watercolor lesson

So, we had this going on in the backyard this week:

 

I have three feeding stations for the backyard birds, including this one under the Pinot-Grigio-O-Meter table. We went through 40 pounds of bird seed this week because it was cold and birds use up a lot of energy to stay warm:

The Cardinals were looking particularly picturesque:

Cardinals are cowards, and they won’t scrum with the Blue Jays, Starlings, Doves, and the teeny brown birds for room at the feeder, so I have a trough for them on our kitchen patio because I have a soft spot for dim-witted birds.

Well, the week started off with an acquittal for Trump which I thought was going to be the biggest story so I harvested plenty of snark for you, but then the Texas Shit Show happened and then Rush Limbaugh died, so we have a LOT of content for you today. 

Let’s get right to it:

What was true for Trump’s first Senate trial is true for his second:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Pelosi has appointed retired Lt. General Russell Honore, who was the commander of the task force in charge of the military response to Hurricane Katrina with leading an independent investigation into the events and actors of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Honore has a very active Twitter account and in the past he has been quite outspoken about what he saw on TV that day. Now that he’s in charge of rooting out the truth about the insurrection, I think it’s going to go well for Senator Josh Hawley of  Missouri:

But let’s catch up with what ex-Trumpers have been doing to keep themselves busy lately:

 

Yeah, we have to pay closer attention to these scumbags:

 

 

 

 

 

Here on the north shore of Long Island we got a foot of snow on the ground on February 1, and then we got 4 more inches between February 6 and 8, and today we’re going to add about 8 inches on top of that. So when we heard that Texas has its first snowfall since, oh I don’t know, 1812, it seemed funny:

 

 

But then the power went out, and pipes burst, and people froze in their homes, and hospitals had to evacuate because they had no running water, heat, or electricity, and it wasn’t so funny any more.

 

But let’s be clear why this happened in Texas:

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, even ARKANSAS did better in Winter Storm Uri:

 

 

The Republican mayor of Colorado City in west Texas, Tim Boyd, was fed up with constituents whining that they expected to have power and heat from the utility companies that they pay money to every month:

If you have the time, you really should read what he wrote about God and the people who pay taxes for his salary and public services who he was elected to serve. I have taken the time to type it here for you because, lordy, it’s classic Republican political philosophy:

Let me hurt some feelings while I have a minute, he begins. (Remember, this is what he posted in a public forum for all to read; he’s PROUD of this):

No one owes you are [sic] your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a dam handout! If you don’t have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe. If you have no water you deal without and think outside of the box to survive and supply water for your family. If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your [sic] lazy is the direct result of your raising! Only the strong will survive and he weak will parish [sic]. Folks god has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this. this is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts. Am I sorry that you have been dealing without electricity and water: yes! But I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves! We have lost sight of those in need and those that take advantage of the system and meshed them in to one group! bottom line quite crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family! 

 

Bottom line-DONT [sic] BE A PART OF PROBLEM, BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION!

Mayor Boyd is now the resigned, ex-mayor of Colorado City, west Texas.

Other Texans found ways to blame the Democratic Representative of New York’s 14th Congressional District, Alexandra Ocasio Cortex, commonly known as AOC:

Dan Crenshaw, another Texan politician, blames, uh, non-fossil fuel energy, but a rocket scientist named Holly Griffith ‘stained it to him:

Here’s Holly’s Twitter bio. Note that she’s actually a real rocket scientist!

Wind mills in Texas got a lot of blame, too, for causing the Texas power outage:

 

A guy who ran (and lost) for congress in Texas’ 14th district, named Joshua Foxworth, tweeted that there were too many illegal people in Texas using up Texans’ rightful electricity: 

Here’s Joshua Foxworth’s Twitter bio. See what he lists as his first bragging point:

Where does Texas get all these shitbags from??? Because we haven’t even gotten to Ted Cruise yet and I am fed up with these guys already.

 

 

On Wednesday, February 17, Ted Cruise, the junior senator from Texas, took a trip to Cancun in the midst of his state’s worst human disaster in decades.

Ted Cruz voted against giving federal disaster relief to New York and New Jersey when our states were ravaged by Super Storm Sandy and we here in Too Many Cats Estates here on the north shore of Long Island did’t have power for six days, and he’s a racist anti-immigrationist, and he voted to exonerate Trump at his impeachment trial, and he also voted to negate the electoral votes of Georgia, so, fuck off, Ted Cruz.

 

All this shit with Cruz blew up on Thursday and as of Friday morning, Cancun Cruz is still trending on Twitter. He might not be able to live this one down — it’s like Al Capone getting busted for tax evasion: his constituents were OK with him being the Senate’s biggest liar and asshole, but this trip to Mexico is what will get them really riled up…

 

 

Also, Don Trump Jr is trending this Friday morning for this tweet of his:

Here’s a small sample of the blowback:

And, lastly, Rush Limbaugh finally died on February 17 and as he shuffles off this mortal coil, let’s give him the send-off he deserves:

 

 

 

OK, are we caught up with the current events? Yes?

Then bring on the cats:

This is an old one but it’s still funny. Because it’s true.

 

 

 

And more Kitten-to-Cat glow-ups:

 

 

 

 

Another Rescue-kitty to Handsome dude:

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your brownies be edge prices, and all your days make you feel as good as the day Rush Limbaugh died, and please remember this bit of wisdom I learned on the internet today:

Your chances of being killed by a giraffe are low but never zero.

XXOO

 

 

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Speaking of getting vaccinated. . . 

Top Cat’s two kids in California worked the phones for weeks, and yesterday they finally got us an appointment for the Covid-19  vaccination here in New York state!

It was a same-day appointment so, at 5 o’clock in the evening, we bundled up and trudged through a foot of snow to a hospital in Queens and by 6:30 PM we were shot and half-way to being corona-proof, and sorry that Long Island is still in lock-down mode and we couldn’t go out for a celebratory dinner, or drink. We were that giddy.

The rule is that you have to hang around the hospital for 15 minutes after you get shot (or “jabbed”, as they say in the UK but, interestingly, not in Australia, where they, like us, say “shot”, and where they also call a tight Speedo a “budgie smuggler” and I’ve been laughing all day about that one). The nurses want to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction to the vaccine, so as I presented my paperwork to the attending health care professional in the waiting area, she looked at my form and asked me to say my name.

“Vivian”, I said, wondering if this was part of the screening. You see, Top Cat and I are in the official Old Farts category of vaccine recipients, so maybe the young lady wanted to make sure I still had my marbles, you know, in that I could remember my name and not bore her with stories about the price of bread in 1977.

It was 32 cents! A loaf of Wonder bread was 32 cents!!

Anyway, I tell her my name and she exclaims, “That’s so pretty!” She says, “I’ve never heard of this name before. I didn’t know how to pronounce it.”

This is not the usual reaction to my name. Six times in my life I’ve been asked, about my full moniker, Vivian Swift, “Is that your real name?” Fewer times than that — exactly twice — I’ve had someone say, about “Vivian”, “That’s my name too!” 

It’s a rule. When two Vivians meet, you have to get all excited and become best friends.

That’s because there aren’t a lot of Vivians out there in the  world, but I would have expected a full-grown woman of what looked to me European descent would have come across “Vivian” at least once in her life. So, that was weird.

P.S. My twin sister goes by a nickname that is rather unusual and no one has ever asked her if that’s her real name, although one guy did go, “That’s my dog’s name!” Her name is Elizabeth, but everyone calls her Buffy. 

During registration for the vaccine at the hospital, I was asked “What is your ethnicity?” and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that. I had to think hard. Scottish-American? White? Anglo? From the gene pool that made Appalachia great?

I went with “Caucasian,” but I didn’t feel good about it. The woman questioning me was African-American and I’m 75% sure that word doesn’t have a whole lot of positive connotations for her.

She also asked me about my religion. I briefly considered saying “None,” but decided to be more pro-active. I said, “Atheist.”

So, that was weird, too. Top Cat and I assume that these questions were for statistical purposes, and not a way to make the experience of getting a longed-for vaccination in the middle of a pandemic even more bizarre than it had to be. Because it was bizarre.

Here’s the surprising thing: The hospital, in the heart of Queens, New York, was practically empty. It was almost creepy. Although there was a loooong line of chairs looping around the enormous lobby, all appropriately socially distanced, there was no one sitting in them.  There was no waiting at all, and we’ve been trying to register on-line for a month. It was Top Cat’s daughter who called this hospital from Los Angeles, got a top administrator on the phone. explained our situation, and got us these coveted slots for vaccination. Go figure.

Once we did the registration, we went immediately into the vaccination tent (it’s indoors, isolated from the rest of the hospital; technically, the tent was set up in the atrium) and signed more paperwork, and then we were seated in another screened-in area with a nurse. We didn’t get shot together. The nurse-to-patient ratio is strictly one-to-one.

BTW, The hospital was giving two vaccines: the Pfizer and the Moderna, and it was random that we got Pfizer but Top Cat says that’s the one he wanted anyway.

I hate shots like crazy, so the most anxious time for me was sitting with the nurse, waiting for the vaccine to be made up. It seems that each syringe is made individually, and it was 5 minutes or so before mine came, sealed in a plastic envelope, delivered on a tray. 

“This will be a little cold,” the nurse said, and I’m thinking that I’m about to get shot with fluid that was, until 5 minutes ago, being stored at -80 degrees centigrade (-176 degrees Fahrenheit), and I began to sweat. Turns out she was talking about the alcohol swab that she rubbed my arm with. It was cold. I flinched.

The shot itself lasts less than a second, and I managed to jump at that, too. “Ha ha,” the nurse said, “You very nervous!” (She was of Asian ethnicity.) Another nurse, passing by, said to me, “How does it feel? Pretty good, right?” I said, “It does feel good!”, and she said, “Congratulations!”

My arm didn’t hurt right away, but it aches this morning. It’s not like I’m injured or anything, it’s more like the ache you get from thinking you can start doing multiple dead-lifts on your first day of weight training and the next day your body says,  “Don’t pull that shit again.” I speak from personal experience.

We get our second shots on March 4. We’re going to plan something awesome to celebrate what, for us, finally feels like The Beginning Of The End.

Meanwhile, in another news this week, it bears to be repeated:

And this happened, when the MSNBC news commentator, Rachel Maddow, was sued by the network that broadcast the My Pillow guy’s two-hour video filled with baseless conspiracy theories about the election being rigged and placed blame on electronic voting system companies Dominion and Smartmatic:

And a reminder of how different it is to not live in Trump’s America anymore:

 

And another Republican who thought Covid was just like the flu had a little rendezvous with karma on February 7:

Meanwhile, the House of Representative sent their Impeachment managers over to the Senate to begin presenting their case that Donald Trump should be found guilty of denigrating his path of office:

 

 

The Republicans, who want to avoid dealing with the merits of the case, are trying to hide behind procedural arguments, such as the one about it not being constitutional to hold a trial for an ex-president:

And this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is to get you all in the Weekend Mood:

 

 

 

 

From Kitten to Cat photos:

He started out a rescue, and now he’s a beautiful boy.

 

 

It’s the same tie.

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, everyone! We’ll meet here next Friday and vent about how the Republicans have let Donald Trump get away with inciting sedition, bandwe’ll do it together so we don’t have to scream into the void alone. 

Don’t spend too much time googling for photos of “budgie smugglers”, because before you know it, it’s early afternoon and your blog is late and you are regretting all your life choices that did not make you Australian. I speak from personal experience. 

