Plein Air: The Columbia Gorge and the Fremont Bridge

Day two and three of the plein air intensive workshop were studies in contrast.

Day two we six painters and Jef, our instructor, were high above the Columbia River on the Washington side, on an old farmstead with pastures and fruit trees and outbuildings — and a view south to Mt. Hood, a view beyond what we had dared to hope for.

You have to have lived in western Oregon to understand what a thrill it is to see Mt. Hood gleaming in the sunlight in a bright blue sky. The mountain stayed visible all day long, as did the sun and the sky. We wandered around the homestead, talked with Hank Patton, the steward of the land, and basked in the warmth, the sun, the wind (it was definitely windy) and the sweet smells of growing things.

But of course, I found something more than the mere majestic mountain to paint:

It’s true– I’ve become addicted to old trucks.

On Day Three, we stayed in Portland. Jef found us a vacant lot next to the Willamette River (only a chain link fence to keep us on waste ground and prevent us from falling into the bright blue water.) Now this is my territory!

The Fremont Bridge roared above us, the skies were bright and sunny, we sweated and ate dust, but I found the painting exhilarating. Of course, I didn’t paint the lovely blue river and bright greenway that bordered it.

The artist folding up her tent is not me. This person climbed through a hole in the fence and painted from a concrete ledge, focusing on the scene across the river. Me, I painted that piece of the bridge that she’s walking away from. It dwarfed us all, somewhat like the mountain that I didn’t paint. –June

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