The Making of Toast

I start with a pencil drawing of a corner in a tiny walled garden of C. W. Post college:


After applying dots of resist, I try to mix paints for a color that looks like old brick (doesn’t that blob of paint below look more like a crusty bit of old coagulated ketchup? I know: Ewwwwww.):


I used to love painting bricks and stones, but it’s been a while since I last did a brick pic:



While the bricks dry, I paint a foreground flower bush of some sort (I’m not good on naming flora, as you Dear Readers well now — but whatever this flower bush thing is, it lets you see the resist better now — it’s the yellow stuff):


Here is when I decide that the bricks are too dark; they stand out too much compared to the flower bush thing. So I take a wet paper towel and I dab up some paint:


Generally, this is not a smart thing to do — I speak from much previous experience — but I thought I could get away with it here because all I want to do is make something that looks like old brick, for which paper towel won’t be a deal-breaker. I do the deed, and then I start to hum my “Finish Painting a Flower Bush and Another Shrub” song :



Please note (above) that I have applied strokes of resist over a lightly-painted yellow-green foreground. Now see (below) how I am going to paint OVER the resist on that yellow-green background:


I remover the resist in the flower bush, and in the yellow-green background, and VOILA:


And now I’m going to hum my “Painting In The Row of Shrubs” song:



I hope you don’t mind if I  point out the unpainted tree truck (above). As you can see, there’s a blob of yellow and green paint on it. Up until this moment I have been very faithful to the photograph from which I am painting this pic…which included a tree with a bit of fernery or something that was growing out of the lowest bit of its trunk (still present in the painting below):


I knew the minute that I painted that ferny thing that it was not going to work. It just looked weird there, that unexplainable fern thing that looks like I don’t know how to paint, and it was only a tiny digression from the subject matter anyway, so I exercised my Artistic License and I lifted the ferny thing off the trunk the same way I done it on the brick walkway. As ou can see below, the ferny thing is gone now:


In case you are keeping score, no rescues have happened yet. So far, I’ve only made minor corrections — I didn’t botch this pic up until much further down the road. Stay tuned:





Ta Da:


This is when I thought the picture was DONE!  But, upon closer inspection, I saw that the tree was lop-sided, so I swooped in for my first Rescue:


Picking UP paint is not a rescue: having to apply white acrylic over a mistake, and then having to paint over it to match the rest of the pic…THAT’S a rescue. See the white acrylic paint on the lower right side of the tree’s foliage? That’s Rescue No. 1.

But, having fixed the wonky foliage, I now considered this painting DONE! YAY!


But alas, I take a careful look at my source photo:


And I smack myself right between my eyes. The problem is obvious. All the that I was painting this pic, I had it in my head that the tree was a pom pom. No matter how many times I referred back to this photo, I only saw the tree as a pom pom. But now I can plainly see that the damn thing is a mushroom. So, yes, with your brain in cahoots, your eyes will deceive you.

And so I begin Rescue No. 2 with a layer of white acrylic paint over the area that I’ll have to fix:


I apply the background of yellow paint, and I darken the color of the sky, and I put in a few patches of blue in the tree for good measure. Yeah, it looks like crap. That background area is simply too large a picture space to cover up with white acrylic paint. The acrylic was gloppy and stood out to much against the small-toothed 90 lb. paper I use:


And so, I begin Rescue No. 3 with a clever cut out:


Oh, by the way, I’m on Day Two of this piece. So far I have about 4 – 5 hours of painting time in this pic.


I’m not humming now, I’m praying Please let me get away with this.  I paint in a convincing background, I give thanks to the great DoG in the sky, and I almost start to tell myself By Jove, I think I’ve got it…until I take a good look at what I’ve done to the tree — the left side of the tree needs a curve, dammit. But this does not call for a rescue…


…because all I need to do here is a pick-up, like so:


And now …

… without further ado …

… I introduce to you, my Dear Readers, my first Piece of Toast of 2015:


The Knot Garden of C. W. Post College, available for one lucky Dear Reader:


By the way, there’s a 4th rescue that I didn’t have the heart to bore you with. If you win this Piece of Toast, you’ll be able to inspect all the rescues up close and personal and fine the 4th rescue! In fact, I think this Piece of Toast is a veritable catalogue of all the ways a painting can go wrong, and it can all be YOURS!

