Paint Dries and Life Goes On.

I’m back!

Thank you, all you Dear Readers, especially Bea, Betsy, Carol, Jeanie, Judy, Kirra, Leslie, Maryanne (the OG), Megan, The Artist Currently Known as Rachel, Robert, Steve, and Susie, for your concern. Thank you, Mom, and Thank You Anonymous who sent me a post card from the V&A Museum from somewhere in America. I’m fine. I’m still miffed that it’s October but I’m fine.

It was a series of unfortunate events that kept me away for two weeks. I was not seriously ill (truth to tell, I had a hangover for the first time in, oh…15 years) because our oldest cat, Candy, died (and it was not an easy or pretty death, at home because of bad timing with the vet) the day before the first anniversary of my best friend’s death, and my dream of seeing BTS in LA was in peril because of computer problems and Ticketmaster susks, and so Top Cat replaced our WiFi hardware which shut us down completely, and I don’t have to tell you that dealing with the cable company SUCKS but here’s how it went On Day Three, when we were told that the problem would be fixed within three hours; naturally, Top Cat was skeptical so he repeated: “Three Hours?” and the customer service guy said “Yes, three hours. Or 24 at the most.”

So yeah, it’s hasn’t been a great month and the Republicans are still hell-bent on destroying democracy in America and I didn’t want to deal. I’m sorry for going AWOL but you know, sometimes you just gotta throw up your hands and take a day or week or two off. 

One thing that I squared away while I was taking time off was our Halloween candy situation. We do not give out “fun” size candy because they are skimpy and an insult to the spirit of the holiday, so I insist that we give out regular-size candy bars and this year Top Cat said he had it under control. But this is what he thinks is a Treat: Mounds bars (ew — coconut), Snickers (ew — peanuts) and Mocha Kit Kats (MOCHA). If I, as a kid (or as an adult) were to be given any of those candy bars I would put you on  my Mischief list, so I went out and got the good stuff. Come to my house and if I get to the candy dish first, I’ll be handing out Three Musketeers,  dark chocolate Milky Ways, and Cabury’s Caramels.  There’s even a few Heath bars in the mix.

I’ve also been wheeling and dealing every damn day, making deals and appeals and I finally have my Los Angeles trip sorted out, as of just last night. Through machinations that I never want to go through again I have tickets to two nights of BTS at SoFi Stadium HEART BE STILL, and a bonus ticket to a show called the Jingle Ball, hosted by iHeart Radio, at the Forum. BTS is only going to do 2 songs at the Jingle Ball, but Ed Sheehan will be there and Dua Lipa will be there, and a slew of people I have never heard of who are probably very famous but I’m old and don’t have a clue. The Kid LAROI? Tate McRae? Bazzie? 

I don’t regret the time, effort, and $$$ it’s going to take for me to travel 3,000 miles, on Top Cat’s birthday, to be in the same giant stadium with my Korean husbands because last week this came up on my Twitter timeline and put it all in perspective:

Seize the day, Dear Readers. Seize the day.

So let’s seize today, shall we?

Today I’m going to take you to Yorkshire, England, to a small valley near Halifax. This is the view where there once was a coal mine owned by the the local landowner Anne Lister, who called her mine works the Walker Pit, after her life partner Ann Walker (whose money financed the operation). The tower you see is actually a ventilation shaft from the underground mineshaft.

I’m going to paint this for my friend the author Janet Lea, whose book, The Gentleman Jack Effect,  is all about the enormous influence that Anne Lister, and her wife Ann Walker, have had on the worldwide LGBTQ+ community. Janet took this photo (above) on her recent visit to Halifax for her book launch in September.

There is one thing about this photo that I am dying to paint, and one thing that I am dreading. What I’m dreading is the tower, because as you can see, it is a challenging structure because I happen to know what it looks like on a bright, sunny day:

The tower (above, in bright sunshine) would be very easy to paint and it is exactly the kind of thing I love painting.  It is architectural, it has a simple  geometry, and it has a pattern (I love patterns, esp. stone patterns).

