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Practice, practice, practice.

For our lesson today, let’s turn to page 45 of my book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.  Here is  where I painted a glimpse of the tea-drinking corner of my sweet little kitchen back in the village of Pelham, New York on the Long Island Sound. Now remember, Wanderers was the first book I ever illustrated, so I was quite modest in what I attempted to portray (not wanting to exceed my meager painting abilities). So this is what I painted (approx. 3 1/2 inches square):

(That’s my cat Honey on the kitchen table.)  At the time,  this was the best that I could do.

 However, it’s been five years since I painted this little pic and since then I’ve been  practicing, practicing, practicing.

I have always longed to do a faithful portrait of my sweet little kitchen, which I left when I married Top Cat and moved to the other side of the Long Island Sound (see Epilogue in Wanderers).  All my tea cups and stuff have been in storage in the basement for the past seven years.

Well. Lately I’ve started a new project (working title: The Damn Rain Book). And I’ve set myself the goal of painting all the best rooms in which I’ve ever enjoyed a rainy day (and a cup of tea, of course). So this past weekend I took another crack at my Pelham kitchen, of which I have a photo-collage to show you all what it actually looked like (sort of):

From these reference photos, I drew this:

I traced this drawing onto my favorite 90-lb Canson watercolor paper, I picked up a brand new brush, I took a deep breath, and I began to paint.

Five hours later, I had this:

This is an 8 x 10 inch portrait of my dear sweet tea drinking corner in my old Pelham kitchen. That’s my cat, Woody Robinson, on the table, who liked to sit there with his head under the lampshade.

As soon as time travel becomes available commercially I will invite all you dear readers over for a cup of tea in my sweet old Pelham kitchen. I know you’d enjoy meeting Woody Robinson – he was a very charismatic cat.

And speaking of charismatic cats, this is the Picture That Makes Us Happy today, courtesy of our fellow reader Janet who sent me this photo of her cats doing their synchronized snoozing routine:

You might have noticed lately that I’ve been cutting back my blogging to once a week, on Fridays. Back when I settled down and got serious about writing Wanderers, on March 17  2003, I had to give up martinis — I discovered that I didn’t have the energy to write a book  and drink a martini every day. Or even every other day.

And now that I’m a full-time working writer, I’ve discovered that I don’t have the energy to work M-F 9-5 and write a book and blog twice a week. When people ask me about the writing process, I always tell them that if they are serious about getting work done, they have to be prepared to give up something in order to make the time to write. They have to give up watching TV at least one day a week, or give up letting family members suck up their free time, or give up shopping as a recreational activity, or give up their daily martini. They have to give up whatever it is that keeps them so “busy” that they don’t have the time to write.

And that’s what I have to do, now, if I want to get this Damn Rain Book done: I have to give up my Monday blogging. It makes me sad to do this, but with only weekends available to me to write and paint the way I love to write and paint (Two full days with nothing else to do but write and paint! Ah!) I have to give myself the Sunday afternoons and evenings it takes to do a decent Monday blog.

So from now on we’ll be meeting here on Fridays. And, in six months, we’ll meet in the pages of Le Road Trip. And, in another two or three years, if I can convince my publisher that this is the greatest idea for a book since Le Road Trip, we’ll meet in the pages of The Damn Rain Book and you’ll be glad that I took those blogging Mondays off so I could give you stories and pictures about my favorite rainy days around the world. Right?

Are you cool with that?

15 comments to How to get to Carnegie Hall:

  • august

    I still feel betrayed that you found a job.

  • So cool with that. Having time to write and illustrate your books should come first. (Or second – after tending to the cats, naturally.)

    Some of my favorite parts of WWCTR are your loving descriptions of Woody the Robinson. Glad to see he is appearing again, lampshade over head, still the life of the party…

  • Shelley

    While I will sorely miss the Monday blog post, I understand the time and energy factor. Working 5 days a week definitely puts a crimp in the elusive “spare” time to have a life.

    I am envious of you having 2 whole days a week to do nothing but write and paint…My weekends seem to be filled with stuff I “need” to do or “have” to do, and never enough time for what I “want” to do. I need to take your advice about giving up the time-suckers like tv (and too many hours on the innernets).

    Maybe you could toss the occasional cat photo up on odd days now and again, just to surprise and delight us?! Speaking of that, is it too late to submit pics of Things That Make Us Happy?

