January 2022


Last week, you all met the Lady Olga:

Olga is a dog with very fetching  spots, which I really wanted to paint because in the words of the great Sheldon Cooper: “What’s life without whimsy?”, so I asked Steve Reed to send me a photo of her that shows them. I was thinking he would send me a photo of Olga with her back to me, sitting in front of a fire or   such but, no, he sent this:

So now I have to paint an entire dog, with a face, in a pose that will have to be done precisely right or else she’ll look as if she’s defying gravity. You gotta get the weight of this posture just right, is what I’m saying.

Here’s my pencil outline:

You can’t see it (above), but I decided to eliminate her right back foot which in the photo you can see peeking out behind her butt. I knew that detail makes sense in a photograph but it would look weird in a painting, and since the pose would look just as fine without it I made life easy for me and deleted it. I also knew that the black thing between Olga’s paw was a toy called a kong, but I couldn’t actually see it in the photo. So I went to the Kong website and got familiar with kongs, and drew it using a guide line (below) to make sure I got the structure stacked correctly along an axis. I also had a bit of a problem with Olga’s right front paw, which is why  I use a very light touch when I pencil in my outlines because when/if I have to erase a lot, it doesn’t rub the paper raw :

I don’t know. It still looks weird to me.

Dear Reader Jeanie asked me last week, What China white paint do you use? I am using a base coat of Winsor Newton  China White on Olga’s little face into which I will bleed a delicate pink:


I thank Jeanie for her question because I want to take a moment to explain that I don’t use the top of the line Winsor Newton paints — I use their Cotman line, which is not expensive, in a small 12-pan case:

I have been using this little set for about 15 years, and did the illustrations for my second and third books with them. Also, I have been using Canson 90-pound paper since I discovered it in a book shop in Paris in 1979. The point is, you don’t have to use expensive materials to get effective results, but it helps enormously if you stay with a brand of paint and paper for all your works. That way,  you get to know everything that those tools will do for you. For example, after all this time, I  know these paints and this paper so well that I know exactly how much water to use with each in order to achieve a variety of effects, I know how they react to each other, I understand everything that these materials are capable of. So I can exploit all their properties to make them do what I want them to do, and it suits me fine. It can suit you, too — right?

So here’s me doing Olga’s eyes with my 000-size  brush (a 000-size brush is really, really fine):



Yes, I’m still using blue paint for shadows in Olga’s white fur, and I’m using the same blue for the highlights on the black kong:

I wasn’t going to paint Olga wearing her collar, but I got this far and changed my mind, so I drew it in before I continued with her shoulder area.


I have to work quickly here, having painted in another base coat  of China white and, before the paint can get too dry, I’m using a rather wet brown/clack mixture to let the two colors bleed just a little, and to use the watery-ness to give some texture: 


When I have really teeny tiny details to paint, I use the same breathing techniques that snipers use: I inhale deeply and exhale slowly and that steadies my hand. I find that painting teeny tiny details, such as Olga’s ID tags on her collar, to be very relaxing. This does not require patience on my part — I am NOT a patient person; but I do like to get  things just right, so I am able to concentrate and take my time:




This is our girl at the end of Phase I:

I used masking fluid to draw some blades of grass here (below) and when I removed it I could tell that I’d made a mistake by using it on the kong, as you will see later:

I am going to paint in a green grass background here because if I’d left Olga alone (see:  above) she’d look like SuperDog, flying through the sky, and I wanted her on Earth. But I’m going to do a light, easy, not-too-persnickety background:

The hard part . . . 

. . . is getting the green paint right up to Olga’s edge:



Done, sort of. 

I looked at this the next morning and the kong bothered me:

So I re-did it, and now it’s Done.

I didn’t take a photo of the finished portrait and as I type this, it is on it’s way to England, so here’s my crappy photo-shopped Done version with a slightly improved kong:

Since it’s my birthday week I do not want to harsh my high with current events. This week I’m only doing stuff that amused me during my waking hours. 

P.S. Even wide awake, I am easily amused.



























