Watercolor Tutorials

Top Cat and I celebrated the Winter Solstice in our usual fashion here on the shores of the Long Island Sound. But we were not alone in welcoming back the light…

…is there anything better in a dog’s life than a beach, a ball, and a hoomin with a good throwing arm?

It was one of the better Solstice sun sets (yes, that’s the Manhattan skyline lit up with the last rays of the sun with Westchester on the right).

And then I went to Philadelphia…

…to check up the Monets at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

They have a wonderful collection of 21 Monet canvases, hung in five different galleries (I don’t know why they are not hung all in one place).

Art museums are odd places. I rarely go to them any more, just to browse the walls…I only go if there are specific things I want to see. There is a world of difference between seeing a reproduction of a well-known painting and seeing it in person, and I’ve only seen these particular Monets in reproduction. So I was excited — even though there must be half a dozen almost exact same versions of this view of Monet’s Japanese bridge in museums around the world.

However, there is only ONE of these:

Hanging all by itself in a dead-ended gallery was the very first picture that Monet painted of his Japanese bridge when his water garden at Giverny was brand new.

This picture has always been cataloged as having been painted in 1895 [click here to see for yourself] but as you can plainly see:

…it’s dated by the painter himself as 1892. Yes, I called the museum when I got home and let a message about this for the curator of European Paintings Before 1900. I haven’t heard back from her yet.

I wandered a bit through the rest of the European Art galleries and saw many excellent pictures…

…but I get burnt out after two hours of museum-ing, so I headed home.

Besides, I have paintings of my own to work on. In this case, it’s a two-page illustration of a wonderful little landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (at the William Cullen Bryant estate on Long Island) for my book-in-progress, the Damn Garden Book:

Yes, I was painting this scene from reference photographs that I took on November 18, 2012.

One of the reasons that I never paint in situ is because, until the picture is completed…

..it tends to look like nothing but a hot mess. I can live without a baffled passer-by stopping to ask me, “What is that you’re doing?”

The other reason is that at any time during this process I can ruin the whole thing and have to start all over again and I do not want witnesses. Also, November tends to be cold here on the Long Island Sound and I’d rather paint in warmth.

Since I am left handed I started this two-page illustration on the right side — here’s the left:

And this is how it all comes together (with tea bag for scale):

If there is another painter on the internet with the guts to show her work like I do, step by pitiful step, I’d like to know about it. Because I’m pretty sure I’m the only writer/illustrator who puts this kind of stuff out in the ether and I think that’s pretty awesome of me. Or shamless…your call.

I got an email from a new blog reader this week, asking about the brushes I use. I told him that he’s given me a possibility for a post for next Friday: Tools of the Trade. Anybody else interested?

 

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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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Which is harder: making bread…

or painting it?

I’ve never baked a loaf of bread, but I can tell you that painting it isn’t a piece of cake.

For me, it took a lot of trial and error.  For one thing, you don’t want your French breads looking as if they are defying gravity:

And neither do you want your French breads too bien cuit:

You have to learn to make your French breads with a light touch:

You also want to get that golden-brown crust just right:

And when it comes to your sign you want to use authentic French lettering, bien sur. Good thing that the words LE PAIN

…are incorporated in this classic Hector Guimard METRO sign (it looks like the St-Michel entrance to me, captured on the cover of this vintage album of the 1960s):

Bur when it comes to scribbling  your love of French breads and croissants…

…it helps to have a cheat sheet handy:

Next week I’ll be checking out the French bread of Nashville. Yes, that Nashville, the one in Tennesse. Mais oui — you can get great French bread in Nashville!

You can find a little corner of France here at Provence Breads and Cafe in historic Hillsboro Village in Nashville (1705 21st Ave. South).

And just around the corner you can join me in Nashville for a Bastille Day wine-and-book talk, Saturday July 14,  2-4pm at Parnassus Books at 3900 Hillsboro Pike.

And if the heat wave is still on, we’ll see if it’s true that it’s so hot in Nashville that you can bake bread on the sidewalk. And when I say “bake bread” I mean “drink lots of wine“, and when I say “on the sidewalk” I mean “in the cool comfort of AC and smart company at one of America’s classiest book stores“.

