Storminess Pet Portraits

I woke up today to the fabulous news that our president has COVID. The information is still too new for me to harvest the best memes and Tweets, so you’ll have to make do with the stuff I have planned for you before I got wind of this fantastic intel, but OMG! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS I’VE HAD ALL YEAR!!!

However, 2020 still sucks.





My Korean husbands have been on American TV all week (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) and on top of the Billboard Hot 100, and now they have a movie in select theaters. It’s a documentary called Break the Silence about their 2019 world tour, in which they performed in stadiums in the US, Europe, South America, and Asia.

This is from Forbes: The South Korean pop septet grossed over $196 million and played to more than 1.6 million people across 42 shows in the chart period ranging from Nov. 1, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2019. The group outgrossed legacy rock acts like the Rolling Stones, Metallica and KISS, as well as fellow boy band the Backstreet Boys. BTS also ranked third overall on the year-end Top 40 Tours chart behind Ed Sheeran and Pink. [I had no idea that Pink was such a huge star, did you?]

I live in New York state, where movie theaters are still closed due to the pandemic, so I had to go to New Jersey to see Break the Silence. All I had to do was get myself off Long Island, pass through Manhattan island, and find a place called Clifton Commons in NJ. Not a problem.

When I was 19, I went to Paris alone, on my own. While there, I decided to go to Rome. So I got myself  to the Gare de Lyon and used my high school French and was able to negotiate an overnight train and make a reservation for a couchette for the night.  I arrived in Rome not knowing a word of Italian, with no hotel reservation and no map of the city. Also, did I mention that I was 19? And, yet, I got around fine. I went to the Vatican, toured the Colosseum, climbed the Spanish Steps, threw a coin into the Trvi Fountain, wandered in the Forum, and I had pizza. I “did” Rome and didn’t hurt myself. I didn’t get killed, kidnapped, or pick-pocketed. I had street smarts.

I don’t have any street smarts any more.

All I had to do was go to New Jersey. I didn’t want to drive (because I am still thinking like it’s 2019 and that public transportation is so much more convenient) so I looked up train schedules from Long Island and the NJ Transit buses from the Port Authority on 42nd street in Manhattan. I had no idea where/what Clifton Commons was, but hell, I’ve been to Rome and I’m 64 so I figured that I was officially a wise woman and good to go. I was taking the 2:17 train to NYC to get a 3:40 bus to Clifton Commons to arrive at 4:00 to see a 5:00 movie. SIMPLE.

I won’t go into details, but everything was fine until I got on the bus. I missed my bus stop (in a bus that announced every stop in a big LED display that I was looking at the whole time), and I missed it by seven miles. By the time it dawned on me that, um, something had gone awry, I jumped off the bus in front of a divey sports bar in some dingy back street in Nowhere, NJ, and it took me a lot of trial and error before I remembered that I had a phone with internet, and called a cab, which didn’t show up, and called for another one, which did, and in the end I was 15 minutes late for the movie that I had crossed state lines to go see. I arrived in time to see the last trailer for Coming Attractions, which include the new Wonder Woman movie (it’s set in 1984 and it looks very cute, BTW) and — this is the best part — I was the only one in the theater.

I’m still shook up about how badly I travelled the 38.4 miles from my house to Clifton Commons. Can I even call myself a traveller any more? This is a serious identity issue for a travel memoirist (me, that’s what I am, that’s what I write in any time there’s a form that asks for “occupation”).

That’s something to think about while I am cat-wrangling. Our kitten, Kimmy, has a lot of energy, and she likes to keep busy. Here she is with one of her projects:

Her new hobby is to roam through my table full of paper structures and beat the hell out of them. That green thing you see in the left corner (above) is one of those paper things I made for Where The Wild Things Are (with dragons and other monsterish characters from children’ literature:

This is what Where the Wild Things Are looks like after Kimmy has beaten it into submission:

Here’s what’s left of the White Castle from last year’s ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card:

To tell the truth, I’m not at all upset. I didn’t know what to do with these things, and they were sitting out on my great-Aunt Mabel’s old dining room table because they take up a lot of room and I didn’t have a better place to store them. So Kimmy had a whale of a time whaling on them, and I get to throw the out.

