Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape

Industrial plein air / studio hybrid

I returned to the site where I did 2 of the sketches from the previous post and started this plein air painting while standing in the back of my pickup truck. Here it is in two states:

Wilamette Port Scene 2

6″ x 8″ oil on canvas

Wilamette Port Scene Finished camera

It’s the same scene as the middle sketch in the last post but the ship is gone. I thought this would be a good scene to paint because I wasn’t familiar with anything I was looking at and would therefore have an easier time seeing only the shapes and values rather than objects. I was pretty far away from it too, so it was really impossible to make out much detail.
I was really disappointed in what I did plein air and continued to work on it in the studio working from my sketch and photo. I was originally attracted to this kind of jumble of stuff sticking up into the atmospheric sky and I captured that but struggled to resolve the bottom/foreground.

This brings up the question of when a painting is plein air and when it’s a studio painting. I suppose since I didn’t complete the painting on site, it can’t be considered plein air.

Art, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

In search of industrial plein air subject

I set out to find an industrial site to do a plein air painting of. I’ve been trying to find access to industrial sites on the Wilamette River along Hwy 30 and returned there today. I turned down every side road I saw that lead toward the river but they all end at locked gates with spectacular industrial views just beyond.

I found this place down one of the roads. It wasn’t really on the river but it was an interesting building that I could see from a parking lot. Unfortunately there were railroad tracks between me and the building and trains kept blocking my view so I left after doing this thumbnail sketch. It may be better on Sunday. Maybe there won’t be as many trains.

Viking Fire Protection

I moved on down the river and turned down another road that ended in gated lots but this one had an area just above the gates where I could park and have a view of the river.

Container Ship

I did a couple of preparatory sketches. This is of one of those strange container ships that carry cars. They don’t look like ships at all. It was kind of far away.

Dry Dock

Directly across the river was what looked like a dry dock. This looked promising. I’m alway nervous about being on private property and people kept coming and going while I sketched so I was nervous about setting up for oil painting but, again, it might be quieter on Sunday.

Cathedral Park is right across the river also and I kept hearing what sounded like Pirate songs. When I got home I looked it up online and they were having the second annual Pirate Festival. I may have to go to that instead of painting tomorrow.

Art, Landscape, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Burnside Bridge value study

Burnside Bridge value study

gouache and ink in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook

I did this little value study from sketches and photos I did of the bridge last time I visited it. Actually there are two bridges here. The counter weights of the Steele Bridge can be seen towering over and behind the Burnside Bridge.

I’m just starting to play with gouache and this was done with b;ack and white ink and paynes gray and white gouache.

Art, Bookbinding, equipment, Landscape, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Sketching Downtown Portland plus my sketch kit

I buddy of mine and I went to the East Side Esplanade on Portland’s waterfront to sketch today. It was cloudy and threatened rain but was warm and pleasant otherwise. I realized, after I’d started drawing, I’d forgotten to bring some paper towels for watercolor but I think I’m just as happy I didn’t color this sketch of the Portland Skyline.

Portland skyline from East Bank Esplanade

Hawthorne Bridge and Portland Skyline pen and ink in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook

We moved down the way a bit toward the Burnside Bridge. I’ve drawn this one before. I like the Drawbridge Tender’s building. My friend pointed out that it looks kind of medieval with the buttresses under it. Actually I guess they’re not buttresses when they’re holding something up like this. Anyone know what they’re called?

Burnside Bridge detail

Burnside Bridge ink and watercolor in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook.


This sketchbook is just about full and I was stitching up a new one last night. Even though I have gotten some books and found other online references on binding projects like this, I found my self back at Trumpetvine Travels re-reading Martha’s most excellent book binding instructions. Hers are the most clear and detailed I’ve found.

I noticed that Martha recently wrote a post showing her entire sketching kit. If you’re interested in sketching make sure to check out Martha’s beautiful and extremely informative blog, Trumpetvine Travels.

I thought I would show my sketch kit here as well because I always enjoy a peak into other artist’s tools and techniques and, although it’s very similar to Martha’s, I’ve found one thing that I really love that makes the whole thing really easy for me to carry with me and therefore makes me more likely to sketch.

