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.

The Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius ” . . . is widely recognized as his country’s greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia. . . “

Quite probably, his most recognizable contribution and gift to us was ‘Finlandia’, the tune from which many of us have come to know as the melody for the well known hymn, ‘Be Still My Soul’:

Arranged & recorded by 3b4joy

Music is, for me, like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.
~ Jean Sibelius 

The visual objective in this commissioned project, was to infuse the painting with the mood and the tenor of those 1970s years when I and my dear friend, Doug Todd, were living near The Jean Sibelius Square Park in The Annex of Toronto.

Those were challenging years, when we were actors in the ensemble known as Creation II, living communally in a large Victorian red brick Annex house. The experience permanently altered our lives, as what began as an altruistic experiment in communal living and performing, gradually descended into becoming a cult.

Therefore, this painting is meant to embrace the feelings of those times, and bring back the memory of a one acre oasis in the midst of spiritual confusion and personal ambivalence.

The completed work depicting a drizzly November morning, includes the emblematic red brick Victorian homes which surround the square, and a pair of Toronto’s ever-present pigeons to help bring animation to the solid silence of the memorable and remembered Jean Sibelius:

‘Sibelius Park November’

watercolour on treated art board

commissioned by Douglas Todd

by Lance Weisser June, 2020

[note: the rectangular size of this painting, 7″ x 13″, is preventing it being inserted here without undergoing distortion.]

The Finnish composer (seven symphonies, including ‘Finlandia’) is memorialized in a tidy little one acre park in The Annex area of Toronto, Canada, nestled on four sides by its red brick house neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Sun’s long-serving investigative reporter and author, Douglas Todd, [https://vancouversun.com/author/douglastodd2/page/2], commissioned a watercolour of this familiar setting he and I knew well when living nearby while in a theatre company commune in the mid-1970s.

A striking memorial was donated by Toronto’s Finnish community in 1959 and the park–originally known as Kendal Square–was renamed Jean Sibelius Square Park. In 2010, the park was officially reopened after a major redesign equipped it with an extensive playground and enhanced outdoor skating rink.

Approaching this watercolour commission, it seemed most appropriate to laden it with a 1970s feel–visually allowing Doug and my memories of Sibelius Park to surface and suffuse the painting with an autumnal feel.

A decision has been made to sacrifice accuracy to the bringing up from deep memories a vision of what we both recall and felt about this little space–this oasis from the complicated goings-on within our nearby commune. And we both remembered it being nearly always empty of people, strewn with fallen leaves, lit by street lamps, smelling slightly of wood smoke from the chimneys of the surrounding substantial, Victorian brick homes of the established Annex community.

Therefore, the end result will disappoint anyone currently familiar with Jean Sibelius Square, and its revitalized, playground-dominated landscape, as well as those who may live around it. None of the actual homes will be depicted, rather homes springing from our memory of those homes are being brought to the surface.

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 . . . . 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.

 

 

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