, I used to be the Faberge expert for the same Christie’s New York auction house that sold this latest Monet, and I used to put price tags on all kinds of priceless stuff.

When I wrote Le Road Trip, the going rate for a Monet waterlily painting was based on the June 2008 sale at Christie’s London of a 1919 painting that sold for $80,451,178. Yes, that’s 80 million four hundred fifty-one thousand and change. And yes, that’s the record for a Monet at auction.

However, that Monet was big, 40 ” x 80″ , and the one that sold last week for $43,762,500 was about half that size at 35″ x 39″,  so:

The new going rate for a Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies is $32,060.4 per square inch.

And you are in luck! Because the going rate for a painting of my beloved Fall leaves is FREE — which is well and truly PRICELESS — and today I announce the winners of my 2012 Fall Leave Give Away:

Actual leaf not included.

This priceless painting goes to Nadine!    Nadine, send me an email at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and we will discuss shipping etc!

And the winner of this priceless painting:

… is Bobbi!   Bobbi, please see above.

I wish I could send all you dear readers a Fall leaf painting in appreciation for you all, but I would go broke if I handed out priceless paintings every week. I’m no Monet, after all! (Oh, wait. Even if he were alive Monet doesn’t get the millions… Jeeze. Being a famous artist as just as lucrative as being a priceless one.)

And now I have to quit painting Fall leaves so I can figure out how to paint a damn flower garden. See you next Friday — when I hope to have painted a less ugly Giverny..

 

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So not fair. Just when we were getting over Super Storm Sandy, we get this. Well, you know what they say. When life gives you a damn blizzard, break out a brand new Champagne-O-Meter!

The snow started at 11 in the morning…

…and it lasted all damn day. This (above) gave me the only laugh I had the whole time, to see the Champagne-O-Meter sporting its jaunty Blizzard Chapeau.

But by the next morning, I wasn’t laughing anymore. We got a lot of snow, heavy, wet, relentless snow. We lost power at 4:30, got half of it back by 7, and there was much more damage from the blizzard than from the hurricane. NOTE: I refuse to call this blizzard a Nor’easter because I never heard of any damn “Nor’easter” while I was growing up in the damn Nor’east…I only started hearing about “Nor’easters” in the mid-1990s when weather forecasters started using it to jazz up their TV news spots. I loathe the word “Nor’easter”. So I’m going to call this episode of snow and wind, Buster.

Anyhoo…here’s how much trouble Buster gave us (I took these pictures from inside the house, looking out the den picture window):

The backyard cats before Buster.

Lickety during Buster. Don’t worry. As soon as it got dark Lickety came in the house and spent the night curled up on a warm electric blanket.

From the upstairs guest room I got a view of what came down during the night :

But wait a sec…this doesn’t look right…

I don’t usually get a tree-top view from the first-floor kitchen window. And the view from the little window in the mud room usually gives me a clear look all the way to the backyard fence:

But today the view is blocked by our lovely Japanese dogwood tree that normally shades our patio but today is leaning against the back of the house. The tree didn’t fall down, it just bent waaaaaaay over (but our little rhody, still propped up from our rescue last week after Sandy, is still standing!).

The problem is that the trees still have lots of leaves on them, which made them so very heavy when they got eight inches of snow dumped on them. Oh, sure, it’s kind of pretty…

…but it’s scary, too.

You can’t tell, but this is a really BIG tree. Snapshots don’t do Buster justice.

This here is the tree that really has me worried:

We’re counting on our little backyard shed to break the fall when this maple tree comes crashing down towards our house. Looks to me like  it’ll take out the roof above the guest room, maybe wipe out the guest bathroom too, when it tires of teasing us with its hulking presence creeping closer and closer, and says WTF, I’ll Just Go Boom..

And when it does, dear readers, you will read all about it right here.

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Before (the proverbial calm):

 

 

 

On Sunday the sky got dark. We took the warnings seriously and we prepared for the worst: moved all backyard furnishings into the garage, sand bagged the back of the house, stocked up on candles and water, taped up our 1940s-era picture window, stuffed our pockets with batteries, took one last hot shower, got out the potato chips and champagne, and watched the mounting fury.

Evacuation quarters for the backyard cats (in the garage).

The thing about hurricanes is that when they are moving into your front yard (Sandy, being a particularly slow-moving storm, took all damn day to blow into town), they tend to be the sole focus of attention. All we could do was sit and watch, and and listen: what I thought was the sound of gunshots turned out to be trees splitting in half. Power went out at 6:06 Monday night and it stayed dark for the next six days, seventeen hours, and 53 minutes. I tried to take pix of the wind-tossed trees that we were watching through the livingroom windows but snapshots do not do justice to hurricanes. Also, I kept an hourly diary of the Coming of Sandy, but after spending a week in the dark and the cold I have no idea where those notes are and I’m too fed up with all this hurricane misery to bother looking for them.

After (one block radius from my house):

Three houses down from us, this place was the girlhood home of my 86-year old neighbor Ruth until she died in 2010, when new owners gutted it (Ruth was a hoarder) and did a total reno.

This is the picturesque ruin on the corner that the town has been unwilling to condemn out of sympathy for the old bachelor who lives there, but this might be the final straw.

Our only damage was a downed rhododendron on the patio:

Yes, that’s Candy on the roof of the shed, inspecting her domaine.

But Top Cat and our darling neighbor Gary righted the old girl (the rhody, not Candy) and propped her up with boards and we hope she’ll pull through:

On Wednesday night we had a jolly candlelight barbecue with the neighbors, grilling all the turkey burgers and chicken bits from our freezer. The next night the neighbors had us over for an equally celebratory “Empty the Freezer” BBQ (hamburgers and Italian sausages). On Friday we got a rare half-hour of SUNSHINE so I walked a half mile up the road to get a good look at this:

This mess of fallen trees bringing down this tangle of power lines was rumored to be the cause of our blackout. The house behind all this crap has been on the market for over a year (priced to sell at $988,000) and gossip has it that the homeowners are heartbroken that the trees didn’t take it out (it is a brutally “modern” 1970s-era eyesore that is quite the out of place in this neighborhood).

This is what it looks like when the front yard is not cluttered with hurricane debris:

Let me tell you, a hurricane party gets a lot less fun after five days. So when we heard that Governor Christie had declared Atlantic City OPEN FOR BUSINESS on Saturday, we took our business right down to the Jersey Shore for lights, heat, and HOT WATER!!!

I heard a choir of angels when I laid eyes on this hotel bathroom.

First change of clothes, first shower in five days. First good night’s sleep in six. All that, and Chinese food too!

Next order of business was to check out the boardwalk, which I feared had been devastated. I prepared for the worst, but the good news is that the boardwalk looked 100% fine, and the GREAT NEWS is that through the heroic efforts of Alley Cat Allies of Atlantic City the boardwalk citizens looked FABULOUS! (I know you know who  I’m talking about.)

I had brought water for the colony, which this guy is politely drinking, but I can assure you that there was plenty of water, food, and fresh straw bedding in the igloos under the boardwalk…

…and the colony is safe. Whew.

After a glorious 30 hours in Atlantic City it was time to return to our own colony, where it was still pitch black, ice cold, and Chinese-food free. It was so cold that I slept in my clothes, and then got up the next morning and put more clothes on top of the ones I’d slept in to prepare for the worst part of Hurricane Sandy: the cleaning of the one-week non-functional fridge.

I had just hosed bits of rancid cream cheese off the last shelf when I saw the refrigerator light go on

All that is left are reminders of what it was like to be young and single.

…and I knew that my hurricane was over.

Thank you, one and all, dear friends and readers, for your emails and your concern. Compared to the ongoing misery of so many people in our area, Top Cat and I have much to be grateful for, and much work to do in lending a hand in the clean up and the recovery.

 

 

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We had a heavy rain here on the north shore of Long Island last week and it was mighty helpful in bringing down some decent-sized leaves from trees that are still a week or two from their peak colors.  So I took my crutches and hobbled over to the neighbor’s front yard and spent a very happy half hour staring down at the ground, poking at this windfall to find leaves with personality that I could paint for you all. So here is your mutt maple leaf  (see above, as per your request, dear readers) that can be yours in my Fall Leaf Give Away (see below).

Yes, I like these new paints mucho.The colors are more vivid and so true to nature. Fun!

And yes, I painted another mutt maple leaf  with personality  for another lucky winner (each leaf takes about 80 minutes to paint each leaf, which takes time away from the hours that I want to sit in front of my computer watching the Psy Gangham Style video which I know we all want to get back to, so I’ll make this quick and not give you the cell-by-cell newsreel on this one):

Here’s how you can win one of these hand-painted (and, eventually, hand autographed) Fall Leaves:

5″ x 7″, tea bag not included.

1. Leave a Comment below. Your Comments are each assigned a number by the gremlins that host this blog (WordPress) and that includes the hundreds of spam (tiresome, endless spam) Comments I get, which is why this next step makes sense:

2. Top Cat has randomly chosen two numbers. If that number corresponds to your Comment # or, in the case of a spam Comment hitting that lucky #, the one just before it, you will win one of these Fall Leaves. I will announce winers next Frida, and send them wafting your way as soon as I receive your mailing address.

By the way, the numbers you want to hit are  2391  and  2954 .

Good Luck to you all!

 

 

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Already these mornings are dark when I make my first cup of tea of the day.

There goes another Summer.

This week I even held my hands over the stove to warm them up while I waited for the water to boil — first time since last April. And I automatically put on a fleece when I head out to the backyard to give the wild cats their breakfast.

Yes, that’s the Sumer of 2012 behind you already.

I have a sudden craving for hot soups and thick blankets and new notebooks. Yes, those are the signs of Fall alright.

Top Cat on the shore of the Long Island Sound on the last Sunday of Summer

That’s the last we’ll see of lazy sunsets until the next Equinox. From here on, sundown means business:

The skyline of Manhattan across the Long Island Sound. To the far right: The Empire State Building; to the far left, the Freedom Tower, 104 stories above Ground Zero.

Get yourself squared away and tucked up for Winter! Projects! It’s time to set some goals, make some self-improving agendas to get us through the dark days ahead!

 Or you could do as I do, and just make sure there’s a case of champagne ready to set out, bottle by bottle, in all those lovely Winter snowdrifts to come.

But whoa, I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s still plenty of work to be done before we can knock off for our longWinter nap. I, for one, have a Key West garden to paint (continued from last week).

As you know, Key West is lousy with two things: cats, and sunsets. So whatever you paint in Key West has to have a sunset:

HUGE — this sunset is HUGE: 12 x 18 inches (two-page spread)

Painting the ocean was a bit trickier, but with practice…

Try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.

…I finally felt ready to commit:

So far so good

Now all I had to do was not screw up the beach. Which I did…I painted such an ugly grove of beach trees (not palms — Australian Pines) that I can not even show you, it’s that ugly. So here’s how I salvaged this illustration:

Smoooooth moves

I simply painted a new verso side of my two-page spread, and then painted in ONE silhouette of an Australian Pine:

I’m like a secret agent, with license to cheat!

When you see this illustration all cropped and tidy in my Damn Garden Book, you will never even suspect that it’s a “marriage” of two separate paintings. And that, my dear readers,  is how you finesse it when you are too ham-handed to paint a grove of Australian Pines on a Key West beach. (And I actually improved the coastline with that fixer-upper painting, IMO.)

Did I hear someone say “That Vivian! She’s like a 007 of the art world!!”

Christie’s London has sent me their spiffy fat catalog of their upcoming James Bond sales on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5. I guess I’m on their radar for Hollywood collectibles because of the bidding war I waged for one  of Elizabeth Taylor’s fabulous caftans at her estate sale in New York last year (read all about that here).

Posters

There’s memorabilia and movie props from every Bond movie for sale, from Sean Connery…

Sunglasses from Quantum Solace, $3,000 – 4500. You should see Lot 49: Daniel Craig’s swim trunks!

