Cloudscape 1

March 22, 2022

There’s a compositional rule advising painters that if the sky is the main element in a painting, then what lies below it ought to be kept simple and less important; and, conversely, if it’s the landscape which is the focus, then the sky should be suggested and there merely as a compliment to the rest of the painting. Of course, there are plenty of excellent paintings where this rule has been ignored. I think of Van Gogh whose complexities and intricacies fill every inch, and cause one’s eyes to dance around and be rewarded with a richness of technique.

Personally speaking, it seems better to go by that rule’s wisdom than pretend to be of the calibre and passion of a virtuoso like Van Gogh. Those who, like him, are driven body and soul to express their inner selves via their art aren’t likely to be ones who go by sensibility and convention in life as well as art. Those who, like me, have to screw up their courage in order to even put brush to paper, are appreciative of sound advice and guidance. And so, with this painting, I followed that compositional rule:

“Peace At Eve”
watercolour on Arches 140# Hot Press Paper, by Lance Weisser
[sold]

Winter Watercolours IV

January 17, 2022

This snowscape was commissioned by Ellen for her newly-acquired home some years ago. Some commissions can be challenging simply because the painting the person who does the commissioning visualizes in his/her head may or may not mesh with the painting the artist ends up producing. At that moment when ‘the big reveal’ happens, one can always tell in an instant whether it’s elation or disappointment.

It is always less stressful to have one’s available work displayed online or on gallery walls, and the viewer can either choose one, enjoy seeing them but decline doing any purchasing–or, in some rare cases, enter into negotiation over the price. Personally speaking, if we’re allowed to negotiate over big ticket items like houses and cars, why not artwork? After all, few of us have the ability to waltz into a gallery and say, ‘I’ll take that one…..and hmmmm, yes, that one, also…..and, can you hurry, please? I have my driver waiting.’

Untitled winter landscape, watercolour by Lance Weisser, Collection of Ellen Schaffer

And yes, Ellen loved it.

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

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

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!

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 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.

Cloud study

June 21, 2020

The problem is, clouds can look terribly dark, yet the prevailing wisdom by learned painters is the caution that regardless of how dark the sky might appear, it is the lightest component of any landscape painting–except in rare cases like snowscapes, or some seascapes.

Cloud Study on Arches Cold Press 140 lb. paper, watercolour by Lance Weisser

The temptation, at least for me, is to go about trying to recreate that memorable sky full of drama by mixing up a bucket of what might best be described as ‘peat bog grey’ or ‘burned frying pan umber’ and sloshing it onto the top of the picture.

The end result is a landscape where anyone deigning to walk would be greatly at risk–paintings where interspersed throughout should be little yellow triangular signs reading: WATCH FOR FALLING CLOUDS :

“In Search of Hikers: Killer Clouds on the Prowl”

The other prevailing wisdom by a great many worthy painters, is that if one’s painting is featuring clouds, then whatever else is depicted ought to be kept rather simple and relatively free of detail. Conversely, if the focus is on whatever is happening below the sky, then the sky itself should be left unassuming and merely supportive. The above painting is a good case proving that point.

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.]

When one reads about the long life of Jean Sibelius and how he had such a strong affinity for nature, for Autumn and Winter in particular, and was, after all, a Finn, whose country embraces the colder months, it seemed fitting to depict Sibelius Square in November.  His biographer wrote this:


“. . . Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola [his home, named after his wife]. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours. . . “

The distinctive, late 19th c. Toronto architecture of the area known as The Annex is unabashedly Victorian, boasting ‘some of the largest collection of Victorian houses in North America.’

‘During this period Toronto also developed some unique styles of housing. The bay-and-gable house was a simple and cost effective design that also aped the elegance of Victorian mansions. Built of the abundant red brick, the design was also well suited to the narrow lots of Toronto.’ [wikipedia: The Architecture of Toronto]

In The Annex, however, there was an elegance reserved only for those who could afford it. ‘Built by the city’s wealthy and mostly found in the neighbourhood they are named after, these houses contain diverse and eclectic elements borrowed from dozens of different styles. These houses are built of a mix of brick and sandstone, turrets, domes, and other ornamentation abound.’ [ibid.]

In this painting, some decisions had to be made as to whether it was going to be about the houses surrounding The Jean Sibelius Square Park, or about the monument dedicated to the composer, or about the overall mood of late Autumn and how it informs the architecture, the park and what Sibelius himself loved about November.

This neighbourhood-emersed, one square acre oasis in the middle of Toronto [pop. 6,129,000], was originally known as Kendal Square due to being beside Kendal Avenue…

In 1959, in recognition of the diligence and passion of Toronto’s Finnish community, the little square was officially renamed Jean Sibelius Square and featured a striking monument with the Finish composer’s likeness crowning it.

My encounter with this petite and charming park was during the socially-disruptive 70s, when The Annex was transformed from a neighbourhood of red-brick mansion propriety, to one of red-brick mansion rooming houses populated by hippies and university students.

I lived in the former red brick Victorian home of a Toronto physician with fifteen other actors–including Doug Todd, who has commissioned this painting of Jean Sibelius Square. We were members of the theatre ensemble called Creation 2 (I for seven years, he for two), which was both commune and theatre ensemble:

Life for Doug Todd and I, and others within the group, was a mixture of great bonding, high demands, internal turmoil and personal confusion. What had started out as a dynamic experiment combining the best of ensemble acting with the ideals of a close-knit communal living, began taking on the telling characteristics of a cult.

The Jean Sibelius Square Park, being a block away from our living situation, provided us with a treed, quiet, people-free place of calm and restoration. The watercolour depicting that 1970s’ oasis-like feeling is now finding its expression as it goes from outlined sketch to the initial wash stage:

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