PSF Residency: Post #4

These posts come slow and slower. I hope not to have to record slowest.

I spent one day down on the res last week. I did one plein air painting. The temperature hovered at about 44 degrees, but the sun mostly shone.

In that plein air day, I began the study of the buildings that make up the Eastside Plating Plant #5, (see the photos in the last blog post). I sat at the corner of SE 3rd and Main for study #1. As usual, I was greeted by neighborhood habitues.

Here’s the painting as it looked when I left the scene:

JOU, SE 3rd & Main, in progress, 12 x 16″, oil on Masonite, 2012

The painting is, um, rough. I have reworked it, but am even more dissatisfied with its twee updating, so I’m not going to show it on the blog. I think I will declare it a (failed)¬† study and turn its face to the wall.

While the study is rough, the experience was, as usual, great fun. I got set up on the sidewalk, with difficulty, because my easel, stool, and paints were cold and didn’t want to expand, extend, or extrude. I was at the corner of 3rd and Main, with a driveway to an underground garage directly behind me (think big trucks backing and beeping about 3 feet behind my back) and a howling wind coming down the street to my left. Shortly after I put the first stroke of paint on the board, a couple came along and asked if they could look.¬† At my single stroke of Payne’s Grey.

I said “sure” and the woman looked, laughed out loud, and said “Beautiful!”.¬† I love it when the kibitzers are as silly as I am.

Then a crew of 5 or 6 skateboarders came along to practice on the loading dock ramp at the left, up windy 3rd street. As I was not absolutely at the corner, but slightly back from it (trying to get out of the gale), there was room, barely enough room, for them and their skateboards and me and my gear.

However, at one point one of them wiped out in front of me;  his skate board flew up and hit the stop sign in front of me. He swore, loud and angry, but I pretended to be too immersed in the painting to notice. Later, when they walked in front of me to get a running start up the ramp, I apologized for being in their way. As is often the case in Portland, kids who seem tough turn out to be rather nice. These guys were no exception. They apologized back, made light conversation, and then I realized that when that skateboard flew, they were probably terrified it would hit me in the head. Or in the painting.

No more skateboard frights occurred after that, either for them or me. They all shouted me¬† a “good day” when they left.

I had other visitors: an office worker from the Pratt and Larson Building across the street came out to see what I was doing. He likes the big funnel too. A worker from Plant 5 had to check out the painting and chat me up. He said, verifying what I know about places like these, that he had seen me looking at the building “a couple of days ago.” No anonymity in Portland, at least in the places I wander around in.¬† A streetcar construction worker came down from MLK Boulevard to check out the painting; he said he liked it when he saw painters working in the streets.

After about an hour had passed, a big dark cloud came up, rain started spattering, and I packed up in a hurry. I threw a poncho over the gear in the cart, put my sort of decent winter coat over my indecent painting coat, and hurried back up Main Street. At MLK, the traffic was awful. Around me were various pedestrians trying to cross the street. We stepped off the curb when the traffic got stopped at a traffic lot and the car to our left gave us plenty of room. Then, zoom, right in front of me, an SUV pulled into the space that the other car had left. Scared me a bit witless¬† —¬† and I yelled, loud and angry, at him. And offered choice words about him to the two pedestrians behind me.

It wasn’t until I saw my fellow walkers draw away from me that I realized how I must have appeared: a wild-haired old woman with five layers of clothes, including two coats, pulling a cart over which a bit of blue plastic was thrown, who yells at drivers — well, you don’t want to get too near her. She may ask for a handout, and almost certainly won’t smell too good.

I scurried on up Main (providing local color for other onlookers) and into my warm dry safe studio, where I took off the excess clothing, pulled my hair back into its proper clip, and returned to being the nice little old lady who paints in odd places.

In the warehouse and the studio, I’ve been playing with a couple of still lifes. Here are three photos, the first of the vase and surrounds that I painted on-site, the second of my first draft of the still life, and the third of the almost-final version.

These were bits of foliage that I gathered from the parkings and weed patches on the way to the res. The window sill is typical of the res warehouse studio.

