Thanks to our dear Australian readers Bev, Megan, Karen, and Marguerite, who kindly answered my question in last week’s post, we all now know what a Gumnut Baby is:
A gumnut is the seed pod (“nut”) of the flowering eucalyptus (“gum”) tree of Australia:
There are more than 700 species of eucalyptus, mostly native to Australia, and a very small number are found in adjacent areas of New Guinea and Indonesia. Only 15 species occur outside Australia, which is very sad because it means that there are, in the world, eucalyptus trees without the world-famous Australian eucalyptus tree accessory:
According to May Gibbs, the world’s No. 1 authority on Gumnut Babies, “Gum Nut Babies are full of mischief and always teasing the slow-going creatures but they hurt nothing and are gentle for they love all the world.” Cute cute cute.
So gumnut is my new favorite word for when I love something with a world-wide fervor. And I’m gumnut for gumnut babies.
Want to see what a Koala gumnut baby looks like? He looks like this:
You might have noticed (Jain) that my blog was not up and running at its usual 1:00am pub time today — I was out late last night on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at a swanky gathering of Francophiles. My alma mater, The American University of Paris, was holding its New York conclave at The Edith Fabbri House (she was a Vanderbilt married to a wealthy Italian), a fine Italian Renaissance revival townhouse just off Fifth Avenue:
The alumni party was held in the mansion’s most famous room, the library:
I’d read about the building before I got on the 5:31 from Long Island that the library “showcases historic panels from the Palazza Ducale in Urbino, Italy”:
So like a dope I get there, get my glass of French wine, and start asking, “Where are the frescoes? Have you seen the frescoes?” Now I think that “panels” meant “paneling”. There was a lot of dark wood walls in the library, which is why my pictures came out murky”
And they really don’t show how much fun I had. This was the first alumni get-together I’d ever gone to since I took leave of AUP in 1979 and I really enjoyed myself, meeting very accomplished classmates and talking about memories of our student days. Members of all classes from 1963 to 2012 were there, as was the president encouraging all of us to get involved in creating an AUP community worldwide, and it was a fine evening that I would gladly do again and that says a lot because you all know how much I hate to leave the house. I will definitely stop by the old campus next month when I’m in France and renew my acquaintance.
At the party I met a ’96 alum from a small town in Connecticut called Litchfield. Litchfield!! What a coincidence!! That very afternoon I’d just been tracking down a certain Litchfield specialty:
This is Ralph, the world’s biggest rabbit, and until I saw this picture of Ralph I did not know how much I love love love giant rabbits! I am gumnut when it comes to giant rabbits!
Ralph lives in the U.K. and he’s a breed of giant rabbit called the Continental Rabbit. Continental Rabbits are usually only 30 pounds but Ralph tips the scale at 3 stone. “3 Stone” is U.K. talk for “42 Pounds”.
Of course I have to have a Ralph of my own so I looked up rabbit breeders in America and there’s a Giant Rabbit breeder 100 miles north of my house, in Litchfield Connecticut. You know what that means. ROAD TRIP. Litchfield, here I come.
Wait. How did we get off the subject of gumnut babies?
I took Top Cat to the Schmidlapp estate that I told you about last week, the 28-acre $7 million property that had the house…
with the fabulous gumnut babies curtains:
Top Cat was gumnut for the place. And you’ll never guess what we found! Here’s a clue:
This is a teeny photo that I found in my Google-rambles in the internet, a 1910 photo of the Schmidlapp estate that is in the Harvard archives (odd, since the Schmidlapps were a Yale / Princeton family). As you can see, there’s a garden there. And judging from the corner of the house pictured, I knew where it was. It was in the back, where I did not trespass on my previous visit because it looked pretty scary:
OK, it doesn’t look all that scary in this picture, but I was alone and it’s a desolate property and I didn’t want to follow a trail of busted flagstones through a dying forest where nobody could hear my screams. But with Top Cat as my body guard I had the nerve to find the entrance to the secret garden:
and here is what it looks like in 2013:
Yes, this is what Spring still looks like on Long Island. So no wonder I was happy to paint a garden in full bloom. I had already painted this particular view (below) about a year ago when I was still a bit heavy-handed with my new Windsor Newton paints and I never really liked it:
I also wanted a horizontal illustration. So I re-painted it, starting with the masking fluid:
I let the paints bleed a lot for a “mossy” effect around the gravel pathway:
Now to make the gravel pathway look more gravelly I use scrap paper to shield the parts of the illustration that is not gravel pathway:
And I take my trusty toothbrush …
… and I moosh it in a black/brown/green/blue mix of watercolor…
… and I flick:
Flicking is fun!
And voila! I have gravel!
The trick to painting rocks is to let each bit dry completely before you add shading. Except, sometimes, you want to put shading in while the paint is still wet. It depends on the kind of rock.
Yay! I’ve now finished the Japanese Garden chapter (words and pictures!) of my Damn Garden Book!
Commentor Sarah asked me if I would one day give a tour of my work room where I paint:
I said, “Let me ask the dear readers.” Does anybody else want a tour of my genius-idea-hatching place?
And now, drum roll please, as I announce the winner of the Garden Triscuit painting:
And if you think painting a Triscuit would make you cross-eyed, try this:
This is by a Turkish artist who yes, paints on butterfly wings.
Have a great weekend everyone — go paint some Triscuits! Or Butterflies!