…otherwise known as The Gold Coast of Ye Olde Long Island…
…where Ye Olde Money of yore transplanted ancient yew trees from the Olde Worlde to make Instant Stately Homes (now gone to ruin)…
…and where the haunted forest is reclaiming ye olde acres of lawns into native wild flower meadows once more…
…where I came upon yon ancient cottage…
…which beckoned me to pause…
…and consider its perfectness as a refuge from the madding world…
…where I could gather inspiration from nature and light and where cats could roam free…
…but there was just one little problem…
…scale. For this magical realm goes by the name of The Muttontown Preserve (I’m not making this up) and it encompasses the last American address of — I’m not making this up — King Zog, the last, deposed monarch of Albania and I conjecture that ye Ole King had a young Princess for whom nothing would do but she had a play house in the American Colonial vernacular.
I can not tell you how much I want this house. If you hear about some crazy cat lady claiming that she is the reincarnation and rightful heiress of the late great King Zog — that’ll be me, staking my claim to this itty bitty ranch house in Muttontown. I’m not making this up.
But speaking of crazy cat ladies…
…it’s time to draw us some kitty cats!
OK. Here’s how I decided was the best way to share my minuscule amount of knowledge of the visual arts, of which I am not a certified practitioner of. First, I am going to show you how I draw a cat from memory:
I start with a bottom-heavy oblong shape:
Then I add hips — by the way, I’m doing this from memory to make a point:
The point is that since I have been looking at cats my whole life I have internalized the basic structure of Le Cat:
And as you can see, the basic structure is no more complicated than that of a snowman:
So really, when I paint a cat, I don’t actually have to sketch out this blueprint — it’s already “on the paper” before I pick up a brush:
But I am showing you the building blocks that I visualize when I look at a cat:
And when I say “sketch”, I don’t mean make those crappy wispy wimpy scritching marks that a lot of people do when they “sketch” — I mean commit yourself to making a strong, unequivocal line:
Voila, The Cat. Now, to make a cat head on, you use the exact same strategy…but let’s go through the basics of the dear little kitty face:
OK. So, now we’ll make another snowman:
And we’ll erase some lines to make the kitty face front:
I hope you can see that drawing a cat isn’t all that hard. But it’s something that every cat lover should know how to do, in case of emergency:
I like this kitty’s little smile. But really, those ears? That tail? Those dangling front legs?
I got this Lost Cat poster from a new book that I just started reading:
It’s very cute and I recommend it. But it got me thinking….how can I apply my cat-snowman lesson to a real life cat?
So I found a really cute cat from the internets:
You see? All I had to do was get the basic building blocks of this sweet kitty to start her portrait. Again, I have to say, this is a drawing of what I usually only visualize before I start to paint. It took me a long time before I understood that the time I spend just thinking about what I’m going to paint before I paint makes all the difference between a good painting and one that is a crap shoot, so yes, I spend a fair amount of time visualizing. I’m just saying.
Next, I picture the particular markings that make this sweet kitty her own self. She’s a darling tuxedo tabby, which in my mind looks like this:
Then I plot out where the dark and the light spots are:
And now I’m ready to paint.
Which I will do next week. I will paint this adorable sweet kitty girl and show you how I do it, brush stroke by brush stroke.
However, if you are new to cat painting, you can draw your kitty like I did, and do a nice watercolor wash over your pencil drawing and it will look really nice too. I would have done this to my pencil drawing here but I ran out of time this week. SORRY.
As for an update on the Damn Garden Book that I’ve been working on lo these many moons: I’m asking you, dear readers, for help.
I need your photos of Secret Gardens, preferably yours, to put in my Damn Garden Book.
For example, my lovely neighbor Joann has a darling secret garden that looks like this:
If you would like to have your Secret Garden included in my Damn Garden Book, and you are willing to answer my Secret Garden Questionnaire (sample question: Does your Secret Garden have a name?) stay tuned.
Next week I will tell you where to send your fab fotos and secrets and how to get your garden and your name in the Damn Garden Book.
But now I want to take this time to answer some questions that arose from last week’s post, about the London garden watercolor I did:
1. Why did you paint this front-to-back?
I panted it front-to-back because I was thinking like an embroiderer. Long before I picked up a paintbrush, I used to embroider gardens all the time. Here are two embroidered gardens from my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam:
So, in painting like an embroiderer, I painted each little plant in a different texture, which can only be done front-to-back. For the background of my London garden illustration, however, I knew I wanted a more impressionistic look, so that I painted back-to-front…
…and if you go back and look at my step-by-step photos last week you’ll see that the front-to-back painting and the back-to-front painting eventually met up in the middle ground and voila: the illustration was finished!
P.S. to Alexandra. Yes, this did increase the drying time down-time. But I was working on another illustration while I waited for my London garden watercolor to dry. And yes, I took photos of that too, which I will show next week. Here’s a hint:
2. What are those little clay pots on the poles for?
I’m glad that Jeannie and Kate asked this question, and I’m soooooo glad that Patricia answered it (in the Comments section last week) because I had no idea. I saw them there on those poles and I thought they looked cute, so I included them in the illustration.
3. Why don’t you put all your watercolor lessons all together in a book?
Thank you, Whimsy2 and Susie for asking. As a matter of fact, I am thinking more and more along those lines myself. A dear reader (GG, you know who you are) has emailed me a file that she collected, with a great many of my past watercolor lessons on it, and yes I think I just might sort through them and put out a How I Done It book. And for the Damn Garden Book that I am currently working on I plan to paint a secret garden (see above) and photo the work in progress. I think that would be neat to show. It might even be your secret garden (see above).
4. Mary asks, How do you know that that plane flying over your back yard is the 6:05 Qantas from LAX?
I know because I have actually downloaded the app that gives me real-time arrival info on every airliner landing at JFK International airport in Queens, New York. That’s how much I love plane spotting in my back yard.
And now, for the Winner of our fabuloso Elizabeth Gilbert The Signature of All Things Give Away:
Top Cat picked : Melissa! Melissa, please send me your snail mail address at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and I will send you this beautiful book a s a p. Melissa is a new dear reader — welcome!