I Made a Mistake and Then I Fixed It.

Now that the Steve Situation is settled. . .

Steve is not in this picture. But feel free to take a seat, and read the rest of this blog post.

. . . I have freed up the part of my brain that has been obsessed with him for the past many weeks and can now think deep, meaningful thoughts.

But first, let’s paint:

This is a scene from Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny (France). It’s called The Grande Allee, and it’s a long pathway of flowers over which six arches arch, and at the end there’s two huge old Yew trees that frame the front door to Monet’s pink house. Here’s a photo of it that I got off the internets (it shows the allee on a sunny Summer morning, judging by the shadows):

Photo credit: Cindy Carlsson

And here are my own reference photos that I took on my most recent 3-day Spring visit to Giverny:

That last photo is more useful when I crop it way small:

I am mashing up my own reference photos with photos of this view that I’ve studied in books about Giverny, reason being that I want to paint a Summer view and all my own ref pix were taken in Spring (no roses). So, here’s another look at the false start I made on getting this Summer view painted:

What was I thinking?

Those flowers on the right side are awful, but since it took me much agony to work out the perspective of those damn arches (I draw very lightly in pencil, so you can’t see how many times I’ve erased), it filled me with dread to have to draw them all over again so what did I do?

I rescued it:

I painted a new right side on a separate piece of paper, I cut it out, and I placed it over the offending bits. I did not yet glue it into place because I wasn’t sure the rest of the pic would work and I might have to use that rescue bit again, if the rest of the painting went badly. So for the time being, it’s held in place with scotch tape:

Confession: As a rule, I don’t care for yellow flowers. At least, not flowers on stalks. Dandelions are adorable, and I like buttercups, but yellow tulips, and delphiniums, and the verbascum in Monet’s late Summer garden do not appeal to me. (And I really don’t like daffodils.) But I’m really happy with the way I got the yellow to shimmer here. Remember: bleeds will make or break your picture.

The roses on the arch…I don’t know:

Ugh. Red roses. The important thing is to blend in the rescue by painting into it:

So far:

If you know me, you know that this is the bit that I LOVE doing, the teeny little detail of Monet’s front steps and open door:

Can you see the very light blue blob to the right of this doorway? And can you see the way it bleeds into the green? I am crazy in love with this effect — you can’t paint delicate tracery like that; you only get it if you let your watercolors bleed — let the paint and the water do the work!

I’m going to be bold with my use of black, which I mix heavily in with green for the Yew trees:

Instead of blue sky in the background, I’m using yellow foliage to bring in the sun, and to balance that glowing bit of yellow on the right side:

At this point, I’m 90% sure that I can’t ruin it, so I’ve glued the rescue bit into place.

I’m going for more drama, with a very very blackish-green again:

This is very boring to paint, because it’s just filling in the dark background. The only challenge is to use to a very teeny 00-size brush when you get to the details, to paint around those itty bitty bits of roses.

I ruled out the edges because, Why paint any more than you have to?

I think I might use this for the cover for my Monet Garden book:


Tea bag for scale but now that you mention it, I could go for a nice cup.

And now I hope to never paint another Monet garden scene again. I started doing watercolor sketches of this garden in 2012, when I thought I might include it in my last book, the one about 9 of the best gardens in the world (Gardens of Awe and Folly):

The allee in Spring, looking away from the house.

But it’s too big a garden, and I knew I’d have to make it its own book:

The allee in Spring, looking away from the house. I hoped to avoid having to paint the house but alas, in Monet’s garden, sooner or later, you have to.

This (below) isn’t mine — it’s by the renowned French landscape painter, Fabrice Moireau:

Just shows you how another artist handled all those yellow flowers. I didn’t do the double arches because it was too hard. But if I change my mind I can still go back and add them in. I know all the tricks when it comes to rescuing a watercolor because I’ve made all the mistakes.

