I Keep Making Mistakes.

I keep making mistakes. In this instance (see below), I made the mistake of painting this little scene too little:

This little scene is from the famous garden of the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet, and I painted it for a little book that I am working on about Claude Monet’s garden. The format of the book has changed since I first conceived to it and now I needed this little scene to grow up, from a little half-page doodle into a full-page picture. I’ve been working on this book idea [off and on] for nearly two years and I am thoroughly sick of it, so I had no intention of going back into it to re-paint any part of this odious garden.

Ha ha, just kidding, in case my future publisher is reading this, I love Monet’s garden and I’m dedicated to capturing its unique forms and inspirational spirit that has charmed and beguiled millions of visitors yadda yadda yadda….

Oh, what to do, what to do? I don’t want to re-paint it, but I need to re-paint it, but I really, really don’t want to.

Time for a rescue!

What you see is what happened after I cut out the bottom bit from a previously-painted picture (a picture that went wrong on the top — never throw anything away!) and glued it on top of the current Work-in-Rescue. Then I painted some background foliage into the upper corner of the pic in order to balance the composition of the scene. As you can suss, the old watercolor was small to completely rescue this picture, so I have to now rescue the rescue. I have to paint something that I can glue into that lower left-hand corner:

The first try was awesome. I love the bleeds that I got there, in the greens and blues.

All I have to do is cut out the part that I need and glue in into place:

I misjudged how big I had to make the rescue-to-the-rescue bit when I cut it out, so I had to add one itty bitty piece of shim when I glued it into place (see above) but it looks to me as if I am going to get away with this rescue.

Next, all I had to do was paint in some tulips and make a few more green blobs and integrate the new rescue into the old rescue and voila:


That was fun! But it’s certainly not museum-quality,not like this watercolor  (below)– titled Landscape — from the famous Museum of Modern Art in New York:

Yeah, that (above) is what watercolor looks like when it’s fine art.

Which reminds me:

Last week I asked you, my Dear Readers, your thoughts on how much you have changed since you were 18. Here’s why:

Two weeks ago I happened to read a news item about an artist, who died in 2016, whose family was suing that artist’s estranged husband for his mishandling of her estate — her “estate” being some quantity of art work done by her, that has been kept in inadequate storage by the estranged husband…the family contends that the estranged husband has damaged the art works, valued at half a million dollars. It was a juicy story that the London Daily Mail picked up from the New York Post.

The name of the artist rang a little bell. I googled her.

Sure enough, I knew her: back in 1976 she and I had been in the same Foundation Course (first year) at a well-known east coast art college. I was 22, older than most of the students who were fresh out of high school; she was 18, fresh out of high school.

I left school, and art, after that first year. My young classmate, on the other hand, stuck with it. She graduated, and then went on to get an MFA. She continued to stick with it until she was 37, when she finally caught the attention of the art world and began to win prestigious awards and sell her stuff to museums and collectors and have solo shows in galleries around the world.

That’s her watercolor — Landscape — above. Here’s another of her highly regarded watercolors (titled Untitled):

But watercolor is not actually the thing she does best — she’s a renowned sculptor:

Sorry about her dying so young, but the more I read all her accolades from the New Yorker and the New York Times and ARTNews etc . . .

. . . the less I could hardly believe what I was reading because the thing is, when I knew this girl, she was the last person I would have picked out as talented.

I am not mentioning her name because, well, I only knew her (and didn’t like her, or her sloppy use of materials, her lack of design skill, or her memorable dopiness) when she was 18, and it’s unfair to hold her accountable after 42 years. Maybe people change from the people they are at 18. Maybe she became brilliant. Maybe she became talented. A lot of critics and art collectors seem to think so. . . and some have even extolled her persistent lack of technical skills and general dopiness: Sometimes she emulates traditional media (here and there her painted wood might pass for ceramic); mostly she’s content to look funkily modern. The result is a vital ensemble in which designed inauthenticity produces something original and expressive.

