It’s Just Another Winter Day, And Probably Not The End of American Democracy As We Know It

Last week’s painting:

I give it a 5 out of 10. And that’s only because I’m looking at it cross-eyed and from across the room and there’s a really nice CD playing in the background which puts me in a good mood, namely Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, and because, by my count, there are only 310 minutes left in the day in which I have to stay sober and that makes me very happy indeed.

So, this (above) is a 5-out-of-10 picture. Well, I am not a 5-out-of-10 kind of person. Nope. Not me.

So today I am going to take out another piece of paper from my stash of specially-cut 90-lb Canson  (perfect for doodles) . . .

. . . and I am going to do this:

Yes, this week I am at it again, only this time I’m going to start the bleeds from the top (Literally. You can check out last week’s painting — I started the bleed at the bottom last week, which was very whimsical of me):

Next, I’m dabbing in a really strong gray here (below), which would appear to be far too dark except for my secret knowledge that this paint will turn much lighter than this when it dries:

While the pic is still wet . . .

. . . I will “pick up” some of the paint (again, this is different from last week’s strategy):

I used a hair drier to get this show on the road, which is why there is an unsightly puddle there on the right edge. Guess what’s going to be cropped out at the end of this pic???

Feeling much less ham-handed today than I did last week, I am using my China White watercolor here for this next step, instead of acrylic, since I really loathed the way I could not control the acrylic paint the last time I attempted this:

Today let’s see what happens when I “shadow” these white trees like this:

And then, let’s see how it looks when I paint in the background come ca:

I’ve always said that the only thing that makes me a decent painter is not that I have innate talent; it’s because I’m willing to PRACTICE until I can turn a 5-out-of-10 skill into at least a 7-out-of-10 aptitude. This is AFTER:

And this was BEFORE:

All I can say is that it’s BETTER. Not good, but BETTER. And if you keep at it, my darlings, you can not help but get better and better and better, even if (and this is the lesson of this week’s post) the range of improvement isn’t drastic, it’s still worth it to try, try, try, try again. Example follows.

This week, I am painting this:

I’m doing just the one tree, in the front there. I don’t recall ever painting a snow-drenched ever green before so this is all new to me and you can watch me work it out from step one.

I begin by taking a good look at this photo, to map out where I will NOT be painting — the secret to painting snow is that YOU DON’T PAINT IT. The important thing to understand is that you will be painting around the snow, leaving only blank white paper to “stand in” for the shite stuff.

So, having thought about what I won’t be painting in this tree, I put down just a few pencil lines to indicate the shape of the tree:

I’m using a blue-gray paint because evergreens rarely look green on a snowy day, right?

I’m working with very diluted (watery) paint:

Now I’m painting around the “snow” (which calls for a lot of self-control and attention(:

Of course, since it was a first attempt, it STINKS:

My big mistake was that I had tried to “shade” a big hunk of snowy branch in the middle of the tree with pale blue but it didn’t work. And there is no finesse with the way I’ve laid down the paint inside the tree. I obviously have a lot of room for improvement.

So what do I do?

I try it again, and again, and again. (My final attempt is the one on the lower right.)

Here’s a close up of me using watercolor over those pencil makes I drew on the paper as guide lines for my painting:
Now that I look at this pic in this un-finished state, I kind of like the way this tree looks. Maybe it’s not necessary to paint a background for it after all. Hmmmmmmm. [Pause for thought.]

I will probably incorporate this idea into my painting for next week, when I attack the problem of How To Paint a Deciduous Tree in Winter (see below, the one with all the pointy branches going every which way):

And then I’ll put it all together and we will have a complete Winter scene:


To answer your lovely inquiries about our calico cat, Candy, who returned from her three-month vision quest last November looking much, much the worse for wear, and hunkered down in one corner of the kitchen from which she refused to budge because, having lived with us for 9 years now, she knows that basically we are serial cat murderers who can’t be trusted to get within 10 feet of her.

