First there is a sunbeam, then there is no sunbeam, then there is. This is Candy and her son, Lickety, at 12:07 in the afternoon :

And this is them, at 1:04 on the same afternoon:

How much energy does it take to keep up with the sun beam? Apparently, too much.

We’ve had on-and-off sunshine this past week, here on the north shore of Long Island. For Kirra and all you snow-starved Ozzies, this was the Reverse Champagne-O-Meter last Thursday morning:

Friday morning:

Friday afternoon:

Saturday morning:

Saturday afternoon:

Sunday afternoon:

And then it became too criminal to keep a bottle of Extra Dry Champagne out in the 50-ish degree weather so I rescued it (it’s in my fridge, ready for when the painting goes so horrible wrong that Vivian needs and deserves  the bubbly). So while all the snow in my yards are melted, I happen to live on the sunny side of the street. There is still plenty of the white stuff on the shadowy side:

Since Dear Reader Kirra and others who do not own ice scrapers might not know how snow falls, it stands to reason that they might not know how snow melts, which is not pretty. My neighbor around the corner from me  lives on the daggy side of the street:

In my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, (now on “back order”, which means that it’s scarce and copies are going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon) I described this stage of Winter snow as appearing like lumps of dirty laundry piled up in people’s yards.

Snow, at this point of the melt, looks sad, and shredded, and trashy, and not at all picturesque.

And yes, the piles look daggy, an Australian slang word that never fails to make me laugh out loud because (FYI)  it refers to the dried faeces left dangling from the wool on a sheep’s rear end:

There are a lot of daggy piles of left-over snow here on the north shore of Long Island:

See that little snowball in front of the Snowman Who Has Ceased To Be (below)? I think it’s his head:

I’m easily amused. This made me laugh.

But this is not a time for levity. I recently discovered that I, and all others who wield a paintbrush, are being replace by an outstanding app called Waterlogue. This app, which sells for a mere $3.99, turns your photographs into pixels that look a lot like an excellent watercolor:

Worst of all, it can do — in the touch of a button — architecture.  This (below) would take me a lot of tears and weeks of rescues to get right:

This, above, is a view of Amsterdam via Waterlogue. The original photo was not supplied and yes, I see that the canal needs some “coloring in” (it does not read as water in this pic), but, still: Yowza!!!  I can not compete with the precision of all those linear structures (the line of row houses). This is a fantastic app, and if could figure how to buy it (because I’ve never bought an app in my life, and this one only works on hand held devices like my iPad or iPhone and not on my trusty desk top computer WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??) I would snap it up. I would have so much fun looking at someone else paint all my photo references that I would be occupied for days and days and days! And then I would kill myself because I have been replaced by an app.

Luckily, just as I was contemplating whether I had a hose that would fit the exhaust pipe of our champagne-colored Camry (I hear carbon monoxide poisoning leaves a very pretty corpse), I read a New York Times (January 14, 2018) review of a new book called: Craeft, An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts.

The reviewer, Michael Beirut (a partner in the design firm Pentagram), begins: “As daily life becomes increasingly virtual, it might seem like a paradox that making things by hand is suddenly big business. Stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby feature aisle after crowded aisle of sequins, tassels, imported papers, chenille stems and pompoms. Etsy, the e-commerce platform for selling homemade goods, features nearly two million active sellers serving 30 million eager buyers. Busy creators produce one-offs using 3-D printers in “maker spaces” at major research universities as well as your neighborhood’s progressive elementary school. All this activity was worth $44 billion last year, according to the Association for Creative Industries, a group that was once, in cozier times, known as the Craft and Hobby Association. Part therapy, part self-expression, our homely obsession with crafts is poised to take over the world.”

I hope this love affair with the hand-made is true. I hope that’s why an almost-out-of-print copy of my hand-made book When Wanderers Cease to Roam is selling for $500.00 on Amazon, but I think the guy who posted that $500.00 price tag is on drugs, because you can get a “good” used copy for 10.99 (but “good” is a condition that “may include highlighting notes”, which in my capacity as the manager of our local library’s used book store means we would throw it out… where was I?).

Illustration for NYT review of Craeft, by Nicole Natri.

Oh, right. I was hand-making something that an app couldn’t do in order to justify my existence. Let’s paint!

I’m illustrating the last page of my Claude Monet garden book, which I think needs a certain view off the famous Japanese bridge over Claude Monet’s water lily pond:

Trouble is, I want to change this photo into a different season, and a different time of day, and different weather conditions, and I want a lot less structural detail of that damn bridge. So I cropped the photo and drew this:

This was a big mistake. Usually, I draw on tracing paper velum so I have a template to re-use in case I screw something up. But here, I drew this bridge directly onto the watercolor paper (90 pound Canson) because it is a very intricate view of those twisting wisteria vines that grow over the bridge and I was erasing a lot and I just lost my mind. And getting the gentle arc of those railings took a lot of actual measurements, little dots that put in a row and connected to get the spacing correct. I cannot tell you how much I dislike doing this kind of drawing.

And since I have drawn directly onto the Canson, it means that I have to make this pic work because I do not have a template that I can re-trace, in case this goes bad. If it goes bad, it’s sayonara because I do not intend to re-draw this shit ever again.

I thought long (about an hour, including a tea break) and hard (ouch) about how I was going to make the changes that I needed for this picture, and then I went Oh, hell, just do it. So I started with the background:

I just took a wild guess at the shapes and colors and all I can do is hope it will turn into something, because it looks like crap as of yet. Next, I make blobs of purple and blue to represent wisteria in bloom:

First rule, when you paint in blobs of color, is you have to make sure that the blobs make interesting forms that look elegant all by themselves. But don’t over-do it.

In this pic, I know that I want my foliage to be back-lit, so I layer in a first wash of yellow, and apply green shades over that, keeping in mind that these yellow- green blobs also have to make interesting shapes, and try not to over-do it:

The right hand side of the painting will contain most of the darkest bits of the picture:

I hope I didn’t over-do it. I have a tendency to over-do it. I have to concentrate on keeping it light.

Add masking fluid over the rails of the bridge, and add the waters of the lily pond:

I don’t know about that “water”. I hope it works out. At this point, I became uhappy  that the wisteria leaves looked so blobby, after all, so I decided to add detail, but not too much detail:

Remove the masking fluid and paint the railings. There is still plenty of time to screw up this picture:

After I added bits of dark green that I thought were necessary for the composition, I decided to leave the vines un-painted, as these forms are very interesting and painting them will, I think, flatten them out. I don’t want to over-do it.

Here is the finished picture, followed by the original reference photo so you can see how much of it I have I re-imagined:

See what I did there? I just did what Michael Beirut, in the conclusion of her review of the new book Craeft, says is the most is important thing that humans can do in this age of virtual, mass-manufactured consumerism:

“Factory manufacture robs us of a special something: contemplation.” In writing this, the author of Craeft, Alexander Langlands, is not talking about the big questions of human existence, but of the hundreds of small ones that go into something as simple — or as complex — as building a stone wall: “Which to use? How to work it? Where to strike it?” In the end, this is the case he makes for craeft. At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.

Contemplation. If you paint, or draw, or make anything by hand, you know all about those hundreds of little decisions you make while you are focused on not screwing up. Making something by hand is totally absorbing, and feels as high-risk as tightrope walking, but at the same time feels Zen-ish; peaceful, as if you are connecting with a part of you that is timeless and outside of “you”. If you know what I mean.

Like what Taffy and Lickety do naturally:

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your sun beams wait for you to catch up, and all your slumbers be under the soft paw of a kitty.