Are you in???

 

 

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Poutine, AKA Quebec French Fries with brown gravy and cheese curds — yum!

O, Quebec.

So far, my Canadian readers are polling 3 – to – 1 in favor of me not being such a connarde after all. Thank you, Commentors Michelle, Risa, and Monique, who wrote in about last week’s post about my landing on the wrong side of the Great Quebec Accent Issue.

The only place on Earth where the Fleur-de-lis looks manly.

For the record, it wasn’t me who compared the Quebec accent to the quacking of a duck (on page 96 of Le Road Trip). I was merely reporting what a cranky Malouin shopkeeper had said about the thousands of French Canadian tourists who flock to his beautiful walled city of Saint Malo on the Brittany coast. Oh sure, yes, I laughed at the whole “quacking like a duck” thing, but I also put myself on the record as finding the Quebec accent enjoyable (right there on page 96) which does not preclude it from being somewhat like the quacking of a duck — a freaking gorgeous Mandarin duck:

That’s DUCK, not PUCK. 

O, Canada, what would we Americans do without you to give us cover as we travel through this American-hating world?

One last Canada story:

I wrote (on page 90 of Le Road Trip) that my husband and I did not travel through France pretending to be Canadians, as was the fashion of Americans abroad in the fall of 2005…remember? 2005 was the thick of that kerfuffle in Iraq that Bush and Company started when they lied to the United Nations about those Weapons of Mass Destruction and all? Brought about a decade of death and disaster to innocent Iraqis and brave men and women in uniform? And Americans could barely show their faces in public without claiming to be Canadian (or crying for permission to emigrate to The Great North)?

No, Top Cat and I copped to being Americans and took the heat.

You’re welcome, Canada.

But the whole story is about this illustration on page 90 (for those of you who are reading along, that’s page 90 in Le Road Trip):

I have a deep dark secret about this little picture. It’s a fixer-upper.

This, below, is the original sketch I made of my husband, Top Cat, thumbing us a lift to Mont St-Michel in Brittany:

As you can see, there was a problem with that weird right hand there:

Yes, that hand looks completely non-human.

Luckily, I am left handed. Which means that I can fix this simply by re-drawing my own right hand (a really tiny drawing of my right hand) and then putting it on a copier to ensmallen (that’s the technical term) it even more:

 

And then I drew this teeny tiny version of the right right hand, along with the whole arm, on a piece of plain bond paper. I painted it, cut it out ever so carefully (it’s really, really s-m-a-l-l), and I glued it on top of the weird right hand and arm on Top Cat, like so:

Problem is, now he has two thumbs. I  have to get rid of the old thumb from the old weird old right hand. Watch how I do it:

If I hadn’t told you, you’d never know.

Speaking of Canadians who don’t hate me, take a look at Canadian (Newfoundler) Bobbi French’s Friday blog  at www.findingmeinfrance.com. Yeah, that’s me, standing in Times Square traffic for the sake of Canadian literature. Again: You’re welcome, Canada.

And I’m sure there are more than a few Canadians who are reading Carol Gillott’s wonderful blog Paris Breakfasts today (it’s about me!)

So, Quebec. Are we good now?

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Anybody who puts a book out in the world loves to hear that, against all odds, that book has found a reader who:

A. Doesn’t write to tell you how much she hates it.

B. Does write in to ask an interesting question that I can turn into a blog post!

I got this question from a new reader in the Nutmeg State (50 points for anyone who can right now name The Nutmeg State):

I have a question for you, that will definitely expose my complete lack of knowledge about watercolors. Do you paint with watercolors from a tin, or are you using those special pencils that you sketch a bit first, and then blend with water? I also noticed that you often have some well-defined outlines in your work. Are these made with a fine ink pen first, followed by adding color?

Thank you for asking, dear reader from the Nutmeg State.

Until recently (see last week’s post) I was using hobby-grade Grumbacher paints that come in pans — 24 pans for about $20:

I have nothing bad to say about my Grumbacher paints. They have served me well through two books.

I’m using two sets of Grumbacher 24 — because I use a lot of black (to mix into other colors) and I keep some of the pan colors pure and use others of the same color as mixing bowls. I also use the paint tray itself as my main mixing area, which is why they look so cruddy.

Lately I’ve been gifted with new paints in tubes to help me get a brighter look for the gardens I’ve started to illustrate and I was so excited about the purity and intensity of the colors that I went out and bought some pans of paints — a Windsor Newton “field kit” (I still can’t give up on the ease of using pan paints).

This is my brand spanking new paints and mixing thingy. And, dear new reader from the Nutmeg State, I always use a tea bag to reference scale (those Windsor Newton paints are so cute!!). See how clean and spiffy they look before I get cracking:

This is my set-up: new paints, cup of tea, helper cat in the background (meet Coco, new Reader from the Nutmeg State), and my brushes in their souvenir Maya-head tequila shot glass from Acapulco (makes me feel like life’s one big Tiki Bar!).

Which brings me to the second part of your question, new reader from the Nutmeg State: What do I use to make outlines?

I draw with a .018-point Rapid-o-Graph pen, a steel-tipped drafting tool from Germany that is a pain in the ass to use but is the only way I can get a very fine, sharp, dark black line.

When I don’t want a sharp, dark black line but I still need a line,  I use a very fine paintbrush to make the outline. I do not use those pens or colored pencils that you can blend with water because I don’t know what they are. And because I like to do things the hard way.

To get a paintbrush with a fine-enough point on it I have to engineer it myself. I start with a .O or a .OO size brush (the smallest that you can find):

And then I very carefully cut off half the bristles:

Now let’s look at some outlines in Le Road Trip. The buildings in this illustration of Bayeux (on page 68) are outlined with my German drafting tool:

In this illustration of Mont St-Michel (page 92) I used my itty bitty brush to outline the young couple having a picnic on the towering wall surrounding the fortress/abbey (and the blades of grass on the hillside):

In this illustration of a door in Bordeaux (page 143) I used both my German drafting tool (on the door, obviously) and my itty bitty brush to outline the mer-people and to do the railing:

Since my illustrations in Le Road Trip …

P1000453

… are reproduced in their original size, I use my itty bitty brush quite often just to be able to get a landscape down to miniature proportions, like this picture of Bayeux cathedral on a canvas that is approx. one half tea beg high and two tea bags long:

Thank you, Reader from the great Nutmeg State of Connecticut, for this blog post.

And to the reader in Quebec who sent me that nice piece of hate mail last week: You got me. You’re totally right: my whole book is just an elaborate cover, a sinister ploy to broadcast my cruel and evil anti-Quebec prejudices throughout the world as evidenced by that joke I reported about the  Quebec accent on page 96, and everything else you said in that 1,000-word lecture on what a dumbass I am not to acknowledge the truth of the beauty and bravery of the French spoken by its conservators up North, yadda yada yadda.

Jeeze. I always thought Canadians were so polite but hoo boy, do not get them riled up about the way they pronounce “jardin” as “jardaiyyyyynnnnn”, I’m warning you all.

 

 

 

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A professional artist has taken pity on me.

Carol Gillot, the artist behind the wonderful blog Paris Breakfasts.com, has sent me a selection of professional-grade water color paints in tubes to help me give my gardens the pizazz (that is, the saturation and the transparency) that I need. The reason I use hobby (child) quality paints in pans is because they are so easy to use — no fiddling with those itty bitty damn screw-top lids and stuff. And because I’m a Capricorn and we Capricorns are nothing if not creatures of habit. Once I find something I like, I stick with it. Capricorns are famous for being able to have the same thing for lunch every single day of their lives and for being excellent prison guards. We like routine and we like being bossy. We don’t like change.

 

But Carol also sent me some of her scratch pads and the colors she gets from the Windsor Newton paints she sent me are amazing.

You probably can’t see it in these lo-res scans, but the color is rich, subtle, and sparkling.

The greens! O, the greens! The greens are alive! So even though it goes against my basic nature, I will be diving into these new paints this weekend. That ominous rumble you hear, like a low thunder across the horizon, will be me cursing my ham-handed incompetence while I find my way with these new toys.

Luckily, the garden that I’ve been slaving over this past week is a Winter garden in the opaque city of Edinburgh:

In this case, I think the chalk-heavy pigments of my pan paints suits the dense, cloudy atmosphere of a rain-soaked Scotland:

Yes, these is something fitting about the overcast colors I can get from my simple kiddie paints as I paint these small walled garden rooms from various aspects (for the record, I’ve done two views of each parterre, facing East and facing West, behind tenements on the Royal Mile). Note, please the small (3-ich x 5-inch) picture on the right here:

It wasn’t until I’d finished this sketch that I saw what a blunder I’d made in being too literal as I looked at my referenced photos. Although this is the way it actually looked from the viewfinder of my camera, you can’t have trees growing out of the tops of laurel bushes like this:

So how do you correct it? One way would be to re-paint the whole thing.

Another way would be to just cut out the problem area:

…and paste a newly-painted corrected background in place:

I really didn’t think I’d get away with it, but I think it’s quite successful. If I hadn’t told you that this was a pieced-together illustration, you’d never have known, right?

One last thing: I am doing ONE book event this Summer. It’s a Bastille Day event in Nashville, Tennessee — on Saturday July 14, of course. I’ll be at  Parnassus Books in Nashville at 2 o’clock, and I’ll be giving out my tips and my advice on life, art, and travel writing. If you are in the Nashville area, please come! There will be wine!

Parnassus Books

4505 Harding Pike

Nashville, TN

www.parnassusbooks.com

 

 

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I’m still at it. Still flummoxed by gardens. My paintings of them still look like crap. If you remember, when we last left off I was trying to do justice to a small walled garden off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh called Dunbar’s Close:

In the past two weeks I’ve actually tried TWICE to re-paint this, but the results were even worse so instead I went back and made certain necessary corrections to make this illustration a tad bit less crappy:

 

Having failed so miserably, I decided to take a break and go back to my comfort zone, garden-wise. I did a miniature painting of the secret doorway to Dunbar’s Close on the Royal Mile (miniature being my preferred canvas):

This secret entrance is almost totally camouflaged as just another alley between nondescript buildings on the Royal Mile:

There are 83 “closes” on the Royal Mile such as this one that leads to Dunbar’s Close. BTW, I know some of you, dear readers, like to see Where I Get My Ideas From. For this illustration, I plagiarized this reference photos:

Another wonderful garden that I love is in Key West. And when it comes to Key West, I’ve always been very fond of this picture I took in 2005 when Top Cat and I spent a long February weekend there (this is our guest room at the Conch House Heritage Inn, built in 1885):

I love the monochromatic effect of this picture, the long afternoon shadows, and how the orange cat is the only spot of color. So let’s PAINT IT!

First had to draw it:

I had to leave out that second rocking chair — waaaay too complicated for my skill level and I didn’t want to make myself any crazier than I had to.  Of course, there is only one way to paint this drawing: illuminated on my light box:

I really shouldn’t paint without supervision. Thank you, Coco cat.

By putting my 90-lb Canson watercolor paper over this drawing and firing up the light box, the outlines of this sketch show through to guide me as I “color in” the shadows that I see in the photograph. It took me about two hours to paint this:

Yeah, I had to ditch the French door and the window entirely — there was no way I had the manual dexterity to pull that off. It was the rocking chair and the cat that I most wanted to paint any way and if you had not seen the original concept you would think that this was a pretty completely realized composition, eh?

Thank you, one and all, for all your garden book recommendations last week. I’m still searching for the garden artist that I can steal from…I have a specific viewing experience in mind when it comes to garden art, and hoo boy some of the garden books I’ve come across miss it by miles.

Last Sunday I journeyed to the wilds of Westchester County to visit a billionaire’s garden because I wanted to see what a man with an undogly amount of money puts in his garden. Stayed tuned: I’ll  show you, right here, next week.

 

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Two of these leaves are real, and two on them are my paintings of leaves.

I can’t tell you how the real leaves are made, because I am not a tree.

But I can show you how I made my facsimiles.

