Top Cat and I celebrated the Winter Solstice in our usual fashion here on the shores of the Long Island Sound. But we were not alone in welcoming back the light…
…is there anything better in a dog’s life than a beach, a ball, and a hoomin with a good throwing arm?
It was one of the better Solstice sun sets (yes, that’s the Manhattan skyline lit up with the last rays of the sun with Westchester on the right).
And then I went to Philadelphia…
…to check up the Monets at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
They have a wonderful collection of 21 Monet canvases, hung in five different galleries (I don’t know why they are not hung all in one place).
Art museums are odd places. I rarely go to them any more, just to browse the walls…I only go if there are specific things I want to see.
There is a world of difference between seeing a reproduction of a well-known painting and seeing it in person, and I’ve only seen these particular Monets in reproduction. So I was excited — even though there must be half a dozen almost exact same versions of this view of Monet’s Japanese bridge in museums around the world. However, there is only ONE of these:
Hanging all by itself in a dead-ended gallery was the very first picture that Monet painted of his Japanese bridge when his water garden at Giverny was brand new.
This picture has always been cataloged as having been painted in 1895 [click here to see for yourself] but as you can plainly see:
…it’s dated by the painter himself as 1892. Yes, I called the museum when I got home and let a message about this for the curator of European Paintings Before 1900. I haven’t heard back from her yet. (When I was an auction house executive at Christie’s I was often shocked by the sloppiness of museum people. Their level of scholarship would never withstand the scrutiny of the marketplace; there is a big difference in accountability between having to hang a Monet painting on a wall and having to certify it for sale for $43 million.)
I wandered a bit through the rest of the European Art galleries and saw many excellent pictures…
…but I get burnt out after two hours of museum-ing, so I headed home. (P.S., I have seen the Barnes already, many years ago when it was still in Dr. Barnes’ home in Merion so I felt OK about skipping it this time).
Besides, I have paintings of my own to work on. In this case, it’s a two-page illustration of a wonderful little landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (at the William Cullen Bryant estate on Long Island) for my book-in-progress, the Damn Garden Book:
Yes, I was painting this scene from reference photographs that I took on November 18, 2012.
One of the reasons that I never paint in situ is because, until the picture is completed…
..it tends to look like nothing but a hot mess. I can live without a baffled passer-by stopping to ask me, “What is that you’re doing?” (even if they only think it.)
The other reason is that at any time during this process I can ruin the whole thing and have to start all over again and I do not want witnesses. Also, November tends to be cold here on the Long Island Sound and I’d rather paint in warmth.
As a matter of fact, I did screw up the trunk of this wondrous beech tree. But as you might be able to see here, I was able to wipe off the offending layer of paint (see swipe marks on let margin) and re-do it. Whew.
Since I am left handed I started this two-page illustration on the recto side — here’s the verso:
And this is how it all comes together (with tea bag for scale):
If there is another painter on the internet with the guts to show her work like I do, step by pitiful step, I’d like to know about it. Because I’m pretty sure I’m the only writer/illustrator who puts this kind of stuff out in the ether and I think that’s pretty awesome of me.
I got an email from a new blog reader this week, asking about the brushes I use. I told him that he’s given me a possibility for a post for next Friday: Tools of the Trade. Anybody else interested?