Winter Watercolours III

January 14, 2022

It seems to be just a very human thing to anthropomorphize whatever we come across–give everything from fish to insects to birds to apes to dinosaurs to pets a human personality. We even do it with cars and ships. Growing up, I was read the Thornton Burgess stories, like “The Adventures of Grandfather Frog” and the adventures of “Sammy Jay”. You may, rather, have been read “Winnie The Pooh” or “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Every animal in them was cast in human likeness.

And then came along the biggest anthropomorphiser of all time, Walt Disney:

“. . . This photostat model sheet titled ‘Sleeping Beauty Raven’ was made at the Disney Studios during production of Sleeping Beauty, and it was issued to animators for their use in drawing the black bird that is the companion of the evil fairy Maleficent. . . “

There’s a downside to creating animals in our own image–they don’t get to be entities on their own terms, self-definers of their unique life force and world and surroundings. One filmmaker who decided to take it to extremes was Alfred Hitchcock, whose film ‘The Birds‘ cast them as human haters who couldn’t wait to swoop down and become feathered masters over anyone walking around on two legs. Seeing all those crows on telephone wires, silently waiting for the signal to begin wreaking destruction was the very definition of creepy.

All these ravens want in this painting is whatever can be gleaned from a long-before harvested crop of corn:

“Morning Scavenge”, watercolour by Lance Weisser, framed and matted 19″ x 23″, unframed 9″ x 12″
[still available for purchase, contact weisserlance@gmail.com]

Winter Watercolours II

January 8, 2022

Seneca Park in Rochester, New York, was sledding paradise in the 1950s. Only the James Dean wanabees–cigarette-flaunting attention-starved teens–did Dead Man’s Hill: a rocky, tree-stumpy, pretzel-twisted cliff-face down into oblivion. The story went that some guy ripped the Red Flyer from a little kid and went down it standing up and got squashed against a blue spruce. What we all did was the one right beside it–Pine Tree Hill–with its rollercoaster steep drop, and triple-humped finish, ending nearly at the edge of Seneca Park Pond.

“Come home when the snow turns blue,” was our only caution before heading off–that magical time when the sun turned orangey-gold and dropped just below the fir tops, the shadows going from light grey to a rich cobalt. By the time we schlepped home, there were yellow lemon reflections over the deep violet yards beneath everyone’s dining room windows, and we knew we were just in time for supper.

“Winter Sun”, watercolour, by Lance Weisser [sold]

Winter Watercolours

January 5, 2022

One of Kamloops’ older homes, the Fort House at the corner of Fortune Drive and Fort Avenue, is so named because it is on land formerly part of The Hudson Bay Company’s fur-trading post.

“. . . According to a listing of heritage buildings published by the Kamloops Museum and Archives years ago, the fur-trading post was located there from 1843 to 1862, at which point the Hudson’s Bay Company moved its post to Mission Flats.

Mr. and Mrs. Archie Davis. (Kamloops Museum & Archives)

However, the company continued to use the land for agriculture until B.C. Fruitlands bought it in 1906 and subdivided it into lots of five or so acres.

The Fort House was built about 1907 for Archie Davis, a railway employee. ‘The house, a foursquare design with a cottage roof common for that period, was originally located on extensive acreage’. . . ” [source: https://armchairmayor.ca/2014/05/24/answer-man-reader-wants-to-know-the-story-behind-the-old-fort-house-on-fortune-drive/#prettyPhoto%5D

‘Moon Over Old Fort House’, watercolour by Lance Weisser [SOLD]

Phee

January 1, 2022

My friend Natasha’s loveable/loving companion is ‘Phee’ (full name ‘McPhee’), a rescue cat with such a grounded, placidly confident demeanor, when Natasha brought her to her apartment for the first time, Phee imperiously walked through each room, coolly sizing-up her new territory, then, satisfied, curled up on an armchair and went to sleep.

So who better to paint and make into a Christmas card?

