How To Make a Champagne-O-Meter for Winter Storm Jonas
Step One: Set a bottle of your favorite bubbly on the back lawn. Wait for snow. Or go to bed, since the forecast calls for snow to start falling at 2AM and sorry, only a slow dance with a Beatle is worth staying up that late for.
Step Two: Wake up next morning and check for accumulation:
Step Three: Gather together your Winter Storm Survival Kit (a 1,000-piece picture puzzle, Trader Joe’s fish sticks, homemade black bean soup, plenty of indoor champagne) and then do what Taffy does:
Step Four: Sleep late the next morning and then head out to the back yard:
Step Five: No, 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is NOT too early to open this baby up.
And yes, the best place to see a really beautiful Winter sunset is by standing out on your roof…
But chilling champagne and hanging out on my roof wasn’t the only thing I did last weekend. I also spent some time painting some really truly hideous pictures.
It all began with this photo:
This is the entrance to the famous garden in Giverny once owned by Claude Monet, photographed by me on May 15, 2013. Those are some miniature apple trees trained to grown horizontally along a wire fence, and in the background is a multitude of cherry trees in blossom and those really tall trees in the far back are in Monet’s water garden. That weeping willow to the far left is the one that Monet painted so often when he did his water lily pictures.
So two weeks ago I decided to try and paint this view:
Yeeeeech. First of all, I drew the apple trees incorrectly. Also, the tree line in the background is very unattractive. I regret my decision to paint in those arbors with the pink flowers in the middle-ground. And the whole picture is too dark, mostly because I used black to give the apple tree foliage some depth, some kind of definition to make them stand out as forms:
This is very discouraging. I don’t feel good about myself when I spend four hours painting something that turns out to be dreck. But what else can I do but take a break, wait to be snowed in, and start again:
Yeeeech. I thought that changing the perspective by raising the horizon would help the composition, and I didn’t paint in a sky — which I now realize was a dumb thing to do. Those arbors that were so noticeable in Yeeech Picture No. 1 are now merely hinted at by stroking in some faint lines in the pink haze — also a dumb move. And the apple trees still aren’t doing it for me.
So, I start over again:
I’ve already decided that I’m going to do something completely different with the apple trees: I’m NOT going to paint them leaf by leaf — that is just the wrong way to handle these things. So I started by blobbing in some apple-tree forms and when they looked OK, I committed to the picture and painted in the sky.
I’m only going to add teeny tiny leafs here and there, and only int he foreground…yeah, that’s the ticket…
Yeeeeeeech. I mean, just yeeeeeech. I lowered the horizon, which was a good move, and I painted in a better looking background tree line, and I didn’t go crazy over-doing the apple tree foliage but still…YEEEEECH.
Although I am working from a reference photo that I took two years ago, I’ve been to this garden numerous times and I was just there last month, too, so I know very well the feeling of this particular spot. And I don’t get that feeling from this picture.
OK. I’ve now invested about 16 hours into finding all the worst ways to paint this scene. I’m pretty depressed. I have to figure out how to paint this picture in order to figure out how to paint any other part of Monet’s garden (which I plan to do a lot of). I think it’s time for some soul-searching, for facing some artistic self-truths, and stuff, but first I have to go find some champagne. Because champagne is happiness.
So I got a glass of champagne and I re-thought about all the things that went wrong during the three times I’ve tried to paint this pic. And I realized that it all came down to the size of the paper:
Each time that I’ve painted this view I have started out with a rather large sheet of paper, about 9 x 12 inches. This is all wrong. One thing that I know about myself as a painter is that I love to work small. Small small small small. And, as it turns out, this picture would be very happy on a much smaller sheet of paper anyway (as shown cropped, below):
So I cut me some new sheets of 90 lb. Canson watercolor paper — 15 centimeter square sheets:
And I started all over AGAIN:
And I painted for another four hours and then I was DONE:
And except for that wonky sign (which is removable), I don’t think I’ll be re-painting this anytime soon.
The better part of art, like life, is just about hanging in there.
Have a great weekend, everyone.
And speaking of hanging in there, here’s a picture of five of my cats doing just that, in their own very spectacular ways:
I had managed to wade out onto the back patio while I was digging out my Champagne-O-Meter, and had put out some trays of bird seed, which caused the felines to gather in the den: