Wednesday night, the night before the Winter cyclone hit the northeastern United States, I set out your first Champagne-O-Meter of 2018 to record all the nastiness that this blizzard could dump on Yours Truly.
Thursday morning, I woke up to this:
The REAL snow started falling around dawn (7:19 am), so that by 8 o’clock visibility was lousy:
(Then I was painting and forgot about the storm for a blessed two hours.)
The snow was pretty much over by 2 o’clock in the afternoon and didn’t rise any higher than this (above) and I was busy shoveling and being miserable so I didn’t take follow up pix (sorry).
Here is the cause of all my misery today:
If you remember (from last week), I had installed Steve, our three-year old outdoor cat, into a spiffy straw nest under the holly tree by our front stoop. WELL. There have been big developments in the Steve Situation this week. Thanks to the ingeniousness of my husband, the dear sweet Top Cat, Steve now has a specially-made, extra-strength outdoor kitty HEATING PAD in his nest:
Now, this is not my preferred Steve Situation. I would prefer it if Steve would come inside, but I’ve been trying to coax him all year and he has NO interest in becoming a house cat.
My second choice would be for him to install himself in his cubby in our garage, like he did last year; I’ve put all new straw into his cubby so that he could hunker down in a toasty cocoon, if he chose.
Here’s Taffy, who is clearly the smartest cat in the herd, using Steve’s cubby on Tuesday night:
Oh, I wish Steve would crawl into this space and let me have a good’s night’s sleep, knowing that he was warm on these bitter cold nights. But so far this year, he has not gone near the garage.
So, last weekend, making the best of a bad Steve Situation, I got busy making him a new cubby. I used the top of an enclosed kitty litter tray, cardboard, and one of those space-age mylar/aluminum thermal insulation blankets that I bought at REI:
I cut cardboard inserts that fit the kitty litter tray lid, and I wrapped them in the thermal blankets:
I put this awesome contraption on top of the heating pad and, to lure Steve back into this new, improved Steve Situation, I tossed in some of his favorite treats:
It was a bitter cold 10 degrees out there, and when I put my hand inside to refill the treats, the inside of this new, improved Steve Situation felt sooooo warm!! And Steve was happy to step inside this new, improved Steve Situation to eat the treats, and then he was happy to make a quick exit.
Over and over, I threw in Steve’s favorite treats, and over and over Steve refused to spend any quality time curled up inside. We played this game over the course of seven hours but I could not get Steve to not freak out about being enclosed in this new, improved Steve Situation, so finally I had to remove the new cubby. For my own peace of mind, however, I put up pieces of plexiglass that I hoped would protect him from the on coming Winter cyclone, and Steve was content with that:
On Thursday morning, I woke up to this:
This was before the wind became really fierce and before the snow started to fall like crazy and Steve’s Situation became complete covered in snow. I gave Steve his breakfast, and I shoveled the front stoop, but Steve abandoned the nest shortly after 9 o’clock. I shoveled a path through a foot of snow from the front stoop to the garage, and I kept it clear all day with repeated shovelings and I’ve been calling him all day, but I haven’t seen Steve.
At 4 o’clock, I removed the entire nest. That is, I cleared out all the old straw (there was a LOT of it) and I took the wet fleece cover off the heating pad. I laid down a LOT of all new, clean, dry straw (I buy it by the bale each Fall) and I covered up the heating pad with straw, too. So the nest is nice and warm again. But no Steve.
I am heartbroken, but all I can do is wait, and hope that Steve comes back home.
But let’s take our minds off the Steve Situation and let’s paint something. There is a view of Claude Monet’s famous Japanese bridge in his water garden in Giverny, France that I really, really hate:
I really hate having to paint this bridge. I don’t like doing structures, and I don’t much like having to paint wisteria — it’ such a persnickety flower. And, as you can see, I’ve already given it a few tries, with little success. But, since I’m doing a book about Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, the wisteria-covered Japanese bridge must be painted.
So, in this forth attempt, I changed format a bit to put the bridge off-center and to include some background context for added interest. I like to start with the hardest part of a painting as a way of cutting my losses if it doesn’t turn out well, so that’s why I had the background almost completely finished before I started to do the wisteria:
I wanted to have “fun” with the flowers here, and get some groovy purple-blue bleeds going on:
I also had fun doing that deep background bit that you at the very end of the Japanese bridge. But at this stage, the wisteria didn’t look right to me — the shape of the blossoms wasn’t right:
Time for a famous Vivian Swift rescue.
First, I painted a small bunch of wisteria and cut it out:
Then I check to see if it fits the scene:
Then I glued it in place:
Next, on my third attempt, I came up with a larger piece that had interesting bleeds:
Now for the annoying bits. The vines:
The “superstructure” — the supports of the canopy over the bridge:
The annoying fiddly bits of railing:
I wish I could leave it just like this:
But no, I can’t leave it like this. I will have to paint the walkway of the bridge. Even worse, I’ll have to paint it as it would look on a sunny day, which means I’ll have to paint the shadows of the railings.
I don’t mind shadows. See page 28 of Gardens of Awe and Folly:
The problem I have with these shadows on Monet’s famous Japanese bridge is the photographs that I am using for reference for this picture.
First, there’s this photo that I took when I was in Giverny in December of 2015:
I’m also using a photo of the bridge that I took in early May of 2013:
As you see, in both instances the sun was not making an appearance. I have no idea what this view look like on a sunny day!
But part of my job as an illustrator is to use my imagination, nest-ce pas?
Tune in next Friday to see how — if — I pull this off.
Until then, I will keep this post open for updates on the Steve Situation and, if he makes me the happiest cat lady on Long Island by making a re-appearance, I will IMMEDIATELY let you all know.
Please, Steve. I’ve left the porch light on. Please come home.
7:37 pm, Friday night: STEVE IS HOME!!!
It’s been about 30 hours since I last saw Steve, and temperatures have been frigid. I have been calling for him day and night, and today I even waded into knee-deep snow to hunt for Steve’s body underneath the shrubs that border our property. I feared the worst.
Tonight, Top Cat and I had just finished dinner and I was going to start washing up but the thought passed through my mind that if Steve is Out There, he probably hasn’t eaten in a day; I should put out a fresh food. So I filled a bowl with kibble, opened the front door…
….AND THERE WAS STEVE, HOLLERING AT ME FOR BEING LATE WITH THE GRUB!!! As if nothing had happened. Mind you, I had called for him earlier, at 5 o’clock (normal diner time), and at 6…BUT HERE IS !!!
He’s still eating his first bowl of food, with a side of fresh water. I OF COURSE will stay close and see if he needs more. His heating pad has been on since dusk, at 5 o’clock, so if he stays the night he can curl up in his nest and all will be forgiven.
OMG OMG OMG. I cannot tell you how relieved I am — I have been morose and scared and depressed since he lest on Thursday morning. Thank you, Universe, for bringing STEVE HOME!!!