‘Phee’, watercolour study on artboard by Lance Weisser

….waiting it out

December 28, 2021

Don’t you just love this little seasonal week-long swale coming between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, when that over-filled helium balloon of a holiday finally bursts and we’re left sitting in our bathrobes and pajamas, watching anything other than ‘Home Alone 2’ and Alastair Sim doing ‘Scrooge’, and don’t have to dress for dinner or anything else?

However, at -27C (-17F) and winds carrying blasts of drifting snow against the windows, this is exactly how it looks out there:

‘Old Schoolhouse’, watercolour by Lance Weisser

I have to dress our little dog ‘Ashton’ in his insulated jacket, carry him to his chosen spot near the shed in order to do his duty, and, as soon as he’s finished, snatch him back up in my arms and carry him back inside. Even then, he’s shivering in my arms.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!

With all the pop-up Christmas cards sent, a different hand-painted option was chosen for the remaining and final card to be mailed off:

‘Solstice Moonrise’ watercolour by Lance Weisser

Thank you for following my blog, and I wish you and those you love and care for a lovely yearend, whether having celebrated Hanukkah, about to celebrate Christmas, or dancing under the full moon, Yule log blazing in the fireplace, quaffing something hot and spiced, celebrating over another Solstice!

This second Dickens-like Christmas pop-up card was sent to friends whose Labradoodle dog, ‘Juno’, was the subject of a portrait found in the post for March 9th. . .

The front of the card

…..and its pop-up figures inside serenade the viewer with carols while ‘Juno’ wishes she were inside next to a warm fireplace :

….and more Christmas cards!

December 18, 2021

Two Charles Dickens’ inspired pop-ups:

The envelope and front of the card
Pop-up carolers and bulldog

….with the final design carbon traced onto a cream-coloured, blank notecard, the image is completed in watercolour —

4.5″ x 5.5″ notecard stock

…..and Christmas trees added, cuts carefully made with an x-acto knife, and scored folds added to then oh-so-carefully make the folds and the cuts pop out. And once a successful Christmas pop-up snowy cityscape with Christmas trees was successfully done, it was time to then make fifteen more of them . . .

The biggest surprise when doing this was discovering how well a dollar store package of six blank notecards with envelopes received watercolour. Painting on them was almost as forgiving and receptive as my go-to Arches Hot Press #140 watercolour paper — and, a package of 6 is $1. Even the envelopes could be festively painted over and made to look handmade.

Designing a hand-painted watercolour pop-up card for Christmas began in August because there were going to have to be seventeen of them in time for mailing.

Here is a look at the process and progress:

layout for the pop-up design on a folded 4″ x 5.5″ blank greeting card
cuts made, and folds scored, a prototype of the card’s 3D pop-up shape
Hand-drawn template to be carbon copied onto each greeting card

! חג אורים שמח

November 29, 2021

Chag Urim Samaech!’ translates as ‘Happy Festival of Lights’ and proclaims with Jews everywhere the eight day remembrance of a miracle, when, in 165 BCE, in a period of dark unrest, at the rededication of the 2nd Temple, “. . . though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the Temple menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. . . “

It is worth noting that Hanukkah is considered one of the lesser celebrations in the Jewish year with Passover (Pasach), The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Rosh Hashanah far greater in significance. But likely due to the overwhelming global attention lavished on Christmas, Jewish children have come to expect their own share of holiday fun and presents, especially when both celebrations (usually) happen in December. And so many Jewish households enjoy parties with latkes and jelly donuts, games like dreidel and the giving of presents on each of the eight days during which a new candle is lit on the menorah and prayers and songs are sung. Because December is the darkest of months, lighting these candles in a darkened room takes on a mystical quality, bringing warmth and glowing wonder to a cold and dismal time of year, while also joining celebrants with their ancestors from long ago.

