Eastside Plating Works, Plant 5 (The Paintings)

More than a month ago, I said I was almost finished with Plant 5. Well, time is as relative as other attributes of our world, so “almost” is tallied as a month’s further tweaking.

Below are images of the final work. The titles and comments are meant to please all: Jan shouldn’t read them or the comments below the paintings. Those who want factual info may read the pre-colon material but avoid the final comments. Those who crave more info may go for the post-colon text as well as my maunderings about the process and the place.

All the paintings are 30 x 40″, and while they are not strictly meant as a panorama, I have included one view of the five of them together.

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 1: Monday elevenish, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5 number 2: Tuesday 5PM , 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 3: Wednesday, noon, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 4: Sunday Morning, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works Plant 5, number 5: Friday 3:30PM, 40 x 30″, oil on canvas, 2012

 

JOU, Eastside Plating Works, Plant 5, various sizes, oil on canvas, 2012

These paintings were part of a 3-month stint sponsored by Portland Store Fixtures, (110 SE Main Street). Plant 5 occupies the northern half of the 200 block, just east of the Store Fixtures warehouses on SE Main. It consists of 5-7 buildings, arranged in a deep semi-circle, the interior shape partly dictated by a former railroad siding that once ran diagonally through the space. Now, trucks enter into the semi-circle to deliver and pick up materials; workers park their cars there. The interior of the semi-circle has mysterious industrial artifacts, like the prominent funnel in Number 3.

I painted on-site studies of these scenes during a warm spell in January and February, took innumerable reference photos, and did the large paintings in the studio for the remainder of the winter and spring, returning to Plant 5 when I needed more information.

I like to paint my surrounds, over time, providing the viewer with what normally busy people don’t have time to observe. Jer says I make things more beautiful than they are; I say, he just wasn’t there when I was. –June

And Ran Ortner, a painter of huge seascapes, says in an interview in The Sun, June 2012, “I did not want the distance or the conceit that devices like irony evoke. I decided I would attempt a kind of tightrope act. I would paint straight — in a realistic manner — but I would attempt to be inventive with my perspective and the quality of immersion. I hoped to build…emotional density.”¬† He says it better than I’ve ever¬† been able to.

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