    PS – As soon as that time travel thing happens, sign me up for a cup of tea with you and Woody in the Pelham kitchen. That looks like a place that would make me VERY happy!

  • Deborah

    Understand? yes. Cool with? mmmmm, not so much. Happy that you have a new project. What will I do to amuse myself on Mondays? Write?

    I loved hearing about Woody sitting with his head under the shade. It sounds like something my last cat (25 years ago!), Stanley, would do.

  • Loved this post, but will miss having a good read from you twice a week, but I thoroughly understand.

    I loved the original watercolor from the book WWCTR, but can see HUGE improvement in your latest redo.


  • Rachel

    Sign me up for the *Understand, but will miss you* category. And, since I spend far too much time on the internet reading about other peoples’ lives, I really apprecaite you helping me to cut back so that I do indeed have time for my own ambitions. Whoops, time to get off the computer and head out for our sketch group. Have a lovely weekend.

  • Carol

    I am so happy to read your work any time – once a week, twice a day, a book a year, a Christmas card. It just makes me happy. And I can always get a “cat” fix from the archives. Good Luck with the new project! And I hope Le Road Trip is such a success you can write and paint EVERY day! Pumpkin sends his best regards to Penelope!

  • JOAN

    Am I cool with no Monday postings? Um, no. But I do understand the time/energy suck of a 9-5 job…so I’ll say that one day a week from you is far better than none. So thank you for not dumping your blog.

    I have to ask: Why are all those treasured tea cups boxed up in the basement? It would bring a smile to look at those every day. No room for them? Top Cat doesn’t want them in the kitchen?

    I adore the pix of Woody Robinson with his head tucked up in the lampshade….Sooooo Cat.

  • Nadine

    I concur about your posting “Photos that Make Us Smile” on Mondays instead of a text post. No commentary needed.

    Thank you, Janet, for my ohm of the day.

  • O.K. whatever works is fine with me.

  • This is all fine, but I need those books NOW (please…)

  • Janet

    Vivian, what a nice surprise to see My Happy Photo of Smokey, Daisy and Wiley on your blog. I concur with the sentiments here – we’ll all miss you on Mondays, but am glad your Swiftisms will remain a Friday staple.

  • Nadine

    That Damn Rain Book Mix Tape

    In the Rain: The Dramatics
    I Wish it Would Rain: The Temptations
    Rainy Night in Georgia: Brook Benton
    Rainy Days and Mondays: The Carpenters
    Kentucky Rain: Elvis Presley
    Rain: The Beatles
    Laughter in the Rain: Neil Sedaka
    Save it for a Rainy Day: Stephen Bishop
    Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again: The Fortunes
    Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain: The Cascades
    Baby, the Rain Must Fall: Glenn Yarbrough
    It Never Rains in California: Albert Hammond
    Crying in the Rain: a-Ha
    Here Comes the Rain: Eurythmics
    Have You Ever Seen the Rain: Creedence Clearwater Revival
    Who’ll Stop the Rain: Creedence Clearwater Revival
    Come in From the Rain: Melissa Manchester
    Come Rain or Come Shine: Ella Fitzgerald
    September in the Rain: Frank Sinatra
    Early Morning Rain: Eva Cassidy
    Little Bit of Rain: Jose Feliciano
    Rainy Day People: Gordon Lightfoot
    Here Comes the Sun: The Beatles

    I miss mix tapes. I wanted to make this one (the list above) but I didn’t get around to it while it was still the 90s.

  • I love the song list!

    Vivian a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I really like the idea of the rainy day room book, bon courage avec ça! Waiting, waiting, waiting for the France book!

  • Jacquelyn Hoag

    Well, it’s Monday morning and I am here, just came out of habit….so read thru some comments…I liked first painting of tea table with cat the best. A little lighter, not so concentrated and busy.
    And how did we get on the subject of rain? Oh, damn rain book. Well, it just happens that I read the last page of MINK RIVER by Brian Doyle last night. We in the Northwest have seasonal rain….and we are just beginning that season now. A passage about the rain we wait for was read to open the Unitarian service I attended last Sunday. Based just on that one page I borrowed and read the whole book. Setting is the northern part of Oregon Coast…’ll love it.
    It is looking like a rainy day hereabouts.

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