I Think I Think Too Much, But Maybe I Think Exactly The Right Amount.

First there is a sunbeam, then there is no sunbeam, then there is. This is Candy and her son, Lickety, at 12:07 in the afternoon :

And this is them, at 1:04 on the same afternoon:

How much energy does it take to keep up with the sun beam? Apparently, too much.

We’ve had on-and-off sunshine this past week, here on the north shore of Long Island. For Kirra and all you snow-starved Ozzies, this was the Reverse Champagne-O-Meter last Thursday morning:

Friday morning:

Friday afternoon:

Saturday morning:

Saturday afternoon:

Sunday afternoon:

And then it became too criminal to keep a bottle of Extra Dry Champagne out in the 50-ish degree weather so I rescued it (it’s in my fridge, ready for when the painting goes so horrible wrong that Vivian needs and deserves  the bubbly). So while all the snow in my yards are melted, I happen to live on the sunny side of the street. There is still plenty of the white stuff on the shadowy side:

Since Dear Reader Kirra and others who do not own ice scrapers might not know how snow falls, it stands to reason that they might not know how snow melts, which is not pretty. My neighbor around the corner from me  lives on the daggy side of the street:

In my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, (now on “back order”, which means that it’s scarce and copies are going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon) I described this stage of Winter snow as appearing like lumps of dirty laundry piled up in people’s yards.

Snow, at this point of the melt, looks sad, and shredded, and trashy, and not at all picturesque.

And yes, the piles look daggy, an Australian slang word that never fails to make me laugh out loud because (FYI)  it refers to the dried faeces left dangling from the wool on a sheep’s rear end:

There are a lot of daggy piles of left-over snow here on the north shore of Long Island:

See that little snowball in front of the Snowman Who Has Ceased To Be (below)? I think it’s his head:

I’m easily amused. This made me laugh.

But this is not a time for levity. I recently discovered that I, and all others who wield a paintbrush, are being replace by an outstanding app called Waterlogue. This app, which sells for a mere $3.99, turns your photographs into pixels that look a lot like an excellent watercolor:

Worst of all, it can do — in the touch of a button — architecture.  This (below) would take me a lot of tears and weeks of rescues to get right:

This, above, is a view of Amsterdam via Waterlogue. The original photo was not supplied and yes, I see that the canal needs some “coloring in” (it does not read as water in this pic), but, still: Yowza!!!  I can not compete with the precision of all those linear structures (the line of row houses). This is a fantastic app, and if could figure how to buy it (because I’ve never bought an app in my life, and this one only works on hand held devices like my iPad or iPhone and not on my trusty desk top computer WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??) I would snap it up. I would have so much fun looking at someone else paint all my photo references that I would be occupied for days and days and days! And then I would kill myself because I have been replaced by an app.

Luckily, just as I was contemplating whether I had a hose that would fit the exhaust pipe of our champagne-colored Camry (I hear carbon monoxide poisoning leaves a very pretty corpse), I read a New York Times (January 14, 2018) review of a new book called: Craeft, An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts.

The reviewer, Michael Beirut (a partner in the design firm Pentagram), begins: “As daily life becomes increasingly virtual, it might seem like a paradox that making things by hand is suddenly big business. Stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby feature aisle after crowded aisle of sequins, tassels, imported papers, chenille stems and pompoms. Etsy, the e-commerce platform for selling homemade goods, features nearly two million active sellers serving 30 million eager buyers. Busy creators produce one-offs using 3-D printers in “maker spaces” at major research universities as well as your neighborhood’s progressive elementary school. All this activity was worth $44 billion last year, according to the Association for Creative Industries, a group that was once, in cozier times, known as the Craft and Hobby Association. Part therapy, part self-expression, our homely obsession with crafts is poised to take over the world.”

I hope this love affair with the hand-made is true. I hope that’s why an almost-out-of-print copy of my hand-made book When Wanderers Cease to Roam is selling for $500.00 on Amazon, but I think the guy who posted that $500.00 price tag is on drugs, because you can get a “good” used copy for 10.99 (but “good” is a condition that “may include highlighting notes”, which in my capacity as the manager of our local library’s used book store means we would throw it out… where was I?).

Illustration for NYT review of Craeft, by Nicole Natri.

Oh, right. I was hand-making something that an app couldn’t do in order to justify my existence. Let’s paint!

I’m illustrating the last page of my Claude Monet garden book, which I think needs a certain view off the famous Japanese bridge over Claude Monet’s water lily pond:

Trouble is, I want to change this photo into a different season, and a different time of day, and different weather conditions, and I want a lot less structural detail of that damn bridge. So I cropped the photo and drew this:

This was a big mistake. Usually, I draw on tracing paper velum so I have a template to re-use in case I screw something up. But here, I drew this bridge directly onto the watercolor paper (90 pound Canson) because it is a very intricate view of those twisting wisteria vines that grow over the bridge and I was erasing a lot and I just lost my mind. And getting the gentle arc of those railings took a lot of actual measurements, little dots that put in a row and connected to get the spacing correct. I cannot tell you how much I dislike doing this kind of drawing.

And since I have drawn directly onto the Canson, it means that I have to make this pic work because I do not have a template that I can re-trace, in case this goes bad. If it goes bad, it’s sayonara because I do not intend to re-draw this shit ever again.

I thought long (about an hour, including a tea break) and hard (ouch) about how I was going to make the changes that I needed for this picture, and then I went Oh, hell, just do it. So I started with the background:

I just took a wild guess at the shapes and colors and all I can do is hope it will turn into something, because it looks like crap as of yet. Next, I make blobs of purple and blue to represent wisteria in bloom:

First rule, when you paint in blobs of color, is you have to make sure that the blobs make interesting forms that look elegant all by themselves. But don’t over-do it.

In this pic, I know that I want my foliage to be back-lit, so I layer in a first wash of yellow, and apply green shades over that, keeping in mind that these yellow- green blobs also have to make interesting shapes, and try not to over-do it:

The right hand side of the painting will contain most of the darkest bits of the picture:

I hope I didn’t over-do it. I have a tendency to over-do it. I have to concentrate on keeping it light.

Add masking fluid over the rails of the bridge, and add the waters of the lily pond:

I don’t know about that “water”. I hope it works out. At this point, I became uhappy  that the wisteria leaves looked so blobby, after all, so I decided to add detail, but not too much detail:

Remove the masking fluid and paint the railings. There is still plenty of time to screw up this picture:

After I added bits of dark green that I thought were necessary for the composition, I decided to leave the vines un-painted, as these forms are very interesting and painting them will, I think, flatten them out. I don’t want to over-do it.

Here is the finished picture, followed by the original reference photo so you can see how much of it I have I re-imagined:

See what I did there? I just did what Michael Beirut, in the conclusion of her review of the new book Craeft, says is the most is important thing that humans can do in this age of virtual, mass-manufactured consumerism:

“Factory manufacture robs us of a special something: contemplation.” In writing this, the author of Craeft, Alexander Langlands, is not talking about the big questions of human existence, but of the hundreds of small ones that go into something as simple — or as complex — as building a stone wall: “Which to use? How to work it? Where to strike it?” In the end, this is the case he makes for craeft. At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.

Contemplation. If you paint, or draw, or make anything by hand, you know all about those hundreds of little decisions you make while you are focused on not screwing up. Making something by hand is totally absorbing, and feels as high-risk as tightrope walking, but at the same time feels Zen-ish; peaceful, as if you are connecting with a part of you that is timeless and outside of “you”. If you know what I mean.

Like what Taffy and Lickety do naturally:

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your sun beams wait for you to catch up, and all your slumbers be under the soft paw of a kitty.


29 Comments, RSS

  1. Casey

    As usual, so much to digest here. I always love seeing the kitties. I want to take a nap sandwich between Taffy and Lickety.

    The reverse Champagne O Meter was strangely compelling. Thank you, Australia, for “daggy”. I will try to use it five times today.

    That watercolor app is crazy. It has shortcomings like you said but it’s getting scary how fast machines and AI are replacing us humans. But to in the creative process, not yet.

    I think you made the right decision about keeping those wisteria vines “blank”. It makes for a very interesting illustration and I also liked seeing your drawing. We dont’ get to see much of your drafting skills, because I am always impressed that it seems that you actually need very little guide lines when you paint. But when you’re doing something as complicated and as specific as that bridge, yes, I can see that you would need to be very precise.

    Your final pairing reminds me of a stained glass window by Tiffany.

    • Vivian

      So…did you use “daggy” five times? I hope you told your husband he was your favorite dag…I hear it’s quite the endearment in Australia.

  2. Kirra

    Great bridge painting Vivian! If it is the last page in your Monet book then I look forward to seeing the book in the near future 🙂
    AN APP WILL NEVER REPLACE YOU! Despite how good it is at architecture.

    That reverse champagne-o-meter was very cool, I hadn’t even thought about doing that OR that living on the sunny side of the street means your snow melts faster. You are right that snow does look daggy, good to hear you enjoy an Australian word (didn’t know about the sheep bit but doesn’t surprise me).

    That book sounds interesting, I agree making things is good for you, but I think the cats have the sweet life!

    • Vivian

      But now that you know that the dag is that mud flap that hangs off a sheep’s butt, isn’t it even funnier? First, that there’s a word for it (honestly…is there a word for everything including the things you didn’t think needed its own word?), and Second, that it turns out to be SO useful in so many no-sheep situations.

      Ah, Australians have so enriched the English language.

  3. This is the unsightliest time of the year:(
    I still have feet of snow along wth the usual Easter mud..perfect for the hunt.
    So..I have Waterlogue and have had for yrs.I don’t think I have opened the app in months..it’s exiting at first and I thought itwould help me and my art;)
    But..it’s a great App Vivian..

    Read this..copied and pasted from the web:)

    How do I purchase an app?

    How to download an app or game

    First thing you’ll need to do is pop into the App Store App from your iPad.
    You’ll notice a long list of tabs along the bottom. …
    If you find an app you’d like to take a better look at, just tap its icon. …
    To buy the app, tap the price.

    Not copied and pasted..from me..

    So your App store is on your mini Ipad(on mine)..click on the emblem to open it..in the search bar search for Waterlogue..then click to buy..you will need your Apple Id/or Itunes I forget..your charge card associated with your account will be charged..Download and you are done..If I can do it you can most certainly do it.
    I have very few purchased Apps..I did love one..that stopped working on mini Ipads..it added motion to pics and was great.
    Waterlogue has been a great purchase:)
    Love your work..can’t wait for a new book..

    Happy Easter to you..TC and your furry friends.

    • Vivian

      Monique, you are so kind to explain this, thank you. The hang up for me is that I don’t know my Apple ID. It makes me want to scream. WTF is an Apple ID? You can’t do anything in the app store without an Apple ID and I want to punch somebody.

  4. Megan

    Love the little footprints in the snow… So cute. I’m easily amused. I happened upon Waterlogue about five years ago and it is a great time waster… some things it does better than others, it’s fun to watch but not a substitute for an artist, I should have mentioned it after your wonderful post last week… Those ugly Christmas jumpers can also be described as daggy and a dag is also an uncool person. It can be used as a form of endearment, Australians are just plain weird.

    • Vivian

      I came across another Australianism, “pom”, which is what the English are called Down Under, and read it described as: An affectionate term of abuse.

      That definition still makes me laugh, and explains Australians in five words. I think I would get on very well in Oz.

      • Kirra

        This is true, funny thinking that words you take for normal are actually unknown to other countries who speak English…..I’m sure we have lots more great words you can adopt!

  5. I know exactly what you mean about the Zen-ish part of creating. If I could paint for eight hours a day, I would probably lose ten pounds because I wouldn’t eat. And I wouldn’t be hungry, either. It’s that mesmerizing.

    You had so much more snow. Ours is finally gone but I know what you mean about the ugly melt. It’s sloppy and wretched. Fave photo? Cat walking by champagnometer!

    Since I don’t have an i-anything, just a computer, apps are out of my league. It would be fun to play with for inspiration but I don’t think you would get the Zen bit. We all want everything fast. Well, I, for one, am glad you took your time with the painting and got it just right! And good for you, going straight to page! Thanks for the dot-method. I have trouble with curves.

    I knew a guy once whose last name was Daggy. It was a very fitting name.

    Now, on to read last week’s post. Sometimes I get woefully behind.

    • Vivian

      No. Way. A last name Daggy??? Oh, even if he was a creep, I feel bad for the guy. But not too bad. I feel worse for his sister. I hoe she married somebody names Smith, or Johnson.

      When I did embroidery, I discovered that it, too, kept the hands out of the cookie jar for hours at a time. And you could do it with a cat on you lap which, so far, I have not managed to do with any of my cats.

      • Judy Jennings

        Vivian, Beth’s Dr was Daggy when she was young. Not a fun guy. Wish I’d known what this term meant back then!

  6. Janet

    I wouldn’t sell my copy of Wanders for a measly $500 and I’m guessing others in this space wouldn’t either. Thx for an especially entertaining and enlightening post today.

  7. Daggy: My long-haired dachshunds sometimes get pieces of excrement stuck in the lengthy hairs around what the groomer calls “the poop chute” — thanks for a new word for this! What joy.

    Bridge painting: ’tis lovely, as always. Love the wisteria choice, and way you made it *your* view, not some app developer’s view.

    Craft: I belong to an amazing group called Urban Sketchers, which originated in Seattle 11 years ago and now has chapters world-wide. Folks of all artistic abilities get together regularly at various locales around their cities/towns to simply sketch for a couple of hours and then share without critique or competition, just for fun. It has grown so big that NBC news recently did a short spot on it on their national broadcast. Every time I go out with the group or with my friends to sketch in public, strangers stop by and are fascinated, and many wind up wanting to try it themselves. The idea that you don’t need to be a pro, that you can just enjoy trying to capture a moment in your life in a unique, individual, handmade way, seems to speak to people.

    Cats and sunshine: I’m sure they’re trying to tell you that you need to build them a carpet-covered platform on wheels so you can gently shove them into the sunlight as it moves across the floor. Get crackin’!

    • Vivian

      Can you believe that on the internet, where you can find anything and everything, I could not find a photo of a dag? iIhave seen them in person, though, in the purest manifestation on a sheep even, and thought it was the funniest thing ever.

      I have heard of Urban Sketchers — what a sweet, and profound idea. Congratulations for 11 years!

      Yes, I’m sure the cats would love it if I were their full time personal assistant. Wait. I think I already am.

  8. I have never heard of “daggy” but that IS a great word! If you gotta live on one side of the street or the other — and I suppose we all do — the sunny side is definitely the way to go.

    Is it wrong that I find that app completely fascinating? I might even buy it. But you’re right about the water not looking right, and that’s a perfect illustration of the lack of “contemplation,” I think. An artist would have figured that out. The app can’t.

    The new painting looks great! Glad you made it work and didn’t have to go back to the drawing board (or not)!

    • Vivian

      You and me both, I tom fascinated by that app. I love what you’ve done with Waterlogue. I can’t wait to see some Budapest pix through its filter.

  9. Thea

    As the nightly groomer of two active terriers, I know about daggy. I utelize a dedicated pair of scissors, thank you very much.

    I will paint nothing other than a wall, but with each post you have taught me how to look.

    Drink the Champagne! You earned it with the decision to leave the wisteria twists alone.

    • Vivian

      To be persnickety, what you cut off a sheep, terrier, dachshund, or Maine Coon cat’s butt is the “dag”. “Daggy” is the adjective form, and as we all learned from Megan, is also something you can call a friend of whom you are particularly fond.

      Here it is almost Friday already and I still have not drunk that champagne. But I did finish a bottle of vanilla vodka.

  10. I’m laughing because less than 10 minutes ago we were noticing how lazy Norbert is. The sun had moved and rather than moving he stretched on paw forward to get the sun.

  11. Susan

    Your bridge is spectacular. Your skill is amazing. Creating beauty out of what you call blobs of color and transforming it all in to a wonderful painting is breathtaking. Somehow, I tend to think the painting app misses something only the skilled painter brings to art. The human factor?

    As always, the kitties look very cozy, making all perfect in their world. As for the snow…grrrrrr. When will it all be gone?

    • Vivian

      I have to say that the painting app is very good, and the only thing I can do better is edit a picture, or mash up several photo reference into one, or paint things that are purely imaginary. But YIKES, it put does me when it come to doing buildings.

      Thank you so much for the compliment about the bridge. OOOOOO! I just thought: if I ever figure out what my Apple ID is I will buy the app, take a photo of my watercolor, then run it through Waterlogue!

      Wait. I just got that — “Waterlogue”. I thought it was Water + Catalogue, like you can make a watercolor catalogue of all your photos. But Auto Correct just changed it to Waterlogged. Duh.

    • Vivian

      Awwww, thank you Leslie. Your words are a great comfort today, as you will understand why when you read the new post.

      Merci mucho.

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