! חג אורים שמח

November 29, 2021

Chag Urim Samaech!’ translates as ‘Happy Festival of Lights’ and proclaims with Jews everywhere the eight day remembrance of a miracle, when, in 165 BCE, in a period of dark unrest, at the rededication of the 2nd Temple, “. . . though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the Temple menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. . . “

It is worth noting that Hanukkah is considered one of the lesser celebrations in the Jewish year with Passover (Pasach), The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Rosh Hashanah far greater in significance. But likely due to the overwhelming global attention lavished on Christmas, Jewish children have come to expect their own share of holiday fun and presents, especially when both celebrations (usually) happen in December. And so many Jewish households enjoy parties with latkes and jelly donuts, games like dreidel and the giving of presents on each of the eight days during which a new candle is lit on the menorah and prayers and songs are sung. Because December is the darkest of months, lighting these candles in a darkened room takes on a mystical quality, bringing warmth and glowing wonder to a cold and dismal time of year, while also joining celebrants with their ancestors from long ago.

In honour of Hanukkah, and because here in Kamloops, B.C., there isn’t a Hanukkah card anywhere to be found, I’ve designed and made a pop-up card for my former mother-in-law:

4″ x 5.5″ front cover
The Pop-up set of Menorah candles open against a watercolour-rendered Tree of Life motif with the Hebrew blessing for the kindling of the Hanukkah candles printed below

A Happy and Blessed Hanukkah to our Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbours here and around the world!

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!

November

November 1, 2021

Ah, November, most favoured of months, you’ve finally arrived. Oh, that lingering scent of wood smoke when walking the dog at 4:30am; fog lifting above the river at dawn; the return in earnest of sweater-wearing, cozy clothing; the mystery of never quite knowing if that smell in the air really is the precursor of the first flurries, and finally, that blessed silence which can only come when neighbours store away for good those dirt bikes and Harleys.

In honour of the occasion, a seasonal pop-up card…..

watercolour painted autumn maple leaves….

The card is folded in half. In pop-up land, any crease becomes the means for popping, and in this case, the two cut outs will be glued onto either side of the crease so when the card is opened, the crease will provide the muscle for lifting the two leaf cutouts….

A dried and pressed autumn aster has been inserted onto a levered paper addition placed inside the crease, so it also pops up when the card is opened.
….another photograph of the same card

A second sheet of paper is cut and then hand-painted with watercolour, glued onto the back of the other piece in order to provide additional sturdiness; and as a final touch, an actual Fall maple leaf is glued onto the front. Using diluted Elmer’s Glue serves as a sealant:

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]

There are all kinds of ideas online for how to do a simple DIY pop-up greeting card. Here’s one site I found helpful: http://mashustic.com/category/pop-up-and-other-cards/. Pop-ups can be as simple and as complex as one wishes, one for the person whose personality is ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to the person who likes getting lost in endless detail.

Here is the cover of the completed card….

This is the Hebrew wording for a Rosh Hashanah hymn/song which begins (reading right to left), ‘On Rosh Hashanah, On Rosh Hashanah…’

And when the card is opened, here is the English translation…..

And here is the watercolour painted scene with three pop-up klezmer musicians:

(card surface is 4.25″ x 5.75″)

This was such a fun and entertaining project, especially during these pandemic-restricted days when we really don’t quite know what to do with ourselves, ha ha.

A Happy and Blessed New Year to our Jewish brothers and sisters everywhere!

Rosh Hashanah 2021

September 5, 2021

In Hebrew, ‘rosh’=’head’, ‘ha’=’the’, and ‘shanah‘= ‘year’: ‘head [of] the year’, or, new year. Another name for this holiday is ‘Yom Teruah’ which means ‘day of shouting or blasting’. So on Rosh Hashanah, most commonly in Synagogue, the ram’s horn is trumpeted and it is itself a major symbol of the beginning of what are the High Holy Days when Jews around the world prepare themselves for fresh starts and new beginnings. Often a meal is served among family and will include the traditional apples and honey which signify a sweet year ahead.

To celebrate this auspicious and happy occasion, I created a greeting card of my own since I’ve not been able to lay my hands on any Rosh Hashanah cards in our small city of 100,000. I know there is a Jewish community in Kamloops, but not being Jewish myself, have yet to explore what it may have to offer by way of greeting cards and other such items.

The famous and well-loved musical ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ is set in a Polish/Russian shtetl (which in Yiddish means ‘small town’ or ‘village’), a part of a larger city which is populated by the Jewish community. And I wanted my card to have the feel of this loved and enjoyed Broadway show and film.

Using early photographs of Eastern European klezmer musicians, I set about searching out subjects for an authentic-looking greeting card, wanting to populate it with 19th century shtetl villagers and their klezmer-playing musicians:

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.

To help celebrate the birthday of a recently retired Occupational Therapist and good friend–Kathie–her spouse, Ken, the Dean of our local Anglican Cathedral, provided me with photographs of their very charming one year old Labradoodle dog, Juno. My hope was to present Kathie with a watercolour portrait of Juno to mark her upcoming, significant ‘0’ birthday,

Dog portraiture is not something I have experience with/in. And Juno being from a breed known for its gorgeous curls and wavy hair/fur, presented challenges I wasn’t convinced my experience with watercolour could overcome. Fortunately, this painting was one I offered to do, and so if it was beyond my abilities I simply had to say so and produce a watercolour of another subject I knew Kathie would enjoy receiving.

I started with a detailed drawing:

Because Juno’s place to be is anywhere outdoors, I decided to provide a rosebush background.

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.

The Way Home

January 4, 2021

‘The Way Home’, watercolour on art board, 5″ x 5″ by Lance Weisser

The Way Home

Many dreams I have dreamed

That are all now gone.

The world mirrored in a dark pool,

How unearthly it shone!

But now I have comfort

From the things that are,

Nor shrink too ashamed from the self

That to self is bare.

More than soft clouds of leaf

I like the stark form

Of the tree standing up without mask

In stillness and storm,

Poverty in the grain,

Warp, gnarl, exposed,

Nothing of nature’s fault or the years’

Slow injury glozed.

From the thing that is

My comfort is come.

Wind washes the plain road:

This is the way home.

Robert Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943)

Binyon, an English poet, dramatist, and art scholar is most know for his Remembrance Day poem, ‘For The Fallen’, which reads in part:

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.”

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]

Autumn Wood

October 18, 2020

Painted thirteen years ago, this little watercolour conveys my personal appreciation for the moodiness every Canadian Autumn brings….

‘Autumn Wood‘, watercolour, Arches #140 Cold Press Paper, 8″ x 10″, by Lance Weisser [sold]

Kissing Summer Goodbye

September 21, 2020

‘Out to Pasture’, watercolour on treated art board, 6.5″ x 9″, by Lance Weisser

No doubt many of you reading this are yourselves rather stunned that tomorrow marks the first day of Autumn. Every year the same thing happens: just as I feel like Summer will remain in place forever I see a tinge of orange in our front yard maple, and the changeover begins anew.

Today I’ll stop in at Purity Feed to pick up the first bags of black oil sunflower seeds for the bird feeders. The rituals of Fall have begun. What a lovely lovely time of year!

L’Shanah Tovah!

September 15, 2020

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year marks the beginning of The High Holy Days which include Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Atonement. These are days full of ancient meaning and heartfelt traditions where symbolism and family celebrations meld together to create deep bonds linking Jews all over the world.

The sounding of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The ancient instrument’s plaintive cry serves as a call to repentance and a reminder to Jews that God is their king.

“A New Year Dawns”, watercolour, 3.5″ x 5″ by Lance Weisser

After religious services are over, many Jews return home for a festive meal which typically begins with the ceremonial lighting of two candles and eating apple slices dipped in honey. Ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties, and the honey signifies the hope that the new year will be sweet. Rosh Hashanah meals usually include an assortment of sweet treats for the same reason.

Round challah: On Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) and other holidays, Jews eat loaves of the traditional braided bread known as challah. On Rosh Hashanah, the challah is often baked in a round shape to symbolize either the cyclical nature of life or the crown of God. Raisins are sometimes added to the dough for a sweet new year.

“L’shana tovah”: Jews greet each other on Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew phrase “L’shana tovah,” which translates to “for a good year.”

[source: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/rosh-hashanah-history%5D

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.

Lately here in Kamloops, British Columbia, we’ve been treated to cloud Cirque du Soleil. Each time I step out on our deck, there’s another stunning performance in progress:

As a student of watercolour, the challenge of painting skies on location doesn’t come from the medium itself because all it amounts to is sloshing water-tinted pigment over paper.

It doesn’t get more immediate than that.

Clouds are suspended water vapours being moved about by the atmosphere and wind. So a marriage made in heaven–immediate subject matter matched with an immediate medium, yes?

