‘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).

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

Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, Sold

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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.

Pinantan Country

March 5, 2018

Pinantan Lake is about twenty minutes from Kamloops, British Columbia, where we live.  It is a small community spread around the little lake’s perimeter and prides itself on being independent, artistic, and avant garde.

Although this painting is not of an actual barn or photographed scene, it attempts to capture the spirit of what the area looks like under a snowy mantle when viewed from the road leading towards the lake.  I’ve done it from my collective memory, rather than choosing to make use of photographs or while on location.

 

christmas 2017 a

‘Pinantan Country’, watercolour on Saunders Waterford Hot Press Paper 90 lb., 9″ x 12″ Sold

 

 

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.

‘The Way Home’

January 24, 2018

In the spirit of watercolour experimentation, it was interesting to take ordinary white mat board and coat it with a thin layer of clear acrylic medium.  The board then had to dry for a good 24 hours.  The experience when painting is one of finding it acts as a kind of resist while providing a rather intriguing texturing quality.

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It is a bit tricky because there’s no wet-in-wet opportunity, or much reworking/touching up or the acrylic medium will moisten and lift from the surface and become gummy.  So getting one crack at it is pretty much all one gets, making every brushstroke really count.

 

 

 

 

… 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

 

 

 

….cedar waxwing

April 23, 2016

As a kid, having to enter the annual Science Fairs in Jr. High–the ones where invited experts walked around with clipboards trying to find possible prize winners–I had exhibits which were often concerned with birds–songbirds, usually–their migration patterns and predators, and fun facts.

I never won a prize.  That usually went to kids who electrocuted themselves voluntarily in order to prove water and wires don’t mix–or the kids who cross fertilized seeds and created vegetative freaks.

The shortlist I had then in the 50s (living in upper New York State) was to see any kind of Bunting (they looked outrageously colourful), our State Bird the American Bluebird (which I never did see, and still haven’t), any kind of Tanager, and of course, any kind of Waxwing.

cedar waxwing miniature 5x7 april 2016

“Berry Picking”

Cedar Waxwing, 4″ x 6″, watercolour, Saunders Waterford Hot Press 140# Paper

 

Having lived now in seven different Canadian locations, from coast to coast, I’ve been able to photograph a Western Tanager in our front garden, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds (astonishingly blue), and a group of Cedar Waxwings which descended on our Red Maple branches and began dismantling a Robin’s nest, rather than having to bother scavenging their own material.

The Waxwings were much smaller than expected, and every bit as fascinating as I’d hoped.  Their ‘bandit’s mask’ gives them an allure other birds lack, and their interesting ‘song’ and penchant for travelling about in flocks makes them worth having to wait 60 years to see them.

….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.

….Raven rave

March 9, 2016

Having found a frame the perfect colour and size for a larger version of the Raven painting done a few days ago, this is turning out to be a Raven rave of sorts, this time a little more wintry.

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7″ x 7″ on Arches Hot Press #140 paper

Results of ‘composition exercise 1’: dividing a landscape into thirds, placing visual interest at each intersectional  point….

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Results of ‘composition exercise 2’:

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and 3:

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bringing us to 4:

It has taken a long spell of waffling over what to do about being less than pleased with the finished piece.  The snowy fields seemed to extend themselves too far down, without enough visual interest to hold a viewer’s attention.  And then I gave into the temptation/artistic trap I almost always seem to fall into, which is going one step too far by defining open field with regimented rows of corn which wind up being so monotonous, the fence posts going the opposite direction only add yet more visual predictability  and kill whatever freshness the piece had going for it.

….so the only satisfactory outcome was to crop the painting and salvage what could be salvaged.

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It is a very small painting, about 6″ x 12″, and has at least enough mood still going on to make it only just worth framing.

As an exercise, however, it was more than useful, and confirmed satisfactorily that placing interest at intersectional points within a composition divided into thirds works (sans rows of corn, that is), does hold one’s attention, and lends a feeling of balance.

 

…. Robin miniature 2

February 12, 2016

It has been an unsettlingly warm Winter here in interior British Columbia, with Spring bulbs actually starting to poke up through the ground.  Unsettling, because being only mid-Winter, we might well suddenly get one of those Arctic inflows and see temps plunge to -20C, which would effectively ruin what shouldn’t have already begun sprouting, including fruit trees.

It wouldn’t be surprising at all to actually see Robins returning in February, when their normal return isn’t until mid-March.  Being such avid worm-hunters, I have wondered at their early returns here, particularly as to what they find to eat.  The answer is the Mountain Ash berry and other lingering berries.  The danger, apparently, is eating ones which have fermented, thereby becoming naturally alcoholic and responsible for killing birds who eat too many.

