‘Raven Nights’

February 20, 2018

In keeping with my fascination over trying to capture night in watercolour, here’s another attempt at mood and texture:

raven mood 9x10 august 2107

‘Raven Nights’, watercolour on Saunders Waterford Hot Press 90 lb. paper, 9″ x 10″, Sold

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It is snowing again, and is likely to continue through today and tonight and into tomorrow.  As my friend Shiela says, snow today is water tomorrow, meaning we live in a characteristically arid part of British Columbia (our backyard mountain ridge has many cacti plants) and so every source of water is cherished.  The snowmelt from the mountains is crucial to ensuring our lifeline, the Thompson River, is of normal size.

Around here, many people kind of roll their eyes and sigh when learning we’re getting another ‘dumping’, but I’ve always delighted in snow and can now sadly envision a day when there won’t be any.  Our living situation is such that I can handle clearing the driveway without much effort, otherwise I might be joining one of the eye-rolling crowd.

Here is the painting ‘Raven Winter’ that is now framed and ready to be presented to my friend Patricia Kellogg as a possible choice in our painting exchange deal:

 

stage 3 final painting of Raven Morn

‘Raven Winter’, watercolour on treated art board, 9″ x 12″

 

Stage Two: ‘Raven Winter’

February 14, 2018

The painting for my friend Patricia Kellogg is taking shape.  The treated surface of the mat board I’m using to paint on was/is achieved by applying a product by Daniel Smith called ‘watercolor ground’.  It comes in a jar and is painted onto any surface one desires, instantly turning it–once allowed to thoroughly dry–into one which can be painted on using transparent watercolour.  So, glass, metal, wood, masonite, anything of the kind can basically become a surface with the characteristics of watercolour paper.

stage two of raven morn

 

Stage One: ‘Raven Winter’

February 13, 2018

My watercolourist friend Patricia Kellogg [https://www.facebook.com/Patricia-A-Kellogg-357357001050096/] and I are doing a painting exchange.  I acquired one of hers of an artichoke plant in late autumn–that expressive form plants take when frost renders them lifeless, yet beautiful even so.  And because she has a couple of mine with ravens in them, she wanted one more and so here’s the first stage of it.

stage 1 of Raven morn

The surface for this painting is treated mat board and the medium is transparent watercolour.  It is a 9″ x 12″ piece.  Once it is finished I will enjoy taking it over to The Red Beard Cafe where we have our monthly coffee and seeing if she likes it.  I’ll also bring a couple of others with me to provide a choice.

There are quite a number of songbirds which find Mountain Ash berries tasty treats. The N. American Robin is able to return to our British Columbia interior much earlier because of them, surviving until the ground thaws and worms are plentiful. Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Waxwings, Finches, Towhees, Juncos, and many others feast on Mountain Ash berries. Also known as the Rowan tree, Mountain Ash berries are extremely high in Vitamin C, and can be boiled and turned into jam/marmalade, though they are bitter and require a good deal of sugar. Here’s a recipe for ‘Aunt Ickes Rown Berry Marmalade’ (not my aunt–and not a recipe I’ve tried FYI) http://en.heilkraeuter.net/cooking/rowan-berry-marmelade.htm

Here is the finished watercolour featuring the Cedar Waxwing and the Mountain Ash. It is available for purchase, $325US matted; $400US framed, shipping costs extra. Contact weisserlance@gmail.com.

The Annual Masked Ashberry Ball July 2016 10 x 16 a
‘The Annual Masked Mt. Ash Berry Ball’ watercolour, 10″ x 16″, Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper 140 lb., by Lance Weisser.

cedar waxwing for pendant a
[detail]

 

1) They are named Waxing because they sport red wax-like accents on the tips of their secondary feathers;
2) Although they eat insects during Summer months, they thrive on berries the rest of the year and, in our part of British Columbia, go about in groups to feast on Mountain Ash berries;
3) If there is a cluster of berries hanging from the tip of a long branch that only a single bird can reach, sometimes the rest of the group will line up and pass berries beak-to-beak down the line allowing each bird the opportunity to feed.

Bombycilla_cedrorum_audubon
Audubon Print

Its fondness for the small cones of the eastern red cedar is why this particular Waxwing is called ‘Cedar’ Waxwing. (My first post is mistaken in assuming they are not found in Eastern N. America. They are–but I just wasn’t privileged to spot any when growing up in upper New York State.)

cedar waxwing progression a

Cedar Waxwing watercolour-in-progress, Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper 140 lb.

