The Jolly Roger Bar, 12th and Madison. Oil on board, 12 x 16″
As you know, I’ve been painting around Portland, here and there, returning often to sites to note what else is there, what I may have missed, what more is available for turning into paint.
These paintings have a certain “feel” to them — a style that fits with the record of my visits. I work on-site and then tweak and fiddle in the studio. I also find myself making larger, stranger, studio-begot contributions to the sets of pieces.
I have already exposed the Fremont Bridge grouping to A&P; here’s another set of depictions of an entirely different place in Portland.
IOOF Building, SE Alder and 6th St, oil on board, 12 x 16″
At this corner, SE Alder and 6th Street, humans were a large part of the scene. In fact, although the casual observer might not recognize it, it quickly became obvious to me that this is a neighborhood, with people who watch out for the street, some of them renters in nearby apartments, many of them regulars who use the area to hang out, to see what the day will bring, smoke a bit of pot, check in with street friends, have a swig or two from a communal bottle.
The Melody Ballroom, SE Alder and 6th St, oil on board, 12 x 16″
The US Bank Parking Lot, SE Alder and 6th St, oil on board 12 x 16″
As I painted, I got stories of all sorts from the neighbors, ranging from the tale of the fire that caused the apartment house windows to be so ill asorted (US Bank) to the charming Hispanic panhandler who never saw “in the U S of A a painter on the streets” (Melody Ballroom). The congregation of the Rivers of Life Church peered at the dabblings on the board when I was painting the Eastside Funeral Directors’ Building, while someone who had been rocking at the Melody the night before was asleep out of sight in the corner of the IOOF building. The erstwhile Eastside Funeral Directors’ Building turned Volunteers of America Center once housed a senior day care, but now appears to be a school or halfway house for “troubled” youths, youths whose curiosity about plein air painters was vast and somewhat distracting.
The Eastside Funeral Directors’ Building (now Volunteers of America) SE Alder and 6th, oil on board, 12 x 16
SE 6th Avenue is between two main boulevards in southeast Portland, and large numbers of vehicles, whose inhabitants see nothing in the neighborhood except obstacles to drive around, use the street as a way to avoid traffic jams on 7th Avenue or Morrison St.
The images above are plein air paintings, oil on board, all 12 x 16″, done at the corner of SE Alder and 6th in Portland Oregon. Below is the studio SE 6th and Alder — the way it evolved in my consciousness:
The Corner of SE 6th and Alder, Portland, Oregon. Oil on canvas, 30 x 30″
The SE 6th and Alder paintings are the result of approximately 14 hours of sitting at the site, watching people and vehicles, interacting with passersby, seeing the sun sliding across the façades of the buildings, and painting these things as they presented themselves on site. Later, in the studio, SE 6th and Alder becomes a place where cars are toylike, but the buildings impose themselves almost as human – elegant, funky, and imposing.
In short, these paintings represent experiences that I had in my encounters with this particular environment, on these particular days, in the late summer of 2008. They also represent something of what I am trying to achieve in my painting.
It’s easier to say what I don’t want to do than what I want to do. I don’t want to do beautiful (or at least not “merely” beautiful); I don’t want to faithfully record what I see, in the manner of a camera’s eye. I don’t want to focus on edges or color or shapes or the feel of the oil paint, although I obviously deal with these basics of painting all the time — and I enjoy thinking about them. But they aren’t my focus.
Bloomtime, 12 x 16″, oil on board
What I am striving for is to capture something of my sense of the place, a sense which is limited by my own ability to see and record what I see, to feel and record what I feel, and also limited by what is in front of me, by the environment itself. It’s something of a surreal set of overlapping circles — the objects in front of me, my sense of those objects, the interaction between myself and the changes that happen during my stay on the site — what I want, in short, is to capture a sense of this time, this place, through the limited yet hopefully interesting eyes of this particular human creature, myself. It can’t be done with monocular perspective nor realistic rendering; my eyes don’t see as the camera sees; my senses capture far more and far less and my vision encompasses peculiar bits of the scene, leaving other bits for some other visionary. My encounters add transitory information that has to work itself, however wonkily, into the paintings.
The Fremont Bridge as It Addresses the Land, Oil on canvas, 18 x 36″