Friday, October 31, 2008


Rick and I visit to Bend to hike and chase waterfalls. Today we drive to Tumalo Falls, which we missed on previous trips because of snow. We hike up to middle Tumalo Falls, and take lots of photos. I have discovered that if I give Rick a camera, he will walk slowly enough to allow me to take pictures. Clever, eh?
Now it is late afternoon, and I feel a need to paint. I send Rick to the swimming pool, and find a parking area with a great sky view. I love this time of day. The clouds are almost certain to be warming in color, even if sunset is hours away. There are plenty of shadows and nuances to the light.
Today, the clouds are changing so fast, I can hardly make two brush strokes that still represent the shapes. Again, I must choose and paint without an overall plan. I struggle with the foreground grasses. They are very light, and their color pulls some of the warms of the clouds together, yet I don’t want them to dominate the painting. When I leave, I feel satisfied that I have captured the feel, if not the fact, of the scene.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


It is harder to get up before sunrise this morning. During the night I thought I heard great winds (probably trucks on the highway), and kept listening for sounds of rain, wondering whether there would be good enough weather to paint out at all. So I am delighted to rise to the sound of my cell phone alarm, look out the window, and see Orion shining clear and strong in a black, black sky. I dress in minutes, knock on Irene’s door, and microwave my breakfast and her coffee. Then we head for the lake.

Along the dam levee, there is already someone parked to watch the sunrise. We choose a spot where we have a view of Mt. Hood, plus a bit of lightening sky to the right. There isn’t a whiff of cloud, so I compose my painting around the dark shapes of hill and mountain, and the lozenge of lake.

The show begins. I am amazed that every morning there is a new display. Every morning the footlights are a different color, the sky costumed in different clouds, the dance of the wind taking its skirts this way or that. Colored light bounces on fir trees, rock, snow fields and water with subtlely different intensity.

As the sun comes up, a wind stirs the lake, then builds to a blow, dropping the temperature. But the show is worth braving the weather. Gradually, sun hits the snow fields on Mt. Hood, then the dark green high rolling hills, then the oranges of the lower elevation trees. Lights up on grass and water. The lake is awake now, the day begun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Miraculously, I am out of bed in time for another sunrise. Consider going to someplace new, like Trillium Lake, but decide that Timberline is closer, and the sunrise won’t be the same anyway. The van knows the way.

The sunrise is, indeed, quite different from yesterday. It reminds me of my resolve, made while in Hawaii, to walk down to the river every non-rainy day for the sunset. (And have I done that? Noooo.)

This time, I set my colors a bit earlier in the show. I am painting a very small canvas, so I zoom in on the golden glow just above the ridge. Put the colors down with a certain intensity, trying to compensate for the lack of light in the van. The painting comes together quickly.

Once my painting is finished, I pull out the camera for the rest of the show, drive to a few new viewpoints, and capture some variety. Even the side of the sky away from the sun has subtle and exciting color play. I am a confirmed sunrise lover. (As long as they aren’t too early.)

Friday, October 24, 2008


Now that the days are shorter, sunrise isn’t so ridiculously early. I set the cell phone for 6:15 and go to bed early. I dream that it has snowed three feet and I can’t get out of the driveway. About 5:30 I wake up for good. Snuggle in bed for a little longer, then dress, grab some fruit, and head out the door as the cell phone alarm goes off. It takes only 10 minutes to get to Timberline Lodge.

The air is still and blue. Only a faint light in the east shows where the sun will probably rise. It is in two spots split by clouds, so I go eeney-meeny-miney-moe to pick which part of the sky to compose around. I set up quickly. The nice thing about sunrises (as opposed to sunsets), is that you set up your paints and get everything ready for the show, then the show happens and you paint quickly, then you have lots of light with which to finish up. Today, I begin painting so early that I can hardly see the colors I have mixed. As the sun slips above the horizon, my colors say, surprise!

Bonnie arrives, and I teach her stuff about color mixing. After lunch, we go up to Timberline and set up for a view of Mt. Adams. As we paint, the wind gets stronger and colder. We make a few color notes, then pack up our paints to finish tomorrow in the cabin. (Painting on previous day's post.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


(Afternoon painting, done another day)

I drive to the arts cabin and meet Betsy, who helps me settle in. It’s a lovely, homey building, with a collection of old furniture and space for painting in the living room. Artists who come here to teach have gifted the house with paintings; I am surrounded by the work of friends and acquaintances. What a treat to use this cabin as a base for painting and classes.

There is still some daylight, but the clouds have socked in the cabin. I set up an easel to paint a group of trees in the last hour of daylight. Before I begin, a phone call from Rick tells me that he has a clear view of Mt. Hood from Portland. It’s all in the point of view, so I resolve to move mine up in elevation. I drive to Timberline.

I am in a sea of clouds, tops glowing pink with the remaining sunlight. Across the mountain, long, sweeping scarves of shadow undulate across the ridges. I photograph trees that seem sculpted for the purpose. By the time I return to the cabin with my precious photos, the daylight is gone. Time is finite, and I have traded mine. For today, I am content.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Today, I explore the Willamette side of the park, taking in the view upriver toward Oregon City, and downriver toward West Linn. The cottonwoods on the island are hinting at fall color, and milkweed along the river has turned brilliant yellow. I pick a spot in the sun and put up my big easel. Jonathan shows up and paints from a pochade box.

Geese are gathering. They skim the river below us and land gracefully on the moving water. Before long, they will be gathering in large numbers, travelling over our river in long v-shaped flocks. But for now, they are content to socialize on the local sandbar.

Clouds sail across the blue, mostly to the north, leaving us in full sun. I am soaking up the last of the year’s heat. At this time of year, each day is a gift, made more precious by the imminent cold weather. I have a studio paint date tomorrow, which seems like time stolen from outdoor painting. Stay in the moment. Paint now. There is no heat, no cold, no fatigue. Only the brush and the color moving on the canvas.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


A beautiful fall day. Jean and I drive all over the countryside, trying to find the best way to Dodge Park. I follow the old route we took on canoe trips, up the Sandy River, up and down the hills, and around Bull Run. Pretty quickly, we discover that I have taken the long way. The old lake that was in the center of Ten Eyck is gone or empty, looking more like a cranberry field with dikes. I wonder which dam they took out the last time I was here, when Bull Run was in flood.

The park is a classic northwest woods. Hints of red and yellow color the maples and undergrowth. We find a spot by the river and begin to paint, Jean in watercolor, and myself in oil. I start an 18 by 24, hoping to have the time to mostly finish it. The weather is cool and overcast, but the clouds promise to burn off, and since it isn’t windy, we are able to paint in relative comfort.

We paint in relative quiet. A few people drive into the parking lot and walk around the river. Almost all of them stop to see what we are painting. This is more attention than usual, and I wonder if my conspicuous setup has something to do with it. I am using my new Beauport easel, which is a huge a-frame, and my umbrella is up. One lady walks by saying "I’ll buy it." Unfortunately, she is kidding, but it’s a nice compliment.

The sun comes out, making me wish I weren’t standing in the shade. Maybe I’ll have to adjust my shade rule for fall painting, especially since the light isn’t as strong. Blue sky is reflecting in the water, setting up a rainbow of new colors. I am finishing this painting with less fatigue than usual, even though I’ve been painting for four hours. Why? More breaks? It’s an idea to consider.

We finish off the day with a walk to take photos, and a different country drive to find our way home. A great fall paint day.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Who says you can’t paint outdoors in the rain? My group and I have taken shelter under a highway bridge with a view of the Clackamas River. We are studying water patterns. Under the bridge there is a small patch of swiftwater, with a v-shaped light pattern. The clouds may come and go, but the strong current holds the ever-shifting sky reflection in place.
The rain comes, with a bit of wind whipping spray into our shelter. Though the ground here is bone-dry, with no sign of ever having received rain, yet beads of moisture dot the primed surface of my canvas. I wipe them off and begin to paint, confident that the real rain will be kept away.
The river is a mirror of the weather. The stronger winds come in gusts, punching the river, sending ripples upstream, like storm gods blowing on a full cup. We all put our hoods up and hold on to our canvas.
Later, the sun comes out, creating confusions of light in our paintings. The clouds offer interesting possibilities. It has been day rich with weather.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This is a favorite paint spot of mine. There is no one here except me. The picnic shelter has been closed up for the season, it’s midweek so the traffic on the highway is down, and I have a spectacular view of beacon rock and the Columbia River.
Several other creatures are happy about the quiet as well. There’s a bird with a funny whooping call, and a frog that sounds as though it’s nearby, though frog calls can be deceptive.
I begin my painting in full sun. Quickly, a high haze moves in, changing the sky color and the intensity of the shadows. I stick with my pattern, and use the new colors. After about an hour, I stretch out on one of the picnic tables and rest my back.
An 18 by 24 painting is a real stretch for me en plein air. I keep pushing myself to do them, hoping they will get easier with time. After another hour and a half of painting, I am becoming impatient. I wish I had the time to just walk away from this for a half hour. Unfortunately, I have left the foreground for last, the place where I need the most detail. This means that my fatigue is keeping me from putting in as much as I meant to. Either I will have to get faster, or I will have to find ways of planning around my fatigue.
The canvas is covered–twice. I am out of time; the painting is, perforce, done.