Here’s how I am going to give away this Piece of Toast: My OG Dear Readers know that I usually limit my give-aways to Dear Readers who have Commented on the past 2 posts of this blog. But since this is my first give-away of 2015, and I think there are a lot of new, shy Dear Readers out there, I am going to open this up To One and All this One time.

I had Top Cat pick a number from 1 to 50. I wrote his pick on a slip of paper and I put it in this envelope:


I sealed the envelope:


All you have to do is leave a Comment with your guess of a number between 1 and 50. Next week, you will witness my opening of the envelope and the reveal of the winning number inside.

If, for some rare and strange reason, there are more than 50 Dear Readers who want to own this Vivian Swift Piece of Toast, or if someone else already has guessed your lucky number, please feel free to re-use a number. If that number is the one that Top Cat picked, resulting in a tie between two Dear Readers, the Piece of Toast will go to the Dear Reader who has Commented in the last 2 weeks.

Despite the woes of painting, this pic was fun to do and I know I will be keeping my paint brushes busy in the future with more Triscuits and Pieces of Toast. But Good Luck, everyone, on Toast No. 1!

And have a happy, happy 4th of July!


30 Comments, RSS

  1. Judy Roberts Jennings

    This faithful reader wants toast! And I pick #1.
    I wish wish wish you would write your memoir. I’ll send money NOW for the first copy. It would just HAVE to be good with your way of expressing yourself. Love reading memoirs with humor and yours would be a hoot.

  2. Mary

    I happened to go on your blog at 2:37 a.m., due to waking up in the middle of the night, etc. etc….
    As I read your Post I thought: with the world of copying machines these days, why not copy this beautiful piece several times, and give the winning number the ACTUAL painting, but the rest of us can have a real Vivian Swift gem?
    Sometimes a good idea at 3 a.m. isn’t so good, but once in a while it is.
    The picture is lovely. Long Island has more than I ever knew, as far as awesome gardens.
    Keep us informed if you find any more pleasant places like this one.
    Thanks for the tutorial.

    I choose number 7.

  3. You rescues are always interesting to see.
    I need to practice bricks and trees..Taking a very good if not excellent online class and it makes me see even more clearly what I can’t do;)

  4. Alicia

    I would absolutely love to have an original Vivian Swift in my hands! And oh my oh my, I would love even more to inspect the rescues up close because I can never see them when you show them on your blog they are seamless.

    I’m # 27.

  5. Marg-o

    Another amazing “rescue”. I see it, but I still can’t believe it, so I need to see this Piece of Toast in person.

    Please pick my # 34.

  6. Patricia

    I pick #37. Alas, I didn’t comment last week. I normally do.
    Yes, you write wonderful and delightful stories that bring us back week after week. And waiting patiently for FOREVER for your blog posts to resume. And months of clicking on (just to check) and seeing that damn wombat in a wheel barrel. Now that you’re back, I thing the wombat is cute again.

  7. My guess is 23.

    What a lovely rescued garden! Sorry I’ve not posted of late, I’ve had Stuff to deal with, but I’ve been eagerly reading every Friday morning. I like Mary’s photocopy idea — it worked beautifully for your holiday card of years past. I treasure those.

  8. Janey Miller

    I’m one of your new shy Dear Readers since my sister in law gave me Le Road Trip for my birthday in Feb. I’ve never seen such an honest blog about the creative process. No other artist (sorry, but I do think you are an artist and also a great writer) shows “rescues”. It’s always about their flawlessness and I learn more watching you paint than from such people. I have to try my luck here and my No. is 44.

  9. Monica

    Mary is right, BUT I suggest another idea.
    It will cost you money for the several ( many) paintings you would send. The heavier paper, the cost of mailing, schlepp to the post office or UPS,your valuable time to get people’s addresses ,
    I wd pay money for a Vivian Swift, published artist/writer/traveler/cat lover ,wife of Top Cat.
    Real Housewife of Long Island.
    $5.00 would cover it, maybe, but I’d pay $10.00.
    I pick number 14.

  10. Felicia

    I guess number 27. I love watching the process unfold. You are so brutally honest. It is incredibly helpful as I work on my own paintings to see that even published authors of some repute struggle to achieve their artistic vision. And it’s probably easier to see and perhaps more fun than watching the editing process of words, thought it might be fun to see a piece of prose that you’re really happy with in the end and see where you started and how it evolved.