 

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I forgot Friday last week. The whole week was out of whack because of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, which made me think that Monday was Wednesday and Wednesday was the first day of the weekend and then the real weekend came around and I remembered that Friday was yesterday, and I forgot to launch my blog post.

But by then I was in full magical realism/Northern Exposure mode, exploring the way myth, fantasy, and Alaska inform my daily life as is always the case with me in my post-white-wine blow-out mood, and I said to myself, “Sometimes, Ed, you just gotta do something bad, just to know you’re alive.”

So I apologize for skipping last week’s get-together. That means that this week’s round up of all the horror and whimsy  that is life on this planet (focus on the north shore of Long Island) will be extra long, organized into four parts: Reasons to be Happy, Current Horrendous Events, Life in the Pandemic Surrounded by CovIdiots, and Words to Live By While the Wine Chills.

P.S. to Jeanie, Steve, and Citizen Reader: look for the Easter Eggs just for you.

But first, let’s get in the mood with some 2020 feels:

 

This one is late, but still funny:

 

Last month I packed an overnight bag and ample refreshments and I dialed the phone humber of the “Help” line of the company that “hosts” this blog to discuss an issue that many of you Dear Readers have brought to my attention, namely, that the Comments that you all so kindly write to me don’t show in the public Comments section. After a predictably lengthy wait, and a predictably lengthy chat, along with a predictable fee of $49.99, I was able to secure a technician who updated some widgets and eliminated a few gizmos and added several new doodads and voila: the Comments appeared. 

Supposedly. Let me know if this is true. 

I was also advised that the version of WordPress that I am working on is almost obsolete so, although I have paid for this blog to be continued until 2022, all this might disappear, one day, all on its own unless I get new hardware soon and, well, you might as well shit on a cracker and call it Sharon before I’ll do that. I do not want to even think about getting a new computer because  I just got this one in 2012 and I have more fun things to do than listen to a sales guy tell me about Core i5 chips, hybrid drives, 1920 x 1080 dis, etc. I also dread having to sit down and upload stuff on a new computer; cleaning up my email in-box, which is only a matter of repetitively clicking my mouse, already feels like hard labor and I’m not in the mood. 

Reasons To Be Happy: When I say fun things, I mean I might even head out to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and go owl watching. There’s a big story in New York City about a barred owl that has been spotted in Central Park, and people are going crazy for this bird. Here’s what it looks like when the owl wakes up at dusk and prepares to go hunting:

Photo credit: J. Alex Tarquino.

Photo credit: J. Alex Tarquino.

I think that’s kind of sweet. People come out in real life when they could be watching TV…good for them.

Did you all feel the culture shift last week? Did you feel the shudder of the enormous tilt in civilization as we know it?

Why do I ask? Because at 1:45 PM on November 24, 2020, a group of Korean artists were nominated for a Grammy in Best Pop Duo/Group Category, along with the usual [western,main stream] suspects (Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift):

While this  explosion of the cultural axis might have gone unnoticed in your house (I mean, the Grammies were irrelevant to me, until just this year), it was such a big story in South Korea that it was covered in real time on TV:

But wait, that’s not all. 

The next week, BTS debuted their latest single, Life Goes On, at No. 1 on Billboard, their third No. 1 in three months, and the first No. 1 in the Korean language

A Korean language song topping the Billboard Hot 100 might not be earth-shattering news to you, or make you and your friends jump and scream and cry, but it was major news in South Korea:

All the TV channels covered the story:

 

 

 

Over the past three decades South Korea has spent a lot of money promoting their popular culture for export as a “soft power” move to expand its economy and its political influence in the world, so this was by far the biggest coup for the Korean Wave since it began as a ripple in 1992. What France was to the 18th-century, Korea will be to the 21st-century. There might even be a legendary ex-pat “Lost Generation” story about Americans in Korea being lived over there right now; I swear that if I were in my 20s, I’d be lighting out for Seoul tomorrow.

But if BTS isn’t on your radar yet as this generation’s Beatles, then maybe you’ll take the word of an actual Beatle, that these guys are The Real Thing (transcript of an interview on Smartness podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes):

We live in terrible, crazy, awful times here in the U S of A, and it’s these seven Koreans who keep me feeling less suicidal about the future.

And here is where we head into the Current Horrendous Events portion of this blog.

Things are so deranged here that it hardly made a ripple when a recently pardoned general began urging the president to suspend the constitution, declare martial law, and have the military supervise a new election. . . 

. . .  because that president that Flynn was cajoling into sedition was himself busy, entertaining/horrifying us with a 46-minute rambling, bat-shit crazy address to the American people, holding up bits of paper to “prove” the nutty conspiracy theories of a stolen election that have, so far, been shot down in 41 seperate court rulings.

Oh, lord, it’s been one of those weeks, again.

Roll the film, Jimmy:

 

Let’s talk about the hearing that Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliana, held in Michigan re: voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. You owe it to yourselves to watch the tape, because the witnesses were truly magnificent.

Magnificent piles of hot, steaming horseshit:

But is it less racist if the witness starts her “testimony” by saying “Some people think all Indian-Americans look alike [the witness is Indian-American], but I think Chinese all look alike.”? The answer is, No, No, Hell no.

When this lady started talking, it instantly became Must See TV:
She was AWESOME!!

And, to follow up on the Mike Flynn controversy:

Raise your hand if you think EVERY person in the Trump administration should be investigated and brought up on charges.

Some people are getting a jump on it:

But let’s not hold our breath:

 

47 more days. That’s all we have to endure: 47 more days.

 

 

 

 

 

These are real, and they are being posted all around Manhattan:

 

 

 

 

This one is for Citizen Reader:

 

 

 

 

As the wing-nuts march around with their “Stop the Steal” signs in support of their crack-pot theories of voter fraud, the resistance is going with “Stop the Stupid”.