But, as you can see in Janet’s photo, her tower is not like the one pictured above. Janet’s photo was shot from a very different angle than the one above, on a moody, rain-threatened afternoon.  The problem is that Janet’s tower looks nothing like the tidy octagonal net-gothic obelisk above; it looks almost as if it is a ruin. In order to paint it I will have to paint only what I see in the photo, that is, be like Monet, and paint it as if it were nothing but planes of shadow and light, and forget about what I know is there.

P.S. I’m not good at that kind of thing. 

But what excites me about this photo, and what I am dying to paint, is the foreground:

To paint these (for want of a better word) weeds in the foreground I want to try something here that I’ve never done, and I’m excited to get started. So, the first thing I do is lay down a base coat of straw color:  

I have used masking fluid to cover the top  bit of the tower — the part that is in the sky — and I am using the same masking fluid (below) to draw stalks and flower-heads on top of my base coat of straw color: 

While the masking fluid is drying, I am going to paint the sky. I start with a wash  of clean water:

I dab white paint on my brush because white paint does weird things, and I  also dip it into a blue/gray mix that  I made and I’m going to let the pigments duke it out on the paper:

I’ll be dipping my brush into darker and darker blue/gray mixes and watching how it all reacts to the water that is soaking the paper:

Once I have a good slurry of paint on the paper, I twist a Kleenex (see below) and will use it to pick up a strategic amount of color. . .  

. . . in order to expose the white paper underneath:

Drop in some more paint for contrast:

And let dry:

Although I am itching to paint those foreground weeds, I have to be methodical, so I start doing the delightful little fields and forests in the background:

This is persnickety stuff because the landscape here is very specific, and I have to get every tree and field:



I have this new thing I do when the paint is wet. I use a toothpick to etch grooves into the paper in order to make fine lines. Here (below), I’m doing it to add texture to a middle ground bush:

At last! I can start on the weeds! First, I’m going to paint over the masking fluid!



While that dries, I’m going to tackle the tower:


Although I’m only showing two photos of the tower-painting,  I spent a LOT of time getting the shadows right. I also fucked , up the perspective (as you can see, above) and had to fix it. In real time, I worked on this tower over two different days because I needed a break so I could come back to it with rested and fresh eyes. 

But once I had to tower done to my satisfaction, I had to do the middle ground in front of it. I used white acrylic paint to add in some stray stalks over the background:



I stopped here again, and when I came back to this paiting the next day I saw something that I had not noticed the day before. Namely, that I had made a mess of the middle ground. I hate that there is a line that bi-sects this middle ground area of wild brambles (below) — can you see it too?

Luckily I was able to “erase” the line:

And now I can lift off the masking fluid on the foreground and get to the FUN PART:

I start by adding long stokes of color:



This is an intermediate look at the WIP. I took another day to make lots of detail in the foreground . . . 

Here’s the story. When Janet was climbing the  hills above Walker’s Pit, she spotted a bit of blue gleaming in the tall grass. Lo and behold, it was the iridescent sparkle of a rook’s wing feather:

She brought that feather all the way back to New Mexico, where she placed it in a LeDuree macaroon box and sent it to Yours Truly, to whom it is a prized possession.

Everything looks better with a mat:

So, if you’ve been paying attention to the Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, you’ve noticed how hoard the Republicans are working to gaslight the House and the American people about how the riot was not a big deal and that Democrats should Get Over It. Tucker Carlson, the shit stain who defends white supremacy on Fox News, has a documentary coming out in January that claims the whole thing was an FBI “false flag” operation.

I can’t s[end too much time soon this shit because it makes my blood boil. Honestly, I can feel a tightness n my chest every time I think about Trump and his enablers and his shit-for-brains supporters. This can’t be good for my mental or physical health, so I have to go light on the current events this week. But here are some highlights:




Here’s the receipt:





P.S. This is Steve Bannon, Trump’s political consultant who was in the War Room on January 6, calling the shots on the insurrection:

To be fair, Steve Bannon looks half dead already.

This is from January 7, 2021:



So far in 2021, there have been 232 mass shootings in America, with 437 deaths. 






All over the country police unions are protesting their city’s vaccine mandates. Here in New York City, the protests are large and noisy, but I only have  photos from Seattle so let’s shit on Seattle PD today:




And now for something completely different.

I pulled some great Halloween costumes from the inter webs but I have to admit, I’m partial to the Squid Game ones:









This is Mrs. Hall, social studies teacher, doing Dwight Shrute. Standing O for Mrs. Hall.

















Have a great weekend, everyone. Take your mind off of the world’s dire problems and go get a sugar coma (whether from too much candy corn or tequila, ii don’t judge) and enjoy all the fun of Halloween. As Janet Lea says, Have a Blue Feather Day.












8 Comments, RSS

  1. Maryanne the OG

    Oh, you’re back! You’re BACK! Vivian’s back, everybody say “Yeahhh!”
    Thrilled on your behalf for the BTS adventure ahead, and wishing you lovely (but blog worthy) travels.
    Happy Halloween weekend!

  2. Well, thank goodness you posted today to reassure your readers. I was quite worried but hated to bother you to ask what was going on, especially if it wasn’t anything good, and losing dear Candy was most sad. My condolences.

    Congrats on the trip to see your Korean boyfriends! I hope that proves to be a fabulous respite.

    What a lovely painting, and what a glorious feather to go with it. I’m especially impressed with the “weeds” in front — I learned that same technique from a great watercolor teacher (Molly Hashimoto, worth checking out), but all my efforts looked like crap. Yours look delightfully realistic and the whole picture is wonderful. Nice to see more painting demos here — looking forward to more!

  3. Megan

    So nice to see you back on the inter webs. I am so very sorry to hear about Candy, you have my heartfelt condolences. It made me think about your dear neighbour Dennis and all our passed pets. A very sad time for you. I watched the Graham Norton Show last night and Coldplay were the musical guests they played with BTS and I thought of you and hoped your internet problems were in the past, and stay there.

  4. Kirra

    Yay!!!!!!! Congratulations on getting BTS tickets, enjoy your trip! So worth doing. The Kid Laroi is from Australia.

    I’m the lady two weeks off I finished Janet Lea’s book ‘The Gentleman Jack Effect’ and really enjoyed it. That is a brilliant painting of the Walker Pit, really impressed with the countryside painting and the tower….we’ll all of it really.

    Happy Halloween!

  5. Judy Jennings

    So happy you are back, Vivian, and happy about your trip to the husbands.
    I do have to say though that I agree with your REAL husband about the choices of Halloween candy. 3 Musketeers are just a mouthful of SWEET.
    Your painting is so good I could cry. That dark green you get in the background is always perfect—I love that color. I love the tower. I love the weeds. I love your use of masking fluid. I love the finished product with the mat, the feather. I need another Vivian book badly.
    🌿🌺🌿 Judy

  6. Jeanne

    Vivian, I am SO glad you are back – and to read that you are recovered enough to carry on. I so need your perspective of the past week to get through the madness of what is sure to emerge in the week ahead.

  7. Christine

    “So fill to me the Parting Glass-
    And drink a health whate’er befalls-
    Then gently rise and softly call-
    Good night and joy be to you all.”

  8. Oh Vivian, I’m so sorry about Candy. That’s a long time to love a cat and I know you both miss your girl.

    I’m so happy to see you painting again. I learned a lot from this one and will have to try out your technique with the weeds, which look fabulous. Those bg trees really work. I always have trouble with the greens. And the tower is really nice. It looks great with the feather, too!

    I’m with Top Cat and Judy above about the Halloween candy! (Although I could never turn down a Heath bar!) Have a wonderful time in LA — I look forward to all the stories, especially after all the angst of actually getting to the point that there WILL be stories!

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