Le Road Trip stuff

This is me, at Parnassus Books in Nashville, last Saturday — Bastille Day — yakking about Le Road Trip:

The author takes a minute to familiarize herself with her own book, in front of a bewildered audience.

I hope nobody noticed my crappy Gap trousers that I had to wear because I forgot to pack my dressy grey linen slacks. Luckily, though, somebody remembered to pack their screaming kid and bring it to Parnassus so that it could wail its little heart out just behind me and that blue book shelf.

My official photographer [Top Cat] is a perfect husband, but he has his drawbacks as a portraitist. He seems to have  knack for getting photos of me with my eyes closed …

I was saving this face for my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, but Nashville’s close enough.

or my mouth hanging open…

The author has just been informed that there is no bar at this book store.

… or worse:

Note the crowds not listening to me at all in the background.

I can never get over my amazement that people I don’t even KNOW will come out to meet me and have me sign copies of my books and share their own travel stores with me. Thank you, dearest Southern Readers, for the pleasure of your company at Parnassus Books! Special thanks to Amy, who came all the way from Indiana and sat in the front row! There is a special place in Heaven for people who come to book events and sit in the front row, for which me and every book-eventing-author are eternally grateful:

But it was not all work and no play in Nashville, no sir. Top Cat and I also got to live it up in Music City, the only ville in America that can claim to have a Batman Building: 

 

That’s what the locals call the ATT building that dominates the silhouette of their downtown.

That red brick structure on the left is the Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry. It’s a landmark, is all I’m saying.

It was pouring rain, I mean monsoon-quality precipitation, that afternoon:

 

It occurs  to me that Nashville is probably the outer (northern) American limit of were you can wear a cowboy hat and not have people judge you.  The good thing is, that if it hadn’t been so sopping wet outside, we wouldn’t have stopped into the Tennessee State Museum

…and we wouldn’t have known that the 1843 election deserves its own diorama. You know the 1843 national election, right? The one that saw James K. Polk of Tennessee become the 11th President of the United Sates?  Yeah, that one. No, me neither.

If not for the pouring rain, we would never have seen  Andrew Jackson‘s wine glass (Andrew is the more famous President from Tennessee):

History has judged boring old sober-sides James K. Polk to be one of America’s greatest presidents, yet it is Andrew Jackson, our 7th President, who has his face on our $20 bill all for being dashing and sexy and populist.  Go figure.

The museum also had lots of portraits of notable Tennessee citizens. I loved many of them but this picture is practically a catalog of tasteful mid-19th century jewelry, and I’m still an antique jewelry historian deep down, so that’s why I’m showing you this picture and not the ones with weird looking kids in them.

I also had to try out the town’s famous French bakery:

Name of bakery withheld for its own protection.

The place was packed because of this:

Nashville loves Bastille Day!!!!   So I bought four macarons to go, and the first one I tasted was so vile that I just threw the other three in the trash. Well, at least Nashville’s heart is in the right place. And you have to forgive a city that can give you this

…just as the sun is going down!  Everybody in Nashville loves the sun sets, because everybody knows that Nashville really gets going after dark…

…because:

Music Row (downtown) glows in the black of a Southern night …

 

 

…and the party is already in full swing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

…where you can squeeze into the crowd to hear local musicians hop on stage for a few songs…

…or you can mosey a few doors down to where there’s a dance floor and try out your best honky-tonk moves:

 

And then, all too soon, it’s time to pack up and head out to the airport to wait out a nine-hour flight delay. Terrible rain storms in New York City kept all NYC-bound luggage on the ground there at Nashville’s delightful international airport tarmac, in 100-degree Tennessee heat. That’s my brown bag there, just beneath the tip of our plane’s wing. I was watching it carefully, wondering if that bottle of Biltmore white wine I’d packed was going to explode from being baked all day long.

Oh, did I forget to tell you about our side trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and my walk around the Vanderbilt gardens of Biltmore mansion?   I’ll have to catch you up on that with next Friday’s post…for now, we’re watching the sun set over the Nashville skyline…

…and saying Farewell to wonderful Music City

…and coming home to rapturous greetings from our devoted herd of loving cats:

Lickety and Taffy, overjoyed that we’re back.

 

Candy, who can hardly contain her excitement.

 

Dudley and his high regard for all we mean to him.

 

Oscar’s embarrassing show of emotion.

 

Bibs is thinking…”You look familiar. Aren’t you the people who bring me dinner? WAIT!! DID I MISS DINNER!?!?!?!?”