This miniature is of the British/European Robin, which doesn’t reside in Canada.  But English Robin miniatures are snapped up in our Gallery simply because they have established such a rich literary following, and also appeal to Canadian emigres.

The difficulty painting a bird the painter has never seen–and therefore isn’t familiar with–means it may not be true to how the bird actually looks.  However, this particular bird has so frequently been depicted in book illustrations and greeting cards, that its persona lives beyond its ‘real life’ comings and goings.  So here in Canada, getting the English Robin ‘right’ isn’t as stringent a matter as getting the Canadian Robin right–a bird everyone is familiar with, and therefore has to be flawlessly rendered.

They seem so very sweet.

 

It has become ‘belated everything’ for me lately…so why not this as well.

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2.5″ x 3.75″ watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140#

We’ve come to know this as the English Robin (at least here in Canada), though I see it referred to elsewhere as the European Robin (which of course no Brit would ever go for).

Here are some (possibly) little-known tidbits about it: “. . . The distinctive orange breast of both sexes contributed to the European robin’s original name of redbreast (orange as the name of a colour was unknown in English until the sixteenth century, by which time the fruit of that name had been introduced). In the fifteenth century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as robin redbreast, which was eventually shortened to robin. As a given name, Robin was originally a diminutive of Robert . . . ”  [ Lack, D. (1950). Robin Redbreast. Oxford: Oxford, Clarendon Press. p. 44]

Personally, I have never seen this bird except depicted and written about in stories like “The Secret Garden”.  But whenever I paint a miniature of them, it is purchased very quickly, and usually by a homesick, transplanted member of a country ‘across the pond’.  It would be a treat to see them in their natural setting.

…. Tranquille Creek Gorge

January 21, 2016

The watercolour video demonstrations of David Dunlop are challenging and yet simple.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgtg-Adql1Y&index=6&list=PLtEJwQmsB7SvVg8C4J2c4LDijerH7SSKF (I tried to embed the video itself in this post, but WordPress thought otherwise).  But here is the blurb describing it….”Emmy Award winning David Dunlop takes you to his Connecticut studio to demonstrate a two minute watercolor, used as preparation for an oil sketch or to explore ideas“.

Mr. Dunlop is an artist/teacher from Connecticut, whose manner when teaching is inspiring and animated.  He is a great follower of descriptive, energetic Masters like J.M.W. Turner and Winslow Homer, and seeks to employ their methods, while demonstrating their techniques.

The video cited above challenges painters to do two to three minute painting sketches, which convey the movement and mood and spirit of the subject, without stopping to think and rework.  In an effort to ‘do’ and not think, the subject chosen here is a favourite–a place about 20 minutes from our house–called Tranquille Creek Gorge.

 

 

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Mr. Dunlop’s videos are quite dynamic and aimed more at oil painters a bit more than watercolourists, but full of very encouraging lessons because of the force of his optimistic personality and sense of fun.  They are well worth watching, for those who enjoy painting as a means of expression.

 

….composition exercise 2

January 17, 2016

Continuing on with an attempt to test out the compositional dictum known as ‘the rule of thirds’, which was conceived and named by John Thomas Smith in 1797 :

“. . .  Analogous to this “Rule of thirds”, (if I may be allowed so to call it) I have presumed to think that, in connecting or in breaking the various lines of a picture, it would likewise be a good rule to do it, in general, by a similar scheme of proportion; for example, in a design of landscape, to determine the sky at about two-thirds ; or else at about one-third, so that the material objects might occupy the other two : Again, two thirds of one element, (as of water) to one third of another element (as of land); and then both together to make but one third of the picture, of which the two other thirds should go for the sky and aerial perspectives. . . “

To illustrate its basics…..

ruke of thirds

Once again, this is the drawing I did initially, to put this into practice….

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And this is the first go at painting the scene….

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And now today, here is the progress so far, attempting to locate some visual interest at each of the four intersections within the piece, the barn being the first and the pine being the second and the creekbed being the third…..

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The darkest darks and greatest contrast will remain with the barn, for that is the intended focus for the picture, when completed.

The ‘rule of thirds’, as stated above, holds that generally two-thirds of a landscape be devoted to the sky, with one-third given to the land below (the sky being such a vast and dominant feature).  In this case two-thirds is dedicated to the land and a very high horizon means that the one third is devoted to the sky area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….snow

November 25, 2015

We received about 12cm overnight and now everything’s white, with temperatures starting to drop to around -10C (16F) under strong winds.