In honour of Hanukkah, and because here in Kamloops, B.C., there isn’t a Hanukkah card anywhere to be found, I’ve designed and made a pop-up card for my former mother-in-law:

4″ x 5.5″ front cover
The Pop-up set of Menorah candles open against a watercolour-rendered Tree of Life motif with the Hebrew blessing for the kindling of the Hanukkah candles printed below

A Happy and Blessed Hanukkah to our Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbours here and around the world!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2021

Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving is a rather lowkey meal held mid-October–lowkey, that is, in comparison with the American extravaganza on the fourth Thursday of November. Ours takes the form of a harvest celebration–a fitting end to Summer’s seasonal bounty. And while there is usually a turkey dinner–and yes, it is often family celebrated–no one is going to insist on anyone flying in from any of our three coasts in order to eat it. Nor will there be parades featuring gigantic floating Pillsbury Dough Boys or any loud, beer-laden watching of football. In fact, many in my circle have a modest restaurant version along with a friend or two: a glass of wine, the roasted bird entre, pumpkin pie, coffee and conversation–and then home again to peace and quiet and a spotless kitchen.

That said, having been born and raised in the good ol’ USA, I know exactly how to produce a Thanksgiving card imbued with the Yankee spirit of throwing Kraft Miniature Marshmallows and pineapple chunks into an already sweet, sweet potato dish, as well as cramming oysters and chestnuts (and anything else) into turkey stuffing.

5.5″ x 8.5″, the cover is an autumn leaf from our front yard Red Maple

…..wait for it…..

BAM!

The 8.5″ x 11″ inside is a watercolour paper chain of maple leaves which bounce forward along with dried/pressed chrysanthemums and a hand-painted pop-up turkey against a backdrop of watercolour-rendered maple leaves

It’s my pop-up card version of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (without a helium-filled Bullwinkle).

A Very Happy American Thanksgiving to all!

November

November 1, 2021

Ah, November, most favoured of months, you’ve finally arrived. Oh, that lingering scent of wood smoke when walking the dog at 4:30am; fog lifting above the river at dawn; the return in earnest of sweater-wearing, cozy clothing; the mystery of never quite knowing if that smell in the air really is the precursor of the first flurries, and finally, that blessed silence which can only come when neighbours store away for good those dirt bikes and Harleys.

In honour of the occasion, a seasonal pop-up card…..

watercolour painted autumn maple leaves….

The card is folded in half. In pop-up land, any crease becomes the means for popping, and in this case, the two cut outs will be glued onto either side of the crease so when the card is opened, the crease will provide the muscle for lifting the two leaf cutouts….

A dried and pressed autumn aster has been inserted onto a levered paper addition placed inside the crease, so it also pops up when the card is opened.
….another photograph of the same card

A second sheet of paper is cut and then hand-painted with watercolour, glued onto the back of the other piece in order to provide additional sturdiness; and as a final touch, an actual Fall maple leaf is glued onto the front. Using diluted Elmer’s Glue serves as a sealant:

Just waiting for something tasty to fall out of a small goblin’s pillowcase….

‘Moonstruck’, watercolour by Lance Weisser, Arches140# Hot Press Paper, 10″ x 12″
[sold]

There are all kinds of ideas online for how to do a simple DIY pop-up greeting card. Here’s one site I found helpful: http://mashustic.com/category/pop-up-and-other-cards/. Pop-ups can be as simple and as complex as one wishes, one for the person whose personality is ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to the person who likes getting lost in endless detail.

Here is the cover of the completed card….

This is the Hebrew wording for a Rosh Hashanah hymn/song which begins (reading right to left), ‘On Rosh Hashanah, On Rosh Hashanah…’

And when the card is opened, here is the English translation…..

And here is the watercolour painted scene with three pop-up klezmer musicians:

(card surface is 4.25″ x 5.75″)

This was such a fun and entertaining project, especially during these pandemic-restricted days when we really don’t quite know what to do with ourselves, ha ha.

A Happy and Blessed New Year to our Jewish brothers and sisters everywhere!

Rosh Hashanah 2021

September 5, 2021

In Hebrew, ‘rosh’=’head’, ‘ha’=’the’, and ‘shanah‘= ‘year’: ‘head [of] the year’, or, new year. Another name for this holiday is ‘Yom Teruah’ which means ‘day of shouting or blasting’. So on Rosh Hashanah, most commonly in Synagogue, the ram’s horn is trumpeted and it is itself a major symbol of the beginning of what are the High Holy Days when Jews around the world prepare themselves for fresh starts and new beginnings. Often a meal is served among family and will include the traditional apples and honey which signify a sweet year ahead.

