March 2018

This is Candy, on the job:

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

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

Never Bother a Sleeping Kitty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

painting credit: Carol Gadek Skapinetz

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Randy Clinkscales.

Beautiful. (Awesome reflection, too.)

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

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

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

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

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

Something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I just say something about being a pet owner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeal the Second Amendment.


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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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I had way too many people over to my house last night and one woman, who was the wife of one of Top Cat’s friends, waved her hand at me to show me her ring and bragged, “It’s a ruby.” (This is an internet photo of a cabochon ruby below.)

I should mention that this scenario was a dream I had last night but now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll continue: I looked at the stone and I knew it was not a ruby so I said, “No, it’s not a ruby, it’s red coral,” because I am part Vulcan and I cannot lie. (Internet photo of cabochon red coral below.)

The woman got all snotty at me and insisted that I didn’t know anything and that if there was a jeweler in the room he’d set me straight and tell me that this was a ruby, because it’s a family heirloom and Grandma said it was a ruby and everyone in the family knows it’s a ruby.

I woke up then, with a weary apathy that was a very familiar feeling of mine from the days when I worked as a jeweled objects expert at Christie’s auction house. I used to have conversations like this one in my dream all the time with people who wanted to bankroll their retirement by selling off a family heirloom that, I had to tell them, in reality would, maybe, finance a retirement party for four at Olive Garden. Lordy, I could tell you stories about the stories that get handed down from Grandmas.

P.S. Myths about family heirlooms happen even in the best families:

Do you see that large cabochon (polished, dome-shaped gem) in the middle of Queen Elizabeth’s crown? It’s been  called The Black Prince’s Ruby ever since it was handed down from the Black Prince, the Plantagenet forbear of the Queen who lived 1330 – 1376.  But it’s not a ruby. It’s a spinel,  a type of gem that was differentiated in the 18th century as another very nice red stone that is actually redder than most rubies, but not a ruby. They sell for 30 – 50% the price of ruby, but I don’t know of many people who are clamoring for it. The pertinent thing is, it’s not a ruby.

I have not dreamed about my old job for many years and I was momentarily perplexed at why one would crop up now. Then I remember that I watched Antiques Roadshow the night before and had seen an old boyfriend on the TV screen. He has appeared on Antiques Roadshow, off and on, as one of their expert appraisers since its beginning in 1997, the year after we broke up.

I used to wish that I had stayed at my Christie’s job a little longer because maybe I could have ended up on TV too, but you know how it is, you see an old boyfriend on the TV show you used to wish you could have been on and you think, Wow, it’s been 21 years since we broke up and he still has awesome hair and then that night you have a dream about things that are not rubies.

Wait. 1996 was 21 years ago?!?!?!? And no, this guy is not my ex-boyfriend.

Maybe you have been in the position of having to give, or receive,  information, such as the kind that I used to give all the time when I worked as an expert appraiser. To me, the information was neutral: it was fact, in that it was based on my degrees in Gemology and my expert knowledge of the market value of certain objects, which I earned through my daily interaction with that market and on my many years of experience with those kinds of objects, or ones that are quantifiably similar in ways that I have been expertly trained to translate into dollar value. It was my job to know these things.

This guy is not my ex-boyfriend either.

To the person receiving the information, however, the information appears to be merely opinion, especially since it does not agree with what they wanted to hear. 80% of the time, when my information was rejected, the excuse was that the owner of the object under scrutiny had a “feeling” that it was worth more. (To be fair, there are times when objects put up for auction smash their pre-auction estimates, but we’re talking about the very rare, or one-of-a-kind items that are not anything like your Grandma’s Ansonia clock or her Piaget wristwatch, or the 19th-century Italian shell cameo that was smuggled out of Europe 300 years ago when the ancestor was a maid to the Queen of France during the persecution of the Catholics — that last one is a true Grandma story which was so wrong on so many counts that I didn’t know where to begin.

God no.

In time I came to understand that what a lot of people called a “feeling” was in fact a “wish”, and that most people prefer to live in their “wish” world than in the world of true information. And since then I’ve been very careful to question all my “feelings” to make sure they aren’t “wishes”. There’s a difference. It’s good to know the difference.

And I also thought that the reason I had this dream that dredged up those old feelings of what I call weariness and apathy (if they are not one and the same — we have so few words for nuanced emotions) is because I feel the same way when I hear the debate about gun control. The NRA and their lackeys have a shitty red coral ring that they believe is ruby, and they won’t listen to an expert opinion because facts make them feel like you hate their Grandma and they will defend their Grandma to death so all of a sudden you are dealing with someone who is screaming at you for hating poor little old law-abiding ladies who never did a thing to hurt you and why would you want to take her ruby ring away from her when it’s all she has???? It makes me weary.

Here on Long Island we had Spring For a Day — sunny, warm, blue skies — and Steve went roll a roll on the grass of our front lawn and came back looking like this:

I didn’t do much painting this week; all I had to do was re-do a portrait of Claude Monet. I used two references, one from 1886 in a painting by Monet’s friend, John Singer Sargent:

And this one, a photograph from c. 1920:

At first, I thought I could get away with this (it’s just a doodle for the margin):

But, no. So I did this:

OK. Now I see it: I got the head position and the shift of his whole posture wrong. And what’s with that paint brush in his right hand? I will have to have another go at it, which is the norm for this book. I think I’ve painted every single illustration at least twice; some, more than eight times, until I get it right. Because I am part Vulcan and we are sticklers for the truth.

Here’s a Monet fact you won’t read any where else: In 1901 Monet took home the equivalent (in 2017 dollars) of $1.7 million from sales of his paintings. In 2016, one of his pictures of a grainstack made $81.4 million at auction in New York — at my old stomping grounds, Christie’s.

And that’s how you bring a blog post full circle, Dear Readers.

And now it’s time to go back to real life in America, back to another day in the demise of democracy in the Drumpf administration.

We made it through February, Dear Ones: we will get through March, and we will get through it together. See you here next week.

Have a great weekend, and please don’t have bad dreams about work or old boyfriends unless it’s a good story and then I definitely want to hear it.



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