Dateline: Mitchell Oregon, Day 9, Sept 14, 2011

Off we went this morning, behind fast striding Scott Ritner, employee of the John Day Fossil Beds and a person who knows his territory.

Scott offered to find me a painting place that was better than any I’d yet tried; he succeeded. It was heavenly. He guided Jer and I about 1/3 mile up a dirt track, where we were within two large leaps or four strides of the clay Hills. Before this guided tour, the Painted Hills existed only across a no-man’s span of badlands. So any painting or photographing that was done had to be done at a distance. But today the Hills were up-close and personal.

Moreover, the place I painted from had two juniper trees, one of which I could sit under to paint. For the last seven days, I’ve been painting in the sun, which has been brilliant and hot, 90 degrees plus. And I’ve mostly been in public places, where I was subject to dust from cars passing and the interesting but interruptive chats with other tourists.

The place Scott brought us to was out of sight of any of the regular tourist roads and trails. Jer helped me tote my stuff up to the site and then left, promising to return in three or four hours.  The space felt totally isolated, was away from all sound except for the soughing of the wind and a few birds. I sat under the juniper and smelled it and the sage,  tinged with dry dust, for about fifteen minutes, thinking I had reached paradise.

This is the tree that protected me from the blazing sun and gave me such luxuries of smell and wildlife to boot. I even saw a bright blue dragon fly, the first I’ve ever encountered.

The painting went well. When I thought I had finished, I leaned the board against the friendly tree, and, while I was waiting for Jer to reappear,  I got to look it over.

Naturally, I saw it needed improvement, and since my stuff was only partly packed, I had the means at hand to do so. I grabbed a paper towel and scoured off that offending sky, extending the hills by smearing the somewhat dry paint upward.

JOU, Painted Hills Juniper and Sage, draft 1, 24 x 18″, oil on board.

Tomorrow I will do a bit more work on this board and then work on another, same size, from a slightly different viewpoint. Scott allowed me to leave my painting gear at the site, so going back into the site will be easy, much easier than the two trips I made today. Tomorrow I will mosey up the trail at my own pace, without a bumpety cart behind. I’m hoping to leave Mitchell early in the AM. The sun, inexorably on the move, managed to remove my shade about a halr-hour too soon today. I’m hoping to outwit him tomorrow. –June

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