To celebrate this auspicious and happy occasion, I created a greeting card of my own since I’ve not been able to lay my hands on any Rosh Hashanah cards in our small city of 100,000. I know there is a Jewish community in Kamloops, but not being Jewish myself, have yet to explore what it may have to offer by way of greeting cards and other such items.

The famous and well-loved musical ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ is set in a Polish/Russian shtetl (which in Yiddish means ‘small town’ or ‘village’), a part of a larger city which is populated by the Jewish community. And I wanted my card to have the feel of this loved and enjoyed Broadway show and film.

Using early photographs of Eastern European klezmer musicians, I set about searching out subjects for an authentic-looking greeting card, wanting to populate it with 19th century shtetl villagers and their klezmer-playing musicians:

Spring Thaw

March 21, 2021

Around here in British Columbia’s Southern Interior, while the mountains boast of a more than normal snow pack (which ultimately brings water to our homes), our city of Kamloops has experienced a warmer and drier Winter than usual. While there’s still a little snow in the higher portions of the city, where we live it has been a very gentle and lamb-like entry into the first day of Spring.

‘March’, watercolour on treated art board, 10″ x 12″
by Lance Weisser

While painting this portrait of Juno in honour of Kathie’s birthday, our little Bichon, ‘Elmo’, was in the final days of his thirteen-year-old life. Stoically dealing with a heart twice its normal size, an enlarged liver and kidney malfunction, our beloved ‘Elmo’ passed away in his bed just after I’d checked on him on January 24th. For his two daddies, this was a sorrowful occasion and one very difficult to get over.

As the weeks passed, however, we realised we needed to at least try to fill the emotional hole of losing our lovely pet and began searching far and wide for a new puppy. At the same time, I was close to finishing the portrait of Juno and finally did, a couple of weeks before Kathie’s big day:

‘Juno’, watercolour on treated art board, 12″ x 10″, by Lance Weisser

Kathie and Ken were very pleased and the Juno portrait now hangs in their dining room.

And we–Raul and I–have a new addition to our family, a tiny toy Maltipoo puppy named ‘Ashton’, who can never replace ‘Elmo’ and yet has won us completely over by his beautiful perky cuteness and charming personality:

Juno was the sister and wife (hmmm) of Jupiter, and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. The patron goddess of Rome and protector of women and marriage, Juno’s name is heard in Virgil’s Aeneid, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Sean O’Casey’s 1924 play Juno and the Paycock.” [source: https://nameberry.com/babyname/Juno%5D

Although I’m posting these progressive treatments over a few days, this painting actually took me several weeks. That’s because I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. Painting complicated hair/fur isn’t my forte. And watercolour isn’t a terribly forgiving medium. So I ultimately chose to use Daniel Smith’s Watercolour Ground applied over white art board. The lovely quality of this product is how easily one can lift mistakes off it–it lifts previously applied, and dried paint, like a dream. What it therefore doesn’t allow is a number of washes or glazes on top of each other, because once a fresh wash is placed over a dried wash, that old one will lift and mix with the new wet one. So my experience has been to use one put-down of wash and let that be the one, and if it doesn’t look good, just put water all over it and lift it right off and wait till the surface has dried and start again.

Because Labradoodles are created by mating a Labrador with a Poodle, any number of colour combinations are possible, including black, dark brown, reddish brown, blonde-brown and who knows how many others. Each puppy can be more like the father, or take after the mother, with different fur/hair qualities as a result. Juno’s hair is a delicious golden colour and not as tightly curled as a Poodle, but not as straight as a Labrador, and so very curly and yet wavy.

Here is the way the painting progressed from the initial sketch and wash:

Personally, I have a need to establish the eyes and nose before progressing further. If they don’t happen correctly, forget about it. I was satisfied that my attempts looked true enough to the image I was given to work from to keep on working.

To help celebrate the birthday of a recently retired Occupational Therapist and good friend–Kathie–her spouse, Ken, the Dean of our local Anglican Cathedral, provided me with photographs of their very charming one year old Labradoodle dog, Juno. My hope was to present Kathie with a watercolour portrait of Juno to mark her upcoming, significant ‘0’ birthday,

Dog portraiture is not something I have experience with/in. And Juno being from a breed known for its gorgeous curls and wavy hair/fur, presented challenges I wasn’t convinced my experience with watercolour could overcome. Fortunately, this painting was one I offered to do, and so if it was beyond my abilities I simply had to say so and produce a watercolour of another subject I knew Kathie would enjoy receiving.

I started with a detailed drawing:

Because Juno’s place to be is anywhere outdoors, I decided to provide a rosebush background.

when micro = macro

January 12, 2021

Dark-eyed Junco and Stellar Jay, 2″ x 2″, Black-Capped Chickadee 1″ x .5″, watercolour miniatures on Arches Hot Press Paper, by Lance Weisser

The largest bird on earth is–no surprise here–the Ostrich. Only the Emu comes anywhere close, and in N. America, our experience of the bird world (aside from some water birds and raptors) is most often an encounter with a species that is generally quite small. (Of course, after writing such a declarative sentence my mind’s eye gets filled with Ravens, Magpies, Embden Geese, Roosters and Pileated Woodpeckers, lol.)

Songbirds in particular are relatively tiny, thus lending themselves well to tiny portraits, which, when I was still a member of a Gallery, sold quite steadily and well.

The Way Home

January 4, 2021

‘The Way Home’, watercolour on art board, 5″ x 5″ by Lance Weisser

The Way Home

Many dreams I have dreamed

That are all now gone.

The world mirrored in a dark pool,

How unearthly it shone!

But now I have comfort

From the things that are,

Nor shrink too ashamed from the self

That to self is bare.

More than soft clouds of leaf

I like the stark form

Of the tree standing up without mask

In stillness and storm,

Poverty in the grain,

Warp, gnarl, exposed,

Nothing of nature’s fault or the years’

Slow injury glozed.

From the thing that is

My comfort is come.

Wind washes the plain road:

This is the way home.

Robert Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943)

Binyon, an English poet, dramatist, and art scholar is most know for his Remembrance Day poem, ‘For The Fallen’, which reads in part:

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.”

Try A Little Tenderness

January 1, 2021

Daring to re-write Otis Reading’s hit song for this brand spanking New Year:

“A word soft and gentle makes life easier to bear,

You won’t regret it, people won’t forget it–for love is our whole happiness

And it is all so easy. Try a little tenderness.”

January, Lac du Bois’, watercolour on treated art board, 9″ x 12″,
by Lance Weisser

Wishing you a more tender, gentle, and forgiving 2021.

The Atlantic Puffin spends almost all of its life in the water, coming ashore only once a year to breed, usually to the same nesting spot which the male prepares. Then, laying a single egg, they both attend to hatching it –the newborn called a ‘puffling’ — caring for it until one night it will fledge. Once on its own, it remains on the sea for up to five years before finding a mate and finally returning to land to then breed.

‘Atlantic Puffin’, 5″ x 6.5″, Arches Hot Press Paper, watercolour by Lance Weisser, [sold]

They mate for life, though interestingly, do not stay together while on the open sea–which is two-thirds of the year–but only get back together when breeding time (usually April) occurs. Once August comes, they go their separate ways.

Their nickname is ‘the clown of the sea’–not purely due to their clown-faced features–but because although they are very adept fliers (reaching speeds up to 88km/hour), they are clunky when taking off and clumsy when landing. Their bright orange feet run haphazardly over the sea until finally getting them airborne, and on landing the puffin will often tumble and roll and pratfall across the surface of the water.

So, yes, this Christmas Puffins will be floating around the North Atlantic separated from their lifelong mates, managing to rustle up something for dinner, while on shore we’ll likely be left doing the same. Even so, together we’ll find a way to make the season bright.

source: https://www.nordicvisitor.com/blog/5-things-may-not-know-puffin/

%d bloggers like this: