I continue to get out and about in my Portland neighborhood, painting whatever resonates with my quirky instincts. I plant my easel on the sidewalk, set up my palette, and proceed to put color on board.
This activity invites community action: sideways glances, deliberate not-lookings, polite “may I see-s?” and full-fledged engagement in conversations.
Painting the Pink House just up from Hal’s Tavern, for example, I got the life history of a gent who had a girlfriend in Salina, Kansas who was, so he said, on his way from San Diego to Alaska to work as a cook. He was, more immediately, on his way from Hal’s Tavern to his “temporary” digs up the street, redolent of old beer and well-worn charm.
Painting the old Washington High School, about to be condo-ized, I was nearly run down by two pre-schoolers on scooters who wanted to know “Whatcha doin’?” I was also chatted up by a fellow who works in a bodyshop repainting cars, various dogs who threatened to knock down my easel, and the owner of the Pink House who took my photo — from the back, which is my best side.
When I painted in a more “scenic” location, a nature reserve along a bike path, I found myself facing and painting the restroom and the telephone poles to the east rather than the foliage and meandering path to the west. One fellow on a laid-back bike stopped to kibitz and, offering himself up as a Painter of Nature, gently suggested I might want to go to the Portland waterfront and “paint the flowering trees that are in bloom.” I continued to work on the rest room.
And on Wednesday, when the rain and hail and snow and wind finally abated a bit in Portland, I got out to Hawthorne Boulevard to get my sunny day fix. A guy came up and asked me if I liked painting. “Sure.” Was I painting the street? “Yep.” Why didn’t I find a nice city park to paint? “I like telephone poles.” Could he take my photo. “Sure.” What was my name. “Here’s my card.”
By the time he requested my name, I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable, although it was broad daylight on a very busy street in front of an office building where I had already been talking with the workers. But he continued, “I’m from the Oregonian [our local newspaper] and live just up the street. Came home to put on a lighter weight jacket.”
“Sure,” I said, not the least bit believing him and very relieved when he finally meandered on up the street.
And then, Thursday morning, on my place at the table where Jer had put it for me to see, was the Metro section of the Oregonian:
“A day worth framing | June O. Underwood went for something beyond a scenic landscape in Wednesday’s sunshine when she brought her oil paints to bustling southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland. ‘If I wanted pretty I would have gone a few blocks over into Ladds (addition).’ she said. ‘I find all the poles and lines interesting.’ Today is expected to remain sunny with highs ranging from 60 to 65 degrees, but the national Weather Service predicts clouds and cooler weather through the weekend. Weather, C8 (Benjamin Brink , Oregonian photographer)”
I think the photograph is great — the focus is just right as it captures the graffiti on the sign matching the color of the paint box and blurs out the busy background.
One of my friends said I looked as if I were “terrorizing” the neighborhood. I’ll admit to seeing people scurry past me — but I thought it was in embarrassment at seeing the painting itself.
And where have your art adventures taken you recently? It’s that time of year for me, when I get an itch to wander. The Hawthorne Boulevard painting, by the way, is quite unlike Hawthorne Boulevard. All the chatting and sunshine got in the way of looking, perhaps.