That Was Then. This Is Now. I Like Then Better.

This is October on Long Island:P1040221

Same place, same time of day, this is now:


This was me, a mere 10 days ago, taking a photo that I forgot to load onto last week’s blog post:


Ahhhhhh…. Good book, warm Fall sunshine, nice knot garden on view, and a big fat G&T in the thermos.

It’s been raining for four days (see now pic, above). I haven’t seen the sun for four days. The only bright spot has been re-reading Big Magic:


Throw away any book, video, or blog by any other  “creativity” counsellor, particularly if that “creativity” counsellor is famous only for being married to Martin Scorcese for 5 minutes. This is the only How To advise you will need.

Elizabeth Gilbert cows what she’s talking about when she talks about creativity — she’s the author of Eat Pray Love (and she blurbed my book, Le Road Trip, so you know she has impeccable taste), not to mention Pilgrims (her first book, from 1997, awarded the Pushcart Prize and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award), Stern Men (selected by the New York Times as one of their favorite books of 2000), The Last American Man (a nominee for the National Book Award), Coyote Ugly (made into a Hollywood movie), and the historical novel The Signature of All Things.

Liz Gilbert lives a creative life and she gets things done. That’s why you can take her advise all the way to the bank (the Bank of Artful Living, that is).

Now, fear (as in the subtitle, covered in her chapter on Courage) is not my thing per se, but I found her chapters on Enchantment, Persistence, and Trust to be re-re-re-readble. When I went to hear Liz speak at Word Books in Jersey City on Oct. 29th:


…and was chatting with a few ladies in the audience as we tried to keep our nerves calm for when Liz appeared on stage, I know that there are people who also love her chapters on Permission and Divinity too.

By the way, the line of ladies waiting to get into the event (reservations necessary) went down the block:


I hope Big Magic puts all self-proclaimed (but resume-challenged) “creative” counselors out of business.

Speaking of enlightenment, I realized that it’s been a while since I painted something enlightening in this space; I haven’t painted “light” like this:


Since I painted this:

P1040740in a blog post I called Painting August.

So let’s call this:


Painting October. And let’s make it a Triscuit!


I’m laying down a yellow base to use as the light that is going to peek thru the foliage:


And some bleeds of light brown and burnt sienna for the dead leaves on the foot path:


Now, the foreground tree:


Whenever I paint foliage, no matter what color it is, I dab at the paper with the tip of y brush, whether it’s a size 00 or a 10. But I take care to make sure that my dabs vary in size — it’s very important to make the blobs in different shapes to avoid the dreaded Seurat effect:


So let’s carry on:






Time to add shadows:


Tree time:


I can see that I need to make the shadows as dark as the tree bark here…


…so I’ll do a fix and add more darker shadows:



Now I pant in all those itty bitty background trunks:


For the finishing foliage I’m loading up my little brush with green to add to the blob of black/brown that I used for the shadows:


The trick to this silhouetted foliage is to paint it in an interesting form that frames the rest of the picture:


Like this, but not quite:


I think it needs just a little bit of booster material:



And here’s my finished tid bit:


I liked this view of October so much that I decided to try it out in a quadruple-Triscuit sized mural!


And we’ll see how that turns out next week!



15 Comments, RSS

  1. L.L.

    I took your workshop last week and am still in awe of your talent and your humor and the marvelous painting tips you gave u s. Thank you for the inspiration you gave me to keep painting every day. I loved seeing the Triscuits up close and I loved watching you paint one today.

  2. Casey

    Everytime I watch you paint step by step I always think, yeah I could do that. Hah Hah! But I know I can for sure get me a thermos of nice cold G&T and look at the last of the Fall colors and think about how vivian would paint the view in front of me.

  3. Mary

    Good one, Casey. RE; pour and sit and watch. Do paining like Vivian? Not so much.
    Love your work, Vivian. Fun to read and see how you can make something out of water, paint and nice paper. You KNOW how to do it.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Love the concept of the quadruple triscuit! And as Casey said, everytime I read I think “I could do that.” Doesn’t quite work that way, and I think back to your other posts and the do-overs and feel a little bit better! Simply lovely, this fall! And so fleeting!

  5. LOVE your fall triscuit, Like Casey, when I see your step-by-step tutorial I have a moment of delusion in which I think ” I could do that”. But maybe I could do a stem of sort-of flowers using tiny, random size dots – going to give it a whirl.

    I have no doubt about my capability in the sitting, reading, drinking, admiring the view abilities.

  6. Deborah Hatt

    Thanks for the book recommendations. Off to the library I go, to take a peak at this author. Then, a pot of tea, my snuggy blankie, and my lap kitty. Ahhhhh!

  7. Cheryl

    Thank you for your recommendation of Big Magic. I started reading it the other day and have been inspired. I have been quoting Ms. Gilbert’s words on courage to my nursing students, and I have been inspired to be more creative myself.

    And thank you for you demos. Love them and find them encouraging.

  8. Patricia

    Nearly all our fall leaves are lying in soggy heaps on the ground. It’s been raining and raining and raining … did I mention rain? At least I can see beautiful fall days in your posts.

    And yes, I too share the foolish illusion that I too, could follow the steps and paint just like Vivian.

  9. PS

    Ma’am, I have only one thing to say. I feel inspired. Thank you for the wonderful inspiring art. And the book. Very soul queching. (I just came up with this unusual expression “soul queching”)

  10. Cathy

    Hi, I just came across your blog when searching on Pinterest. I’m a newcomer to watercolor and love your style…much like my own. I’d like to sign up for your blog but didn’t see a place to do that. Beautiful work!!!
    Please add me to your distribution list.


    • Vivian

      Hi Cathy —

      Welcome, and thank you for your interest. I have no idea how to sign you up. This blog is my half-assed way of staying in touch with readers so it’s never been run by a professional. It’s run by me, and I barely know how I do it. But I blog every Friday, if you’d like to drop by. I don’t do much paining any more because I dont’ ave a project in the works, but I do other things to keep busy. I cut up books and resist Trump. Hope you’re a fellow traveller.


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