 

File this one under: “Yep, this is about what I expect of Trump Christians”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you need another reason to love Scotland? Try this:

The headline: Political campaigners lit up Donald Trump’s Ayrshire golf course with “LOSER” to remind the outgoing president he lost the election.”

And here’s another reason to love Paris:

 

 

 

 

While Fox News was talking about voter fraud in Wisconsin, they did this (for you, Jeanie):

Let us now check out the latest happenings in the CovIdiot Saga:

 

 

 

 

On November 26,  Alice Willow bragged about her love of Jesus on Twitter. . .

. . . but  days later she wasn’t all that “Ride or Die” about it:

People on Twitter, a platform noted for expressing compassion, responded with sympathy. Here’s a sample:

 

 

 

Within a day, Alice Willow closed her Twitter account. I wish her the best, because I’m a “people person”, and I hope that her wish to die for her religion comes true. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. Next week I have another Pet Portrait to paint with you, and a photo essay called Cats Being Jerks, and more of the feel-good homey musings and gentle introspections that make this blog (and its author) such a kindly, meditative, and reverential presence on your Friday scrollings.

 

 

 

I don’t really understand this joke, but it still made me laugh.

 

 

 

 

And, lastly, since I don’t say Fuck Trump at the end of this any more because he is not worth the effort except when it comes time to rally for indictments, this is for Steve and Olga in London:

To Catch The Squirrel, You Must Be The Squirrel.

 

All I have to say is, “Amen”.

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Hello Dear Readers! Yes, I still enjoy the “WTF 2020” memes, but today I am not going to load you up with the usual political musings.

Sure, Trump and his spawn are still shitbags, and Rudy Giuliani is, literally, a walking, talking, oozing pustule and crazy as an outhouse rat, and Emily Murphy  should be in prison, and the rest of the Republicans are laying down as many land mines as they can to keep Joe Biden in a tizzy for the next 4 years. . . but I still get up every morning and walk into my kitchen for my morning tea and I see this:  

And, OK, the guys who are planing that march in Atlanta tomorrow to support Trump’s theft of their 16 electoral votes are dangerously delusional, but they made a poster that shows Georgia in blue, and, also, spelled “Georgia” wrong:

So, for today, I’m feeling confident that the people who are in charge of Operation Destroy American Democracy are idiots, and that I can safely take a week off from the unending shit show. 

I’m celebrating this Friday because Steve, the handsome tuxedo Manx who lives on our front stoop, came home today after going on walk-about for five weeks. I’m celebrating this Friday because my Korean husbands (BTS) have a new music video out today and global ARMY are coordinating to get 100 million views in 24 hours (be  dear and click onto this link and be counted and, BTW, how much do you want to be part of that pajama party??). I’m celebrating this Friday because it’s been a gorgeous Fall here on the north shore of Long Island and I want to take the time to savor it. I want to be like Taffy, thinking deep thoughts on sequential mornings, sitting under the Japanese Dogwood tree on the kitchen patio like a cute, fluffy buddha:

 

 

 

 

 

I just did a quick calculation and, during this pandemic, I have run about 765.5 miles, during 225 hours, on the streets in my neighborhood since lockdown in March. I know these roads quite well, and have become quite fond of them. They feel as if they are as much a part of me as my own right hand, which is my second-favorite hand as I am left handed, but we’re still close.

The best times were those early Summer mornings when there were no cars or people about and there was perfume in the air, but Fall has its charms here in Nassau County. This is my starting point on a typical November afternoon:

This is the same starting point a few days later, on a rainy and misty morning:

After learning that Trump played The Village People’s YMCA at the end of his desperate rallies for voters in the swing states, I reclaimed it for the forces of good and added the song to the top of all the playlists I listen to while I run — I have never payed much attention to the lyric before, and it is very WIERD — but this is where I am by the time the People sing “I felt the whole world was so jive”:

Are you old enough to remember when “jive” was a thing?

What a difference a few days make…this is the same road exactly 4 days later:

This (below) was taken on Nov. 8:

All those trees are bare now. Fall really is the most fleeting season, all the more reason to catch it while you can.

 

 

 

Top Cat has hunted and gathered for our two-person Thanksgiving this year, strangely, by getting us  a 22-pound turkey. That’s a lot of turkey for a pandemic holiday, just saying.

The other holiday that is on my mind is ChrisHanuKwanSolstice. I just finished making my holiday card, a special 2020-themed message that will be going out in optimism and celebration of the return of the light in our lives. In more ways than one.

If you would like to be on my mailing list, send me a note with your address to vivianswift at yahoo dot com. (All Stromness Rock hosts are automatically on the list whether they like it or not.)

Did you know that “Good Riddance 2020” cards are a thing this year?

Mine is not like that. I’m never on trend.

Also a “thing” this year. . . 

 

 

You KNOW that I, for one, will be sending Season’s Greetings to President Joe c/o 1600 PA Ave this year.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Try to spend at least one Trump-free day by doing something stupid, like feeling hopeful for the future of our planet and humankind in spite of all the evidence that tells us that we are, in fact, doomed. To be happy, these days, is a very transgressive act, and if I know you, Dear Reader, you like to rock the boat. Go out there and be joyful.

See you next Friday, with the usual outrage.

XXOO

 

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I found this (above) on the inter webs this week and it cheered me up. I never had the legs or the blonde hair or the English accent (isn’t that a Morris Minor?) but I used to have those shoes! I was cool! I AM cool!

Kids born in the 1990s have an inkling that life was funner in the olden days, which is obvious in my Summer of 2020 song which is the Gen Z version of Kool and the Gang and it’s ridiculously cute and it makes me wish I could give a party just so I could get everyone drunk and happy and dancing. Watch the video for no other reason than to see if bell bottoms still look cute on 24-year olds.

