Penultimate Summer Post

P1190479It’s good to be back just in time for my penultimate Summer post! During my two-week break I went to the annual Long Island Scottish Games Festival at Old Westbury Gardens (that’s a dog in a kilt, above). It’s always good to hang with my peeps, the Scottish, the most fun-loving, light-hearted, sober people on Earth. It comes from all that airy-fairy-gaia-girl-power DNA us Celtic maids of the woods possess:



Oh, right: us Scottish girls also love to dance with swords, too:


And as you can see, even the boys of our clan want to be like their magical sisters so much that they’ll even wear the same outfits.


I also spent a few days in the enchanted land known as Pennsylvania, hanging with my mother (from whom I get my Scottish proclivities). She has a cat named Sammy who knows how to work backlighting and sheer curtains:


And, yes, I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting in the backyard trying to get a shot of the 6:05 Qantas from LAX.


Yes, I sat sentry in the backyard whenever the landing pattern at JFK airport shifted to the sky above Top Cat Manor hoping to get the red kangaroo on film. TheΒ 6:05 Qantas from LAX is my black orchid, my white whale, my Loch Ness Monster. So far, I’ve only been able to catch the 6:40 Air Berlin from, well, you know where. But note how the plane catches the golden rays of the September evening. Sigh.

I know I promised you a cat-painting lesson. Well, I’m working on it:


But I have an exciting new give-away for my dear readers! I have received an advanceΒ hard back copy of ElizabethGilbert’s new novel, The Signature of All Things:


Last May Elizabeth sent me a paper-back proof of the novel and I read it in two days. I loved it. And you all know that I do not read fiction…but this is almost non-fiction, as it’s a story about love and botany and is full of real true stuff about plants and gardens and 18th century trade in newly-discovered horticultural species. GREAT BOOK, is what I’m saying. If it’s been a long time since you read you’ve read a book by a really smart writer, or it’s been ages since you enjoyed a sophisticated historical romance, or it’s been eons since you read a book that took you into another realm of being…this book is for you.


The book itself is a beautiful object — it 499 pages of smooth ivory vellum with a deckle edge. And it’s got two different end-papers, with a pair of botanical illustrations on each:


This is very expensive to produce, by the way.

I am giving away this advance hard-back copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of All Things to one lucky dear reader!

Please leave your name in the Comments section and, as is standard operating procedures, Top Cat will pick a Commentor at random. The winner of this lovely book will be announced next Friday,right here on this blog.

(Comments will close at midnight, Tuesday.)

It’s down to the penultimate Summer weekend, dear readers. Let’s all go out and do something to make Summer 2013 memorable!


46 Comments, RSS

  1. Judy Jennings

    Vivian, you just make it look so darn easy, and I KNOW IT’S NOT. Beautiful lesson as usual. Can’t wait to hold your actual book.

  2. Top Cat Manor !! cute.

    Those adorable red hair children with flowers/ ribbons in their hair is a beautiful picture.

    And views of getting ready to land at JFK – jets
    RIGHT IN YOUR BACK YARD. How did you know it was the 6-0-? from Quantas? Just curious.

    Thanks for the painting lesson. You should be paid for this. You are soooo good.

  3. Cheryl

    I’m not sure for which to be more grateful. The fact that you are BACK on the blog–missed my Friday morning, before I start work routine—or the opportunity to own this lovely book.

    The painting lesson makes me want to close the door to my office and get my travel kit out of my briefcase!

  4. janet bellusci

    one of the things i DO NOT MISS from my living in flushing, queens, is when they re-routed the planes for the US OPEN sothat they flew RIGHT OVER MY BACKYARD!!! try having people come over to sit and chat outdoors over wine & snacks during THAT!! ahhh…the relative quiet of the hudson valley!!
    enough ranting ~ WELCOME BACK, VIVIAN!! you were missed!

  5. Welcome back! Nice to see some lush green garden painting as my own garden fades to brown with the cooler weather. Maples are just starting to turn, too. Here we go…

    Oh, my DOG, how I would love to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book (like I need more books to read, honestly…)! Loved her novel “Stern Men” set here in Maine.

  6. Caroline

    Glad you are back. I was at a different highland games amazingly enough In Pennsylvania no less. Keep calm and ceilidh on. Paint and write as well.

