Giverny stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, I load my pages into the sheet protectors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now let’s talk about The Wedding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

In the meantime, I have my own problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Done:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taffy, being lithe on Monday.

Taffy, doing lithe on Tuesday.

Taffy, at his lithest on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

XXOO

 

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

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

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

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

Friday morning:

Friday afternoon:

Saturday morning:

Saturday afternoon:

Sunday afternoon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m easily amused. This made me laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration for NYT review of Craeft, by Nicole Natri.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like what Taffy and Lickety do naturally:

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

 

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

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

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

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

SPEAKING OF BUNNIES:

 

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

This is the Pences’ book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the same google search this came up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Then I added lily pads:

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

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

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

I do another practice sheet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOPE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well played, Christian creep opportunist, well played.

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

XXOO

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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 Giverny.org, 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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Grab your tea cups and fluff up the kitties: oh, yes, we will paint today:

But first, you know what happens when the 24-hour news shows are frantic with dire warnings about a frightful Winter bomb hitting the northeast from Washington, D.C. to Boston, burying us in a thousand inches of snow and thunder and frozen hell fire: We Get Out The Champagne-O-Meter!

For most of Wednesday morning my bottle of champagne sat in the back yard minding its own business, rolling its eyes at the smattering of rain that caused every school and my gym Long Island to shut down for the day. But shortly after noon, big fat flakes of wet snow began to fall:

The snow stuck like glue:

It was the worst kind of snow, too — weighty, sloppy, slushy, and did I say heavy?

I left the house at 3:30 so I could drive to the railroad station to pick up Top Cat, who was coming home early as most of Manhattan was shutting down and citizens were urged to Stay Off The Roads. I drove 20 miles per hour through five inches of icy slush while big fat heavy snow flakes kept obscuring the windshield in spite of the wipers swishing at top speed.

On the way home from the Long Island Rail Road station, Top Cat insisted on driving out to our favorite deli so he could get a cucumber. I insisted on staying with him in the car so I could continue to remind him that it was crazy to drive in this weather just to get a cucumber (Top Cat loves his dinner salad). We made it to the deli in one piece, but the deli was closed, of course. So we turned around and came home and Top Cat put extra olives in his salad to make up for not having a cucumber.

Thursday morning, the Champagne-O-Meter was slick with a thin layer of ice, just how I like it:

In between slogging out into the slushy snow every hour or so to take a photo of the Champagne-O-Meter, I kept myself busy on this slushy, snowy day doing my thing, which these days is all about Watercolor Rescue. Today’s Fixer Upper is this view of Claude Monet’s Japanese bridge over the lily pond in his famous garden in Giverny, France:

You might remember that a few weeks back I did a little study of Monet’s water lily painting technique by copying a panel from his huge murals that hang in the Orangerie of the Tuileries in Paris:

I happened to notice that the study could almost fit into my little Fixer Upper:

Hmmmmm. . . the reeds and the pinky colors of the reflections in the water could work in this view if only they could be re-painted, right? And thus, a RESCUE was born:

That (above) is the new bottom half of the picture — here it is in place:

Sorry about the way this stuff photographs. It looks wonky, but I assure you, it is a true square. After applying  masking fluid over the bits that I want to reserve, I paint along the cut edge of the new bottom half of the picture:

I wash in the pink and blue bleeds, trying to avoid getting them too mushy (I don’t want them to blend into purple):

Here’s them reeds:

I remove the masking fluid:

I paint in the reflection of the willow leaves, which I wish I had thought out more carefully before I put down the masking fluid. Maybe, just maybe, I could have skipped masking fluid here, and painted in the fronds over the wash — but, it’s too late now:

Step back and assess how we’re doing:

The reference that I am using for these lily pads is Monet’s own painting, which uses yellows and dark green and lots of light magenta to give those lily pads some oomph:

So that’s what I do. I add some oomph:

Oomphage achieved, or not:

and here is where I had to stop painting because of a kitty emergency. Coco, who is 17 years old, has suddenly stopped eating NINE DAYS AGO and of course I took her to the vet after day three, and there’s nothing obviously wrong with her…so I’ve been trying all various sorts of baby food, gruel, formula, syringe feeding, cheese…nothing has tempted her.

