This is Candy, on the job:

She is clearly OK with the change to Daylight Savings time. Me, I’m still getting adjusted. I don’t know why it’s hitting me harder this year than previously, but I am still constantly surprised that the day just doesn’t feel right.

Candy’s patch of sunshine is at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor, in front of the archway that leads to the entire right-hand side of the house, so we have to tip-toe the long way around (hang a left and go through the dining room) because Candy is very skittish (after nine years of living with us) and we would wake her and freak her out if we got too close and you know Rule No. 1 in Cat Land:

Never Bother a Sleeping Kitty.

She’s near the pot of grass I bought for the cats, which no one even tasted, but which someone did sit on.

Last week, Dear Reader Jeanie asked about the bright green paint I used in my Monet lily pond painting. Here it is:

This wonderful picture of the Grumbacher 24-pan watercolor set is from the place I buy all my Grumbacher paints  from — Blick’s (on line and in person) and I was tickled to see that their photo featured the exact bright green paint that Jeanie asked about. It is called Leaf Green and it’s one of three greens that you get in a Grumbacher 24-pan watercolor set (the others are Sea Green and French Green).

My current working set of Grumbacher paints looks a lot less tasty than those spotless new ones:

And, if you remember from last week, here are those various Grumbacher paint colors in use:

We left off with me thinking that the water bits that make up the entire lower half of this picture look boring, and with Coco in the animal hospital getting teeth pulled so she could eat again. Coco is home, with far fewer teeth and great pain meds, and she is eating (YAY!). Look away from the next photo if you do not want to see the souvenirs the vet gave me when she sent Coco home (take note, cat people):

That’s a diseased incisor on the right, and a hunk of tartar on the left. It’s as hard as stone. Yikes. That is one huge hunk of tartar for one kitty. My vet said it was the biggest chunk of tartar she’s ever removed. My vet didn’t see the rotten incisor and molars and broken side teeth and tartar until Coco was out cold. Feline dentistry must be done when the cat is knocked out, because those wascally wabbits will not let a vet get a good look if they are awake and pissed off at being at the vet’s. You have to take the chance and put your old cat under, just to make sure he/she isn’t hiding a great deal of pain in their mouths. FYI.

But cat care is only part of my job description. Let’s get back to what earns me the big bucks, which is rescuing a  picture of Monet’s garden from deadly boredom.  Here’s is what I did about it:

Oh lordy, the pic looks ten times worse now. It’s even MORE boring than before! This is a terrible, criminal waste of paint. This picture totally and whole-heartedly sucks.

There are a lot of things wrong with this pic, but the one that jumps out at me now is the bridge. How did I not notice, before this, that I got it all wrong? Totally wrong. Amateur-hour wrong. It’s embarrassing. It’s like I wasn’t even looking at the bridge and just slapped in something that looked “bridge-ish”. I hate myself.

It’s my job to steal ideas from other artists  stay informed of other artist’s renderings of this scene, so a quick search of the inter webs yielded this:

painting credit: Carol Gadek Skapinetz

Yes, that’s Monet’s bridge, and it’s perfect. Seven upright railings and four supports to the over-head canopy. Well done. But if something looks a-miss here, something that looks like we’re  not in Kansas France anymore, you would be right. This is a painting called Monet’s Bridge but here’s the catch:  it’s Monet’s Bridge in the Gibbs Gardens in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

So there you go: There’s an exact replica of Monet’s bridge in Georgia. They even planted a Copper Beech next to it. Well, La-Di-Dah.

No, wait. That was Annie Hall. The culturally appropriate Scarlet O’Hara is who I’m going for. Wasn’t her catch phrase, “Christ on a cracker”, or am I remembering someone else?

Dear Readers, I think you deserve to see a great photo of Monet’s Bridge in Gibbs Gardens in Georgia:

Photo credit: Randy Clinkscales.

Beautiful. (Awesome reflection, too.)

If you ever want to paint Monet’s bridge, it behooves you to take a look at this beauty in the Gibbs Gardens in Georgia is all I’m saying, because it’s the best look at Monet’s bridge that you’re going to get. Trust me. The real bridge is hard to see because it’s hemmed in with a lot of flowering plants and verdure. Yes. I said “verdure”.

Here’s my best photo of the bridge from when I was in Giverny trying to get a good look at the thing, and as you can see, you can’t see much:

As usual, if you are searching for the best of Giverny on the internet, you end up looking at photos by the Grande Dame of Giverny, Ariane Cauderlier, at, who lives in a restored 15th century farmhouse down the road from Monet’s garden and has every day, four season access to it:

Ah, what a view. Check out Ariane’s blog (in French or English) for up-to-the-minute info on what’s going on in all things Monet. She took the snow scene (above) just last week, when Europe was hit with a nasty weather system from Russia that they called The Beast From the East. Catchy, non? 

