Cloudscape 1

March 22, 2022

There’s a compositional rule advising painters that if the sky is the main element in a painting, then what lies below it ought to be kept simple and less important; and, conversely, if it’s the landscape which is the focus, then the sky should be suggested and there merely as a compliment to the rest of the painting. Of course, there are plenty of excellent paintings where this rule has been ignored. I think of Van Gogh whose complexities and intricacies fill every inch, and cause one’s eyes to dance around and be rewarded with a richness of technique.

Personally speaking, it seems better to go by that rule’s wisdom than pretend to be of the calibre and passion of a virtuoso like Van Gogh. Those who, like him, are driven body and soul to express their inner selves via their art aren’t likely to be ones who go by sensibility and convention in life as well as art. Those who, like me, have to screw up their courage in order to even put brush to paper, are appreciative of sound advice and guidance. And so, with this painting, I followed that compositional rule:

“Peace At Eve”
watercolour on Arches 140# Hot Press Paper, by Lance Weisser
[sold]

Winter Watercolours III

January 14, 2022

It seems to be just a very human thing to anthropomorphize whatever we come across–give everything from fish to insects to birds to apes to dinosaurs to pets a human personality. We even do it with cars and ships. Growing up, I was read the Thornton Burgess stories, like “The Adventures of Grandfather Frog” and the adventures of “Sammy Jay”. You may, rather, have been read “Winnie The Pooh” or “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Every animal in them was cast in human likeness.

And then came along the biggest anthropomorphiser of all time, Walt Disney:

“. . . This photostat model sheet titled ‘Sleeping Beauty Raven’ was made at the Disney Studios during production of Sleeping Beauty, and it was issued to animators for their use in drawing the black bird that is the companion of the evil fairy Maleficent. . . “

There’s a downside to creating animals in our own image–they don’t get to be entities on their own terms, self-definers of their unique life force and world and surroundings. One filmmaker who decided to take it to extremes was Alfred Hitchcock, whose film ‘The Birds‘ cast them as human haters who couldn’t wait to swoop down and become feathered masters over anyone walking around on two legs. Seeing all those crows on telephone wires, silently waiting for the signal to begin wreaking destruction was the very definition of creepy.

All these ravens want in this painting is whatever can be gleaned from a long-before harvested crop of corn:

“Morning Scavenge”, watercolour by Lance Weisser, framed and matted 19″ x 23″, unframed 9″ x 12″
[still available for purchase, contact weisserlance@gmail.com]

Phee

January 1, 2022

My friend Natasha’s loveable/loving companion is ‘Phee’ (full name ‘McPhee’), a rescue cat with such a grounded, placidly confident demeanor, when Natasha brought her to her apartment for the first time, Phee imperiously walked through each room, coolly sizing-up her new territory, then, satisfied, curled up on an armchair and went to sleep.

So who better to paint and make into a Christmas card?

‘Phee’, watercolour study on artboard by Lance Weisser

….waiting it out

December 28, 2021

Don’t you just love this little seasonal week-long swale coming between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, when that over-filled helium balloon of a holiday finally bursts and we’re left sitting in our bathrobes and pajamas, watching anything other than ‘Home Alone 2’ and Alastair Sim doing ‘Scrooge’, and don’t have to dress for dinner or anything else?

However, at -27C (-17F) and winds carrying blasts of drifting snow against the windows, this is exactly how it looks out there:

‘Old Schoolhouse’, watercolour by Lance Weisser

I have to dress our little dog ‘Ashton’ in his insulated jacket, carry him to his chosen spot near the shed in order to do his duty, and, as soon as he’s finished, snatch him back up in my arms and carry him back inside. Even then, he’s shivering in my arms.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!

This second Dickens-like Christmas pop-up card was sent to friends whose Labradoodle dog, ‘Juno’, was the subject of a portrait found in the post for March 9th. . .

The front of the card

…..and its pop-up figures inside serenade the viewer with carols while ‘Juno’ wishes she were inside next to a warm fireplace :

….and more Christmas cards!

December 18, 2021

Two Charles Dickens’ inspired pop-ups:

The envelope and front of the card
Pop-up carolers and bulldog

Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2021

Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving is a rather lowkey meal held mid-October–lowkey, that is, in comparison with the American extravaganza on the fourth Thursday of November. Ours takes the form of a harvest celebration–a fitting end to Summer’s seasonal bounty. And while there is usually a turkey dinner–and yes, it is often family celebrated–no one is going to insist on anyone flying in from any of our three coasts in order to eat it. Nor will there be parades featuring gigantic floating Pillsbury Dough Boys or any loud, beer-laden watching of football. In fact, many in my circle have a modest restaurant version along with a friend or two: a glass of wine, the roasted bird entre, pumpkin pie, coffee and conversation–and then home again to peace and quiet and a spotless kitchen.

That said, having been born and raised in the good ol’ USA, I know exactly how to produce a Thanksgiving card imbued with the Yankee spirit of throwing Kraft Miniature Marshmallows and pineapple chunks into an already sweet, sweet potato dish, as well as cramming oysters and chestnuts (and anything else) into turkey stuffing.

5.5″ x 8.5″, the cover is an autumn leaf from our front yard Red Maple

…..wait for it…..

BAM!

The 8.5″ x 11″ inside is a watercolour paper chain of maple leaves which bounce forward along with dried/pressed chrysanthemums and a hand-painted pop-up turkey against a backdrop of watercolour-rendered maple leaves

It’s my pop-up card version of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (without a helium-filled Bullwinkle).

A Very Happy American Thanksgiving to all!

Just waiting for something tasty to fall out of a small goblin’s pillowcase….

‘Moonstruck’, watercolour by Lance Weisser, Arches140# Hot Press Paper, 10″ x 12″
[sold]

Spring Thaw

March 21, 2021

Around here in British Columbia’s Southern Interior, while the mountains boast of a more than normal snow pack (which ultimately brings water to our homes), our city of Kamloops has experienced a warmer and drier Winter than usual. While there’s still a little snow in the higher portions of the city, where we live it has been a very gentle and lamb-like entry into the first day of Spring.

‘March’, watercolour on treated art board, 10″ x 12″
by Lance Weisser

While painting this portrait of Juno in honour of Kathie’s birthday, our little Bichon, ‘Elmo’, was in the final days of his thirteen-year-old life. Stoically dealing with a heart twice its normal size, an enlarged liver and kidney malfunction, our beloved ‘Elmo’ passed away in his bed just after I’d checked on him on January 24th. For his two daddies, this was a sorrowful occasion and one very difficult to get over.

As the weeks passed, however, we realised we needed to at least try to fill the emotional hole of losing our lovely pet and began searching far and wide for a new puppy. At the same time, I was close to finishing the portrait of Juno and finally did, a couple of weeks before Kathie’s big day:

‘Juno’, watercolour on treated art board, 12″ x 10″, by Lance Weisser

Kathie and Ken were very pleased and the Juno portrait now hangs in their dining room.

And we–Raul and I–have a new addition to our family, a tiny toy Maltipoo puppy named ‘Ashton’, who can never replace ‘Elmo’ and yet has won us completely over by his beautiful perky cuteness and charming personality:

Juno was the sister and wife (hmmm) of Jupiter, and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. The patron goddess of Rome and protector of women and marriage, Juno’s name is heard in Virgil’s Aeneid, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Sean O’Casey’s 1924 play Juno and the Paycock.” [source: https://nameberry.com/babyname/Juno%5D

Although I’m posting these progressive treatments over a few days, this painting actually took me several weeks. That’s because I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. Painting complicated hair/fur isn’t my forte. And watercolour isn’t a terribly forgiving medium. So I ultimately chose to use Daniel Smith’s Watercolour Ground applied over white art board. The lovely quality of this product is how easily one can lift mistakes off it–it lifts previously applied, and dried paint, like a dream. What it therefore doesn’t allow is a number of washes or glazes on top of each other, because once a fresh wash is placed over a dried wash, that old one will lift and mix with the new wet one. So my experience has been to use one put-down of wash and let that be the one, and if it doesn’t look good, just put water all over it and lift it right off and wait till the surface has dried and start again.

Because Labradoodles are created by mating a Labrador with a Poodle, any number of colour combinations are possible, including black, dark brown, reddish brown, blonde-brown and who knows how many others. Each puppy can be more like the father, or take after the mother, with different fur/hair qualities as a result. Juno’s hair is a delicious golden colour and not as tightly curled as a Poodle, but not as straight as a Labrador, and so very curly and yet wavy.