That review (quoted above) was written by a guy who has won a Pulitzer for criticism. So I guess it’s me, I’m the dope who doesn’t understand what “designed inauthenticity” is, or why badly worked materials is so funkily modern. Obviously, I’m the moron who does not understand how to make art.

But I have to say that her work depresses me. It looks so inadequate to me, and so very dumb. It depresses me that this is what we are supposed to look at these days.

But I know that that is the same thing that art critics said about the impressionists, when Claude Monet and his buddies began to exhibit their work in 1874. Art critics hated the impressionists at first and even as late as 1904, when Monet was getting rich and famous, one journalist could still complain about his style: A house should look like a house, not like a scrambled egg going up a stepladder. 

I think that egg is sunny-side up.

I don’t want to be the idiot complaining about scrambled eggs so I have been looking at more of this artist’s later work, trying to train my eye and get with the 21st century:

Here’s a detail of the above sculpture (maybe it’s an an installation; installation seems to be as hot a thing in the art world today as it was in art school back in the 1970s):

OK. THAT’S cute. I don’t get the fabric heap or the finger paintings taped to the wall, but the dead rat is cute.

Well, we did it. WE GOT THROUGH JANUARY!

If you did January dry, like I did, then you know how slap-damn-scrambled-egg happy you are that Dry January is over over over over over over over, as happy as a Long Island cat taking a dirt bath in his favorite patch of  crud:

Speaking of crud, this is what Paris looks like these days:

The Paris Police sent a drone flying over the Seine and this is a screen grab of the Square du Vert-Galant, which I featured in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly. When it’s not under water, it’s a charming little garden on the last bit of low-lying land left on the Ile de la Cite.

Here’s a better look at my bijoux chateau (lower left corner) that I wrote about as my dream Paris pied-à-terre (pages 14, 15, and 16 for those of you reading along). Alors, all my dream antiques and dreamy objets d’art that I have dreamed about decorating my dream bijoux chateau with are drenched with la grand boue.

Great! Now I get to re-decorate!

I’d say that’s worth popping a cork for.

As if I need an excuse.  Happy February, everyone!



15 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan

    Taffy does look happy, and a cat photo always gladdens my heart. Congratulations on the fix-up, I am amazed, it looks like it is one piece of watercolour not bits pieced together. I am very impressed with the finished product. I know what you mean about people changing and evolving… I worked at an art college when I was twenty until I was twenty two before moving on to work for the major television networks. I know what you mean when you catch up with someones art years later. Sometimes the people who you admired just seem to disappear from view, I have been fortunate enough to see some work from lecturers I knew and it is quite amazing as you are transported back in time, or at least I feel that sensation. Glad you have had a dry January, I’m hoping for a wet February in dry old Aus. Enjoy!

  2. There’s always such meat here when I visit! First, I love how you boldly admit your mistakes. It makes the rest of us feel better. And I learn from that. I never mind doing something over and over because I know from you what it takes to be right. (Well, OK, I DO mind, but I understand so I persevere, trying to draw on my inner Vivian). The painting looks terrific and I love how I can’t see the glue lines. I would never know!

    I don’t get this other woman’s art. I know – you make a very good point about Monet and the other Impressionists, a point I agree with. But I just don’t get it. It IS depressing, you’re right. And maybe it has vision but to me it looks like slapped on paint with a title. But then, I’m not a major modernist. I don’t need things photo-perfect but I do like to know what I’m looking at. It’s part of my feelings about our contemporary art museum here. I blogged about it once with photos and how I didn’t get it and I felt a little bad, till I read the comments and other people didn’t seem to get it either. Plus, overly pretentious artist statements and critics really tick me off. It always makes for good discussion, though!

    Might that be sweet Taffy enjoying the thaw? Ah, bliss. Well, party’s over — at least here and coming your way. Get out the champagne-o-meter and have a happy weekend!