God, I love the internet. But, getting back to the travesty-du-jour here on the north shore of Long Island, something must be done with this piece of crap:

Something like this:

I want to keep the background because I am quite pleased with the way the green from (I think) an alder tree, bleeds into dark red from a Copper Beech. Yuck. That Copper Beech.

I dislike red-leafed trees. In the words of the greatest female character, ever, from Star Trek: They are an offense to my eyes.

It is hard to get red watercolor to bleed into green watercolor without it turning into a brown mush, and I got lucky here in that both colors bled into each other but managed to stay  in-tact.  So why make more work for myself?  I’m keeping the background.

I’m happy about re-resucing this pic because it gives me the chance to re-boot the square format. I’ve become bored with four corners, so this is how I’ll be re-inventing this scene:

First, I painted the bridge in white acrylic and let it dry, so I could paint in the background without losing my lines. White acrylic paint is my go-to cure-all for whatever ails my watercolor:

Right: We’re going to go for some drama here. I left that little bit of pink sky peeking out from under the canopy of the bridge on purpose (it’s not there in nature) because every picture needs a Bull’s Eye.

And this is where I am leaving it for now. I have not figured out, yet, how to do the rest of the watery bits, and I don’t have a reference photo to use because I’M MAKING THIS UP : this is a sun set view and I’ve never been there at sun set. Well, in fact, I have been there at several sun sets, trespassing, but it was always either over-cast or Winter, when I was there, and the sky was cement gray. I like a pink sky better.

Can I just say something about being a pet owner?

There is no way in hell that I would ever let a fight attendant put my animal in the overhead compartment. I would get off the damn plane kicking and screaming and acting like a crazy person all the way before I stashed my dear companion in the overhead compartment. So, as vile as it is that there’s a flight attendant who would insist that a passenger put her animal in the overhead compartment, it is even more despicable that there’s an owner/  animal’s protector who would DO IT.

Lastly, I send 113,813 smooches to the voters of Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district for YOU KNOW WHAT (the first flip of the mid-term elections): Thank you. Yay Conor Lamb, Democrat, who won a solid Republican seat in the House of Representatives.

One down, 534 to go. (I’m an optimist.)

With the help of these awesome kids, we might just do it:

I have so much respect for the students who walked out on March 14. Stay mad, stay righteous, stay strong.

Yeah, I got the T-shirt. I can’t wait to wear it on March 24.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. I know you’re with me, on the right side of history.

Repeal the Second Amendment.


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Get your cats and your tea ready:

We are painting today!

No, not this: This is from 2010 when I was painting a page from my book Gardens of Awe and Folly with the help of Coco.


This is a photo from the archives of the New York Times, which sent a photographer to Claude Monet’s house in Giverny in 1922.

In 2012 the New York Botanical garden photoshopped the “unidentified person” next to Monet out of the pic and colorized it for a show there, in which Monet’s garden at Giverny was re-created in one of the hot houses (I thought it was an odd show) :

FYI: Monet preferred fawn-colored tweeds for his suits.

I always paint from photo references, and usually I only use my own photos. . . but I’ve been known to borrow pix from other sources (Hi Jeanie! Hi Elizabeth!), and this photo of Monet at age 82 on his Japanese bridge is irresistible, don’t you think? P.S.: I used the black and white photo for my paintings. The colorized one is not helpful.

I gave it a go way back in 2012:

Way back in 2012 I was still getting used to painting “large” pictures (as a miniaturist, my preferred format is about one-eight this scale) so no wonder the pic stinks.

Last year, after painting many “murals” for my garden book (5 inches x 7 inches is about the maximum size I can go), I had another try:

This painting is ripe for a rescue.

The smartest thing I did, when I re-painted this pic in 2012, was to leave a bit of blue sky in the top right corner. It’s not there in the reference photograph from 1922. I made an edit. I like it better with a bit of sky.

