When Wanderers Roam.

 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:

9:30 am:

(Then I was painting and forgot about the storm for a blessed two hours.)

11:30 am:

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!!!

24 Comments, RSS

  1. Mary Lawler

    Oh Vivian! I am thinking about Steve and hope all is well. So glad you aren’t going to make us wait a whole week to hear of his return. Loved your wisteria solution and all the kitty construction solutions. Isn’t it amazing how the harder we work at ensuring kitty creature comforts, the less impressed they are? Holding positive thoughts for Steve’s speedy return!

  2. Megan

    Oh I do hope Steve is okay… he seems to have street smarts so I hope he has just found a good snow proof place to hide out. I can imagine how worried you are. They are sent to try us aren’t they? I totally understand how you wanted to make him comfortable and warm and tried everything but some cats are curmudgeons, he likes to have things his way I guess. I had to say I thought your post was going to chronicle Steve’s entry into the house and joining the inside tribe. Gotta love Taffy though they are clever things and mostly like their creature comforts. I guess you have an empty lounge now?

    • Patricia

      Saturday am So very glad to read that Steve, the outside cat has returned. Thank you for keeping an eye out for all the Steves out there.

  3. Laura

    Steve really resists a roof over his head no matter what the threatening weather. Your shelter options and upgrades are so amenable and humane.
    Thank you for showing us how to paint and to lovingly care for local wildlife.

  4. B

    I hope Steve is safe somewhere. We, too, are dealing with an outdoor cat, who is a twin of Steve. (I tried posting a photo, but can’t). We also are on the North Shore of LI, and I’ve seen “our” cat wandering for the past year within a mile of our house. A month ago, it finally began trusting me, and showing up for food. I haven’t’ seen it since Tuesday, so, I’m fearing for our cat as well.. Fingers crossed that these felines will find a way…

  5. Totally freaked about Steve. I hope he’s safe somewhere, though I’m not sure how he could have found a warmer, more secure home than Chez Vivian provided unless he took advantage of the more inviting offers of actual enclosed walls. I’ll be thinking positive thoughts and hope he comes home very soon.

    I can’t see where you put the first fix on the painting, so it’s pretty clear the Vivian Fix Method is working well. I’ll be anxious to see the final piece — but I have no doubts about your imagination!

    Keep cozy. A Bomb Cyclone. Someone has bomb on the mind…

  6. Even Top Cat is deeply involved in Kitty Care now–fashioning heating pads and all! Your kitties, inside and out, are lucky to have both of you.
    I too join my wishes to everyone else for a speedy Steve return. One scant word of comfort: if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my brother’s Wisconsin farm cats–it’s that cats are survivors. I will hope that for Steve.

  7. Your 5-star accommodations for Steve are amazing. Yet he seems to have a mind of his own. Where are you Steve? Sending thoughts through the universe…willing Steve to return home! Your wisteria cut-outs are really lovely. Love the blue and blue-purple bleed. I once worked with an inventor that liked to type long texts and cut it out using a razor blade to order/layout sentences, paragraphs.and tech illustrations. Interesting methods used of brilliant individuals. Vivian, you are in great company.

  8. Diane

    So glad Steve is back! Just checked in to your blog tonight, and was happy to hear he’s home. He’s a tough little guy. Wish he would come inside though – its too doggone cold out there right now….. 🙂

  9. Diane

    Maybe Steve burrowed in the snow to keep warm. – you guys seemed to have gotten quite a bit from the looks of the wine bottle. With the snow around him and his fur coat, he was protected. Just a theory. Then when he got hungry, he showed back up for supper. Very smart kitty; and he’s cute too!

  10. Mary Lawler

    I sort of carefully, then frantically searched for news of Steve and am so glad to hear your good news!! Love all the pic’s – now you can celebrate with that icy cold champagne-o-meter. Happy New Year for sure!

  11. I am looking at our kittens here, bellies full, stretched out l-o-n-g on their backs on a fuzzy body pillow on the couch…I wish Steve would be a convert to indoor comfort. Such rakish charm earns him a bevy of hand-wringing women across the country. If only Steve could be a little less famous for his daring ways. But if he won’t come inside, at least he comes home.

    I love wisteria. Probably because I have never tried to paint it. I adore the soft in your painting – a vast improvement over the stark winter and even late spring photos of the garden. This Giverny garden seems chock-a-block with challenges.

    Oh, thank you for braving the snow and setting up the Champagne-O-Meter. It doesn’t get much better than snow about 3-inches from the top. From the photos on the news, it looked like Long Island took quite a hit from the storm. So glad you all are fine…and some of you are cozy.

  12. Janet

    Welcome home, Steve! Having recently gone through a similar scare when Daisy disappeared before Thanksgiving and was missing for three days and cold nights, I know all too well all of those horrible feelings that accompany the loss of a pet. And I celebrate with you that Steve found his way back to you just as I did when Daisy reappeared Thanksgiving night. Now every single time you see Steve, a profound sense of gratitude will wash over you to replace the blackness that collected in the pit of your stomach when he was gone. Happy new year, friend!

  13. Oh Steve! I am so glad he found his way home. He definitely is an independent little guy.
    Love your paintings, every step of the way.
    And your champagne-O-meter is the best. Keep warm!

  14. Leanne

    I must admit, I couldn’t read the painting bits when I got the the part that that Steve had gone. I frantically skimmed to the end and then… YAY! Now I can go back to the Giverny painting. 😉

  15. Thank goodness Steve survived the storm! I was sure he’d probably gone to some hidden cat hangout that only he knows about — but it’s a relief to see the evidence that he’s fine. Animals are smart. They know what they’re doing. (Still, how awesome that you gave him a heating pad and a Plexiglas cover! I’m surprised he left at all.)

    The painting looks beautiful, but I can see how it’s a lot of work to get it just right. Especially with no record of the sunlight on that bridge! (Wonder if you can find a sunny shot online somewhere?!)

  16. Glad Steve made it home. So appreciate your painting wisteria on such a frozen, blizzardy week. There is much to unpack and learn in what you’ve shown us. Thanks for letting us watch! Hope your nose is healing beautifully.

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