Friday, July 31, 2009


Sunset is coming, but it is still hot. I just can’t face turning into the blaze to prepare the shapes on my canvas. Instead, I paint the effects of the warming light on the distant vista to the East.

Three other painters are here, one oil, one acrylic, one encaustic. I pause in my painting to watch the encaustic process, which involves a camp stove, a skillet, and a torch. Very interesting. Not the medium I would choose to haul around, but then look at me with my huge box of painting supplies.

The sky is turning rose. It suffuses the landscape with an orangish glow. I can’t really see Mt. Hood, only hits of colored shapes that are not quite clouds. The sun goes down behind me, and I scramble to finish before I cannot see my colors. Ah, for the luxury of a sunrise.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


As I paint through the day, the pattern of sunlight changes its scattered patches across the grass. A group of children at their summer day camp stop in the meadow for lunch. They leave, and the sunlight patterns shift again. The trees stand still and watchful around them.


The trees seem to be part of the sky, reaching upward with growing energy. Here is a meeting of the energy of sunlight, the blue air, and the giant green organism.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Sorry about the bad photo. Lots of glare today on my photographing wall.

Today I join the plein air painters who are painting in Mt. Tabor Park. I meet someone who is painting trees, and several people who are headed up to the top of the hill. I walk around, trying to decide what would best represent this large and varied park.

The thing I notice most is the trees: huge old Douglas-fir towering above substantial big-leaf maples. They feel aged, wise, strong, and almost impossible to represent in full. How can you show this giant on a canvas? It seems silly to put a little person in just for scale. I choose a 2 x 1 proportion canvas, and make a stab at the grandeur.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This painting is named (partly) for what is NOT in it. Just to the left of my selected view, about twenty wetsuited diehards are out on well-waxed boards, riding the waves. We arrive at Indian Beach at 9 AM, plenty early, I think, to beat the crowds. But already picnickers are setting up barbecues, and surfers are putting on wetsuits. The park is hoppin’.

Mist comes in and out of the hills, creating stepped tree silhouettes like shadow-box cutouts. I would love to paint the wind-sculpted trees, but I know that the mist is far too ephemeral, and the sun will be burning through within an hour. Out on the ocean, the cloud layer pulls back to a violet stratus, lined with dusky gold.

I am always amazed at the variety of color on the same stretch of ocean. Yesterday’s surf was almost khaki. Today it is violet and blue. Something about the quality of light glints orange on the rocks.

I love the energy of this place, and spend a few moments imagining that I am 20 again and getting ready to surf. Okay, maybe 25 was better--less angst. On my way back from the rest room, I pass a guy walking with a backpack and playing his guitar. Families have umbrellas down on the beach, and little kids run in and out of the waves’ edge. When we leave, cars are lined up on the narrow road, waiting to get into the already full park. I guess we had it pretty good.

Friday, July 24, 2009


After visiting galleries in Astoria, I drive to the beach at Seaside. It is carousel time for gulls. They follow the leader in swirls and swoops, following the curves of the clouds. I watch them for some time before getting my paints out of the car and dragging the little wheels of my cart across the sand (which doesn’t work very well.)

I have a new box for my paint tubes, called a Really Useful Box. What makes it so very useful is that it comes in such a variety of shapes and sizes that one of them has got to be right. This one is exactly right for my little bottles of medium and oil to stand upright, which should take care of some of the leaking problem I’ve been having.

My painting today begins with the sky, which has a curious mix of violet clouds and turquoise clearings. The violets go beautifully with the beach grass and shadows, so I plan patches of grass. A bystander asks why I didn’t put the big black tangle of driftwood roots in. I explain a little about certain subjects stealing the show, but he isn’t listening. Maybe a better answer would have been, “Oh, that’s a good idea, why didn’t I think of it?” Everyone has their own idea of essential scenery.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


A cloudy morning in the park as I walk the upper paths, looking for an ideal painting spot. I reach a deck built out over a hillside with a view out over a clearing. Sunlight through the leaves makes them glow with yellow-green. It’s a quintessential forest view.

While we paint, we have many visitors, people who stop by to look at the paintings, people with children, people with dogs. This trail gets a lot of traffic because it’s one of the easiest trails in the park. There are also art installations along the trail. My favorite is a sculpture like fake shelf fungus, hung on the trees with wires. My first glimpse of this from a distance was, wow! There’s a lot of shelf fungus. Then getting closer, I saw the little houses, and ladders, and buildings for little people to live in. They’re almost like Anasazi ruins. What fun!

Bringing my painting home, I see that I have gone too far with the yellow, and the left-hand tree needs some work. I plan to go back and paint again next week.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


It’s a pleasant warm day, not too hot, not too cold, and I’m staying comfortable under my market umbrella while I paint the colorful busy marketplace. I am putting lots of people in this painting. My strategy for painting people is quick looks. A hat from one, a shirt from another, looking at light and dark patterns, I can block them in. It is getting too crowded to see the tomatoes through the people. I wait for a gap and snatch the colors on the fly.