Candy stared out curled up on the bare floor, but I was able to pull a fast one and get her a small hand towel to ward off the chill (it’s November her perch in the kitchen is near the back door and we live in a 100-year old house that is as hard to keep heated as a birdcage anyway):

One day, taking advantage of her dinner break one evening, I managed to slip an additional fuzzy wuzzy blankie under her to make her old bones a tad more comfy:

Then one day I did the unpardonable. I tucked a heating pad in between the folds of that pink blankie, which was an objectionable level of comfort that Candy refused to have any part of. She abandoned the kitchen and found a “safe” corner on the hard wood of our living room, which meant that  yes, I had to finally wash the kitchen floor, but also meant that I didn’t have to vacuum the L.R. because we still consider Candy a flight risk (yay!) Eventually I was able to sabotage her perch there:

But you know how cats have a thing for not doing what you wish they would do. One day some big boxes full of packing material got delivered to the house, and we unpacked them and carefully arranged the packing material in a place where I would get to them on my next thorough cleaning day basically when hell freezes over, so here is where Candy now spends her days, giving us the stink eye:

BTW, Candy is the mother of two out of three of these lunk heads:

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your Comments and B-day wishes. You are all so kind and caring and I am grateful to have you all in my mind and heart when I sit at this computer and type my report on cats and cups of tea and countdowns to cocktail time.

Here’s to us, my Wonder Ones, on this strange and mournful day:


12 Comments, RSS

  1. Katie

    A quick thank-you to you on this day. I’m about a million months pregnant and thus have to be on extra good self-care/protection during these days. Your books have been a spot of peace and solace for me as I try to navigate this crazy line between hope and realism and practical-response. A happy Friday to you, full of all the good things we’re fighting for and hoping for.

  2. Julie

    Yes, this post salvaged my morning. you painting my favorite: winter trees covered with snow. Feeling bereft up here in Alaska. Maintaining radio silence, but still I hear faint strains of the Game of Thrones theme song coming all the way from King’s Landing.. Trying hard not to move out to my remote cabin and drink for the next four years, and shoot at the empties…I look forward to your posts always..a light in the dark.

  3. Carol S

    My cats love when I get a frame order packed with miles of brown paper. It becomes their habitat for weeks before I heartlessly recycle it. Love “Tiny grass is dreaming”

  4. Bethanie

    Happy New Year! I really like both of your wintry scenes. The first one looks like a very cold winter day after a heavy snow that leaves branches laden with lots of the white stuff. The most recent one looks like a heavy frost filled fog as it get ready to swoop down over the wood. Brrrr!

    I’m glad you are painting again. I decided that this year starting 1/1/17 that I was going to do a journal page a day with each day finding something for which to be thankful. Life sometimes hold many challenges that can get me down so I am making a conscious decision to try to focus more on the positive. So far, I am really enjoying it even though there are some day are easier than others, and I am learning a ton.

    I have been wanting to paint a similar picture as your snow covered evergreen. Thank you for sharing it. Thank you also for being so transparent and showing us how you progress through painting something new. It is encouraging to know that even you have to practice. 🙂 Have a great weekend.
    Bethanie Harmon

  5. Megan

    I see your crack team of assistants are hard at it… who is that cute little fellow on the couch, the black and white kitty? Love the tree really like the second attempt. Have a nice Saturday, this too shall pass. Love the dreaming grass.

  6. Patricia

    Thank you for a smile and a moment of happiness on this rather challenging day. I’m thinking of him as the “interim president” … until we get off our tushes and elect someone much better.

  7. Hi Vivian..

    I did your last tutorial and I loved it..tomorrow..I will try this one..♥

    It might be easier than what my daughter asked if I could do..paint Odell Beckham Junior’s face w/ headphones for one of my grandson’s birthday..Max..the football player..who is INFATUATED w/ OBJ.

