July 2015

To continue  last week’s “Beautiful Words” list…

Irian Jaya (former name of the Papua province of Indonesia)

Mindanao

Coeur d’Alene (Idaho)

Ouagadougou (Upper Volta/Burkina Faso)

And oh my, how I wish we could call L.A. by its English translation: The Angels

I notice that all the above are place names. Hmmmm….I’ll have to think harder to find regular words that would fit into this list. Something like, maybe, cellar (which H. L. Menkin said was the most beautiful word in the English language).

Please feel free to add to this collection (above). Yikes. I just realized that I have started yet another collection…I can’t help myself. I am a Collector.

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As many of you Dear Readers know, I collect Blue Jay feathers. (I collect molted feathers, one at a time, mostly gathered from my own backyard but occasionally from walks in the woodlands of the north shore of Long Island. Perfectly legal.)

In the past, I’ve also had a tea cup collection …

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… and an Owl Jewelry collection…

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The last remains of a once great hoard of Owl Jewelry

…and a collection of Bow pins…

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The last remains of a once great hoard of Bow Pins.

I am the only one in my immediate family who collects stuff; I mean, the only one to hunt and acquire stuff with a particular focus. I don’t know why I do it.

Why do people become collectors?

Without getting too psychological about it (whew), I think I have an answer. I think some people become collectors because they are in love with patterns, in love with arrangement, and order, and design.

I think I’m that kind of person because my collections (of stuff, not words) are all about the delight I get from making patterns. I collect objects that I find pleasant to look at, and are familiar, but not without thrilling variations within their repetition.

In the ten years since I began to paint, I have also collected a monster pile of watercolors that I have begun to cull. That is, this past weekend I started to sort through my old collections of watercolors to trash, or save, as the case may be. These are some of the oldest watercolor studies that I have:

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As you can see, in my early days as an artist, I was very happy painting pix that I thought of as compositions that I called Reiteration of the Form.

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But now I can plainly see that it’s my collecting nature that I am painting here, my pleasure in making patterns with objects (even in 2D form). And yes, I was a miniaturist from the Get-Go.

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If you look closely at the tricycle in composition of Pedals That Used To Take Me Where I Wanted To Go, (below) you will see that it is a cut-out:

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I cut out that tricycle from its original Look! No Hands Vehicles! (below) composition  because it was red. Its  red color, along with its three-wheeled-ness, made it odd man out:

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BTW, I was 47 when I was painting these minuscule studies, with my trusty (but definitely NOT professional quality) Grumbacher watercolors.

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A set of 24 colors like this costs about $20.00. Cheap! Paint away! there’s no such thing as “wasting” paint like this!!

 

It was by painting these little nonsense collections that I learned what the Grumbachers were capable of, and what I as a painter could call my “skills”.

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To get this variety of forms for each picture, I did a TON of research (on line, by Googling various vintage items on eBay; in the real world, by referring to my small collection of Sears catalogues from the 1960s and ’70s). So I learned that I was the kind of painter who took an intellectual approach to my subject, and insisted on historical accuracy.

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Because my natural inclination was to work small, I learned that I enjoyed painting detail, and I had the patience to hold a very tiny brush very steady.

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And because I painted reiterations, I learned that I did not bore easily, and had the endurance to work on a picture until all its components were right, and until there was enough “there” there that some sense or inkling of narrative could be intuited from the image.

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Yes, that’s what I wrote, a sentence with both the word “intuited” and “narrative” in it. I do that sometimes, when I’m trying to sound legitimately “artistic”. Like, I could totally hang with any BFA out there.

All I mean is that, even in these little compositions of reiteration, there is a story going on, and it has to do with subject matter, as opposed to painters who paint story-less pictures, canvases that are only “about” color or paint, because that’s what ART is these days, or used to be; who can keep up?

Anyhoo, these were the first pictures I ever painted, for no purpose other than I wanted to know how to make a picture so, starting within my comfort zone, I painted objects whose forms appealed to me, in compositions that expressed my personality. Isn’t that how everyone starts out?

 

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People are reading my mind and stealing my thoughts. I’m looking at you, Walt Disney, and don’t give me that innocent look, New York Times.