The birds are in the branches of the large Red Maple just beyond our big front window–at the four hanging feeders and suet cakes.  We get mostly goldfinches and house finches, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, flickers, clark’s nutcrackers, pine siskins, ring-necked doves, occasional pileated and downy woodpeckers, grosbeaks, stellar’s jays, magpies, ravens, white-crowned sparrows, and when it gets really cold the sweetly-blushing redpolls come down from the Arctic (but not likely until January or so).

Occasionally we see a Northern Pygmy Owl which swoops in on the dining lot, lighting on a branch like a handful of fluff with alarming eyes and causes the rest to take off like an explosion. They are one of a few daylight-hunting owls, and for two or three days following, the feeders remain untouched, the memory of that fist-sized, feathered-danger keeping everyone away.

In honour of the occasion — the advent of real Winter — a wintry watercolour, not unlike what the countryside looks like presently.  The subject no doubt wishes the wind were less than it is….

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….but imagine the pleasures of fireplace and toddies once he gets back.

It’s an old painting–6 years–and approximately 8″ x 10″ on my favoured Arches Aquarelle Hot Press 140# paper.  It took approximately 30 years to finally discover the right paper, having gone through all the choices of surface, weight, paper-maker (brand), and so on.  Were it to be done again, the figure would be altered some, as there’s something anatomically odd about it.

….a little nuts

November 20, 2015

Quite some months ago I asked Jackie of ‘Lost In Thought Photos’ (https://lostinthotphotos.wordpress.com/) for permission to do a miniature based on her wonderful photograph of a little tree squirrel.

Jackie very kindly agreed and emailed me back a very fine image of what –based on its colouration– appears to be a Fox Squirrel, which, even the most hardened rodent defamer would have to be a little nuts not to admit is cute.

treesquirrel-2 (1000x864)

Here’s how they are described in Wikipedia:  “. . . Fox squirrels are strictly diurnal, non-territorial, and spend more of their time on the ground than most other tree squirrels. They are still, however, agile climbers. They construct two types of homes called ‘dreys’, depending on the season. Summer dreys are often little more than platforms of sticks high in the branches of trees, while winter dens are usually hollowed out of tree trunks by a succession of occupants over as many as 30 years. Cohabitation of these dens is not uncommon, particularly among breeding pairs. . . ”

Besides their cuteness, it is charming that they are non-territorial, and have been known to share their homes.  That is certainly not true for a great many squirrels, who seem to busy themselves hurling insults and chasing rivals all day long.

Hunting for frames is fun, losing myself in one or some of our ten or so 2nd hand stores, and recently resulted in this very nice (likely faux) leather 5″ x 7″ one for $.75.  It allows this little painting to sell for $35.

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Our little Gallery keeps 20% commission. So many thanks to Jackie at https://lostinthotphotos.wordpress.com/ !

 

…..downtown, phase 2

November 9, 2015

The Plaza Hotel (completed in 1928) is a five story Spanish Colonial Revival building in downtown Kamloops BC, Canada. It is listed as a cultural heritage site in the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

ThePlaza

As is so often the case when seeking out subjects for painting, the postcard view isn’t usually very interesting.

The photo used for reference for this watercolour was taken from the rear alley of The Plaza.

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In view is the old Fire Hall tower, with belfry, 73 ft, built in 1935 at a cost of $24,500, when Kamloops had a population of approximately 6,000 (population today is about 100,000).  It remains a distinctive landmark.

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The decision to cast the subject in Winter has to do with wanting to bring some drama to the scene due to there being an overly abundant amount of sky.  Pigeons have also been added to give more visual interest.

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Because the hotel is a very light orange, (which gives off a bit of a pink cast in late afternoon), the sky is a wash of quin red, quin yellow and ultramarine blue in order to help incorporate the tones of the building into the rest of the painting.  So quin red and quin yellow will be used as the shade of the hotel as the painting progresses.

…..photographic thank you

November 3, 2015

A number of months ago, coming across stunning photographs of Puffins, permission was sought from the photographer and world traveler, Rolf Stange, to use one of them for the painting of a miniature.

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Getting such spectacular images of these illusive birds takes persistence and resolve.  They spend nearly all of their lives in open sea, coming to shore only to breed.  Here is more about them…..

