Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I park at the end of the street and drag my rolling paint box down the hill to the Willamette River. The tide is out. I head across the gravel bar toward a small blackberry island. Midway across the channel, the wind picks up, but back on shore the view that I want is blocked. So I set up as close to the berries as I can, trying to get a little shelter from the wind.
I struggle with my equipment. I have chosen to paint an 18 by 24, the largest piece I’ve ever done on location, but quite a bit of canvas for today’s wind. The easel is plenty stable with its legs spread to their widest, but the bottom canvas holder isn’t doing its job. I have to keep pushing the bottom of my canvas back in, and I worry that it will sail away.
The afternoon is enchanted. In September, the sun sinks behind the line of trees to my left, sending slanting shadows across the riverbank, backlighting the maples. A hint of clouds lights the horizon, promising an interesting sunset. "Paint first what will change the fastest," I have been taught. It is all changing ridiculously fast. I block in the shore first, hoping to set the patterns of slanting light. Orange light in the distant shore, golden sunlit trees.
A heavy splash in the river ahead: an osprey has caught a fish. It climbs to my right, over the trees and away from the sun. Two teen-aged boys arrive on bicycles, watch for a while, then take off after blackberries.
The sky fills with color. The clouds that I could barely see are now declaring themselves in yellow and orange. I block in the sky and settle into a rhythm, finding colors, adding them in wet into wet.
I am putting finishing touches on the painting when I look toward the path I came down. Oops. The tide came in while I wasn’t paying attention. There’s no rolling my box back across, and the water is deepening fast. I whip out my cell phone for help, then frantically pack my stuff. When Rick arrives, we carry my box across the inlet of knee-deep water. Ah, the sacrifices we make for art!

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