However, here we are, at another Friday in the Age of COVID:

 

 

 

 

I’ve never felt this way in August, but I am so over 2020, so ready for this year to be over, and I’m sure that everyone feels the same way. All we can do in the meantime is to keep sane and busy with projects that feed the soul. You all know that my project to get me through the end of Summer is digging out the old watercolors and painting some adorable pets, an activity that I highly recommend as a way to concentrate on pure love in such a time of hate.

If you have any questions about techniques or materials, just ask!

In case you didn’t read my blog on Wednesday, I painted our Dear Reader Sophie for her human, Susie in Wisconsin:

Today I will be painting Dudley . . .

. . . and Gypsy. . .

. . . the best doggos in the world who belong to Rachel and Don in the soon-to-be blue state of Texas.

This will be a double portrait,which raises the stakes. I like to live dangerously.**

**No, I absolutely do not.

As usual, I start with the eyes.

Sorry this is so dark. I wanted to show you the pencil lines I put in for the doggo, but they don’t show much here. They are very light, and give me the general shape of the doggo’s head and nose. I don’t need a whole lot of detail.

I am going to use bleeds for this portrait because I LOVE bleeds, and these pups have the right kind of coloring to let the paper and the paint do all the work, instead of having me PAINT everything.

I mixed the paint for Dudley’s fawn-colored fur using two shades of brown, Payne’s Gray, a tiny bit of black, yellow ochre, all mixed into a thick base of a base of a peachy-tinted paint from my Grumbacher Deluxe Opaque Watercolor set (24 pans).

The color I’m talking about is the one that’s half-hidden there (see above), on the right under the purple pan. I don’t have the name of the color, but it’s my favorite base because it’s very chalky and I love what it does on paper, and I love how it interacts with other paint.

You can see what I mean in these bleeds here, the way the black paints has such an interesting capiallry action when it meets this chalky Dudley-hue:

You might know that boxers have “frown lines” on their faces. I’m not going to paint them, but I will suggest their presence with a wisp of paint  here  and  there.

The pup needs some blue to highlight his nose:

And now we do the cheekies:

The wet paper shines a bit. No? Yes? Can you see?

I was hoping you would see, in this photo (above) how wet I am making the paper before I drop in some paint for more bleeds:

While I am working on Dudley, I have covered the Gypsy part of the painting with a clear plastic sheet-protector because if I didn’t, sure as shit I would splatter paint or drop a loaded paintbrush and all would be ruined. So, safe-guard your work!

Boxer have droopy eyes, which I saved until the end. The shape  of their  droop  is what gives  boxers  thier  expressions:

Now it’s Gypsy’s turn:

 

I was almost DONE when I looked at the completed faces, but I didn’t like just having two floating heads together. So I’m drawing in Dudely’s collar:

OK, now we are DONE.

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Have a great weekend, everyone. Lord knows that we all deserve a break from the constant bad news, so please take a few hours and find a place to feel safe and warm (or cool, if you’re in California) and pretend that it’s 2004 — my favorite year because I married Top Cat, but feel free to use your own annus mirabiles, and tell us about it in the Comments. We like to live vicariously.

I probably won’t be here on Wednesday because very few people (thank you to those precious few!) read the Wednesday posts anymore, but I’ll be back here next Friday with another Pet Portrait (spoiler: it’s a cat) and more stuff from the internet that renews your faith in humanity, one meme at a time.

And, oh yeah. . .

. . . Fuck Trump.

 

This guy is also a member of the NRA and voted for Trump in 2016. Let’s hope he represents millions more 2016 Trump voters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My criteria for the Perfect Fall Leaf is that it contain every color of the season in one feuille. Obviously, as soon as I laid eyes on this beauty I knew I’d found perfection for this year’s Annual Fall Leaf Painting Tutorial (2013).

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If in previous years you’ve followed my Annual Fall Leaf Painting Tutorial, you already know that after I’ve laid my leaf on 90-pound Canson watercolor paper and traced its entire outer edge, I divide the leaf into its “cells”. The secret to painting a Fall leaf is to paint it cell-by-cell.

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I am using size 0 and 00 brushes and my cute little set of Windsor Newton watercolors here — the colors are very bright and rich. Let the watercolor dry throughly before you start a new cell.

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This way, you can let the paint colors bleed into each other within each cell (see below, I’m letting my yellow paint bleed into the green)…

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…and still keep all the other cells clean and bright and not muddied-up as you add to the leaf (cell by cell):

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I’ll just let you watch for the next few frames as I paint in details, cell by cell:

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I have to say that I find Fall Leaf Painting to be very relaxing, especially when I add the tiniest details.

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The great thing about Fall Leaf Painting…

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…is that in the end, you have a leaf that will never fade or crumble or get disgusting looking (tea bag included for scale):

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This is what happens to your Fall Leaf the day after you finish painting it, poor thing.

This is especially true with oak leaves! Hoo boy, nothing dies faster and uglier than an oak leaf. That’s why I was overjoyed when I found an unusually ripe oak leaf this year and was able to paint it before the poor thing went the way of all fallen leaves.

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For more Fall Leaf Painting Tutorials, please check the Archives of this blog under Watercolor Tutorials. Sure, you might have to wade through some Cat Painting  and a lot of Garden Painting  and loads of Watercolor Failures that I’ve posted from time to time…but enjoy the browse and if you care to send me a note you can always reach me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com.

 

 

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So, it’s Friday evening and I’ve poured myself a nice cold of  Pinot G., and I’ve met my deadlines for the week (yes, Dear Readers, sometimes people actually pay me to write.) and you and me can discuss the crucial issues of the day.

Namely, Summer is over. I watched it go, sitting in my backyard, at 4:44 pm Daylight Savings Time on the Long Island Sound Sunday, Sept. 22. More of a bummer this year than usual.  Don’t get me started.

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I did not pick up a paintbrush this whole past week (spent all my time wordsmithing, you know) but I do have  something worthy to show you from a spot of painting (let us all now assume English accents) from yonder fortnight.

Two weeks ago I was working on an illustration of the beloved children’s tale, Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter is my idol when it comes to illustration, and I  have a chapter on London Gardens in my work in progress, the Damn Garden Book, so I was not going to miss the opportunity to reference my childhood infatuation with All Things English, starting with Peter Rabbit.

You know the story. For my illustration, I had to get the lay of the land, namely farmer MacGregor’s garden:

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The wondrous Beatrix illustrated it as a walled garden on the edge of a woods. And my favorite scene:

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Voila, Le Chat. (they call them moggies in England, by the way.) See how this ties into our whole Paint a Cat saga?

So, here is my interpretation of Peter Rabbit at this most crucial part of the whole story of Peter Rabbit:

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(I have blocked out the left hand side for future text, FYI.)

As soon as the paint dried on this thing I knew there was a problem with the cat but I didn’t know what.

I put it away for 48 hours, took a fresh look at it, and it hit me like Thumper:

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The cat’s head is too small. Of course!! That’s why it looks more like an ermine than a C-A-T.

But the thing had already been painted, and it’s watercolor, so o lordy, what to do?

I am now going to tell you, Dear Readers, a Trick of the Trade.

All I did was paint a new (right) cat on a separate bit of Canson 90 pound cold press paper (the only paper I use — I love love love this paper) . Then I cut it out, and glued it over the ermine, like thus:

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Here’s a close up:

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I know from experience that when this picture is scanned for print and published in a book, the fact that it’s a cut out will never register with the reader:

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In fact, if I am not about tell blab about it right now, you probably would never have noticed that Peter himself is a cut out, pasted in front of the MacGregor garden in the background:

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And you know what? I feel A-OK about this because I have recently discovered that our darling Miss Potter did the exact same thing back in the day when she was watercoloring her way to immortality.

Take a look at this illustration below:

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See that DoG? Look closely:

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Look closer:

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Yep. He’s a cut out. Underneath that Pomeranian, probably,  is some small-headed Pug that gave the delightful Miss P. second thoughts.

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And if Miss P. can do it, then I can do it.

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Last Sunday Top Cat took me into a magical woods on the southern shore of the Long Island Sound…
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…otherwise known as The Gold Coast of Ye Olde Long Island…

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…where Ye Olde Money of yore transplanted ancient yew trees from the Olde Worlde to make Instant Stately Homes (now gone to ruin)…

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…and where the haunted forest is reclaiming ye olde acres of lawns into native wild flower meadows once more…

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…where I came upon  yon ancient cottage…

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…which beckoned me to pause…

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…and consider its perfectness as a refuge from the madding world…

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…where I could gather inspiration from nature and light and where cats could roam free…

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…but there was just one little problem…

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scale.  For this magical realm goes by the name of The Muttontown Preserve (I’m not making this up) and it encompasses the last American address of — I’m not making this up — King Zog, the last, deposed monarch of Albania and I conjecture that ye Ole King had a young Princess for whom nothing would do but she had a play house in the American Colonial vernacular.

I can not tell you how much I want this house. If you hear about some crazy cat lady claiming that she is the reincarnation and rightful heiress of the late great King Zog — that’ll be me, staking my claim to this itty bitty ranch house in Muttontown. I’m not making this up.

But speaking of crazy cat ladies…

…it’s time to draw us some kitty cats!

OK. Here’s how I decided was the best way to share my minuscule amount of knowledge of the visual arts, of which I am not a certified practitioner of.  First, I am going to show you how I draw a cat from memory:

I start with a bottom-heavy oblong shape:

 

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Then I add hips — by the way, I’m doing this from memory to make a point:

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The point is that since I have been looking at cats my whole life I have internalized the basic structure of Le Cat:

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And as you can see, the basic structure is no more complicated than that of a snowman:

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So really, when I paint a cat, I don’t actually have to sketch out this blueprint — it’s already “on the paper” before I pick up a brush:

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But I am showing you the building blocks that I visualize when I look at a cat:

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And when I say “sketch”, I don’t mean make those crappy wispy wimpy scritching marks that a lot of people do when they “sketch” — I mean commit yourself to making a strong, unequivocal line:

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Voila, The Cat. Now, to make a cat head on, you use the exact same strategy…but let’s go through the basics of the dear little kitty face:

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Got it?

OK. So, now we’ll make another snowman:

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And we’ll erase some lines to make the kitty face front:

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And, voila:P1190796

Kitty Cat.

I hope you can see that drawing a cat isn’t all that hard. But it’s something that every cat lover should know how to do, in case of emergency:

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I like this kitty’s little smile. But really, those ears? That tail? Those dangling front legs?

I got this Lost Cat poster from a new book that I just started reading:

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It’s very cute and I recommend it. But it got me thinking….how can I apply my cat-snowman lesson to a real life cat?

So I found a really cute cat from the internets:

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And now all I have to do is interpret this cutie as a kitty snowman:P1190786

You see? All I had to do was  get the basic building blocks of this sweet kitty to start her portrait. Again, I have to say, this is a drawing of what I usually only visualize before I start to paint. It took me a long time before I understood that the time I spend just thinking about what I’m going to paint before I paint makes all the difference between a good painting and one that is a crap shoot, so yes, I spend a fair amount of time visualizing. I’m just saying.

Next, I picture the particular markings that make this sweet kitty her own self. She’s a darling tuxedo tabby, which in my mind looks like this:

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Then I plot out where the dark and the light spots are:

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And now I’m ready to paint.

Which I will do next week. I will paint this adorable sweet kitty girl and show you how I do it, brush stroke by brush stroke.

However, if you are new to cat painting, you can draw your kitty like I did, and do a nice watercolor wash over your pencil drawing and it will look really nice too. I would have done this to my pencil drawing here but I ran out of time this week. SORRY.