**** KILL ME NOW: I just noticed today, July  20, that Amazon.com is selling Le Road Trip for a whopping $53.86. Which explains why sales have dropped off lately…

The Bloomsbury crew is trying to fix this with the Great and Powerful Oz/azon but until the remedy with the ruby slippers works: the books costs a mere $24.00!!!! Order it from your local independent book store!!!!

****THIS JUST IN****

My publisher, Bloomsbury, tells me that Le Road Trip has sold out of its first printing and the second printing has not yet arrived in Amazon warehouses, so until those new books arrive the scalper’s price for my book is, indeed, $53.86. I cannot apologize enough for this. Don’t hate me for writing a book that appears to cost Fifty-Three Damn Dollars.

****SATURDAY UPDATE (July 21, 2012)****

Amazon just got re-stocked. Le Road Trip s now AVAILABLE.

Whew.

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Which is harder: making bread…

or painting it?

I’ve never baked a loaf of bread, but I can tell you that painting it isn’t a piece of cake.

For me, it took a lot of trial and error.  For one thing, you don’t want your French breads looking as if they are defying gravity:

And neither do you want your French breads too bien cuit:

You have to learn to make your French breads with a light touch:

You also want to get that golden-brown crust just right:

And when it comes to your sign you want to use authentic French lettering, bien sur. Good thing that the words LE PAIN

…are incorporated in this classic Hector Guimard METRO sign (it looks like the St-Michel entrance to me, captured on the cover of this vintage album of the 1960s):

Bur when it comes to scribbling  your love of French breads and croissants…

…it helps to have a cheat sheet handy:

Next week I’ll be checking out the French bread of Nashville. Yes, that Nashville, the one in Tennesse. Mais oui — you can get great French bread in Nashville!

You can find a little corner of France here at Provence Breads and Cafe in historic Hillsboro Village in Nashville (1705 21st Ave. South).

And just around the corner you can join me in Nashville for a Bastille Day wine-and-book talk, Saturday July 14,  2-4pm at Parnassus Books at 3900 Hillsboro Pike.

And if the heat wave is still on, we’ll see if it’s true that it’s so hot in Nashville that you can bake bread on the sidewalk. And when I say “bake bread” I mean “drink lots of wine“, and when I say “on the sidewalk” I mean “in the cool comfort of AC and smart company at one of America’s classiest book stores“.

Are you in???

 

 

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Poutine, AKA Quebec French Fries with brown gravy and cheese curds — yum!

O, Quebec.

So far, my Canadian readers are polling 3 – to – 1 in favor of me not being such a connarde after all. Thank you, Commentors Michelle, Risa, and Monique, who wrote in about last week’s post about my landing on the wrong side of the Great Quebec Accent Issue.

The only place on Earth where the Fleur-de-lis looks manly.

For the record, it wasn’t me who compared the Quebec accent to the quacking of a duck (on page 96 of Le Road Trip). I was merely reporting what a cranky Malouin shopkeeper had said about the thousands of French Canadian tourists who flock to his beautiful walled city of Saint Malo on the Brittany coast. Oh sure, yes, I laughed at the whole “quacking like a duck” thing, but I also put myself on the record as finding the Quebec accent enjoyable (right there on page 96) which does not preclude it from being somewhat like the quacking of a duck — a freaking gorgeous Mandarin duck:

That’s DUCK, not PUCK. 

O, Canada, what would we Americans do without you to give us cover as we travel through this American-hating world?

One last Canada story:

I wrote (on page 90 of Le Road Trip) that my husband and I did not travel through France pretending to be Canadians, as was the fashion of Americans abroad in the fall of 2005…remember? 2005 was the thick of that kerfuffle in Iraq that Bush and Company started when they lied to the United Nations about those Weapons of Mass Destruction and all? Brought about a decade of death and disaster to innocent Iraqis and brave men and women in uniform? And Americans could barely show their faces in public without claiming to be Canadian (or crying for permission to emigrate to The Great North)?

No, Top Cat and I copped to being Americans and took the heat.

You’re welcome, Canada.

But the whole story is about this illustration on page 90 (for those of you who are reading along, that’s page 90 in Le Road Trip):

I have a deep dark secret about this little picture. It’s a fixer-upper.

This, below, is the original sketch I made of my husband, Top Cat, thumbing us a lift to Mont St-Michel in Brittany:

As you can see, there was a problem with that weird right hand there:

Yes, that hand looks completely non-human.

