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…


About bonnie griffith

I am a landscape artist who works in pastels, oils and acrylics. My work focuses on representational studies of the western US. I am basically self taught with lots of workshops and studies with several landscape artists such as Bruce Haughey and Clark Elster. I live in southwestern Idaho, am a native Montanan with a strong connection to the land. I spend as much time as I can in MT painting as well other parts of the northwest. I appreciate getting out in the field and working plein air because there is nothing like completing a painting in the true light of day and visually not being compromised by the use of a photo. In my work, my goal is to produce a piece of work that draws the viewer into the painting and challenges them to explore the scene; get a sense of the time of day, the temperature, the light or lack of. If I have gotten that viewer to step out of their reality and into that painting and enjoy it, then my work was accomplished as I wished. View all posts by bonnie griffith

4 responses to “Pastel Dust on the River…

  • Tanja

    Beautiful, as always 🙂



    Thank you Tanja. IT is such a majestic view, I had to try to paint it realistically…I think I probably didn’t do it the full justice, but I was happy with it just the same.
    Keep doing your very cool, wonderful art!


  • Ida M. Glazier

    Bonnie!! I finally found you again. Great reading about the shadows,a nd all yourthoughts—-Shadows are very important to landscapes- – -I read Edgar Alwyn Paynes’s book often about these things- – – I am srtuggleing along, need to get back out there to plein-air, but it has been cold. Keep it up, Bonnie!!


    • bonnie griffith

      I was glad to hear from you! Winter is a hard time to get out and do stuff. Too cold for me to be out there! I am seeing the being of spring and that makes me happy! I started a 22×20 winter scene today. I am almost overwhelmed with it…so will probably have to set it aside and think about it for a while! I don’t want to make a mess of it now that I have it about half done. 🙂
      take care Ida!


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