‘The Silt Bluffs II’

February 26, 2012

The landscape of Kamloops, British Columbia, (native word meaning ‘dividing of waters’–the Thompson River divides mid-city to create the North and South Thompson), varies remarkably.

Think of a city at 1132 ft. elevation with homes built in terraced-layers down one mountainside and up another, all finding bottom along the broad Thompson River which attracted the attention of The Hudson Bay Company in 1811.  Since then Kamloops has become a train hub, a location for gold prospectors seeking their fortunes, and more recently a centre for the forest industry.

It is arid here.  Summers are hot and dry, and rain is an event.  Winters are cold, windy, with average amounts of snow, and a major spot for skiers and snowboarders at the highest elevations.  When I walk the dog at 5 a.m., I always hear owls and sometimes coyotes, and occasionally spot a few deer searching for something in the yards below the mountain ridge we hug up against.  I’ve also come across black bear in the car port, and seen the evidence of moose.

This painting is of what’s locally referred to as The Silt Bluffs.  They feature hoodoos, free-standing rock formations caused by wind erosion.

 

'The Silt Bluffs', 5" x 7" Original and signed Watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, $100.00 black-matted & framed in gold

 

 

The most prevalent raptors in our area are the Red-Tailed Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Turkey Vultures.

 

 

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Western Wall Memories

February 17, 2012

In 1989 I had the opportunity to visit Israel.  At the time I was quite involved in what was called “Jewish Christian Dialogue” in Montreal, whereby Clergy, Rabbis, and others gathered monthly to converse and hold meaningful discussions in an attempt to weave deeper strands through our historically-shared tapestry in order to examine the tears of the past while aiming to strengthen the cloth as a whole.  It was an enriching experience, and  provided the means for me to go to this Land of Lands.

It was a privileged time in the sense that the current unrest had not yet erupted, and we travelled freely everywhere from Palestine to Lebanon to Egypt to Jordon to the Sea without restriction or any impediment.  And so this small country with it’s geographical extremes (cold and snowing up in Jerusalem, hot and dry at the Dead Sea–the lowest point on earth–a bus ride later) and historical and cultural richness kept my eyes wide and in constant amazement the entire stay.

The following painting, “Morning Prayer” is a compilation of  my memory of having been at the Western Wall of the Old Temple in the Old City.  This is, without question, the holiest and most memorable of places where both celebrations and anguished appeals are vaulted vertically in a spiritual, hallowed bond as past and present combine.

 

"Morning Prayer"

 

These days I particularly enjoy visiting ‘ShimonZ’ at ‘The Human Picture’, http://thehumanpicture.wordpress.com.

 

 

The Columbias

February 10, 2012

For seven summers I was the cook for The British Columbia Natural History Society.  In 1994 I graduated from The Dubruelle French Culinary School in Vancouver, and ran a kitchen at a small residence on the UBC Campus.  This left my summers free, and I took on the task of prepping to feed upwards of sixty hikers at elevations upwards to some 3000 m., or approximately 10,000 ft.

It involved cooking and then packing vacuum-sealed , frozen meals in large chests with dry ice before joining the caravan of cars towards the mountain destination of choice.  Once at the base, everything–including me–was hauled to the summit in a net-outfitted  helicopter, and the business of setting up the huge kitchen and dining tents was begun.  Frequently it was snowing up top–though only twenty minutes before I’d been roasting in the July heat–leaving me scrambling to find my parka.

The challenge was to get everything unboxed and laid out in some semblance of order–while ensuring the burners were properly hooked up to giant propane tanks–so that all-important first meal could be served some three hours later.  After that, I could do the washing-up and at least semi-relax by first getting my little tent set up and then getting myself organized enough to be able to do breakfast when I awoke at 4 a.m.

By Day Three (of the ten day experience), it felt like I’d lived there my whole life, and could spend my days doing watercolours while the hikers tramped all over the rugged terrain carrying the bagged lunches they packed for themselves after dinner the night before.  Once I’d served their breakfast, they’d stroll about with final cups of coffee making sure I overheard their latest Grizzly Bear spotting stories.  Then they’d be off, leaving me sitting there all day minding that food all by myself.

Here is a painting from one of those seven summers.  And though I can’t be entirely positive, I believe this particular view is from the Eastern British Columbia Mountain Range known simply as The Columbias.

 

Glaciers in The Columbias

 

 

And yes, I did see Grizzlies, but only from a distance.

thank god.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start to Finish . . .

February 7, 2012

Though I’ve certainly seen this done many times on websites and in books, I’ve never taken photos of a painting of mine as it progresses from a drawing to a finished piece.  Whether it proves interesting or useful is anyone’s guess, but here goes . . .

I sought out written permission from the Irish Photographer Joseph Hogan to use his images to create watercolours.  This is necessary whenever an artist chooses to make use of another artist’s image(s).  I have paintings which I’ve done from photos I’ve found on the internet but won’t post them here (nor sell them) because I’ve yet to go about getting explicit permission to use the original image.

In any case, here is the image I am using for a painting entitled “Winter Barn“. . . .