Before we part for another week, I want to take moment to let you know that the world lost an outstanding cat last week. Our Dear Reader Janet had to say good-bye to her girl, Smokey:

Smokey was a heart’s true companion, a peacekeeper in health and a courageous soul in sickness. Shine on, you sweet sunbeam.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your rescues be warm and furry, and all your thoughts deep and meaningful. (Since I’ve wrapped up the Steve Situation, I’ve been wondering about the possibilities of personal evolution. How much have you changed since you were 18? I have a story for you next week.)



14 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan

    Oh Janet, sincerest condolences on the passing of Smokey. Hope the Steve situation is really settled. Fingers crossed. Cats can be contrary at times.

  2. Casey

    Dear Janet, your Smokey looks like a very sweet girl. I’m sure she knew how much she was loved, and I’m sure she also knows how much she is missed. Look at her, setting herself under the Christmas tree like she’s the best gift! Which of course, she was, she was.

    Vivian: I love the Monet allee. I love the teeny tiny doorway. I love the yellow glow. I really love watching you paint.

    If you’re finished with his garden, what’s next? What can we look forward to watching you paint NEXT???

    (Please, never stop panting.)

    I hope Steve stays put but as Megan wrote, cats are contrary and Steve trikes me as very contrarian.

  3. Adrienne

    I loved seeing all the steps of your latest painting. Am actually hoping that you will share more of “all the tricks when it comes to rescuing a watercolor” (I’ve made “all the mistakes” and more but haven’t yet learned the tricks to fix them…) I also loved your painting of the allee in Spring – especially those dark purple tulips in the middle and those tiny light blue flowers in the front. Beautiful!

  4. Carol

    Janet, it’s so hard to lose a kitty. I lost my very sweet Buster two years ago and my daughter just lost her Molly. Smokey was loved. One thing that helps is giving your heart to another kitty in need.
    Vivian, your finished book cover is beautiful. I’m looking forward to this book!

  5. Oh, first off, sending hugs and healing wishes to Janet. I think so many of us know what we felt when our beloved cat moved on and we live it over a little bit every time we hear of another. I’m so very sorry about Smokey.

    Vivian, the painting is lovely — most definitely a cover! I remember long ago thinking a Monet book had to happen (I didn’t realize it would drink you bonkers!) But I can’t wait for it to be in my very own hands. It will be a treasure.

    Love that you know how to fix all the mistakes because you have made them before. I might have to save that line as one of my mantras. Of course, I’ve made them; I just haven’t mastered the fixing yet!

  6. Lovely painting — can’t wait to see the book!

    “How much have you changed since you were 18?” you ask. When I was 18, I loved drawing & painting, writing, reading, dachshunds, and rock’n’roll. I hated The Establishment, airplanes, my home town, and big cities. Today, at 63, I love drawing & painting, reading, dachshunds, birds, gardening, and the Blues. I hate The Establishment, airplanes, and big cities (even though I live in one). I actually now really like my home town. So not a lot of difference other than 30 extra lbs (same hair style, same lack of fashion sense), more close friends, and more education. I didn’t have a job then (in college), and I don’t have a job now (retired!). Goodness how time flies. I’m curious to hear your story next week!

  7. Kirra

    Sorry to hear about Smokey, you must miss him Janet. Pets are precious!

    So glad you’ve had a ‘relaxing’ week without needing to worry about Steve, those clear tables obviously did the trick.

    I really love watching you paint (even though I’m not a painter at all) and am always amazed when you tell us how you love doing the teeny tiny parts! Personally I don’t think I could ever handle that type of pressure, ha ha. Your Monet paintings are lovely and I am really looking forward to seeing your book about it and hopefully visiting the garden one day.

  8. Janet

    Vivian, thanks for introducing your friends and followers to Smokey. And many thanks to all of you who’ve commented on Smokey’s passing. She was a truly remarkable cat until her last breath. Your kind words are so much appreciated — it takes a lot of getting used to when there is one less family member, and everything changes and feels so different.

