Willamette Valley Study

Saturday was clear but windy in the southern Willamette valley, coming in briskly from the north as it often does this time of year. I rode my bicycle north, past Coburg on north Coburg road, the wind steady and fierce against my face. I crossed over I-5 on Coleman Road, before heading back south. On the bridge crossing back over I-5, I paused, taking in the view to the east. I did a quick sketch, took a photo, and then kept going. Pedaling of course was much easier going with the wind, almost a sense of silence and stillness as I moved in harmony with the movement of the wind.

Here is the photo that I took, lots of glare because of the low sun.


And here is the sketch:


And here is the water color that I did later at home:


It is always funny how the eye picks out what is most interesting in a scene, and then when you take a picture you get all this stuff that you weren’t really paying attention to. That’s what happened in the this situation: the whole field in the foreground of the photo I was more or less ignoring, yet it dominates the photo. It is almost like there is a composition machine inside of the eye, that works automatically to highlight what is most interesting or beautiful about a scene and ignore the rest. And then when we make paintings we have to try to reproduce in a more systematic and explicit way what the eye already does automatically. It is a frustrating humbling experience, always relearning how to see.

One thing that bothers me about this sketch is how the shadows don’t line up. The ones in the foreground are closer to vertical and the one off of the barn/building is more closer to horizontal. I think that if the barn shadow was closer to vertical, that that would have opened up the middle ground of the painting a little bit too much and taken away some of the illusion of depth.

I also wish I had added a few more layers to the “green grass” section because it seems a little empty and static.

I like how the sky turned out but the orange against the blue mountains (complementary colors) stands out perhaps a little too much, competing with the barn and the high value contrasts there. Perhaps if I had brought a little more orange into the grassy area, it would have balanced things out a little bit more.

At Last

Spring seemed to take a while to come this year, perhaps it was my own imagination — although spring coming early to other parts of the daemionlee_atlastUS maybe made spring in Oregon seem late.

In this painting I hoped to capture my sense of relief or joy. The arrival of spring always seems to be such a remarkable occurrence, at once joyous and miraculous and painful.

The inspiration for this painting came from a pencil sketch. I rode my bike out along Old Mohawk Road without a whole lot of time to spare. Early evening, a few cars buzzing by me. Not too far out from the junction with Marcola Road, I stopped, dropped my bike in the roadside weeds, crawled through some blackberries and stepped over a broken fence. I was right at the edge of a green field, covered with the brilliant glow of new growth. The Mckenzie River was out of sight, but close, and the tell-tale towering cottonwoods were nearby, right at the edge of the field.

I sat down to do a quick sketch.


It was a few days later before I got a chance to paint. Those cottonwood trees I saw were probably closer to brown than yellow, but the bare branches were covered with such an exuberant layer of buds, I felt like yellow was an appropriate interpretations. Most of the yellow is just straight cadmium yellow, though I mixed in a little phthalo blue to give it a slight green cast in places.

In one layer I laid down the basic wash colors — blue yellow sky, the yellow trees, brown undergrowth, green-yellow grass in foreground. The distant dark green hills I added in a second layer, as well as the tree trunks.