Fall painting

On the sidewalk in front of my house, 10:01 AM, Thursday, November 2, 2017. At last I have found a good use for the pavement that no one on Long Island ever uses.

I went Fall Leaf hunting yesterday morning. The weather has turned a bit cooler this past week with a few days of hard rain, so there was quite a lot to choose from right in my own font yard.

My Perfect Fall Leaf has to have an interesting “color story”, as you can see from some of my past Perfects:

Maybe you can tell that I have a preference for Oak leaves, especially ones that exhibit a little bit of rot. The shape is breath-takingly exquisite, but the problem is that Oak trees tend to zap straight from their Summer shade of dull olive green to their Fall shade of drabbier-than-drab brown.  It’s a real treat when I can find an Oak leaf that has a color story to tell, but that is exceedingly rare. That Oak leaf that you see directly above is practically a miracle: I’ve NEVER seen one that was so chronically complex and that is why that leaf is my favorite painting ever.

In my perusal of my front yard yesterday morning, I found two leaves that might be thought-provoking enough to paint. I have placed them between two wet paper towels and stored them in the refrigerator until I finish putting this post up. Then I’ll make a cup of tea and pull them out and consider whether their stories are worth my telling.

My story for this post is that I had a very literary week, in that one night I went to a book event for a well-known ghost writer, and a few evenings later I attended a swell “do” that featured a panel of distinguished lady writers: a biographer, a memoirist, a novelist, and a short-fiction writer. Except for the short-fiction writer, the panel was mind-numbingly lackluster and I nearly expired out of boredom so I will not go into details except to say that writers who spend a lot of time teaching college tend to not have much awareness that people attending book events don’t want to hear a droning monologue. That might work with a captive audience of college freshman, but not in the real world.

This has nothing to do with this week’s blog but I need to break up the text so here’s a pic of my desk lamp. I cleared away the cobwebs three weeks ago but this is what I’m dealing with now and I can’t bring myself to evict whoever is living there because spiders are “good” things, but whenever I sit at my computer I get the feeling that there are spiders crawling in my hair.

The book event I attended was for Daniel Paisner, and it was evident that his humor and intelligence are what makes him the go-to ghost writer for celebrities in the sports and entertainment world. He gave a lively and fun event while not saying anything critical about any of the personalities he’s collaborated with, which is saying a lot because he ghost wrote Ivanka Trump’s first book The Trump Card and I asked him specifically about that smug, dim-witted, crypto-Nazi bitch experience and he still did not have a bad world to say.

His discretion is another reason why he’s at the top of his profession.

But writing is basically a horrible profession that turns people into skin bags of regret, even for a writer as successful as Mr. Paisner. There he was, telling stories about the presidents and movie stars he’s met and worked with, and the weird places he’s traveld to with politicians and athletes, and the intimate conversations and lasting friendships he’s made with his high-achieving subjects, and a young guy in the back row raised his hand and asked Mr. Paisner the question we all were dying to ask: How does a person get into the ghost writing biz?

And Daniel Paisner told the young man that he (Daniel Passer) could not recommend, not at all, that anyone take that career path. Ghost writing (said Mr. Paisner) will kill the possibilities of your having a literary career. AS IF THAT WAS A BAD THING.

I’ve written three books, and the process is so horrible that I am loathe to subject myself to it for a fourth time. I don’t want to sit in a room for three years by myself, doubting every damn word I write, for less than minimum wage, just so some half wit can plaster a bad review about it on Amazon because she didn’t like it that I packed a cashmere sweater when I went to Paris. (True story.)

I will happily, merrily, with a song in my heart be glad to ghost write anybody’s book if it let me GET OUT OF THE HOUSE and meet interesting, non-writer people, travel on somebody else’s expense account, and make lots of money.

As it is, all I get are “offers” to” take dictation” from guys who “have a book inside me but I just doesn’t have the patience to write it”, a book that this busy person won’t pay me for because it’s “sure to be a best seller”.

Well. I only have myself to blame. I picked the worst time in history to be an author. Another writer beautifully described what the thrill of getting published is like these days: It’s like being a Russian Princess, but it’s the eve of the Revolution. 

I’m going to close here and check out my Fall Leaf situation in the refrigerator. But instead of tea, I think I’ll make me a cup of vodka and be thankful that I’m not successful enough to be plagiarized, which I hear is a big problem when you’re a famous writer (my writer’s career cup runneth over with half-fullness).

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers: May all your glasses be, like mine, half-full instead of half-empty, unless it’s a tea cup of vodka, and then make sure all your glasses are full.

Read more

The fact that December is a Fall month has never been self-evident here on the north shore of Long Island, except for this year of Our Global Warming 2015.

P1040935

I have yet to wear my winter coat this season…and that’s never happened this far into the season.

P1040503

Please enjoy this pictures of Climate Change (and what the gardeners call “Winter Interest”), let me respond to some recent Comments to this Blog/Not Instagram.

P1040995

Linda June and Jeanie: I’m sorry for the confusion: My Damn Garden Book (Gardens of Awe and Folly) comes out on March 1, 2016. The various pre-reviews I’ve been bragging about in my posts come from industry publications that let book stores and libraries know what’s in the pipeline so they can plan their book-buying budgets. When the DGB comes out in the Spring there will be another round of reviews for the retail (individual) buyer. Sigh. The judging never ends.

P1050003

Mary: I went to Rio in my mid-30s for business (fancy auction hose business). I had never had Rio de Janeiro on my Must See List because face it, Brazil is a guy’s kind of place…but my visit there changed the way I looked at life on Earth. Read all about it in the DGB — I don’t mean to plug the Damn Garden Book but it’s a long story and, well, Iv’e already typed it once before.

P1050035

Megan: Is there a berry sushi (SUSHI??? That’s Auto Correct for “bush”) your garden? Were the berries fermenting? Birds are big boozers, you know. I think you might have had a drunk chickadee on your hands.

P1050038

Deborah: Great Instagram idea: Things I Pry Out Of My Puppy’s Mouth. No narrative necessary. And I’m with you about getting all three of my books reviewed in the New York Times. It’s the reason I check my e-mail every five minutes…I keep hoping that there’s a message from my agent telling me that I’ve landed the cover of the Sunday Times Book Review. OR, that Taylor Swift just tweeted a pic of the DGB cover to her 50 million followers. OR, that the Duchess of Cambridge was photographed carrying a copy of When Wanderers Cease to Roam. It’s sad how much mental energy I spend on the wishful thinking part of being an author.

Patricia: I saw a Stellar jay once in my life and it was FANTASTIC. I hope that when I come to Seattle on book tour that I get out to the woods to see another one. I’m greedy that way.

The next few photos are shots I took while driving. It’s been a rainy week and I like how the tree bark gets dark against the bright yellow foliage so I’ve been keeping my camera in my car to click while I pass the best views of these kinds of woods:

P1050067

Felicia: It’s all about the Grok, which is also a word I did not use because I think it’s a bit obscure but if you’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land and discounted all the dirty old man sexist stuff, you’ll know how good a word it is.

P1050070

I am crazy about tree forms this year and when I see a good tree on the side of the road, I either pull over so I can snap a picture of it (above), or I hope for a stop sign and come to a full stop (!!!), like I did here:

P1050072

Trees in the morning mist near the Dunkin Donuts on Northern Boulevard:

P1050074

Kirra and Carol, I’m looking at these trees with my Blue Jay eyes and I know I’ll use this in some future illustration, where these trees will be in their own forest far, far away from parking lots and T-Mobile stores.

Now this is where Top Cat says my blog posts always go on for too long. I can’t wrap this up until I send out these pix of (some) my cats, in a series I call Cats Contemplating Fall:

P1040579

P1120499

P1120502

P1120630

P1040874

And Diane in Denver, I didn’t gorget you! Last weekend T.C. and I and T.C.’s son from California walked in Caumsett State Historic Park in Huntington …

P1040947

P1040954

…and I did! I did! I waved at the beautiful Long Island Sound for you!

P1040951

P.S. Is anybody reading this on an iPhone? And is the reading experience totally kattywampus (because I compose this on a big ancient 2011 iMac)? Just wondering, for when I ditch this old hardware and take up Instagram.

Read more

This was October:P1040216

This (same place, same time of day) is November:

P1040820

It gets worse.

This was October 31 at my favorite local public garden, Cedarmere (home of the forgotten famous poet, William Cullen Bryant):

IMG_0790

This is the same place, on November 18 this year:

P1040788

And this is the same exact place on November 18, 2012:

P1120519 copy

Come with me, further down this path (on Nov. 18, 2012):

P1120520 copy

And take this same walk with me on Nov. 18, 2015:

P1040832

Let us turn and look back (on Nov. 18, 2012):

P1120525

And let’s see what it looks like exactly (to the day) three years later:

P1040829

The difference is not the wild and unpredictable vagaries of Autumn. The difference is this:

P1040831

Between the time I took the October photo of this woods and the November photo of this same woods, there as been a lot of chopping down of these woods and Thank Goodness. There was just too much beauty going on here. Thank goodness that someone saw that, and chopped down all those offensive red maple trees and cleared the view of all its ability to inspire poetry and romance in the heart of any passer-by. Whew.

