We have a Winner!Top Cat has chosen and last weeks’s one-of-a-kind hand-painted Pub Date Celebration Triscuit with cat and tea goes to Number 171 …
. . . which of course no one picked but we’re going with the closest number without going over, and that number is . . .
. . . # 168 …
Monique, a long-time Dear Reader of this blog, has never won a contest here in VivianWorld so for this challenge she changed tactics and asked her own Top Cat (who goes by the name of Jacques) to pick a # for her and the mojo was tres bien! Enfin! Congratulations, Monique! This Tricuit definitely is so you, all over!
And now let us return to the raison d’être of this blog which is, namely, Watching Paint Dry and, according to this week’s title, Hacks.
You all know that I have a new book out (shameless plug):
But you might not know that the picture on the cover is one of my better hacks which I had to do because, like Jenny Beavan, I have strengths and I have weaknesses in what I do for a living but I’ve found a way to hack around it so no one goes tsk tsk, she’s really let herself go. Read on.
This is how that illustration started out in life:
And this is what it looked like after I cut out (literally, and I do mean: literally — with scissors) all the crap bits:
I bring this up because, if you remember from two weeks ago that I showed you all a picture of Monet’s Giverny garden allee before I hacked it:
And then I showed you this same painting apres hack:
When Dear Reader Nancy S. posted a Comment and asked how I did it, I realized that I should have been more specific about this particular hack. Because, not to brag or nothing, but hacks are kinda my thing. I have a whole category of rescue posts on this blog and if you’re curious you can find them under the blog post category Watercolor Rescue. For today, tho, I want to discuss all the various ways I rescue paintings that have gone wrong, such as all of the above.
Getting back to the cover illustration for Gardens of Awe etc., here’s me in the act of re-drawing the pic around the bits that were salvageable:
(BTW, what I’m showing you here is an abridged version of this rescue — if you care to read the whole ugly story it’s here in a post that I called I Hoard My Mistakes for the Sake of Art.)
Architectural drawing is something that I am really bad at, and I accept that about myself. So it behooves me to avoid doing architecture whenever possible. But when I can’t avoid it, I hack it by keeping the drawing as simple as can be, and if it has to be in any way detailed I paint it in silhouettes as I have done here, below, in the background:
This silhouette trick is a device that I’ve used to great effect (if I do say so myself) in my previous book Le Road Trip:
and in the Edinburgh chapter of the DGB:
I am always on the lookout for architectural hacks. On a trip to Scotland in 2007 I found this illustration in a magazine:
Do you see how the artist, Adrian McMurchie, has flattened the building and yet has still kept the integrity of the architecture?
I originally thought that this was a fabulous hack, a brilliant way of avoiding the pitfalls of perspective and as such was something that I intended to use one of these days. But it turns out that Adrian McMurchie is a boy wonder at rendering sumptuous architectural illustration, so this hack might be harder than it looks but still, it’s something to keep in mind, don’t you think?
Getting back to my London rescue, after I’ve dabbed in some surrounding architecture to give a since of place, the last step I take is commitment, when I glue that cut-out remnant in place and I paint in the rest of the gardens around it:
For those of you who are reading along, I dare you to find the “seams” of this cut-out on the cover of your copy of Gardens of Awe and Folly:
There are a lot more rescues inside this book but let’s just take a peek at this page, the title page for the first chapter:
This is an especially daring rescue because it’s so big. You see, after I painstakingly painted that Beaux Arts Paris apartment building in the background, I painted that foreground allee of trimmed plane trees. (Maybe they are lime trees. I’m not good on those kinds of technicalities.) Well, those trees were bad, bad, bad. And I was not about to start over from scratch, no sir, because that building in the background was a pain in the ass to paint.
So I painted different trees on a new sheet of 90-lb. Carson watercolor paper, cut them out (along the black lines as shown) and glued them right on top the bad, bad, bad trees:
And no one is none the wiser!
Do you know that there’s a really famous who else who used the good old scissors-and-glue hack when illustrations went wrong?
This lady did:
Perhaps you recognize the work of Beatrix Potter, pictured here in this instance the story called the Pie and the Patty-Pan. If you look closely (which I did), you will see that dear old Beatrix hacked this picture in exactly the same way:
Oh yes, Dear Readers, you can believe your eyes. That little dog is a cut out! And it’s an excellent cut out, at that.
Now, there are times. . . many, many times, many many many times. . . when all you can do is paint the whole shebang over again. Like when I recently had a go at depicting this little scene in Monet’s Giverny garden (below). I was using a reference photo, which is quite obvious from the way I painted this picture as a full bleed (“bleed” is when the image goes right to the very edge of the paper):
I am still on a learning curve when it comes to painting Monet’s garden at Giverny, so for a first try this was pretty decent. But for what I wanted this picture to do — namely, show off those tall forms in which vines grow in the middle of a flower bed — it failed. There was no way to rescue it. The only thing I could do was start over.
Which I did:
Yes, I much prefer the second version.
So, getting back to Nancy S.’s query about how I rescued Monet’s allee. . .
. . . I admit that I was nervous about going back over this painting because watercolor is so fragile that it can be easily killed by over-work. A lot of times you can’t put a layer of color over another layer of color without the whole thing turning into mud. So. . . I practiced off-site:
So, OK: I was pretty sure I could layer a dark green over the lighter greens and blues in the foreground without making mud. So I was ready to go ahead and take a chance that I was not going to ruin this picture with my rescue.
Since I did not photograph the actual rescue, I’m going to make this facsimile to show you how I did it:
There are two reasons why I knew that I’d have to use an undercoat of white acrylic paint to achieve this rescue. First reason is because I had tried just painting a light blue over dark green and it didn’t work. If you look closely below, I am showing you the difference between the white-undercoated blue dots and the no-undercoated blue dots (where my paintbrush is):
You can see that without the acrylic undercoat, those blue dots disappear into the dark green paint. So undercoating is the only way to go:
Second reason I use acrylic paint is because if I used gauche (as Nancy S. asked), as an undercoat and put blue watercolor over it, I would certainly have got mud. Gauche is water-based, and soluble, so it is not really suitable as an undercoat. It just can’t hold its own against an over-paint (such as above).
It was a pleasure for me to go back to this beautiful Spring memory of Monet’s garden today because last week, after Taffy had gone to all the trouble of declaring his domain Winter-free, we got this:
Snow. Not a whole lot, but just enough to give new life to a critical pile of snowy crud at the local Whole Foods:
However, by week’s end the temperatures were back in tune with my need for it to be gone my March 17. . .
. . . and all I can hope is, Is anybody ever going to take that damn trolly back to where it belongs?
P.S. For all of you who thought I might have been a bit too harsh with the marvelous Jenny Beavan, here’s a photo of her Oscar co-winner from 1987, John Bright (that’s him on the left), taken in Aug. 2015 when he was 75:
So, have a great weekend everyone. Hope you’re enjoying your perusals of Gardens of Awe and Folly . . . something tells me there might be something coming up for all you 5-star reviewers out there. See you here next week (free of charge).