    Wouldn’t it be lovely right now to be walking under the rose arches in Vivian’s oh-so-welcoming mini painting of such a beautiful garden on a sunny summer day? It would be balm for the soul to be able to stroll through such a colorful place with scent upon scent wafting through the air. I love the light in the painting and the softness of the flowers. Vivian, I think your new book is going to be wonderful.

  9. ann

    I loved the dark green in the sky area. You really pulled it off. The red roses really invite the viewer into the garden. Great picture.

    How much have you changed since you were 18? I had dreams of being a doctor and a great piano player, but learned I had a limited ability to memorize and no ear for music. However, it has been interesting to discover what my talents are. I think I really didn’t know myself then. I love to solve detailed technical problems and enjoy painting with all its detail.

    Janet, my kitties are such great friends, so I am so sorry to read of Smokey’s passing.

  10. Love your “DONE” Monet picture. Each time I visit here and see Monet’s garden I want to go there again .
    RIP, dear Smokey! Happy Steve is taken care of and all is well.

  11. Leslie

    Dear Vivian, The mysterious open door is a beautiful image for a book cover. Congratulations on your success and perseverance. Are you going to use the embroidered letters too? I am looking forward to the book, and all your renderings. I think you are generous to pull back the curtain and share your techniques, as well as showing us the work that doesn’t measure up to your standards. Having a standard to measure the work is what keeps the crap out of the portfolio.
    As far as changes over the last fifty years…I will get back to you on that. Good question, kind of a mysterious, half-open door. Peace, Leslie

  12. Becky

    First of all my condolences to Janet on losing Smokey. You feel like part of your soul is ripped out when you lose a beloved pet. Smokey had the best home and was so loved….you could tell from the picture of her under the tree….so content.
    I LOVE the cover for the Monet book. Can’t wait to add it to my collection. Somewhere down the road you should think about a book on the antics of cats….you have a lot of material.
    How am I different from when I was 18 or a mere pup in life. I have always wanted to paint and am finally doing it. Have gotten over (sometimes) the failure part and using those times to learn. I am not as gullible…..much more cautious….more appreciative of friends and blessings I have. Also, I don’t feel as emotionally anxious as I did when I was 18,20ish…even 30ish. There is a level of calmness to my days. But physically when I look in the mirror I am so amazed at the old person looking at me….I don’t feel old, but I can tell I don’t work as hard as I did…also I don’t really care if things don’t get done. It has made me happier.

  13. I’m sorry to hear about Smokey. The loss of anyone’s pet is a sad day!

    It’s interesting to watch your painting process, to see the infinitesimal steps that add up to the whole, and to see what steps you have to fix. It’s also interesting to see another artist’s interpretation of a similar scene. Amazing how different two approaches can be!

  14. Bunny

    I find it interesting, that not all the comments have answered your question, regarding changes of their lives, from when they were 18. Not at all shocking is that most of the commenters talk about the many years that have passed since high school/college, as opposed to readers being 25 or 30 now, so it would have been only 10 years or so. I was in my freshman year in college at 18, and I’ve changed in many ways, over the last 45 years.
    I have much more confidence in myself now, and trust my own intuitions, as I had so much doubt, and insecurity when I was younger. I believe I’m much happier now, as back then, I had no clear understanding on my own issues, and how I fit into the world. Now, I know how insignificant I really am, in this big old goofy world.
    My work ethic has evolved to enjoying what I do, instead of hating the concept of “work”. My life then, was more about play, now, I enjoy my work, both on, and off the job. Simple tasks give me pleasure now, back then, they were chores that had to be done.
    Relationships are much more real now, one must realize the good, and bad, and adjust, back then, they seemed so superficial, and when things went awry, it was easy to ignore the issues, and bury the problems.

    Reflecting on this topic is very thought provoking, and its a great way to really think about the person you have become. Now I realize that I want to be more feline like, and just laze the days away, curled up on my
    own little warm blanket, and have my 3 square meals a day.

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