  7. Christine

    Welcome back! It’s finally Friday and the humid gross weather finally broke, and it feels like fall again. The huge oak trees outside my office building are starting to drop their leaves: some are tinier than tea bags and some are larger than my hand, but they are all perfectly formed and beautiful.
    I always enjoy your Scottish games pictures (my favorite one from the past was the handsome guy in a kilt, wearing a “Got Scotch?” t-shirt:)).
    My daughter Eva was a champion Irish dancer, but she did a bit of Scottish dancing, too, and the pictures of the kids dancing brought back those memories.
    I always appreciate a good book and would love to own the book with the botanical endpapers; thanks for the chance to win it!

  8. Patricia

    Finally my Fridays are complete again! Thank you thank you thank you for coming back from your break.
    PS. would love the “Signature of all Things”.

  9. Susie

    Thank you for coming back to us and for the cat lesson tease, in pencil eh? So THAT’S how you start a cat!
    With all the watercolor lessons you’ve given us, they could make up a book. A BOOK. Of already done art. So it would be easy to get it together (that’s a joke…).
    Seriously, you could put them into a how-to volume…someday?
    I’ve only recently discovered I have some Scottish blood and it explains many things. Scottish get-togethers would be great fun. Love that little girl with the red hair.

    Welcome back!

  10. Sapphire

    My formative years were spent on the flight path to Newark International–before the days of noise abatement. Walls, windows and eyeballs would vibrate when one of the big boys roared overhead, and roar indeed they did. My father would joke that he could see the color of the pilot’s eyes. Flash forward: call it karma, call it destiny, but I now live many, many miles from Newark but still manage to be in a flight path, although the planes now are single engine putt-putts. I choose to call this progress.

  11. Maryanne in SC

    In the time before 9/11, my dad and I would go down to the end of the runways at National (now Reagan)just to have the heavies zoom overhead, so close you could count rivets. Thanks for reminding me.

    The backlit photo of the wee cat is magical. Welcome back, Vivian!

  12. Welcome back! And thank you again for timing your vacation to match mine — *most* considerate. How often do you paint front-to-back? I’ve always painted background first — I seem to recall from your demos that you usually do so too. Any particular reason for doing the foreground first in this delightful piece?

  13. mo

    welcome back! glad you enjoyed your time away from the blog, but glad you’re back. i always look forward to Friday mornings! truly enjoyed your step-by-step process with the painting. i don’t paint, but i love “watching” such a methodical approach unfold the way your pictures do.

    as for the book, that’s very generous of you to offer it. so i’ll just say this about that: pick me, pick me!


  14. the details of your paintings are incredible… first i kept wondering what the yellow blob would be, i waited and waited, and then i got side tracked at the hanging pots on the trellis, i thought if you are normally like a triscuit that could be like pinky nail, surely its bigger then a triscuit though… suddenly the yellow was gone and just a gorgeous canopy on a sunny day in a english garden is staring back at me, amazing transition watching you create~

    and then the cheshire smile…

    followed up with a giveaway! yes, please put me in the top hat drawing, as an avid reader and gardener this would be right up my alley. i noticed she had a new book coming, but i made the assumption it was non fiction, after your description i bee lined over to amazon, how did i miss all this! glad you enjoyed the book, i may have overlooked it~

  15. whimsy2

    Thanks for the lesson. I want to print them out and bind them for easy reference. Hmm…maybe that could be your next book?

    I would SO love to win the Elizabeth Gilbert book.

    Mehitabel sends her regards.

  16. Jacquelyn Lindsey-Hoag

    Oh joy, another book giveaway!
    Altho not thru a top cat pick, i so enjoyed the story of Rancho de chihuahua made available thru your publisher.
    And, it has been on loan fairly steadily to dog lovers, ….great story!!
    Whether i am picked or not, I so look forward to holding a copy of Gilbert’s new book in my hands.
    Some years ago I attended my first Scottish Games north of Seattle. I had read Galbadon’s series set, initially in Scotland, and during the parade of the clans, so enthralled by jamie and Claire’s story, I stood up as part of MacKenzie family.

  17. SusanA

    Hi, Vivian. I’m glad you enjoyed your time off. I kept myself occupied by starting your blog from the beginning. I’ve made it to 2011.

    I so appreciate all your tutorials. I love your greens, but I’m fascinated by your brick work in this painting. I would love to know what colors you use to mix them.

    Please enter me in your give-away for Elizabeth Gilbert’s book. I have not yet read her work. Thank you!