  3. Casey

    Happy Groundhog Day, Vivian. I’ll be popping a cork later today with my sweetie, only six more weeks of Winter!

    Oh, that Taffy. He really knows how to enjoy every day.

    What is up with that dead rat? If it’s any comfort to you, I also do not know what designed inauthenticity is but I have a feeling that it’s more about the art critic’s need to sound smart than the art itself. The art might very well be as dumb as it appears to be and the critic might be giving it more credit than it merits. And if designed inauthenticity was a “thing”, why would it be something worth striving for? Why would someone WANT to design inauthenticity? What is the big deal about inauthenticity? Isn’t there enough of that in every day life already?

    But for the record there is no artist more authentic than Taffy, doing his performance piece. That boy has a talent, and it’s about being real.

  4. Adrienne

    I must be honest – I don’t understand this woman’s “art” at all. At best, it reminds me a bit of my son’s pre-school painting, except that had some charm. But then I’ve never really understood this type of “art”. I even took classes in college, hoping that if I had some “understanding” I would develop an appreciation for it. Nope. Actually, I always felt these artists are laughing at us – an “emperor’s new clothes” situation.

  5. I love the rescue–and I really liked the “too small” version, too — both are lovely and a delight and AUTHENTIC art.

    That Other Person’s gauche attempts at creativity (bull-headed persistence is what often leads to success over raw talent) look like something that Cousin Phillipa tossed together in junior high art class and then gifted to her grandparents who hid it in the closet for 20 years and when they passed on to happier environs, their son put it in a garage sale where people laughed heartily or ran away screaming, then he took the mess to the Goodwill thrift store where the workers authentically deconstructed it into its component parts which were then purchased by a guy named Thornton Tweebly who reconstructed it for his MFA graduation project which he titled “Funkily Modern Found Art.” And the critics raved.

    The rat was actually caught by the museum custodian’s cat, who didn’t know what to do with the carcass, and idly deposited it there to go have a smoke and then forgot all about it.

    Taffy would approve, I’m sure.

  6. Susan

    Your ability to put everything together by splicing in just the right pieces is ingenious. Such beautiful garden art. Taffy really enjoys his dust bath. Yay – February! Looking forward to Spring.

  7. Becky

    It was amazing to me how you cut and pasted to end up with the finished painting. So beautiful……and the colors are so soft and remind me of a new spring day. It makes me look at my messes in a whole new light. I am a novice to watercolor so there are lots of paintings that fall into a mess category! I do not understand the “fine art” and the sculpture didn’t appear to be all that great…..some things are bettleft in the garage…..(spell check corrected that to garden….guess that would be ok too.). Personally I sort of like the rat on the blanket ?…..a winner for sure for your furry babies!

    Taffy makes me smile just to look at the picture. It is absolutely pure joy.

    So sad about the flood of the Square du Vert-Galant. It seemed like such a charming place as you described it in the book. A great place to read and relax away from the busyness around you.

    Since our infamous Phil predicted more winter we are bracing for more snow and cold….but I am so glad January is over. It seemed like the looongest month ever. Ready for spring!

  8. Love the rescue and appreciate you showing us exactly how you did your magic.

    I love Taffy’s attitude, what cold? what January? what gray? what renowned artists? Wish I could adopt Taffy’s approach to life and just get on with my own business rather than getting caught up in the vanity of applause and recognition. I’ve had a week where I was ready to chuck it all. I wanted to forget trying to write one more word or paint one more picture because no one was applauding. And then I read this from Barbara Brown Taylor, “Can a flame see its own light? Who asked our opinion? Who put us in charge?”

    January, it’s the heart of darkness and doubt. Thank you for reminding me, maybe all of us here, with both your beautiful art and Taffy’s indifference to applause for her performance that the best any of us can do is let our light shine and not worry how many people flock to it. And thank goodness it’s February, spring inches closer.

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