It was a gorgeous sunny August morning. Our Corvallis friends, overnight guests, left at 7 AM to drive south to work; time for Jer to drive me to Cathedral Park to catch the early morning sun on the St. Johns Bridge. This was to be the final on-site painting session for the panorama, and I had put all 8 panels into the car, four of them in the box, the other four loose, laid on newsprint to prevent oil paint from getting on the car. There wasn’t much traffic and the good parking space near my designated painting spot was available. The panels had survived the trip without smearing each other, and I envisioned a serene set-up, an untroubled final look at the bridge and west hills and barges , all glowing in the early sun. It was going to be a sweet easy last look.
An early morning kibbitzer, arm hanging out his truck window, watched as we carried the second batch of paintings over to my usual painting spot, and then mentioned that the sprinklers might be coming on, “right over there. They water there ’bout ever mornin'” he said.
We looked around. Many sprinklers were shooting water over the green grass of the park, but none were near my usual painting spot. And the place from which I paint had been painting was dry and brown looking.
Surely no sprinklers there. We put four paintings (almost but not quite completed) on the convenient park bench across the walkway from the painting spot and brought the rest of the boxed paintings and the cart with its load of equipment from the car, and I opened up my little blue stool.
WHOOSH! the sprinklers behind the bench started up.
I stopped rooted in place, startled and clueless, but Jer, whose brain apparently works better in the AM than mine, grabbed two of the paintings and ran to a dry space 20 yards away. I finally did the same, and then we moved the rather wet box and cart and very wet stool to the dry spot and looked around. Couldn’t see any sprinklers. We dried off the paintings, so they didn’t spot and warp, and sat them against the cart.
I sat up the easel and got out various parts of my gear and sent Jer off to buy me a cup of coffee, something I thought I deserved after this rude awakening. He drove off. I contemplated the light on the bridge. Then,
The sound of pouring water started up again, in a new spot, right next to where I was standing:
Another set of sprinklers were whooshing and flaring. My stuff was to the left of the photo above — the only dry spot anywhere near was under the willow to the right. I grabbed the most vulnerable paintings and flung them under the willow and went back for the rest. I was nicely wetted by running through the sprinklers, which reminded me very much of certain childhood moments. It felt more comic than serious. The fellow in the truck continued to watch, arm lackadaisically hanging from his window. By the time Jer got back with the coffee, the sprinklers had disappeared, and the paintings were mostly wiped off for the second time. Jer dried off the park bench with a rag from the car:
I crossed my fingers, knocked on the wooden bench, and set up a painting on the easel, ready at last for the serene contemplation of the morning sun on the St. Johns Bridge, water glistening in the river and on the grass — but not on my paintings:
Jer wended his way back to southeast Portland, promising to return in 3 hours, and I settled in on the wet stool, and began painting.
And the moral of this story is?
On every artist some water must fall, even when the sun is shining brightly. –June
PS: the eight panels survived the rest of the morning, the sun on the bridge made dashing through the water streams well worth while, and now the panels are safely back in the studio, awaiting the final touches. I’ll be presenting them shortly.