Original Photograph by Joseph Hogan (used with Joe's exclusive permission)

The first step is for me to choose the right kind of paper.  It took me about ten years to discover ‘my’ paper–the one that receives my style of painting the best. (And there are honking bunches of types of paper out there beckoning watercolourists.)  For this particular subject I chose Arches 140 lb. Cold Press Paper, because it has a creamy hue and just a bit of tooth to it.  My other preferred paper is Arches 140 lb. Hot Press Paper which is smooth as glass (which is what I used for ‘Winter Horses’, for example).  Both papers receive the paint in a different way.

I first decided to change this photo into a night scene.  For me it is important to establish a definite and personal mood, to embody the photograph–use it to draw out from me what I feel when I see it–let my mind take me back to similar scenes in time’s past.

When we lived in Granville, New York, we lived in the Baptist Parsonage (my father was a Pastor)  and it was a 19th Century house with the original horse barn for our garage.  Sitting at its open back door, I remember looking at the host of stars while sneaking a Marlboro, and wondering what my life was going to involve.  (And, lo and behold, it involved a prolonged effort to finally give up those deliciously-sinful Marlboros).  But I sat there rain or shine or snow–usually at night–and thought my thoughts and enjoyed just being me instead of a Pastor’s son.

Back to the task at hand—I made a detailed drawing of the barn, used a prescription medicine container to draw a moon, then used masking fluid to mask out the moon, the window, and several fruit trees I decided belonged on a hill not in the photo.

The initial drawing and selective masking of 'Winter Barn'

Once that was done, I gave a preliminary wash to the night sky using  Payne’s grey.

First wash over sky using Payne's Grey and a touch of Sepia

The next stage was to define the sky with a second, and darker wash.  This is occasionally referred to as ‘glazing’ by my partners in crime but I just call it a second wash.   I also decided to remove the masked moon and trees by rubbing off the rubbery masking, and then began defining the fruit trees by using Sepia mixed with Payne’s Grey and some Burnt Umber using a fan brush to give the feeling of many branches against a moonlit night.

blocking-in of fruit trees

I also used a small rigger brush to create more defined trees within the grove . . .

more tree detail . . .

As you can see, I also added shadows using Payne’s Grey and Thalo Blue.  I want to convey the impression that they are growing on a hillside.  And now it is time to begin the initial washes over the wood of the barn.  The red in the photograph is not the red of my memory.  I want the red of the barn in Granville, and not the red of Joseph Hogan’s barn photo.

initial barn washes and grasses on the hill

The next several illustrations show the development of the barn–the attention paid to the stonework, the window, the planks, the grasses and shadows.  This takes me hours, and is somewhat distressing (in a I-just-want-a-Marlboro kind of way) because again, this is taking a photo of an anonymous barn in the daylight and changing it into a personal painting of a memory-laden place where my teenage self got lost in imagining futures (a different one every time I went out there–but all of them grand).  In other words, there’s no blueprint to follow and it needs to look authentic, yet I have no scene before me to guide my brush–I must let the painting tell me where to go next . . .

more detail

more definition added to barn's stonework and planks . . .

yet more detail . . .

Finally, it took several days to stew over how to find the guts to put in the barn’s frosty shadows.  I say ‘guts’ because with watercolour, there’s no turning back–once darks are laid in, they’re there to stay.  (At any point along the way, an ill-advised decision has many a time consigned my work to the ‘not good enough’ heap.)  And I chose to use a sponge and Payne’s Grey mixed with Thalo Blue to provide a texture-like effect to the snow covered grasses in front of the barn.

I then spattered Payne’s Grey over the wooden parts of the barn and over the fruit trees.  I also spattered Yellow Ochre onto the stonework, and used it to sponge-in more grasses.  Selective spattering adds the feeling of age to the barn, and more depth to the trees.

To finally convey the effect of a moonlit Wintery night, I spattered Opaque White over the whole to give the feel of a fine powder of snow falling gently onto the scene.

This may yet prove to be the final rendering of this subject–but then again, I may still stand back and feel it’s missing the mark (which I do feel it is, but can’t quite figure out how) and get in there and muck around some more.  I actually do think I may spatter a bit more snow into the air . . . .

Final (maybe) version of "Winter Barn" by Lance Weisser relying on an image by Joseph Hogan (with permission)

I’ve enjoyed sharing this process with you.  More than that, I have come to appreciate with increasing affection and encouragement your own artistic endeavours.  You all spur me on, and make me happy that I’ve chosen watercolour as my medium to share as I take heart in your photos, pottery, paintings, drawings, computer art, and poetry.

Thank you for being my friends.

Winter Horses

February 1, 2012

The Old Schoolhouse in Pritchard on Duck Range Road was torn down last summer.  It was in a farmer’s field–a farmer who’d gone to it as a child–and though he wanted to see it restored and taken over by the community, no one stepped forward to do so.

For years his horses used the school yard as their private pasture.  Rain or shine–snow or sleet–anyone driving by would see them, the pair of steeds only momentarily looking up before resuming their grazing.

 

 

"School Yard Pasture"

 

 

Finally, after numerous appeals to various groups to assume responsibility for the Old School, the farmer reluctantly went about making sure it didn’t collapse and possibly cause an accident. Someone told me it only took a couple of hours for it to be reduced to a pile of boards and beams.  If one drives by now, the only thing left standing are the horses.

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