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:
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?).
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: