A Bridge Too Far, A Bunny To Love.

Ah, the Vernal Equinox. On Sunday Top Cat and I took to our favorite north shore cove with our trusty plastic wine glasses to crack open our most recent Champagne-O-Meter to celebrate what Top Cat calls the Kiss Winter Good-Bye toast. There was a  brutal wind blowing in from the icy tempest of the Long Island Sound that brought tears to our eyes and froze us to the core and made us regret every life decision that brought us to that place at that time, but these are the conditions that make the bubbly taste twice as good.

Candy celebrated the arrival of Spring in her usual fashion. . .

. . . while her idiot son did his usual thing:

Don’t you love Taffy’s little bunny feet?



I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my hard copy of the John Oliver book about a bunny called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which is No. 1 on Amazon and out-selling the book by Charlotte and Karen Pence (daughter and wife wife of Drumpf Suck-Up Artist Mike Pence), also about a bunny called Marlon Bundo, who is actually the Pence’s own pet bunny. You can click onto the link to learn about how this book has gotten Fox News’ undies in a twist, but because this is a boring watercolor blog I want to deal with this book from a watercolor-centric point of view, OK?

This is the Pences’ book:

And here are Karen (the watercolorist illustrator) and Charlotte Pence, with Bundo himself:

Marlon Bundo is a really cute rabbit. But Karen Pence is not an illustrator; she’s a watercolorist-in-ist: compare the book covers, and the Bundos. One has personality and smooch ability  (by EG Keller), the other is a drab little amateur dabble that didn’t get the ears right (by Karen Pence, who also didn’t get the feet right).

Here are some of Karen Pence’s other cliche-ridden housewifely pictures, exhibited at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

No, no, no, no. The world does not need another badly-drawn cardinal on a poorly-painted snowy bough, no matter how nicely it’s framed.Here is my favorite review of Karen Pence’s watercolor exhibit at the Indiana State Fair in 2016:

Brain surgery is very difficult. Watercolor technique is not that difficult a medium and I speak as someone who paints in it (and oil) and has taught it to well over 1000 students over nearly 30 years. What is difficult is originality. Ms Pence is competent at a basic technical level but her work is safe, pedestrian and impersonal. Originality requires a willingness to take risks and/ or to invest a deeper personal investigation into the process. (One problem with this work is that a photo with a simple watercolor filter applied digitally would look pretty close to this work.) I am happy she is finding satisfaction in her hobby but the only novelty here is that she will be doing it while married to the VP.  ( Well said, Carol Griffith, professional watercolor artist.)

Here’s Karen showing off her art at the Indiana State Fair:

OK, let us digress. I saw this photo of Karen and I taught, Yep. That’s the kind of “kicky” print blazer that a boring watercolorist wears when she wants to look “arty”. This is me, speaking as a lady in her 60s: Karen, you’re making all of us look bad.

In the same google search this came up:

So this is what you wear to the Inauguration Ball for the Demise of Democracy… oh, lordy…  I say this with peace and love, honey: if you are on the hefty side of Granny Clampett and your boobs are drooping down to your elbows, this is not a good look for you, Karen. Peace and love.

OMG. I just looked her up, and Karen Pence is one year and two weeks younger than I.

And yeah, since Mike and Karen Pence thinks it’s OK to stick their sanctimonious homo-phobic Christian noses into the privacy of American citizens’ sex lives by pushing for federal and state legislation to outlaw choice in matters of reproduction and who you can love and how, I think it’s alright for me to make fun of her old lady dumpiness which she lets hang out in public for all to see.

On another tangent, this is the official bio of Karen Pence’s writing partner, her daughter Charlotte, the author of the poorly illustrated Bundo book, on the Amazon website:

“Charlotte Pence graduated from DePaul University in 2016 with a degree in English and Digital Cinema. Her written work has appeared in Glamour Magazine and publications affiliated with the University of Oxford, where she studied as an undergraduate.”

Oh for christ sake… the “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford” was, in fact — and you can look it up because this is totally true — the student newspaper.   And she “studied” at Oxford during the junior year she spent abroad under the aegis of DePaul University. DePaul. Which has nothing to do with her mother’s insipid watercolor illustrations but, you know, DePaul.

So, please, go buy a copy of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo because it’s a delightful book with outstanding illustrations, and because all the proceeds go to Trevor Project and AIDS United, and because you fucking hate Mike Pence.

Thank you.

Back to the agony of illustrating my own book (sadly, not about a bunny called Bundo):

Last week I left you hanging in suspense over a rescue operation for a crappy watercolor illustration of the lily pond in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, which looked like this:

I did some research, otherwise called looking through my big Monet art books, and found a Monet painting that had a tasty color palette that I thought would work nicely with the evening vibe I am trying to accomplish in my little illustration:

Pink and lavender are going to be the dominant colors of the lower half of my picture:

I am using my Grumbacher paints (light blue, darker blue, purple, fuchsia, and a sea green) to do most of the heavy lifting, with dabs of vibrant Winsor Newton greens (Sap and Hooker green) and Cobalt blue for flirty prettiness.

My tactics for this rescue are to avoid the mistake I made last time. Last time, I tried to paint the water in one big swoop…but I am not a swooping kind of painter. I am a miniaturist, so I have to tackle this expanse in bits. I forgot to take a photo of the first bit, in which I laid down the dark green on the “water” near the bridge and the willow. But here’s the next bit, where I covered another narrow band by bleeding some delicious blue-green into pink:

Then I added lily pads:

For the last part of this picture I want to make some large, bold bleeds, even though I know that this is something that I am not very good at. So I practice:

I lay down my practice sheet on top of the Picture in Progress to see if it works:

My original thought was to leave that lower right end of the picture blank, in order to balance the “blank” spot in the upper left side; also, I’m thinking of dropping text into the picture there.

I do another practice sheet:

And then I decide to paint the whole lower part of the picture, so I practice some more:

This is how many times I did a “dry run”, so to speak:

I feel ready, willing, and able to finish this picture. But before I do, I make the fatal mistake of applying masking fluid to the very bottom of the scene:

I like everything about this picture except for the masking fluid. It was a dumb idea:

I did it because I have a little trick that I’ve used before, that worked in this picture:

You lay down masking fluid in an attractive circular pattern — don’t over-do it — to make little eddies of swirling water:

But this trick just doesn’t work in this picture:


I would have been so happy with this picture if only I had not put in those stupid swirls.

So, it’s back to Square One for the third time:

How boring is it to watch me paint? I could continue showing you how I re-re-rescued this illustration, but I get the feeling that you’d all rather watch snow fall in my backyard.

Cue the Last Champagne-O-Meter of 2018, dedicated to Dear Reader Kirra, in the Land of Oz:

I guess you’ve heard the news that the east coast (of America) celebrated the first full day of Spring by getting slammed with a snow storm on Wednesday. I set a new, improved Champagne-O-Meter out on the top of our little cafe table on the back patio so I could shoot it from the picture window of our den instead of having to trudge outside into knee-deep snow to photograph it on the lawn.

The snow started to fall around 8:30 in the morning. I took pictures of the Champagne-O-Meter about every two hours.

And then it got too dark to take photos, until the next morning:

This is what the back patio liked like (the Champagne-O-Meter is in the center of that cafe table):

OK, that’s enough excitement for one blog. Sorry to drag you away from the calamity, but this is a boring watercolor blog so I must take you back to our current watercolor rescue, which I promise will be quick because like you, I am getting pretty damn tired of seeing this lily pond. Remember, we started here:

The first re-re-re-paint wasn’t right:

But the next re-re-re-paint was just right and so, finally, we are DONE:

As I type this, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is still the No. 1 selling book on Amazon.com. The first printing of 40,000 sold out in four hours, so Chronicle Books is rushing a second printing of 400,000 to be shipped to to independent bookstores asap.

Charlotte Pence has tweeted that she has bought this book, too, even though the book portrays her father (the odious Mike Pence) as a stink bug: “I have bought his book, “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President.” “(Oliver’s) giving proceeds of the book to charity, and we’re also giving proceeds of our book to charity, so I really think that we can all get behind it.”

That seems very gracious of her, on the surface, but remember that she’s the girl who claimed that she’s been published by “publications affiliated with the University of Oxford”, and she’s got a degree in digital cinema from DePaul (DePaul), so she’s obviously crafty, and ambitious, and wants a career in media so what better way to suck up to John Oliver/HBO than to tweet a nice thing about Oliver’s book?

Well played, Christian creep opportunist, well played.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. May you and all the bunnies you hop with be happy and bouncy and free to be.


13 Comments, RSS

  1. Kirra March 23, 2018 @ 5:40 am

    Vivian I LOVE your final painting of Monet’s lily pond! It really is amazing seeing how you got there. I have heard about this no.1 on Amazon book, but your take down of the Pence ladies is hilarious! (and 100% true).

    I’m glad you got to enjoy the chilled champagne-o-meter but that snow is CRAZY. Thanks for taking the regular photos because it is really entertaining for us people where there is no real snow. If I am ever somewhere with regular snow I am going to try my hardest to chill my own champagne-o-meter! I’m with Candy though, find the sunbeams and stay inside.

    • Vivian March 23, 2018 @ 9:12 am

      Kirra, I forgot that I wanted to dedicate this Champagne-O-Meter to you! I just corrected this oversight, so it’s now in the blog — you would have loved this snowfall. It just went on and on and on and on, and it was very pretty, and everything was located with a big fluffy cover of white. And it was easy to shovel, too, so…win/win.

      • Kirra March 23, 2018 @ 6:30 pm

        You are too kind Vivian!!! I’m glad the snow wasn’t annoying snow. It’s just such a novelty for most Australians we don’t really know what to do with it, except make snow angels, build snowmen/women and obviously make a champagne-o-meter!

  2. Casey March 23, 2018 @ 8:05 am

    I knew I was going to love today’s get together as soon as I saw the first photograph of those beautiful champagne glasses sparkling in the sun. So I forced myself to stop reading and I made a cup of tea so I could sit here in luxury, drinking my tea and soaking in all the thoughtful and inspiring and funny things you have to say today. And I was not disappointed!

    You made me laugh, but I felt kind of bad about it, with all the spot-on things you wrote about Karen and Charlotte Pence. It doesn’t feel fair to take shots at unintelligent people, but the Pences are the kind of people who do not know they are dumb and worse, they act as if they are smart enough to decide for other people what, and isn’t, “normal”. So yes, they are fair targets.

    I always love the Champagne-O-Meter.

    And I love the way you keep setting high standards for your art and the way you keep at it until it’s done “right”. I have lost track on how many re-re-re-rescues this picture had to go through but the ed result is pure charm. Thank you for showing your process. I love the final picture.

    And, why, yes; yes I do love Taffy’s little bunny feet.

  3. Bunny March 23, 2018 @ 10:14 am

    I am usually enthralled when Friday rolls around, and I get to relax with my favorite Long Island number one in my book of illustrators/humorists/writers. But, with all the Bunny talk, I’m that much more excited! My sister gave me the nickname when I was 5, and it has stuck with me ever since. But, like you, the famous author frequently mentions, I digress. My take of that fat bimbo (and I use these words with trepidation) is the hair color/style. Doesn’t she ever look in the mirror? Does she just use a bottle of shoe polish for shampoo, or what? And I wholeheartedly agree about the outfit. (see comment about the mirror, above) Not that I’m fat shaming, but if you have arms like Arnold, does that mean you need to show off them guns?

    Love the evolution of the storm, and of course pics of the wild critters that roam your yard and home.

    Thanks again for walking us through the mind of a great watercolor manipulator. I greatly appreciate your tutorials.

  4. Bunny March 23, 2018 @ 10:17 am

    Oh, yes and did I mention how lucky you are to have a top cat in your life, that takes you to the finest places, and does the funnest things?
    Wish I was there!

