The Long Wait

January 17, 2020

Two days ago I left the house at 9am.  Between then and returning at noon, our pipes had frozen.  It was -23C (-9.5F).  On the coldest day so far in 2020–with pipes freezing all across Kamloops, B. C.–the search for an available plumber was on.  Four tries later, I snagged one just finishing up in our neighbourhood, and an hour-and-a-half –and $165– later, we heard that lovely sound of water bursting out of multiple taps.

Waiting for Spring, 10 x 8, January 2019

“The Long Wait”, 10″ x 8″, watercolour on art board

by Lance Weisser

Seeing our rescuing plumber to the door, I saw we’d gotten some mail.  It was our first-of-many, colourful Spring Seed Catalogs.

Small Works Show 2019

January 10, 2020

Our Kamloops Arts Centre in Kamloops, B. C., does our city of 100,000 proud by hosting and promoting many art events throughout the year.  The 2019 Small Works Show is a fundraising event whereby half of all art purchases go to the KAC, and the remaining half goes to the artists.

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“Venetian Memories” is one of my entries featured in a local store window.  Below, the rest of my contribution is on a wall in the hallway of The Old Courthouse.

Small Works Show Nov 24 to Dec 24 2019 a

 

 

Midnight snack

December 21, 2019

 

My first real encounter with an owl took place in the middle of Toronto in the 1970s.  It was a normal mid-summer night and I was at an inner city, tree-lined neighbourhood intersection, when suddenly I heard this unworldly screech above my head, a tremendous rush of sound–like wind in a leafy tree–as though something unknown above me had collided with another object.  Then, right in front of me fell from the sky and onto the road a rolling, jumbled ball of feathers, violently jumping and heaving about, me not knowing what on earth was happening, nor able to visually make out anything other than this great confusion of feathers and screeching.

And then I saw an owl’s head very swiftly rise up from the feathery pile, stare at me for a split second before shifting its body and letting me see how it had a struggling pigeon in its grasping talons.  A few more jabs with its beak and the owl lifted off the pavement, its wings widespread and powerful, the pigeon weighing it down, as it climbed upward and out into the urban night to search for a place to finish its meal of squab.

The whole business only lasted but a minute, if that.  So violent and sudden was it, that I’ve always understood since that day why songbirds and doves always appear wary when at our feeders, and rarely do anything if not in a protective grouping.  Woodpeckers seem unaffected by much of anything going on around them, so I presume owls don’t consider woodpecker a delicacy.

barn owl, november 2017 a

‘Barnie’

watercolour on Arches 140# hot press paper

Sentinels

December 19, 2019

It is something a fascination how one species of bird spends its nights, in comparison with another.  What they all have in common is a desire to feel protected and beyond the reach of nocturnal predators, like owls.

Ravens and crows go the safety in numbers route, heading in groupings to mutually accepted trees, with crows being particularly fond of the-more-the-merrier approach, with sometimes upwards of several thousand roosting at one time.  Ravens are less inclined to roost in gigantic numbers, and confine themselves to congregate with family and ones they’ve bonded with.

Nightwatch, 7 x 4.5, January 2019.jpg

‘Nightwatch’

watercolour on art board by Lance Weisser

4.5″ x 7″  [sold]

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Works

March 15, 2019

In my city of Kamloops, British Columbia, our Kamloops Arts Council hosts a number of different painterly events throughout the year. One of them was called ‘The Small Works Show’, an annual fundraiser whereby the artist gets half the proceeds and the Arts Council gets the other half.

Unlike most art shows, this one allows patrons to walk out the door with their purchase rather than wait till the event is over. No little red dots on title cards here!

Participating artists are allowed up to fifteen pieces, and if/when one piece is purchased, another is immediately put in its place. So I contributed twelve paintings, and was pleased to have sold seven of them.

‘The Scavenger’, 4 x 10, watercolour on art board by Lance Weisser

This little piece (rather crudely photographed before being matted and framed) was given a new home, and as time goes along, I’ll post others which were also purchased.