[above facts gathered from Cornel Ornithological and Wikipedia websites]

 

As a child there was probably no bird I wished more to see than a Waxwing.  In on-location photographs they just looked so exotic and intriguing–their colouration and little tufted crowns–the whole package was and is so appealing.

In those days we lived in Eastern N. America where Waxwings aren’t found and so it took many decades–after I’d moved to British Columbia–for my chance to encounter these birds.  And it happened as I stood at our front picture window looking out at the Red Maple just beyond the glass–a tree which had nestled within it a deserted Robin’s nest.

Suddenly there appeared a large group of birds I’d never before seen, Cedar Waxwings, darting about the nest, examining it animatedly and calling to one another.  I watched in fascination as they systematically began dismantling this Robin’s nest, their little bandit’s masks seeming very appropriate to their deciding to make someone else’s home theirs for the taking.

 

‘An Ear-full of Waxwings’ — work in progress — Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper, 140 lb.

 

A grouping of these birds is known as ‘an ear-full’ almost certainly because they go about in bunches and are constantly chattering in a distinctive, rather conversational voice that is more insistent than melodic or song-like, yet charming even so.

‘The Way Home’

January 24, 2018

In the spirit of watercolour experimentation, it was interesting to take ordinary white mat board and coat it with a thin layer of clear acrylic medium.  The board then had to dry for a good 24 hours.  The experience when painting is one of finding it acts as a kind of resist while providing a rather intriguing texturing quality.

The Way Home, 6 x 9.5, August, 2017.jpg

It is a bit tricky because there’s no wet-in-wet opportunity, or much reworking/touching up or the acrylic medium will moisten and lift from the surface and become gummy.  So getting one crack at it is pretty much all one gets, making every brushstroke really count.

 

 

 

 

Robber Baron

January 20, 2018

From the Cornel Lab of Ornithology:

“. . . A large, dark jay of evergreen forests in the mountainous West. Steller’s Jays are common in forest wildernesses but are also fixtures of campgrounds, parklands, and backyards, where they are quick to spy bird feeders as well as unattended picnic items. . . ”

Stellar Jay 4x6 October 2016

‘Steller’s Jay’, watercolour on Saunders Waterford Hot Press 90 lb., 4″ x 6″, Sold.

 

When we moved from Quebec to British Columbia and went camping, it was startling to hear this loud, rasping, strident taunting from high in the trees.  Startling, because it was so like a Blue Jay, yet not–like a Blue Jay with the flu.  And then this amazingly blue-black jay bounded down to the ground, looking up at us as though wondering why we were occupying its picnic table.

After returning from swimming, we found three of them pulling at the packaging of wrapped food and helping themselves to whatever they managed to expose.  These are Blue Jays on steroids.

“. . . Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco. . . ” [Cornel Ornithology Lab]

But wow–how beautiful, how handsome, yes?

 

The Least Chipmunk

January 17, 2018

When taking our Jeep in for servicing, the attendant came to me with what had been an air filter and was now a chipmunk house.  I instantly knew which one–the one which seemed to be everywhere as late Summer progressed and Autumn loomed.

The Least Chipmunk is so named because it is the smallest in our continent and can easily turn an air filter into a roomy apartment.  It, like all its kind, eats just about anything, including insects, nuts, berries, mushrooms, and tree buds.

The Least is so small a full grown adult weighs only two ounces.  There are plenty of predators in our area, including many hawks, coyotes, owls and rattlesnakes.  There are also a variety of potential homes, including Jeep air filters.

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‘Least Chipmunk’ watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140 lb., 4″ x 4″, sold

 

 

‘A Play of Jays’

January 13, 2018

We know the fun which comes from discovering how groups of birds are labelled and identified:

  • a convocation of eagles
  • a wake of buzzards
  • a parliament of owls
  • an exaltation of larks
  • an ostentation of peacocks

Jays have two possibles–a ‘scold’, or a ‘play’–and given their feisty nature, both can be true at once.  Here in Western Canada we have the Steller Jay, as well as the Whisky Jack or Grey Jay.  Eastern Canada is home to the more familiar Blue Jay.

A Play of Jays, watercolour, 8 x 30, Feb. 2017, for Visual Journey Show.jpg

“A Play of Jays”, watercolour by Lance Weisser, 8″ x 30″, 140 lb. Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper. Sold.

“Love In The Shadows”

January 10, 2018

Ravens and moonlight make both a fascinating and popular subject, with this rendition selling almost as quickly as it was displayed on our small gallery walls….