 

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Ah, the Vernal Equinox. On Sunday Top Cat and I took to our favorite north shore cove with our trusty plastic wine glasses to crack open our most recent Champagne-O-Meter to celebrate what Top Cat calls the Kiss Winter Good-Bye toast. There was a  brutal wind blowing in from the icy tempest of the Long Island Sound that brought tears to our eyes and froze us to the core and made us regret every life decision that brought us to that place at that time, but these are the conditions that make the bubbly taste twice as good.

Candy celebrated the arrival of Spring in her usual fashion. . .

. . . while her idiot son did his usual thing:

Don’t you love Taffy’s little bunny feet?

SPEAKING OF BUNNIES:

 

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my hard copy of the John Oliver book about a bunny called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which is No. 1 on Amazon and out-selling the book by Charlotte and Karen Pence (daughter and wife wife of Drumpf Suck-Up Artist Mike Pence), also about a bunny called Marlon Bundo, who is actually the Pence’s own pet bunny. You can click onto the link to learn about how this book has gotten Fox News’ undies in a twist, but because this is a boring watercolor blog I want to deal with this book from a watercolor-centric point of view, OK?

This is the Pences’ book:

And here are Karen (the watercolorist illustrator) and Charlotte Pence, with Bundo himself:

Marlon Bundo is a really cute rabbit. But Karen Pence is not an illustrator; she’s a watercolorist-in-ist: compare the book covers, and the Bundos. One has personality and smooch ability  (by EG Keller), the other is a drab little amateur dabble that didn’t get the ears right (by Karen Pence, who also didn’t get the feet right).

Here are some of Karen Pence’s other cliche-ridden housewifely pictures, exhibited at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

No, no, no, no. The world does not need another badly-drawn cardinal on a poorly-painted snowy bough, no matter how nicely it’s framed.Here is my favorite review of Karen Pence’s watercolor exhibit at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

Brain surgery is very difficult. Watercolor technique is not that difficult a medium and I speak as someone who paints in it (and oil) and has taught it to well over 1000 students over nearly 30 years. What is difficult is originality. Ms Pence is competent at a basic technical level but her work is safe, pedestrian and impersonal. Originality requires a willingness to take risks and/ or to invest a deeper personal investigation into the process. (One problem with this work is that a photo with a simple watercolor filter applied digitally would look pretty close to this work.) I am happy she is finding satisfaction in her hobby but the only novelty here is that she will be doing it while married to the VP.  ( Well said, Carol Griffith, professional watercolor artist.)

Here’s Karen showing off her art at the Indiana State Fair:

OK, let us digress. I saw this photo of Karen and I taught, Yep. That’s the kind of “kicky” print blazer that a boring watercolorist wears when she wants to look “arty”. This is me, speaking as a lady in her 60s: Karen, you’re making all of us look bad.

In the same google search this came up:

So this is what you wear to the Inauguration Ball for the Demise of Democracy… oh, lordy…  I say this with peace and love, honey: if you are on the hefty side of Granny Clampett and your boobs are drooping down to your elbows, this is not a good look for you, Karen. Peace and love.

OMG. I just looked her up, and Karen Pence is one year and two weeks younger than I.

And yeah, since Mike and Karen Pence thinks it’s OK to stick their sanctimonious homo-phobic Christian noses into the privacy of American citizens’ sex lives by pushing for federal and state legislation to outlaw choice in matters of reproduction and who you can love and how, I think it’s alright for me to make fun of her old lady dumpiness which she lets hang out in public for all to see.

On another tangent, this is the official bio of Karen Pence’s writing partner, her daughter Charlotte, the author of the poorly illustrated Bundo book, on the Amazon website:

“Charlotte Pence graduated from DePaul University in 2016 with a degree in English and Digital Cinema. Her written work has appeared in Glamour Magazine and publications affiliated with the University of Oxford, where she studied as an undergraduate.”

Oh for christ sake… the “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford” was, in fact — and you can look it up because this is totally true — the student newspaper.   And she “studied” at Oxford during the junior year she spent abroad under the aegis of DePaul University. DePaul. Which has nothing to do with her mother’s insipid watercolor illustrations but, you know, DePaul.

So, please, go buy a copy of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo because it’s a delightful book with outstanding illustrations, and because all the proceeds go to Trevor Project and AIDS United, and because you fucking hate Mike Pence.

Thank you.

Back to the agony of illustrating my own book (sadly, not about a bunny called Bundo):

Last week I left you hanging in suspense over a rescue operation for a crappy watercolor illustration of the lily pond in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, which looked like this:


I did some research, otherwise called looking through my big Monet art books, and found a Monet painting that had a tasty color palette that I thought would work nicely with the evening vibe I am trying to accomplish in my little illustration:

Pink and lavender are going to be the dominant colors of the lower half of my picture:

I am using my Grumbacher paints (light blue, darker blue, purple, fuchsia, and a sea green) to do most of the heavy lifting, with dabs of vibrant Winsor Newton greens (Sap and Hooker green) and Cobalt blue for flirty prettiness.

My tactics for this rescue are to avoid the mistake I made last time. Last time, I tried to paint the water in one big swoop…but I am not a swooping kind of painter. I am a miniaturist, so I have to tackle this expanse in bits. I forgot to take a photo of the first bit, in which I laid down the dark green on the “water” near the bridge and the willow. But here’s the next bit, where I covered another narrow band by bleeding some delicious blue-green into pink:

Then I added lily pads:

For the last part of this picture I want to make some large, bold bleeds, even though I know that this is something that I am not very good at. So I practice:

I lay down my practice sheet on top of the Picture in Progress to see if it works:

My original thought was to leave that lower right end of the picture blank, in order to balance the “blank” spot in the upper left side; also, I’m thinking of dropping text into the picture there.

I do another practice sheet:

And then I decide to paint the whole lower part of the picture, so I practice some more:

This is how many times I did a “dry run”, so to speak:

I feel ready, willing, and able to finish this picture. But before I do, I make the fatal mistake of applying masking fluid to the very bottom of the scene:

I like everything about this picture except for the masking fluid. It was a dumb idea:

I did it because I have a little trick that I’ve used before, that worked in this picture:

You lay down masking fluid in an attractive circular pattern — don’t over-do it — to make little eddies of swirling water:

But this trick just doesn’t work in this picture:

NOPE.

I would have been so happy with this picture if only I had not put in those stupid swirls.

So, it’s back to Square One for the third time:

How boring is it to watch me paint? I could continue showing you how I re-re-rescued this illustration, but I get the feeling that you’d all rather watch snow fall in my backyard.

Cue the Last Champagne-O-Meter of 2018, dedicated to Dear Reader Kirra, in the Land of Oz:

I guess you’ve heard the news that the east coast (of America) celebrated the first full day of Spring by getting slammed with a snow storm on Wednesday. I set a new, improved Champagne-O-Meter out on the top of our little cafe table on the back patio so I could shoot it from the picture window of our den instead of having to trudge outside into knee-deep snow to photograph it on the lawn.

The snow started to fall around 8:30 in the morning. I took pictures of the Champagne-O-Meter about every two hours.

And then it got too dark to take photos, until the next morning:

This is what the back patio liked like (the Champagne-O-Meter is in the center of that cafe table):

OK, that’s enough excitement for one blog. Sorry to drag you away from the calamity, but this is a boring watercolor blog so I must take you back to our current watercolor rescue, which I promise will be quick because like you, I am getting pretty damn tired of seeing this lily pond. Remember, we started here:

The first re-re-re-paint wasn’t right:

But the next re-re-re-paint was just right and so, finally, we are DONE:

As I type this, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is still the No. 1 selling book on Amazon.com. The first printing of 40,000 sold out in four hours, so Chronicle Books is rushing a second printing of 400,000 to be shipped to to independent bookstores asap.