I am very grateful for the commitment and dedication of those heading up our local Kamloops Arts Council.

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

‘School’s Out’

April 9, 2018

Not far from our Kamloops, B. C., home is the village of Pritchard which used to have an original one room school occupying a corner of a farmer’s pasture–a school he himself reputedly attended as a boy–that no amount of seeking to have it lovingly restored bore any fruit with historical groups or municipalities.

Fearing its derelict floors and frame would be responsible for causing trespassing children accidental injury, he reluctantly tore it all down some five years or so ago.  But fortunately I managed to capture its classic image with my camera while it was still part of this farmer’s horse paddock, and I’ve painted a series of watercolours using it as a focal point.

Since it no longer exists, I choose to place this old school in settings that depart rather dramatically from where it actually had been (on a rather non-descript flat field right beside Duck Range Rd).

School's Out a.jpg

‘School’s Out’, watercolour by Lance Weisser, 14″ x 16″

Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, Sold

Happy Easter

March 29, 2018

As children, we loved writing on eggs with crayon and then colouring them, the smell of vinegar used in setting the dyes filling the kitchen, and our fingers almost permanently stained purple and orange and green–yet we weren’t very keen on then having to eat cold hard-boiled eggs, pretty though they were.  Our mother held a big church breakfast at our parsonage home, card tables decorated up, little ‘favour’ cups filled with mints and peanuts, lots of hot chocolate for people returning from sunrise service.  And of course, lots of coloured, hard-boiled eggs.

I enjoy painting watercolour on eggs, which receive it quite well, the best eggs being duck eggs whose satin-smooth surface is perfect for watercolour.  The eggs then have to be blown out and finally spray-lacquered to protect them.

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duck eggs, email size a

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Christmas tree ornament egg done using the traditional Ukrainian beeswax and dye method.

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‘Little Bunny’, watercolour on Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper, 4″x6″, sold.

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‘Arctic Hare’, watercolour, Arches Aquarelle Hot Press Paper, 4″x6″, sold.

A blessed and Happy Easter everyone!

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

 

 

Three Amigos

March 19, 2018

Chickadees have a gift many would love to have, which is the ability to hide seeds and other items in a large variety of places and remember each of them without a problem.  Some of us come across that well-placed but unfound Christmas present for Aunt Dorothy only when moving house or doing a major Spring cleaning.

They are also studied for their distinctive chick-a-dee dee call, with researchers noting that when it is a single ‘dee’ it indicates calm, but when there are multiple ‘dees’, it means the bird is stressed or senses danger.  It seems whenever I am refilling the feeder, our resident Western Chickadee fires off a dozen or more, while insisting on grabbing yet one more seed even as I’m lowering it to the ground.  Then it waits indignantly for the whole procedure to be completed while bombarding me with ‘dees’ as though from a miniature ray gun.

the three amigos, October 2016, 5 x 7

‘Three Amigos’, watercolour by Lance Weisser, 5″ x 7″, Saunders Waterford 90 lb Hot Press Paper, sold.

Raven Trio

March 10, 2018

Portraying moonlight is something of an intriguing interpretation for painters.  Some, like the famous American painter Frederic Remington, chose a greenish hue for its earthly glow….

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Others, like the American painter Maxfield Parrish, often used yellow as the predominant colour of moon glow….

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I’ve noticed other painters depicting the colour of moonlight in hues of blue.  And in this little painting of Ravens, my choice is sepia and white….

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Three Ravens‘, 8″ x 10″, Arches Hot Press 140 lb Paper, Sold

By including my own, I’m certainly not attempting to put myself in the league of a Parrish or Remington–but merely drawing attention to how our eye finds mystery in the way the moon reflects and illuminates the landscape.  When I go outside on a full moonlit night, I feel it is a blueish reflection on snow, and more earth-toned on our backyard mountain and rocks.  And even though I never quite manage to see moonglow  as green, I simply adore Remington’s moonlit scenes and illustrations.  He convinces me it really is green!

What is it for you?

 

‘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

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.

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 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.

… 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

 

 

 

….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.

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