I tried using a map case that Russell Stutler wrote about on his blog, here. but I found it a bit clumsy to open and close and it also, if not balanced exactly right, would hang awkwardly.

This is something I found at an REI store but I don’t see it on their website. It’s a nylon zippered book cover designed for camping and outdoor stuff but I find that it’s the perfect size for a Moleskine sized sketchbook with room to carry a small watercolor box and a couple of drawing utensils.

Sketch Kit 1 Sketch Kit 2 Sketch Kit 3

Everything I need fits in this zipped up little package. It even has a ring so you can clip it on a backpack if you want. Other than at REI, I’m not sure where to find it. It’s labeled as being made by ‘Warp Corp Seattle WA’ but I Googled them and didn’t see anything like this on their site. Maybe other outdoor gear stores would carry it too.

Allana wrote in a comment that she found it on REIs website here.

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Workshop

Eric Jacobsen Workshop in Hood River Oregon

This past weekend I attended a plein air painting workshop with Eric Jacobsen in Hood River OR. I’ve known of Eric for a number of years and admired his work greatly. It’s always interesting meeting someone you’ve looked up to for a long time and it was a real joy to meet Eric. He turned out to be a very friendly and down to earth guy who welcomed us all with a big smile.

Although I think sometimes that there is no substitute for just putting time in at the easel, this was a great opportunity to watch a masterful painter work and then to be able to step immediately to an easel and practice what I just observed, while it’s still fresh.

On a side note, I hadn’t been to Hood River in about 10 years and it’s really grown into an international windsurfer mecca since then. It’s in the incredible Columbia River Gorge and at the foot of both Mt Hood and Mt Adams of the Cascade range. It’s kind of a cross between a surfer tourist spot and college town (without the college) with meditation centers and fabulous restaurants. I recommend the house martini and Brian’s Pourhouse, btw.

I arrived Friday night to attend the opening of the Plein Air Paint Out show sponsored by the Columbia Art Gallery which included work by some artists I’ve met or workshopped with recently. After that I painted during the day, at the workshop, and dined at the great spots in Hood River and sketched around town in the eveining.

The weather was perfect – clear blue skies and two snow capped volcanoes close enough that it seemed you could reach out and touch them.

Hood River is also surrounded by apple and pear orchards, which are coming into harvest time, and is very scenic.

Eric did three demos during the two day workshop, explaining his decisions as he made them and talking about his training and the personal preferences that he’s developed. He was extremely generous spending a lot of time with each participant answering questions, making suggestions and even critiquing paintings brought from home. I know that one of the hardest things to come by is honest and informed constructive criticism and Eric was really terrific at making astute suggestions in an encouraging way.

I took some snapshots of one of the demonstrations and Eric agreed to allow me to post them here. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

EJ demo 1

Because of a back injury, Eric was sitting down to paint although he prefers to stand.

EJ demo 2

the canvas was first toned with a very light wash of Burnt Sienna and an underdrawing was done with the same color

ej demo4

he starts laying in local color

ej demo 5

the sky was put in rather late in the process and the mountain really jumped out at that point

ej demo 6

ej demo 7

ej demo 8

ej demo final

We unceremoniously threw his completed work on the ground to photograph it but still failed to avoid the glare.

This demo took about an hour and he talked his way through it and answered questions so it probably took 4 times as long as if we hadn’t been there.

What did I learn? Two things come to mind immediately:

1. Don’t try to paint with worn brushes. Duh! Eric did his demos with a single brush, a brand new #6 flat. He said that with that brush he can make marks any size between #1 and #6 depending on how he holds the brush.

2. To determine the color of a mass in a landscape, rather than look directly at it, look at the adjacent mass and use your peripheral vision to see the color you’re after.

It was well worth it and if you ever have the opportunity to study with Eric, I recommend it. Although he demonstrated painting close to life, some of his work is more interpretive and pushes past traditional landscape painting, check out his website.