This afternoon, after trying so special adult cat Anorexic Diet, I decided that we had to take drastic measures. Even though she’s an old cat with a heart murmur, I told the vet that we had to sedate her and fix her teeth — because in my vast experience with cats, it’s always the teeth. I told the vet that if we lose her, we lose her; I’m already LOSING her and I can’t watch her starve herself to death.

So I’ve taken Coco to the vet and she is not at all happy. She will be sedated and the vet will be able to get a good look at her teeth.

I’m sure you all know what it’s like to have a very sick kitty in the house. The psychic misery is almost unbearable.

UPDATE: Coco has had three teeth removed and had her other teefers cleaned and repaired — she had cavities and some root damage. She was coming out of sedation when the vet called, so it looks like her heart didn’t give out after all! She’s got a heating pad and her favorite blue fleece with her, and she’ll stay at the vet’s over night so she can be given pain meds and the vet can watch her blood pressure.

So Coco isn’t dead, and I will be painting again tomorrow, and I plan on doing something “fun” with this picture. I am bored with just making look-alike illustrations…I want to do something playful and unexpected.

Playful and Unexpected.

And you can be sure that I’ll show it all to you next Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if you have a bottle of champagne in your backyard, try adding a dash of vanilla vodka to your flute. Let’s call it “Sun set in Giverny.”

 

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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:

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 :

DONE:

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.

XXOO

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I keep making mistakes. In this instance (see below), I made the mistake of painting this little scene too little:

This little scene is from the famous garden of the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet, and I painted it for a little book that I am working on about Claude Monet’s garden. The format of the book has changed since I first conceived to it and now I needed this little scene to grow up, from a little half-page doodle into a full-page picture. I’ve been working on this book idea [off and on] for nearly two years and I am thoroughly sick of it, so I had no intention of going back into it to re-paint any part of this odious garden.

Ha ha, just kidding, in case my future publisher is reading this, I love Monet’s garden and I’m dedicated to capturing its unique forms and inspirational spirit that has charmed and beguiled millions of visitors yadda yadda yadda….

Oh, what to do, what to do? I don’t want to re-paint it, but I need to re-paint it, but I really, really don’t want to.

Time for a rescue!

What you see is what happened after I cut out the bottom bit from a previously-painted picture (a picture that went wrong on the top — never throw anything away!) and glued it on top of the current Work-in-Rescue. Then I painted some background foliage into the upper corner of the pic in order to balance the composition of the scene. As you can suss, the old watercolor was small to completely rescue this picture, so I have to now rescue the rescue. I have to paint something that I can glue into that lower left-hand corner:

The first try was awesome. I love the bleeds that I got there, in the greens and blues.

All I have to do is cut out the part that I need and glue in into place:

I misjudged how big I had to make the rescue-to-the-rescue bit when I cut it out, so I had to add one itty bitty piece of shim when I glued it into place (see above) but it looks to me as if I am going to get away with this rescue.

Next, all I had to do was paint in some tulips and make a few more green blobs and integrate the new rescue into the old rescue and voila:

DONE.

That was fun! But it’s certainly not museum-quality,not like this watercolor  (below)– titled Landscape — from the famous Museum of Modern Art in New York:

Yeah, that (above) is what watercolor looks like when it’s fine art.

Which reminds me:

Last week I asked you, my Dear Readers, your thoughts on how much you have changed since you were 18. Here’s why:

Two weeks ago I happened to read a news item about an artist, who died in 2016, whose family was suing that artist’s estranged husband for his mishandling of her estate — her “estate” being some quantity of art work done by her, that has been kept in inadequate storage by the estranged husband…the family contends that the estranged husband has damaged the art works, valued at half a million dollars. It was a juicy story that the London Daily Mail picked up from the New York Post.

The name of the artist rang a little bell. I googled her.

Sure enough, I knew her: back in 1976 she and I had been in the same Foundation Course (first year) at a well-known east coast art college. I was 22, older than most of the students who were fresh out of high school; she was 18, fresh out of high school.