'Love In The Shadows' , 11.5 x 16 July 2016

A friend was redoing her home’s interior and wanted a painting which depicted her love of the kind of silence which is found after a fresh snowfall in a wintry wood.  Since she and I both live in the same area which features the beautiful Jamieson Creek, there was an immediate and familiar subject at hand to draw on…..

commission piece for Ellen Schaffer

Today we have dense fog (it’s like something out of Sherlock Holmes out there–I can barely see across the street) with a forecast of sleet and wet snow — a nightmare for drivers, but a delight for painters, lol.  Few of my friends love Winter, yet it is just so beautifully atmospheric, with its mystery and visual drama.

Winter Sun

January 3, 2018

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“Dusk”  watercolour on card, 8″ x 12″

The inspiration for this experimental piece is the dynamic visual work of Maxfield Parrish (1870 – 1966) who used the juxtapositioning of complimentary colours like orange and blue, purple and yellow, red and green in order to create a great sense of drama and theatricality.  However, as we’re all aware, nature itself is better than any artist in creating such effects.  I personally love nothing more than the orange shimmer of a setting sun against deep blue snow in the shadows.

$200US, contact weisserlance@gmail.com

 

 

View from The Plaza

December 30, 2017

Winter Eve Old Firehall 1, 11x16, Feb 2017

Sometimes views from the rear of well-known places provides a bit more visual interest and in this case the back of our Kamloops Plaza Hotel provides a view of another heritage building, the tower of Old Firehall No. 1. In the near distance are the local mountains and the whole scene finished with groupings of our perennial downtown pigeons and crows during an evening snow shower. The painting hung for some time in the Courthouse Gallery before being sold to a lover of downtown and The Plaza in particular.

Plaza-Hotel-500x333

It is good to be back publishing after a rather prolonged hiatus. I do hope all of you are well and wish you a very happy and healthy 2018!

… a little Junco

May 3, 2016

My observations are that birds which winter over are more agreeable in disposition than birds which come here to breed.  Case in point, Juncos, which winter over here and then head further North to breed.  They are such a delightfully polite and agreeable little bird, not taken to fighting over the feeders, but rather preferring to peacefully forage below them.

dark-eyed junco may 2016

‘Dark-eyed Junco’

 3″ x 5″, watercolour on Saunders Hot Press 140# Paper

On the other hand, birds which migrate here to breed, like the Common Grackle, dive-bomb me when I’m giving our dog Elmo his early morning walk, as though I am suddenly in my dotage going to start climbing trees to pull down their nests.

But blest be the birds which come here to winter over, like the so-lovely Common Redpoll and the Dark-eyed Junco.  Although extremely territorial when nesting, we get to see Juncos when sex is the furthest thing from their bird-brained minds and finding seeds on the snow is all they care about.

Some birdie facts:

  • Juncos are the “snowbirds” of the middle latitudes. Over most of the eastern United States, they appear as winter sets in and then retreat northward each spring. Some juncos in the Appalachian Mountains remain there all year round, breeding at the higher elevations. These residents have shorter wings than the migrants that join them each winter. Longer wings are better suited to flying long distances, a pattern commonly noted among other studies of migratory vs. resident species.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/dark-eyed_junco/lifehistory

 

 

 

….cedar waxwing

April 23, 2016

As a kid, having to enter the annual Science Fairs in Jr. High–the ones where invited experts walked around with clipboards trying to find possible prize winners–I had exhibits which were often concerned with birds–songbirds, usually–their migration patterns and predators, and fun facts.

I never won a prize.  That usually went to kids who electrocuted themselves voluntarily in order to prove water and wires don’t mix–or the kids who cross fertilized seeds and created vegetative freaks.

The shortlist I had then in the 50s (living in upper New York State) was to see any kind of Bunting (they looked outrageously colourful), our State Bird the American Bluebird (which I never did see, and still haven’t), any kind of Tanager, and of course, any kind of Waxwing.

cedar waxwing miniature 5x7 april 2016

“Berry Picking”

Cedar Waxwing, 4″ x 6″, watercolour, Saunders Waterford Hot Press 140# Paper

 

Having lived now in seven different Canadian locations, from coast to coast, I’ve been able to photograph a Western Tanager in our front garden, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds (astonishingly blue), and a group of Cedar Waxwings which descended on our Red Maple branches and began dismantling a Robin’s nest, rather than having to bother scavenging their own material.