Here is the way the painting progressed from the initial sketch and wash:

Personally, I have a need to establish the eyes and nose before progressing further. If they don’t happen correctly, forget about it. I was satisfied that my attempts looked true enough to the image I was given to work from to keep on working.

when micro = macro

January 12, 2021

Dark-eyed Junco and Stellar Jay, 2″ x 2″, Black-Capped Chickadee 1″ x .5″, watercolour miniatures on Arches Hot Press Paper, by Lance Weisser

The largest bird on earth is–no surprise here–the Ostrich. Only the Emu comes anywhere close, and in N. America, our experience of the bird world (aside from some water birds and raptors) is most often an encounter with a species that is generally quite small. (Of course, after writing such a declarative sentence my mind’s eye gets filled with Ravens, Magpies, Embden Geese, Roosters and Pileated Woodpeckers, lol.)

Songbirds in particular are relatively tiny, thus lending themselves well to tiny portraits, which, when I was still a member of a Gallery, sold quite steadily and well.

Try A Little Tenderness

January 1, 2021

Daring to re-write Otis Reading’s hit song for this brand spanking New Year:

“A word soft and gentle makes life easier to bear,

You won’t regret it, people won’t forget it–for love is our whole happiness

And it is all so easy. Try a little tenderness.”

January, Lac du Bois’, watercolour on treated art board, 9″ x 12″,
by Lance Weisser

Wishing you a more tender, gentle, and forgiving 2021.

The Atlantic Puffin spends almost all of its life in the water, coming ashore only once a year to breed, usually to the same nesting spot which the male prepares. Then, laying a single egg, they both attend to hatching it –the newborn called a ‘puffling’ — caring for it until one night it will fledge. Once on its own, it remains on the sea for up to five years before finding a mate and finally returning to land to then breed.

‘Atlantic Puffin’, 5″ x 6.5″, Arches Hot Press Paper, watercolour by Lance Weisser, [sold]

They mate for life, though interestingly, do not stay together while on the open sea–which is two-thirds of the year–but only get back together when breeding time (usually April) occurs. Once August comes, they go their separate ways.

Their nickname is ‘the clown of the sea’–not purely due to their clown-faced features–but because although they are very adept fliers (reaching speeds up to 88km/hour), they are clunky when taking off and clumsy when landing. Their bright orange feet run haphazardly over the sea until finally getting them airborne, and on landing the puffin will often tumble and roll and pratfall across the surface of the water.

So, yes, this Christmas Puffins will be floating around the North Atlantic separated from their lifelong mates, managing to rustle up something for dinner, while on shore we’ll likely be left doing the same. Even so, together we’ll find a way to make the season bright.

source: https://www.nordicvisitor.com/blog/5-things-may-not-know-puffin/

All Hallow’s Eve

October 31, 2020

A reposting of a watercolour with an All Hallow’s Eve feel and flavour . . .

‘The Rookery’, watercolour on treated art board, 12″ x 14″, by Lance Weisser.
[available for purchase]

As evening grows deeper, they gather together to stand watch through the autumn night.

“Love In The Shadows”, watercolour on Arches #140 Hot Press Paper, 10″ x 14″,
by Lance Weisser
[sold]

Summer’s Zenith

August 5, 2020

We’ve been sizzling here in British Columbia’s Southern Interior. For the past two weeks, it has been very hot and very dry. This is when all the dirt bikes get loaded on the back of country music-blaring pickups, heading for the hills, bypassing all the slower, fishing boat-toting pickups. And even those pickups bypass the even slower camper trailer-toting pickups, with everyone and their dog all heading out of Dodge.

What’s left behind are solitary scenes of empty pasture, sun-weathered farms, the occasional horse. And not a lick of shade.

‘Sky Country’, watercolour, 10″ x 12″, Arches 140# Hot Press Paper, by Lance Weisser

We’re at the apex of Summer–the zenith–with a high today of 35C (95F). And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow marks the slow slide into September, with showers and a high of only 23C (73F).

So today we pretend we’re Texans, and tomorrow that old familiar tinge of an early Fall brings us all back to where we really are and love to be.

I live with my husband, Raul, on a residential street that backs onto a mountain ridge which eventually meets up with the Lac du Bois Grasslands protected area . About half of our backyard is the sage and tumble weeded rise itself, and below it a manmade terraced section for growing our vegetables. Coyotes yip erratic bark-like shrieking at 2am, while morning Mule Deer come down to nosh on Raul’s tomatoes. Families of Chukar Partridges venture down as well, their clucking and chukking exploding into a fearful feathery cloud when surprised.

