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 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]

….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.

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.

True Lovebirds

February 14, 2020

It is only the adolescent Ravens who gang together in raucous, food-finding frat parties. Once they find their true love, Ravens are almost always seen in pairs, and stay paired with their one-and-only for life.

“Together Forever”
watercolour, 7″ x 10″, Arches 140# Hot Press Paper
by Lance Weisser

Maybe no box of chocolates for his soulmate, but one of those shrivelled crab apples would be at least a stab at making a Valentine’s Day gift.

Bird-feeder royalty

January 23, 2020

Pushing and shoving, dive-bombing, squabbling, jockeying and butting-in, the bird-feeder etiquette of our variety of finches is the birdy equivalent of an episode of ‘Survivor’.  There’s also gender bias going on.  Early morning, when the very first flock gingerly descends from the upper branches, nervously eyeing the freshly-filled feeders, the males timid over whether it’s safe to go for it or not, hold back.  Waking up as finches, the males suddenly decide they’d rather be chicken. So, it’s up to their female partners to make the first attempt.  Only then, do the males feel emboldened.

And then, there’s the the Dark-eyed Junco: royalty of bird-feeder land.   Shy, yet able to hold their own, Juncos forego the unseemly behaviour going on above, and instead head for the ground underneath. Gathering in polite groups, they snatch up the morsels the more greedy finch riff-raff above them can’t quite manage to gorge fast enough.

“Dark-Eyed Junco”
watercolour, 3″ x 5″, Arches Hot Press #140 Paper
by Lance Weisser

Sentinels

December 19, 2019

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

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

Nightwatch, 7 x 4.5, January 2019.jpg

‘Nightwatch’

watercolour on art board by Lance Weisser

4.5″ x 7″  [sold]

 

 

Life Partners

March 7, 2019

Ravens take around two to four years to mature and before finding their mate, hang around in teenage gangs according to some research, but once they do mate, they are monogamous and establish a territory for themselves.

I most often observe Ravens in our Interior British Columbia setting in pairs, unlike their crow cousins which gather in huge numbers.

Together Forever‘ , 10″ x 10″, watercolour on art board
by Lance Weisser

“The raven is symbolic of mind, thought and wisdom according to Norse legend, as their god Odin was accompanied by two ravens: Hugin who represented the power of thought and active search for information. The other raven, Mugin represented the mind, and its ability to intuit meaning rather than hunting for it. ” [https://www.whats-your-sign.com/raven-symbolism.html]

Sometimes our guests awaken in the morning and come in the kitchen looking confused, ‘what is that strange sound coming from the back of the house? It sounds like a bunch of chickens being strangled.”

There are a number of birds named after their call–for example, the Whip-poor-will, Bobwhite, Killdeer and Chickadee. Now add to those the Chukar Partridge, which populates our back mountain ridge and does this: “Chu-Chu- Chuk-Chuk-Chuk-Chuk-ChukCHUKCHUKCHUK!!!!”

This is always the male progenitor of a brood (known as a covey) of some dozen or so chicks who often is announcing their collective descent down the ridge to wreak havoc in our vegetable garden. All one needs to do then is saunter down the back steps to suddenly frighten them to death as they go up in a giant, dreadful whir of feathers and squawking, after which the male will scold at me from atop the biggest rock, his ego bruised.

Native to Eurasia and Asia, including, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, along the inner ranges of the Western Himalayas to Nepal, Chukars were also introduced to Europe and N. America. [wikipedia]

‘Hiding In Plain Sight’, 10.5 x 7, watercolour on art board by
Lance Weisser


They are to me one of the strangest creatures I’ve ever come across.
They are either brazen as hell, or scared out of their freekin’ minds. Their markings are as odd as their call, their mannerisms are as odd as their habits (in our garden their choicest morsels are the tops of our onions–I mean, who eats the tops of onions?)

When you google them as a subject, you usually find sites generated by hunters in the ‘Lower 48’ who are on the prowl for ‘the illusive Chukar Partridge’ all decked out in camouflage. I’ve yet to hear of any hunters in our area on the prowl for them, but believe me, we’ve got Chukars and they ain’t illusive.

Here’s one in action, for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q09GNpev6sk

A Winter’s Eve

February 23, 2019

It snowed yesterday, the kind which floats down like sifted icing sugar, giving the impression that it can’t possibly amount to much, except it simply stayed that way for the entire afternoon and into the evening. And as I was cooking dinner, I glanced out and saw a van spinning its wheels, barely able to crest the top of the hill just below our house. That icing sugar now lay a significant number of inches deep, making the mule deer tracks under the bird feeders in our red maple appear as quilted dimples, leading off across the whited bedspread of the yard.

 

A Winter's Eve 6 x 4 February 2019

A Winter’s Eve, 4 x 6, watercolour on art board, by Lance Weisser

 

The mule deer–a party of three–come down from our backyard mountain ridge and go to town on the neighbourhood’s cedar hedges around four in the morning. Now, I’m not one to get all soft-hearted and nostalgic over having deer around, simply because they dine on just about anything except what mother nature provides in ample supply up beyond our neighbourhood: emerging tulips in the front–all manner of vegetables in the back–and everyone’s cedar.  The other morning around five one of them confronted our little dog Elmo in the predawn pitch dark as we did our morning walk.  Neither of them moved for a great while until the young buck got bored and sauntered off with its two pals to see what other landscape deconstruction they could manage before daybreak.

‘School’s Out’

April 9, 2018

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

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

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

School's Out a.jpg

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

Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, Sold

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.

The Way Home, 6 x 9.5, August, 2017.jpg

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!

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