And Kimmy is so cute, you can’t be mad at her. This is how she sleeps:


Now I’d like you to meet another kitty, who is starring in Pet Portrait of the Week:

Meet Bella,who lived with Dear Reader Maryanne in South Carolina, who hosted the Stromness Rock for its  delightful visit to the state capitol, Columbia:

I’m sure you all can see the challenge in painting this portrait. My reference is a photo of Bella caught napping in Maryanne’s jammie drawer. As you can see, there is only one eye in this shot, and I have to get that whole expression (I call it nonchalantly judgemental) in ONE EYE. Bella is also a gray cat. This means that there is no room for error in getting the silhouette correct, exactly right, or else Bella will look lumpy and boneless. And I  have to use a lot of gray paint, which is not, usually, the most exciting color to work with. You know that I always start with the eyes when I paint a portrait, so with Bella, I started with the eye.

Here’s a close up of the eye:

There’s a lot going on in that eye. You can’t see it in this photo of amy reference photo, but her eye has a generally golden cast to it, with emerald-green coloring around the edges. There’s a lot of shading in there, giving the eye a lot of depth. There’s also a very large white highlight. Lastly, there’s a shit load of attitude in that eye.

I layered lots of washes to get an approximation of the color and shadow:

I mixed my Bella Gray beginning with China White. China White, as a paint, has a texture to it that I love working with, and there is something about its chemical properties that make it react to water and other pigments in a way that is unlike any other watercolor paint. It’s very opaque, and water does strange things to it. I’m using it to outline the edges of Bella’s ear:

Now we paint the ear:


See this bleed? This is what China White does so well:

I still haven’t used blackout — this is all shades of gray:


Since Bella is such a “simple” painting (one eye), I am painting this portrait much larger than I  usually do. I am a miniaturist, and I am not used to painting on this scale, so this feels to me as if I am painting a mural. It was when I saw what I had done to Bella’s head that I realized that I needed a new plan to accommodate this page format. I needed to paint fur.

I’m not that kind of painter. I don’t do loosey-blobbly. So this is a new style for me:

I dropped very wet paint onto the paper and”pulled” out individual strokes of “fur”:

The paper isn’t warped — that’s the bright sun coming in through the window screens.


DONE. Almost.

It was when I loaded this image onto y blog, thinking I was done, that I saw that the shadow that I painted on Bella’s face was too sharp. I didn’t want it to be exactly half of her face like that. So I went back upstairs to re-work it.

I also took a picture of Bella with a tea bag so you can see how “large” I am making this:

And, because this is such a close-up view of Bella, I painted in whiskers (which I don’t usually do):

OK, now we are DONE.

In loving memory of the Divine Miss Bella.

Tune in next week, when I do the final Stromness Rock Pet Portrait. Spoiler: It’s for Gali, who showed The Rock a good time in Massachusetts. Gali has — wait for it — a dog. Not just any dog. A Golden Retriever.

I’m not at all sure I can pull this off. Stay tuned.

So, this being the week that it was, we had revelations about Trump’s being a bankrupt and ethically compromised tax cheat, a presidential debate, and a Supremem Court nomination of a religious wacko.

Yeah, It’s the usual.















Proof that better days are ahead in this thread on my Twitter tl:






This wasn’t in the tl, but it was heartening all the same:

Oh, right. I forgot that Trump’s press secretary, who lies all the time, told a really dumb lie:

In Religious news, it was a mixed bag this week:


Now let’s get to those tax returns:

















The answer, below, is “No”:


































You made it! You made it through this looooong post and another week of 2020! Be happy, Dear Ones; Donald Trump has COVID!

Stay healthy, stay away from Republicans, and, oh yeah:

Fuck Trup.








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I still get a royalty statement from my agent, every six months, for the three books I wrote. Lately, these statements have not made for good reading. The sales figures are on a time lag, so the statement I got in April 2020(which I only looked this past week) is for books that were sold in the second half of 2019. It seems that people are not buying  V. Swift books like they used to, so I was feeling poor when I got an alert that Go Daddy had taken a payment of $160 for a security certificate for my blog. Since I don’t sell anything on this blog, I figured that I didn’t need the “SSL” certificate so I took the drastic step of calling Go Daddy (wait time: 23 minutes) and cancelling the payment. $160 is what I get when 100 of my books sell, so I thought I’d made a very smart business decision and was feeling rather thrifty and $160 richer.

And then my blog disappeared for three days. So, if any Dear Readers had trouble visiting me this past week, the reason is because any interface on the world wide web needs to have a SSL certificate, or search engines will refuse to let anyone stop by. Ao, to fix this, I had to call Go Daddy again (wait time: 37 minutes) and pay them for the SSL cert, at which time I was told that it takes 48 hours to get back on track. And then, when 48 hours came and went and I was still not amongst the living, I had to call Go Daddy again (wait time: 32 minutes) to find out that someone at Go Daddy had forgotten to push the activate button.

I wish I had an IT guy to take care of this stuff for me. I also wish I had servants and a personal assistant to look after me because I don’t like having responsibilities. It still surprises me that I have to make my own dentist appointments, and it astonishes me when I do make my own appointments and actually go to the dentist on my own volition. I used to have a job where I was responsible for important historical artifacts and millions of dollars, but then I became a writer. I now sit in a room and piddle around with ideas, sometimes making a castle or two, and have zero accountability to the outside world. Basically, I don’t have to be an adult anymore.

It’s awesome.

This might explain why this is so meaningful to me:

My Korean husbands, BTS, held the #1 spot on Billboard Hot 100 for the second week in a row:

This is equally important news for the nation of South Korea:

The chyron reads: BTS Billboard Single Chart 2 weeks First Place.

BTS is headline news on KBC, the national public TV station (it’s the BBC of South Korea). BTS has raised the awareness of Korea in the world, and they are now part of their nation’s cultural patrimony. I picked a good time to be a fan. One of the best decisions of my adulthood.

In between endless streaming of BTS’s #1 song Dynamite, I did a lot of painting these past two weeks, and it’s been some of the most interesting painting I’ve ever done.

Dear Reader and Stromness Rock host Leslie, from Florida, sent me a photo of her kitty, Kitty:

Actually, Leslie emailed me a photo of a photo of Kitty, since this image is not digitized. It’s a bit blurry, and I had to email Leslie and ask her what color Kitty’s eyes were, but I thought I might be up to the challenge of painting from a photo of a photo.

Here is what I painted:

This is very bad. Bad Bad Bad Bad. BAD. Really BAD. B A D.

So I persuaded Leslie to send me the actual photo. I wanted to see how big a difference it would make, in terms of not painting something so BAD, to re-paint from a better reference.

So this is how it went:


This is a shot of the actual photo of Kitty, which shows that she has a much richer color scheme than I saw in the blurry photo-of-a-photo. It took some effort to mix the right tone of orange for her pretty face.

The trick with calico cats is to not let the colors get muddy, which is easy to do when you are using watercolor and have to let orange overlap with gray and black:


I’ve said before that the firs thing you have to do when you paints to think about your strategy. You have to be able to paint a face like this is sections, and to make blocks of color that will merge successfully once every thing is dry.








And here’s the side-by-side comparison of BAD Kitty and Better Kitty:

Thank you, Leslie, for sending me the real Kitty photo and for letting me make this experiment.

Oh my, there is so much news to get this week. Events keep happening o quickly, but let’s start with the fun story of the five boasts that sank into Lake Travis, Texas during a Trump rally on the water:




California is on fire, partly because of climate change and partly because people are fucking morons:

This is this shit happened:

Trump’s personal layer, Michael Cohen, came out with a memoir about the crap he has witnessed,including how Trump didn’t want to go to a WWI cemetery in France where American servicemen are buried because anyone who got killed in France was a “loser” and only “suckers” serve in the military.

And then, the dip shit talked to Bob Woodward for 18 hours on tape, and told him that he was going to ‘play down” the coronavirus:


In seeking to control the damage of is own words, Trump claimed that he lied about COVID during many press conferences last Spring, calling it a “hoax” that would “just disappear” because he didn’t want to alarm people:


















The notice on the Biden sign says: If you remove this sign, I will make a $36 donation to Planned Parenthood and I will replace the sign which means, in fact, YOU are supporting the Biden/Harris campaign. Think about it.














We need some puppies:









And that’s it for the week, Dear Ones.

Have a great weekend, and keep wearing masks and stay our of any boat that has a Trump flag.

That reminds me:

Fuck Trump.









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Wow, this was an eventful week in VivianWorld.

My Korean husbands . . .

. . . BTS, debuted their new single Dynamite at #1 on Billboard. They are the first Asian group to go straight to the top 100, and the first Asian musicians to have a #1 hit in America since 1963, when a Japanese-language song with the nonsense name “Sukiyaki” did it. (I wrote about “Sukiyaki” in my garden book, a digression on the thoughts about a Japanese garden on Long Island that I did not care for. “Sukiyaki” was a mournful ballad that was actually anti-American and it’s Japanese title was “I Will Walk Looking Up (So My Tears Won’t Fall)”. It was given the name “Sukiyaki” because Americans have shit for brains when it comes to Asia and sukiyaki was all that most Americans cared to know about Japan in 1963.)

This #1 hit in America is a big, huge deal in South Korea. There are nine national newspapers in South Korea, and here are the headlines of six of them:

Spoiler: They are all about BTS’s #1 hit in America.

The President of South Korea tweeted his congratulations to the boys, to quote: “It is truly amazing. It is a splendid feat that further raised pride in K-Pop. The success of BTS will bring huge consolation to Koreans suffering from the crisis brought about by COVID-19.”

President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-Sook with BTS.

In other news, Top Cat and I went strolling in a nature preserve here on the north shore of Long Island last weekend. I made a deal with Nature, that I wouldn’t be bored if She sent me a Blue jay feather. And an hour into our hike, lo, lying there in the middle of the path . . .

It’s like it was placed there just for me, moi, my own eyes:

I’m holding my face mask. Even in the 100-Acre Wood, I bring my face mask.

That’s all it takes for me to believe that life isn’t just random and pointless, a momentary blip in oblivion. Redemption By Blue Jay Feather is what I call it.

The week was also redeemed by a delightful painting session. The subject is Miss Lizzie Cosette, the Cat In The House of Dear Reader Jeanie, who hosted The Sromness Rock in Lansing, Michigan and whereabouts:

You see that Lizzie is photographed in a fetching ray of light that makes her white fur brilliant. So the trick this week will be to get her highlights, to paint her white fur in shadow and in light.

Challenge accepted.

I thought I’d give you a look at my equipment:

Lizzie has gorgeous green eyes with little golden highlights:

To paint the shadows in her white fur, I’m going to use blue paint:


Oooooooo, time for a bleed:





It wasn’t’ until I got her eye like this that I knew whether or not I’d gotten her “right”:



Now all that’s left are Lizzie’s ears. Her ears are a combination of pink and gray, and painting them so that they don’t get muddy, and painting them so that they look like they have shape and depth, is the trick.


Thank you, Miss Lizzie, for being a beautiful presence in my life this week.

In case you’re wondering what Christian America has been up to this week, they’ve been fundraising for this guy:

I checked it out, and it’s confirmed by Snopes. A Christian website called GiveSendGo has raised $314,000 for the legal defense for this little scumbag.


Let’s check in with the rest of the news:

Trump told Fox News the a plane flying from “a certain city”, heading to Washington DC during the Republican national convention, was “completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that” adding: “Here were like seven people on the plane like this person and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage.” Asked for details, Trump said: “I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now.”

Neither the FBI nor Homeland Security can confirm that any such investigation is taking place. But that’s not a surprise, right?




Melanoma’s former best friend wrote a tell-all book about the way the Third Wife really feels about Trump’s kids, and the former hooker had something to say about it:

And let’s not forget:

Knowing the Trumps as we all do, I’d say that Melanoma is right on brand.












In case you need to know this, when you feel like you have to stab someone, stab and orange. The are the same consistency as human flesh.

And here are a few more reminders that life, and stable humans, can, sometimes, be wonderful:








And that’s the State of Things this first week of September.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Remember that we are only stabbing oranges, not Republicans. For now.

And, let’s not forget. . .

. . . Fuck Trump.










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