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

 

 

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hot

August 24, 2015

This has been one. hot. summer.  Right now smoke from fires burning on the Washington State/Canada border is blowing up our way due to Southwest winds.  It’s an acrid, doused campfire smell and hazy even when just looking across the street.

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‘The Silt Bluffs, Kamloops’, watercolour on Hot Press #140 Arches, 19cm x 24cm, (7.5″ x 9.5″) sold

Oh yeah.  I’m done.  Bring me a nice serving of September.

it’s not easy being….

August 18, 2015

The beauty of people is that though 99.9% the same, we all know it only takes going to, say, The Iowa State Fair, to discover we’re probably not.  All you have to do is stand aside (wondering what on earth you bought that hot dog and sauerkraut for) and watch everyone passing by.

This is just a convoluted way of confessing that not everyone is a great fan of Summer.  Painters (some painters who write certain blogs about watercolour) in particular who like landscapes can (on occasion) find Summer just too, um, well, green.

There are ways of uncomplicating all the greens.  When I lived in The Adirondacks of New York, not far from our town, in another small town, the famous Grandma Moses, who began painting at the age of 78 had only recently died at the age of 101 .

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She was once found in her studio with masonite panels at her feet and a roller with blue paint.  Looking up from coating a panel and filling the roller with more blue from the tray, she informed her visitor, “On Thursdays I do skies.”

In 2006 one of her pieces sold for $1.6 million.

Greens can be as simply applied to a landscape as opening up a tube of something and rolling it on. In representational forms of art, trying to authenticate the many greens of a summer scene can be a complex challenge, if for no other reason than that there are just so many variations.  Leaves on the very same tree play on different greens, without even mentioning the grasses, shrubs, bushes, ferns below it.

Because it is a colour derived from mixing blues and yellows, greens straight from the tube nearly always have a garishness when, for example, painted against a very blue sky.  That’s because the blue of the sky likely isn’t the same blue used to create that particular green. If the sky is cerulean, mixing a green from cerulean and a yellow used in another part of the painting will harmonize. So finding ways to harmonize greens through using their primary parents elsewhere in the painting is a way forward–a way of conquering ‘the greens’.

A worthwhile exercise from a contributor named ‘CharM’ on the site http://www.wetcanvas.com, posted in 2011, is provided by this chart:

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‘CharM’ takes a similar exercise to completion here:

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http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=925152

While one is actually in the process of painting a landscape with a variety of greens, it is entirely possible to include in the painting all of the above blues, through washes, cloud shadows, sky and/or water, and generally just finding ways to get them all in there.  Likewise, the full range of yellows can also find their way into the painting.  Doing this then puts all the blues in the scene, as well as all the yellows, and sets the stage for being able to harmoniously use every single green (and more) shown on ‘CharM’s very helpful chart(s).

I still prefer doing fog, mist, moonlight, winter and early dawns (before green has a glimmer of a chance of making an appearance).  And that’s fine, because we all know I am .001% different — or lived a past life on a Scotland isle, where being able to see beyond the front step meant it was a lovely day.

tranquille creek gorge

June 3, 2015

ANCIENT FLOWS OF LAVA have left our regional landscape (Kamloops, B. C.) with dramatic canyons, a single lane dirt road skirting the edges.

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‘Tranquille Creek Gorge’, watercolour 23cm x 41cm (9″x16″) Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, sold

MY PAINTING FRIEND MAX drove me through this arid landscape, only 10 minutes outside a city of nearly 100,000.  Every so often she’d tell me of cars which had not been successful at executing a snowy, icy, tricky piece of road only to careen down the sides.  At one place, the car was still there, making me both dizzy and almost nauseous, leaning over to see its rusting bulk caught between broken pines and rock.

‘MY GOD, WHERE WERE THEY HEADED?’ I’d asked.  ‘Home, of course’, Max pointed ahead.  And there was a small grouping of houses not far from the road, some fencing in horses or livestock–one had alpacas–and looking semi-deserted, though that was far from the case. Dogs barked at Max’s pickup as we threaded through and headed into yet more wilderness. ‘They take this road to Kamloops and back?’ — it seemed to my chicken, urban-minded guardedness a scary place to build one’s home.  ‘Only for shopping, or a night on the town’, Max said.  ‘Which is why someone sometimes doesn’t make it home–especially in the Winter.’

wee glimpses

May 26, 2015

PAINTING OUTDOORS has a way of getting a person to make judgment calls quickly, and in our area it is quite simply the heat of the day.

KAMLOOPS, B.C., IS UNIQUE IN THAT its mountainous hillsides are grass-covered with considerable sagebrush but little tree growth to the 900m level, creating what is known as an inverted tree line.

IN MOST PLACES TREES WON’T GROW above a certain level due to the lack of precipitation, but in Kamloops, they won’t grow below a certain level due to the lack of precipitation.  We are known as The Sunshine Capitol of Canada, receiving over 2,000 hours of sun annually.

IOW, IT IS HOT.  And since sun and heat are our landscape’s signature features, painting a local watercolour outdoors demands sitting right the heck out there.

THAT IS WHY IT MAKES GREAT SENSE to me to choose to do this by way of painting miniatures.

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‘A Kamloops August’, watercolour, 6.35cm x 8.90cm (2.5″ x 3.5″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. paper

MINIATURES demand quick thinking and choosing the elemental–the scene’s compositional essences–getting them down efficiently and thoughtfully, though, at the same time, quickly.

A GOOD MINIATURE can serve as the template for a much larger, studio piece.  And good miniatures stand up very well all by themselves.  This particular one has been accepted into two different juried Federation of Canadian Artists Shows, including the annual ‘Small, Smaller, Smallest’.  It was, in that show, the very smallest of the lot.  And that made me very happy!