I have to rescue this pic two ways: I have to make it not stink, and I have to make it fit a square format. Lately I’ve been playing around with breaking my pictures out of a rectangular format, and playing with Monet’s own style. . . and that’s what I decided to do with this picture. I decided to leave the top bit intact (but make it better with added color and shading), and to expand the bottom, watery bit, but do it to look like this:

Sorry: I forgot that I do watercolor tutorials on my blog so I’ve already re-painted the top section and glued in a new bottom bit, and here is where we pick up this rescue:

Let me tell you, it was not easy to figure out how to add width and length to the bottom part of this pic. I thought I was good at piecing things together, but this one was harder than it looked. After fiddling around for about an hour, I got it right. . . this is what it looks like from the back:

The first order of business is to camouflage the hard edges. The good news is that there are reeds on either side of Monet’s Japanese bridge in his water garden at Giverny:

Spoiler alert: I know YOU see it now, but I will not notice that the sides of this rescue are uneven until the very end and I will have a mini-crisis because of it.

If you examine Monet’s paint surface closely, you will see that he uses short, dabbly brushstrokes:

I actually find Monet’s brushstrokes to be a bit wimpy. He is not very daring with his use of paint. COLOR, oui; paint, non.

I can see that Monet paints his lily pads blue, and the water green: Weird, huh? I can also see where Monet puts his light dabs of paint towards the center of the scene and his dark dabs of paint towards the edges, so I am trying to copy his color placement as best I can but, really, I don’t know what I’m doing and am just guessing, starting with dark green and switching to medium green:

Dashing in dabs of blue:

Finishing with lightest green:

The only advantage that watercolor has over oil paint is that watercolorists can use the whiteness of the paper to add sparkle to the painted surface. I am not trying to cover every bit of paper when I dab because leaving “blank” areas will only improve the faux-impressionist look I am going for.

When painting the reflections of the reed (or the willows) in the “water”, I use broken lines:

I also make sure that I place the darkest “reflections” correctly before I paint in the rest of the bits:

Here is where it occurred to me that I must show you a very handy painting tip: I keep my pre-painted picture safe from spills and dropped brushes loaded with paint  (it happens all the time) by inserting it into one of those plastic sheet protectors that you can get at Staples:

This is pretty close to how I set up my work space:

You can see that I am using my teeny tiny Winsor Newton paint set along with a few of my cheap-o Grumbacher chalky paints for this picture (tea bag included for size ref). And that’s it! It doesn’t take much equipment to paint your heart out!

Back to the rescue: now that I have come to the foreground of this picture, I have a decision to make about the size of the brushstrokes I’ll be using in this area. As a miniaturist, I’m happy using itty bitty strokes with a 00-size brush for the back and middle-ground of this picture. But it seems to me that the length of the strokes should increase as the picture comes “closer” to the viewer. I am not happy doing long brushstrokes with a bigger brush, so I did some practice bits before I committed paint to paper (I would hate to screw this up at this stage of the rescue):

OK, I think I can live with the longer strokes. So now that I have a plan, I go back to the right edge of the picture (because I am left-handed, my pictures usually start on the right side and work towards the left) and fiddle with the last bits of the pond surface. I have differed from the Monet painting which I am using as my guide in that I made a large area of the pond surface blue, rather than paint it in as green, just because I like the blue. I have to admit that, having painted in this nice pool of blue water, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of it in a way that makes sense visually. I am hoping for the best as I lay in the dark reeds’ reflection:

Another thing that I do, just because I like to, is that I “ripple” the surface of the water:

To do this, all you have to do is take a brush loaded with clear, clear water and swipe it back and forth across a painted surface, which picks up the pigment like an eraser (remember to wipe the brush off on a paper towel before you re-load it with clear, clean water for a second swipe).

Now I use my huge (ha ha, that’s a joke: it’s a size 1) brush to make those long strokes I practiced:

I think I painted that area too dark:

So I let it dry and then I use bright white acrylic paint to dab over the dark bits:

Looking at it now, I think I could have left that area alone — the dark bit doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I was in the throes of hoping not to ruin the picture when I was so close to the finish, but what can I say? I panicked.

I dash in some blue paint and look at those ENORMOUS brush strokes!:

For this last bit, I go easy on the vertical reflections (I use very watery paint and I don’t do much detail):

The last thing I have to paint are those damn water lilies. You can see that Monet put a lot of white/pink flowers in his picture:

I don’t want to do as many because although Monet can get away with it, I think that all those flowers in my picture would look cheesy. All you do is dab on some solid blobs of bright white acrylic paint over the watercolor:

Highlight the acrylic with hot pink, leaving at least half the lily in white :


When ruling out the picture for the crop, I realize that OMG OMG OMG I measured the scene incorrectly:

Whew. Thank DoG I had barely enough of a margin to go back and fix it!

And this is how this illustration will look on the page:


The next time you see this picture I hope it’s in a book about Monet’s garden.