That’s it for now, Dear Readers. I am taking another week off and I won’t be here next Friday, so have a great weekend and have the best dreams of your life and take a few moments to celebrate that here we are, against astronomical odds, on this exquisite blue  planet that is our home in an infinite and cold, dark universe.

And we can have pickles any time we want.


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I wasn’t here last week so this is my first blog of 2022 and we have some catching up to do.


We WILL be painting today — a dog portrait of a lovely lady called Olga — but first things first:

OK, so the good news is that we start 2022 without Donald Trump as president, but the bad news is that we start 2022 without Betty White:







And for all us who watched TV in the ’70s:

I didn’t make any New Year Resolutions, but if I did. . . 




One great bit of news for 2022 is that Marjorie Taylor Greene, the batshit crazy neo-Nazi  Republican congressional representative from the suburbs of Atlanta, got thrown off of Twitter for good:

OK, we’re caught up.





 NOW we’re caught up. Let’s do some watercoloring!

Meet Olga at the English seaside:

For my purposes, this is the Olga I’ll be painting:

Olga is a sweet senior lady who lives in London with Steve Reed, another former Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa (Morocco), journalist,  librarian, and street photographer also known as blogger Shadows & Light.

When I saw this photo of Olga, I immediately loved her smile, and I liked the 3/4 turn of her head. But I knew that that ear was going to be a problem — it takes up a lot of space in the picture here, and if you don’t get it right you’re going to have a messy blob perched on top of her head — as a painter sussing it out, this photo is as much a picture of Olga’s ear as it is of her face.

Also, she’s not got fur so much as suede, and there is a lot of pink peeking out under that fine white coat. I didn’t know if that would be hard to handle, or not. But after taking a long look, I decided that I was up for the challenge.

First, the pencil drawing:

It was a sunny morning here on the north shore of Long Island on the day that I painted Olga, and I was wearing my  bathrobe, which is very fluffy and hot pink, which I did not notice was throwing off a reflection in the photographs. So you will see a pinky glow on some of the following pix, that’s all me, a rosy glow in your life.

As usual, I start with the eyes:

For Olg’as white fur/suede, I painted in an undercoat of China White — I LOVE a China White base because I enjoy the way other paint bleeds into it and  Olga is giving me a lot of opportunity to have fun with this:

Here goes the first dabs of pink pant that I am bleeding into China White:

Add some shading. . .

As usual, I am using blue instead of gray to add shadow to the contours of Olga’s face:

Now for the part that always gives me trouble — the nose:




No, her snoot is not deformed — that’s her right upper lip, hanging out the side. It’s a dark gray in the photo but that won’t work in this painting, so I will fix this by lightening it up so it doesn’t look like Olga has a weird proboscis.

Ah, the mouth: I underestimated how hard it was going to be to paint Olga’s mouth and teefers. I thought I understood what was going on there in Olga’s smile, but once I started to actually paint it I understood that it was going to be tricky to make sure I didn’t make a mess of this. Suffice to say, a dog’s mouth is complicated, and Olga is letting it all hang out:


OK, the mouth is not a disaster.

Oh shit. Now I have to do the ear.

You can’t tell (below), but there I was, having got past the eyes, the nose, and the mouth without incident, only to have me drop a big paint brush onto the wet paint in Olga’s ear and have it roll across the paper. I quickly dabbed up the mess and — whew — there wasn’t much damage, but it was a tense  few moments. I am SO RELIEVED  that I didn’t have to start all over.

I don’t have an in-progress shot of The Ear, so here it is done (below) and now let’s skip to the shoulder, where I am using blue paint again for shade:

This was the most breezy part of painting Olga. Some dogs I look at and know that they are going to be very impressionistic (see: Winston). But Olga was going to have to be a very detailed, very persnickety painting. Until I got to the shoulder: then I let rip and I dabbed it fast and furious and I think it took me 15 seconds to finish.

I let this rest overnight and went back to look at it the next morning and I saw two things that I neededto fix. The lip situation still isn’t right, and I  missed a teeny little bit of expression on her face.

So first, I gave her s tiny little eyebrow that gives her face just a touch of gentleness:


Next, I am going to lighten up that right side of her upper lip by painting it with a thin coat of acrylic paint:

And now I can say that  Olga is DONE:


So far, neither Top Cat nor I have had a bout with ill health during this latest Omicron outbreak, and we hope that all our Dear Readers are staying safe and keeping healthy too. After nearly 2 years of this, you’d think people would have smartened up about COVID and we’d have come together to wipe this out, but nooooo. . . 






Then there’s this leader of the “Vaccine Police”, Christopher Key . . .

Judging by the photo, where he’s wearing his Vaccine Police uniform on the right, does Christopher Key think that you can also shoot the COVID virus to death?

Any way . . .


Oh well. Living with COVID might be the new normal for us in the early 21st century, so we should all just get used to it, right?




Here’s a reason to hope that 2022 is the year when we see Republicans eat each other: Trump is starting to urge his followers to get the vaccine (I guess he realizes that it’s mostly unvaccinated Republicans dying these days), and he went after Florida Republican governor and 2024 presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis,  for being coy about his vaccine status:

Trump picking on Ron DeSantis  made Ann Coulter, a conservative gadfly, angry at Trump, which was big news for half a day:

Here is Ann’s actual tweet:

I agree with Amy Lynn:


And this from another Republican fuckwit about the fetish that Republicans seem to have for guns:





This (below) makes me wonder the owners of Sea World are Republican because, well, you’ll see:


You can buy the T-shirt here.

Meanwhile, in Missouri:

The mother of a woman who was killed in a car crash, who police confirmed was by a Capitol riot suspect, has asked why the driver was not already in jail.

Police accused the Capitol riot suspect Emily Hernandez of driving drunk and killing 32-year-old Victoria Wilson, a mother of two, in a car crash on Wednesday. 

Hernandez, 22, was charged in relation to the January 6, 2021, riot and was out on bond at the time. Photos from the insurrection showed Hernandez holding a broken sign belonging to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After the crash, Hernandez was charged  with “driving while intoxicated resulting in death of another, driving while intoxicated resulting in serious physical injury, excessive BAC” — Blood Alcohol Content — after the crash.

What I want to know is, WHY AREN’T THEY ALL IN JAIL????

Oh, right. Because:

Speaking of the capitol riots on Jan. 2, 2021. . . 


P.S. Clarence Thomas is a Bush 41 appointee to the Supreme Court.




Speaking of which, I hope, one  day, that this will be true (see: below). Please, Canada, PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE . . . 



This just happened:



Is it finally happening? Will the Dept. of Justice go all the way to the top? Have they got all  the receipts and are ready to start knocking down the leaders of the Jan 6 riot? ARE THEY GOING AFTER TRUMP and all the Republicans who conspired to subvert the will of American voters???

Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

Meanwhile . . . 

. . .  here’s the latest on the institutionalization of undervaluing workers in America:








I post a lot of Robert Reich’s tweets but I’ve forgotten to explain that he was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, so he knows a thousand things or two about the economy and the workforce:

Another cause I’m in favor of is cancelling student debt. Except…

…I like everything about the list (below) except for the “making babies” part. It almost makes me re-think  my position . . . 

On this whole “having babies” issue, someone more famous than I issued a New Year’s statement about multiplying your sorry-ass genes:

So says The Pope, who is forbidden by his religion to have kids, and whose religion also forbids ANY of its priests to have kids so, I guess what he’s saying its that his entire church is a detriment to civilization, which is something that I can totally get behind.

And that’s the State of the World this week. brought to you by Yours Truly.

Now  let’s get to the important stuff.

Sorry this is late but I had to include it because I love the feets:




























Have a great weekend, everyone. Let’s get together next week and paint some more doggies, and let’s stay tuned to see how many more seditionists will fall in the next 48 hours. My dreams are finally coming true! The Karma Train has pulled into he station!!!

How good does that feel? 

How about THIS good:

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