Art, oil painting, Painting, Still Life

Back to Pears

Red Pears

6″ x 6″ oil on canvas

My little blog has enjoyed a modest but steady increase in visits since I started sharing my endeavor but I was shocked to see that my number of hits went from a high of 98 for a day to 2,275 today. A little sleuthing revealed that this was because my post about the method I use to photograph my paintings was noticed by The Strobist from whom I learned the trick. The Strobist was nice enough to post an article about my use of his idea (which I actually stole from Carol Marine) and linked back to me. Apparently The Strobist has a much larger audience than I and I really appreciate his sharing them with me.

My wife pointed out that he even referred to me, in his article, by my last name – “Sharp then uses the digital files of his oil painting…” as in ‘VanGogh’s lunacy was unparalleled’ or ‘Picasso’s sexual appetite was … er … unparalleled’. Anyway it kind of made me feel like I was famous.
I was further shocked to see that my little blog is, as of today, listed as the number one fastest growing blog on Short lived as that glory may be, I’m celebrating tonight.

Thanks to all who’ve visited and commented. And thanks to The Strobist.

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air

One more plein air for the weekend

I stayed home and painted in my backyard on Monday. This is the garage/studio.

Studio east side

6″ x 8″ oil on canvas

The area where we live was semi-rural when we moved there, 25 years ago. It’s been developing more and more quickly but we’re fortunate to have a 1 acre lot that backs up to a forested creek. There’s quite a bit of wildlife in that little forest including a family of deer. As I was painting this, a young buck walked right out in front of me and munched on some of the shrubs just to the left of the above scene.

Art, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Sketching, watercolor

More Plein Air from Sauvie Island

I returned to Sauvie Island for another go at plein air. Coming over the bridge that leads onto the island you’re presented with a spectacular panorama including both Mt Hood and Mt St Helens on a clear day. The island is very flat, unlike most other landscapes around here, so you can see long distances. I always want to stop on the bridge and paint from there.

This time I continued down to the end of Sauvie Island road into the wildlife area where the road narrows and turns to gravel. I remembered years ago, when I was driving around the island looking for things to photograph to paint, coming across a beautiful view of Mt St Helens and that’s what I was looking for. I found it just as I remembered it and there was a great spot to pull off the road with the Mountain in view.

It was another perfect day. The air was crystal clear and the temp was in the 70s. Mt St Helens has been erupting again for quite a while and I could see puffs of steam rising above it’s ruined peak throughout the day.


Click for larger view

I started out with a quick ink and watercolor sketch.

Mt St Helens from Sauvie Island - ink and watercolor

Ink and watercolor – (click for larger view)

Since I found such a convenient site to park, I was able to spoil myself by setting my pochade up in the shade right next to the truck.

View of setup for Mt St Helens plein air

Click for larger view

The road I was on is in a fairly remote part of the island but since it was such a beautiful day on a long weekend there was some traffic. The road ends just a little beyond my site at a place popular for fishing. The passing cars would drive between me and my view, Since I was partly hidden from oncoming traffic by brush and the occupants of the cars were often surprised to see me at the last minute and stared as the passed but no one stopped or spoke to me.

Mt St Helens from Steelman Rd plein air

6″ x 8″ oil on canvas (click for larger view)

Here’s the completed oil painting. I think that each plein air painting I’ve done has been a little better than the one before but I’m still a not really happy with them. I’m staying loose with the brushwork and I feel like I’m gaining confidence in that. On the negative side, however, I think most of my plein air oils suffer from a compositional standpoint. This one, as with others, doesn’t have a strong focal point. What drew me to paint the scene was the mountain, but I don’t think the rest of the composition supports it very well. I also feel that the Mountain doesn’t recede enough in space. Looking at the photo, the mountain is very faint. Since it’s the point of interest, making it so faint may make the painting even more ambiguous compositionally.

Now that I’ve photographed it, I think I’ll fiddle with it a bit and try to make the mountain and more distant fields recede more, but I don’t think that will really make the image more interesting. The lines in the composition don’t lead the eye toward the mountain. I don’t think the eye really know where to look.

Advice, criticism, comments all appreciated.