All the live-long day.
There was nothing wrong with this picture. But then the gardeners at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London redesigned this bed of pom pom trees last year, and my illustration became too out-dated to use in the Damn Garden Book. The reason I didn’t just bury this pic in my Failure File is because I love the stones. I must have had a good day when I painted this back in 2012, because I love the way I got the stones to look greenish-gray — and I also liked the way the dirt came out. This is very flukey, when the Muse shows up and you get boring bits of stone and dirt to look “right”. So I wanted to save it.
So, yes, this is another Rescue Story. And yeah, it seems to me, too, that I’ve never gotten one illustration for the Damn Garden Book to look right the first time. That’s why I swear that this will be my last illustrated travel memoir-ish. It’s just too depressing to keep failing, day after day after day…I have better things to do. I think. Maybe. Any hoo.
After cutting out the now-historically inaccurate bit, I went to work:
Blend, blend, blend in the scissor’d edge:
Instead of fussy pom pom trees, I’m going to put in some decrepitude (see: last week’s post), to make it look the way it did on my first visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, in 1999. Mind you, this manuscript must be completed by today, Friday May 8; and I am painting this on April 23. It’s this kind of perfectionism, which causes one to make ridiculously time-intensive last minute editorial decisions, that makes any kind of creative person with a deadline to become the kind of person that everyone warns is very touchy.
Whilst I am being all Impressionist here, I would like you to pay attention to the stump of pom pom tree, that brown stick on the left hand side of the round shrub that stands out like a turd in bowl of pea soup (see below):
My first idea was to paint over it with very, very dark green blades of dark green weeds, but that looked too obvious. So I painted over that mistake with white acrylic paint:
And then decided to do the same for all the other too-dark green blades of weeds I’d already painted it:
Well, I regretted the fix-up.
So I did the only thing that a very tense, touchy, under-deadline pressured author/illustrator could do:
The picture was too monotonous — too much blades of weedy things sticking straight up. It lacked texture. Also, that ball of boxwood had begun to annoy me. It lacked decrepitude.
And so, with an appropriate amount of cursing, I started over….AGAIN.
Blend, blend, blend in the scissor’d edge:
This time, I made very faint pencil marks to plot out TEXTURE:
I made this picture dark so as to show you the faint pencil lines. It’s ugly, but effective. I think that’s pretty much my Philosophy of Illustration in a nutshell.
So far, I’ve been painting for about three hours. I know this because I had not intended to spend all day on this thing, so I’m watching the clock, hope hope hoping that this damn picture WoRKS OUT.
Working wet-in-wet, I drop in some background…
…before I put in the foreground:
When I was 40 years old, I made a conscious decision to change my handwriting.
Ever since I’d learned to write, I had been making a capital “I” that looked like a little round circle. Everybody has some quirk in their handwriting, but this — and the way I made a small “r”(it looked like a pointed stick; Oprah does it too) — had become very irritating to me. So I simply made a New Year’s Resolution and forced myself to change my dopey little curlicue “I” into a tall, slender, stand-alone “I” SANS SERIF, and I began printing a small “r” whenever I needed a Latin rhotic. I also didn’t care for the way I made a small “g”, too, until I learned that my figure-8 small “g” meant that I was very intellectually creative, so I kept it.
I mention this because I am also trying to change my watercolor painting handwriting. I’m trying to be looser, more Impressionistic. So at this stage of the illustration, I was feeling very confident that I was headed for Impressionistic success with this painting:
But, in the end, I saw, clearly, that I blew it:
Not for the first time, did my gut wrench over a Damn Garden Book illustration.
So, You Will NOT BELIEVE What I Did Next!
Yes, I ripped it apart — literally — and STARTED OVER.
Now, this did not happen immediately. I had other obligations — life stuff, and a re-write of the whole London chapter — that I had to pay attention too; and, truth to tell, I was hoping that that last pic would grow on me. But, no, I have too much intellectual honesty and artistic integrity for that.
And, so, five days later, we been again, again:
DONE. I know it’s a mix of persnickety manuscript-illumination and loosey-Roherschadt blots, but it works for me. (That obvious scissor-edge in the dark green front end can be eliminated digitally when the book goes into production, which is OK by me, although I prefer to do it manually, e.g.; I defy you to pick out the scissor edge on the whole right side.)
And I didn’t let the pom pom trees go to waste, either. I put them into their up-dated bed, like so:
I’m DONE. I hand in the complete manuscript today, so from now on in the only fixes I’ll be making on the Damn Garden Book will be inserting (or deleting) commas, accent marks, and redundancies; and not getting annoyed that the proof reader keeps marking my capitalizations of the Four Seasons even tho I sent a note telling her (it’s usually a her) to leave them STET.
And then I am DONE.
DONE DONE DONE DONE.
I’m going to take up a new hobby, and no, it will not be gardening. But, as an offshoot of writing this book, I am thinking about learning the beautiful language of Brazil. Portuguese.
Have a great weekend, everybody. And have a caipirinha on me.