    I love conifers in winter..maybe w/ your help I can do something remotely resembling a tree in winter..
    Any OBJ tips?:)

  8. A belated happy birthday Vivian! Aren’t you a lucky girl to have a birthday right in the middle of celebrating all that is new? A new year, new possibilities, new lessons to learn, new opportunities……new, new, new, so lovely. And if I don’t like all of the new–word is we have a new sheriff in town–well I’ll just turn all Scarlet O’Hara and whisper to myself, “After all tomorrow is another day!” I can do that for the next four years, I think. Anyway, hope you and Top Cat celebrated your birthday with your famous blue cake.

    I tried your painting from last week and gave myself a 7, perhaps as my ability improves my grading will get tougher, but why be hard on ourselves when there’s always a fresh sheet of paper? This is the polly-anna version of myself speaking not the mad painter with unwashed hair who balls up the “bad” paintings to throw them in the trash….oh yeah that would be the “real” me.

    Boy do I appreciate your vulnerability in showing us your work in progress on the snow-covered pine tree. You remind me what I so often forget….it’s not a bad painting…’s all learning!

  9. Nancy S

    Love these tutorials, Vivian! I’m telling you again…you need to do a book of watercolor triscuit tutorials. You have some great ideas.

  10. Kirra

    Happy Birthday! Even though I’m late I hope it was full of champagne and coloured cake 🙂

    Great to see more snow paintings! Always lots of novelty value for me here in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s a saying I’ve found ‘practice makes progress, not perfect’ which I think is a good one to remember for myself.

    Your cats are so chilled, I need to learn how to be that relaxed. Good to see Candy venturing to different places, I’m sure she’s glad to be home with you and Top Cat.

    This sign is just the best!!! Thanks for sharing.

    All the best for those of you living in USA at the moment, our politicians aren’t that great but not as bad as your new president.

  11. Karen

    A belated Happy Birthday! And thank you for your wonderful blog. It never fails to cheer me up. You remind me of all the beauty in the world: nature, painting, and cats being some of the best. Friday was a challenging day, but Saturday was much more heartening!

  12. Oh, I am so very glad you are “at it again” this week, because I am inspired by your results, dear Vivian! I liked last week’s wintery “squint”very much, and I adore this week’s “squint” like crazy too! I like the Chinese White trees better than the acrylic ones, as well. Isn’t it grand when all of us great minds manage to think alike?And your snow-covered pines are very icy and wintery indeed! I love them all … but you are right, the lower right one is my favorite, too. Bravo! Bravo, O Stalwart Wintery Watercolorist! It is such a delight to see your paintings! Thank you! Thank you!

    About crazy kitties and their baffling behaviors … my kitty Nellie is an independent old girl, who HATES to be picked up, but who will (when her highness decides I am worthy) hop up into my lap for a little nap or a neck rub. But the conditions must be “just right,” or FORGET IT! A friend sent me a lap quilt after Thanksgiving … Nellie fell in love with the quilt and made my lap her favorite place as long as it was covered with this quilt. Well, how nice for me! But then, our youngest son gave me a scrumptiously snuggly, super-soft, fuzzy lap blanket for Christmas. (pulling it up over me is like being suddenly enveloped with the graces of heaven, let me tell you! Oh. My. Goodness! Is that thing soft and warm!) You guessed it … Nellie will NOT allow it to TOUCH her, even a tiny iota! She is filled with angst and outrage if she jumps up on the arm of my chair, only to find the hated blanket on my lap, at which time she glares at me with her most glaring “Look.” How frustrating! Goofy cat! She can be the sweetest girl, and I know she loves me in her own aloof way … but she hates that blanket more I fear. Spoiled kitty!

    I eagerly await your up and coming wintery tutorial, my friend! Oh, and BTW … I adore the photo of the Grass Sign! That alone made me smile a very big smile … Thanks for all the smiles, Vivian. Happy Trails!

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