It’s exactly like what happened to me this past week. I’ve heard tell that blogs are out of style these days, and that Instagram is now the portal to modern culture and relevancy, and as I like to feel with it when it comes to not turning into one of those people who can’t stop talking about how much better things used to be [before hipsters and their damn tattoos, reality TV, smart phones, rap music, you name it],  I was looking for a way to check out this strange new world via my trusty Apple computer. One thing led to another and another until there I was, “upgrading” my entire operating system to the latest new hip version, which Apple calls El Capitan.

El Capitan has cleared out all the ease and comfort that I used to have when I used my trusty computer — yay — so that I can now, indeed, get a clear view of this Instagram thing. I don’t get it…why people just want to look at pictures of other people’s lunches and relatives and black and white photographs of vegetables… but I’m following Taylor Swift.

And now let’s us have some fun: Last week’s Triscuit…

P1040738

…inspired Dear Reader Jane to get out her brand new Grumbacher paints and do some dabbing of her own! She sent me this photo of her Triscuit-making:

IMG_0390

Well done! And thank you!

And as I hinted at last week, I have some unfinished painting business to get to today, so let us put all thoughts of regretful operating system updates and blog-quitting in favor of snap-shooting what I’m going to have for lunch aside and get to it!

Back to the un-axed days of October:

IMG_0790

I start by laying down a few very watery patches of color…

P1040601…including yellow for background “light’:

P1040603

Working “wet on wet” — over-laying another color onto still-wet paint, I bleed in some bright green in the background:

P1040605

Now I dab is some middle-ground color:

P1040610

P1040615

Well, it looks to me as if I over-did the background bleeds…

P1040617

…so let’s start over, and this time let’s put down the yellow first (the most important color in this picture):

P1040620

Then do the blue sky:

P1040621

Let’s keep the background reds to a minimum this time:

P1040623

Just a touch of deeper vermillion:

P1040624

I have an over-fondness of bleeds, I think:

P1040626

The trick, again, is to dab in color without dabbing in too much (which would make it turn to mud):

P1040628

Add some ground color here…

P1040629

…and we have our background wash, ready to paint in the middle and foregrounds:

P1040630

I must mention painting with clean water is essential to giving life to watercolor. During the course of this wash, I’ve already used two or three changes of water. I use several 8-ounce jam jars at a time, each filled with water, so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and dump out dirty water for new. I never let my water get any dirtier than this:

P1040651

Now that everything is bone dry, I dab in areas of color into the middle ground of the picture. Notice that I use the word “dab“. I am not stroking my brush against the paper, I’m just tap-tap-tapping the point of my brush onto the surface. I vary the shape and color density of each dab to give a random pattern effect:

P1040632

When I want more detail, I switch to my Size 00 brush, but I do not stroke paint into the picture: I still just dab at the surface of my paper:

P1040635

These yellow in the very center of this scene will be the focus of this picture…

P1040636

…but I made them too dark. So I’m going to rescue this picture by going over this area with white acrylic paint (I use white acrylic paint like it was Wite-Out):

P1040637

Now comes the fun part! I get to add dark dabs! And now the picture is taking real form:

P1040639

P1040644

P1040647

P1040649

I hope you can see how, working from the lightest wash in the background to the darkest bits in the foreground, this picture has a kind of “glow” that imitates light:

P1040652

Now I’m going to add color and texture to the center of this picture to make those yellow leaves and those silhouetted trees at the end of the trail (which are the focus of this pic) “pop”:

P1040654

P1040655

If you compare this (below) to the pic above, you can see how I am now painting a background of dark green color around the light green that I dabbed in, to make the foreground foliage stand out:

P1040656

And now I paint over the white acrylic paint to make my yellow leaves:

P1040657

Tree time:

P1040659

P1040660

I have already eliminated the fence in the right hand side of the photo because I thought that adding such a feature in this pic would make too much visual clutter…and now I’m thinking that I should have eliminated this dark, back-lit tree also, because I liked this pic more about four steps ago, when it still had happy, impressionistic look. Ah, well, let’s see if we can make this old tree work:

P1040661

The first thing I want to do is soften the root system, using my favorite trick — the bleed. So I hose that baby down with a brush full of clear water:

P1040662

While it’s still wet, I’m going to quickly work in some greenery…

P1040665

…and some brownery…

P1040667

…and I’m going to spread out some more dirt-ery (using a very wet brush to dilute the paint)…

P1040668

P1040669

…and stroke in some black shadowy stuff…

P1040671

…and bleed in some more greenery and blackery:

P1040672

Works for me. The more confident I become with my watercolor painting skills, the more I like to let the paints do their watercolor-thing, let the pigment and the water stand like a signature of the flow and spontaneity of the medium.

When I compare my painting to the reference photo, I think that the pic needs some more darkness in the way back, to make the light at the end of this path “flicker” more:

P1040674

P1040676

Now I take another look, and something tells me that I am done with the back and middle grounds here:

P1040677

It’s time to tackle that big dark back-lit evergreen that looms over this scene:

P1040679

I don’t want to over-do it. Less is more, so again I “edit” this view for the sake of visual clarity in the painting:

P1040681

I’m calling this picture DONE.

P1040688

P1040739

I call this painting Cedarmere Woods The Way It Will Never, Ever Look Again.

I wish you all, my Dear Readers, a Happy and Merry Thanksgiving.

Read more

This is October on Long Island:P1040221

Same place, same time of day, this is now:

P1040691

This was me, a mere 10 days ago, taking a photo that I forgot to load onto last week’s blog post:

P1040414

Ahhhhhh…. Good book, warm Fall sunshine, nice knot garden on view, and a big fat G&T in the thermos.

It’s been raining for four days (see now pic, above). I haven’t seen the sun for four days. The only bright spot has been re-reading Big Magic:

Unknown

Throw away any book, video, or blog by any other  “creativity” counsellor, particularly if that “creativity” counsellor is famous only for being married to Martin Scorcese for 5 minutes. This is the only How To advise you will need.

Elizabeth Gilbert cows what she’s talking about when she talks about creativity — she’s the author of Eat Pray Love (and she blurbed my book, Le Road Trip, so you know she has impeccable taste), not to mention Pilgrims (her first book, from 1997, awarded the Pushcart Prize and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award), Stern Men (selected by the New York Times as one of their favorite books of 2000), The Last American Man (a nominee for the National Book Award), Coyote Ugly (made into a Hollywood movie), and the historical novel The Signature of All Things.

Liz Gilbert lives a creative life and she gets things done. That’s why you can take her advise all the way to the bank (the Bank of Artful Living, that is).

Now, fear (as in the subtitle, covered in her chapter on Courage) is not my thing per se, but I found her chapters on Enchantment, Persistence, and Trust to be re-re-re-readble. When I went to hear Liz speak at Word Books in Jersey City on Oct. 29th:

P1040307

…and was chatting with a few ladies in the audience as we tried to keep our nerves calm for when Liz appeared on stage, I know that there are people who also love her chapters on Permission and Divinity too.

By the way, the line of ladies waiting to get into the event (reservations necessary) went down the block:

P1040309

I hope Big Magic puts all self-proclaimed (but resume-challenged) “creative” counselors out of business.

Speaking of enlightenment, I realized that it’s been a while since I painted something enlightening in this space; I haven’t painted “light” like this:

P1040154

Since I painted this:

P1040740in a blog post I called Painting August.

So let’s call this:

IMG_0790

Painting October. And let’s make it a Triscuit!

P1040696

I’m laying down a yellow base to use as the light that is going to peek thru the foliage:

P1040698

And some bleeds of light brown and burnt sienna for the dead leaves on the foot path:

P1040699

Now, the foreground tree:

P1040701

Whenever I paint foliage, no matter what color it is, I dab at the paper with the tip of y brush, whether it’s a size 00 or a 10. But I take care to make sure that my dabs vary in size — it’s very important to make the blobs in different shapes to avoid the dreaded Seurat effect:

Unknown-1

So let’s carry on:

P1040703

P1040705

P1040709

P1040710

P1040713

Time to add shadows:

P1040716

Tree time:

P1040719

I can see that I need to make the shadows as dark as the tree bark here…

P1040720

…so I’ll do a fix and add more darker shadows:

P1040721

P1040723

Now I pant in all those itty bitty background trunks:

P1040725

For the finishing foliage I’m loading up my little brush with green to add to the blob of black/brown that I used for the shadows:

P1040728

The trick to this silhouetted foliage is to paint it in an interesting form that frames the rest of the picture:

P1040731

Like this, but not quite:

P1040733

I think it needs just a little bit of booster material:

P1040736DONE:

P1040737

And here’s my finished tid bit:

P1040738

I liked this view of October so much that I decided to try it out in a quadruple-Triscuit sized mural!

P1040629

And we’ll see how that turns out next week!

 

 

Read more