A woman comes by whose daughter is working at doggie day care. She wants a painting as a memento. Her daughter arrives, and I ask her where she’d like to stand in the painting. She points to a spot. I sketch her in, pink shirt, checked pants, blonde flipped hair, and pink shoes. I tone down the guy in the red shirt behind her, and sign the painting. They are delighted. (The painting is gone, no photo.)

I end my lovely day at the market with brightening up a painting I did here last year with some flowers. Here it is.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Goose day. We paint near the boat ramp, where all the geese hang out. I’d estimate the flock at between 50 and 80 birds... young ones with fuzzy heads, mature ones, and old geezers that hiss whenever we get close. They figure out pretty quickly that painters aren’t going to feed them. But they march by in a crowd, feet clattering like tap shoes on the pavement. They fly over to escape a dog, leaving a flurry of feathers on my palette. And when the geese aren’t dropping feathers, it’s the cottonwood, which besides providing much-appreciated shade, is lending a textured effect to the painting.

I enjoy the challenge of painting the bridge, trying to give it some variety of color, but keep it from taking over the whole painting. Many spectators stop by, some encouraging, some critical. One tells me that I should buy a blending brush and blend all those brush strokes and color changes away. Take care what opinions you take to heart.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


A quiet, cloudy morning to start painting, with violet-blue cloud cover and a blush on the water.

A large flock of geese has been grazing on the park lawn, and congregating along the river. They gather by a small car... is someone feeding them? Or are they merely hopeful beggars? Another car comes and they scatter, flying over my painting spot to land in a pattern of v’s on the water.

An ambulance leaves the park, siren running. I hadn’t even noticed its arrival. Funny (and scarey) how much concentration goes into painting.

The clouds burn off just before noon. I have to work from remembered shadow patterns to finish the trees. Fortunately, I was concentrating on noticing pattern and color (rather than ambulances.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The river is still and glassy beneath a quilt of clouds. I stand on the dock where it crosses the water, and paint first the sky, which changes subtlely, then the trees, with their quiet greens on this peaceful morning. A light breeze stirs the water. It is so quiet, I can hear ducks across the river, and the cheers of a crowd at a ball game at least a mile away. A few boaters come and go; otherwise Carol and I are alone with the river and the clouds.

I am running out of painting time. Wishing I could spend more time on the water, I quickly put down some color notes, intending to finish in the afternoon in my studio. But when I look at the painting in the studio, I see that I have been saved from overworking the water. I add a few brush strokes and leave the rest. A peaceful river morning.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Rick and I head up the Columbia Gorge for an art day. We begin with the Hudson River School exhibit at Maryhill Museum of Art. It is a real treat to see these works in person, to see the full rich glow of the oil paints, to get nose up to the painting and see the tiny brushwork. The paintings in this exhibit are all of modest dimensions, and I am primed to seek out more of them at other art museums. Most of all, I would like to know how much these artists worked outdoors. My clear favorites are those with limited light, with warm notes bounced around the landscape.

Our second art treat is Celeste Bergin’s plein air show at The Gorge White House. Her little gems are dotted throughout the living room, to be viewed at leisure with some tastes of wine. Some of these paintings I know from watching their progress. I love going through them one by one, talking over the art with Celeste.

Now I’m inspired to paint. Rick suggests a particular winery, where he thinks the scenery will be fine, but we cannot find it. We head up to Panorama Point. So does the wind. While I am painting a scene of Mt. Hood across the valley’s orchards and vinyards, clouds whip in, stacking against the mountain. Wind whips around the shelter, blowing my hat off. My easel, thankfully, stays stable, but I don’t even think of putting up an umbrella.

A single hawk takes pleasure in the currents, lifted by the heat of the day. There he is in the painting, a small speck compared to the mountain that commands so much landscape.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Up a winding gravel road sits a vineyard and winery, in the hills around Dundee. These hills, besides being packed with wineries, have spectacular views of quilted farm country, with distant Cascades foothills.

Today the air is hot, and heavy with atmosphere, hazing the distance into nothingness. Kelly and I choose a view where the wine rows open out in front of us, creating an expanse of space. The light this morning is perfect, shadowed on one side of the vines, and glowing through the grape leaves on the other. We must paint the foreground first, before the light shifts and our shadow patterns disappear.

Hawks soar overhead, scouring the bare earth between the vines. We back up into shade under some pines, with cones crunching under our feet. As the sun swings overhead, I put up my umbrella. The very last things we paint are the dark trunks of the grape vines.

Afterward, we settle on the shaded porch to taste wine and have lunch. I stop for fresh raspberries on the way home. A perfect painting day.