The Waxwings were much smaller than expected, and every bit as fascinating as I’d hoped.  Their ‘bandit’s mask’ gives them an allure other birds lack, and their interesting ‘song’ and penchant for travelling about in flocks makes them worth having to wait 60 years to see them.

….Chickadee Miniature

April 21, 2016

This Winter along with the usual Mountain Chickadees at our feeders, we were pleased to have Black-Capped Chickadees as well.  Coming from Eastern parts, they are the ones associated with childhood and so have a special place for me.

Right now we are experiencing amazingly warm temperatures–85F (30C)–and gardening is ramped up as a result.  Dividing time between perennials and painting is a pleasure. As an Autumn and Winter person, I continue painting with that pallet of tones and colourations, and so ask you to cut some slack if/when I post snow scenes in April.

chickadee miniature

‘Pause That Refreshes’

 5"x 7", Watercolour, Saunders Hot Press #140 paper

Cool Facts

  • The Black-Capped Chickadee hides seeds and other food items to eat later. Each item is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.
  • Every autumn Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.
  • Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-deecall, the higher the threat level.
  • Winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and nonbreeders, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species that associate with chickadee flocks include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers and vireos.
  • Most birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.
  • There is a dominance hierarchy within flocks. Some birds are “winter floaters” that don’t belong to a single flock—these individuals may have a different rank within each flock they spend time in.
  • Even when temperatures are far below zero, chickadees virtually always sleep in their own individual cavities. In rotten wood, they can excavate nesting and roosting holes entirely on their own.
  • Because small songbirds migrating through an unfamiliar area often associate with chickadee flocks, watching and listening for chickadee flocks during spring and fall can often alert birders to the presence of interesting migrants.
  • The oldest known wild Black-capped Chickadee was at least 11 years, 6 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Minnesota.

source:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-capped_Chickadee/lifehistory

….House Finch miniature

April 16, 2016

It is so heartening to have requests from bloggers and site visitors who have arranged to have original bird miniature paintings sent to them.  The last posting of the Raven miniature, “Keeping Watch”, is currently winging its way to Hawaii, and the March 5th miniature entitled “Raven Moon” is sitting on Byron’s desk in Wisconsin.  Another of a wintering Chickadee is with its new owner, Cynthia the poet, https://littleoldladywho.net/ in Maine.

Some bird species are seemingly germain to just about anywhere, the House Finch being one.  When we moved from Eastern Canada to extreme Western Canada, there they were.  And on fellow blogging sites like H. J. Ruiz’ Avian 101 (https://avian101.wordpress.com/), there they are in the Peach State of Georgia.

house finch april 2016

‘House Finch’ — watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140# Hot Press Paper, 2.5″ x 4″

They are, along with wintering Goldfinches, the most frequent visitor to our feeders, and have such a delightfully melodious song.  Unlike the slightly larger Purple Finch which probably isn’t found in the West, they do not so much look like they’ve been dipped in raspberry concentrate, as they’ve stuck their heads in wild cherry cream soda.  Their disposition is mild, insofar as they aren’t pushy or argumentative when at the feeders.  If another species is bossy, they simply flit down to the snow and eat the remains below, along with the Juncos.

If you are ever interested in owning one of these posted bird miniatures, simply email me at: weisserlance@gmail.com and we’ll work out the arrangements.  Thank you to all who are so very supportive in comments and visits!

…..Keeping Watch

April 7, 2016

Our little Gallery in the small city of Kamloops, B. C.’s historic Courthouse (1911) has a Featured Artist offering every month and May will be my month to put on a display of recent miniatures.  So now it is a matter of working towards having a good showing.

Raven Watch

“Keeping Watch”

watercolour on Saunders Hot Press #140 lb paper, 4″ x 6″

I can’t quite explain why it is that depictions of Ravens sell so well, but they do.  So it is a pleasure to be able to comply and feed the need, so to speak.  They are indeed a very symbolic and ancient bird whose fame is heralded in many countries and cultural legends concerning them abound.

Out taking photographs of them this week, I came across a pair whose size was truly astonishing and whose throaty calls echoed off the nearby boulders and across the wide Thompson River.  Once that is accomplished, it is a matter of trying to place them in a scene which has definite mood and emotional impact.