And now, for the Winner of our fabuloso Elizabeth Gilbert The Signature of All Things Give Away:

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Top Cat picked : Melissa! Melissa, please send me your snail mail address at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and I will send you this beautiful book a s a p. Melissa is a new dear reader — welcome!

 

 

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I had a really bad idea last week.

But first, a quick digression: Check out this window of W H Smith, the largest English bookstore in Paris, on the Rue de Rivoli (did I mention that it’s in PARIS? As in PARIS, FRANCE?): photo-5

See that book on the right? SEE IT?!?!?!? I’m so excited. I know this bookstore well and I NEVER thought I’d ever have a book in the window! (In my mind, I am buying everyone in the world a glass of champagne because I’m so happy!)

Thank you, Carol Gillot of Paris Breakfasts for sending this spiffy photo.

As I post this, Top Cat and I are on the road, taking a little 300-mile mosey around the Delaware Bay area on the east cost.

We left the Isle of Long via the Williamsburg Bridge…

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The most beautiful skyline in the world.

…and then we drove down the Garden State Parkway through the Garden State (Surprise! It’s New Jersey!) which is a drive that we love because, for one, the Garden State Parkway…

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…is planted with  fields of wild cosmos…

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…and leads us to Top Cat’s favorite playground…

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…Atlantic City. I, too, love AC because I get to say howdy to my favorite feathered friends on the boardwalk:

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This is what my feathered friends look like one second after all the french fries that I was feeding them are gone.

Other sights from the Delaware Bay:

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Somers Point is NJ’s best kept secret.

 

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Rose-Marsh (not Marsh-Roses, which would make more sense) in Cape May, NJ.

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Ochre-colored wooden door with louvres on colonial house in Smyrna, Delaware.

Our hunt for secret gardens took us to the perfectly preserved Revolutionary village of New Castle, Delaware:

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But even on a road trip, I haul my Damn Garden Book-in-progress with me:

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That’s me, working on the London chapter of The Damn Garden Book from the 16th floor hotel room of The Water Club at Borgata Casino in Atlantic City.

The Damn Garden Book got one step closer to publication this past week. I finally got my first three chapters illustrated and written and I submitted it to my agent — I do not “workshop” my writing; I re-re-re-re-rewrite it until I think it’s 99% of exactly what I want (I never get to 100%) and then I show it to my agent. Her feedback was very positive and she thought the book was ready to submit to Bloomsbury as is. So the manuscript is at my editor’s at Bloomsbury now and as soon as she approves the concept, we’ll negotiate a publication date and voila: the Damn Garden Book will be a reality.

One thing my agent observed was how much my painting has become more sophisticated. Well, I said, that’s what happens when you paint every day — you can’t help but get better. For example, here’s a little tiny illustration that appears in my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam (Bloomsbury, 2008)…it’s on page 45 for those of you reading along.

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I drew this little illustration from reference photographs that I’d taken of my old, pre-marriage-to-Top-Cat kitchen:

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Photo montage of my dear old kitchen.

I loved my old kitchen. It had a corner, as you can see, that was just right for turning into a shrine to my love of all things Tea. About a year ago I re-did this illustration, expanding it to a full-page illustration. First, I drew it all over again:

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And then I painted it from scratch:

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I also changed cats — in the first illustration I put my cat Honey on the table — in this new illustration I put Woody Robinson on the table, in his favorite place: with his head under the lampshade.

But I can not leave you without a painting this week! So, seeing as it is August, my favorite month of the year, I’m re-running a favorite post from 2010 that I call: Painting August.

 

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So until next Friday, I hope you’re all enjoying the best month of Summer with road trips real and imagined.

Have a fab weekend.

 

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I’m always interested in how writers write. That’s why I am fascinated by their rough drafts:

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This (above) is a David Foster Wallace rough draft. Or, more accurately, it’s his notes for a chapter of one of his books. What interests me is that he’s not a linear list maker. He makes notes like a left-hander, rounding thoughts up in a non-hiearchical fashion, and then later culling those thoughts and hammering them into sentences and paragraphs. (Was David Foster Wallace left-handed? Stay here while I go check….

…I’m back. I couldn’t find any information about D. F. W.’s handedness but I’d be wiling to bet that he was a southpaw.)

Now, what I make of Marcel Proust…

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..is that the was a very organized thinker, and fearless about writing crappy first drafts (look at all that writing!) and passionate (all those huge vigorous Xs!) about editing out fluff or preciousness. I see that Proust wrote out all the bad ideas (the lightest and most fleet that come first to mind) and dug deep for the good stuff that lays low, in the back of consciousness.  It takes a lot of courage to not fall in love with your first concepts, to delete all the stuff that would have made your life easier if you had lower standards, pages and pages of it.

Here is Honore Balzac, correcting proofs:

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Back then, words must have looked so very, very different when seeing them in print for the first time, is how I account for these copious “corrections”. These days, the good old word processor gives you a sense of what cold, hard print looks like. Did I mention that I’ve been writing for days, weeks really, on end, trying to wrassle my Damn Garden Book into being? Writing makes me very tense. Very. Tense. But I’m on a word processor, so I get the shock of seeing my words in cold, hard print a.s.a.p. Yay for the modern age.

To soothe my nerves, I did paint an extra New Orleans picture…

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Truth is, so much less can go wrong with a painting than with a paragraph.

…but we’ll get back to that later. This is Don Delillo, whose books I do not read:

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And this is Chuck Palahniuk, also whose books I do not read:

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No judgment there against Don and Chuck, who are both literary and marketplace superstars, it’s just that reading fiction is a colossal waste of time. But I like following Chuck’s train of thought there, the one that ends with  “BOY IN COMA”. Fun.