This biography of Stevie Nicks (who needs no introduction) is not an authorized biography, so it has no contact with Stevie’s inner life — but it is excellent when it deals with her work life. The author, Stephen Davis, is a veteran rock journalist so he knows his way around a recording studio and the way in which songwriters cobble together their hits, and I was fascinated to read about the process Stevie went through whenever she had to come up with material for a Fleetwood Mac or a solo album.

Stevie hoarded all her song ideas for years and decades, in notebooks and on cassette tapes, all her bits and pieces — a title, a riff, half a verse, a whole song that never quite gelled — and this is where she started whenever she had to come up with new material. She rifled through her old journals and cassettes and looked for bits of gold dust. I loved reading this because that’s what I do! I never throw anything out!

A few weeks ago I showed you how I re-cycled bits of failed paintings (which I had kept in my Reject File for about three years) into a rescue:

I only wish that I had a producer on hand to direct me on how to spiff-up my pix: Stevie, on the other hand, had access to the best and she was very shrewd when she picked her collaborators and her producers. Producers can be crucial: one will hear something in a song fragment or idea that had been languishing for years, and he can turn into something powerful, something that Stevie would never have thought of on her own.

Edge of Seventeen, for example, is a song that was just a little pop ditty until producer Jimmy Iovine put a stinging Waddy Wachtel guitar riff on it.

Speaking of seventeen:

We must salute the awesomeness of the teenage students of Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School. You can visit the school’s website for tips on how you can support the political action of these amazing kids, or you can to to their  GoFundMe page,  or you can open up a can of whoop-ass and vote to defeat every sniveling, corrupt, crazy, and gutless psycho NRA-loving son of a bitch politician in 2018.

Stay sane this weekend, everyone. I know it’s hard: the NRA idiots are out already, claiming that the latest school shooting is another Sandy Hook hoax. But stay strong. We need you to not let these morons drive you crazy so we can get out and Vote Them Out.


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Have you ever tried to paint like Claude Monet? If so, did you attempt one of his huge “Grand Decoration” canvases?

I know, from experience, that using watercolors to copy an oil painting is hard. . .

. . .  so before I took on this scene of Monet’s waterlilies. . .

. . . I practiced:

If I were using oil paint, it would be easy to layer green on top of pink, but when it’s watercolor you have to be very careful because if you let them bleed too much into one another, all you get is a muddy brown soup.

I don’t have any “in progress” photos to show you because I was so sure that this would come out crappy and, in fact, for most of the time I was painting this Monet-esque pic, it did look like crap. I kept losing my place because I had to paint the greens separately and they didn’t make sense to me until very late in the game:

I don’t know if this is how Claude experienced his pictures, but for me it all came together only after I’d added the pink and blue water bits. Then I could see that where this pic was going.  Then I removed the resist that I’d applied to mask out the lily pads:

OK, now it look like a lily pond.

By the way, Monet cheats! If you look carefully at his later paintings, you’ll see that he outlines his lily pads, he doesn’t shadow them, which I call cheating! But I won’t complain too much because outlining them makes painting these things a whole lot easier. Also, Monet was in his 80s when he was painting these enormous murals, and was world famous and stinking rich, so he could outline anything he damn pleased, right?


I learned quite a lot about Monet’s methods, and this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be for my first attempt. I am ready to do this again because now I know better where the darks and lights go, and how to use the paint to make the “water surface” shimmer the way Monet does, and make the colors richer and more subtle. (I think.)

Believe it or not, Monet actually sketched out these murals before he painted them:

Obviously, Monet’s sketched in a language that only he could understand. But maybe “sketched” is not the right word; maybe he “mapped” out his paintings beforehand. We will never know: Monet was famously reticent about his process, and he never took pupils or taught anyone (except for his step-daughter, Blanche, but I can’t imagine that he was anything more than an encouraging pater to her). And Monet also lied: he claimed never to work in a studio but he completed almost ALL of his paintings indoors. So, maybe his “sketches” are just scribbles that he jotted to make people wonder what on Earth he was up to.

Scribbles and Earth: do you know about the Nazca lines?

These grand earthworks were scratched into the Nazca Desert in South America approximately 2,000 years ago. The large-scale drawings  depict animals, plants, imaginary creatures and geometric figures that are miles long. The Nazca lines stretch across an area of about 280 square miles in a remote part of Peru.

The first mention of the Nazca Lines in print was by the conquistador Pedre Cieza de Leon in his book of 1553, where he described them as trail markers. They were not fully understood as being earthworks until the 20th century, and are still being studied as the most mysterious remnants of a long-lost desert culture.

UNESCO celebrates the Nazca site as “the most outstanding group of geoglyphs anywhere in the world and are unmatched in its extent, magnitude, quantity, size, diversity, and ancient tradition to any similar work in the world.” In short, the Nazca lines are awesome.

On January 27, 2018, a 40-year old dipshit named Jainer Vigo drove a semitrailer . . .

. . . off-road into the Nazca Desert and plowed thru the fragile topsoil . . .

. . .  and “significantly” damaged three geoglyphs. The dips hit driver claimed that he had mechanical problems and didn’t know the area and didn’t see all the signs warning him against trespassing on this World Heritage Site. But the truth is that he drove off the nearby Pan-American Highway to avoid paying a toll.

Anyway, this dipshit was picked up by Peruvian police and brought before a magistrate, but the magistrate concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to indicate the driver acted with intent, so he was released. Thankfully, someone in the local prosecutor’s office has half a brain and it was announced that the local prosecutor’s office was appealing the judge’s decision, and is seeking nine months of preventive detention and a $1,550 fine while the investigation continues.

I ask you: Why in the world would intent matter in this case?

It’s the same thing as when I watch a defendant on Judge Judy explain why he or she should not have to pay for the damages to the plaintiff’s car because “I didn’t hit that car and smash it to smithereens on purpose!”

I also ask you: Is anyone willing to be held accountable these days?

Such as the Republican party? I only ask since the NRA (National Rifle Association) spent a stupendous $54.4 million in the 2016 election cycle, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The money went almost entirely to Republicans to a degree that almost looks like a misprint (but isn’t): Of independent expenditures totaling $52.6 million, Democrats received $265. Yes, that’s 265 dollars. [P.S. I have another source that states the NRA gave $106 hundred thousand to Democrats in 2016. It’s still a ridiculous shit-load less, but not the shit-load less that $265 would be.]

The NRA spent more than $30 million to help elect der Drumpf, which includes the $19 million it spent in attack ads against Hillary Clinton.

Thanks to an extensive history of NRA support for Republicans in state legislatures who push through very lax gun ownership laws, a November 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that, as of 2009, there were approx. 310 million firearms in the United States: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.

PARKLAND, FL – FEBRUARY 15: A police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Of those 310 million firearms that are owned by citizens of the United States, approx. 3.5 million of them are AR15s, which we all know is the favorite weapon of school shooters.

I know that you, Dear Readers, are as depressed as I am. I want to give up. Because now that Republicans have normalized this crazy level of gun ownership in America, mass shootings is what happens. I want to tell you, do not wring your hands and weep and wail and pray for the dead. Nothing is going to change. This is the country that we live in, thanks to the NRA and their Republican allies: in Pew’s latest poll (June, 2017) on gun control, 79% of Republicans favored protecting gun ownership rights over limiting gun access. That compares with 20% of Democrats who felt the same way.

But, then, there’s this:

On Tuesday evening, candidate Margaret Good won a special election for state representative in southwest Florida’s House District 72, becoming the 36th flip for the Democratic Party since President Donald Trump took office last year.

The Democrat won by a margin of almost 8 points and more than 3,000 votes—in the same district der Drumpf clinched during the 2016 presidential elections by 5 points.

I don’t want to get too hopeful here. But maybe there is reason to hope.

I don’t know if you can tell that I started writing this post on Tuesday (it takes days to do one of these posts), when it was going to be all about painting a la Monet and defending Nazca lines. I was also going to chime in on the new portraits of the Obamas for the Smithsonian (his is OK but the painter is a certifiable creep, and hers just plain stinks).

Then the heart-breaking events of Wednesday changed everything and I had to detour into bitter reality. If we lived in a normal, progressive, civilized country, I would not have had to write about people dying in droves again; I would have ended this week’s light hearted get-together this way:

The only reason I know about the Nazca lines at all is because I was reading the lovely book by the elegant travel writer Bruce Chatwin, which you can see in the above photograph. That’s my thermos of hot sweet tea, and my other thermos of ice water on the desk that I sit at when I am on duty at my new volunteer job at a charity book shop. (Things were pretty quiet last Saturday. It rained.)

And until we meet back here next Friday, when I will tell you all the power trips and intrigues of running a charity book shop, please please please paint, or make an earthwork, hug your kitties and smooch your DoGs, make a vodka and champagne cocktail (I have a recipe), do whatever you need to do to stay sane in this nut-job country of ours.

Australians: Stay cool and thank your lucky stars of the southern cross that you are not us.


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