November 2017

In my short life (nine years) as a professional illustrator, there is one thing that I can’t paint, and that’s what we will be painting today. Yay. I can feel the excitement from you Dear Readers already.

But first, we need to lead with the cats:

From top top bottom, that’s Bibs, Taffy, and our next-door neighbor, Dennis, on November 25, 2017. Bibs is hoping that something is going to happen between Taffy and Dennis, but Taffy just walked past Dennis and “didn’t” see him, while Dennis happened to be looking the other way and “couldn’t” see Taffy. It’s like my kitchen patio is high school and Taffy and Dennis are the popular girls.

And this just in:

Prince Harry is going to marry his American sweetheart! I, of course, watched the video of their engagement announcement on Monday in London and it was clear that these two people are smitten. She’s gorgeous and intelligent and fun and kind (so I read), and Harry is a Prince and I’m happy for them and they make a beautiful couple.

But I also  noticed the height discrepancy and had to look it up.  Prince Harry is on record as being 6’1″.  Meghan Markle is supposed to be 5’7″ (that’s one zillionty-two centimeters for those of you who think metric, but maybe not; I’m not good at math). Meghan was wearing heels that added at least three inches to her height (I looked it up; her shoes have a 4.1″ heel…YIKES), so that would, in theory, make her 5’11” in this picture.  Well, I don’t think so.

This is why I love the internet: I found a site called celebheights.com and it has been discussing Meghan Markle’s real height for about three years. The inside info is that she’s maybe 5’4″ TOPS, but someone who worked with her PR people says she’s only 5’2″, but she’s very slim, so that makes her look taller.

So, yeah, I have a lot of free time on my hands if I’m looking up stuff like Meghan Markle’s real height. But I also do productive stuff, such as solving the problem of the day.

Back to the problem of the day:

Before Claude Monet gave up painting genre pictures to concentrate of doing abstract water lily landscapes, he was quite good at painting sunlight:

Claude Monet: The Parc Monceau, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

I would love to be able to paint sun-dappled grass like this (see above).

Or, I’d love to be able to paint sun-dappled shade, like this:

Claude Monet, Luncheon at Argenteuil, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

But my problem is that I can’t do the dapple.

Dapple: the light that flickers between sun and shade.

It’s very hard to paint. Really, really hard.

Now, I’ve done a Triscuit or two, in which I have achieved a small dapple effect, one from Monet’s own garden at Giverny:

The Triscuit, at left, is a watercolor painted by me; the Triscuit at the right is a delicious baked wheat snack cracker made by Nabisco which is especially tasty when topped by a slice of cheddar cheese and heated to melting point in a toaster oven.

This next Triscuit dapple is a scene from my own village here on the Long Island Sound:

I have also achieved a semblance of dapple in several other small illustrations and studies for other projects:

So last week I attempted to do a dapple in the part of Monet’s garden at Giverny that is called The Ladies Circle (if you’ve been to Monet’s place, it’s that semi-circle of benches under the pawlonia tree at the bottom of the apple orchard):

I lied down a thin wash of yellow and bright green before I dappled it with dabs of darker green (working wet-in-wet):

The I sjuzzed it up by swiping at the still-wet blobs with my size-00 brush, because I had a recollection that this had worked for me in the past:

Suffice to say, it was a fiasco. And it was fiasco when I did it the second time, and the third time, and the fourth time:

These are all my attempts at doing The Ladies’ Circle, and all of them stink but some of them stink less than others.

I tried to find other watercolor painters on the internets who have successfully achieved dapple but not surprisingly, I couldn’t find a single one. No one who works in watercolor can do the dapple on green grass. It’s strictly an oil paint thing.

So I decided to go for a more, um, impressionistic look and this is what I got:

I painted this picture in true proportions to my photo reference, but those benches just don’t look right as they are. They need to be embiggened, even if they are not so in the real world —  so I will be be re-doing this pic in the near future. But I did manage to do a nice study of one of those benches (the design was Monet’s own favorite), and the tea table that I put in front of it is a quote from one of  Mr. Monet’s own pictures:

I never cared for one of Monet’s fellow impressionists, Pierre-August Renoir, but he’s been in the news lately because of this:

Maybe you heard about the fake Renoir that der Drumpf has hanging in his glitzy Trump Tower apartment? The one that he still brags is “real”, even though the Chicago Institute of Art has had the authentic Renoir painting on display since 1933 and can substantiate its provenance from 1881, when the artist painted it and sold it to a dealer in Paris. It’s called Two Sisters on a Terrace and I don’t care for it at all, except that I LOVE it for being evidence of der Drumpf’s delusions that even his nut job fans can’t possible defend. I mean, even a nut job crypto-Nazi half-wit has to believe his own eyes, right?

