In addition to painting a big ole New Orleans French Quarter vue this week we will also be catching up on important issues of the day which includes the recent appearance of a possible new member of our herd of backyard cats:
No, that’s not a new Wanderer, that’s just good ole house cat Penelope playing Goldilocks in Top Cat’s tomato seedling planters in the living room. Please note that she started her bed-hopping with the planter of special cat-snack grass that was grown just for her (which Penelope didn’t snack on as much as she parked her butt in). Carol, who mentioned “cats with jobs” in her Comment last week: No, smooshing house plants is not in Penelope’s job description. I think this is what is known in corporate circles as “added value”.
Here’s what I want you to see re: herd news :
This handsome fella has shown up on the back patio for breakfast a few days this past week in spite of the fact that Bibs and Taffy get all North Korean on his ass every time they see him. I call him Newton. Hey Newton, if you’re reading this, I got some cat nip just for you (at the end of a Have-A-Heart trap).
The other News that I want to weigh in on is this:
Good on you, Justin Collins, I know you’re raising consciousness throughout the land and lordy knows there are way too many people sleep-walking in our society. Now, I get most of my news from a conservative right-wing London on-line newspaper (American newspapers just don’t keep up with Posh Spice and Russell Brand like I need )so I when read the Comments to this news item I found the usual number of postings from other U.S. reader blaming it all on Obama but also some Comments about how boring this “news” is (which is better than hostility, non?) but mostly the Comments were overwhelmingly supportive. Good on you, people of the world, for evolving. However, I salute one particular Commentor for his keen sensibility and profound humanity which he articulated in a Comment that stands out for representing an entirely unique and thought-provoking perspective on this culture-shifting event. That Comment was, in its entirety: Are those his real teeth?
And lastly, I just want to go on the record and say that I never liked Ann Curry . I find her really annoying and fake and needy. Whew. I’ve wanted to shout this out to the world since 1997. I really can’t stand her.
Now, what is this I hear (from Rachel and Sarahsbooks in Comments to last week’s post) about The Bed-book of Travel??? First of all, I thought I had written the bed-book of travel…
(No, that’s not the book I wrote — these are bedside tables made of books, which is a very awful idea and nobody better do that to MY book.) I thought I’d already written the travel book that was made for bed-side reading…
…but it seems that somebody else, namely Richardson Wright, beat me to it in the 1930s:
The Bed-book of Travel is a collection of short pieces to be read (preferably in bed or berth) by those who have been places, those who are going somewhere, and those who have wanted to go; Together with seven travelers’ tales. This book is now very rare and the one copy I found on-line last week for sale for $70 is already gone. I snoozed and loosed because I spent a few days mulling over this purchase, wondering if I really wanted to read this book seeing as how, if it turned out to be soooooo much better a bed-side travel book than mine, I will want to quit writing/illustrating bed-side books forever.
But the book that I really dread reading is this one:
This is Richardson Wright’s 1929 Bed-book about gardening (in paperback re-print from The Modern Library) which I bought am awaiting delivery and if it’s half as good as its reviews say it is I AM TOAST. And not a nice slice of hot-buttered whole wheat served with a steaming cup of Assam tea kind of toast, nope. I mean a hunk of cardboard-like salt-free rancid Melba that’s been sitting in the cupboard leaning on the stack of Size D batteries waiting for cassette playing boom boxes to come back in style kind of toast.
I wanted my Damn Garden Book to be THE go-to gardening book for reading in bed…but if it’s already been done I might as well retire my paintbrushes and take up something useful.
Like waitressing. Ooooo!! I know just where I’d run to:
Yes, I know that waitressing at a beloved New Orleans institution like Cafe du Monde would be more physically demanding than being the pale imitation of Richardson Wright the classic bed-side book writer …
(I was backstage at Cafe du Monde when I visited NOLA last month and I saw how crazy hectic it gets)
…but I think the handsomeness of certain customers could be, how do you say … energizing:
What can I say? I could go for a lawyer-type citizen of The Crescent City who shares my deep love for powdered sugar.
Also, as I imagined how perfect my life would be if I lived in the French Quarter with Cafe de Monde within crawling distance and open 24 hours a day, I had to look long and nostalgically at this guy to make sure he wasn’t Will Smith c. Independence Day 1996, taking a picture of his beignets with a historically inaccurate iPhone:
And then there was this guy, looking all 007-ish:
Those international men of mystery are so hard to photograph while I’m trying to act natural around and avoid eye contact with so he won’t know I am making him my sugar-fueled Cafe du Monde Crush of the Day :
But nothing brings me back to the best of all possible worlds i.e., real life, with more non-powdered-sugar-based bliss than seeing my own personal Sean Connery / Top Cat do his French Quarter Dance:
Ah, Love of my Life, nobody does a Grateful Dead-inspired free-form solo version of Zydeco Swing like you:
Those 007′s are hard to photograph when you are laughing too hard over your stupid good fortune in finding such a fancy-stepping international man of mystery to call your own. xxoo.
Well, seeing as how I am not yet a reclusive former bed-side travel / gardening book writer illustrator, I better get with the travel / gardening book illustrating. It’s time to do New Orleans!
This is the pencil sketch for the full-page illustration that will start the NOLA chapter. It is designed so I can drop text into the middle of it. It is rare (never) that I use a ruler to draw a scene but in this case it was unavoidable with all those necessary straight lines of wrought iron railings and all those pesky perspective lines to get right. To answer Laura’s question from last week, I never attempt to erase pencil lines once I’ve put watercolor over them. It’s impossible to erase thru the pigment. Most times, tho, I don’t mind seeing a little bit of pencil in a painting because it is a ver authentic part of painting.
When it comes to erasing the watercolor, however, I have been known to use a nail file to clean up very small bits.
First, I painted in a quick bit of background architecture in pale blue, to represent a white building in bright sunlight (which will become more evident later in the painting):
Dab in the background greenery:
Working wet-in-wet I dab in the pale greens and add detail until I like the shape of the foliage:
Commentor Judy Jennings asked about getting “natural” shades of green. To tell you the truth, all my greens are unnatural in that I edit nature all the time. My shades and hues are mostly close to the scene that I’ve observed, but if I need to lighten bits up and darken others for the sake of the picture, I do it. I also edit the shape of foliage all the time — see above. I make it a pleasing shape for my composition first, and true to nature second.
My biggest guess regarding Judy’s question about getting a “natural” paint color is that you must always keep your water CLEAN. I constantly dump out my water and get clean fresh stuff. Especially if I am going to mix yellows into green I always get a brand new glass of water. And if I have to work wet-in-wet with lots of yellows AND greens I have two glasses of water handy, one for rinsing the yellow brush-fulls and one for rinsing the green brush-fulls.
For shadows I use blue with a bit of burnt umber mixed in it instead of black or grey:
Now I use masking fluid to cover the table and chairs so I can cut loose with the stuff I want to paint behind them:
While waiting for the masking fluid to become bone-dry, I do the middle-ground stuff:
I pretend the table and chairs aren’t there and paint the railing-drapping greenery right over the masking fluid:
I could never do this without masking fluid. Well, I could, but it would either look bad or would take me forever to paint:
Peel off masking fluid, paint what is revealed underneath:
Even down to the stems of the wine glasses, which I measured or you and are three millimeters high:
Take a look, and add whatever else this picture needs:
Not there yet::
I bumped up the shadow interest by adding purple and it’s brighter in person than this photo shows. Remember, text will be dropped into the middle of it, which is why there’s a “dead” area there.
P.S. I will probably have to do this over again. I learned a lot from this first go-round, and there are things that I know I would do better in version 2.0. C’est la vie.
So now I’m off for two weeks in France: Paris and Giverny; then to Marrakech to see the Majorelle Garden. To give you a preview of the two posts that I have for you in the queue, next week we will see how I manage to paint four really, really, really, really hidious stoooopid pictures of my New Orleans Fragrance Garden…
…before I happily get it right finally (no, that’s not it above — this picture above stinks!!!!) ; and then the week after that I give you a tour of the knicks and knacks of my workspace:
I will have my iPad with me in France etc. and Carol of the highly chic, fabulously popular Paris Breakfast blog is going to show me how to post from any cafe … so I might be able to send you all a few pictures and a quick update while I’m on the road.
How much you want to bet that what I post will be photos of great French cats?
P.S. Comments on this post will close after five days (nothing personal; it’s the spam, and closing Comments after five days keeps the spam to a manageable level of about 3,000 messages per week) so, if you’re reading this on Wednesday or later, please join us again on the following Friday. Merci mucho.