I did this for my new garden book, and painted it big, although I intend to reproduce it in the garden book at this size:
Look familiar? Because it’s the same scene I painted for my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam (for those of you reading along, it’s on page 78):
Two reasons for doing this picture over again: ONE, I wanted to compare the color brilliancy of my new professional Windsor Newton watercolors to my old hobby-grade Grumbacher paints, which have a lot of chalk in its paints as binder for the pigment to keep the cost of the paints low, but the chalk also mutes the color.
TWO: I wanted to see if it improves the visual experience for my readers if I paint a picture big but reproduce it small (in both my books, the illustrations are reproduced their actual size). What do you think? Worth the five hours longer that it takes to do BIG rather than SMALL?
Thanks to the miracle of eBay, I followed up last week’s post with some high fashion shopping and I am awaiting my new riding boots to be delivered from Hong Kong (for when I can get both feets back into real shoes!!!!) and my vintage 1980′s designer sweater-coat from Milan:
which I will accessorize with a big fat scarf and leggings as soon as my busted knee heals and I am free to wander about the country once again. In the month since my injury all the muscles that at first objected to being over-used in order to compensate for my new life on one leg are now OK with the situation. Nothing really hurts, so I don’t take pain killers any more altho I miss the dreams they used to give me, such as the one about me being a guest on Dick Cavett’s old talk show:
Also, through the miracle of BBC podcasts, I met Sid Smith, an extraordinary English writer that I want to introduce you to:
Mr. Smith is a brilliant writer whose work is hugely respected in the UK and you can read about him here. He said something AMAZING in his BBC interview that is relevant anyone who wants to commit creativity. What he said was:
What I hate most about writing novels is that at some at some point, you have to write an unbelievably banal sentence such as: Irving put on his coat and went to the corner to wait for the number 37 bus.
(Mr. Smith has recently given up writing novels in order to dedicate himself to writing poetry, where he can “push words to the limit” and never have to write another banal sentence just to move the narrative along. Best wishes, Mr. Smith!)
I totally understand Mr. Smith’s boredom at having to write uninspiring sentences in order to get his character (and one step behind, his reader) from Point A to Point B. It’s something I’ve had to do as an art journalist who has turned her journals into narrative books. I’ve had to paint a picture or two just to move my story along, that is, provide a bridge for my readers to get them from one idea to the next. If you want to make an art journal that will not bore your reader with its self-indulgent, helter-skelter subject matter that bounces from one non-sequitor to the next (and admit it, that is the weakness of the art journal form), then you have to force yourself to write or draw or paint the equivalent of “Irving put on his coat and went to the corner to wait for the number 37 bus.”
However, your reader will never recognize such a sentence as being utterly boring, au contraire. Your reader will be thrillingly grateful that she knows that Irving has left his flat wearing something that will keep him warm while he’s traveling all the way From Peckham to Putney Vale. Oh yes, she will.
To put this in art journaling terms, I am only able to turn my bundle of chaotic self-amusing sketches into a narrative worth publishing (and inflicting upon readers) because I am willing to paint Irvings. For instance, I have a page in my work in progress, the Damn Garden Book, where I want to talk about the astrology and herbal legends surrounding the wonderful evergreens that grow in Dunbar’s Close in Edinburgh. And, mindful as I am of my readers who are not horticulturalists and might not know what these evergreens look like, I painted this just for them:
Now, are these the most fun pictures to paint? No, not really. But as long as I havee to paint an Irving, I’m going to make it the most fun Irving I can, and when you see this illustration in Chapter One of my Damn Garden Book, you will never guess that it is an Irving. You’ll just think to yourself, OH! So that’s the difference between Buxus sempevirons and Lauris nobilis … good to know!
I will have more to say about Irvings next week, when I show you all how to structure your art journals with as few Irvings as possible (I did it in When Wanderers Cease to Roam) but I do not want to belabor the point for now because I have an exciting Vivian Swift Fall Art Give Away to announce!
In previous years I’ve shown you all how much I love love love to paint Fall leaves such as these:
An entire Fall landscape in each leaf! I love Fall leaves! And this year GUESS WHAT! I won’t be panting Fall leaves with the dull, chalky old paints that you see here, no sir. I’ll be painting Fall leaves with my spiffy new, professional, pigment-rich Windsor Newton watercolor paints!
Fall peaks for us here, on the Long Island side of the Long Island Sound, from October 17 to October 25, depending on the wetness of the Spring and the warmth of the Summer. As soon as I get my hands on some beautiful Fall leaves sometime this month, I will be painting them just for youse and will give away the best two to readers of this blog. (Two separate leaves, to two separate readers, that is.)
No Irvings here. This is pure joy to paint, and to give. So stay tuned!
And if you want to see how to paint Fall leaves, my genuine expert and totally awesome tutorial is here.