…to Daniel Craig. There’s Bond cars, Bond tuxedos, Bond hotel mementos, Bond Girl frocks, etc. Here’s the thing: because I am a VIP, I was able to get another copy (rare in the US) of this cool catalog FOR YOUSE.  I expect that this catalog, like the sales catalogs for the estates of Elizabeth Taylor; and Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra (in both of which yours truly played a bit part as Faberge expert and horologist at Christie’s…I could tell you stories), Diana Princess of Wales (private showing of her gowns that went on sale just a few moths before her tragic death) etc. will become a collector’s item in itself.

So if there is anyone out there in Vivianworld who would like to have a 50 Years of James Bond The Auction catalog ($50 value), please leave a Comment below (or, leave a Comment even if you don’t dream of owning Daniel’s Craig’s swim trunks). I will leave this offer open until Wednesday, Sept. 26 to give every reader a fair shot, and then Top Cat will pick the winner at random from those of you darlings who have volunteered to give this book a good home. We will notify you then, to get your mailing address.

And until next week, when we will all be in Full Fall Mode, I hope you’ll all take the opportunity to wave good-bye to the last Summer sunset of 2012.

Another sign of Fall: Top Cat and I have already begun our Fall/Winter/Spring argument about whether it’s too cold in the house or OK just as is DON’T TOUCH THAT THERMOSTAT.

 

 

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Since the world revolves around me, let me say that there are two kinds of readers in the world: Those who read my first book first

Scenes from When Wanderers Cease to Roam

…and think that When Wanderers Cease to Roam is the kind of book I should always write…

More scenes from When Wanderers Cease to Roam

…and those who read my second book first

Scenes from Le Road Trip

…and think Le Road Trip isn’t as bad as the first kind of reader thinks it is.

More scenes from Le Road Trip

Either way,  you readers are committed to books in a way that I totally understand. You depend on books to help you furnish a richly appointed inner life.

My lovely reader Janet B. puts both my first and second books to good use.

 

Now, I have heard from readers who read my first book first that my second book suffers by comparison, in that Le Road Trip is not as free-ranging a narrative as the one they enjoyed in When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

First things first, you know, in this book my first priority was France.

The most delightful criticism I have read, so far, from a reader who read this second book first (and obviously did not know what she was in for) is that half-way though Le Road Trip she got tired of all the cats, already.

I rarely burst out laughing while reading a negative review, but this one made me almost choke on my tea.  That is funny! Too many cats! AS IF there could EVER be too many cats!

This isa sampler for Dear Reader Joan, who requested some pix of the Damn Garden Book.

But I thank all you readers who have suggested that I go back to my Wanderers roots and be more of a roamer in my next book, which will be somewhat easier to do than with the Damn France Book since the garden book is a travelog of the ten most unusual, interesting, dopey, intellectual, idiosyncratic, overwhelming, romantic, and inspiring gardens I’ve experienced in Africa, South America, Europe, and the USA.

But I do warn you that if you don’t like cats, you can not come with me to the special garden in Key West. Because (as I say in the Key West chapter), if you don’t like cats…





…you have no business hanging at in Key West. They are everywhere in the Conch Republic.

Thank you, Dear Commentors and Readers, for your get well wishes last week.  All the nuisance paperwork since the emergency room visit has been filed,  surgery is scheduled for next Friday, Top Cat has stocked the fridge with champagne and angel food cake for my recovery.

 

 

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How was your Labor Day holiday? Did everyone manage to stay out of the Emergency Room? Or am I the only one?

This is a picture of me after I ruptured my quadricep tendon by going for a personal best in the local Labor Day Triathelon  running up the stairs at my uncle’s cabin in upstate New York.  So you can say that I’ve had better holidays.

That’s why I’m going to tell you a story I call:

I’m Hip. Really. No, Really.

Once upon a time, last week, when it was sunny and hot and lucious — the last week of Summer . . .

I was running  errands  in the village, and since I was going out in public I’d pulled on a brown skirt so I’d look presentable (after all, I know people in this town).  OK, the skirt had an elastic waistband, and I had my worst-looking pair of sneakers on, and I thought that my sunglasses were dark enough that I wouldn’t have to put make-up on, but really: I thought I was decent enough for my public appearance.

Being out and about means that I have to cross a very busy main street in this village, which always makes me fearful. I’ve learned that you should always assume that Long Island streets are full of Long Island traffic with Long Island drivers who are: (1) busy texting, reading, doing their nails, or in such a goddam hurry that they WILL mow you down (2) drunk.

So I practice defensive walking accordingly.

I waited at the light, and on the other side on the busy main street I noticed two teenage girls also waiting to cross.  They were heartbreakingly lovely:  long glossy hair, tall and tanned,  wearing short shorts and teeny tops and giggling about something to each other. The light changed and I began my “Don’t Kill Me I’m Only Trying To Cross The Street” scurry.

I have bad knees, arthritis from all that pogoing to punk bands and various bar fights back in my hey day, and when I scurry across a busy main street I do not lope gracefully. I scurry like the crippled, barnacled, terrified-of-dying pedestrian that I am.  Only this time, I was scurrying with the soles of my sneakers and my brown skirt flapping in the breeze.  I must have looked like a horseshoe crab in a tutu.

The teenage girls on the other side of the street had not immediately noticed that the light had changed and I was  half way across the street before the teenage girls deigned to set  foot in the crosswalk, and I met them a few paces into their leisurely stroll across the road.

I had not planned to say anything at all to these girls, but before I knew it this came out of my mouth:

You better hurry!” I barked at them; “Or you won’t get across the street before the light changes!

Of course they looked at me with utter incomprehension (and a little bit of fear — who was this crazy lady barking at them in the road???) while  not breaking their stride one bit, and continued their slow amble across the road. I, from the safety of the sidewalk, had to turn back to watch how serenly those girls g-l-i-d-e-d to the other side, safely, even after the light had turned red. And then I started to laugh.

How could I have forgotten??  That  two heartbreakingly lovely teenage girls in short shorts and teeny tops with gleaming hair and tanned skin KNOW, in every cell of their beings, they KNOW that they never have to hurry to cross a busy street because traffic will ALWAYS stop — for them.

How could I have forgotten the power that beautiful girls wield?  These girls will grow up to be the beautiful girl in your college English class who can’t write a sentence — she connects all her phrases with dashes — like this — for pages at a time — which your besotted professor will hail as “epigrammatic”  while Sharla (yes, that will be her name) tosses her frosted blonde hair in insincere modesty.  They will grow up to be the beautiful co-workers who are allowed to skip a day of work when they call in “tired” (oh yes, this is true),  and the beautiful wife who gets to tear out the gorgeous French Rustic kitchen in the  mansion her husband bought for her so she could put in a new French Rustic kitchen because (as one such wife complained to me) “The old one was eleven years old!”

I had to laugh.  The only people who have to worry about getting across a busy street in one piece in life are us people who only have good personalities.

 

And what I was thinking, wearing that brown skirt. It’s like I was just begging to get hit by a bus.

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On my bookshelf, Le Road Trip is between Beatrix Potter and Serious Literature

…speaking of Le Road Trip, if you’re not ca va with Amazon.com, please feel free to leave a review at Goodreads or the interweb/social media nexus of your choice (hell…go walk down Interstate 95 screaming READ THIS BOOK!!!!!) and email me  with your address so I can put you on my exclusive, coveted ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!!!

(Hello First Time Readers! See two weeks’ ago post to decipher this.)

So, putting my work world problems on the back burner for now, do you all realize that this is the last weekend in AUGUST already???

Oscar and Taffy, seizing the day.

There’s only a limited number of days of that Summer Je Sais Exactement Quoi left.

It’s in that certain quality of light…

Amazing grace.

…that enlightens…

Notice the bonsai in the window box!

…even as it illuminates the ordinary.