Charlotte Pence has tweeted that she has bought this book, too, even though the book portrays her father (the odious Mike Pence) as a stink bug: “I have bought his book, “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President.” “(Oliver’s) giving proceeds of the book to charity, and we’re also giving proceeds of our book to charity, so I really think that we can all get behind it.”

That seems very gracious of her, on the surface, but remember that she’s the girl who claimed that she’s been published by “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford”, and she’s got a degree in digital cinema from DePaul (DePaul), so she’s obviously crafty, and ambitious, and wants a career in media so what better way to suck up to John Oliver/HBO than to tweet a nice thing about Oliver’s book?

Well played, Christian creep opportunist, well played.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. May you and all the bunnies you hop with be happy and bouncy and free to be.

XXOO

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This is Candy, on the job:

She is clearly OK with the change to Daylight Savings time. Me, I’m still getting adjusted. I don’t know why it’s hitting me harder this year than previously, but I am still constantly surprised that the day just doesn’t feel right.

Candy’s patch of sunshine is at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor, in front of the archway that leads to the entire right-hand side of the house, so we have to tip-toe the long way around (hang a left and go through the dining room) because Candy is very skittish (after nine years of living with us) and we would wake her and freak her out if we got too close and you know Rule No. 1 in Cat Land:

Never Bother a Sleeping Kitty.

She’s near the pot of grass I bought for the cats, which no one even tasted, but which someone did sit on.

Last week, Dear Reader Jeanie asked about the bright green paint I used in my Monet lily pond painting. Here it is:

This wonderful picture of the Grumbacher 24-pan watercolor set is from the place I buy all my Grumbacher paints  from — Blick’s (on line and in person) and I was tickled to see that their photo featured the exact bright green paint that Jeanie asked about. It is called Leaf Green and it’s one of three greens that you get in a Grumbacher 24-pan watercolor set (the others are Sea Green and French Green).

My current working set of Grumbacher paints looks a lot less tasty than those spotless new ones:

And, if you remember from last week, here are those various Grumbacher paint colors in use:

We left off with me thinking that the water bits that make up the entire lower half of this picture look boring, and with Coco in the animal hospital getting teeth pulled so she could eat again. Coco is home, with far fewer teeth and great pain meds, and she is eating (YAY!). Look away from the next photo if you do not want to see the souvenirs the vet gave me when she sent Coco home (take note, cat people):

That’s a diseased incisor on the right, and a hunk of tartar on the left. It’s as hard as stone. Yikes. That is one huge hunk of tartar for one kitty. My vet said it was the biggest chunk of tartar she’s ever removed. My vet didn’t see the rotten incisor and molars and broken side teeth and tartar until Coco was out cold. Feline dentistry must be done when the cat is knocked out, because those wascally wabbits will not let a vet get a good look if they are awake and pissed off at being at the vet’s. You have to take the chance and put your old cat under, just to make sure he/she isn’t hiding a great deal of pain in their mouths. FYI.

But cat care is only part of my job description. Let’s get back to what earns me the big bucks, which is rescuing a  picture of Monet’s garden from deadly boredom.  Here’s is what I did about it:

Oh lordy, the pic looks ten times worse now. It’s even MORE boring than before! This is a terrible, criminal waste of paint. This picture totally and whole-heartedly sucks.

There are a lot of things wrong with this pic, but the one that jumps out at me now is the bridge. How did I not notice, before this, that I got it all wrong? Totally wrong. Amateur-hour wrong. It’s embarrassing. It’s like I wasn’t even looking at the bridge and just slapped in something that looked “bridge-ish”. I hate myself.

It’s my job to steal ideas from other artists  stay informed of other artist’s renderings of this scene, so a quick search of the inter webs yielded this:

painting credit: Carol Gadek Skapinetz

Yes, that’s Monet’s bridge, and it’s perfect. Seven upright railings and four supports to the over-head canopy. Well done. But if something looks a-miss here, something that looks like we’re  not in Kansas France anymore, you would be right. This is a painting called Monet’s Bridge but here’s the catch:  it’s Monet’s Bridge in the Gibbs Gardens in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

So there you go: There’s an exact replica of Monet’s bridge in Georgia. They even planted a Copper Beech next to it. Well, La-Di-Dah.

No, wait. That was Annie Hall. The culturally appropriate Scarlet O’Hara is who I’m going for. Wasn’t her catch phrase, “Christ on a cracker”, or am I remembering someone else?

Dear Readers, I think you deserve to see a great photo of Monet’s Bridge in Gibbs Gardens in Georgia:

Photo credit: Randy Clinkscales.

Beautiful. (Awesome reflection, too.)

If you ever want to paint Monet’s bridge, it behooves you to take a look at this beauty in the Gibbs Gardens in Georgia is all I’m saying, because it’s the best look at Monet’s bridge that you’re going to get. Trust me. The real bridge is hard to see because it’s hemmed in with a lot of flowering plants and verdure. Yes. I said “verdure”.

Here’s my best photo of the bridge from when I was in Giverny trying to get a good look at the thing, and as you can see, you can’t see much:

As usual, if you are searching for the best of Giverny on the internet, you end up looking at photos by the Grande Dame of Giverny, Ariane Cauderlier, at Giverny.org, who lives in a restored 15th century farmhouse down the road from Monet’s garden and has every day, four season access to it:

Ah, what a view. Check out Ariane’s blog (in French or English) for up-to-the-minute info on what’s going on in all things Monet. She took the snow scene (above) just last week, when Europe was hit with a nasty weather system from Russia that they called The Beast From the East. Catchy, non? 

God, I love the internet. But, getting back to the travesty-du-jour here on the north shore of Long Island, something must be done with this piece of crap:

Something like this:

I want to keep the background because I am quite pleased with the way the green from (I think) an alder tree, bleeds into dark red from a Copper Beech. Yuck. That Copper Beech.

I dislike red-leafed trees. In the words of the greatest female character, ever, from Star Trek: They are an offense to my eyes.

It is hard to get red watercolor to bleed into green watercolor without it turning into a brown mush, and I got lucky here in that both colors bled into each other but managed to stay  in-tact.  So why make more work for myself?  I’m keeping the background.

I’m happy about re-resucing this pic because it gives me the chance to re-boot the square format. I’ve become bored with four corners, so this is how I’ll be re-inventing this scene:

First, I painted the bridge in white acrylic and let it dry, so I could paint in the background without losing my lines. White acrylic paint is my go-to cure-all for whatever ails my watercolor:

Right: We’re going to go for some drama here. I left that little bit of pink sky peeking out from under the canopy of the bridge on purpose (it’s not there in nature) because every picture needs a Bull’s Eye.

And this is where I am leaving it for now. I have not figured out, yet, how to do the rest of the watery bits, and I don’t have a reference photo to use because I’M MAKING THIS UP : this is a sun set view and I’ve never been there at sun set. Well, in fact, I have been there at several sun sets, trespassing, but it was always either over-cast or Winter, when I was there, and the sky was cement gray. I like a pink sky better.

Can I just say something about being a pet owner?

There is no way in hell that I would ever let a fight attendant put my animal in the overhead compartment. I would get off the damn plane kicking and screaming and acting like a crazy person all the way before I stashed my dear companion in the overhead compartment. So, as vile as it is that there’s a flight attendant who would insist that a passenger put her animal in the overhead compartment, it is even more despicable that there’s an owner/  animal’s protector who would DO IT.

Lastly, I send 113,813 smooches to the voters of Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district for YOU KNOW WHAT (the first flip of the mid-term elections): Thank you. Yay Conor Lamb, Democrat, who won a solid Republican seat in the House of Representatives.

One down, 534 to go. (I’m an optimist.)

With the help of these awesome kids, we might just do it:

I have so much respect for the students who walked out on March 14. Stay mad, stay righteous, stay strong.

Yeah, I got the T-shirt. I can’t wait to wear it on March 24.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. I know you’re with me, on the right side of history.

Repeal the Second Amendment.

 

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Grab your tea cups and fluff up the kitties: oh, yes, we will paint today:

But first, you know what happens when the 24-hour news shows are frantic with dire warnings about a frightful Winter bomb hitting the northeast from Washington, D.C. to Boston, burying us in a thousand inches of snow and thunder and frozen hell fire: We Get Out The Champagne-O-Meter!

For most of Wednesday morning my bottle of champagne sat in the back yard minding its own business, rolling its eyes at the smattering of rain that caused every school and my gym Long Island to shut down for the day. But shortly after noon, big fat flakes of wet snow began to fall:

The snow stuck like glue:

It was the worst kind of snow, too — weighty, sloppy, slushy, and did I say heavy?

I left the house at 3:30 so I could drive to the railroad station to pick up Top Cat, who was coming home early as most of Manhattan was shutting down and citizens were urged to Stay Off The Roads. I drove 20 miles per hour through five inches of icy slush while big fat heavy snow flakes kept obscuring the windshield in spite of the wipers swishing at top speed.

On the way home from the Long Island Rail Road station, Top Cat insisted on driving out to our favorite deli so he could get a cucumber. I insisted on staying with him in the car so I could continue to remind him that it was crazy to drive in this weather just to get a cucumber (Top Cat loves his dinner salad). We made it to the deli in one piece, but the deli was closed, of course. So we turned around and came home and Top Cat put extra olives in his salad to make up for not having a cucumber.

Thursday morning, the Champagne-O-Meter was slick with a thin layer of ice, just how I like it:

In between slogging out into the slushy snow every hour or so to take a photo of the Champagne-O-Meter, I kept myself busy on this slushy, snowy day doing my thing, which these days is all about Watercolor Rescue. Today’s Fixer Upper is this view of Claude Monet’s Japanese bridge over the lily pond in his famous garden in Giverny, France:

You might remember that a few weeks back I did a little study of Monet’s water lily painting technique by copying a panel from his huge murals that hang in the Orangerie of the Tuileries in Paris:

I happened to notice that the study could almost fit into my little Fixer Upper:

Hmmmmm. . . the reeds and the pinky colors of the reflections in the water could work in this view if only they could be re-painted, right? And thus, a RESCUE was born:

That (above) is the new bottom half of the picture — here it is in place:

Sorry about the way this stuff photographs. It looks wonky, but I assure you, it is a true square. After applying  masking fluid over the bits that I want to reserve, I paint along the cut edge of the new bottom half of the picture:

I wash in the pink and blue bleeds, trying to avoid getting them too mushy (I don’t want them to blend into purple):

Here’s them reeds:

I remove the masking fluid:

I paint in the reflection of the willow leaves, which I wish I had thought out more carefully before I put down the masking fluid. Maybe, just maybe, I could have skipped masking fluid here, and painted in the fronds over the wash — but, it’s too late now:

Step back and assess how we’re doing:

The reference that I am using for these lily pads is Monet’s own painting, which uses yellows and dark green and lots of light magenta to give those lily pads some oomph:

So that’s what I do. I add some oomph:

Oomphage achieved, or not:

and here is where I had to stop painting because of a kitty emergency. Coco, who is 17 years old, has suddenly stopped eating NINE DAYS AGO and of course I took her to the vet after day three, and there’s nothing obviously wrong with her…so I’ve been trying all various sorts of baby food, gruel, formula, syringe feeding, cheese…nothing has tempted her.

This afternoon, after trying so special adult cat Anorexic Diet, I decided that we had to take drastic measures. Even though she’s an old cat with a heart murmur, I told the vet that we had to sedate her and fix her teeth — because in my vast experience with cats, it’s always the teeth. I told the vet that if we lose her, we lose her; I’m already LOSING her and I can’t watch her starve herself to death.

So I’ve taken Coco to the vet and she is not at all happy. She will be sedated and the vet will be able to get a good look at her teeth.

I’m sure you all know what it’s like to have a very sick kitty in the house. The psychic misery is almost unbearable.

UPDATE: Coco has had three teeth removed and had her other teefers cleaned and repaired — she had cavities and some root damage. She was coming out of sedation when the vet called, so it looks like her heart didn’t give out after all! She’s got a heating pad and her favorite blue fleece with her, and she’ll stay at the vet’s over night so she can be given pain meds and the vet can watch her blood pressure.

So Coco isn’t dead, and I will be painting again tomorrow, and I plan on doing something “fun” with this picture. I am bored with just making look-alike illustrations…I want to do something playful and unexpected.

Playful and Unexpected.

And you can be sure that I’ll show it all to you next Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if you have a bottle of champagne in your backyard, try adding a dash of vanilla vodka to your flute. Let’s call it “Sun set in Giverny.”

 

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I had way too many people over to my house last night and one woman, who was the wife of one of Top Cat’s friends, waved her hand at me to show me her ring and bragged, “It’s a ruby.” (This is an internet photo of a cabochon ruby below.)

I should mention that this scenario was a dream I had last night but now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll continue: I looked at the stone and I knew it was not a ruby so I said, “No, it’s not a ruby, it’s red coral,” because I am part Vulcan and I cannot lie. (Internet photo of cabochon red coral below.)

The woman got all snotty at me and insisted that I didn’t know anything and that if there was a jeweler in the room he’d set me straight and tell me that this was a ruby, because it’s a family heirloom and Grandma said it was a ruby and everyone in the family knows it’s a ruby.

I woke up then, with a weary apathy that was a very familiar feeling of mine from the days when I worked as a jeweled objects expert at Christie’s auction house. I used to have conversations like this one in my dream all the time with people who wanted to bankroll their retirement by selling off a family heirloom that, I had to tell them, in reality would, maybe, finance a retirement party for four at Olive Garden. Lordy, I could tell you stories about the stories that get handed down from Grandmas.

P.S. Myths about family heirlooms happen even in the best families:

Do you see that large cabochon (polished, dome-shaped gem) in the middle of Queen Elizabeth’s crown? It’s been  called The Black Prince’s Ruby ever since it was handed down from the Black Prince, the Plantagenet forbear of the Queen who lived 1330 – 1376.  But it’s not a ruby. It’s a spinel,  a type of gem that was differentiated in the 18th century as another very nice red stone that is actually redder than most rubies, but not a ruby. They sell for 30 – 50% the price of ruby, but I don’t know of many people who are clamoring for it. The pertinent thing is, it’s not a ruby.

I have not dreamed about my old job for many years and I was momentarily perplexed at why one would crop up now. Then I remember that I watched Antiques Roadshow the night before and had seen an old boyfriend on the TV screen. He has appeared on Antiques Roadshow, off and on, as one of their expert appraisers since its beginning in 1997, the year after we broke up.

I used to wish that I had stayed at my Christie’s job a little longer because maybe I could have ended up on TV too, but you know how it is, you see an old boyfriend on the TV show you used to wish you could have been on and you think, Wow, it’s been 21 years since we broke up and he still has awesome hair and then that night you have a dream about things that are not rubies.

Wait. 1996 was 21 years ago?!?!?!? And no, this guy is not my ex-boyfriend.

Maybe you have been in the position of having to give, or receive,  information, such as the kind that I used to give all the time when I worked as an expert appraiser. To me, the information was neutral: it was fact, in that it was based on my degrees in Gemology and my expert knowledge of the market value of certain objects, which I earned through my daily interaction with that market and on my many years of experience with those kinds of objects, or ones that are quantifiably similar in ways that I have been expertly trained to translate into dollar value. It was my job to know these things.

This guy is not my ex-boyfriend either.

To the person receiving the information, however, the information appears to be merely opinion, especially since it does not agree with what they wanted to hear. 80% of the time, when my information was rejected, the excuse was that the owner of the object under scrutiny had a “feeling” that it was worth more. (To be fair, there are times when objects put up for auction smash their pre-auction estimates, but we’re talking about the very rare, or one-of-a-kind items that are not anything like your Grandma’s Ansonia clock or her Piaget wristwatch, or the 19th-century Italian shell cameo that was smuggled out of Europe 300 years ago when the ancestor was a maid to the Queen of France during the persecution of the Catholics — that last one is a true Grandma story which was so wrong on so many counts that I didn’t know where to begin.

God no.

In time I came to understand that what a lot of people called a “feeling” was in fact a “wish”, and that most people prefer to live in their “wish” world than in the world of true information. And since then I’ve been very careful to question all my “feelings” to make sure they aren’t “wishes”. There’s a difference. It’s good to know the difference.

And I also thought that the reason I had this dream that dredged up those old feelings of what I call weariness and apathy (if they are not one and the same — we have so few words for nuanced emotions) is because I feel the same way when I hear the debate about gun control. The NRA and their lackeys have a shitty red coral ring that they believe is ruby, and they won’t listen to an expert opinion because facts make them feel like you hate their Grandma and they will defend their Grandma to death so all of a sudden you are dealing with someone who is screaming at you for hating poor little old law-abiding ladies who never did a thing to hurt you and why would you want to take her ruby ring away from her when it’s all she has???? It makes me weary.

Here on Long Island we had Spring For a Day — sunny, warm, blue skies — and Steve went roll a roll on the grass of our front lawn and came back looking like this:

I didn’t do much painting this week; all I had to do was re-do a portrait of Claude Monet. I used two references, one from 1886 in a painting by Monet’s friend, John Singer Sargent:

And this one, a photograph from c. 1920:

At first, I thought I could get away with this (it’s just a doodle for the margin):

But, no. So I did this:

OK. Now I see it: I got the head position and the shift of his whole posture wrong. And what’s with that paint brush in his right hand? I will have to have another go at it, which is the norm for this book. I think I’ve painted every single illustration at least twice; some, more than eight times, until I get it right. Because I am part Vulcan and we are sticklers for the truth.

Here’s a Monet fact you won’t read any where else: In 1901 Monet took home the equivalent (in 2017 dollars) of $1.7 million from sales of his paintings. In 2016, one of his pictures of a grainstack made $81.4 million at auction in New York — at my old stomping grounds, Christie’s.

And that’s how you bring a blog post full circle, Dear Readers.

And now it’s time to go back to real life in America, back to another day in the demise of democracy in the Drumpf administration.

We made it through February, Dear Ones: we will get through March, and we will get through it together. See you here next week.

Have a great weekend, and please don’t have bad dreams about work or old boyfriends unless it’s a good story and then I definitely want to hear it.

XXOO

 

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Get your cats and your tea ready:

We are painting today!

No, not this: This is from 2010 when I was painting a page from my book Gardens of Awe and Folly with the help of Coco.

This:

This is a photo from the archives of the New York Times, which sent a photographer to Claude Monet’s house in Giverny in 1922.

In 2012 the New York Botanical garden photoshopped the “unidentified person” next to Monet out of the pic and colorized it for a show there, in which Monet’s garden at Giverny was re-created in one of the hot houses (I thought it was an odd show) :

FYI: Monet preferred fawn-colored tweeds for his suits.

I always paint from photo references, and usually I only use my own photos. . . but I’ve been known to borrow pix from other sources (Hi Jeanie! Hi Elizabeth!), and this photo of Monet at age 82 on his Japanese bridge is irresistible, don’t you think? P.S.: I used the black and white photo for my paintings. The colorized one is not helpful.

I gave it a go way back in 2012:

Way back in 2012 I was still getting used to painting “large” pictures (as a miniaturist, my preferred format is about one-eight this scale) so no wonder the pic stinks.

Last year, after painting many “murals” for my garden book (5 inches x 7 inches is about the maximum size I can go), I had another try:

This painting is ripe for a rescue.

The smartest thing I did, when I re-painted this pic in 2012, was to leave a bit of blue sky in the top right corner. It’s not there in the reference photograph from 1922. I made an edit. I like it better with a bit of sky.

I have to rescue this pic two ways: I have to make it not stink, and I have to make it fit a square format. Lately I’ve been playing around with breaking my pictures out of a rectangular format, and playing with Monet’s own style. . . and that’s what I decided to do with this picture. I decided to leave the top bit intact (but make it better with added color and shading), and to expand the bottom, watery bit, but do it to look like this:

Sorry: I forgot that I do watercolor tutorials on my blog so I’ve already re-painted the top section and glued in a new bottom bit, and here is where we pick up this rescue:

Let me tell you, it was not easy to figure out how to add width and length to the bottom part of this pic. I thought I was good at piecing things together, but this one was harder than it looked. After fiddling around for about an hour, I got it right. . . this is what it looks like from the back:

The first order of business is to camouflage the hard edges. The good news is that there are reeds on either side of Monet’s Japanese bridge in his water garden at Giverny:

Spoiler alert: I know YOU see it now, but I will not notice that the sides of this rescue are uneven until the very end and I will have a mini-crisis because of it.

If you examine Monet’s paint surface closely, you will see that he uses short, dabbly brushstrokes:

I actually find Monet’s brushstrokes to be a bit wimpy. He is not very daring with his use of paint. COLOR, oui; paint, non.

I can see that Monet paints his lily pads blue, and the water green: Weird, huh? I can also see where Monet puts his light dabs of paint towards the center of the scene and his dark dabs of paint towards the edges, so I am trying to copy his color placement as best I can but, really, I don’t know what I’m doing and am just guessing, starting with dark green and switching to medium green:

Dashing in dabs of blue:

Finishing with lightest green:

The only advantage that watercolor has over oil paint is that watercolorists can use the whiteness of the paper to add sparkle to the painted surface. I am not trying to cover every bit of paper when I dab because leaving “blank” areas will only improve the faux-impressionist look I am going for.

When painting the reflections of the reed (or the willows) in the “water”, I use broken lines:

I also make sure that I place the darkest “reflections” correctly before I paint in the rest of the bits:

Here is where it occurred to me that I must show you a very handy painting tip: I keep my pre-painted picture safe from spills and dropped brushes loaded with paint  (it happens all the time) by inserting it into one of those plastic sheet protectors that you can get at Staples:

This is pretty close to how I set up my work space:

You can see that I am using my teeny tiny Winsor Newton paint set along with a few of my cheap-o Grumbacher chalky paints for this picture (tea bag included for size ref). And that’s it! It doesn’t take much equipment to paint your heart out!

Back to the rescue: now that I have come to the foreground of this picture, I have a decision to make about the size of the brushstrokes I’ll be using in this area. As a miniaturist, I’m happy using itty bitty strokes with a 00-size brush for the back and middle-ground of this picture. But it seems to me that the length of the strokes should increase as the picture comes “closer” to the viewer. I am not happy doing long brushstrokes with a bigger brush, so I did some practice bits before I committed paint to paper (I would hate to screw this up at this stage of the rescue):

OK, I think I can live with the longer strokes. So now that I have a plan, I go back to the right edge of the picture (because I am left-handed, my pictures usually start on the right side and work towards the left) and fiddle with the last bits of the pond surface. I have differed from the Monet painting which I am using as my guide in that I made a large area of the pond surface blue, rather than paint it in as green, just because I like the blue. I have to admit that, having painted in this nice pool of blue water, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of it in a way that makes sense visually. I am hoping for the best as I lay in the dark reeds’ reflection:

Another thing that I do, just because I like to, is that I “ripple” the surface of the water:

To do this, all you have to do is take a brush loaded with clear, clear water and swipe it back and forth across a painted surface, which picks up the pigment like an eraser (remember to wipe the brush off on a paper towel before you re-load it with clear, clean water for a second swipe).

Now I use my huge (ha ha, that’s a joke: it’s a size 1) brush to make those long strokes I practiced:

I think I painted that area too dark:

So I let it dry and then I use bright white acrylic paint to dab over the dark bits:

Looking at it now, I think I could have left that area alone — the dark bit doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I was in the throes of hoping not to ruin the picture when I was so close to the finish, but what can I say? I panicked.

I dash in some blue paint and look at those ENORMOUS brush strokes!:

For this last bit, I go easy on the vertical reflections (I use very watery paint and I don’t do much detail):

The last thing I have to paint are those damn water lilies. You can see that Monet put a lot of white/pink flowers in his picture:

I don’t want to do as many because although Monet can get away with it, I think that all those flowers in my picture would look cheesy. All you do is dab on some solid blobs of bright white acrylic paint over the watercolor:

Highlight the acrylic with hot pink, leaving at least half the lily in white :

DONE:

When ruling out the picture for the crop, I realize that OMG OMG OMG I measured the scene incorrectly:

Whew. Thank DoG I had barely enough of a margin to go back and fix it!

And this is how this illustration will look on the page:

 

The next time you see this picture I hope it’s in a book about Monet’s garden.

This biography of Stevie Nicks (who needs no introduction) is not an authorized biography, so it has no contact with Stevie’s inner life — but it is excellent when it deals with her work life. The author, Stephen Davis, is a veteran rock journalist so he knows his way around a recording studio and the way in which songwriters cobble together their hits, and I was fascinated to read about the process Stevie went through whenever she had to come up with material for a Fleetwood Mac or a solo album.

Stevie hoarded all her song ideas for years and decades, in notebooks and on cassette tapes, all her bits and pieces — a title, a riff, half a verse, a whole song that never quite gelled — and this is where she started whenever she had to come up with new material. She rifled through her old journals and cassettes and looked for bits of gold dust. I loved reading this because that’s what I do! I never throw anything out!

A few weeks ago I showed you how I re-cycled bits of failed paintings (which I had kept in my Reject File for about three years) into a rescue:

I only wish that I had a producer on hand to direct me on how to spiff-up my pix: Stevie, on the other hand, had access to the best and she was very shrewd when she picked her collaborators and her producers. Producers can be crucial: one will hear something in a song fragment or idea that had been languishing for years, and he can turn into something powerful, something that Stevie would never have thought of on her own.

Edge of Seventeen, for example, is a song that was just a little pop ditty until producer Jimmy Iovine put a stinging Waddy Wachtel guitar riff on it.

Speaking of seventeen:

We must salute the awesomeness of the teenage students of Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School. You can visit the school’s website for tips on how you can support the political action of these amazing kids, or you can to to their  GoFundMe page,  or you can open up a can of whoop-ass and vote to defeat every sniveling, corrupt, crazy, and gutless psycho NRA-loving son of a bitch politician in 2018.

Stay sane this weekend, everyone. I know it’s hard: the NRA idiots are out already, claiming that the latest school shooting is another Sandy Hook hoax. But stay strong. We need you to not let these morons drive you crazy so we can get out and Vote Them Out.

XXOO

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Have you ever tried to paint like Claude Monet? If so, did you attempt one of his huge “Grand Decoration” canvases?

I know, from experience, that using watercolors to copy an oil painting is hard. . .

. . .  so before I took on this scene of Monet’s waterlilies. . .

. . . I practiced:

If I were using oil paint, it would be easy to layer green on top of pink, but when it’s watercolor you have to be very careful because if you let them bleed too much into one another, all you get is a muddy brown soup.

I don’t have any “in progress” photos to show you because I was so sure that this would come out crappy and, in fact, for most of the time I was painting this Monet-esque pic, it did look like crap. I kept losing my place because I had to paint the greens separately and they didn’t make sense to me until very late in the game:

I don’t know if this is how Claude experienced his pictures, but for me it all came together only after I’d added the pink and blue water bits. Then I could see that where this pic was going.  Then I removed the resist that I’d applied to mask out the lily pads:

OK, now it look like a lily pond.

By the way, Monet cheats! If you look carefully at his later paintings, you’ll see that he outlines his lily pads, he doesn’t shadow them, which I call cheating! But I won’t complain too much because outlining them makes painting these things a whole lot easier. Also, Monet was in his 80s when he was painting these enormous murals, and was world famous and stinking rich, so he could outline anything he damn pleased, right?

DONE:

I learned quite a lot about Monet’s methods, and this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be for my first attempt. I am ready to do this again because now I know better where the darks and lights go, and how to use the paint to make the “water surface” shimmer the way Monet does, and make the colors richer and more subtle. (I think.)

Believe it or not, Monet actually sketched out these murals before he painted them:

Obviously, Monet’s sketched in a language that only he could understand. But maybe “sketched” is not the right word; maybe he “mapped” out his paintings beforehand. We will never know: Monet was famously reticent about his process, and he never took pupils or taught anyone (except for his step-daughter, Blanche, but I can’t imagine that he was anything more than an encouraging pater to her). And Monet also lied: he claimed never to work in a studio but he completed almost ALL of his paintings indoors. So, maybe his “sketches” are just scribbles that he jotted to make people wonder what on Earth he was up to.

Scribbles and Earth: do you know about the Nazca lines?

These grand earthworks were scratched into the Nazca Desert in South America approximately 2,000 years ago. The large-scale drawings  depict animals, plants, imaginary creatures and geometric figures that are miles long. The Nazca lines stretch across an area of about 280 square miles in a remote part of Peru.

The first mention of the Nazca Lines in print was by the conquistador Pedre Cieza de Leon in his book of 1553, where he described them as trail markers. They were not fully understood as being earthworks until the 20th century, and are still being studied as the most mysterious remnants of a long-lost desert culture.

UNESCO celebrates the Nazca site as “the most outstanding group of geoglyphs anywhere in the world and are unmatched in its extent, magnitude, quantity, size, diversity, and ancient tradition to any similar work in the world.” In short, the Nazca lines are awesome.

On January 27, 2018, a 40-year old dipshit named Jainer Vigo drove a semitrailer . . .

. . . off-road into the Nazca Desert and plowed thru the fragile topsoil . . .

. . .  and “significantly” damaged three geoglyphs. The dips hit driver claimed that he had mechanical problems and didn’t know the area and didn’t see all the signs warning him against trespassing on this World Heritage Site. But the truth is that he drove off the nearby Pan-American Highway to avoid paying a toll.

Anyway, this dipshit was picked up by Peruvian police and brought before a magistrate, but the magistrate concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to indicate the driver acted with intent, so he was released. Thankfully, someone in the local prosecutor’s office has half a brain and it was announced that the local prosecutor’s office was appealing the judge’s decision, and is seeking nine months of preventive detention and a $1,550 fine while the investigation continues.

I ask you: Why in the world would intent matter in this case?

It’s the same thing as when I watch a defendant on Judge Judy explain why he or she should not have to pay for the damages to the plaintiff’s car because “I didn’t hit that car and smash it to smithereens on purpose!”

I also ask you: Is anyone willing to be held accountable these days?

