Conjuring Up Wales

May 5, 2020

How does it go again? Oh yes….
I never saw a Moor —
I never saw the Sea —
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I’ve not travelled a great deal. My idea of an exceptional journey would be choosing some smallish city or large village, renting an apartment over a shop for a month, then spending each day walking with my portable watercolour kit and folding chair to a different, yet close spot and becoming very familiar with it through drawing and painting and observing and experiencing–everyday a new, yet local viewpoint–getting to know one place well.

Not for me, these cruises or bus/rail excursions, trying to glimpse way too much, too quickly, itinerary-driven and herded about. It’s the visual equivalent of wanting everything at an all-you-can eat buffet–determined to defy the limitations of one’s plate by having it all.

Re-reading this paragraph, it comes off as pious and rather haughty. Truly many would find my notion of travelling more than just a little boring, and yes, possibly a recipe for loneliness. In any case, for all my grand proposing, I’ve never actually done it!

I do most of my travelling via imagination. So, here’s how I conjure up Wales:

“Conjuring Wales”
watercolour, 7″ x 12″, Arches #140 Hot Press Paper
by Lance Weisser
($150/matted, email: weisserlance@gmail.com)

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.)

Lovers of a Good Fire

February 6, 2020

Pinus contorta latifolia (Lodgepole Pines), are everywhere in British Columbia and Western N. America. They provide the forest industry with most of the logs used in sustainable logging operations. And their natural regeneration is brought about by periodic, seasonal fire.

[USDA Forest Service]

“. . . some forest plants lay dormant under typical or ‘normal’ forest conditions; lying in wait to germinate or disperse after a fire provides an open canopy and abundant light. Seed banks stored in the soil (snowbrush) or forest canopy (lodgepole pine) provide ample seed for regeneration. . . ” [Dr. Dan Binkley, professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability]

Small tree growing in a very lithic soil at Inspiration Point, Yellowstone Natl. Park [C.J. Earle, 2002.08.03].

It’s all about the cones. Under normal conditions the Lodgepole Pine’s pine cones are sealed shut, but fire melts the natural sealant and opens the cones, releasing the seeds.

“Mountain Mists”
watercolour, 12″ x 14″, Arches Hot Press 140# Paper
by Lance Weisser
[sold]

Murtle Lake November

December 30, 2019

Murtle Lake–housed within the gorgeous Wells Grey Provincial Park–about an hour’s drive from our home in Kamloops, B. C.–“is world-famous as the largest canoe-only lake in North America. Set in a pristine mountain valley, the north and west arms are approximately 20 km long, and the lake averages three kilometres wide. . . ” [http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/wg_murt/]

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“Wells Grey November”
watercolour by Lance Weisser
140# Arches Cold Press Paper [sold]

On the Wells Grey Provincial Park website comes this advice to those who wish to access Murtle Lake for overnight canoe/kayaking trips:

“The outlet of Murtle Lake is the swift-flowing and dangerous Murtle River, noted for its many waterfalls. Visitors wishing to hike to McDougall Falls must use caution in Diamond Lagoon.”

“Murtle Lake is a large lake and subject to gusts of strong wind. The lake often becomes choppy in the afternoon. If moving camp it is best to do so in the forenoon. Never try to out-run a storm; beach at the first available opportunity and wait out bad weather. The Park Operator has emergency communication and a satellite phone link located in the Ranger Cabin on the south shore of Murtle Lake.”

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Forest Eve

December 13, 2019

Growing up, our house fronted a very large and treed city park in Rochester, New York, a city which has always received a great deal more of its share of snow than most due to what is known as lake-effect snow, when moist air over Lake Ontario contributes to great snowstorms, and, to our delight as children, ‘snowdays’ and their resulting school closures.

We’d head to Seneca Park with our Flexible Flyer sleds in tow for entire days of weaving down between the pines and firs, avoiding known rocks, stopping just before plunging down into Seneca Park pond.

The admonition from our mother was, ‘just head home when the snow turns blue’.  Blue snow happened around 4 pm, and we’d make it just in time to change out of frozen snow suits and hit the dinner table, our cheeks bright red, our legs and fingers still tingling.