….eggciting week ahead

March 20, 2016

Painting eggs is something of a little hobby which began almost 35 years ago when the process of the dyed Ukrainian eggs was intriguing from an artistic point of view–meaning, the way/how it was done, not the desire to become overwhelmed with making intricate geometric designs.  So employing the method of using beeswax to wax over those parts of an egg one wanted kept white, then dropping the egg into coloured dye, again waxing over the area which would retain that dye’s colour, and dropping it into yet a different coloured dye and repeating the process until the entire egg was covered in wax.

At this point, the wax was removed by carefully holding it over a candle flame and wiping the melted wax free with a tissue.  Once the wax was removed, the egg was blown of its contents and if being used as a Christmas tree ornament, a string was affixed to the top.

Here is an example…..

duck eggs, email size

Quite a number of years later, the notion of doing away with the dye/wax method in favour of actually painting on the egg’s surface was experimented with.  This was successful but a huge breakthrough occurred when moving from painting chicken eggs to painting duck eggs.  A duck egg’s surface is not chalky like chicken eggs, but rather satiny smooth and extremely receptive to watercolour.  This was discovered while staying in The Philippines, where duck eggs were easily come by.

Painting a duck egg would be done, then the egg would be spray-lacquered so as to protect and seal the watercolour-painted surface.  Once completely dry, the insides would be blown out….

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……and in honour of the 6th day of Christmas….

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….which brings us to today and trying to replicate a moonlit rocky mountain scene on a duck egg purchased locally ($3.50/half doz) through craigslist and meeting the man carrying his trusty picnic cooler outside the supermarket:

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A very Happy and Blessed Easter to all my blogging friends!

 

….Raven rave

March 9, 2016

Having found a frame the perfect colour and size for a larger version of the Raven painting done a few days ago, this is turning out to be a Raven rave of sorts, this time a little more wintry.

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7″ x 7″ on Arches Hot Press #140 paper

….draw a bird day

March 8, 2016

Teresa Robeson reminded me of ‘bird day’ (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/4736591/posts/949345080#comments) with her striking rendition of an exotic Araripe Manakin from Brazil.

Here is a far more humble (don’t tell it that!) species, but at least I’m doing my birdy duty this Tuesday morning…..

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1.5″ x 2″ on Arches Hot Press 140# Paper

I saw my first one two weeks ago–around the third week of February–which is so early for this region, it is nuts.  When they get here, they go for Mountain Ash berries and other withering, over-wintered types of fruit, until their usual fare of insects and worms become accessible.  They are in breeding mode preoccupied with all their parental preparations.

….Raven Moon

March 5, 2016

Ravens sell very well in this neck of the woods, partially because they figure so prominently in our local Native legends–and partially because they are, as a species, so singular and distinctive.  A customer pointed out to me that whereas Crows are very social (gathering together in great numbers), Ravens are solitary.  Perhaps one of you can verify this comment–or add a correction?

This painting is 2.75″ x 1.75″ and, instead of putting it behind glass for protection, the decision was made to spray it with a durable fixative so the piece has more immediacy when viewed.  I did include the glass in case the customer wishes to provide greater protection.

 

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These bird miniatures can also be purchased from me through weisserlance@gmail.com for $30US (postage costs additional) unframed, $35US framed.  Some buyers have chosen to select a suitable frame themselves locally and then email me the size the painting must be to fit their chosen frame.  Then it is simply a matter of mailing off the painting in an envelope–easy-peasy.  I have painted everything from someone’s favourite parrot (our late, great friend George Weaver’s prize pet) to exotic birds seen on a favourite trip and painted from a photograph supplied via attachment.

 

 

 

 

 

Results of ‘composition exercise 1’: dividing a landscape into thirds, placing visual interest at each intersectional  point….

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Results of ‘composition exercise 2’:

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and 3:

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bringing us to 4:

It has taken a long spell of waffling over what to do about being less than pleased with the finished piece.  The snowy fields seemed to extend themselves too far down, without enough visual interest to hold a viewer’s attention.  And then I gave into the temptation/artistic trap I almost always seem to fall into, which is going one step too far by defining open field with regimented rows of corn which wind up being so monotonous, the fence posts going the opposite direction only add yet more visual predictability  and kill whatever freshness the piece had going for it.

….so the only satisfactory outcome was to crop the painting and salvage what could be salvaged.

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It is a very small painting, about 6″ x 12″, and has at least enough mood still going on to make it only just worth framing.

As an exercise, however, it was more than useful, and confirmed satisfactorily that placing interest at intersectional points within a composition divided into thirds works (sans rows of corn, that is), does hold one’s attention, and lends a feeling of balance.

 

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