But the deer? If their brunching is interrupted, they continue sampling tomatoes, dropping one to nibble another and dropping it for then another, slightly raising their heads as though eyeing the intrusive buffet busboy, checking to see if I’m there to replenish the salads. And only when physically confronted by threatening rudenesses will they disdainfully bound up the slope, staring down just beyond reach, waiting for the vulgar help to leave so they can have a little chat with the maitre d’.

Kamloops, British Columbia, (“Kamloops” is the anglicized version of the Shuswap word “Tk’əmlúps“, meaning “meeting of the waters”–the North and South Thompson join to become the Thompson River) officially has the hottest and driest summers in Canada, with the hottest recorded temperature of 41.7C (107F), with the coldest being -38.3C (-37F). The humidity is almost always between 20-40%, and so is designated as part of the desert region extending up through the interiors of Oregon and Washington States.

‘Kamloops Ponderosa Pine Hills’, watercolour, 8″ x 16″, Arches #140 Cold Press Paper, by Lance Weisser [sold]

This week promises to be our first of the season hot weather, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s (93 – 97F). Up until now, we’ve had unseasonably wet and moderate days, with almost zero instances of wildfire, our greatest seasonal hazzard.

Aerosols

June 19, 2020

‘. . . in meteorology, a cloud is an aerosol consisting of a visible mass of minute liquid droplets suspended in a planet’s atmosphere . . . ‘ [wikipedia]

Watercolour is absolutely the perfect artistic medium for tackling the effervescent quality of–ahem–aerosols.

‘Raven Sky’ watercolour on Arches Cold Press #140 paper, 5.5″ x 5.5″ by Lance Weisser $100 framed, $75 matted — contact weisserlance@gmail.com

It being a rather challenging subject, more paintings featuring clouds are about to be attempted, and the results posted here in days to come.

Yay! Aerosols!

Trying to fit a very rectangularly-wide picture inside the borders of a wordpress blogpost forces one to shrink it to fit. So here is the completed painting, divided in half in order to provide more up-close detail:

[detail from ‘Sibelius Park November’]
[detail from ‘Sibelius Park November’]
‘Sibelius Park November’ watercolour on treated art board by Lance Weisser — commissioned by Douglas Todd and Ingrid Sochting, June/2020

Your many comments through this painting progression series are such a tonic and encouragement. Your blogs are a daily boost to my spirits, and certainly to all who read them.

The Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius ” . . . is widely recognized as his country’s greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia. . . “

Quite probably, his most recognizable contribution and gift to us was ‘Finlandia’, the tune from which many of us have come to know as the melody for the well known hymn, ‘Be Still My Soul’:

Arranged & recorded by 3b4joy

Music is, for me, like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.
~ Jean Sibelius 

The visual objective in this commissioned project, was to infuse the painting with the mood and the tenor of those 1970s years when I and my dear friend, Doug Todd, were living near The Jean Sibelius Square Park in The Annex of Toronto.

Those were challenging years, when we were actors in the ensemble known as Creation II, living communally in a large Victorian red brick Annex house. The experience permanently altered our lives, as what began as an altruistic experiment in communal living and performing, gradually descended into becoming a cult.

Therefore, this painting is meant to embrace the feelings of those times, and bring back the memory of a one acre oasis in the midst of spiritual confusion and personal ambivalence.

The completed work depicting a drizzly November morning, includes the emblematic red brick Victorian homes which surround the square, and a pair of Toronto’s ever-present pigeons to help bring animation to the solid silence of the memorable and remembered Jean Sibelius:

‘Sibelius Park November’

watercolour on treated art board

commissioned by Douglas Todd

by Lance Weisser June, 2020

[note: the rectangular size of this painting, 7″ x 13″, is preventing it being inserted here without undergoing distortion.]

When one reads about the long life of Jean Sibelius and how he had such a strong affinity for nature, for Autumn and Winter in particular, and was, after all, a Finn, whose country embraces the colder months, it seemed fitting to depict Sibelius Square in November.  His biographer wrote this:


“. . . Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola [his home, named after his wife]. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours. . . “

The distinctive, late 19th c. Toronto architecture of the area known as The Annex is unabashedly Victorian, boasting ‘some of the largest collection of Victorian houses in North America.’

