topiary cats

topiary cats

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Well another year is rolling to a close.I sincerely hope 2017 brings in a lot of good energy.

2016 for me personally was a year of good change.
I am still employed for which I am deeply thankful.
Those November job cuts really freaked me out.
I am hoping for job stability in 2017.

This year I found Rob, and I'm really happy about that. It's really, really nice to have a boyfriend.
And long-overdue.

I had a couple of (now former) friends who really looked down on me because I was the terminally single one. They would say, "Oh leave Daya with me." That's not going to work on any kind of regular basis when they live three neighborhoods over. That's a lot of traveling, for me and for Daya. People don't think logistics through, they like to give you a simplified answer to your "problems" without knowing or thinking through the details of reality, especially from your perspective, not theirs. And when you think through those details and say, "No, that won't work logistically," they act like you are making excuses.

I don't care what people say, when you are **literally by yourself** raising a child, and you don't have help with someone watching the child and helping with the daily stuff it really isn't possible logistically to go out dating or carve out regular time for a significant other.  Everyone else who manages it has money for a sitter, or the other parent, or friends/family to stay with the child. Which all of them had.

This is the area my friend Jackie and I really understand about each other- we were both completely alone from the start. She gets it. And I understand this about her, too. She never looked down on me or judged me, because it was the same for her and she knew.

Let's also not mention that during the week, after getting your child to school, you go to work, collect child, come home, get child fed etc it is 8pm and you're DONE. And weekends are about getting all the home stuff done (hopefully), getting the child to lessons or whatever. There is no help with any logistics. Your entire life is completely tied down.

I'm really proud of myself for continuing to paint through those years....but it is something I can do at home. When I started plein air painting most of it was done with vacation days. And it still is.

Even now, I have logistical constraints with Rob and my availability. We often manage to see each other once during the week but it revolves around Daya and needing to get her from dance.  I cannot stay overnights- ever. Daya is too young for that. He can stay here, and he has done so a couple of times, like Christmas, but Daya is here too which makes things different. Not bad or worse, just different.

Daya likes Rob, though the two of them don't have much connection and that is ok. Rob has no experience with kids, especially tweenage girls. I think Daya would like to have a connection but it will be harder for her with Rob because he doesn't have any experience with kids. Besides that, I really consider my relationship with Rob to be about the two of us and not about Daya. I don't want to force anything, and I want my own adult time and space.

That being said, this is one of my favorite pictures from this year, from the Medieval Faire in September.  Daya climbed the rocks and Rob went right up after her.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Terrible Cat Disaster

This morning I heard a crash in my studio.
I thought, "Those stupid cats. I hope it was just my brushes they knocked over again."

Honestly, I never thought I would hope for that....


I had my Dakota box filled with all my Unisons on my drawing table and......

yeah that's what they knocked over and of course it wasn't covered because I forgot to do it last night.

I almost took a picture but I didn't because I don't ever want to see that again and you all shouldn't be exposed to that kind of graphic imagery, either. It was bad.

So anyhow I spent a good part of today putting my Unisons back in the Dakota box...oddly it was bursting full and now it is not...Many of the sticks were unharmed and many were very harmed. I also decided to start removing all the labels.

Here is the box in its current state:

I have a pile of pastel chips that is painful to look at.
I know they can be reconstituted.
I have done that with a few larger chunks, but it is very messy.

I posted on wetcanvas to get help dealing with the chips.

I am trying to not be upset but I AM SO UPSET.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bad Painting Analysis

I have come to the conclusion that being on vacation is really excellent for my plein air painting.

Today I went back to Brooklyn and tired myself out making this really bad painting:
9x12 pastel on Colourfix

When I stepped back from this painting after deciding I was done for the day, my first thought was, "I hate my foliage. My foliage is just terrible."
Now, that is partially true but it isn't the reason why this painting doesn't work for me.

I had some assorted papers with me- my 8x10 sanded papers and one sheet of 9x12 Colourfix (the light blue one) that has been living in my Yellowstone box for a really long time, probably over a year. I might have felt a little sorry for the paper, and I also have been on a Good Painting Streak on the 8x10 Richeson sanded paper, so I decided to be a little different.

Don't get me wrong, Colourfix is amazing paper.  It isn't the paper's fault. But though it doesn't seem like a big difference, there is a difference working 8x10 vs 9x12.

I had come into BBG wanting to paint the reflecting ponds where the water lilies bloom in the spring. The water is like a big mirror, really pretty.  But I couldn't get a composition about water reflections that I liked and not be in the way of people walking or building entrances.

So I went to the Japanese garden because there is water there and I wanted to paint water.
The paths are narrow and again, I couldn't decide on a composition about the water.
I settled on a spot that wasn't in the way of others and had water AND a supercool tree.
Which is what brings me to the 9x12 problem.

Do you see how I am rambling here?
That was my exact problem finding a location I liked.

I thought, "If I use the 9x12 paper instead of the 8x10 I'll have MORE ROOM TO FIT EVERYRTHING!"

And that is exactly the problem.

There is too much going on.
I wanted to paint the tree AND the water, but to do that I had to include all that background stuff because it was in the picture frame.

Landscape with a panorama view works because it is not about details, but the overall shapes the landscape makes in its entirety.

Landscape with a particular focus needs to stick to the focus.

Basically, this painting should have been only about the tree or only about the water.
And from my vantage point the tree worked better because I didn't really have much distant view. The tree was closest, then there was everything else on the same plane. I only have a foreground and a mid-ground.

Also, working 9x12 takes longer because it is larger. 
I can absolutely tell the time difference while I am working.

Ok, there are a few things which I like.
I like the red tree all the way at the left.
My skyholes are effective enough.
I like my twiggy trees, though I need more of them.

But my foreground tree, the one I really liked, came out overworked and rather terrible.
Colourfix, while an amazing surface, doesn't take as many layers as a fully sanded paper,
Also, I started out with a color block-in instead of drawing.  In this case establishing the tree with more drawing would have worked better.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rob's Topiary Squirrel Receives Acorn

Rob has a topiary squirrel on his bookcase.


There is no question it belongs in at least one painting.

Here, the Squirrel has made a friend and gets an acorn.

Pastel (all Unisons) on black Richeson sanded paper 8x10

Monday, December 26, 2016

Turquoise Fog

9x12 pastel on pastelmat
all Rembrandt pastels

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Christmas was nice.
Daya made out exceptionally well.
Rob stayed overnight so he could open presents at Oh-God-Thirty with us.

The cats got presents.
The rats got a present.

It was all quiet and peaceful, and no one shot their eye out.

My father sent Daya a lot of money and she feels sad because she would rather have grandparents who remember how old she is and what grade she is in, and what she is doing in her life. If nothing else at least this is a lesson that money is not a substitute for an actual relationship.  I tell her not to take it personally.

I did not hear anything from my father- he has always acknowledged me at Christmas but he did not this year. When Daya called to say thank you he did not ask to speak to me.

Daya wanted a new gym mat.
I wanted to know why since she already has one, and she gave me a list of reasons that sounded very suspicious.

But Santa shelled out the $94 for a new gym mat.
And there were TWO.
gym mats.

I had no idea.
No idea how big they were and there are TWO.

I checked about 7 times to make sure I wasn't charged twice.  Nope.
Rob said that happened to him once too- he thought he bought a single item but it turned out that Qty 1 meant a set of 2.  They arrived in MASSIVE boxes and have been driving me insane for most of December.

Daya's old gym mat, when laid across ONE of the new mats, looks like a postage stamp.
It is a good thing her room is big enough to fit the mats.

Munchie observed.

Handstand Shirt.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest night, after which the light comes back.  it is the birth of light.

As I have done for several years now, I went over to St Patrick's to light some candles and send some energy and intentions out to be birthed.  Today is the day of all days to do this.

Here is the tree at Rockefeller Center:

Inside the cathedral.

I lit three candles this year, they are the three at the top next to the angel.

More inside the cathedral.

This year's nativity scene.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Metal Mouth

A week ago today Daya got braces and I haven't posted about it yet!




Saturday, December 17, 2016


This is not a great painting.
It isn't even a very good painting, but I'm still glad I got in some easel time.
Yesterday was too cold/windy to go out painting.

Pastel on black Richeson sanded paper, 8x10, couple hours.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Here is a little quick snowy color study.
5x7 Sennelier oil pastels on Colourfix-primed Stonehenge.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wet Alpaca

I got a nice new alpaca hat in Hudson.
Alpaca is wonderful- it is warm and soft and never itchy like wool.

This is my lovely alpaca hat:

The other night I went to pick up Daya from dance. It was raining lightly so I didn't bother with my umbrella, and my alpaca hat was so nice and warm.

I was on the train.
A man stepped on and I thought, 'Wow, that guy stinks.  He smells like a wet dog."

Oddly, the smell didn't go away when I got off the train.
Which led me to the discovery that it was ME!
I was the stinky one!

Apparently my alpaca hat, when wet, smells like a wet cat.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I Froze Again

Friday wasn't cold enough so I went out again yesterday and it was cold.

But I made a painting.
I went to the cemetery but not really for cemetery stuff...there is landscape and there are clouds.

Also, I left my painting cap in Brooklyn. Probably because of the cold.
It didn't turn up in the lost and found so I know exactly where it is, hiding very well, and I'll go get it Tuesday.

I really love my painting cap and I want it back.

8x10 pastel on that wonderful dark gray Richeson sanded paper.
A little less than 2 hours.

I think the physical discomfort teaches me efficiency.
Several times during this painting I was ready to be done but the painting wasn't done talking so I kept on.

It always feels good when it is over.

I brought a lot of pastels. This is something I should really do more often.
My Yellowstone box is very large and requires my heavy-duty tripod, which is also large and heavy, but can possibly support Godzilla.

It is very sturdy and solid..

Yellowstone box

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Know When to Jump Ship

Yesterday I went to Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to paint, and it was a cold but lovely time.

While on the train over ***** I thought I might paint in the Japanese garden, specifically the little Shinto shrine which is there.

And that's where I set up my gear.
It is a small space, not much room around the shrine, but it is so! adorable! and I thought if I do my composition correctly I could put the shrine in the landscape.  Even though I was way too close up.

I tried to make it work, three times. I really was just way too close and there was no way to back up.
The third attempt was a halfway decent start on the shrine, but it was turning into a very involved architectural painting and I wasn't enjoying it because I really wanted to paint landscape.

I had been looking forward to this trip all week, I was so happy to be there, and there was just no way I was going to ruin my painting day by painting something I wasn't enjoying.

It is important to know when jumping ship is the only good solution.

So I stopped and pondered.
I had my gear set up and I liked the location, so I didn't want to move to a different spot.

There was some nice landscape with pretty colors just behind the shrine and I liked that, so I moved my tripod to the other side of the little clearing and started over.  One of the nice things about using sanded paper is that it takes a lot of abuse. It is expensive so I refuse to waste it, and it was no problem just working over my three previous starts.

The block-in stage of this painting was really super-ugly- seriously ugly- and of course that's when people came over to look! When this happens I tell myself several things, over and over.  And over.

I tell myself that I can make it work, I will make it work, it will turn out well. I can do it. I also tell myself not to rush. You just can't be in a hurry to get through the ugly stage, as uncomfortable as it is.
A prayer for help here and there is helpful too.

There are several things I felt went really well with this painting.
The clouds- I have a bad habit of making all my cloud edges too soft, and I didn't do that today.  I used five shades of blue (and a purple) in the sky, and I found that small subtle accents of the middle-darker blue around some of the cloud edges made them stand out more.

The trees I did very last.  There are some distant trees behind the dark foreground trees, and I painted from back to forward.  The very distant foliage shapes went better than expected, and so much of it (as well as the clouds) was a back-and-forth between subject color and sky color.

8x10 pastel on Richeson sanded paper (the dark gray one, my fave!!)

I WAS SO COLD by the end of this painting, it was 35 degrees and I had been standing still for almost three hours. This is very apparent on the right side in the foreground trees......

My Belly River box is back to work!

my view behind the shrine

my original location

Apparently the 5 train doesn't go to Eastern Parkway anymore which I find baffling.
I discovered this when the train went way past where it should go, but the 2 and 3 share the same stops so I just switched trains and went back a few stops.

Here are some pictures from around BBG.