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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“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.

THE PAPER IN USE HERE  is a very smooth-surfaced one called Hot Press (140 lb.) by the French Company, Arches (a very old watercolour paper maker).  Hot Press paper has virtually no surface texture at all and is slightly cream-toned.  When papers are this smooth, the paint initially floats on top before being absorbed.  This floating quality creates effects a rough surfaced paper can’t deliver.

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So Hot Press paper looks and feels pretty much like dollar store poster paper–smooth, shiny, and about the same thickness.  And because it is not a heavy paper, and because it is so smooth, Hot Press watercolour paper cannot take a lot of scrubbing out if mistakes are made.  The painter needs to be rather confident about the strength and amount of pigment to use before putting brush to paper.  So because I am always a bit tentative when beginning to paint something as challenging as an animal, I gain confidence by always having a scrap piece of watercolour paper handy to try things out on first.  Once I see how to do it on a scrap piece of paper, then I have confidence to do the same thing on the painting itself. 

It needs to be stressed that Arches paper is superb and bears absolutely no comparison to poster paper when paint is applied to it.  The weight (140 lb) is how thick the paper is.  300 lb. paper is very thick and therefore can take a lot more scrubbing and multiple washes, without losing luminosity.  The downside is that 300 lb. watercolour paper is quite a bit more expensive.  And when I work on very expensive paper, I am too aware of its cost.  That makes me somewhat nervous about possibly ruining the painting.  So I usually choose 140 lb. paper because if it gets ruined, I am not that concerned, and so therefore approach the painting with more boldness which gives a better result.

 

THE DEWDROP VALLEY is a local site and part of a much larger area near Tranquille River and the Tranquille River Gorge.  In essence, the Dewdrop is really rocky, hilly, grass-and-tree- covered pasture for cows and cattle during the Spring and Summer months.  The Kamloops Thompson Nicola Shuswap Region is no-nonsense cowboy rancher country, complete with serious Rodeos and horse and rider cattle round-ups in the Autumn.

This is the first of recording daily progress towards completing a watercolour depicting a typical scene in The Dewdrop Valley . . . . 

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ON DISPLAY are a fine collection of tortured brushes.  Some are from dollar stores or second hand bargain stores, and as soon as they get into the spare bedroom cum studio they’re cut up with scissors.  None of them cost more than $2, and who knows what they’re made of–Moose? Sasquatch hair, perhaps.  Each, however, is priceless.

 

 

Miniatures: Chipmunk

April 10, 2015

 

 

 

 

AS CHILDREN we always gravitated towards Chipmunks, squatting in total stillness with extended hands, hoping one would overcome its natural wariness and take the peanut being offered.  The sprightly flicks of tail and peppy darts forward to snatch the gift–so quickly and deftly we didn’t see or feel it leave our palm–only added more charm to their compact, large-eyed, tiny bodied allure.  On the other hand, the Grey Squirrel was just a nuisance.  I guess size and colour made all the difference in our juvenile minds between one rodent’s mystique and another’s ho-hum plainness.  We didn’t entice Squirrels.  We threw sticks at them.  Their raiding our bird feeders didn’t win them any points, either, I must say….

 

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watercolour, 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″),  art board

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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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D Day for me is May 1st.  That is when Lynda Jones and I are teaming up to be The Featured Artists at The Old Courthouse Gallery here in Kamloops.  Lynda is a rare and amazing potter who specializes in highly burnished smoke-fired pieces and counts among her collectors the former U. S. President Clinton.

Here is the fantastic poster she has designed:

PAIR' A LLs E-POSTER MAY 2012 Courthouse Gallery

The Local Cliffs subject I’ve been doing studies of has finally been completed as a work I’m satisfied enough to allow to be matted and framed.

"Cinnamon Ridge Signal" 7.5" x 9", Arches 140 lb. Cold Press Paper

One thing I’ve learned through doing it, is that this small size of 7.5″ x 9″ is very pleasing for me.  It is large enough to include a good amount of detailing, and small enough to get finished in a timely way.

And now it is on to getting painting #2 for the show done before our May 1st opening.  Thank you for your previous comments which helped me in producing the final result!

About ten minutes from our house is  ‘Cinnamon Ridge’.  These are cliffs with very distinctive geologic caves and ‘hoodoos’ caused by wind erosion.  Though not around at the time (I was but a gleam in my parents’ eye) 50 million years ago, the Kamloops region of British Columbia (from the Native word Tk’emlups–‘where rivers meet’) was the source of great volcanic activity, and formed the seafloor of the ancestral Pacific Ocean.

Not far from Cinnamon Ridge is a loose shale shelf where my friends go to collect fossils.  These fossils indeed prove this area which is so very dry, was once water-covered.

I’ve now done two studies of Cinnamon Ridge (so named because of its rich colour).  The first is a small watercolour sketch about 4″ x 8″

 

'Cinnamon Ridge' watercolour sketch

 

The second is a more detailed and focused piece around 8.5″ x 12″.  It has some issues as far as values go (it’s a bit too light and lacking in contrast), as well as a composition issue having to do with the train signal being much too far to the left.

 

'Cinnamon Ridge' Study II

 

And here is the photo both studies are based on:

 

reference photo of Cinnamon Ridge

 

The final painting must be ready for hanging on May 1st.  So I am now about to do Study III, which will hopefully end up graduating from being a study to being worthy of mat and frame.

Painting is much like cooking.  Too little salt is as much a turn-off as too much.  Getting things just right wasn’t just a problem for Goldilocks.

 

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