‘During this period Toronto also developed some unique styles of housing. The bay-and-gable house was a simple and cost effective design that also aped the elegance of Victorian mansions. Built of the abundant red brick, the design was also well suited to the narrow lots of Toronto.’ [wikipedia: The Architecture of Toronto]

In The Annex, however, there was an elegance reserved only for those who could afford it. ‘Built by the city’s wealthy and mostly found in the neighbourhood they are named after, these houses contain diverse and eclectic elements borrowed from dozens of different styles. These houses are built of a mix of brick and sandstone, turrets, domes, and other ornamentation abound.’ [ibid.]

In this painting, some decisions had to be made as to whether it was going to be about the houses surrounding The Jean Sibelius Square Park, or about the monument dedicated to the composer, or about the overall mood of late Autumn and how it informs the architecture, the park and what Sibelius himself loved about November.

This neighbourhood-emersed, one square acre oasis in the middle of Toronto [pop. 6,129,000], was originally known as Kendal Square due to being beside Kendal Avenue…

In 1959, in recognition of the diligence and passion of Toronto’s Finnish community, the little square was officially renamed Jean Sibelius Square and featured a striking monument with the Finish composer’s likeness crowning it.

My encounter with this petite and charming park was during the socially-disruptive 70s, when The Annex was transformed from a neighbourhood of red-brick mansion propriety, to one of red-brick mansion rooming houses populated by hippies and university students.

I lived in the former red brick Victorian home of a Toronto physician with fifteen other actors–including Doug Todd, who has commissioned this painting of Jean Sibelius Square. We were members of the theatre ensemble called Creation 2 (I for seven years, he for two), which was both commune and theatre ensemble:

Life for Doug Todd and I, and others within the group, was a mixture of great bonding, high demands, internal turmoil and personal confusion. What had started out as a dynamic experiment combining the best of ensemble acting with the ideals of a close-knit communal living, began taking on the telling characteristics of a cult.

The Jean Sibelius Square Park, being a block away from our living situation, provided us with a treed, quiet, people-free place of calm and restoration. The watercolour depicting that 1970s’ oasis-like feeling is now finding its expression as it goes from outlined sketch to the initial wash stage:

The Finnish composer (seven symphonies, including ‘Finlandia’) is memorialized in a tidy little one acre park in The Annex area of Toronto, Canada, nestled on four sides by its red brick house neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Sun’s long-serving investigative reporter and author, Douglas Todd, [https://vancouversun.com/author/douglastodd2/page/2], commissioned a watercolour of this familiar setting he and I knew well when living nearby while in a theatre company commune in the mid-1970s.

A striking memorial was donated by Toronto’s Finnish community in 1959 and the park–originally known as Kendal Square–was renamed Jean Sibelius Square Park. In 2010, the park was officially reopened after a major redesign equipped it with an extensive playground and enhanced outdoor skating rink.

Approaching this watercolour commission, it seemed most appropriate to laden it with a 1970s feel–visually allowing Doug and my memories of Sibelius Park to surface and suffuse the painting with an autumnal feel.

A decision has been made to sacrifice accuracy to the bringing up from deep memories a vision of what we both recall and felt about this little space–this oasis from the complicated goings-on within our nearby commune. And we both remembered it being nearly always empty of people, strewn with fallen leaves, lit by street lamps, smelling slightly of wood smoke from the chimneys of the surrounding substantial, Victorian brick homes of the established Annex community.

Therefore, the end result will disappoint anyone currently familiar with Jean Sibelius Square, and its revitalized, playground-dominated landscape, as well as those who may live around it. None of the actual homes will be depicted, rather homes springing from our memory of those homes are being brought to the surface.

Although centrally located–and well within the city limits of Kamloops (pop: 97,000), British Columbia, Canada–we nonetheless hear cows bellowing distantly from the mountain range across the way from our house. This is cow country–beef cows–Herefords–grass-fed, and let out to pasture once Winter is past. Sitting out on our deck, I can just make out these tiny dots–Herefords most certainly–moving slowly across the great expanse of what is locally known as Strawberry Hill.

‘Back Country’
watercolour (detail of larger work), Arches Cold Press 140# Paper, 7.5″ x 14″
by Lance Weisser

During these unusual and routine-disrupted days, when everyone seems mildly ajar, pretending all is still fine, yet wondering what the heck to do with themselves, I find it reassuring to watch cows do nothing all day but search out grass on Strawberry Hill.

(And I’m sure many of you reading this have become even more thankful you have pursued painting or photography or writing as a mainstay in your life. These solitary-type endeavours are certainly now helping to anchor us amidst days of remarkable change and confinement.)

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