Luckily, I am left handed. Which means that I can fix this simply by re-drawing my own right hand (a really tiny drawing of my right hand) and then putting it on a copier to ensmallen (that’s the technical term) it even more:

 

And then I drew this teeny tiny version of the right right hand, along with the whole arm, on a piece of plain bond paper. I painted it, cut it out ever so carefully (it’s really, really s-m-a-l-l), and I glued it on top of the weird right hand and arm on Top Cat, like so:

Problem is, now he has two thumbs. I  have to get rid of the old thumb from the old weird old right hand. Watch how I do it:

If I hadn’t told you, you’d never know.

Speaking of Canadians who don’t hate me, take a look at Canadian (Newfoundler) Bobbi French’s Friday blog  at www.findingmeinfrance.com. Yeah, that’s me, standing in Times Square traffic for the sake of Canadian literature. Again: You’re welcome, Canada.

And I’m sure there are more than a few Canadians who are reading Carol Gillott’s wonderful blog Paris Breakfasts today (it’s about me!)

So, Quebec. Are we good now?

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Anybody who puts a book out in the world loves to hear that, against all odds, that book has found a reader who:

A. Doesn’t write to tell you how much she hates it.

B. Does write in to ask an interesting question that I can turn into a blog post!

I got this question from a new reader in the Nutmeg State (50 points for anyone who can right now name The Nutmeg State):

I have a question for you, that will definitely expose my complete lack of knowledge about watercolors. Do you paint with watercolors from a tin, or are you using those special pencils that you sketch a bit first, and then blend with water? I also noticed that you often have some well-defined outlines in your work. Are these made with a fine ink pen first, followed by adding color?

Thank you for asking, dear reader from the Nutmeg State.

Until recently (see last week’s post) I was using hobby-grade Grumbacher paints that come in pans — 24 pans for about $20:

I have nothing bad to say about my Grumbacher paints. They have served me well through two books.

I’m using two sets of Grumbacher 24 — because I use a lot of black (to mix into other colors) and I keep some of the pan colors pure and use others of the same color as mixing bowls. I also use the paint tray itself as my main mixing area, which is why they look so cruddy.

Lately I’ve been gifted with new paints in tubes to help me get a brighter look for the gardens I’ve started to illustrate and I was so excited about the purity and intensity of the colors that I went out and bought some pans of paints — a Windsor Newton “field kit” (I still can’t give up on the ease of using pan paints).

This is my brand spanking new paints and mixing thingy. And, dear new reader from the Nutmeg State, I always use a tea bag to reference scale (those Windsor Newton paints are so cute!!). See how clean and spiffy they look before I get cracking:

This is my set-up: new paints, cup of tea, helper cat in the background (meet Coco, new Reader from the Nutmeg State), and my brushes in their souvenir Maya-head tequila shot glass from Acapulco (makes me feel like life’s one big Tiki Bar!).

Which brings me to the second part of your question, new reader from the Nutmeg State: What do I use to make outlines?

I draw with a .018-point Rapid-o-Graph pen, a steel-tipped drafting tool from Germany that is a pain in the ass to use but is the only way I can get a very fine, sharp, dark black line.

When I don’t want a sharp, dark black line but I still need a line,  I use a very fine paintbrush to make the outline. I do not use those pens or colored pencils that you can blend with water because I don’t know what they are. And because I like to do things the hard way.

To get a paintbrush with a fine-enough point on it I have to engineer it myself. I start with a .O or a .OO size brush (the smallest that you can find):

And then I very carefully cut off half the bristles:

Now let’s look at some outlines in Le Road Trip. The buildings in this illustration of Bayeux (on page 68) are outlined with my German drafting tool:

In this illustration of Mont St-Michel (page 92) I used my itty bitty brush to outline the young couple having a picnic on the towering wall surrounding the fortress/abbey (and the blades of grass on the hillside):

In this illustration of a door in Bordeaux (page 143) I used both my German drafting tool (on the door, obviously) and my itty bitty brush to outline the mer-people and to do the railing:

Since my illustrations in Le Road Trip …

P1000453

… are reproduced in their original size, I use my itty bitty brush quite often just to be able to get a landscape down to miniature proportions, like this picture of Bayeux cathedral on a canvas that is approx. one half tea beg high and two tea bags long:

Thank you, Reader from the great Nutmeg State of Connecticut, for this blog post.

