Monthly Archives: February 2011

Pastel Dust on the River…

When  you drive down the Columbia River Gorge in the late summer there is a vast difference of landscape.  Getting on I-84 at Pendleton, OR you are in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, then you drive up onto the plains where  go through fields of grain, tree farms for paper production, sagebrush and then when you get to Boardman the road takes you near the Columbia River.  As you  continue toward Portland you drive down, right next to the river and basically follow it closely all the way.  There are several dams on the river, tug boats pushing barges up and down the river laden with grain, fishermen in boats after whatever happens to be in season and more.  Once you get into the gorge, the cliff are steep and the terrain is more rugged, beautiful.  At Hood River there are recreational wind surfers aplenty on the typically windy water.  Travel a little further and  you drive past Multnomah Falls.  Sometimes you see a herd of mountain sheep that gather in the cliffs along the freeway.  Then not far from the falls is a road that is called “Scenic Drive”. ( I have never taken it going toward Portland, always on my way back home.).  You go on not a lot further before you reach Portland.  I always thing the gorge is such an interesting place.  In the spring the hills and cliffs around the basalt are very green and it gradually turns golden in the fall.  Atop these high hills are farm lands and you can see then, sort of, from the road.  But on the way home…usually in the afternoon on a Sunday, I will sometimes take the Scenic Drive that meanders you through the forests, sometimes nearly dark with the growth of vegetation and trees.  As you climb up you come to some openings and below you and ahead of you is the river.  If the day is clear, the view is breath-taking.  One turnout you can stop at is the image I painted from above.  It is looking east and the building at Rooster Rock is tiny in the distance.  On this route, you will drive by that as  you take you descend down to the river edge and back onto I-84. 

So my idea was to give the viewer a glimpse of the Columbia from a high vantage point and to try to illustrate the expanse of the area and see the sky.  The sky is really seems to have something to say!  So when you can, enjoy a drive up and down the gorge and take note of the beauty of the invisible divider of south WA and north Oregon.  This was painted on a sheet of rust colored Art Spectrum paper using mostly Sennelier and Unison pastels. For some highlights I used the semi-hard Mungyo pastels…I challenge my artist friends to find a spot like this and do a painting of such an expanse…just to get that feeling of “big”.  Sometime I want to be at that spot and watch the sunset…

Happy painting…


Spring is in the air…I am looking out my window and thinking that winter is about over in my world.  When you go outside there is that smell of early spring in the air and I love it!  More sun, warmer, more color…I am working still on some small 6×6 inch images;  winter, fall,spring and summer.   I really like how these look in a 3″ wide frames.  I am not sure how many I will do in this format, but quite a few I think.  Some of my galleries love these smaller sizes – they are simple, not too expensive and patrons seem to be more impulsive about buying them – probably due to the cost.

 I noticed driving to Seattle a week ago that the  willows have started to change.  I don’t know the varieties of willows, but some are orange and some more yellow at this time of year.  I guess it is that first sign of spring that gets me wanting to paint creeks and rivers with those bright bold colors.

The images I posted today are from a trip to Seattle in November and the bright snowy one from the New Year’s Day drive up the Coppei.  I have painted the river before.  This time I painted it on Wallis paper as opposed to Canson.  There is a big difference in the “look”.  On this one you can see more layers of pastel, it is a little looser painted and maybe a little more vibrant in some ways.

The painting of the Coppei draw lets one see how the sun peeks in and around things to lighten only certain spots of the mountain country and lets you have a glimpse of the old stubble wheat, high  on the hills that are farmed in SE WA.

The grayish farm buildings and field in the foreground is so similar to many farms you see along I-90 and I-84 along the way to Seattle.  I am always interested in patterns and plowed fields with a little snow give interesting lines.  And as our winters often are; there is a gray, slightly foggy overcast to the day. A good orange base coat is an easy way to get some effect of stubble rows in a field in winter under snow.  This is when I then spray the very foreground with a workable fix to darken the orange and then  bring the “white” of the snow over it.

I spent some time yesterday going through files of reference photos and came up with a good fresh stack for proposed work.  I have decided on doing some work for a gallery that I am labelling “Seasons”.  So some of the winter scenes will fit into that body of work.

So today I am working on a new piece 12×16 that has some “weather” in it!  Time to get after it…happy painting!