Leaf No. 1:

The first thing you have to do when you look at a leaf with a painter’s eyes is to suss out your strategy. You do not paint a leaf all at once, you paint it in sections, sections (I call them “cells“) that are evident in its structure. And in this leaf, I see four cells:

This is how I’m going to paint this leaf; cell by cell.  Step 1:

Step 1: You can’t quite see it in this picture, but I’ve outlined the leaf (I laid the leaf on my paper and dragged a pencil around it so that I have an exact-sized silhouette).

Now I’m ready to begin with the first cell:

While my first wash of the main color (in this case, it’s an ocher-yellow)  is still wet, I will bleed in several other colors — in this leaf, it has green edges and brown rot spots inside the cells. And next, still while the paint is wet, I’m going to get out a straight pin and do this:

This is why I picked this leaf: it has great veins. And I’ve found that by using a straight pin to dig lines into the wet paper, I can make the best veins.

This is not hard to do. Just use the straight pin like an itty bitty pencil, and “draw” the veins into the wet watercolor. (Sorry that you can’t see it well in this pic — but remember, I’m snapping photos with my right hand while I’m painting with my left and we should be grateful that I’m able to get even these crappy shots).

OK. Veins done, we skip to another cell while the first one dries.

Cell 2:

Cell  3:

Note (above): This is a good shot of what the straight pin does to wet watercolor paper — see the veins? Not bad, huh?

The most boring part of painting a leaf is waiting for the watercolor to dry. So, to keep busy, I’ll do the stem:

Cell 4:

Done.

 

 

Yes, Grumbacher watercolor lightens when it dries: you might want to keep that in mind as you’re painting. Use lots of color! Use lots of red! Like this:

I chose this leaf because I want to show you a trick of the trade, namely Masking Fluid.

Masking Fluid comes in a little bottle (75ml for about $14.00) and it’s liquid stuff that you apply onto the parts of your picture where you want the paper to resist paint. I use a toothpick to “brush” it into small places — use whatever is easiest for you, but don’t use a paint brush. When this liquid dries it becomes waterproof, like rubber, and that is murder to get out of the bristles of your paint brush (I speak from experience).

But since it’s waterproof, you can paint right over it and when your painting is done, you just peel off the mask and voila!

The reason I’m using mask here is because this leaf has some tiny holes in it:

I’ll be putting  Masking Fluid on those little  holes,because I paid $14.00 for the stuff and I want to get some use out of it.

Now we can begin to paint:

Remember, the key to getting your Fall leaves to look real is to paint wet-into-wet, to create bleeds, like this (up-close):

And so on:

And, finally, we peel off the Art Masking Fluid:

I can’t tell you how peaceful it is, to paint these miniatures. I enjoy the concentration and smallness of painting one leaf at a time — it’s like meditation.

Just take your time, look closely at the leaf, get your strategy worked out before you start, let each cell dry before you paint the next one,and get lost in the details.

And here’s another big Merci from moi: if you’d like to have the  4-inch x 6-inch framed and signed original painting of this little red leaf, please leave a Comment below, requesting this prize. This blog is getting close — very, very close — to its 1,050th Comment and if you leave a note here, and you’re the lucky 1,050th Commenter, you’ll win this leaf painting!

See you Friday in the Winner’s Circle.

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After reading my last post (last Friday), you might be wondering: So what else can you, Great and Wondrous Vivo, do with that rolled up piece of paper towel (see below)?

And what else, Vivo the Magnificent, do with those bleeding water colors (see below)?

Well, I was dabbling this past week, trying not to notice that I’m a month behind schedule in meeting the dire deadline of December 1 for when I h ave to turn in 208 pages of text and all 300 illustrations for That Damn France Book, and I rolled me some clouds (see below)…

…and I bled me some earth-colored watercolors (see below)…

…and I came up with a vineyard in Bordeaux:

See? Even I sometimes listen to me, and use my own painting tips! (I know — I’m as surprised as you).

I have 57 days to get my Dan dance Book book done on time. That’s 912 waking hours. Minus the week I’ll be traveling in October (if you’re in the Baltimore area, come see me on Oct. 25!) and the weekend that I’ll be in D.C. at Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity (Oct. 30!) and that leaves 768 waking hours. Minus 700 hours in which I just sit and watch my cats do cute stuff and that leaves me well and truly *#@??ked up.

I really have to go now.

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