Yes, we will be painting together later in this post (it’s very looooooong today, go get a cup of tea) but first OMG OMG OMG I have to tell you about my visit with Neil DeGrasse Tyson:
When Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is not writing best selling books about astrophysics or dropping by The Daily Show to chat with Jon Stewart about cosmic stuff he is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s upper west side. I once went to a party and was in the same small room as Neil DeG. (he and I have the same literary agent, the great Betsy Lerner) and we smiled at each other over the hors d’ouvres buffet table but I was too star struck to say anything. I have a crush on the awesome Neil DeG.
On Wednesday night Top Cat and I went to see Dr. Neil DeG. host the 14th Annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the AMNH. The topic for the evening’s duscussion was The Existence of Nothing and Neil DeG. was moderating a five-person panel that consisted of a physicist (expert on “time loops” and time travel) and a physicist (expert on elementary particles) and a physicist (expert on string theory ) and a philosopher (with a mathematics degree from UVA with a special interest in large cardinals) and a guy who writes about science (expert on Zero and its twin, Infinity).
During the ensuing give-and-take it turns out that every body on the panel had a working knowledge of general relativity, topology, Star Trek, Saturday Night Live skits from the ’70s, cosmology (observational and theoretical), dark matter, negative curvature, and the history of science. Since everyone eventually agreed that even in the empty vacuum of space on the edge of the universe there is something (the laws of physics, whether or not we know them, for one thing; energy is another) the real issue was whether nothingness as a theoretical construct was important, interesting, or meaningful to the future of science and/or mankind.
At least, that’s what I think the discussion was about. As I sat and listened to the whole thrilling two hour debate all I could really get through my head was Boy, I am stupid.
Except for when the panel all poo-poohed the relevance of God in the discussion — that I already knew — and the time during the Q & A afterwards when a guy tried to posit that the fact that humans can not prove the existence of nothing proves the existence of God, even I knew that that was an age-old false dichotomy trotted out to sound logical and smart but defies the basic principles of scientific, disciplined thinking.
But basically, having heard for myself what really, really smart people do with their brains and how they sound when they talk about stuff that, to tell you the truth, I’d really rather avoid thinking about (the ultimate fate of the universe i.e. total annihilation — no thank you) I am pretty sure that I’m pretty much as dumb as they come:
I think it’s because I spend too much time watching reality TV that I get the mistaken impression that I’m smart. For example, this week the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills went to Paris and it was so stupid that I felt like a genius compared to Kyle, shown here on her visit to the Pont des Arts:
I know and love the Pont des Arts. I put it in my book, Le Road Trip:
Imagine how freaking crazy it makes me to watch as Kyle and her husband put their padlock on the railings of the Pont des Arts, an idiotic custom that has begun since I was last there. Lovers put their initials on a cheap hardware store lock and they snap it onto the chain-link fence, trashing the look and feel of the place. It is nothing short of desecration and there was Kyle, oohing and ahhing over her lock — and then telling her husband that she hopes her kids will one day come and see their parents’ lock on “The Love Lock Bridge”. As if her crappy lock was now a permanent fixture in the City of Light. Yes, she’s that STUPID. (A man from the Paris street cleaning department comes with bolt cutters every week and chops off the damn locks that tourists insist on putting up.) I believe that Kyle thinks the name of the bridge is actually The Love Lock Bridge, and I believe that she hasn’t got the curiosity to read a damn guide book to find out anything else about the bridge except for her damn lock.
On behalf of Americans with half a brain and a respect for the history and beauty of Paris, I apologize to the citizens and the street cleaners of the 6th arrondissement.
But I shouldn’t get too upitty. I’m really dumb myself. EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO KOALA BEARS!!!!
It gets very hot in Australia this time of year. It gets so hot (40 degrees centigrade) that people have to use their garden hoses to water down the gum trees in the backyard as a precaution against fires. And, because it’s Australia, chances are that the gum trees in your backyard will have koala bears in them:
As a rule, koala bears do not like to get drenched by a garden hose. It seems that koalas sleep 22 hours a day so chances are, at any given moment of the day, a koala will be asleep in your backyard gum tree and getting drenched by a garden hose is what is called, in koala bear circles, a “rude awakening”. But since it’s so very hot in Australia these Summer days this one koala bear did not seem to mind the surprise shower — and even lapped up some of the spray to quench his little koala thirst:
Yes, it snowed again this past week. It started to fall around 1 o’clock in the afternoon last Saturday. Yay!
After giving me the hairy eyeball, this guy turned and pointedly glared over his shoulder:
I know that look. That look means that there is a big fat furry pest too damn close to the bird feeder.
That’s Taffy, under the bird feeder, and this is his “Who, me?” look:
The flash captures the scene better:
And here I thought I was finished with the Champagne-O-Meter for the season. Ha!
We only got a dusting of snow but it was enough to put the cats right back into their Winter hibernation mode, which is really not that much different than their Spring, Summer, and Fall hibernation mode. Starting with the blob of black fur on the couch at the top right hand side, that’s Cindy, Candy, and Lickety in the living room:
Penelope has her own spot in the window seat in the diningroom:
Coco has her chair (with heating pad) in my work room upstairs:
And yes, even Taffy gave up on his dream of having Cardinal Tartar for dinner and hunkered down in his spot in the den. Question: Which is better to have, cats crashing in your house or koalas kipping in your backyard?
I happened to be working on another Key West illustration, how ironic, when it began to snow.
This is a picture of a grove of Australian Pines on the beach at Key West. I find it very meditative to apply a lot of masking fluid and I would rather meditate on applying masking fluid than on the *@##! snow. For the big tree trunks in the foreground, BTW, I don’t use my customary toothpick — I use the end of one of my paint brushes (the end without the bristles):
If you are bored with these “Me Doing A Watercolor” demonstrations, feel free to skip to the end of this post. There’s another cat picture for you down there! But for those of you hanging in with me, this is how I put in the horizon of sea and the sky in the background:
Then I put in a wash of yellow (this is how you paint foliage that is back-lit):
While the yellow wash is still wet, I start dabbing in shades of green:
I like working in my chalky Grumbacher blue paint into the shadows here:
Sorry for that show of my injured finger tip. With the Winter making my skin so dry I have split a lot of my fingertips from all the typing I’ve been doing, writing the Damn Garden Book. These fingertip splits are very painful, like getting a new paper cut every time you tap the keyboard. Type-Writing is hard! Literally! Poor, poor, pitiful me! After I finished painting this picture I soaked gauze in Vitamin E oil and taped up my sore digits so they can heal overnight:
So, back to the painting, where I’m laying in colors — wet-in-wet style…that is, I’m layering colors in a series of washes that overlap (using my fattest brushes):
More shades of green for foliage — this is the part I love:
So this is it so far:
It needs, now, some real dark bits:
Do you see where I’m going with this?
And now we put the masking fluid to good use!
After I’ve peeled off the masking fluid, I’m ready to get to the heart of this scene:
I’m going to leave some of the highlights on the left side of the tree trunks just plain blank white — I’m going to let the paper do the work:
But with other tree trunks, I’m going to go for a yellow-green highlight:
I think the mix of highlights gives texture to the lights and shadows of this scene:
This illustration is the recto side of a two-page spread about the pine grove in Key West (tea bag included for scale):
That Saturday snow didn’t last long and was mostly melted by Sunday afternoon. This is Bibs, helping me check out the last of it here on the edge of the patio:
Can you believe that crappy-looking dead straw is our lawn?? BTW, in case you’re counting, that makes seven of our nine cats making an appearance in this post, which I think is a record. I didn’t get a photo of Dudley or Oscar because they are the least domesticated of our cats (yes, they are neutered, but they haven’t given up their alley cat/street fighting ways) and they are very camera shy. And they hunker down in the basement, which is where we put a lot of stuff in “storage” I can’t bear to show you our shameful hoarding.
And then it snowed again on Tuesday!! Yay!! And Thursday!! Yay!!!
These are Canada geese tracks in the snow, but OMG OMG OMG I wish they were koala tracks in the sand.
I hope this post wasn’t too long today — and dear Monique and Whimsy2: I read your question from last week’s blog so next week I will show you how I trace onto watercolor paper. And you know what? I’m in such a good mood (still got those koalas on my mind, plus I’m sipping a V&T while I’m typing this) that whatever I paint for next week’s blog I will give away. Stay tuned.
I’m taking suggestions about what I should paint for the give away. Any ideas?