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.

Western Wall

January 31, 2020

I’m not much of a traveller. Outside of Canada and 45 U.S. States, I’ve visited Taiwan, The Philippines, and Israel. In 1990, the regional tensions were at an uneasy rest and we were able to go all through areas like The West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.

It is geographically and culturally stunning. Some places are visited for their beaches, their ability to bring an almost somnambulant quality, where rest and relaxation are a given. Israel offers endless contrasts, confrontation, challenge and comparison. I doubt anyone can go and have their presuppositions confirmed. I am quite sure everyone who leaves, leaves changed.

I have never been so moved by a place and a people as I was in Israel.

“Morning Prayer”
watercolour on Arches Cold Press 140# Paper
by Lance Weisser
12″ x 16″
SOLD

Winter Corn

February 26, 2019

Yes, it is probably apparent by now that I have an ongoing fascination with Ravens. I’m not alone. There’s a woman in the historic house section of our city of Kamloops not-so-affectionately known by her neighbours as ‘the crow lady’, whom I depicted in an earlier post entitled ‘Where The Heart Is’:

‘Where The Heart Is’, watercolour by Lance Weisser

She is known as ‘the crow lady’ because starting in late autumn and all through the ensuing winter, ‘crow lady’ fills a number of her vintage bird baths with cat kibble as corvid bird food. Her historic home then becomes wreathed in a continuous flight of ascending and descending crows, ravens, and starlings, and their distinctive din of calls and caws as they attack her bird baths.

I do believe there’s even a by-law ‘crow lady’ continuously violates, but it doesn’t seem to dint her enthusiasm for ensuring her lovely noisey visitors are kept fed and satisfied.

In tribute to my friend Joan (aka ‘crow lady’), I offer up today’s honouring of local ravens, these few trying their best to find themselves a few kernels of corn.

Winter Corn, 5.5 x 10, watercolour on art board by Lance Weisser

No doubt when they’re through scratching away here, they’ll give up and head over to Joan’s.

The ‘how’ of ACEOs

April 6, 2018

To gain more know-how about the way ACEOs are collected and acquired, just go to eBay and view the huge number of them being sold/auctioned:  https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=aceo+original+painting&_sacat=0&_from=R40

You’ll see the quality contrasts, the styles, the subject matter variety, the variety of mediums, too–as well as price, with some going for $40/ea to $1/ea.

Below are examples of how I personally approach doing ACEOs:

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‘A Westsyde Winter’, ACEO by Lance Weisser, Arches Hot Press 140 lb Paper, sold.

Once one of mine is matted and framed, it is generally priced at $25 to $30US.  Unframed, $20US.  But I’m not beyond letting interested people barter for them because what is most pleasing to me is having a person get an original watercolour that is within his/her means.  As painters, we really just want people to enjoy what we do, and know our work is being appreciated and displayed.

If interested, please just email me at weisserlance@gmail.com. 

I can work from an emailed attached photo, or your personal subject matter ideas.  It can be mailed to you wherever you may be — postal costs will be built into the final price 🙂

 

where the heart is

March 24, 2018

Our city, Kamloops, B. C., is a native word meaning ‘the joining of rivers’ (where the North and South Thompson meet), and was founded by the Hudson Bay Co. in 1812.  As it grew and developed it became a railroad city (one of two cities in Canada where both CN and CP intersect).  The most gentrified residences are found on St. Paul Street, where many bear historical plaques for passers-by to read and gain knowledge of.

Turn of the Century–c1904–homes are difficult to maintain and keep in tiptop condition, as many reading this can appreciate.  Keeping up any house is expensive and challenging.

I befriended a woman who has outlived her spouse and is just able to keep the basics going while having to block off the upstairs from heat in the Winter.  Budgeting simply to stay put and keep living in her beloved heritage house before facing the inevitable and dreaded ‘downsizing’, her joy is feeding Crows, Ravens and Starlings using cat kibble poured into oversized vintage bird baths.  This certainly doesn’t make her the darling of her neighbours, but has earned her the moniker ‘the crow lady’.

She’s never seen this painting because I fear it may upset her, yet it was painted with affection and as a tribute to her intrepid spirit and unwillingness to let go of that which she dearly and completely loves:

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‘Where the Heart Is’

watercolour on Arches 140 lb Hot Press Paper, 12″ x 16″, collection of J. Weisser

 

 

….snow

November 25, 2015

We received about 12cm overnight and now everything’s white, with temperatures starting to drop to around -10C (16F) under strong winds.

The birds are in the branches of the large Red Maple just beyond our big front window–at the four hanging feeders and suet cakes.  We get mostly goldfinches and house finches, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, flickers, clark’s nutcrackers, pine siskins, ring-necked doves, occasional pileated and downy woodpeckers, grosbeaks, stellar’s jays, magpies, ravens, white-crowned sparrows, and when it gets really cold the sweetly-blushing redpolls come down from the Arctic (but not likely until January or so).

Occasionally we see a Northern Pygmy Owl which swoops in on the dining lot, lighting on a branch like a handful of fluff with alarming eyes and causes the rest to take off like an explosion. They are one of a few daylight-hunting owls, and for two or three days following, the feeders remain untouched, the memory of that fist-sized, feathered-danger keeping everyone away.