  5. Becky March 23, 2018 @ 11:40 am

    It makes me smile to see Candy and Taffy celebrating spring in their own way. It is hard to decide who experiencing pure bliss. I love Taffy’ little bunny feet.
    I can’t add anymore about the Pences. You covered all very eloquently. I saw John Oliver on Ellen Degeneras talk about his book. It is one I definitely want in my library. I love to watch his show. He is spot on about the idiot.
    Your rescues are definitely not boring. I have learned so much as you work on your “dry runs” to get it just right. Thank you for sharing this process. I love the final result.
    We are hoping the final snowfall has come and gone. Ready for spring.

  6. Patty March 23, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

    You gave me my biggest laugh of the day Vivian. I loved it, and I’m from Indiana. Your watercolors are lovely, and yes it is a real challenge to get it just right.

  7. Susan March 23, 2018 @ 8:34 pm

    Lavender and pink bleeds to create the stream. Very impressive and beautiful. As for the Pence women…Some people are just, ‘full of themselves.’ Smoke and mirrors. You summed things up perfectly! Seems like the kitties know it is spring, yet the snow just keeps on, keeping on. Your champs toast might just force in the season. We can only hope!

  8. Steve March 24, 2018 @ 1:01 pm

    Holy cow! Seeing your patio, I CANNOT complain anymore about snow. Our snowfall was just a dusting compared to that!

    Bravo for buying John Oliver’s “Marlon Bundo.” I was impressed by Charlotte Pence and her reaction to the Oliver book when I read about it in the Times — but you could be right about an ulterior motive! I have to say I was also impressed that Karen Pence did watercolor so well. Not being an artist, it looks pretty good to me. Certainly better than I could do! But I see what you mean about the hackneyed subject matter. She’s definitely not out to challenge anyone’s sensibilities. She’s a state-fair painter.

    I honestly thought those little circular ripples looked OK, but I’m glad you got to a version of your painting that you liked. I’ve had that happen with my photos sometimes — some little aspect of a photo will bug me and drive me crazy until I either shoot it again or fix it somehow or throw the whole thing out.

  9. Marilyn March 27, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

    In a way I am surprised the Pence family isn’t suing John Oliver. Now I have his book on my Amazon list. I love that he wrote that book, good for him. BTW many Christians are creeps, but not all. It is a bit confusing out there these days.

    Love watching your adventure in watercolor. It makes me almost want to get out the watercolors again.

    Hoping your snow is going away and you are beginning to see signs of Spring.

  10. Minnesota Gee May 21, 2018 @ 4:09 pm

    I just discovered your blog today and I’ve spent the last few hours reading some of your posts. I stumbled upon a screen shot from your post “How to Paint an Entire Fall Landscape in One Single Leaf” but it took some sleuthing to find the original source (you). (There are a hundred or more Google posts of your leaf, mostly on Pinterest boards, but only one gave you credit!) I love your art and your writing is a joy to read. I was born and raised in New Orleans, so I especially enjoyed your posts on NOLA. Now that I live in Minnesota, I found your Champagne-O-Meter a hoot. (BTW, I’m a retired graphic designer trying to rekindle my inner watercolor spirit, so I also appreciate your tutorials.) Your political views on Trump et al are aligned with mine too. But I was saddened to read your attacks on Karen Pence’s appearance. It reminded me of the right’s attacks on Michelle Obama’s appearance throughout the Obama administration’s tenure. Criticizing someone’s beliefs, actions and/or talent is one thing; body-shaming is petty. Anyhoo, I’m anxious to read more of your posts and I look forward to your next update. Thanks for sharing your talents!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:31 am

      Hi Minnesota Gee! Welcome, and thank you for the interesting info; I did not know that my leaf was all over the inter webs. I wish I knew what a “Google post” was — I hope it means that I’m famous. I am happy to know that the watercolor tutorials are still relevant in this day and age and I am delighted that you find our get-togethers helpful.

      Born and raised in New Orleans??? Lucky, lucky you! You know how I envy anyone with those credentials!

      I am nothing if not petty (see below).

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