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This picture could make me a dog person. It is from the book A Small Furry Prayer(see last Friday’s post) by Steven Kotler, about his work as a dog rescuer at his New Mexico ranch called Rancho de Chihuahua. Steven and his wife specialize in rescuing chihuahuas and they currently have a pack of 33 dogs living with them. This is Steven’s wife, Joy, reading the  newspaper with the morning quorum.

Last Friday I offered an autographed copy of this book to the first person who could correctly identify the meaning of the expression on this face (taken from the cover of A Small Furry Prayer):

Joan got it right: this is the look that most of the dogs wear when they first arrive at Rancho de Chihuahua, when they are full of fear of their place in the world. Don’t worry — they soon understand that they have come to a safe place where they will be loved and respected — but it takes a strong person to deal with the deep emotions of dog rescue. As Joan well knows: she rescues Golden Retrievers; she’s probably seen this look a hundred times. Thank you, Joan, for your work on the angel’s side. Your autographed copy of Steven Kotler’s A Small Furry Prayer, Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life is on its way to you.

Thanks also to Carol, whose answer was so poetic and sooooo close that I have to send her a copy also. I wish I had books to give you all — thank you everyone for pitching in with your comments and your stories.

Dog is Everywhere.

Now, on to Paris.

This is the kind of illustration that I do a lot. Not just because I’m doing a book about France and I spend about 40 – 50 pages of it in Paris where I have about 50 illustrations of the people, shops, food, scenery, clothes, etc. of the city. I do a lot of this kind of illustration because it’s easy: all I  have to do is paint what I see.

Ha ha. hahahahahah. Oh wait, I can’t catch my breath….

OK, I’ve stopped laughing…no, wait.  Hahahahah.

OK, really. I’m OK. Seriously. I said “easy”. That kills me.

Painting what I see is what I do a lot. And for the most part, all it takes is practice for me to get fairly competent in painting what I see; that’s why I say that it’s easy. For the most part, when I try to paint a pair of shoes I can paint something that looks 90% like a pair of shoes. I got eyes. I can see the shoes. And with enough time, I can end up with a picture (sort of) of those shoes.

But it’s extremely hard when I have to paint something that I feel. I’ve been stuck on one last illustration of Paris for about six months — I know I’ve blogged about the big problem I’ve had with one last illustration of Paris, how I’ve been working on it over and over and over and over…

(If you want to see how bad it got, see my May 24 post, titled In Which I Win The Crap Sweepstakes. But it’s really ugly. I warn you.)

It’s been so difficult because it’s not an illustration of anything that I could see; it’s all about something that I felt. This is the kind of illustration that I find very difficult. Because it has to be exact, it has to be evocative, it has to represent something very individual and intangible, and because, you know, I have to feel it. Bummer.

So two days ago I gave it one more try. Make that twelve more tries. And I finally did it. I finally made Paris look the way I felt it:

I know it doesn’t look like much but hoo-boy. It’s exactly what I wanted (there will be text printed in the lower part) and it took me months to get here and I had to paint it sixty times to know that there were the sixty ways I did not want it to look like but this is about 90% of what I wanted and I can move on.

This Thursday November 18, at 7 o’clock PM I’ll be speaking for the Roslyn Landmark Society here on Long Island — right in my hometown of Roslyn on the north shore of the Isle of Long. My slide show and lecture is part pep talk to inspire fellow “doodler-diarists” to take their work to the next level, part travel guide with tips on finding creative adventures close to home. It would be great to see you there. 

Thursday, Nov. 18th, 7-9pm at the Trinity Church in Roslyn (1579 Northern Blvd) Dessert reception.

Free to RLS members/$10 non-members

9 comments to First Dog, then Paris, then home.

  • Joan/Jesse

    Delighted to have won a copy of the book! Wow, it’s been a very long time since I won anything. As I recall it was a $2500 football pool about 20 years ago at the Gold Coast casino.

    I love the emotional/feeling painting of Paris…

  • Carol

    Now that is a lap full of dogs!
    I also want to thank Vivian for being so kind as to send out a copy for runner up.


  • Deborah

    Congratulations Joan & Carol!

    Some of the dogs in this picture are wearing sweaters and coats: suddenly I want to be a fashion designer for chihuahuas.

    Last year I sold some gold (a man’s gold bracelet that I’d found in a parking lot years ago) and gotsome $100 bills that I stashed in my sock drawer. I used several of them, but Friday I discovered there was 1 left that I had forgotten about. When I rediscovered it, I thought I should put it to good use somehow — but how? Later that day I read your initial post about Rancho de Chihuahua, and the intentions of the universe seemed clear. That $100 bill went out in the mail to them today.

  • Joan/Jesse

    Bless you Deborah! Any contribution to ANY animal shelter, pound, rescue group, any way you can help is most appreciated. Our local SPCA (no kill) is in dire need of towels and blankets for the inmates. Someone recently donated washers and dryers…a huge gift. They need people to come pet the bunnies, cats, walk the dogs, etc. So there are many ways to help other than cash, more a heart donation than monetary.

  • Barb

    How I wish I could be at your talk on Thurs. Only 3000 miles away. I was drawn to your first book because of my commitment to render my own town, neighborhood and garden. I so appreciate what you share on this blog, though your life viewpoint cannot be duplicated, we can all honor our world with the inspiration you have provided. Can’t wait for the France book. Regards, Barb

  • Janet

    Vivian, I love both of these illustrations of Paris. I have never been anywhere that effects me the way Paris does. I am really looking forward to your new book.

  • Love that last Paris illustration – it really does convey an emotion and is so-o-o lovely!

  • Nadine

    Congratulations Joan and Carol!

  • Carol

    My book arrived today-Thank you Vivian!

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