 

Stillness Broken, 8 x 10, January 2019

‘Silence Broken’

8″ x 10″, watercolour on art board by Lance Weisser

part of ‘The Small Works Show’, Kamloops Arts Centre, Kamloops, B. C., Canada

 

 

The Gathering

December 7, 2019

Ravens differ from Crows socially.  Whereas Crows are given to form large groupings and congregate together socially–whether roosting for the night or for protection–Ravens are more solitary.  Adult Ravens, once successfully mated, remain paired-up and together for life.

It is known that teenage Ravens, prior to mating, do in fact form in groups in order to be more effective in their newly-developed hunting skills.  So when one teen Raven buddy discovers food, they all pile on, everyone benefiting from the find.

[source: ‘Ravens In Winter’ by Dr. Bernd Heinrich]

 

Rooks on the Rocks, 8 x 11, February, 2019

‘The Gathering’

watercolour by Lance Weisser, 8″ x 11″ on art board

for The Small Works Show, Kamloops Arts Council, November 24 to December 24

Old Courthouse, Kamloops, British Columbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

November 26, 2019

November is my most favourite of months!  In the Southern Interior of British Columbia where we live, November is one of those seasonal cusp months–like March–when no one quite knows what they’ll be waking up to in the morning; a month of mystery and change, full of windy days, foggy mornings, early evenings, and sometimes the schedule-disturbing onslaught of an unexpected blizzard.

This painting–now hanging in the Kamloops Arts Council ‘Small Works Show’–expresses and uses my painterly imagination to bring to the viewer all that I feel about my most favourite Season:

November, 7 x 10, February 2019
“November”
watercolour by Lance Weisser, 7″ x 10″, on art board
for Kamloops Arts Council ‘Small Works Show’
November 24 to December 24,
Old Courthouse, Kamloops, B. C.

Sometimes our guests awaken in the morning and come in the kitchen looking confused, ‘what is that strange sound coming from the back of the house? It sounds like a bunch of chickens being strangled.”

There are a number of birds named after their call–for example, the Whip-poor-will, Bobwhite, Killdeer and Chickadee. Now add to those the Chukar Partridge, which populates our back mountain ridge and does this: “Chu-Chu- Chuk-Chuk-Chuk-Chuk-ChukCHUKCHUKCHUK!!!!”

This is always the male progenitor of a brood (known as a covey) of some dozen or so chicks who often is announcing their collective descent down the ridge to wreak havoc in our vegetable garden. All one needs to do then is saunter down the back steps to suddenly frighten them to death as they go up in a giant, dreadful whir of feathers and squawking, after which the male will scold at me from atop the biggest rock, his ego bruised.

Native to Eurasia and Asia, including, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, along the inner ranges of the Western Himalayas to Nepal, Chukars were also introduced to Europe and N. America. [wikipedia]

‘Hiding In Plain Sight’, 10.5 x 7, watercolour on art board by
Lance Weisser


They are to me one of the strangest creatures I’ve ever come across.
They are either brazen as hell, or scared out of their freekin’ minds. Their markings are as odd as their call, their mannerisms are as odd as their habits (in our garden their choicest morsels are the tops of our onions–I mean, who eats the tops of onions?)

When you google them as a subject, you usually find sites generated by hunters in the ‘Lower 48’ who are on the prowl for ‘the illusive Chukar Partridge’ all decked out in camouflage. I’ve yet to hear of any hunters in our area on the prowl for them, but believe me, we’ve got Chukars and they ain’t illusive.

Here’s one in action, for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q09GNpev6sk

The Old Rookery

February 21, 2019

EVERY SO OFTEN I go truant and abandon my blog, but at least this time around it hasn’t (quite) been an entire year (!) I might be alone in this, but my temptation is to spend so much time daily exploring the interesting posts of fellow bloggers that I end up spending less and less time actually painting. My solution to this apparent addiction is to leave my own posts in limbo until enough progress has been made to once again continue.

In any case, thank you for your patience and understanding, and here is my latest painting entitled ‘The Old Rookery’, depicting a scene from my imagination, drawing on the spirit of book illustrators from the days of my youth:

“The Old Rookery”, 11″ x 14″, Watercolour on art board, by Lance Weisser

Thank you for reconnecting with me and I hope your Winter is going well for you!