“. . . Iceland is the breeding home of perhaps 60 percent of the world’s Atlantic puffins. The birds often select precipitous, rocky cliff tops to build their nests, which they line with feathers or grass. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it. When a chick hatches, its parents take turns feeding it by carrying small fish back to the nest in their relatively spacious bills. Puffin couples often reunite at the same burrow site each year. It is unclear how these birds navigate back to their home grounds. They may use visual reference points, smells, sounds, the Earth’s magnetic fields—or perhaps even the stars. . . ”

source:  http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/atlantic-puffin/

s_Rolf_Stange-Rolf-2010

Rolf Stange ‘at home’ (which looks about as inviting as spending most of the year bobbing about the N. Atlantic nose-diving for herring)

Here is Rolf’s wonderful photo which was the inspiration for a watercolour miniature …..

puffin

http://www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com/spitsbergen-information/fauna/atlantic-puffin.html

“. . . The Harry Potter series borrowed ancient Celtic views towards the European Mountain Ash also called the Rowan Tree. The Celts and other people of early British Isles thought the tree had magical properties. Its powers were to protect you from witchcraft, one of two reasons why it is also called Witchwood. The other reason is a pucker at the end of the fruit reminds some of a pentagram which is associated with witchery.”

“As one might think, animals also know the mountain ashes as food. It is a favored browse of moose and white-tailed deer. Bears, fishers and martens like it as well as snowshoe hares, squirrels, small woodland rodents, the ruffed grouse, ptarmigans, sharp-tailed grouse, blue grouse, American robins, thrushes, waxwings, and jays. . . ”  http://www.eattheweeds.com/mountain-ash-rowan/

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“American Blue Jays and Mountain Ash”, watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140# Paper, original available for purchase $85US (unframed, excluding postal charges), 5.5″ x 11.5″

From Canadian Author Sarah B. Hood [http://www.sarahbhood.com/]

“. . . A couple of years ago I made the wonderful discovery that the common ornamental tree I know as Mountain Ash is the fabled rowan tree, revered in the mythology of northern lands for its protective and divinatory properties. I was told about it by the mother of a friend who also informed me that rowan jelly is the traditional accompaniment to twelfth-cake in the Christmas season.

I have since looked at many different recipes for rowan berry jelly, and note that most of them advise one not to make jelly until the berries have been frozen (either on the tree or in the freezer), since this makes them sweeter. Apparently raw mountain ash berries can be toxic (I remember my father complaining that they were so acidic that they could eat holes in cars), but heat and freezing both change the chemical structure of the acids they contain.

Here’s a recipe that I’ve used. It came to a lovely set and a great colour, like rosé wine. The taste is something like a cross between grapefruit peels and cranberries: bitter, but tasty.”

Rowan Berry Jelly Recipe
Makes about 3 cups

  • About 4 cups of berries which have been frozen (unfrozen berries are very bitter)
  • About 1 cup of water
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • About 1½ cups of natural pectin from apples (You can substitute commercial pectin, but you’ll have to change the quantity of sugar according to their instruction for a similar recipe such as grape jelly.)
  • About 3 cups of sugar
Day One
  1. Rinse berries and remove stray leaves, stems and shriveled berries
  2. Barely cover them with water and heat them to the boiling point, then cover and simmer until they have completely dissolved. You can use a potato masher to reduce them to a pea soup-like mush, as pictured below.
  3. Strain through a jelly bag. Hang the bag overnight to catch all the liquid, but do not squeeze the bag.

Day Two
  1. Use a turkey baster or pour carefully to extract the rowan berry juice without any sediment that may have collected. It should come to about 1½ cups (top up with extra apple juice if necessary).
  2. In a wide, deep non-reactive pot, combine rowan berry juice, apple pectin, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil. It may be rather scummy, so skim if you like.
  3. When it reaches the setting point, ladle into jars and process for ten minutes.
  4. Label and date the jars, and refrigerate any jars that don’t seal.

One Jay we do not have in the West is the Blue Jay.  The ‘why’ of this is puzzling simply because the weather and climate here rather mirror that of Eastern Provinces and States (minus the humidity, thank heaven).

As annoying as this bird can be, the sheer pleasure it appears to take in creating continuous drama — the screeching cry it passes off as ‘song’ turns the lovely silence of a Sunday morning into a birdie alarm clock — makes the Blue Jay an attention receiver (like that kid you always remember from Grade 4).

And….the Blue Jay–like most Jays–is beautiful.

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Their blue, black and white colouration is as dramatic as the Blue Jay personality.  They have the ability to turn any bird feeder situation into a Three Stooges food fight.  And for all these reasons, make a great subject for painting.

A favourite natural food in Winter is the Mountain Ash berry.

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These trees are in abundance here in Southern British Columbia, and grow very large, and are responsible for allowing the N. American Robin to return very early–often at the end of February–sustaining them until the ground becomes warm enough for pursuing worms.

Choosing both Blue Jays and Mountain Ash in Winter makes for great contrast in colour, and a lively composition for painting.

