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What’s in your Go-Bag for the first snowstorm? This  (see above) is all I need in case of a blizzard: Champagne, biscuits, and my Barbra Streisand/Barry Gibb CD. Ah, Guilty. It’s always sunny when Babs and G’Day Bar croon: It oughta be illegal/Make it a crime to be lonely or sad…

I can’t wait for snow on Long Island. Lots of snow. Snowed-in snow, all-day biscuit baking/loud ’80s pop music playing/champers swigging/saying a prayer for Elizabeth Edwards/carpe diem snow. I need me a snow day.

My editor gave me a one-month extension on my December 1 deadline for handing in the Damn France Book manuscript. (This is how we professional writers manage our time: badly.) So I have until January 2 to polish the prose, buff the narrative arc, put a shine on the wit and wisdom of all that V. Swift, yours truly, has to say about the world’s favorite foreign country.

(The world’s favorite foreign country, that’s France, of course — 79 million visitors a year, double the number of tourists who flock the the world’s No. 2 favorite countries, a tie between Spain and the USAat approx. 35 million tourists each.)

So. Last weekend I heard an old Tony Bennett song on the radio that inspired me to re-write something in the Damn France Book (Yes! At this late stage!) and that got me thinking about how random it is, this whole inspiration thing. You never know whence good ideas hit you upside the head.

For me, as a late-in-life watercolor-er, I still use my years of experience as an embroiderer to inspire a lot of my paintings. Like this page (see below) in the December chapter of When Wanderers Cease to Roam (page 185, for those of you reading along).

This is a sampler of snow.

This is what I did when I had to paint some snow pictures for my December chapter, and I had no real idea how to paint snow. I did what a good embroiderer does, when she has to learn a new stitch. I made a sampler.

I looked at dozens of paintings — mostly from Holiday cards that I’d been collecting — and I examined all the different ways that various artists had represented snow. And I copied the most interesting, artistic, fanciful, and beautiful ways that snow has been interpreted in paint. (Oh! This was such a fun exercise!)  And then I arranged my little copies of all these wonderful little try-outs of snow-painting into a presentation, the same way an embroiderer would present her stitches on a sampler. (Here’s a secret that us embroiderers know: you can pass your practice work off as art if you arrange it as a sampler!)

I strongly suggest to anyone interested in taking her painting to the next level that she work on a sampler. It is a great way to practice new techniques, try out new styles, enlarge one’s visual vocabulary.

This weekend I will be making a new sampler on a subject that has vexed my painting abilities for years. Winter Trees. I hate the way I paint Winter Trees, so it’s time (now that I have that extension on my Damn France Book deadline and all) for me to knuckle down and learn me some technique.

I’ll show you my Winter Tree sampler here on Monday.

So I ask you: What is it that most vexes you about your art work? What sampler will you be working on?

7 comments to Waiting for the first snowflake.

  • Consisstency! Sometimes I will paint and shadows will work and my brush won’t wobble and other times I can’t do the simplest thing. Sometimes I can keep my attention on the subject at hand for a whole 15 minutes at a time and other times, I lose it after a minute or two. I am not sure how to “sample” this one!

  • Gigi

    Happy frosty Friday, everyone! Is snow falling in your part of the world? It’s a peaceful wintery day here in Edmonton, Alberta. Big, fluffy flakes are falling just outside my window, gathering on the boughs of a big blue spruce tree and on the dark outstretched branches of a white-barked birch tree; I feel like my house is inside a giant snow globe! I think I’ll get my paints out, and try painting snowflakes and winter scenes. What a wonderful idea to paint a snowflake sampler!

    Thank you for inspiring us, yet again, Vivian. I hope you get the snow you crave, and that you enjoy yourself now that you’ve finished polishing your book. I can’t wait to buy it!

  • Nadine

    Not a flake here in New Jersey yet, but I like the sampler idea. I’ll be less annoyed if I mess up if I tell myself I’m doing a “study” of a subject and to a real portrait of reality. I think I can do that.

  • Nadine

    oops. I thought I typed:

    I’ll be less annoyed if I mess up if I tell myself I’m doing a “study” of a subject instead of doing a real portrait.

  • Jeannie

    I become frustrated because my hand will not draw/paint what my mind wants it to. I know it is due to a lack of practice and I plan to remedy that. My sampler would be of my dogwood that I gaze at all day long. Thank you Vivian for the beautiful card. It is a close depiction of what I see daily at my house. Thanks again!

  • Susan

    Well, while not a sampler, I will be taking a class on figure and portrait drawing out here in Seattle starting in January. I love to draw, but do a TERRIBLE job of people, so after many years of simply avoiding the subject, I am finally facing it, trying to learn to get it right. I wish us all the best of luck in our sampler pursuits!

  • margje

    It will be interesting to see your sampler of winter trees, since I love the way you painted them in your book. I like the winter months the best! (I also don’t agree with November being such a dreary blah blue month, but I love your artwork in that chapter). Your work has helped me through some tough times!

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