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We love Pumpkin Time here on the shores of the Long Island Sound.





I detect a slight flaw in the Pumpkin Placement Plan here.





Pumpkin Time is a good time to remember the most lonely word in the English language: Orange. The color gets a bad rap for being garish and unfriendly but some of my favorite things in the world are orange.




Here are some pictures of City Orange from my outing yesterday:


Upper West Side brownstone.


Yes! I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday! The bridge is undergoing loads of restoration so it is u-g-l-y at the moment, but as you can see, the City of New York spares no expense in making tourists feel welcome!


Saki basement bar in the East Village.

And what Secret Garden would be complete without a touch of orange?


Which reminds me, we are painting a Secret Garden today:


Of course, it all starts with a pencil sketch and masking fluid:P1190993

I use folded sheets of scrap paper to cover up bits of the picture before I begin to paint the gravel:


When the base paint is dry, I put my toothbrush to good use (which, in between the three times a day I use it for dental hygiene, lays around doing absolutely nothing). I load it up with a mix of grey and black watercolor and then I flick it at the illustration:


This is not really my Dental Hygine Toothbrush. This is my Dedicated Paint Flicking Toothbrush.

Let dry, and voila:


Here’s a painting tip: I save the bottle caps of Top Cat’s favorite GatorAid to use as mixing pans.


To get the many shades of green I need for a garden illustration I mix three different hues of green with two different hues of yellow and/or three different hues of blue. BUT to get the pure yellow that I prefer for my painting I mix two different yellows — Cadmium Yellow and Lemon Yellow. (Alone, Cadmium Yellow is too orange and Lemon Yellow is too bright). And I keep my pure yellow isolated in a GatorAid bottle cap because I can’t be trusted to keep them clean if I put them in a palette-thingy.




Here is where I add some detail to the background wash:


For this illustration I wanted to try out an idea I had, about using some blue in the foliage, maybe to get a more dream-like effect:


I am still using my chalky Grumbacher paints mixed with the tubes of Windsor Newtons, mostly because I love what the chalky paints do when they dry. They leave an interesting residue on the paper, interesting textures that are purely accidental that I really like:


I am thinking that for this picture I want to leave the foliage looking very watercolory, like this:


So far, I am quite happy with the way this picture is going. So now I start to add plants:


I’m being careful not to over-do it:P1200010

But here is where I ruined it all:


I tried to paint tree trunks in ochre, which was bad enough, but then I made the mistake of painting them with straight lines. I knew it was wrong immediately. I was instantly unhappy with these wimpy, ugly tree trunks. But still, I thought I could soldier on, finesse the picture with other distracting details:


But those tree trunks just kept bothering me. So, i finally had to ditch the whole picture, having admitted what I knew all along: There is no rescuing a picutre that has a fatal flaw:

P1200082 2

Several days later, I went back and had another go at it. The steps were exactly the same as above, but the end was this:


You can compare for yourself:


Yes, the sad fact is that whenever you try something new, there’s a 80% chance that you will blow it. But hey: it’s only a bit of paper and paint. That doesn’t stop me from taking a whack at something new. And, for those times when making a crappy illustration feels too much like failure, there’s always champagne.

One of these days I hope to work up the nerve to paint my favorite time of day:


Twilight in Pumpkin Time.

I love the low light of a Fall evening:


I have to learn how to paint this most beautiful shade of orange. In fact, I think that when we finally invent a word that rhymes with orange, and it must have something to do with this quality of light:




I’m thinking that “floringe” might be the word, to describe the look of artificial lights glowing in a Fall evening. Floringe would be used especially in the case of the lights that shine from the inside out:


The lights that are seen from a distance:P1200145

To extrapolate, then, floringe, as the wisp of illumination that almost holds its own against the night, floringe could also be the word used when a blog goes dark.

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time.

I have been blogging for six years. My blog has evolved from a really crappy stream-of-concisouness diary into a weekly presentation of what I hope is interesting and useful  and honest information and about the trials and errors of living a creative life. I take a lot of pride in making my blog live up to the intelligence and humanity of my community of readers, dear readers, many whose stories and names and cats I have come to know and treasure, as friends and inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And in the same way that I know when my painting lacks necessary oomph, I know when my blog is running out of steam. As both painter and blogger, sometimes I have to get away and be more of a person living in the world than a person who observes it.

So. I will not be here next Friday, or the next. Or the next. I will be writing my Damn Garden Book full time, and showing up as a Commentor on my favorite blogs — if you are not reading The Miserable Gardener you are missing the best gardening blog written by a pure bred border collie ever — and herding my cats. Doing what I can to gather steam.

I do plan on being back in the blogosphere, someday, and I might even post something here from time to time, so please drop by. I’ll have to post updates about theDamn Garden Book, of course — I’m under contract to finish it sometime in 2014. And you can always reach me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com, because I do want more garden photos. We’ll stay in touch. Because when a blog goes dark, it doesn’t go away forever. It only goes floringe.

Meaning, there’s always a light left on. You’ll always be able to find your way to my door.



66 comments to Nothing Rhymes With Orange

  • Deborah

    I’m not faking it — I AM happy for you. Even though this means more I’ll be busy painting until next year. As soon as I get my garden put to bed. Can’t wait for the DGB to come out! Ultreya, dear Vivian (and Top Cat and all the pretty kitties.)

  • Gigi DeVault

    Several wonderful things have happened this year (including finding your blog!), but so have several very sad things. I’ve kept a tough upper lip…until now. Oddly, this morning – before seeing this blog post – I re-read the ending of Le Road Trip. You see, I have to pack and move, and I didn’t have the heart to put your books in a box. Not just yet. But even the most glorious trips come to an end, whether in France or on Vivian’s Long Island Sound molehill.

    The most remarkable thing about the Internet is that it enables about a 100 women to feel like we’ve made a best friend. And now that friend is moving to a new neighborhood for awhile. We won’t see her sitting on the lawn with a cat in her lap and a flute of champagne lifted in salute to a glorious sunset.

    But with any luck at all, we will see her in the new garden book…and perhaps another blog. And, if I’ve learned one thing from your work, it is to finish on a high note – with style, grace, and a toast.

    So here is to you, Vivian, and to a speedy path to a finished book, happy editors, and your next big adventure! Cheers!

  • Oh, my — I was reading along and loving the orange and learning so much about how just a little stroke can change a look — and how doing it over is just what you DO to get it right and was so happy — and then… POW!

    So many things to say, so many thoughts topsy-turveying in my head. First, my admiration — not only for all you do, your generosity in sharing your knowledge and your art, but also your soul, spirit, humour and wit in each post. Nobody does it like you and I am so grateful I discovered your space and your wonderful books. I will miss my weekly lessons, but I am grateful that this blog will stay in place so we can go back and back. I’m a relative newbie here and have missed too much. I’ll just have to read backwards.

    Second, your grace is dazzling. Your ability to bow out with such style, such eloquence. We all take breaks every now and then; to depart with such style is a gift.

    I will miss my weekly visits — the favorite part of my week, which is why I’ll back track. I want to thank you for inspiring me, for teaching me and for helping me to learn to be a better artist and a little bit better a painter. I have a long ways to go. But you have given me confidence, simply through your lessons. And I want to thank you for sharing Lizzie Cosette with your community and for the wonderful portrait, which I treasure. There’s more. But I’ll just get redundant.

    Sending you many wonderful wishes for success on the Damn Garden Book. You know you’ll have plenty of sales from me! All the best to you and Top Cat and the cat-gang from me and Lizzie C. And if you get a rush on Le Road Trip around the holidays… well, just know I’m thinking of you! ~jeanie

  • Vivian

    And I’ll miss the updates from OUt Where The West Begins. It’s only Au Revoir, tho — my porch light is always on.

  • Vivian

    Door hinge! I will have to remember that! They creek especially sadly this time of year, non?

  • Vivian

    You are so right about the new kind of acquaintance that comes from blogging. Remember what Holden Caufield said in Catcher in the Rye, about wanting to telephone the author of your favorite book? Well now the internet makes that possible…so the actuality of the relationship might be new, but the desire for it is age-old.

    I liked what Pippa said about what she found here in my little corner of the internet: she said that my blog was like finding out that your favorite book kept getting new chapters added to it. that’s right, I said it: favorite book. For my favorite readers.

  • Vivian

    Thank you, Carol, for that bon voyage.

  • Vivian

    Nice Garrison Keillor reference!! Thank you!!

  • Vivian

    Thank you, Gitana, for everything in my special “GG” treasure box.

  • Vivian

    Me too, dear one, me too.

  • Vivian

    You warm my heart. Thank you.

  • Vivian

    Take care of those butterflies and poodles and blue birds for me.

  • Vivian

    Wow. Just: wow. I am honored to be your traveling companion on all your future roads.

  • Vivian

    Thank you, Jeanie, for a message I will keep in my heart.

  • Ana

    Vivian –
    I never commented before. Always meant to…
    I love your books and your blog. The cats always made me laugh. I wish you the best and look forward to your next books. Ana

  • Cheryl McLaughlin

    missing you, Vivian. I keep coming to look for you but you’re not home (at your blog that is ;-)

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