JOU, Warehouse Still Life #1, 16 x 12″, oil on Masonite, 2012

I painted the original at the warehouse studio, and then, in my home studio, I played with glazing. One of my instructors told me that, traditionally, a still life requires 6 or 7 layers of paint, most of them glazes, in order to achieve the sense of depth within the pigments. The glazes are transparent and allow the viewer to see through them, giving the painting a glow.¬† I have done at least 3 layers on the last photo above, and think a couple more will be added in places. Part of the effect of the last photo, alas, comes from the web-light-through glow rather than the glazing.¬† I’ll keep trying.¬† –June

PSF Residency: Post #3

I didn’t get back to the Portland Store Fixtures studio until Friday of the second week of this residency. I have excuses, not real good ones, but hey — it’s January and the street-ponds have risen.

However, I did work in my warm studio at home, continuing with the painting that started me searching for a residency.

JOU, Under the Hawthorne Bridge, work in progress, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, January 2012

This is the street outside the res studio window, with the overhead roadway which leads to the Hawthorne Bridge shading the street, the sleeping transient, and the railroad tracks.¬† Portland’s center city, on the west bank, is shrouded in fog across the river, but even in its misty space, it looks down at this eastside passage.¬† The painting is almost finished, but of course, it’s the last bits that are most important.

The other city-scape that I’m working on is more difficult to get a handle on. It’s a block-long grouping of old industrial buildings, the Eastside Plating Plant #5. Six countable buildings are jumbled together in something of a semi-circle, facing Main Street, with a paved “courtyard.”

I was first mesmerized by the over-sized funnel, fed by the large pipe coming out of the innermost building, that sits in the innermost area of the semi-circle. The more I look at the complex, however, the more I want to find a way to express its complexity as a whole.

I have begun an oil-painted study of the entire block, but it’s just a study (and I didn’t take a photo of it). What I did take were photos of the buildings themselves.

This is Plant 5 of the Eastside Plating Plant, photographed in sections. These photos are of the city block of jumbled and heavily trafficked working quarters.

SE 3rd and Main St, Portland Oregon. The Eastside Plating Plant #5

The other side of the windowed “wall” at SE 3rd and Main in the first photo. The low concrete building at the left juts into the space at an odd angle.

The entrancing funnel, along with an oversized trash bin and the inevitable wooden palettes.

 

This building, at the far side of the semi-circle, toward SE 2nd Ave, also intrigues me because it’s of a different era, or had a different rationale for existence. Its sloped roof and siding, windows and doors mostly boarded up and painted over, make it resemble a barn or trolley space more¬† than the industrial plant look of the concrete block buildings with flat roofs and big windows.

 

A view of the SW corner of the plant, with its tangle of shapes and lines.

Obviously, dealing with this will take some time. Just sorting out the shapes and planes and lines and figuring out how to turn those elements into a pigmented painting should keep me out of trouble. –June

 

PEFO Paintings, Mostly Finished.


I promised to provide updates to this blog as I worked in my Portland, Oregon, studio on the Arizona Petrified Forest National Park Paintings. I am in the process of moving this WordPress.com blog, pages and posts, to my website, but until that process is completed and ready for public consumption, I thought I would continue here.

The following paintings are mostly finished. At the moment I seem to have 17 acceptable paintings which I am moving around into various groupings to see what works best. Here are the 17, in alphabetical order.

Agate House, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2010.

This is one of the two structures in the park made from the petrified wood that litters the landscape (most of the Puebloan buildings are constructed out of sandstone, not petrified wood). It was “restored” in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is not considered an authentic artifact. The original dated to the 1250’s and was built by Puebloan peoples, part of the language group that Mesa Verdi and Chaco Canyon National Parks feature. I was fascinated by the grasses, the petrified logs along the path, and the structure, high on the hill.

The Bidahochi and Chinle Formations, 24″ x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010. This is the big geological unconformity in the park, where the volcanic Bidahochi, 10 million years old, meets the Chinle, 225 million years old.

Blue Mesa Hoodoo, 16 x 12″, Oil on masonite, 2010.

The hoodoos are weird wind-and-water eroded features. In the Petrified Forest, they are often blue-gray, but when the waning sun hits them, they turn golden. The Blue Mesa trail is one of the best in the Park. This painting is an unconformity all its own, having a style very unlike most of the work I did at PEFO. It resembles most closely paintings I made in Death Valley, up some of the side canyons, where the features are sculpted and golden.

Lacey Point, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2010.

One of the pull-out points where the Painted Desert is the predominate item of interest. Here the clouds caught me in their spell; the badlands faded beneath the skies. This view was recommended to me by a park service staff member, but the time of day she recommended painting it surprised me with its colors.

Long Logs Trail, 12 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2010.

The Long Logs Trail was once a macadam road, although that doesn’t show here (I have photos and think sometimes of painting that unconformity). I suspect the road was turned into a walking trail not long ago because as a roadside attraction, the innumerable petrified logs were tempting for poachers. Vehicle passage near them made poaching easier. This is just a guess. But the trail is a delight because it is not close to the current highway. And the lushness of the area around the littering logs was fun to paint.


Petrified Logs in the Visitor Center Plaza, 24 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010.

Sometimes the visitors don’t really want a drive through the park. The main visitor’s center is just off Interstate 40 and can be entered without going into the park.The plaza that the Center and a gift shop/cafe that surround it have charming bits of petrified wood, including one 20-some foot log. The Visitor’s Center Building, across the Plaza from the log still life, is pictured below.

The Neutra Plaza, Main Visitor Center, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

The Visitor’s Center’s main doors are at the end of a long wall, facing the parking lot. Beyond the doors is the open entrance to the Plaza, and the petrified wood displays face the incoming traffic. At the far end, the plaza has a pond and artworks and is open to an artificial but pleasant desert hillock that hides the employees quarters. The cafe and gift shop run along the other edge, stopping short of the welcoming entrance. This view looks at the windows of the Center which face the Plaza, opening up the small interior to give it a sense of the Arizona sky and foliage. I painted it just as dusk was coming on.

Painted Desert Inn, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

The PDI, as everyone referred to it, is an historic structure, built over an older structure by the CCC guys and decorated by a well-known designer of Spanish Revival style Park buildings. These spanish revival buildings and decor can be seen in many places around the southwest. The PDI was almost torn down in the 1970’s but was saved.

Painted Desert Inn, North Side, 12 x 16″, Oil on masonite, 2010

The PDI sits on a bluff overlooking the badlands of the Chinle Formation. I got fascinated with the challenge  of painting adobe (or in this case, faux adobe.) The building has, I think, at least 10 levels of roof, each of which is a subtly different color of rose-pink.

Storm from the Painted Desert Inn Patio, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2010

Inside the PDI is a covered porch that protects a bit against the wind and rain that can gust through the park. Through its adobe openings, the Chinle and Bidahochi formations are presented, against a wide wide sky. Painting within the protected porch while gazing outward was magical.

Pintado Point 1, 12 x 16″, Oil on masonite, 2010,

The badlands of the Chinle formation.

Pintado Point 2, 12 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2010.

Another view of the badlands, with the washes, which were important as roads, depicted. In both these paintings, Pilot Rock stands, as it stood for explorers, as a way to take one’s bearings.

Puerco River Meadow, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2010

We were at the Petrified Forest in an exceptionally lush year for foliage. This scene was painted right next to the Puerco Ruins, which sit on a hill above the Puerco River. We saw water running in the river several times during our stay.

Puerco Ruins, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010.

The ruins here date to about 1250 AD, and like those elsewhere in the southwest such as Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon are from a Puebloan people who left the area for reasons that are unclear. Current Pueblo people say these are ancient habitations of their ancestors. The Navajo who are now more prevalent in the area arrived some hundreds of years later and spoke a different language than the Puebloans.

Route 66, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

The Petrified Forest Park is full of unconformities, but the one that stands out, both in the painting and at the park is this reconstructed old car, placed prominently on a pull-out where Interstate 40 roars by.

The Painted Desert Inn from Tawa Point, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010.

PDI takes on its proper place in the area when viewed Tawa Point. It blends into the landscape and reveals the true small nature of its historic status.

The Teepee, 24 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

The Teepee painting has a couple of funny stories attached, but for my purposes here, it’s another of the badland features of the park, less complex than the Painted Desert, but fascinating in its stature.

These paintings will be grouped for exhibit. That’s the process I am currently working on in the studio — that and painting the 1/8 inch edges of each, as well as planning for their mounting, floated, so they can be readily hung. — June