Remember when two…three?…weeks ago I posted a photo of my highly staged work habitat which included a desk topped with my prized possession, a stuffed owl?

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Forget that owl — Dear Reader Janet B. has eagle eyes and spotted the other bird of a feather here…the Grey Goose!

Dear Reader Marg-o was right: I call that owl Archimedes because of a whole thing I have for the animated Disney movie about the legend of King Arthur that came out in 1963.

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I used to take a lot of pride in my connoisseur taste for this movie, a rather obscure entry in the Disney oeuvre, called The Sword in the Stone. Well, now neither I nor Marg-o can bask in our expertise of cartoon owls named for ancient Greek polymaths because last week I learned that Disney is in pre-production for a live-action film version of — you guessed it: The Damn Sword in the Damn Stone.

When the Sword in the Stone comes out in 2018 and is a huge hit, I just want you all to remember that I was alluding to it way back when I wasn’t moaning the fact that the film hadn’t been made 10 years earlier when  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was still young enough to get away with playing a teenaged Arthur, which he’d have been perfect for.

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Yes, he’s the kid from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. I love this actor.

On a similar note, I know that my “I Want To Kill My Husband Diet” (ha ha — thank you to Dear Reader Patricia for that branding idea) of last week didn’t go viral, but a New York Times essay on the same-ish subject did. Ada Calhoun wrote a Modern Love column called The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give (you can read it here) which was printed in the Sunday, July 16 edition of the paper.

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Illustration by the excellent Brian Rea

I think the piece is mis-titled, but that was probably an editor’s decision, not the writer’s.

Ada Calhoun is a very good writer, I just want to make that clear. The essay is beautifully structured, and the pacing of her sentences is like the patter and chorus of a great show tune. This lightens up the tone of her piece, the subject of which is that there are times when you loathe the spouse you dearly love, and which “lightness” is my main objection to the article.

I think that there is nothing that brings out the deepest, darkest, and most dire urges more than the blips of hatred that accentuate a long term relationship. As Dear Reader Felicia commented, there are times when you want to make your spouse a taxidermy project. As Whoopie Goldberg said, when Sharon Stone was being ridiculed for giving her husband the birthday gift of a one-on-one encounter with the Komodo Dragon in the San Francisco Zoo (which bit Mr. Stone and sent the hubby to the hospital): “Who hasn’t wanted to put their husband in a small cage with a Komodo Dragon?”

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P.S. This is where I was last weekend, in a far away country where I had no access to my blog and could not release the Comments of my Dear Readers until Monday. Thank you all for persevering.

Just because some people are uncomfortable with the word “hate” doesn’t mean that they don’t know exactly what “hate” feels like, and don’t have those feelings every once in a while for the person they love the very most in all the world. It happens! And then it goes away! So let’s just be honest about it!

Also, after I posted last week’s diet tip ( the “I Want To Kill My Husband Diet”,  thanks again to Dear Reader Patricia) I fact-checked with my own dear Top Cat. And yes, there are times when he can’t stand the sight of me, either. And I’m OK with that.

Anyhoo. Last week I got the proofs of the Damn Garden Book — entirely in e-form. Not a scrap of paper in the whole last-chance correcting process! As has often been said of myself, the thing looks good when it’s all cleaned up. And I ditched my old Author Photo:

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For this one:

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Yes, the bags under my eyes have been photoshopped out. But I left the crow’s feet and the blotchy skin tone in. Because I’m at least 80% for real!

And, lastly, the mystery of the two Chinese language versions of Le Road Trip has been solved. The first version…

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…is titled A Journey to France. The second version….

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…has been re-marketed and re-titled as Old Love Honeymoon. Ha! See those two geezers standing on that green text box? That’s me and my own, old, dearly un-hated Top Cat!

And, lastly, before I punch out my Writer On The Loose time card for the day, I’ve begun to keep a list of the most beautiful words in the world. So far, the top spot goes to:

Kilimenjaro.

Kilimanjaro.

(Thanks, Vivki A.)

As for the most beautiful American word, well, that’s a no-brainer. It’s:

Monongahela.

And the word bucket always makes me laugh.

