Thursday, April 30, 2009


Catherine Creek, east and uphill from Bingen, is a grassy plateau, dotted with wildflowers and criss-crossed by basalt outcroppings. When I arrive in the morning, the grasses have a green-gold glow, and shadows were strong and shapely. I can’t stand to stay in one place and paint. Slowly making the circuit, I photograph trees, rock, wildflowers, delighting in the variety of color and the light cool breeze.

By the time I am ready to settle down at my easel, the glow has gone off the morning. I choose a scene that includes a glimpse of the
Columbia, with a few of the strongest remaining shadows, and a quirky

Today is an experiment in eyewear. With my polarized glasses on, the
colors of the grass and flowers are intensified, and I have this idea
that I might look at the landscape through my glasses, and at my
canvas without them, in a sort of reverse reading glass. This totally
doesn’t work. I keep forgetting to sneak my canvas views under the
glass, and my colors end up garish and unnaturally green. Scrape it
off and try again.

The colors underneath strongly influence my later choices. People come by and look at my canvas, then leave, saying nothing. Always a bad sign. I finish the painting anyway,
hoping that a few of the color notes will be useful for a later
painting. And anyway, it has been such a beautiful day, with such good
company, that I am thankful to be thankful to be out and painting.
Without wind or rain!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Yesterday I met two other painters, Quin and Andrew, in Willamette Park, in John’s Landing. It’s a very urban park, well-used, with varied views of city, river, bridges, distant mountains, wetland, park benches, playground, and boats of all kinds. While the boats were attractive, and probably the most representative part of the park, they are difficult for me. For one thing, they don’t sit still, so it’s a lot like painting the people at the farm market. When I paint people, they get one person’s shirt, another person’s head, another person’s shopping bag. While I can get away with this with people, it will never do to put sails atop a motor boat, so I am stuck. I take a few photos of boats, then turn my attention to the island across the river.
Here is familiar material. And enchanting. The spring warming has budded out most trees, and they all have hints of color. Across the river I see fresh green, orange, pink and violet tones at the tops of the otherwise bare trees. I paint the sky and water first, since they are changing fast, then start on the trees. They give me some trouble. How much do I want to show branches? The trees look too vague with none at all, but too many trunks and branches make them look spotty, so far away. I fuss around with this for a while.
A goose is stalking me. Perhaps she wants to be fed. I pull out my camera and stalk her back. She skirts me, heading over to the park bench, where the grass is infused with lawn daisies. She attacks the daisies, pulling the heads, and eating them like fruit. Behind her, a path of daisy-less lawn, as if she had been employed to weed.
As I finish my painting, the clouds have moved in and colors flatten. At home, I see that my usual preoccupation with water and clouds has overtaken the subtle colors of the trees. Probably, I should repaint this to capture what I intended. Stay tuned.