Just remember this the next time you hear der Drumpf claim that the news is fake, that he turned down Time magazine’s cover for Person of the Year, and that voice on the recording isn’t his. I hope and pray that no one from der Drupf’s family is invited to Prince Harry’s wedding, oh lordy, the next thing you know der Drumpf will be telling us that Harry wanted him to be Best Man because of his close friendship with the late Princess Diana.

Luckily, as the Prince is only 5th in line to the throne of England, I think the wedding will be a personal rather than a state affair, so the happy couple will be free to exclude any head of state whose every word is a nugget of steaming puss oozing from its filthy rotten lying orifice, or any creep they just don’t like.

As you see here, Renoir couldn’t dapple either.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. It’s beginning to feel like Winter here on Long Island, so wherever you are stay warm and cozy…

Another configuration of the Two Cats/One Space Principle.

…or stay cool, whichever make you feel dappled and drowsy and groovy.

See you next Friday!

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This was my first idea for what the cover of my garden book should look like:

But of course the art department at Bloomsbury had other ideas:

Don’t get me wrong: I like this cover very much (after all, I painted it) and it’s a view of London that has had a special place in my heart for neigh on 15 years (see: page 140 for the whole story). It’s just that for my first two books, the art department at Bloomsbury told me that I could never take an image from the inside of the book and put it on the cover because that’s not how they did things, and so I had to come up with a whole new idea for the cover. And then, for my garden book, the art department insisted on taking an image from inside the book (this image) and put it on the cover. I didn’t argue, I didn’t ask WTF??,  I went home from the meeting and had a big stonking G&T.

Any hoo, it seems that the cover did the trick, the trick being to make everybody in the world want to buy my book, and win me heaps of awards and the love of everyone who was ever mean to me.

Because I just won an award from The Garden Writers of America!

The award came as quite a surprise; it was an ordinary day and I was at home, as usual, catching up on some housework and doing what I have to do in order to get myself in the frame of mind to write my heart out for one more day . . . 

. . . when the prize committee and marching band showed up at the front door and presented me with my Silver Medal:

Actually, the GWA mailed me a certificate, but still.

I did win a silver medal and I can now legitimately call myself a prize-wining garden writer, thank you very much. Pretty good for someone who has never, and will never, garden in the verbal sense of the word. Weeding  and getting my hands dirty and stuff: Ew.

The only other prize I’ve ever won was in 1994 when I entered an art work into a contest sponsored by the historical society that preserves the oldest house in Westchester, New York (The Timothy Knapp House in Rye) and I won Best in Show:

It’s an embroidery, of course, and it shows four seasons at the oldest house in Westchester, NY. It’s big, about 30″ on its longest side.  The society liked it so much that they asked if I would donate it to their collection. Naturally, me being the sweetheart that I am, I gave it to them, happily.

Not long after becoming a prize-wining artist I quit the lucrative business of free-lance fine-art embroidery and entered the field of free-lance writing, where they just throw money at you. Those pennies hurt when lobbed from across an editor’s desk, let me tell you.

While working a glamorous day job in the office administration field (they only throw paper money at you in Corporate America, whew) , I managed to write my first book When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which came out in 2008. I contacted the historical society and reminded them who I was and asked if they would let me hold a book signing in their cute historical building (not the Timothy Knapp House) because the book was all about my life in Westchester and so were they (all about Westchester), and they said no. Me and elephants: we never forget.

So any way, here I am, a prize-wining garden writer of all things, and my most recent book, Gardens of Awe and Folly , is an award-wining travelogue of my adventures in nine of the world’s most thought-provoking gardens. The London chapter sees me in the Chelsea Physic Garden, and not all that happy about it:

Come to think of it, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the Japanese garden either:

In spite of my misgivings about some of the garden experiences I wrote about, nobody has ever mentioned to me that they detect any melancholy in any of the chapters, which I am grateful for because there were parts of this book that I had to write during the very hard time that I was dealing with the death of my DoG and I was very sad.

Boogie Girl: my sweet 17-year old cocker spaniel who I adopted three years ago this month, and was my heart and soul for nine months, two weeks, and a day:

Boogie Girl, in the car on our ride home from the ASPCA in Manhattan. We had known each other for about 30 minutes. I had to pull the car over to the side of Second Avenue and get a hold of my nerves: What on Earth had I got myself into…I just adopted a DoG!!!

Thank you, Boogie Girl, for being my First, and Only, and Best DoG.