Dear Readers, may buckets of un-hate fill your weekend with, well, whatever it is that makes you as happy as an old love honeymoon.

 

 

 

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I am a 5’6″ tall writer. This is a story about how, when I weighed  142 pounds, I was a size 8-10.

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And then I lost 30 pounds and now that I weigh 112, I am a size 2-4.

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Recreating the previous pose, in my back yard, Thursday afternoon. That’s yesterday, for those of you Dear Readers reading this on Friday.

Yes, as you can see, I have lost  a whole big fat lazy cat’s worth of flubber (foreground, which we call “Lickety”). Since I have mentioned this weight loss before, and a few of you Dear Readers have asked how I did it, today I think it’s time that I shared with you the secret of how I got skinny.

It started with what I call:

The Bounty of the Streets Long Island Diet.

Here’s how it goes: It is dawn at the local Long Island Rail Road Station, and for the commute into Manhattan…

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… and the streets offer a breakfast of banana, three tangerines, and half a bottle of orange juice.

Lunch comes in the form of a nutritious and calorie-soncscious hard-boiled egg…

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…and for Dinner, YUM! The American classic!:

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But of course, I jest. I will resist the urge to digress on the subject of The People of Long Island Are Pigs.

So here’s how I actually lost 30 pounds last year on what I call  The Beige Food Diet.

Here is an ordinary box of Whoppers. I think they are called Malteasers in the UK.

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This is a Whopper:

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It is a malted milk ball, and it is not at all whopping big — it’s about the size of a marble. I happen to really like Whoppers, but it’s not because of the chocolate. It’s the beige inside of the Whopper that makes it my favorite food:

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That’s the malted part of the milk ball. I have no idea what “malted”, or “malt” is, but I love the taste. But of course I didn’t go on the Whopper Diet.

This discussion of Whoppers is what we professional writers call a “teaser”. Or a “lead.” Or “foreshadowing.” I forget which.

It’s how we get a reader’s attention. Are you still with me? So let’s skip ahead to the scientific part of the story, the good news that I long to share with you all:

Back in January/February of 2014, I read about an instant food that was devised by computer guys in Silicon Valley. Nothing says YUM like  Silicon Valley  instant food. So I immediately ordered the starter kit, which  cost $80.00:P1000115

Yes, it’s called Soylent. Those kids in Silicon Valley really know their pop culture.

Turned out that the demand for Soylent is so high that I had to wait six months to get my first shipment.

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In your starter kit you get a pitcher, a measuring cup, a booklet all about the instant food you are about to ingest, 8 bags of Soylent, and 8 little bottles of oil mixture:P1000117

This photo above represents 32 meals of Soylent.

A pitcher of Soylent stays good for 48 hours, but I  prefer to mix my Soylent case-by-case. That is, meal by meal.

The way I mix individual portions is I use an old Smuckers organic peanut butter jar.  You have to shake your Soylent mixture  and my old Smuckers organic jar comes with a lid. Fancy!

So, first, I measure out one measuring cup of Soylent powder:

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The powder smells insanely wonderful, like cake mix. Sweet, and delicate, and nostalgic.

Then I add 2 teaspoons of oil stuff.  It includes various plant oils and some fish oils, but it does NOT smell or taste “fishy”. In fact, it is as bland as sunflower oil:

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Then I add two measuring cups of water:

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Then I shake it for 60 seconds to blend it thoroughly:

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Add ice cubes and voila: I have a hearty, nutritious meal:

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Many people complain about the taste of Soylent, so they doctor it up with flavorings such as banana (barf) or peanut butter (drinkable peanut butter? Oh, puke.) or chocolate. I think they are all crazy. Pure Soylent tastes just like the inside of a Whopper and, in case you haven’t noticed, it LOOKS like it too!

Soylent is my go-to food, and I highly recommend it, but Soylent actually only helped me lose the last 10-12 of my 30 pounds, although it has helped me maintain my current weight of 112 for over a year.

Here’s the real and honest truth.

I do not want to swindle you, my Dear Readers, into thinking that my losing 30 pounds was pure will power on my superhuman part. Who do I think I am? — Nicole “No Botox/I’m Afraid of Surgery” Kidman?

