I’ve been working on this painting for 6 months. Centennial Mills viewed from the Broadway Bridge as it was several years ago. It was a favorite site of mine in Portland that no longer exists. All that remains is the building with the water tower. The city had plans to redevelop it but they gave up and, over the last year or two, most of it has been torn down.
I’m sad to see so much of what I consider to be Portland being demolished and gentrified.
I have a show of urban landscape paintings coming up towards the end of next month at Brian Marki Fine Art in Portland, OR. I’ve been chained to the easel over the last several months painting for the show. As soon as I have all the details, I’ll post them here. I hope, if you’re in town, you’ll come by and have a look.
I’m now nine months into grieving the loss of my wife and in some ways, it’s gotten lighter. I’m generally hard on myself but I will give myself credit for working hard to try and grow from this experience. As I’ve said before, Leslie died without a second of self pity and that made it impossible for me to slip into that mud, even though it seemed likely, given my inclinations.
I’ve also written before about the courage Leslie showed in facing her death. She accepted it and walked toward it willingly and proudly, knowing she’d lived a wonderful life. She even joked on the way to death’s door. Although the experience was profound, it wasn’t heavy. We shared a lot of laughter during her last days. She showed no fear and, although we cried at our becoming separated, she approached it with dignity and grace. There was nothing sad about her death. It was magnificent and miraculous. It is her absence that causes me pain.
I’m often confused about my feelings and suffer very strong emotional waves. Sometimes it feels like I really can’t endure another wave but they keep coming. I never know when or where they’ll hit. I’ve learned to strap on my seat belt and observe my thoughts as they surge through me. Sometimes the longing to feel loved and connected to someone overwhelms me and I reach out to some unsuspecting friend with a heartfelt outpouring of gratitude and love. I worry that I sometimes overwhelm people with my urgent need for connection. Then, of course, I suffer over that.
In recent weeks, Ive felt myself start to turn away from my reverie over death and try to find something in life that I can engage myself in. I’ve felt some moments of acceptance and even feel satisfied for brief moments. As I turn back toward life, I realize that I have an opportunity to remake my life in any way I want to. Currently I feel consumed with the idea of having my life be used for something worthwhile. I’m aware that I’ve been through these periods before and they’re fragile and shatter easily. I’m doing my best to stay as grounded as I can while still believing in the possibility that I can be useful, maybe even inspiring. .
I want to share this poem by the great John O’Donahue, who my friend Eithna Joyce introduced me to.
For Grief ~ John O’Donahue
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
I went out painting with a friend last week and came across a small herd of cows lounging in the sun. They were the same type of cows that I often see in Roos Schuring’s paintings. She’s a fantastic painter in Holland. I wrote about her back in Aug 2012.
I delivered the paintings for my first solo show in many years to Brian Marki Fine Art yesterday. I have one more piece I’d like to finish for the show, if Brian doesn’t mind hanging a wet painting.
The image above is the piece I’d like to finish for the show, in it’s current state. It still seems a little chaotic but that is true to my current experience. I don’t usually put a lot of thought into titles. They’re mainly just for me to keep them straight in my mind but, given recent events, this piece has begun to occur for me as a view into my life. I need to reconstruct a new life out of what appears to me now as the wreckage of my old life and this painting expresses that for me. It may not be pretty but it holds promise.
I have to say that, in spite of the fact that I’m not often referred to as a real “up” kind of person, I have been surprised at my ability to find positive meaning in my wife’s death.
For one thing, it was such a privilege and relief to be able to see Leslie on to a peaceful and meaningful death. It was the perfect completion of our relationship. Four years ago, when Leslie’s cancer became metastatic, the primary purpose of my life became to see to it that Les was taken care of and had a good death and I lived to fulfill that promise. So many women have to go through this alone. I am grateful that Les was loved and cherished and nurtured and adored to her last minutes. Well beyond her last minutes, in truth.
I have also been overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family. My relationships have been enriched by Les’ passing. I have made new friends who have made profound contributions to my life.
Leslie continues to nurture me even in death. I was rooting through the freezer and found a treasure. Two containers of Les’ wonderful beef stew.
My stomach and heart are both full of love. I miss Leslie’s physical presence but I feel her with me all the time. I’m a very fortunate man.
A friend and I drove out to Ranier, OR to paint at the defunct Trojan Nuclear Plant (now a park) but there was not much there we were interested in painting so we drove on into the nearby town of Ranier, which is right on the Columbia river. These 2 paintings were done from a parking lot in the town.
I try to do a self portrait every year around my birthday (My birthday is in March and you can look back through the archives to see other entries in the series). The project started around an assignment I was given in college to do a self portrait as I was then (20-ish years old) and then another predicting how I thought I’d look at age 60. I turned 60 this year so it’s sort of the completion of the project but I’ve been having a hard time producing the painting.
This painting was not intended to be the official yearly selfie but I offer it now until I get serious about completing the project.
