Dateline: Mitchell, OR, Day 7, Waterman and Antone

No painting  today. I’ve been “working” on my android tablet, trying to get a worthy vignette sketch on it. It’s a clumsy tool and of course, I can’t find the essential menu items.

But what I really did today was  travel a bunch of back roads, gazing at the scenery and being checked out by the locals.

Only those of you intimately acquainted with the rectangle that includes the Fossil Beds will recognize the place names of our journey — from Mitchell, we passed the Twickenham Road on Rt 207 and then turned right onto Richmond/Six Shooter Road toward Waterman flat.

Although advertised as such, Richmond doesn’t appear to be a ghost town. But enough inhabited places existed (but with no “downtown” area) to discourage us from poking around too nosily. So we didn’t stop to photograph the Richmond skyline, but continued up into the Ochocos past large private ranch lands, posted “No Trespassing, no hunting, no fishing” every hundred feet or so. Since we didn’t want to hunt or fish or trespass, we were quite at home.

Ponderosa Pine forests alternated with wide open meadows, cleared of junipers, golden with late summer grasses.  There were almost no buildings, a few stock holding pens, and this one charming little scene, just made for stray photographers.

The shack had a rusting propane tank; the truck must have quit running some time ago. We thought it might have been an abandoned sheep herder’s dwelling, with a bit of logging thrown in. Or, perhaps, the building was still in use by hunters. No one appeared, however, and we traveled on.

We dropped down a bit out of the high meadows to the T-intersection of Waterman. Waterman, on Waterman Flats, consists of a single building, a somewhat derelict granary. I found the building and its surrounds charming.

That’s Jer walking down the road, looking for his own photo-vantage point.

We passed the Duncan place (I read the mailbox) and waved to the first human we had seen on the route, a guy on a tractor with a curious dog bouncing around on his seat behind him. Then we traveled on out to Route 26, turned left, and after a bit right onto Antone Road.

Antone Road is a county road, a public highway, a bit wash-boarded. Just beyond the turn onto Anton was a large sign that said if we wanted to travel this county road, we should contact xxxx for permission, and we also should know that the gates are often closed and locked at 9 PM. This struck us as strange, but we are strangers to the country, so we checked  with a guy working at the gate, who said he thought it was OK if we continued; on up the road we passed a couple of younger fellows at a ranch house. They stared and glared at us, so we asked their permission to continue. They hesitated, but granted it.

There were some interesting bits of scenery up Antone Road as well as a couple well-kept ranch houses.


When we reached what seemed, looking at the topo map, what looked like Antone, we stopped to photograph the single farm house and outbuildings that lay along Rock Creek. Almost immediately a fellow on an ATV showed up, and asked who we were and what we were planning on doing. We explained we were innocent of nefarious intent, just out looking and photographing, had been to Richmond and Waterman, and so forth. He allowed that we could continue if we wanted but the road got really rough from there on, and up in the hills there was a gate that was locked. Also there were streams and wash-outs that we should know about. And while the road we were on was a county road, all the land, both sides, was private, belonging to the Antone Ranch, and we shouldn’t lay foot on it.

Ok, Ok, we got the message. From some other signs, we saw that this was not only perhaps a working cattle spread, but also, and almost certainly more important, a dude ranch, with a private hunting preserve, four fishing lakes (dammed up streams), and a private airport. We took a photo of the “heart of Antone” (as our interlocutor called it with a grin), also photographed a funny little round-about park just above the ranch, and went on up the road just a little ways to check out a sign that marked what we thought was a spot where the old Dalles military road, from the 19th century, intersected the Antone Road.


We crossed Rock Creek on a plank bridge and almost immediately a truck drove up beside us. We rolled down the window and were met with the same interrogation and scare-the-tourist info. The guys inside the truck grinned at us, questioned our motives and intentions, and told us to have a nice day; Jer got a bit testy. At the sign, we turned around and drove back to Route 26 in a grim silence. At best, the Antone ranch is a fiefdom who has turned public property into its own convenience. Its employees, all who seemed to be young and male, watch out for strangers, even the white-haired kind in small Hondas who are traveling on public byways.