PLEASE take a walk this weekend, and keep an eye out for something EXTRAORDINARY. You never know what treasures you might find out there…

…even if it only looks like some piece of tissue-paper trash that got blown against a neighbor’s fence that got rained on and that got baked to a crisp for a few days until it was totally disintegrated by the forces of nature…

…there just might be something special in that muck:

Oh, if only I could not read English and could imagine that this fine calligraphy which is melded unto this frail fallen leaf spoke of enchantments and longing and eternal devotion and stuff.

Anything is out there, in the last light of August.

 

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Yes, I suffer as a ham-handed paint scrubber artist.

Preliminary sketches, all of them totally wrong.

I don’t care how many times I have to draw it, over and over again, I am driven by despair and low self-esteem my ideals to get it right.

I don’t care how many times I have to paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it again, I cry bitter tears over my inadequacies steadfastly pursue my  masochistic perversion artistic vision.

I don’t stop until I get it slightly less crappy right. And do you know why?

Because of you. Yes, YOU.

You, dear readers, are the best people out there in Book World . Thank you all for answering the call to give Amazon a piece of your mind re: Le Road Trip. I am deeply touched and profoundly grateful for your wonderful feedback and guidance to the millions of people who ave yet to buy a copy of Le Road Trip. You deserve the very best reading experience that this pea brained ink-stained egomaniac humble book writer can give, so I slave over every detail on every page that I offer to you, you thoughtful caring seekers of literature.

That goes for the bilge content of this blog too. So, today, I am going to share with you one of my trade secrets. I’m going to show you show you how to paint gravel, such as that which appears in the pathways (above) of my quaint knot garden in Edinburgh:

Let’s say you have a gravel path you want to paint:

The first thing you do is make a quick wash over the entire surface like this:

When the wash is dry, cover the un-painted bits with whatever is handy — anything will do, even scrap paper. For you, dear readers, I used my prettiest purple paper:

You’ll need an old toothbrush for the next step, and you’ll get a far better result if you use a float-topped brush, like the pink one shown here, rather than the fancy pointy one (which, despite its scientific appearance, did not have the necessary aerodynamics):

Dip the tip of the toothbrush into water…

… and scrub the tip of that brush into dark paint and load it up with pigment:

You can use dark brown paint, or deep blue, if you’d like — depends on the kind of effect you want. Feel free to experiment. You’ll notice I’m using my old paints here . For certain textures or color schemes, I like the slightly muted colors I get from these cheap paints.

Now you’re going to use your index finger to flick the bristles of your toothbrush and splatter paint:

Let dry, and reveal:

Now,  when I did this technique on my garden illustration (way above) it was a bit more complicated because the spaces that I wanted to cover with splatter were very intricate. Luckily for me, I had a false start when I first tried to paint this bugger (for the sixth time):

So I took that false start and I cut it up to make a stencil to lay over y painting before I let rip with the toothbrush splatter :

Voila:

Now, having finished painting this scene for the sixth time, I have recently learned that I might have to do this all over again.

After two books that were the same trim six (9 x 8 inches), I began doing pages for my garden book in that exact same trim size.  But just last week my agent asked me to consider working in a new format.”Try making your new book smaller, like reading book size,” she said. “It’ll help booksellers [people who own book shops] shelve it, and display it.”

I’m all about making life easier for booksellers. I want to make it easy as pie for them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books. I need them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books or else I have no validation as a human being. ha ha.

So what that means is,  my next book might have considerably smaller pages. That is, the same size as 50 Shades of Gray, or Eat, Pray Love.

Hmmmmmm. I like the idea, but I don’t know if I can work in such cramped margins. This might seriously cramp my style. But, if it means more books will be sold

That black rectangle is the size of your average multi-million-seller, compared to Le Road Trip.  This might be the size of my next book.

What do you think?

 

P.S. My sister pointed out a flaw in my request for Amazon reviews last week, in that some people don’t like Amazon. I forgot to address that in this week’s post, but I will have a Plan B next week. Sorry for the inconvenience — we’ll make it right! I need everybody on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!

 

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