Now we’ll just have to see how it all turns out….

….depicting snowy pines

October 22, 2015

Snow-laden firs and pines aren’t the easiest of subjects for depicting in watercolour–(at least not for this painter).  The challenge comes in first understanding the effect snow has on branches, for, obviously, there is snow and then there is snow–each snowfall having its own unique effect.  That crystalline, hardened seizing of tender branches by icy snow pulls them heavily towards the ground, while sub-zero powdered flurries creates a mere dusting of needles–each presenting technical challenges.

Of course, the problem is one of always having to paint around the white of the paper allowing it to ‘be’ the snow in watercolour.  Given that opaque white can’t be used, a light dusting on pine needles becomes really quite a bit more difficult than painting the after-effects of a full-blown blizzard.  Leaving minute dots of paper surrounding green needles is a recipe for madness in my book.  Give me a snow-stormed pine any day of the week in its place.

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Figuring out just where branches are on a given variety of pine, fir, balsam, cedar or spruce is key to understanding where snow will sit when on them.  So it seems crucial that any study be limited to particular species, (in the above case, cedar) — otherwise, a painter of representational art will be in danger of ending up with a kind of ‘marshmellowed’, generic evergreen most often seen on Hallmark Christmas cards.

Truly, each variety of coniferous tree accepts snow in its own unique way.  A blue spruce, for example, with its stiff, jutting branches, is much more able to bear the weight of snow than the red cedar in the above study, whose branches are prone to drooping and bending.

This study was done on leftover piece of plain white matt board, using a chopped-up small fan brush to go after the greens, then a more pointed, conventional brush to soften the hard edges and provide shadowed depth to the snow.  The branches aren’t quite correct.  Once snow is included, it changes perception to such a degree, I have trouble understanding where it goes and branches fall.

The beauty of our being blessed with so many evergreens to choose from comes in knowing that each one offers the student of watercolour great and intriguing challenges, especially when brimming with that wonderful adornment–snow.

atlantic puffin

July 13, 2015

The Atlantic Puffin is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean and  breeds in Iceland, Norway, Greenland,Newfoundland and many North Atlantic islands, and as far south as Maine in the west and the British Isles in the east. The Atlantic puffin has a large population and a wide range. It is not considered to be endangered although there may be local declines in numbers. On land, it has the typical upright stance of an Auk. . .

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The Little Auk (Alle alle), is a tiny seabird, around the size of a starling

At sea, Atlantic Puffins swim on the surface and feed mainly on small fish, which they catch by diving underwater, using their wings for propulsion.

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‘Atlantic Puffin’, watercolour miniature, 12.5cm x 17cm,         (5″ x 6.5″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper                                           

The Atlantic puffin spends the autumn and winter in the open ocean of the cold northern seas and returns to coastal areas at the start of the breeding season in late spring. It nests in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single white egg is laid. The chick mostly feeds on whole fish and grows rapidly. After about six weeks it is fully fledged and makes its way at night to the sea. It swims away from the shore and does not return to land for several years. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_puffin)

(reference photo for painting from:  Rolf Stange…www.spitzbergen-svalbard.com)

heatwave relief

June 24, 2015

IT IS BARELY PAST the first day of Summer and temperatures here in Southern British Columbia, Canada, are scheduled to climb to 40C (104F) and stay there.  It is feared the heat and drought affecting California is heading North,  Along with such heat, thunderstorm probabilities rise, and they become fire starters. By August there’ll be what weather reports term ‘local smoke’–a haze hanging over everything–accompanied by the sound of helicopters and planes working to douse flames in affected regions close by.

My favourite month is November.  It is both an exciting and contemplative month–exciting because any day, any moment I might step out to feel those fortifying winds suddenly becoming the first snow squall.  Contemplative, because the fog rising from the closeby Thompson River mixes with wood stove breathings and the last of the leathery oak leaves falling to join the others, invites thoughts on things ethereal and eternal.

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“Logging along Jamieson Creek Road”, watercolour, 20cm x 25cm, (8″ x 10″) Arches Hot Press 140 lb Paper, unsold

As a child, there was nothing more beautiful than what I called ‘purple snow’–that snow which signalled to us that we’d best take only one more turn sledding down Dead Man’s Hill (many years prior, legend had it, a man went down its twists and turns standing on his sled and smacked into a maple–back in the old days, when men apparently went sledding).  Purple snow meant dinner.  Purple snow meant finally discovering just how cold our digits actually were– thawing under a running cold faucet–pins and needles hot pink cold.

And even now, there is nothing to me more beautiful than purple snow.  On this 40C second day of Summer, all I can say is, Lord get us through to November.

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