Such as the Republican party? I only ask since the NRA (National Rifle Association) spent a stupendous $54.4 million in the 2016 election cycle, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The money went almost entirely to Republicans to a degree that almost looks like a misprint (but isn’t): Of independent expenditures totaling $52.6 million, Democrats received $265. Yes, that’s 265 dollars. [P.S. I have another source that states the NRA gave $106 hundred thousand to Democrats in 2016. It’s still a ridiculous shit-load less, but not the shit-load less that $265 would be.]

The NRA spent more than $30 million to help elect der Drumpf, which includes the $19 million it spent in attack ads against Hillary Clinton.

Thanks to an extensive history of NRA support for Republicans in state legislatures who push through very lax gun ownership laws, a November 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that, as of 2009, there were approx. 310 million firearms in the United States: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.

PARKLAND, FL – FEBRUARY 15: A police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Of those 310 million firearms that are owned by citizens of the United States, approx. 3.5 million of them are AR15s, which we all know is the favorite weapon of school shooters.

I know that you, Dear Readers, are as depressed as I am. I want to give up. Because now that Republicans have normalized this crazy level of gun ownership in America, mass shootings is what happens. I want to tell you, do not wring your hands and weep and wail and pray for the dead. Nothing is going to change. This is the country that we live in, thanks to the NRA and their Republican allies: in Pew’s latest poll (June, 2017) on gun control, 79% of Republicans favored protecting gun ownership rights over limiting gun access. That compares with 20% of Democrats who felt the same way.

But, then, there’s this:

On Tuesday evening, candidate Margaret Good won a special election for state representative in southwest Florida’s House District 72, becoming the 36th flip for the Democratic Party since President Donald Trump took office last year.

The Democrat won by a margin of almost 8 points and more than 3,000 votes—in the same district der Drumpf clinched during the 2016 presidential elections by 5 points.

I don’t want to get too hopeful here. But maybe there is reason to hope.

I don’t know if you can tell that I started writing this post on Tuesday (it takes days to do one of these posts), when it was going to be all about painting a la Monet and defending Nazca lines. I was also going to chime in on the new portraits of the Obamas for the Smithsonian (his is OK but the painter is a certifiable creep, and hers just plain stinks).

Then the heart-breaking events of Wednesday changed everything and I had to detour into bitter reality. If we lived in a normal, progressive, civilized country, I would not have had to write about people dying in droves again; I would have ended this week’s light hearted get-together this way:

The only reason I know about the Nazca lines at all is because I was reading the lovely book by the elegant travel writer Bruce Chatwin, which you can see in the above photograph. That’s my thermos of hot sweet tea, and my other thermos of ice water on the desk that I sit at when I am on duty at my new volunteer job at a charity book shop. (Things were pretty quiet last Saturday. It rained.)

And until we meet back here next Friday, when I will tell you all the power trips and intrigues of running a charity book shop, please please please paint, or make an earthwork, hug your kitties and smooch your DoGs, make a vodka and champagne cocktail (I have a recipe), do whatever you need to do to stay sane in this nut-job country of ours.

Australians: Stay cool and thank your lucky stars of the southern cross that you are not us.

XXOO

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English is a very efficient language.

Wednesday: Today I had to go to Costco to return a bird feeder, then as I drove homeward I stopped at a hair salon to make an appointment for a hair cut, and then when I did make it home I called my plastic surgeon to verify my scheduled procedure for Thursday (more work to make my nose look normal).

And I was DONE for the day. That’s it. That is all the busy-ness that I care to be involved with in one day. I do not like taking care of business, I dislike being in charge of doing what it takes to keep on keeping on, I do not like running errands. I think it is so unfair that these things don’t do themselves.

I think I would be the perfect person to have servants, because I so deeply deserve to have servants running my errands and answering my email and stuff.

Knowing this about myself, I think I  should probably not get a DoG. I’ve been thinking of getting another DoG for months because:

However, from what I remember about having my first DoG [read blog post Happiness is a Warm Puppy] , dogs demand an ungodly amount of showing-up, and that’s not really my strong point these days. But when I think about living the rest of my life without having another DoG, I could cry.

Usually I am quite good at making decisions, but his is the hardest time I’ve ever had. Yes, I want a DoG; No, I don’t want a Dog; Yes I do; No I don’t…and what would the cats think??

Speaking of cats, today’s story is about this cat:

Meet Bibs. Bibs was one of three grey tabby cats who wandered into our home for wayward strays one Summer. They all got trapped and neutered, but to keep them straight, I called the first one “Stripey”, and when the second showed up, I called him “New Stripey”, and when the third one showed up (he had white patches that the others did not have), I called him “Bib Stripey”.

Bib Stripey got into a vicious fight one day and showed up for breakfast with his ear almost torn off so we immediately  whisked him off to the vet for his rendezvous with destiny and had his head stitched up at the same time. Since I had to make sure his head healed correctly, Bib Stripey then came into our house for convalescence, which usually does not happen when we TNR. He was untouchable, so we had to confine him in a very large DoG crate in the kitchen.

Bib Stripey was a challenge, in that he never got the hang of using a litter box. He preferred to crap in his bed every night, which did not endear him to me. When the vet gave him the all-clear about his head wound, we happily released him into the wilds of our back yard and expected that he would disappear like the other Stripeys. That was eight years ago. Bib Stripey stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and his name was shortened to “Bibs”, and he learned that getting scratched behind the ears was awesome, and he learned to come indoors for all his meals and most of his naps.

Taffy is his mortal enemy, which is why Bibs must always keep tabs on him every moment of the day.

Bibs is now an almost fully integrated into the herd but he does not use a litter box — he’s still a crap-in-the-woods kind of guy.

One other thing that you need to know about Bibs is that he does not share. So, when our Dear Reader Jeanie sent the herd some hand-made catnip toys for ChirsHanuKwanSolstice all the way from the wilds of Michigan, Bibs took one of the toys for his own self. He carried it down to the basement and put it some place that only he knows. So, when Taffy, and Lickety, and Cindy, and Candy are batting around the catnip toys to one another, Bibs does not join in.

The other day I was in the kitchen when Bibs came up from the basement with his toy in his mouth. He padded into the dining room, and dropped his toy next to one that had lately been the object of a spirited game of Keep Away amongst the rest of the herd.

I swear that he was just sitting there, making comparisons between the two. I swear he looked extremely pleased with himself. I crept away to get the camera, but Bibs does not do poses. So all I have to show you is Bib’s prized possession alongside the worse-for-wear comparable. (This cat story was brought to you by Dear Reader Jeanie — thank you!)

OK, considering that I went to all this trouble to tell you Dear Readers a story about two cat toys, maybe I am not a DoG person after all. And see if the following cat-person story doesn’t confirm this:

A few months ago I was invited to join a group of people who share an interest I have … I can’t mention the interest because it’s a give away as to what this organization is and I don’t want to embarrass any one who might be from that org and reading this (It’s possible! It’s not likely, but it’s possible!). So let’s say this interest is decoding Elizabethan handwriting.

Before I commit to going to this meeting, I check out the group’s website. The group meets in a wine bar on Long Island, so the group invites new members to join: If you like decoding Elizabethan handwriting, if you like wine, and if you like meeting new people!”

Well, I, for one, certainly and positively do not like meeting new people, but I like wine and I like decoding Elizabethan handwriting, so against my better judgment I go to the monthly meeting.

I’m the new person there the regulars are chit chatting with me and I’m being an abnormally smiley, friendly version of myself. I say no, I don’t have kids in Long Island schools but I have cats. “How many?”, someone asks.

“8”, I say. I’m just giving information, I’m not bragging.

One woman looks particularly aghast and says, “8 cats! What does your house smell like??