Normally, this would be a good place to end a blog post but you know that I can’t let my Dear Readers go without a cat story. And here it is:

Taffy: This folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and comfortable place in all the world, for there is no other place as beautiful and necessary as this, even though there is the whole rest of the couch that no kitty is using. :

Lickety: I too think that this folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and wonderful place in the world and I would like to take a nap here, and not anywhere else on this empty couch for I am Lickety and there is no other place in all the galaxy that I can nap as peacefully and wondrously as here. RIGHT HERE. :

Taffy: I don’t know, Lickety; it doesn’t seem to me that there is enough of this wondrous and beautiful sheet for two kitties to nap upon and have their fabulous and magical dreams, which is surely what kitties will have, if they rest upon this most beautiful sheet in all the universe. :

Lickety : But there must be room enough for us two here, for there is no other sheet in all the world as beautiful and wondrous as this sheet upon which I have tucked my little kitty feet. :

Taffy: That’s not upon the sheet most magical and mystical (in all down realms of reality or fantasy) upon which you are tucked, Lickety; that’s my feets.:

Lickety: Let me show you how, in the World of Lickety . . .

. . . two kitties can occupy the same space . . .

. . . especially if that space is the space  . . .

. . . upon the most wondrous and fantastical sheet in all the Not-Lickety World. :

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend, everyone. Thank you for being the Dear Readers that you are — May all your nap times be tucked in with sweet dreams most wondrous and magical. See you back here next Friday.

And Thank You, Karen Fonseca of Fort Bend, Texas, for proving that not all Texans are Drumpf-loving pukes :

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We might do some painting today. . .

. . . but you know the rule here: Lead With The Cats.

You all remember Mr. Fluffy? The mangy, starving stray cat I found in my backyard last Spring, the one who was  filthy and full of tangles and crusted-on poop and stank so badly that I thought he’d been sprayed by a skunk, and who went to the vet and got all his expensive health issues taken care of and got cleaned up (but was still as skinny as a ferret) and got adopted by his forever family in Washington D.C. thanks to their seeing his story on this very blog? Well, it was chilly last week in our nation’s capitol, so Mr. Fluffy’s people lit a fire, and they sent me a photo of Mr. Fluffy checking out this strange new phenomenon called “getting cozy”. Is he one handsome dude or what?

I give you this picture of Mr. Fluffy because we all need a moment of Awwwwwwwww on this, the end of another bad, sad, and dangerous week in America. I don’t have to tell you the news, you all know it all too well;  how another angry  white guy with a gun and a grievance makes us all pay a revolting price for living in the land of the free and the AR 15.  I despair.

Now we need another cat to lower our blood pressure and maybe give us a reason to live, and here he is:

That’s Taffy on the kitchen patio on Wednesday morning, helping me look for our Perfect Fall Leaf of 2017, which we have not found yet due to the fact that Nature isn’t cooperating this year. Fall is very late in coming, and what has arrived, so far, hasn’t been spectacular. This is how the north corner of my front yard looks on a normal November 7, which is usually peak leaf time:

This is how it looked yesterday, November 16, 2017:

I reckon that Fall is 9 days behind schedule and counting.

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I had gone to see famous ghost writer Daniel Paisner talk about his wonderful career collaborating with celebrities in the sports and entertainment world. During his talk he used the term thought leader to describe some of the non-famous subjects of his books  (a billionaire businessperson, a hippy surfer/philanthropist, an economist who gives TED talks, etc.). Thought leader was a curious phrase to me, and as I had not heard that term before I wrote it down so I could think about the concept later. Well, you all know how it goes: now that I’ve become aware of it, I’ve heard or read that term about half a dozen times in the past two weeks. I never noticed it before, but it seems that the world is littered with thought leaders.

I’m putting that on my resume as soon as I have a resume: thought leader.

Here’s a thought: How about all those good Christians in Alabama don’t vote for a child rapist? Is that too much to ask of the godly men and women of the Deep South?

Or am I being naive, in thinking that people who want to make America great again might have morals that would prevent them from sending to the Senate a man who is unwilling to obey the constitution (and its mandate on the separation of church and state) AND sexually assaults young girls?

MOBILE, ALABAMA: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters after his rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Oh, right.

Nevermind.

P.S. I got both these pix of Roy Moore and der Drumpf by googling “alabama morons”. I love the internet.

Let’s paint:

This is a very small view of Monet’s central flower bed at Giverny, a garden that I’ve painted frequently.

Painting flowers is so relaxing.

This time I want to paint the flowers on a very sunny day, and test my ability to paint in very dark and light tones.

As you can see, I prepared a background of bright green over which I will paint my deep green bits.

I got some nice blobby effects by working wet-in-wet, and letting the paints bled into one another — I do like seeing what watercolors does when you just let it do its thing. And I also like doing the persnickety details with my 00-size brush.