The actual intention of this painting was to paint it over again pushing it as far as I could before I got bored with it. I repainted over the same canvas over the course of 6 days and this is where it ended up. Below are photos of the canvas at the end of each session
I went with a friend to paint at the Portland Train station – Union Station. It was supposed to rain so I proposed we meet there and paint from under the cover of the overpass across the street from the station. It worked out pretty well. It rained hard and I only got a little wet (from a drain in the overpass) This is the resulting painting.
The hunting season is over on Sauvie Island, and I headed over to paint last weekend. Unfortunately, when I was half way there, I realized I had forgotten to pack any panels to paint on. This is the second time I’ve done this. I suppose age is catching up with me. Rather than turn back, I continued on knowing that I had my watercolor paintbox and sketchbooks along.
I went to a part of the island where I haven’t painted for several years and found a nice spot along the Multnomah Channel ( a narrow side channel of the Wilamette River, and started the piece above as several sailboats and fishing boats came and went. While I waited for the colors to dry on this one, I started the one below, of the same subject.
I moved on down the road and did one more from a spot I painted a few years ago. It’s a view of the famous volcano, Mt St Helens, across the cow patures.
I was hoping for some cows but they didn’t show up until later
The weather has been especially wonderful in Oregon this spring. Although I’m tied to my home office during the work week, I’ve stolen enough time to do a few little studies outside. These two were painted from the deck of my office.
This relatively new neighborhood sprung up seemingly overnight on the South West shore of the Wilamette River in Portland. The most prominent resident is the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital. The main hospital is on a hill overlooking the river and the two campuses are connected by a tram (not pictured here).
I’ve done some sketching from the upper campus, looking down to this one. Here is one I did in 2010, when there were fewer buildings.
I spent 12 days in Kauai with my family. It was great to get away and spend time together in beautiful Kaua’i. The cones of my eyes are now so used to bright sun and saturated colors that everything looks one color now that I’m home in the grey Pacific NW.
I slipped away to do a little bit of sketching but I really wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the sun when I wasn’t in the shade.
This was done in Hanalei, near the north end of the island. It’s a surfer beach, I forget the name of this particular one.
I never figured out the name of this mountain in Anahola on the east shore. I found a nice shady spot at the dead end of the road to do this one.
There was a large vacant spot, between resort condos, on the beach near Kapaa on the east shore. The beach was quiet and I was pretty much on my own here. If you didn’t look back to shore, it was easy to imagine being on a deserted island. This is the view in the opposite direction.
When I turned around toward the ocean, this is was the view:
Alex, if you’re reading, I tried to answer your email but my reply was returned. You may have mistyped your email address.
This old Montgomery Ward store was converted, years ago, into Montgomery Park and is now used as office space and convention center. When it was built, in 1920, it was the largest building in Portland.
This is a painting of a barge while being built at the Vigor Industries Shipyard on Swan Island, Portland, OR. I believe the barge is a double hulled oil barge in service in the Seattle area.
I could hang out here and draw for years, if they’d let me. Unfortunately the only times I’ve been there were during the Industry and Art shows, which were held in one of their hangars the last two years.
This neighborhood market, at the corner of NW 23rd and Thurman, is one of the last buildings, in this neighborhood, that has not been gentrified. It was kind of a seedy area, when I first moved to Portland, about 30 years ago. Most of the street is now lined with boutiques and restaurants and in my landscaping days, I worked on some of the properties here. There’s a great breakfast place across the street called Besaws, which is in a building that goes back to 1903. The market building looks to be of the same vintage.
I’m happy to announce that I’ll be exhibiting work as part of a three person show at the AIA Center for Architecture next month. The show opens on Feb 7 with a First Thursday reception from 5PM – 9PM and continues through March 5th.
This is a scene at the Vigor Industrial Shipyard on Swan Island in Portland. I’ve had fun experimenting with different ways of applying paint. I used a brayer, strings soaked in paint, spatula, various knives, a whisk broom, etc. I did not use brushes very much on this piece.
I’ve been painting larger pieces on linen tacked to my wall. I leave a 4″ border around it for attaching it to stretcher bars. Once I get to this point, the border becomes distracting and I need to take it down and stretch it to really see what it looks like and to make sure the image fits the stretcher properly. I may change it after it’s stretched.
I’ve had this one on the easel for quite a while but I think I’m done with it now. What caught my eye was the interlocking shapes of the upper part of the building with the shapes caused by reflections in the lower part. It was a lot of fun to paint and I’m kind of sorry I’m done with it.
This is a view of the under side of the Fremont Bridge, looking across the Wilamette River from the west bank to the east. This is a studio painting although I’ve painted this same view plein air and posted some studies, for this painting, a couple of weeks ago.
This past weekend was the first weekend of the 2012 Portland Open Studios tour. I worked on this study of the studio corner while a slow but steady stream of folks perused my recent oil paintings and sketchbooks.
Thanks everyone who came by or checked my website. I’m looking forward to the second weekend of the tour.
I’ve been working on this painting for the last several months. I’m declaring it finished, even though I could probably go on tweaking it for another couple of months. It will be in the studio during the Portland Open Studios, over the next two weekends.