The St. Johns Bridge Panorama: Panels 1 & 2

St. Johns Bridge from Cathedral Park, Panel 2. 12 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2010

St. Johns Bridge from Cathedral Park, Panel 1. 12 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2010.

I sometimes find myself making unconscious decisions when I work over a number of panels. A panorama can be a semi-circular view, where the artist swings around about 180 degrees, beginning and ending to her left and right, with those far right and far left views being close-up, foreground visions (like Panel 1 above).

Or, à la Rackstraw Downes, the artist can do straight ahead visuals across a landscape, as if moving from point to point across a plane.

Or, something in-between, as I did with the St. Johns Bridge

If I had done a true 180 degree pano, then a foregrounded willow tree would have anchored the right side of the panorama, and the shrubbery and bridge base above would anchor the left side. But that would have taken more panels, and been somehow too “cute.” Or too conventional. Or maybe I just didn’t think of it.

St. Johns Bridge from Cathedral Park, Panels 1 & 2. 24 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2010.

It’s possible that the title (or at least my take on the subject matter  of the bridge) insisted that I begin and end with the bridge wherever that took me — originally I had thought 7 panels, but 8 were clearly necessary for this project. But nothing in my mind said “include the willow tree.”

Other kinds of questions and decisions are also part and parcel of moving beyond the single take of a scene. For example, the light from the north-east  shining on the bridge at 8 AM is fantastic. But the light on the hills at that time is pretty pathetic — flat and uninteresting. Whereas,  the evening light on the hills provides softened and golden shadows. In another panorama that I did, I dramatized the contradiction of light, but here, I just chose what seemed to work best and made a pretty picture of the combination. Why? Exhaustion? Difficulty in making the trip 10 miles downriver in city traffic? Or just because I liked the way the west hills look in the westering sun and the way the bridge looks in the eastern light. The last is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Another area of difficulty was the sky, which was, as is usual for Portland in August, a glare of very hazy blue. I took some wonderful sky photos one evening when I wasn’t painting, and I may still tweak the sky’s drama. However, the blue in these photos is also not enhanced by my photo taking lights, which tend to wash out the topmost elements of the painting. I could pay Bill B. a bazillion dollars to photograph this properly, but since I’m stingy, I used my own less-than-optimal lighting. The curator of my retrospective can give Bill the business.

Tomorrow, I will try to upload the largest version of the entire panel (which when given my usual sizing shows on the screen as a pathetically small line of color) and get it to load at a couple of clicks larger for your edification. I will also break down the whole thing into bits and pieces that might help you visualize it. Or at the very least, fill up the blog –June

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4 Responses to The St. Johns Bridge Panorama: Panels 1 & 2

  1. june says:

    Everyone always wonders about my perspectives. Maybe I just see funny. But I swear, this is the way it looks when you really look like a human being. When you close one eye and place your head in a vice, and then paint the whole thing, it doesn’t look like this. But then that’s easier done with a camera and tri-pod — why bother. That vice is really hard on the ear lobes


  2. Sheila says:

    I find setting parameters is pretty essential in getting to grips with a design. It doesn’t matter if you break someone’s rules in the process (like you mixing the lighting), but a few self-imposed “rules” are fine. I did wonder about the perspective of the panarama – I like what you settled on.


  3. June says:

    Carole — You’ll have to head out Route 30 toward the Coast (or go to St. Johns in North Portland) to see the bridge. It’s at the outer edge of the city. But it’s worth checking out.


  4. acarolegrant says:

    June, it has been so exciting following this panoramic view of the bridge with you.
    We will be going through Portland around the 20th of October on our way to California and I am going to watch for this bridge… and impress DH that I know the name of it! ha.
    Glad to see you are back to yourself.


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