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)Â 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.Â At my single stroke of Payne’s Grey.
I said “sure” and the woman looked, laughed out loud, and said “Beautiful!”.Â 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;Â 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 meÂ 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.Â 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 witlessÂ —Â 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.Â 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.Â I’ll keep trying.Â –June