    I’ve been taking lessons from your writing too. You have an amazing ability to condense an episode to the essential details to make a moving and profound point about life. I’d love to see how some of these start and how you edit, edit, edit.

    Happy 4th of July Vivian, hoping your leg or foot or whatever you injured is much better. You’re our firecracker and I love looking forward to hearing you “pop off” every Friday.

  11. I love your tutorials and your art, however your writing is top notch and always gives me a lift. You deserve equal praise for that without a doubt.

    Please pick No. 5

    Beautiful Garden.

  12. I love your writing – so clean and clear , not easy to do when explaining a process. And funny – did I mention how funny you are? And brave – not easy to share the “ooops” and you do it with flair.

    I, too, love seeing the rescues and you are teaching me to look more carefully. I never see anything that needs to be rescued until you point it out and show your rescue – then I think, “yup, that really is better. She’s so smart.”

    OK, so my lucky number for the toast is 49. Happy 4th.

  13. Melissa

    Vivian. You DO realize that when you are making a painting, even if it’s from an actual garden or a photo of that actual garden, that the ONLY people who will ever know if you change some foliage (or make a mushroom instead of a pom pom) are YOU and possibly the owner (if he or she is that observant, which is highly doubtful). Save yourself all this grief with the fixing and just paint it as you feel it! You’re a good painter and an awesome writer, and you CAN let go of the worry and BE those things. Artful is better than flawless. I applaud your “mistakes.” Having said that, your fixes are instructional, thank you!

  14. Michele

    As usual glad Saturday has rolled around so I can read your blog, I wish it came out more often. I loved your painting but I didn’t think it needed rescuing, however your writing did a few times. Hope you don’t loathe me for saying that but there were a couple of typos. I had a number in my head while I was reading your writings but as soon as I started to read the comments it disappeared so I stopped reading the comments and picked 4 out of the air. Love to win that painting and toast it.

  15. Cathy Ortelle

    I’m picking 49 even though I didn’t check the hoping I have posted in the last two weeks just in case. Brilliant work for a writer who just happens to draw!

  16. Carol McClure

    I like toast. Do we also get to have the painting? as elizabeth taylor once said in a TV ad, ‘number seven has always brought me luck’. Ok, so I paraphrased…I will frame the toast (and the painting) if I win and hang both in a place of honor in my art shed.

  17. Kirra

    Dear Vivian,

    I am a new shy reader! I’m going to enter your competition to win this amazing painting with the number 14.

    I love your books and especially like the combination of writing and painting. I think you are a great writer and really enjoy re-reading parts of your books when I need something to make me happy.

    As a fellow francophile who speaks French for fun I first came across your book Le Road Trip. However When Wanderers Cease to Roam was also fabulous as I love travelling on holiday but like living in my home town too.

    I’m looking forward to reading the Damn Garden Book, even though I’m not a great gardener, I appreciate great gardens.

    I hope you enjoy your post finished book painting and writing. Love your blog posts on a Friday – best time of the week to read them (Friday night or the weekend).

    Best wishes from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 🙂

  18. Joan

    I so enjoy your blog posts showing the process you go through to make a triscuit (is that legal?) painting miniature. If you work double or triple time with the writing phase of publication, I can’t imagine you getting one wink of sleep! Does Top Cat keep a fair distance during this time or is he a pleasant recess from the brain bending work of writing and painting?

    I have a couple of Vivian Swift painting copies! Oh lucky me!

    Thanks for giving so much to your readers. I wouldn’t miss a posting of yours unless I was without power, my computer failed, or my phone died.

    My number is 16.

  19. catrina

    Thank you so much Vivian for sharing all of your painting adventures. I enjoy and love them all and they are always lovely too!
    My pick is 37..
    P.s I love your writing too!

  20. Linda June

    Great drawing–I mean great picture–hopefully it will be a great drawing and you will pick my number: No. 37!

  21. Deborah S. Farrell

    I was going to pick 37 but I saw at least 2 people already guessed it. So, 29 (I think that’s the # of this comment).

    I’m so impressed with how you’ve expanded your painting comfort zone from tea bag to toast!

    You write as pretty as you paint, but it’s the combination of the two that’s world-class.

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