I’m still disgusted that I didn’t get to see the Spanish Cemetery, up the road a couple of miles from where we turned around. And I wonder where the ore cars featured in the well-watered turnaround (photo above) came from — gold in them thar hills? And what kind of gold, I wonder.

So back to Mitchell we drove, eating lunch at the Bridge Creek Cafe to console ourselves. Then I loafed all afternoon, playing with my tablet to get rid of the irritating odor of privilege that the Antone Ranch left me with. –June

Dateline: Mitchell, Oregon, Day 6, Sept 11, 2011

Today Jer went to Paulina, Post, and Prineville, where he got milk and cereal and gas. I stayed at Hollyhock Cottage and worked on the three partly finished paintings.

Here are the paintings, in the order of today’s workings:

JOU, Basalt Formations at Picture Gorge, Sept 2011, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas

JOU, The Painted Hills, 2011, 18 x 24″, oil on masonite.

JOU, The Hills at the Painted Hills, 2011, 12 x 24″, oil on masonite

The first large painting appears too dark on my laptop, but I can’t trust this kind of screen for accurate color. So if it looks too dark, we know where to place the blame. The leaves on the bottom left of the painting are exotic terrain, introduced by actual leaves that the painting got placed behind.

Tomorrow we will go off in search of something else to paint. Surely there will be something:-) June

Dateline: Mitchell, Oregon, Day 5, Sept 10, 2011

We zoomed out to Picture Gorge extra early today, hoping to catch the shadows and avoid the heat.

We were carrying the large canvases in the carrier Neighbor Jim made for me; the carrier protects the car from oil paint, and me from sorrowful looks by Jer, who loves his 1994 Honda and can’t bear the thought of it sullied with, gasp, paint:

The carrier is to the right with the canvases facing inward. The slatted piece sits on top the carrier, acting as a lid so the canvases don’t get holes poked in them. The white rectangle (bottom center-left) is the box for the 18 x 24″ boards. My usual small boards (12 x 16″) fit into the smaller boxes beside the white one.

At Picture Gorge, I set up the canvas, this time using an extension cord instead of my belt to secure the canvas to the easel. The cord was long enough to go around the fence against which I lodged the easel, so the canvas and I were secure against the wind gusts that come through the gorge early in the day.

Draft one of the big canvas (30 x 40”) was basically just about getting the composition and large planes (forms/shapes) onto the canvas. So this is where I started this morning.

Picture Gorge, 2011, Draft 1, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas

I worked over the canvas for about 3 hours, then we loaded up and went off to visit a friend whose acquaintance dated from my 2006 residency at the Fossil Beds. True to form, Alicia fed us, gave the tired artist (me, me) a beer, showed us the glorious spread (200 acres) that she and her husband bought a few years ago and generally made us feel very welcome. About 2:30, we trundled back to Mitchell.

I unloaded the car and carrier, and brought the big painting to the porch to join the two smaller ones:

The three paintings that I’ve been working on are perched here on the front porch of Hollyhock Cottage. You can see their relative sizes. None is as small as my usual “vignette” plein air work.

Here’s what evolved from today’s session:

Picture Gorge, 2011, Draft 2. 30×40″, oil on canvas.

It still needs work — I ignored the sky after yesterday’s laying on of a single ultramarine layer, so it needs some white+pigment  paint; I also need to bring out the highlights on the columns, work up the grasses and sage brush, and fracture and facet the columns a bit more.  I was thinking about collaging natural foliage forms over the top, but since I have another large canvas with me, perhaps I’ll just finish this as is (probably another 3—5 hours of work), leaving it as a “straight” landscape. Then I’ll do a new loose version, layered with the local fall foliage.  But that decision can wait until I have a fresh eye – or 2015 — whichever comes first.

Of course, I also have the first two canvases to work on. So tomorrow we will stay in Mitchell, I’ll eat bon-bons (or Peets chocolate blueberries), sit on the porch, commune with nature, and paint.

So think of me on Sunday afternoon, slaving away, surrounded by lush green growing things, with the usual questions of paint and form and hue and temperature circling around my head.  –June