I left school, and art, after that first year. My young classmate, on the other hand, stuck with it. She graduated, and then went on to get an MFA. She continued to stick with it until she was 37, when she finally caught the attention of the art world and began to win prestigious awards and sell her stuff to museums and collectors and have solo shows in galleries around the world.

That’s her watercolor — Landscape — above. Here’s another of her highly regarded watercolors (titled Untitled):

But watercolor is not actually the thing she does best — she’s a renowned sculptor:

Sorry about her dying so young, but the more I read all her accolades from the New Yorker and the New York Times and ARTNews etc . . .

. . . the less I could hardly believe what I was reading because the thing is, when I knew this girl, she was the last person I would have picked out as talented.

I am not mentioning her name because, well, I only knew her (and didn’t like her, or her sloppy use of materials, her lack of design skill, or her memorable dopiness) when she was 18, and it’s unfair to hold her accountable after 42 years. Maybe people change from the people they are at 18. Maybe she became brilliant. Maybe she became talented. A lot of critics and art collectors seem to think so. . . and some have even extolled her persistent lack of technical skills and general dopiness: Sometimes she emulates traditional media (here and there her painted wood might pass for ceramic); mostly she’s content to look funkily modern. The result is a vital ensemble in which designed inauthenticity produces something original and expressive.

That review (quoted above) was written by a guy who has won a Pulitzer for criticism. So I guess it’s me, I’m the dope who doesn’t understand what “designed inauthenticity” is, or why badly worked materials is so funkily modern. Obviously, I’m the moron who does not understand how to make art.

But I have to say that her work depresses me. It looks so inadequate to me, and so very dumb. It depresses me that this is what we are supposed to look at these days.

But I know that that is the same thing that art critics said about the impressionists, when Claude Monet and his buddies began to exhibit their work in 1874. Art critics hated the impressionists at first and even as late as 1904, when Monet was getting rich and famous, one journalist could still complain about his style: A house should look like a house, not like a scrambled egg going up a stepladder. 

I think that egg is sunny-side up.

I don’t want to be the idiot complaining about scrambled eggs so I have been looking at more of this artist’s later work, trying to train my eye and get with the 21st century:

Here’s a detail of the above sculpture (maybe it’s an an installation; installation seems to be as hot a thing in the art world today as it was in art school back in the 1970s):

OK. THAT’S cute. I don’t get the fabric heap or the finger paintings taped to the wall, but the dead rat is cute.

Well, we did it. WE GOT THROUGH JANUARY!

If you did January dry, like I did, then you know how slap-damn-scrambled-egg happy you are that Dry January is over over over over over over over, as happy as a Long Island cat taking a dirt bath in his favorite patch of  crud:

Speaking of crud, this is what Paris looks like these days:

The Paris Police sent a drone flying over the Seine and this is a screen grab of the Square du Vert-Galant, which I featured in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly. When it’s not under water, it’s a charming little garden on the last bit of low-lying land left on the Ile de la Cite.

Here’s a better look at my bijoux chateau (lower left corner) that I wrote about as my dream Paris pied-à-terre (pages 14, 15, and 16 for those of you reading along). Alors, all my dream antiques and dreamy objets d’art that I have dreamed about decorating my dream bijoux chateau with are drenched with la grand boue.

Great! Now I get to re-decorate!

I’d say that’s worth popping a cork for.

As if I need an excuse.  Happy February, everyone!

 

 

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Now that the Steve Situation is settled. . .

Steve is not in this picture. But feel free to take a seat, and read the rest of this blog post.

. . . I have freed up the part of my brain that has been obsessed with him for the past many weeks and can now think deep, meaningful thoughts.