More Pastel Dust…

It’s interesting how different parts of the country can look so similar.  The following image of a pastel painting that I did in 2005 reminded me so much of a photo of  “Weekend Cowgirl” of her farm.  Now I am not certain where her farm is, but I can bet it is not where I live.  My image is a trail around a lake, which is about 4 miles from my house, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains of  Southeastern WA.  

These images are all along the Bennington Lake Trail that circles the lake  in about 3 mile distance.  It’s a trail frequented by runners, walkers, and bikers.  The cross-country team frequents it varied terrain and the grade we call Cardiac Hill is deceivingly long. (The first two images).

Bennington Lake  is actually a dam – part of the Corps of Engineers water control of Mill Creek.  As I said the area has this trail loop and there are others that takes one north to and over Mill Creek and into Rooks Park.  With that bit of unnecessary info (perhaps), this is an area that I can go to with my camera and shoots countless shots time and time again for reference.  There are wheat fields, sunflower fields, the water, the mountains, trees of many varieties, occasional wildlife and on and on.  Sometimes I go out alone and paint plein air there as well as with some other panelists.  Looking to the southeast you get a fabulous view of mountains that are ever-changing.  Skies are always interesting from that point.  Several years ago I painted the “Storms From Come From the West” from that spot and you can watch the weather change before your eyes as clouds roll in from the westerly direction.  It is just a great spot for a painter.


So now we are immersed in winter as we know it.  We typically have more gray overcast days in this part of the world that bright and sunny ones.  I contrast the difference here with the gray not so cold and usually not much snow or at least not much snow that lingers, and the crisp, sunny, cold as *&$#$ days with snow that stays for a season in Montana.  Anyone that knows me knows that I like bright!  Sunshine!  So when there is a day here that is snowy and the sun is shining, I want to get out there and do some reference photos of shadows and the colors of the shade and vegetation.  January 1, 2011 was one of those days.  Les, the dogs and I jumped in the 4Runner and headed out to new territory along Coppei Creek in the Blue Mountains.  Mostly the  dogs sleep, but occasionally they spy something that demands their attention and they bark at it safely from interior of the rig, sitting on my lap.  The sky is just such a deep blue and the shadows are crisp and dynamic.  The draw that the Coppei runs through is narrow and deep.  Down by the creek there is no sun in the mid afternoon and the wildlife are meandering around…deer, wild turkeys, hidden from most.  Along the road are old apple trees, perhaps from an old farm no longer there or maybe an old orchard that once adorned a southwesterly slope.  The birds were thick in these trees, feeding on the apples still hanging.  Same thing in some of the other bushes tha had seed pods.  shot a few pictures of these guys for fun.  But the shadows of the weeds in the drifted snow, along fence lines, trees, roads and buildings were spectacular!  Lots of shots.  And it would change.  As the day got later, the color of the shadows changed.  Depending where you were on the road, determined if you were in the sunlight still or driving in the shadow.   It was a great day for a drive. 

So an opportunity to paint some good winter scenes…I have a friend Kelly Wick who has a wonderful gallery in Joseph, OR who says “don’t bring me winter scenes; we see enough of the real thing here every year!”  I am sure since Joseph is nestled up against the Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon and sometimes when I go there in June for their Festival of Arts, it’s still pretty cold!  So Kelly doesn’t get winter scenes!  But sometimes I just have to paint them and maybe I can get her interested in one of these small 6×6 inch ones I have started doing.  I got the idea of the 6×6 from a gallery in southern CA.  they do a juried show where everything is 6×6 in image size. It is a fun size and shape to work with…a square format can be a challenge and yet make a bold statement with the right composition.  I used mostly Wallis sanded paper and did a underpainting with hard pastels, washed.  I used very little if any workable fix on these…the darkest dark is Diane Townsend dark blue and Sennelier #463.  The foliage varies from orange to gray to greens of the evergreen trees.  I love that orange that we start to see in the willow trees along the creeks.  As spring gets closer and the days warm, the orange gets more intense in color.  These images are all reflecting those days of bright winter.  In future paintings I might  try some of the tonal grays from those days where there is no sun and the reference photos all look like they have been converted to gray scales because there is no color out there except for an occasional red-roofed barn!  But for now enjoy some brightness of winter!

Happy painting…

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