My weight loss  started in January of 2014, when I became very, very, very, very pissed off with Top Cat. My husband is a kind and generous and funny and sexy man and I adore him. But you know how it is, if ever you’ve been married. Every once in a while — in my case, every decade or so (in an eleven-year marriage) — there comes a time when you hate your spouse’s guts so much that you want to turn them into Prometheus just so you can eviscerate them with your bare hands, and then wait overnight for their liver to re-generate, and go back the next day and gorge them with a butter knife and yank out their bloody entrails inch by agonizing inch, and wait overnight so in the morning you can go after them with an ice pick and hack at their bile ducts until they look like hamburger… We’ve all been there, right? Right?

Yes. I was a snarling, adrealine-crazed, vicious, screaming, out-of-control madwoman who was righteously and revengefully furious at her spouse. The only reason i didn’t kill him was because I couldn’t think of a way that I could get away with it.

Well, eventually, the issue got resolved, and I accepted that when I married the love of my life, I did so because  the problems that this adorable, complex, irresistible creature presented were the problems that I chose to make my life meaningful.

However, the good thing is that, because of all this hatred that  I lived and breathed for six weeks, I completely lost my appetite . Most of all, I lost all interest in comfort eating. The whole time  I was in a rage, I  gave not a thought about my darling Rice Krispies Treats, my vanilla Oreos, my Heath Bars, my Sugar Babies, my Milk Duds, my Whoppers, my etc etc etc.

When, before I knew it, I’d lost 20 pounds, I did not let my sweet tooth take hold up again. I turned to Soylent, and an eating plan based on actual need (not want), and here I am. I weigh as much as I did in high school and I am never hungry. And I feel pretty damn good.

My excess 30 pounds wishes all of you a Happy Weekend.

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More info about Soylent:

Soylent™ was developed from a need for a simpler food source. Creator Robert Rhinehart and team developed Soylent after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money they spent creating nutritionally complete meals.

Soylent is a food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by all adults. Each serving of Soylent provides maximum nutrition with minimum effort.

What is Soylent made of? (Hint: It’s not people.)

Carbohydrates — 255g

Protein — 114g

Fatty Acids — 70g

Omega 3 Fatty Acids — 2.5g

Fiber — 27g

Potassium — 3500mg

Sodium — 1050mg

Calcium — 1000mg

Phosphorus — 700mg

Magnesium — 400mg

Vitamin Bp — 1375mg

Vitamin C — 90mg

Vitamin B3 — 16mg

Vitamin E — 15mg

Zinc — 11mg

Iron — 21.5mg

Vitamin B5 — 5mg

Manganese — 2.3mg

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Within our group of Dear Readers there are many sub-sets, such as the Band of Bodhisattvas of the Great Pacific Great Northwest, the Self-Sacrificing Servants of the Small Cat, and the 5 o’clock Angels (whose motto is: Wine. Because I’m Worth It.) And then there is the Cluster of Clairvoyants, to whom I dedicate this blog post. They already know why . . . and so will you in about ten paragraphs.

For those of you (none of you, actually) who have been dying to see (living just fine, thank you, without seeing) How I Write, I give you the following series of photographs, carefully staged and bursting with symbolism, of my typical writing day. Hour One:

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Hour Two:

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Right before the end of Hour Three, when I thought I saw a really big spider or maybe just a weird shadow up on the ceiling and I had to go running and screaming out of the room to find that big stick thing with the thing on the end that will reach up there to the thing but then I thought a fresh cup of tea (or something) would be better to calm my nerves and then I looked at the thing again and decided it was just a weird shadow and I had to go back to thinking of something to write again, which basically has absolutely no chance of being heart-poundingly exciting even if it were a big spider:

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Hour Four, and I have been testing my ability to maintain a pulse for oh, about an hour:

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Hour Five, awash in regret for every life choice that has led me to this computer screen:

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Last week, Dear Reader Melissa left a Comment about the Piece of Toast post kindly advising me to not be such a Scrooge to my Bob Cratchit self about whether or not the tree is a pom-pom or a mushroom. Good point. But to me, the shape of that tree was the whole reason why I wanted to paint that bit of garden in the first place, and if I did’t get that right then the whole picture is fake fake fake and has nothing to do with what I wanted to present. The fact that a painting with a pom-pom tree instead of a mushroom tree still might please others is not my goal as an illustrator…and I’m the same skin-flinting do-over maniac as a writer. I know that, out there in the universe, is the sentence that my soul pines to write, and I will not write a sentence that is almost like the one I want to write.

Hour Six, when I find the word that is not kind of like the one I wanted, but IS the EXACT word I wanted:

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It takes but a tapping of seven keystrokes to type The Word (which, for the record, was purling, which you can find in the Key West chapter of the Damn Garden Book, and yes, it’s a dreaded adjective, so sue me):

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Repeat:

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P.S.  I actually took a break to go look through the manuscript of the Damn Garden Book to find that exact word that I remember as being so satisfying when I finally came up with it because, well, I’m a stickler for accuracy. Whilst perusing the Key West chapter I discovered a typo that made it past three proof reads (for the record, it’s imporatation) and another in the New Orleans chapter that I might be able to get away with. Professional typo-catching is boring challenging, so you can imagine how excruciatingly boring challenging it is when I’m writing for free, as in this blog.  I don’t mind at all being corrected for incorrect word choice, since, you know, words are the tools of my trade (did I really just type that??) but typos, I’m sorry to say, are the price you pay for stopping by my blog, which I write on my time off.

And now

we get to

Top Cat’s Pick

for the winner of

a topiarily-correct Piece of Toast!

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And the winner (the suspense is killing me) . . .

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The winner is:

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Forty-Nine! (That’s Quarante-neuf for the Quebecois Dear Readers amongst us!)

Surprisingly, a whopping three Dear Readers chose the number Forty-Nine (equal to the number of Dear Readers who chose Thirty-Seven, which in my opinion is one of the more comely prime numbers), including a New and Shy Dear Reader Cathy O. For all of those clairvoyants who were on a Forty-Nine vibe, I salute you for figuring out how Top Cat’s mind works.

Two of the very Dearest of Readers, Megan and Deb Mattin, also chose Forty-Nine, and it pains me to have to break the tie by time stamp, but I must, so…

Congratulations, Deb Mattin! You are the winer of a topiarily-correct Piece of Toast! (We’ll be in touch later today.)

Top Cat just stopped in to offer his congratulations to Deb also, and he asked me “What’s up with the owl on your desk?”

“Symbolism,” I said.

“Athena?” he asked. I gave him my Yes, I Married You For Better or Worse look of love and I snorted, “Of course not.”

Don’t kill yourselves trying to figure out what’s up with the owl. His name is Archimedes. For obvious reasons. But I forget what’s up with the Abbey Road poster, except it had something to do with the walrus being Paul. Right?

Have a great weekend, my Dears.

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I start with a pencil drawing of a corner in a tiny walled garden of C. W. Post college:

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After applying dots of resist, I try to mix paints for a color that looks like old brick (doesn’t that blob of paint below look more like a crusty bit of old coagulated ketchup? I know: Ewwwwww.):

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I used to love painting bricks and stones, but it’s been a while since I last did a brick pic:

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While the bricks dry, I paint a foreground flower bush of some sort (I’m not good on naming flora, as you Dear Readers well now — but whatever this flower bush thing is, it lets you see the resist better now — it’s the yellow stuff):

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Here is when I decide that the bricks are too dark; they stand out too much compared to the flower bush thing. So I take a wet paper towel and I dab up some paint:

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Generally, this is not a smart thing to do — I speak from much previous experience — but I thought I could get away with it here because all I want to do is make something that looks like old brick, for which paper towel won’t be a deal-breaker. I do the deed, and then I start to hum my “Finish Painting a Flower Bush and Another Shrub” song :

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Please note (above) that I have applied strokes of resist over a lightly-painted yellow-green foreground. Now see (below) how I am going to paint OVER the resist on that yellow-green background:

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I remover the resist in the flower bush, and in the yellow-green background, and VOILA:

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And now I’m going to hum my “Painting In The Row of Shrubs” song:

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I hope you don’t mind if I  point out the unpainted tree truck (above). As you can see, there’s a blob of yellow and green paint on it. Up until this moment I have been very faithful to the photograph from which I am painting this pic…which included a tree with a bit of fernery or something that was growing out of the lowest bit of its trunk (still present in the painting below):

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I knew the minute that I painted that ferny thing that it was not going to work. It just looked weird there, that unexplainable fern thing that looks like I don’t know how to paint, and it was only a tiny digression from the subject matter anyway, so I exercised my Artistic License and I lifted the ferny thing off the trunk the same way I done it on the brick walkway. As ou can see below, the ferny thing is gone now:

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In case you are keeping score, no rescues have happened yet. So far, I’ve only made minor corrections — I didn’t botch this pic up until much further down the road. Stay tuned:

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Ta Da:

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This is when I thought the picture was DONE!  But, upon closer inspection, I saw that the tree was lop-sided, so I swooped in for my first Rescue:

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Picking UP paint is not a rescue: having to apply white acrylic over a mistake, and then having to paint over it to match the rest of the pic…THAT’S a rescue. See the white acrylic paint on the lower right side of the tree’s foliage? That’s Rescue No. 1.

But, having fixed the wonky foliage, I now considered this painting DONE! YAY!

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But alas, I take a careful look at my source photo:

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And I smack myself right between my eyes. The problem is obvious. All the that I was painting this pic, I had it in my head that the tree was a pom pom. No matter how many times I referred back to this photo, I only saw the tree as a pom pom. But now I can plainly see that the damn thing is a mushroom. So, yes, with your brain in cahoots, your eyes will deceive you.

And so I begin Rescue No. 2 with a layer of white acrylic paint over the area that I’ll have to fix:

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I apply the background of yellow paint, and I darken the color of the sky, and I put in a few patches of blue in the tree for good measure. Yeah, it looks like crap. That background area is simply too large a picture space to cover up with white acrylic paint. The acrylic was gloppy and stood out to much against the small-toothed 90 lb. paper I use:

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And so, I begin Rescue No. 3 with a clever cut out:

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Oh, by the way, I’m on Day Two of this piece. So far I have about 4 – 5 hours of painting time in this pic.

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I’m not humming now, I’m praying Please let me get away with this.  I paint in a convincing background, I give thanks to the great DoG in the sky, and I almost start to tell myself By Jove, I think I’ve got it…until I take a good look at what I’ve done to the tree — the left side of the tree needs a curve, dammit. But this does not call for a rescue…

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…because all I need to do here is a pick-up, like so:

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And now …

… without further ado …

… I introduce to you, my Dear Readers, my first Piece of Toast of 2015:

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The Knot Garden of C. W. Post College, available for one lucky Dear Reader:

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By the way, there’s a 4th rescue that I didn’t have the heart to bore you with. If you win this Piece of Toast, you’ll be able to inspect all the rescues up close and personal and fine the 4th rescue! In fact, I think this Piece of Toast is a veritable catalogue of all the ways a painting can go wrong, and it can all be YOURS!

Here’s how I am going to give away this Piece of Toast: My OG Dear Readers know that I usually limit my give-aways to Dear Readers who have Commented on the past 2 posts of this blog. But since this is my first give-away of 2015, and I think there are a lot of new, shy Dear Readers out there, I am going to open this up To One and All this One time.

I had Top Cat pick a number from 1 to 50. I wrote his pick on a slip of paper and I put it in this envelope:

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I sealed the envelope:

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All you have to do is leave a Comment with your guess of a number between 1 and 50. Next week, you will witness my opening of the envelope and the reveal of the winning number inside.

If, for some rare and strange reason, there are more than 50 Dear Readers who want to own this Vivian Swift Piece of Toast, or if someone else already has guessed your lucky number, please feel free to re-use a number. If that number is the one that Top Cat picked, resulting in a tie between two Dear Readers, the Piece of Toast will go to the Dear Reader who has Commented in the last 2 weeks.

Despite the woes of painting, this pic was fun to do and I know I will be keeping my paint brushes busy in the future with more Triscuits and Pieces of Toast. But Good Luck, everyone, on Toast No. 1!

And have a happy, happy 4th of July!

 

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