I am an amateur graphologist, and the give away here (below) is the so-called “lyrical D“. That’s when the lower case “D” found at the end of a word resembles a musical note — see it?  I count eleven such lyrical D‘s here, in the words “and”, “world”, “wind”, “thread”, “round”:

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The “lyrical D” denotes a sensitive nature, a person whose general  wiftiness is because of artistic temperament, not stupidity. Not that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. The writer of all these lyrical D’s is…

…Walt Whitman.

So, as free-associative as his poems appear, they are actually meticulously composed, going by this rough draft.

Graphologically speaking, this next writer is very intellectual (vertical letter formation, straight downstroke formation to the lower case “Y”, very angular script). The “WAR IS PEACE” stuff gives it away:

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This is George Orwell’s rough draft for his novel, 1984. Raise your hand if you remember reading this in high school and thinking Jeeze…1984 is soooooo faaaar awayyyyyyy in the far, far future……Back in high school, I could not imagine a reality in which I would be 28 years old in 1984. But let’s not digress.

Next, we see that even geniuses revise:

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Yes, that’s Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. I can imagine that when he wrote the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in capital letters, he did so because the whole notion of a United States of America, the foreignness of those words, the power and danger of them, made his heart pound. He wanted to imagine what they would look like in print, he wanted to make monuments of those words. And yes, there’s that “lyrical D” again.

And then there’s the rough draft that shows the writer’s eternal obstacles and inconveniences, as seen here in a 14th century hand-lettered manuscript painstakingly inked by some anonymous monk or scribe,  recently discovered in some Ye Olde English archive, a vellum hand-bound book that has been gathering dust for centuries:

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Looks like Fluffy did a toe dance in the ink pot again.

It revives my faith in humanity, and not incidentally the written word, to see that literate men from time immemorial have chosen to share their intellectual lives and learned work and cloistered hearts with their pain-in-the-ass pet cats.

I have always said that I am a writer who illustrates. I say that because I wrote stuff long, long before I ever illustrated stuff. I only started to illustrate because I wanted to create a reading experience that depended on a visual element and I was the only illustrator who could stand to work with me. But let me be clear, as a person who does both: Writing is much, much, MUCH harder than illustrating. Paint is ten times easier to deal with than words, is all I’m saying.

Writing makes me very tense.

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If I’ve spent a day writing drivel and the obvious, I can’t sleep at night. If I paint a lousy picture, I forgive myself and try again; if I write a putrid sentence, I question my raison d’être.

Anyhoo. I wanted to show you, dear readers, my rough drafts. First, my rough draft is an actual physical object…it’s a three-ring binder notebook:

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Each page is held in a plastic sleeve, to protect the art work while I fiddle with the lay-out:

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First Chapter, above, Edinburgh — I map out each page, do the illustrations, and paste  in the text:

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The yellow Post Its (above, recto side — right hand page) show me how I need to format text when I do my next re-write. But since the illustration is the easy part, and since every writer worth her salt procrastinates the act of writing as long as possible, I do the illustrations first:

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This is the title page for the Rio de Janeiro chapter (above), and a two-page spread for the Rio garden for which I have not yet written text (below):

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More Key West with me being ever so clever with the horizon across two pages:

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Japanese garden pics, with space for text:

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London garden chapter:

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And a garden here on Long Island:

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You can see that I’ve tried to vary the way I do illustrations, give the reader a “chocolate box” reading experience (you never know what’s going to pop up, not literally, when you turn the page).

But I can not emphasize enough how horrible it is to write a book. I’ve been at it for a year and I am just now getting the hang of it. Last month I was so discouraged that I Googled my mood: miserable gardener. I wanted to see who out there in the universe shared my pain. Try it. Google miserable gardener and see what you get.

Alright, I’ll tell you. Here’s what you get:

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The miserable gardener is a pure bred border collie named Chess who gardens and blogs in the desert of Colorado. HE IS AMAZING. In addition to all kinds of expert info about Colorado gardening, Chess also blogs about the bunnies in his backyard:

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It’s been very hot in Colorado and this is how a bunny keeps cool.

And get ready for unbearable cuteness…Chess also blogs about     Baby      Bunnies:

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AND AND AND, recently Chess had a blog about something I’ve never ever ever seen before…

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BABY     BLUE     JAYS.

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I could keel over from the cuteness. Do drop by The Miserable Gardener (he’s actually not all that miserable) — or you can click here to catch up. You will be glad you did.

Thank you, dear readers, and deepest gratitude to all you wonderful Commentors, for your understanding and empathy for the loss of our dear Oscar. My mother reads this blog and she always tells me that I have the best Commentors on the interwebs. I agree. Merci.

And, since we haven’t painted together recently, I’m going to end this post with a French Quarter illustration I did last week when the writing was going nowhere. It’s times like that when I’m really glad I have a paint brush handy.

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Note the little bit of masking fluid I’ve laid down in the back ground. That little bit is really quite important to the picture. If I don’t get that right, the whole illustration will be useless.

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I find that painting a repetitive form, such as the black lines for these shutters and door frames, is very relaxing:

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It’s time to peel off the masking fluid and see if I can make this illustration work:

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This is a full page illustration — the blank space of the porch (called a gallery in New Orleans) will be filled with text. And yes, I keep a tape measure on my desk to get the dimensions, and I write accordingly. I decided to leave the hanging plant as is, which is very different than what I usually do — as an amateur illustrator I tend to paint a lot of detail; but this time I was struck by the free-ness of this plant so I didn’t go over it as I’d intended, and paint in fronds. I think it still works, as the picture already has enough frou frou with the cast iron, nest-ce pas?

I do not write in the same room in which I paint. How about I give you a tour of my writing room next week? Anybody interested in seeing that?  I will, of course, be accompanied  by my writer’s mandatory  pain-in-the-ass assistant:

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Lickety, showing off his ambidexterity.

Have a wonderful weekend, my dear readers, and see you next Friday.

(Note: Comments are open until 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 30.)

 

 

 

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