But first, let’s paint:

This is a scene from Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny (France). It’s called The Grande Allee, and it’s a long pathway of flowers over which six arches arch, and at the end there’s two huge old Yew trees that frame the front door to Monet’s pink house. Here’s a photo of it that I got off the internets (it shows the allee on a sunny Summer morning, judging by the shadows):

Photo credit: Cindy Carlsson

And here are my own reference photos that I took on my most recent 3-day Spring visit to Giverny:

That last photo is more useful when I crop it way small:

I am mashing up my own reference photos with photos of this view that I’ve studied in books about Giverny, reason being that I want to paint a Summer view and all my own ref pix were taken in Spring (no roses). So, here’s another look at the false start I made on getting this Summer view painted:

What was I thinking?

Those flowers on the right side are awful, but since it took me much agony to work out the perspective of those damn arches (I draw very lightly in pencil, so you can’t see how many times I’ve erased), it filled me with dread to have to draw them all over again so what did I do?

I rescued it:

I painted a new right side on a separate piece of paper, I cut it out, and I placed it over the offending bits. I did not yet glue it into place because I wasn’t sure the rest of the pic would work and I might have to use that rescue bit again, if the rest of the painting went badly. So for the time being, it’s held in place with scotch tape:

Confession: As a rule, I don’t care for yellow flowers. At least, not flowers on stalks. Dandelions are adorable, and I like buttercups, but yellow tulips, and delphiniums, and the verbascum in Monet’s late Summer garden do not appeal to me. (And I really don’t like daffodils.) But I’m really happy with the way I got the yellow to shimmer here. Remember: bleeds will make or break your picture.

The roses on the arch…I don’t know:

Ugh. Red roses. The important thing is to blend in the rescue by painting into it:

So far:

If you know me, you know that this is the bit that I LOVE doing, the teeny little detail of Monet’s front steps and open door:

Can you see the very light blue blob to the right of this doorway? And can you see the way it bleeds into the green? I am crazy in love with this effect — you can’t paint delicate tracery like that; you only get it if you let your watercolors bleed — let the paint and the water do the work!

I’m going to be bold with my use of black, which I mix heavily in with green for the Yew trees:

Instead of blue sky in the background, I’m using yellow foliage to bring in the sun, and to balance that glowing bit of yellow on the right side:

At this point, I’m 90% sure that I can’t ruin it, so I’ve glued the rescue bit into place.

I’m going for more drama, with a very very blackish-green again:

This is very boring to paint, because it’s just filling in the dark background. The only challenge is to use to a very teeny 00-size brush when you get to the details, to paint around those itty bitty bits of roses.

I ruled out the edges because, Why paint any more than you have to?

I think I might use this for the cover for my Monet Garden book:

DONE.

Tea bag for scale but now that you mention it, I could go for a nice cup.

And now I hope to never paint another Monet garden scene again. I started doing watercolor sketches of this garden in 2012, when I thought I might include it in my last book, the one about 9 of the best gardens in the world (Gardens of Awe and Folly):

The allee in Spring, looking away from the house.

But it’s too big a garden, and I knew I’d have to make it its own book:

The allee in Spring, looking away from the house. I hoped to avoid having to paint the house but alas, in Monet’s garden, sooner or later, you have to.

This (below) isn’t mine — it’s by the renowned French landscape painter, Fabrice Moireau:

Just shows you how another artist handled all those yellow flowers. I didn’t do the double arches because it was too hard. But if I change my mind I can still go back and add them in. I know all the tricks when it comes to rescuing a watercolor because I’ve made all the mistakes.

Before we part for another week, I want to take moment to let you know that the world lost an outstanding cat last week. Our Dear Reader Janet had to say good-bye to her girl, Smokey:

Smokey was a heart’s true companion, a peacekeeper in health and a courageous soul in sickness. Shine on, you sweet sunbeam.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your rescues be warm and furry, and all your thoughts deep and meaningful. (Since I’ve wrapped up the Steve Situation, I’ve been wondering about the possibilities of personal evolution. How much have you changed since you were 18? I have a story for you next week.)

XXOO

 

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It’s 20 degrees F here on the north shore of Long Island (that’s a billion degrees below freezing in Celsius I think) and Taffy is out back, under the dogwood tree, rolling around in his favorite dirt bath. The sad thing is, Taffy’s the smart one.

Oh, well. You gotta stay true to your code.

Steve, on the other hand, involuntarily took a little bath last Friday because, Hoo boy, what a week. Bitter cold, then pouring rain, then thaw, then snow, then back to bitter cold. It was the rain that had me fretting AS USUAL about the Steve Situation by the front stoop, not least because I knew I’d have to haul out the bale of hay (again) and change  out his damp nesting material for new, clean, dry stuff (again). I was not raised on a farm, or in a barn. I can’t tell the difference between hay and straw, but let’s say it’s hay and hay is messy, especially in a house.

Hay also tends to break into teeny pieces that lodge in the sleeves and pant legs of one’s clothing in order to pierce and stab you from many simultaneous directions. Hay is Nature’s fiberglass. I am not at all fond of hay.

The good news is that on that very same drenching day I got a soggy parcel delivered to my doorstep that made my day shine bright and, well, bright:

What would I do without the internet? I found these “stackable” lucite end tables for sale in Massachusettes (for a price that I haven’t told Top Cat about) and they are just the thing I need to solve the Steve Situation. Now, as you can see from the photo, these pieces are total crap as “end tables” (unless you’re a Hobbit) BUT repurposed as modular cat housing, these end tables are JUST THE THING.

After I had pawed all the old, damp hay out of Steve’s nest and re-stocked it with new, dry, hay, I installed Steve’s special outdoor heating pad into its cat-shaped hammock position. I then took the smallest “end table” and wedged it back against the rear wall of Steve’s Situation:

Next, I stacked the next-largest “end table” against that first unit:

The third and largest “end table” is positioned so that it forms a little vestibule so that rain will never again slosh off the stoop and run down into Steve’s Situation:

Naturally, after Steve inspected the new digs . . .

. . . he refused to enter it to get out of the rain. Not while there was still day light, and not while I was looking. But lo, when I checked up on him the next morning I discovered that Steve does have sense enough to come in out of the rain after all.

One thing I’ve learned about Steve is that he needs to be able to have a 360-degree view out of his Situation, hence the clear lucite, because he needs to stay on the look out for killer cat ladies, because he’s THAT stupid.

The “end tables” work! The Steve Situation is dry as a martini and this joke:

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Steve is not amused.

And then it snowed and I did not lose sleep, knowing that my Steve was in a good Situation.

Edwin Hawkins

Aug. 19, 1943 – Jan. 15, 2018

No man ever put 12 words to better use. He almost makes me believe. Somebody say “Amen.”

What is it about obits? Why are they the best source of information about people who you wish you’d known more about? For instance, I read about Barkley Hendricks in the New York Times’ year-end obit wrap-up:

NYT:  For 38 years, Barkley Hendricks, a renown African-American portrait artist who died in April 2017, began his Art classes at Connecticut College (USA) by asking each student to bring in three small objects that meant something to them. The items varied, but he dubbed this the bottle-shoe-and-plate project, because these were the objects most students chose.

Over the semester, the students would draw and redraw them — in different styles, in different media, in different orders — until he was satisfied. While each student worked, he circled the room, clutching his thermos of tea with honey and lemon, peering at their papers. He was known to harangue students for not-perfectly-rounded teacups or loudly harrumph at overdramatically shadowed plates. “You’re in college,” he would chide those who disappointed him.

It was a class people cried in.

Barkley Hendricks did not pant still lifes. He painted portraits. Go figure.

I don’t know if this is a great or a terrible way to teach painting. But I think I’m pretty OK with the concept that learning to paint should be painful. Lord knows my learning curve has not been the least bit fun and you know how misery doesn’t like to drink and whine alone (it loves company).

If you remember, my most recent source of artful misery was this:

It now looks like this:

I painted the shadows blue, and blue does not pick up well in reproduction — it looks darker in person. Just saying.

Next Friday, I will be painting my final picture of Claude Monet’s Giverny garden:

Oh, happy day when all the Monet garden pix are done!

Until then, keep doing what makes you happy . . .

. . . stay true to your code.

Keep Being YOU.

And for Heaven’s sake, Australia, stay cool (like Taffy).

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