And to the reader in Quebec who sent me that nice piece of hate mail last week: You got me. You’re totally right: my whole book is just an elaborate cover, a sinister ploy to broadcast my cruel and evil anti-Quebec prejudices throughout the world as evidenced by that joke I reported about the  Quebec accent on page 96, and everything else you said in that 1,000-word lecture on what a dumbass I am not to acknowledge the truth of the beauty and bravery of the French spoken by its conservators up North, yadda yada yadda.

Jeeze. I always thought Canadians were so polite but hoo boy, do not get them riled up about the way they pronounce “jardin” as “jardaiyyyyynnnnn”, I’m warning you all.

 

 

 

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Do you do your drawings on the spot?” I was asked yesterday, about the illustrations for Le Road Trip. The question was put to me in a darling Australian accent because I was being interviewed by phone from Australia by columnist Blanche Clarke of the Herald Sun, which was quite a thrill for me — Le Road Trip is available in fine bookstores everywhere Down Under grace a Bloomsbury Sydney!

My answer was, “No, not a lot. I mostly draw from the reference photographs I take.” Which turns out to be not entirely true. There are actually quite a few on-the-spot sketches in Le Road Trip.

 

This is the first one that appears, on page 19. These ladies were sunburnt and drinking wine at 9 in the morning — my kind of people! — and I did this quick drawing of them.

When Top Cat decided to change his trousers in the middle of  the Quai d’Orsay (on page 21):

…I took photos of the act (he moved too fast to sketch and I wasn’t going to ask him to hold the pose, for chrissake), but I drew them later that day, into my personal top-secret notebook, by looking at the review screen (digital cameras: I Heart You) because I thought  I was going to erase the photos because Jeeze. I don’t want photographic evidence that my husband hangs out in Paris in his underpants.  But then I put the drawings into a book that is now out into the world anyway so go figure.

When I saw the cat sitting on top of the Renault in the Latin Quarter:

…I drew the cat and the car on the spot (this was the last car I tried to draw — I can’t draw cars and I don’t like drawing cars, which is why there is no traffic in my Paris illustrations) and I jotted down some passers-by, but I filled in the buildings (later, when I got home from France) from reference photos I took of the scene. I have a lot of pictures of this cat. And there’s no way I could have drawn all those windows and awnings in such detail while I was standing on a crowded sidewalk.

This is how my buildings look when I draw on the spot:

You can tell, of course, that I drew the people quickly by sneaking looks at them while I was blocking in the vague apartment buildings along the Place d’Alma. I wish I could have taken photographs of them but that seemed intrusive. So many people have are visibly moved when they pay their respects to Princess Diana — I hope I got a little of that with these stick figures.

Now this is a hybrid drawing, a mix of on-the-spotism and research:

I thought the lady reading her newspaper, oblivious to her job of selling newspapers, was funny, so I drew her before she could put the paper down. Then I did a quick sketch of the kiosk and the newspaper racks, which didn’t interest me much at the  time. But when I decided to put this sketch in the Le Road Trip I realized I should have paid more attention to this newsstand. Specifically, I hadn’t drawn the top of it.

Luckily, Top Cat’s sister was heading off to Paris that month so I asked her to bring me back a photo of a newsstand, especially the top of it. And that’s why the top of this newsstand is quite different, if you’ll notice, from the rest of the drawing.

Now, this picture, I’m sure you can tell, was done in situ:

Crappy background details is the give-away that I did this on-the-spot. There’s more such Paris sketches that I could show you (pages  36, 37, some of 38, 39, and two out of three of page 44) but what is this, come kind of Ph.D. exercise? I want to skip ahead and show you just two more illustrations that  you might find interesting.

This one from St-Malo, for instance:

(Page 108) This house fascinates me. I didn’t mention it in the book, but around the turn of the 20th century it was so chic for French people to drop in English phrases in their conversation that even Marcel Proust commented on it, saying that it was such a bore to be in the company of such pretentious people.

This house on the outskirts of St-Malo in Brittany is actually, truly called Villa Remember and seems to date from that period. It had such an interesting roof line that I wanted to draw it (as pictured). Top Cat had to wait while I sketched and he got bored so he took a photo of me at the gates of Villa Remember, because he had nothing else to do.

That’s how I was able to drop myself into my notebook sketch later, when I saw his photo (of me).

Mostly, however, I do draw from reference photos, such as this:

(page 121) After a hard day of travel, missed trains/detours/late arrivals/hoboing for 12 hours, Top Cat and I fetched up in a dumpy hotel room late at night in Bordeaux. This is our dinner, a chocoalte bar and half a bottle of warm Evian. I took the photograph because I wanted a memento of our Worst Day on the Road, never intending to make anyting of it.

But much later, when I came across this photo,  it was only then that I saw the poster that was  hanging above the bed. At the time, I did not see the thing at all — I have no memory of it, not the least little bit. But in the photo, I clearly saw the similarity between the look Top Cat shot me and the glowering raised-sword expression of the Bernard Buffet Gendarme. I love it!

So, to answer the original question, Do I sketch on the spot?

The answer would have to be: Yes, and No.

 

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Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful messages of support on Pub Date for Le Road Trip — April 10, 2012. Just think. A mere eight months ago this was all I had:

This is something you don’t’ see any more: a manuscript. Made of real paper. Like in the olden days.

A stack of Damn France pages (and a tea bag). And now:

I admit it, this photo is a tiny bit STAGED.

I’ve got a Damn France Book!

The cats can’t hardly contain their glee and pride at this great achievement.

I’ve certainly been enjoying every single message of approval, validation, and assurance from you dear readers that what I’ve sent out into the world doesn’t suck. Whew.

I don’t know what other writers do on the eve of Pub Dateis there a writer who is cool, calm, and collected 48 hours before The Day of Reckoning? — but this writer gets her husband to take her to Atlantic City. Because I got important people to meet and greet in America’s Playground.

You know who I mean. Under the boardwalk:

A lot of people don’t notice the ally cats of Atlantic City, or the big Ally Cat Allies of Atlantic City sign, until there’s a crazy cat lady taking pictures under the boardwalk, attracting attention.

And then I have to explain that the wild and stray cats of Atlantic City are provided for by a corp of dedicated animal lovers at Ally Cat Allies of Atlantic City who bring food, water, and medical care to the colony.

Although there are people who free-lance it, which is not recommended. (There’s a black cat on the second step there, being fed by the guy in the baseball cap.)

But sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. That is, sit and feel better about the world in the company of a cat.

I also don’t know what other writers do the day after Pub Date — if I were Neil deGrasse Tyson I’d be watching my book leap onto the New York Times best-seller list, and if I were J. K. Rowling I’d be getting a kick out of the tsunami of consumer demand for my e-book crashing the internet, and if I were a soft-core pornographer I’d be signing a multi-million dollar deal with my New York publisher…

…but I’m just a humble illustrator/memoirist, so I’ll be sitting at home, sorting out all my big ideas for my next illustrated travel memoir.

Hmmm….. Maybe I should do a cat book?

Do you think I could possibly do anything with this?

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Surprisingly, dear readers and Damn France Book followers (as far as you have been hanging in here on this blog with me during the composition of my damn France book) we seem to have like-minded amigos in the land of the tsars.

The Russians have bought the rights to my book!  Le Road Trip is going to be published in Moscow!

The National Geographic Traveler magazine has a mention of Le Road Trip in its current issue:

Vivian Swift’s Le Road Trip is both the true story of an idyllic French honeymoon that winds from Paris through Normandy, Brittany, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, and Chartres, and an illustrated road-trip handbook on topics ranging from “How to Vagabond” to “What to Wear in Paris.”

The good people at France Magazine have a lot more to say:

Veteran globetrotter Swift set out to chronicle her French honeymoon but ended up penning a quirky love letter to travel filled with cultural, historical and literary references. Delightful watercolors illustrate this wide-ranging field guide, which offers hilarious travel survival tips for every clime as well as ruminations on subjects as varied as Parisian windows, Breton sailor-stripe shirts, and lettuce (not to mention a highly idiosyncratic A-to-Z on vagabonding in the Bordeaux region).

Nerves.

If you had the idea that I’m basking in such kind words and good news about my book…you could not be more wrong. I’m all nerves, trying to keep the flop sweats at bay. Pub date is next week…this could be the end of my career.

This habit of snatching depression from the jaws of glad tidings feels so natural, so familiar. So RUSSIAN. My people!

Well, it wouldn’t be so bad to keep  Moscow time (eight hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Savings Time), counting down the hours until I see Le Road Trip printed in cyrillic. Chjome to think of it, in Moscow, it’s already Friday night. Friday night!

I have some crying in my vodka to catch up with!

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Just one last thing to do to get Le Road Trip manuscript ready for publishing.

I have to out my original art work and original hand-set type into a format that can be turned into a book-shaped object.

Heres how I do it (on my dining room table):

Top left: binder containing original manuscript.

Bottom right: 11-inch by 14-inch sheets sent to me by my publisher Bloomsbury with position marks for each page, numbered from 1 – 215.

Center: paper cutter to trim these out-sized sheets down to a more manageable 11-inch by 11-inch square .

Bottom left: pile of already-trimmed sheets.

Next:

This is my light box, on which I have taped (Scotch tape is crucial to the whole process) a guide that represents the true dimensions of the final trim of the book, with lines and markings to show me where the center lines of the page are, both vertically and horizontally.

I have to place every single page of my manuscript onto this guide and position it so that all the art work and text is straight, aligned, and mounted with the proper margins for top and bottom AND with extra allowances for the “gutter”…that is, the edge that is going to be bound.

Yes, I have to do this manually for each and every  page, all 208 of them.

Got that?

For reasons that have to due with the fact that during this scrutiny I still find stuff that three editors missed and rectifying it takes research and materials i.e. glue, scissors, tape, white-out, mucho cursing. I also have to keep all these loose, mounted pages in order and, well, it gets messy.

I got the bright idea to tape pages onto the walls of my dining room so they could dry — remember, I am gluing the art work, and taping the text into place.

This is true: I sprained my left hand with repetitive motion somewhere around page 135 and had to tape up my favorite index and middle finger to prevent further injury which meant that I was, for all accounts and purposes, left totally right-handed … and still I had to keep turning out pages, and pages, and pages…

Today I am happy to announce that I have finished all the mounting, the last-minute editing, the last-last-minute patching up, and the last-last-last-minute re-writes/re-paints (yes, I did re-paint two whole pages)/re-edits.

From now, until pub date May 2012,  it’s Bloomsbury’s baby.

 

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This is what a hand-made, illustrated travel memoir in process looks like:

See that slip of green paper on the cover? It’s a note to myself, a definition of life that I read somewhere and wrote down:

Life: A length of time marked by periodic changes of luck.

Words to live by.

As I create each page, I tape in my text and my illustrations into the approximate positions that will have when they are printed.

The yellow stickies on the edge of some of the pages are there to remind me that there’s something that I to fix on that page; the little yellow stickies on the bottom of  sheet are there so I can keep track of the page count.  I use those sheet protectors because that makes it easier to move pages around, and keeps the schmutz off the art work.

Repeat 208 times, and you have a book!

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The record for At First Not Succeeding And Trying, Trying Again (and Again) goes to a picture I tried to paint of an evening in Paris when Top Cat and I found ourselves in the middle of an impromptu dance party on the Pont des Arts.

Oh! It was such a wonderful memory! Of these Parisians whirling around the boards of the bridge where everyone gathers for picnics and rendez-vous in the dusk, the warmth of that early September evening like velvet at 9 o’clock when the Seine and the sky reflect the sunset and the lights of the city like shimmering bits of satin and silk…

I painted that sucker about a dozen times and could never get it right:

Sometimes it was the sky, sometimes it was the dancers, sometimes it was the sky line of Paris  that didn’t look right…

…sometimes it was the sky line and the dancers and the sky that didn’t look right.

This is how many times I started over, and over, and over, and over, trying to make those figures and that bridge and that view work before I had to throw it all away and start with a whole new idea:

I drew completely new figures and put them on a totally different plane and I slapped a moody wash of violets and blues over them and it worked just fine (Sorry, I don’t have a finished version to show you because I haven’t yet committed myself to keeping it in the book).

Somerset Maughm wrote his autobiography at the end of his career and I carry around an excerpt from it to re-read every now and then. He wrote this about how he arrived at his  understanding of his style:

I discovered my limitations and I aimed at what excellence I could within them. I knew that I had no lyrical quality [Me too! Me too!]. I had a small vocabulary. I had little gift for metaphor; the original and striking simile seldom occurred to me.

On the other hand, I had an acute power of observation, and it seemed to me that I could see a great many things that other people missed. I could put in clear terms what I saw. I had a logical sense and if no great feeling for the richness and strangeness of words, at all events I had a lively appreciation of their sound.

I knew I could never write as well as I could wish, but with pains I could arrive at writing as well as my natural deficits allowed.

In the end, Somerset Maughm summed up his style in these three words:

Lucidity.   Simplicity.   Euphony.

And then he went on to write The Moon and Sixpence, Of  Human Bondage, and one other famous book I can’t remember. (The Razor’s Edge?)

So it just goes to show that even with limitations, one can still strive for excellence; as long as one understands one’s abilities. I just have to figure out what my one or two abilities are.

 

 

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