  18. Susan

    DEAR Mr. TOP CAT – You are a fortunate man to have such a talented parrtner. AMAZING ARTist. GENEROUS IN SPIRIT. Please select me for this lovely book. I too do not generally read fiction but based in Vivian’s comments, I know this will be a worthwhile read. THANK YOU

  19. Oh Pleee luzzzz pick me! I love Elizabeth Gilbert and her new book is on my wish list and can’t wait to read it πŸ˜‰ I fell in love with her honestly after I watched her TED Talk. She is so funny and honest and dear. Love her! and you too of course!

  20. Jeannie

    Aye Lassie, it has been lonely since you have been gone! (Immitating my Scottish great grandfather.) Welcome back! I though of you and the cat tutorial when I saw the bit about Putin drawing a cat for school children. πŸ™‚ I love the English garden. Those little upside down flower pot like things that they put on bean poles have always intrigued me. The “orange kangaroo” is a sight to see in that blue sky. Gilbert’s book looks gorgeous! When I saw the end papers, I drooled. Have a wonderful weekend!

  21. Patricia

    ooh ooh ooh! I’ve done the little clay pot on sticks thing! Thank you Kate for noticing them in the painting. It’s the top of a simple trellis. The little pot helps hold the top together (they’re just tied or wired together). But mostly it’s just for fun.

  22. Carly

    I’m so glad you’re back!!!

    Beautiful garden painting, a joy for this Saturday morning.

    I’m with Alexandra. Can you tell us why you panted this front to back?

    Can’t wait for the cat lesson — and of course I’m a huge lover of all things Elizabeth Gilbert and would love to win that gorgeous new book.

    thank you for such a wonderful post. God to see you back.

  23. I, too am curious why you painted it front to back. It seems like a lot of waiting for drying time so you didn’t drag your hand through what you’d just done. ??? I love the brickwork and all the little bits of light you left peeping through the foliage.

    I would LOVE to win that book–the botanical prints alone would make me buy it. Also looking forward to your cat demo–I have several of my own who are waiting to be immortalized.

  24. Bev

    I just flew back from Europe via the Flying Kangaroo out of JFK. I wonder if you were trying to photograph it as I was waiting to board it for my return flight home!

    And you’ve definitely caught my interest in Elizabeth’s new book. I’ll have to look out for it here.

  25. Joan

    So glad you’re back in Bloggo Land…I’ve missed my Fri. morning visits to see what you’ve written to make me laugh out loud or painted another demo which I love to follow…

    Hope I win…Put in a good word for me with Top Cat! HA!

  26. Thea

    You had me at deckle-edges, Top Cat in your Manor.

    I’ve enjoyed a London Garden, and you’ve got one down, and will illuminating lesson too.

    Have you been to Eccleston Square? Such a garden!

  27. Mindy

    Glad to have you back. I save reading your blog for my Sunday morning lazy start and it was delightful to see a new post when I checked in this morning.

    I grew up under the flight path of an Air Force base. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned most teachers do not stop mid sentence to wait for very loud things to pass overhead. The best part was waiting for the sonic boom that followed the roar of a fighter jet going over. The boom was our signal that the teacher would begin speaking again.

    Can’t wait to see the cat demo. My poor kitty has been holding the same pose for several weeks now as I tell her to just wait until I learn how to draw her.

  28. Welcome back — you are always missed! And I am EAGERLY awaiting your cat tutorial, but awfully glad to see you painting again!

    Sounds like a wonderful time — and we all need times like that!

  29. Judy Jennings

    Yes, Vivian, PLEASE–what the others said about your putting your painting demos into a book. I have a big shelf full of that kind of book, but your style and step-by-step is so much more helpful than those. I’m very sincere. PLEASE.

  30. Sherrilee

    Welcome home, Vivian! Thanks for the great photos – especially the kitty behind the sheers. My youngest kitty loves sheers and curtains as well.

    Tom Cat – pick me, pick me!! I’ve enjoyed all of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books so far!

  31. Carol

    Top Cat!! Please pick me! Those illustrations are beautiful! (I refer to the Swift illustrations and those done in the Gilbert book!) Sammy is a doll! If he’s your mother’s cat, does that make him Penelope’s uncle??? Us Southern people and our connections!

  32. Laurie Alvandian

    Welcome back πŸ™‚

    In all honesty, you and Elizabeth Gilbert are two huge reasons why I’m packing my bags next year and traveling the world. Crossing my fingers I’ll be the recipient of that lovely book. You can always use a little bit more inspiration…



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