I let the question hang in the air for a few moments because that, right there, is why I do not like meeting new people. Eventually I say, and I say it slowly, “It smells fine.”

I want to tell you that after that, I did not go back, but hey, it’s not every day that you find people who like to decode Elizabethan handwriting so yes, I did go back the next month.

And at that meeting I was small-talking with a different regular who asked me what I “did”, and I said “I write books about travel.”

She asked me, “Are you famous?

And no, I did not go back the next month.

I have to admit that I don’t get this but I want that DoG.

OK, so by now you know that I am typing this up on Friday morning because I missed out usually get-together time due to February lethargy but ALSO, on Thursday I had another round of surgery on my nose so I was out of commission for a day and I am sitting here, right now, with a big hospital-grade bandage on my face that does not make me feel exactly spiffy.

I thank you all for stopping by, and for your great feed back last week that verified that it wasn’t me that got small, it was the art.

Wait. I’m a miniaturist. I like being small!

Here’s my Art Rescue of the week:

Before:

After:

I have to fix that green gate. This rescue is not over.

And remember, if you aren’t applauding, you’re being treasonous.

Have a small-talk free weekend, everyone!

XXOO

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What can I say? It’s the middle of Winter and my ass is dragging. If you are reading this it’s because I haven’t posted this week’s scintillating content yet BUT IT’S COMING.

All I need is another cup of tea and some more toast and I’ll be good to go with the typing and the telling and the  enlightening.

And when I get go-going, I will explain this:

No, this is not another work of art by a human being with stellar arts world credentials. This is the work of an arts collective known as “my cats.” The story will make you go-go Awwwwwwww.

In the meantime, get up and do a happy dance! It’s Friday! (We love you always, George Michael.)

 

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I keep making mistakes. In this instance (see below), I made the mistake of painting this little scene too little:

This little scene is from the famous garden of the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet, and I painted it for a little book that I am working on about Claude Monet’s garden. The format of the book has changed since I first conceived to it and now I needed this little scene to grow up, from a little half-page doodle into a full-page picture. I’ve been working on this book idea [off and on] for nearly two years and I am thoroughly sick of it, so I had no intention of going back into it to re-paint any part of this odious garden.

Ha ha, just kidding, in case my future publisher is reading this, I love Monet’s garden and I’m dedicated to capturing its unique forms and inspirational spirit that has charmed and beguiled millions of visitors yadda yadda yadda….

Oh, what to do, what to do? I don’t want to re-paint it, but I need to re-paint it, but I really, really don’t want to.

Time for a rescue!

What you see is what happened after I cut out the bottom bit from a previously-painted picture (a picture that went wrong on the top — never throw anything away!) and glued it on top of the current Work-in-Rescue. Then I painted some background foliage into the upper corner of the pic in order to balance the composition of the scene. As you can suss, the old watercolor was small to completely rescue this picture, so I have to now rescue the rescue. I have to paint something that I can glue into that lower left-hand corner:

The first try was awesome. I love the bleeds that I got there, in the greens and blues.

All I have to do is cut out the part that I need and glue in into place:

I misjudged how big I had to make the rescue-to-the-rescue bit when I cut it out, so I had to add one itty bitty piece of shim when I glued it into place (see above) but it looks to me as if I am going to get away with this rescue.

Next, all I had to do was paint in some tulips and make a few more green blobs and integrate the new rescue into the old rescue and voila:

DONE.

That was fun! But it’s certainly not museum-quality,not like this watercolor  (below)– titled Landscape — from the famous Museum of Modern Art in New York:

Yeah, that (above) is what watercolor looks like when it’s fine art.

Which reminds me:

Last week I asked you, my Dear Readers, your thoughts on how much you have changed since you were 18. Here’s why:

Two weeks ago I happened to read a news item about an artist, who died in 2016, whose family was suing that artist’s estranged husband for his mishandling of her estate — her “estate” being some quantity of art work done by her, that has been kept in inadequate storage by the estranged husband…the family contends that the estranged husband has damaged the art works, valued at half a million dollars. It was a juicy story that the London Daily Mail picked up from the New York Post.

The name of the artist rang a little bell. I googled her.

Sure enough, I knew her: back in 1976 she and I had been in the same Foundation Course (first year) at a well-known east coast art college. I was 22, older than most of the students who were fresh out of high school; she was 18, fresh out of high school.

I left school, and art, after that first year. My young classmate, on the other hand, stuck with it. She graduated, and then went on to get an MFA. She continued to stick with it until she was 37, when she finally caught the attention of the art world and began to win prestigious awards and sell her stuff to museums and collectors and have solo shows in galleries around the world.

That’s her watercolor — Landscape — above. Here’s another of her highly regarded watercolors (titled Untitled):

But watercolor is not actually the thing she does best — she’s a renowned sculptor:

Sorry about her dying so young, but the more I read all her accolades from the New Yorker and the New York Times and ARTNews etc . . .

. . . the less I could hardly believe what I was reading because the thing is, when I knew this girl, she was the last person I would have picked out as talented.

I am not mentioning her name because, well, I only knew her (and didn’t like her, or her sloppy use of materials, her lack of design skill, or her memorable dopiness) when she was 18, and it’s unfair to hold her accountable after 42 years. Maybe people change from the people they are at 18. Maybe she became brilliant. Maybe she became talented. A lot of critics and art collectors seem to think so. . . and some have even extolled her persistent lack of technical skills and general dopiness: Sometimes she emulates traditional media (here and there her painted wood might pass for ceramic); mostly she’s content to look funkily modern. The result is a vital ensemble in which designed inauthenticity produces something original and expressive.

That review (quoted above) was written by a guy who has won a Pulitzer for criticism. So I guess it’s me, I’m the dope who doesn’t understand what “designed inauthenticity” is, or why badly worked materials is so funkily modern. Obviously, I’m the moron who does not understand how to make art.

But I have to say that her work depresses me. It looks so inadequate to me, and so very dumb. It depresses me that this is what we are supposed to look at these days.

But I know that that is the same thing that art critics said about the impressionists, when Claude Monet and his buddies began to exhibit their work in 1874. Art critics hated the impressionists at first and even as late as 1904, when Monet was getting rich and famous, one journalist could still complain about his style: A house should look like a house, not like a scrambled egg going up a stepladder. 

I think that egg is sunny-side up.

I don’t want to be the idiot complaining about scrambled eggs so I have been looking at more of this artist’s later work, trying to train my eye and get with the 21st century:

Here’s a detail of the above sculpture (maybe it’s an an installation; installation seems to be as hot a thing in the art world today as it was in art school back in the 1970s):

OK. THAT’S cute. I don’t get the fabric heap or the finger paintings taped to the wall, but the dead rat is cute.

Well, we did it. WE GOT THROUGH JANUARY!

If you did January dry, like I did, then you know how slap-damn-scrambled-egg happy you are that Dry January is over over over over over over over, as happy as a Long Island cat taking a dirt bath in his favorite patch of  crud:

Speaking of crud, this is what Paris looks like these days:

The Paris Police sent a drone flying over the Seine and this is a screen grab of the Square du Vert-Galant, which I featured in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly. When it’s not under water, it’s a charming little garden on the last bit of low-lying land left on the Ile de la Cite.

Here’s a better look at my bijoux chateau (lower left corner) that I wrote about as my dream Paris pied-à-terre (pages 14, 15, and 16 for those of you reading along). Alors, all my dream antiques and dreamy objets d’art that I have dreamed about decorating my dream bijoux chateau with are drenched with la grand boue.

Great! Now I get to re-decorate!

I’d say that’s worth popping a cork for.

As if I need an excuse.  Happy February, everyone!

 

 

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