Rock and Sky

May 1, 2018

We live in a very rocky place.  Our house is situated just below a mountain ridge that is home to native varieties of cactus, sagebrush, tumbleweed, and the domain of Chukar Partridges, mule deer, black bear, a variety of hawks and owls, and the occasional Cougar.

Painting rocky scenes is something particularly satisfying due to the artistically-geometric shapes which become something of a foil for the full-blown and free-flowing movement of cloud and sky.

This was simply an experiment–discovering where shapes and natural design and configuration would lead–a painting begun without knowing where it might end.

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‘The Home Place’, watercolour by Lance Weisser, 14″ x 16″, Arches Hot Press Paper

 

 

Taste of Spring

April 17, 2018

A painting drawing on a style in keeping with children’s books illustration, this painting was done for my niece and great-niece and nephews.  It was done more than ten years ago now, and is of a fictional place that now seems more like Middle Earth than anywhere else.

Taken by a low grade camera through glassed-in frame, I hesitated before posting this….

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‘Fields of Home’, watercolour by Lance Weisser

Arches Hot Press 140 lb paper,

10″ x 16″

collection of R. Jones & Family

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

 

 

…. mackerel sky

January 29, 2016

There is an Old English saying about weather which goes:  “Mackerel scales and mare’s tails make tall ships carry low sails”.  ‘Mackerel scales’ refers to Altocumulus clouds which (to some) resemble the markings on the sides of mackerel.  ‘Mare’s tails’ refers to Cirrus uncinus clouds which–according to the saying–must, like mackerel scales, indicate strong winds, though the two types wouldn’t likely appear together in the same sky.

 

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The subject is taken from a view of the British Columbia coast, beaten down by the effects of storm after storm.  Having lived on Vancouver Island at one point, the weather forecast for the most northerly tip seemed to nearly always call for wind and rain which made me thankful we lived on the most southerly end.  We received quite enough rain as it was.  However, seldom was it ever a pelting, all-out soaking torrent–which made local people say to tourists complaining about the constant drizzle, “Yes, but it’s a dry rain.”

This was painted on treated illustration board.

 

…. Tranquille Creek Gorge

January 21, 2016

The watercolour video demonstrations of David Dunlop are challenging and yet simple.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgtg-Adql1Y&index=6&list=PLtEJwQmsB7SvVg8C4J2c4LDijerH7SSKF (I tried to embed the video itself in this post, but WordPress thought otherwise).  But here is the blurb describing it….”Emmy Award winning David Dunlop takes you to his Connecticut studio to demonstrate a two minute watercolor, used as preparation for an oil sketch or to explore ideas“.

Mr. Dunlop is an artist/teacher from Connecticut, whose manner when teaching is inspiring and animated.  He is a great follower of descriptive, energetic Masters like J.M.W. Turner and Winslow Homer, and seeks to employ their methods, while demonstrating their techniques.

The video cited above challenges painters to do two to three minute painting sketches, which convey the movement and mood and spirit of the subject, without stopping to think and rework.  In an effort to ‘do’ and not think, the subject chosen here is a favourite–a place about 20 minutes from our house–called Tranquille Creek Gorge.

 

 

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Mr. Dunlop’s videos are quite dynamic and aimed more at oil painters a bit more than watercolourists, but full of very encouraging lessons because of the force of his optimistic personality and sense of fun.  They are well worth watching, for those who enjoy painting as a means of expression.

 

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“Logged-In”, 25.5 cm x 35.5 cm (10″ x 14″),  Watercolour on Arches 140 lb Hot Press paper, (donated to Kamloops Art Gallery Annual Art Auction)

THESE ARE BEEF COWS, Herefords, the breed most favoured by ranchers in our region.  Their origins descend from small red cattle introduced by The Romans in ancient Britain, along with breeds from old Wales, their subsequent nurtured evolution taking place in Herefordshire where the Hereford is king.  Today more than five million pedigree Hereford cattle exist in over 50 countries.

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BECAUSE THE LARGE FALLEN CEDAR is indicated with only a minimum of brushwork it is necessary to help give it size, weight and substance through the simple use of shadow.

THE SUBJECT MATTER  comes from this photo, very quickly taken when we’d stopped the car on the dirt road running through The Dewdrop Valley (just outside the city limits of Kamloops) after I’d yelled, ‘Cows!’

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This grouping was described to me by my friend Max as a perfect example of a bull and his harem–and the ‘harem’ got nervous and didn’t remain in place very long once I began snapping pictures.  The bull couldn’t have cared less what I was up to, and just lay there chewing.

The very prominent tree in the painting is placed to provide focus.  Rather than leave in the barbed wire fence (in front of them), a natural enclosure is placed behind to sneak a storyline into the scene (the best grass lies out of reach)—that, and taking out the wire fence gives a more natural feel to the setting.

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 IN THIS GRASS RICH region, cattle roam all over boulder-strewn and mountainous terrain throughout the Spring and Summer.  They are finally rounded up on horseback in classic cowboy style in the Autumn.  Because of this, the beef from Kamloops is renowned for its organic, grass fed superior flavour and quality.

Local Mountains 2

April 9, 2015

THIS COMPLETED PAINTING of the mountains in our Kamloops area was in need of cropping in order to strengthen the composition . . .

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THE PAINTING WAS REDUCED IN SIZE down to this as the completed painting .. .

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THE CHOPPED OFF parts of cropped work can successfully be made into bookmarks, I’ve found, and then be sold for around $2 ea in our little co-op Gallery (www.kamloopscourthousegallery.ca).  Waste not, want not, lol!

 

Local Mountains

April 8, 2015

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A decision has to be made as to whether this painting ‘holds up’, composition-wise.  It succeeds in conveying the misty atmospheric conditions of winter in the mountains.  But the composition is troubling me.

A FEW LAST COMMENTS about this painting…..there is a decided difference between nature and the art of depicting nature.  Mother Nature is not only a hoarder, but not interested in housekeeping nor pruning, encapsulating, or boiling-down.  She wants it all, all the time, and enjoys lavishing on us the plentitude of what happens when everything we look at, at any given moment, reproduces at will and overwhelms us with dozens–and even thousands–of itself.

FOR THE LANDSCAPE PAINTER the challenge, always, is to take Nature and make it into Art.  It is the very human discipline of paring down, re-arranging, configuring and composing.   What separates raw Nature from the art of painting is having a limited space, with only two dimensions, which is ultimately going to end up on a wall inside a human-made space.  That restrictiveness requires moving trees and clouds and birds about in order to have a sense of balance or sense of wonder or sense of drama.  It means the painter must dare to alter time itself, put limits on colour, and restrict amounts of what is naturally before the painter’s eyes.

MAKING ART is similar to the difference between looking at a field of wheat and sitting down to a loaf of freshly-baked bread.  What happens between those two events is the act of altering something to create something else.

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THIS PAINTING is not what the photograph of this scene looks like.  For many years I struggled with whether I was ‘allowed’ as a painter to do anything other than depict Nature as it presented itself to me.  Sitting out on some stoney ground, I would suddenly find myself slavishly working at painting the weeds between cracks of rock, then painting the seed heads on the weeds to look exactly like what my eyes saw, when really I knew the larger purpose of sitting there in the hot sun was not to pay attention to weeds, but to paint the distant mountains above and beyond them.  By the time I’d gotten away from doing weeds justice, I was so hot I had to fold up my equipment and go back to the car.  And I went home with a painting of weeds between rocks and a big expanse of white paper above them.

THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN ANYMORE.  I have learned that I must take what is presented to me and do with it as I wish to do.  That is the work of a painter.

A PHOTOGRAPHER has a whole different set of challenges because a lens is very different from a human eye (it can’t do half of what a living, ‘breathing’ eye can do) and from human imagination (once it has seen what is before the eye) .  But I have noticed some irony happening between the worlds of photography and painting.  In the past, painters often worked very diligently to make a painting ‘look like’ a photograph.  These days, with technological photo-shopping manipulation, a photographer seems more or less obsessed with trying to make a photograph look like a painting.  I am not convinced either enterprise is worth spending all that amount of time on.

IF A PAINTER WISHES TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER, then don’t go trying to make a painting into a photograph.  Do go and take courses and buy equipment and learn how to take photographs and do the work a photographer must work at in order to eventually become a photographer.  And IF A PHOTOGRAPHER WISHES TO BE A PAINTER, then leave the photo-shopping manipulation apps alone and do take courses and buy equipment and learn how to paint paintings and do the work a painter must work at in order to eventually become a painter.  They are two distinctly separate and inherently different artforms and–in my flawed way of viewing things–should stay that way.

AND YOU…what’s your view?  Tell me how I’m missing things you’ve discovered!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BECAUSE WATERCOLOUR is such a watery, transparent, delicate medium–one which must always allow the paper it’s laid on top of to breathe through it–one which traditionally doesn’t use white pigment, but relies on the paper to be the white of the painting–BECAUSE of this (and more) the challenge of the watercolour student is to convey an illusion of texture, without the ability to actually build up a surface texture.

WERE WATERCOLOUR PIGMENT applied so thickly as to create an impasto-like texture on the paper beneath, it would lose its luminosity and look pasty, muddy, dull–worse, it would crack.  Watercolour pigment only works when the paper beneath dazzles through it and brings life to the pigmentation.  In other words, watercolour as a medium is more the business of staining paper than it is a business of building up layers and coats of daubs, stipples, slatherings.

THAT’S WHY CARE is required to not apply so many washes that the luminosity of the paper receeds and eventually provides no life at all.  And that’s why the whites of the paper must be thoughtfully reserved and left untouched in key areas–the crests of waves; the moon; snow; clouds; a picket fence–and skill taken to paint AROUND these places to let the paper be the white.

SO….a student of watercolour (me) learns early-on that (s)he will be a student of the medium for life–that mastery is illusive–and failures, many.  A good piece is approached very thoughtfully, noting where the paper will be left to serve the function of white (pigment) and painted around.  Then the student will also have to gather enough courage to apply exceedingly dark washes in one ‘go’, while maintaining a sense of secure, carefree animation in order to present an immediacy and liveliness in the final piece.

THE DEATHKNELL of a failing, dying work of watercolour is finicky overworking of areas, and a refusal to accept what happened when water joined pigment joined brush joined paper.  It is NOT a medium for those who love to micro-manage or be in control.

THE STUDENT OF WATERCOLOUR has to be more a Peter Pan than a child wanting to grow up–loving the thrill of what happens when ‘danger’ is courted, yet having the assurance that daring will win the day.  However, that daring and search for adventure–on the surface of a good piece of paper–will only be pulled off if it is backed by enough experience to have a good hunch about what will happen when such-and-such is tried.

ATTEMPTING what remains beyond one’s ability isn’t courting danger–it is ignoring it.  Trying to fly without thinking happy thoughts will give a person a broken bone.  Within the bounds of representational art–(i.e. wishing to have a tree ‘look like’ a tree)–a painter cannot ‘pull off’ a landscape with lots of shadows if (s)he has yet to study them in some depth.  Trying to do a scene which includes far far more than what one yet learned how to interpret is an invitation to frustration and wanting to give up watercolour for say, acrylics (oh, my).

AND SO FOR MYSELF, I know by this time that I must confine my attentions to learning about how corn grows, what it feels like, looks like, behaves like, before I can throw my abandonment into rendering a watercolour of winter corn in January.  Not only that, but I must also have studied the qualities of snow–the qualities of what a winter sun does to shadows of corn stalk–the blues, the purples.  And only then can a learned abandonment bring about a possible reward.

IT TAKES A LONG TIME to find the right paper, the right brushes, the right working pallet of colours, the right approach and the right subject matter.  Knowing what can be done when paper is sopping wet–and what can’t–depends on who made the paper, how thick it is, how textured it is, how stretched it is, how quickly it will dry.  Knowing when to wait until the paper is exactly wet or damp or dry enough to throw one’s energies at it, comes (usually) through ruining (many pieces of) good paper.

HERE IS THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT of the subject of Jamieson Creek in a February thaw…..

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TOMORROW will (hopefully) provide a photo of the finished piece!

 

 

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JAMIESON CREEK is about a 15 minute drive from our home, along a dirt logging road.  The Kamloops, British Columbia, region is a geologist’s dream come true, featuring some of the oldest mountains in Canada.  As a student of watercolour, I am fascinated by stone and rock, particularly because it is so challenging as a subject.

 

This is Jamieson Creek, taken four years ago around February, early March….

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And here is my initial drawing of the subject…..

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As you can already see, photography is not my gift (which is why I paint, lol)–so forgive the darkness.  It was taken, pre-dawn in the spare room which serves as a studio.

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