Um, well, maybe for some…. It takes a lot of confidence, deftness and elan to nail a quickly changing sky, and those aren’t exactly my gifts.

What helps move my senior’s ass is panic-induced adrenaline, like the time I brought all my equipment down to Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver. Perched in my umbrella-shaded lawn chair, sipping iced tea, leisurely sketching the Vancouver skyline, I noticed the sky dramatically changing from a fluffy blue to an angry charcoal.

After lugging everything from the parking lot to the shore, I wasn’t about to give up my precious spot for a little weather. Prudence did step in, however, and whisper in my aging ear that I had only minutes to accomplish what I’d been taking hours dallying over.

And then the rains came down, bruising the top of my umbrella, the beach crowd scattering, wind whipping the waves. As the saying goes, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, I finally found my spine and went for it, drops pelting my paper, gusts throwing up sand.

‘Summer Storm Study’, Vancouver, watercolour on Bockingford, 5″ x 7″, by Lance Weisser

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.

Cloud Studies

July 21, 2020

Sometimes there’s a need to trample on whole bunches of internal dos and don’ts, accumulated over years of anal retentive watercolour practices.

‘Don’t premix washes–glaze one pigment over another right on the paper’; ‘Don’t soak the paper in the bathtub and then stretch it on a stretcher–it removes the lovely sizing’; ‘Don’t get obsessed with detail–be expressive’; ‘Don’t use opaque white’; ‘Don’t use so much masking fluid’; ‘Don’t be so timid’; ‘Don’t paint today–you aren’t centred’.

Lordy. I went to the sink, grabbed a kitchen sponge and some dollar store poster board.

“Approaching Storm”, 8″ x 10″, watercolour, by Lance Weisser, white poster board

For all who might be equally plagued by a mental build-up of watercolour dos and don’ts, have a look at this example of watercolour exploration and artistic daring:

Just as choosing to place one’s subject matter in front of bright sky produces remarkable effects as in the work of Joseph Zbukvic, so also can equally-remarkable effects be achieved when making the sky itself the subject.

An almost unparalleled master is a lesser known watercolourist than the celebrated J. Zbukvic, but a truly exquisite painter of both sea and sky, the Russian Sergey Temerev:

‘The Salty Wind, the Flowing Light’, Sergey Temerev
Sea and Sky watercolour by Sergey Temerev
‘Under the Vault of Shining Heavens’ by Sergey Temerev

Here is a video of him at work:

A Sergey Temerev workshop

Now, those are clouds.

If one were to try and name the No. 1 watercolourist on the planet–or at least the most popular and followed–it would be safe to claim it is the Australian, Joseph Zbukvic:

A Joseph Zbukvic watercolour demo in progress…..

The word ‘master’ understates the enormous talent and skill Joseph Zbukvic exudes from his artistic fingertips as he transforms a sheet of white paper into whatever his mind fancies.

Taking a moment to view these examples of his prodigious output, one thing might stand out to us when it comes to focusing in on, and studying Mr. Zbukvic’s skies:

Joseph Zbukvic’s signature artistic decision is at odds with a great many of his colleagues, because he takes the daring approach of nearly always rendering his subject matter facing directly into the sun.

This has the effect of placing everything of interest–whether it be buildings, people, horses, boats, vehicles–more or less in silhouette, backlit and often somewhat mysterious. Making this choice provides any artist with a great deal of painterly latitude simply because, whatever we might be trying to view while looking directly into the sun, is going to be greatly lacking in detail. Looking into the sun, we see general shapes, outlines of things, and blurred, obscured objects and people.

Placing everything in front of direct sunlight means one doesn’t have to attend to minute detail. It means there will automatically be contrast, exaggerated shadow, enormous differences between light and dark, and all the drama a watercolourist needs to make a painting ‘pop’.

If one does a search of YouTube watercolour instruction these days, you will find a great many Zbukvic devotees, with their subject matter silhouetted against a bright sky. It has now become almost the de rigueur approach for aspiring watercolourists.

What is sacrificed by placing all subject matter in front of direct sunlight?

Skies.

All the luscious drama of cloud formations and subtlety of light which plays in, around and between the loveliness of clouds is the price one pays. Viewing Zbukvic’s work makes that seem worth it, at least for him.

However, as influential as some artists are, and deserve to be–for those bettering their skills, it is always important to remember that variety still remains the spice of life. All painters have their own unique painterly story to tell, in their own unique manner–and not all paintings need to be looking directly into the sun. I suspect Mr. Zbukvic would be the first to agree.

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