In honour of the occasion — the advent of real Winter — a wintry watercolour, not unlike what the countryside looks like presently.  The subject no doubt wishes the wind were less than it is….

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….but imagine the pleasures of fireplace and toddies once he gets back.

It’s an old painting–6 years–and approximately 8″ x 10″ on my favoured Arches Aquarelle Hot Press 140# paper.  It took approximately 30 years to finally discover the right paper, having gone through all the choices of surface, weight, paper-maker (brand), and so on.  Were it to be done again, the figure would be altered some, as there’s something anatomically odd about it.

In January of 1990 I had the privilege of going on a tour of Israel conducted by an outstanding Orthodox guide named Joe, who was so completely well-versed in history and biblical understanding that archaeological sites acquired lively, humanized detail under his well-studied knowledge of what we believe took place there.

Though he was conducting about a dozen clergy, he was able to draw comparison between traditions which were tied to ha aretz (הארץ), to the land, helping us see the visceral, physical connections we’d only tried to understand through having read the ancient texts and stories.

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 ‘Western Wall Shacharit’

watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140# Paper, 10″ x 15″, sold

The Western Wall is almost certainly the most revered of all sites in Israel, as it physically connects worshipers to those before them who also had to struggle to build a homeland–who also had to appeal to that higher power to protect and defend them.

I felt privileged to have been able to see Israel at a time when the intifada was at a standstill and veritably every location in the country was accessible and security was more relaxed.  We could travel the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank, stand at the Lebanese border and visit the historic cities and towns throughout the land.

…this is a repost from an entry several years ago

ARTIST TRADING CARDS aka ART CARD EDITIONS AND ORIGINALS are popularly known as ACEOs. ACEOs are the size of baseball cards–65mm x 89mm (2.5″ x 3.5″) and are purchased and then traded and sold the way sports cards are.  The ACEO movement originated in Switzerland in the 90s but grew in popularity through eBay, where art cards are now sold and bought on a 24hr basis.

They require precision and are very enjoyable to do.  But then, who wouldn’t be fascinated by the challenge of painting tiny things (smile).  The subject matter can be chosen by the purchaser, and the painting done accordingly.

 

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THE FEDERATION OF CANADIAN ARTISTS had its beginnings in 1941, and had as its goal the unified representation of all Provinces through one organization.  Canada’s premier artists, The Group of Seven, were instrumental in organizing The FCA, with A. Y. Jackson as the Ontario head, and Lawren Harris in charge of the West Coast region.

TODAY THE FCA has become largely a Western Canadian organization with most of its activity within the Province of British Columbia.  The hub is Vancouver [www.artists.ca] with regional Chapters throughout B. C. and Southern  Alberta.  The Thompson Nicola Shuswap Chapter (which I am a member of) has been hosting two Annual Art Shows for many years, with the 2015 National Show being mounted this coming Wednesday, April 8th.

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THE NATIONAL SHOW is open to any qualifying FCA member, but submissions for jurying are limited to 3.  Digital images of a member’s work are submitted to Vancouver and juried by three Signature Artists who use a point system to arrive at which pieces will be accepted and which will be declined.  Of the 130+ digital entries, only 85 pieces are selected for inclusion into this National Show.

MY OWN SUBMISSIONS (two) have been juried, one being accepted–

‘Approaching Storm, Sechelt’, 25cm x 35.5cm (10.5″ x 14″), Watercolour on board

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It is considered an achievement simply to get into this Art Show, while Opening Night, Friday the 10th, will be the occasion when $2800.00 in Prizes are awarded by another set of Jurors for those paintings which stand out as the best of The Best.  Only once has a piece of mine ever been awarded a prize.

SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE FEDERATION have these paintings being considered for The SFCA Prize, with only one receiving top honours.

SFCA 13

 

SFCA 6

 

SFCA 3

 

SFCA 5

 

SFCA 4

 

NEARLY ALL THE WORK submitted by artists for these Shows is rendered in acrylics or oils, with some pastel, and a few watercolours, and fewer still graphite drawings. Watercolour, generally, is not the preferred medium of most painters. It is considered difficult and problematic because of its demands and limtations.

 

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Moral:  don’t mess with Mother Nature (or the Ocean Man).

~~~~~

Aneleise (Ane) at her Grandparents’, age 8. . .

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MY GREAT NIECE, Ane, age 8, was lying around with brother Levi making up another of their stories.  Because their parents judiciously decided their home would be television-free, Aneleise, Levi and Caleb make up a lot of stories and sometimes act them out as well.  That particular day, I told Ane that if she wrote out a story for me to take home, I would do the pictures for it.

She grabbed some lined notebook paper and a pen.  Fifteen minutes later the pages were in my hands in time for Ane to join her brothers going crazy outside in the hammock.  So this– Ane’s own grammar and spelling kept intact for future smiles–is her story (which–though made up between herself and her brother–she declared in front of him is OWNED by her)…..

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Family

March 5, 2012

My Great Niece and Nephew always enjoyed their Aunt and Grandmother’s ‘tuck-ins’, and the sharing of storybooks.

'Bedtime Stories'

This transparent watercolour was painted from a reference photograph taken some years ago now.

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