I put down a yellow background for the really bright areas, over which I will dab in some medium-tone greens:

Yeah, I got some sparkle here:

Shadows:

Done.

This is for New Reader Steve, who I confused last week by mentioning a tea bag that wasn’t there. It’s here now, Steve.

My Steve, waiting on my front porch wall, making a mind-meld with me to let me know that a little pre-dinner taste treat would make a certain kitty happy.

Thank you all, Dear Readers, Warriors to the heart, for your lovely Comments last week about my Uncle Rolly post. I hope we all have a good man in our lives, especially these days when we hear about more and more men who we thought were OK guys are actually real creeps. Et tu, Al Franken??

Have a great weekend, dear ones, and I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a day of happiness and gratitude and meaning for you and the ones you love.

And here’s the photo of my favorite cheese enchiladas and retired beans and rice that never fails to make my day when I am in the dumps and need to feast my eyes on something good:

 

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Without the tea bag for size reference, you can’t tell that this piece is 25 inches long. That’s about 25 million tea bags long. I’m not good at math.

Twenty years ago, a very kind and adorable and lovable man asked me to sew something for him. Specifically, he asked to sew an embroidery of the school house at the Farm Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Cooperstown is a small village in update New York (that means it’s practically in Canada) that is famous for being the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But this wonderful man, my Uncle Rolly, who I loved very much, was not a baseball fan, so when he went to Cooperstown it was all about the Farm Museum.

Which is weird. Uncle Rolly was a life-long, born and bred, New York City boy; so why he loved the farmer’s museum is a mystery but there you are. Life is mysterious.

For some reason, Uncle Rolly became smitten with the school house there:

He came back from Cooperstown, in 1997, and he had a vision that this school house would look sweller than swell as an old-timer “sampler” embroidery. Uncle Rolly loved early American art.

So, in 1997, when I was 41 years old, I designed and sewed this sampler-type depiction of the school house at the Farm Museum for Uncle Rolly. I was not especially inspired by the subject, being as I was a world traveler and all, and he wanted something about the hick boondocks of upstate New York . . . but for Uncle Rolly, I would do anything.

P. S.: I can’t believe that it was 20 years ago. I for sure as shit can’t believe that I was 41 years old TWENTY IMPOSSIBLE YEARS  AGO. But there you are. Life is mysterious.

My first true cat love, Woody Robinson, died in 1996; so for a few years after his departure for the Rainbow Bridge, I used to “sign” all my embroideries with a little Woody Robinson. That’s Woody, above.

The reason that I have this embroidery hanging on my dining room wall is because my dear sweet Uncle Rolly died three years ago, on September 20, 2014, (you might have read my post about how I did his obituary for the New York Times) and he willed that every piece of art that I did for him would come back to me. This is one of the pieces I got back. There are six so far: I’m still looking for the Hebrew alphabet that I sewed . . . that has gone missing. (Yes, I can read and kind-of write Hebrew. Let’s discuss soon.)

I miss my Uncle Rolly, who wasn’t my real Uncle Rolly due to his being the husband of my step-father’s sister, but who told me that he would always be my Unlce Rolly no matter what, and was the most lovable relative I ever had through all my parent’s many marriages and divorces and half-relatives and step-relatives. For example, my mother divorced her Uncle Rolly-relatated-husband in 1970, and in 1997 Rolly was still my favorite relative.

Uncle Rolly didn’t like cats, AT ALL, hard as it is to fathom — he really, really didn’t like cats. But he let me bring Woody Robinson into his house on multiple occasions. He said, “I love Woody because you love Woody.”

Woody Robinson, with embroidery of his favorite violets, page 67 in When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

That just shows you what kind of man he was.

I wanted to do this blog because you, Dear Readers and I, being (mostly) women in the world have experienced the despicable, abhorrent, disgusting, vile behavior of men in our private and public lives. EVERY woman alive today has a story. I have stories. OK, I have about two stories, and they are just the run-of-the-mill tales of old men kissing me on the mouth and telling other people in the workplace about it and having them say to me, “Oh, yeah, that’s what [fill in name] does.”

I’m ecstatic that women are telling those stories and naming names. It has to be done.

Men who have denigrated us, men who have loved/validated us.

Discuss.

P.S.  When Uncle Rolly met Top Cat,  Unce Rolly thought T.C. was a nice guy . Then I told Uncle Rolly that on our second date, Top Cat brought presents for each of my five cats.  Uncle Rolly (who, remember, detested cats), said to me: Marry him.

Have a great weekend, my dear Warrior Readers. I know that each of you have more than survived male entitlement: you have prevailed. Because WE ARE WHO WE ARE.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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