Sunday, June 21, 2020

Springtime on the McKenzie.

“Springtime on the McKenzie”
Oil on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
4” x 6”


Last year on my first night camped in the clearing, where the aspen fell in the grove, I was about to climb into my sleeping bags in the back of the SUV, when I saw these red eyes reflecting back at me ... I use a red headlamp. It's always disconcerting when this happens, until I switch to the green or white colour on the lamp, and identify the bearer of the eyes. A month ago, after finishing a lengthy phone call with my brother, I stepped out of the truck, only to be confronted with a dozen pairs of eyes looking in my direction ... t'was a herd of deer. And that's what it was this time ... a single doe. It did not run off, and continued grazing about twenty feet from me. Very nonchalant. Only twice has it been anything other than a deer, and that was the coyote in Yellowstone, which I spotted from a distance, and identified as it loped closer, and the other was a rabbit in Colorado midnight snacking, spotted as I turned in. The coyote was curious, but never came closer than 15', since it was blinded by the white beam of my light, and I was telling it to “move along ... nothing to see here.” Eventually, off it ambled, and I risked heating up my soup. I digress.

Last year's doe became a bit of a fixture, in that clearing. She appeared just about every day, sometimes more than once. Often she grazed within a few feet of me, as I painted, occasionally within five feet. She always kept a weather eye on me, but I would make no sudden moves, and talked quietly to her as she grazed. She had two Bambis, I believe, but I only saw two, in the deepening dusk, twice. One of the young, or maybe both of them, but singly, came into the clearing with the doe, three or four times, during the day, but never close, and pretty much kept to the edges. I did get photos of her, but not the little ones.

When I camped in the clearing for a day or two in October, she was not there, but when I moved from there over to Spencer Creek, there was a doe with two fawns that came by every evening. One evening as I sat eating supper in the gloaming, the doe came to within five feet of me, and stared at me for the longest time, before sauntering off. I believe she was the same deer who had been at the other camp, although I cannot prove it. Her attitude towards me, and her with two fawns, and the fact we were only two or three miles from my other camp (the one with the aspens), gives me a certain confidence, that she was one and the same. I will be curious to see if she turns up again, if I camp at either this year.


A couple years ago, at the end of my year long Minnesota to Oregon journey through the Southwest, I passed down the canyons and valleys of the McKenzie River in the Oregon Cascades. On one of the broader stretches of the lower river, there were several deciduous trees, brightly lit and standing in high relief against the shadowed, evergreen slopes of the mountains beyond. They positively glowed. The Sun reflected blindingly off the water. Photos were taken.

When I came to paint this small work, I had some Genuine Ultramarine  (Lapis Lazuli), on my palette, and I began blocking in the shadowed mountains with it. I liked how it was looking so I continued with it, using W&N Ultramarine Deep very sparingly for some darker areas and mixtures. I felt like the painters of old, who had Lapis and Azurite as their only blues. Lapis Lazuli was worth more than gold then.

Pigments used in the painting were:
Imprimatura & Drawing: W&N Venetian Red;
Pigments: W&N Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale, Ultramarine Deep Blue;
Rublev:  Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, French Red Ochre, Lead White #1;
M. Graham: Cobalt Teal;
Michael Harding: Genuine Ultramarine.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Autumn Willows on Spencer Creek.

Autumn Willows on Spencer Creek”
(Winter Ridge, Oregon Basin & Range)
Oil on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
6” x 8”


Trees fall in the forest ... and sometimes without being blown over by the wind, and for no apparent reason.  I have borne witness  to that fact, perhaps three times throughout my life. "Perhaps," because the first time was in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1993, when my brother Doug, and myself heard a crashing, that sounded like you would think a falling tree would sound, on the other side of shallow ravine from us. There was no further sound, so we ruled out a Moose, or a Bear, or any other such large beast. We decided it was what it sounded like ... a falling tree.

The second time was climbing up the bluffs above China Beach, outside of Brookings, Oregon, about ten years ago. I heard a crashing, similar to what Doug and I had heard in the BWCAW. Startled I turned in time to see a large fir falling across the footpath where I had been walking, just seconds before. “Missed me!”, I exclaimed, “Nice try, though.” It got hung up on other trees so that if you ducked a bit, you could still pass under it on the footpath. This tree fell fom the base so its roots were intact, as though it had been blown over, but there was no wind. The incline was steep, and so I surmise it must have been partially uprooted by wind recently, and finally fell when I was there to witness it.

Then last Summer I camped in a secluded clearing 20 some miles west of Klamath Falls, with an extensive Aspen grove along one side of it. One day while I was painting, I heard that crashing sound and looked over to see the undergrowth still shaking. I went to investigate, and found it was a live Aspen, about 6 inches in diameter, and that it hadn't been uprooted, but had just snapped off about four feet above the ground. There was no apparent reason for it to have done so. It wasn't particularly windy. It didn't appear to be rotten, and all its leaves were green. I still have no theory why this Aspen fell.

The Natural World is so interesting, especially out here in the Wilds, but even in the largest cities it can be interesting, if you take the time to notice. I remember the Springtime before I moved from London down to Cornwall. I had just moved into a new bedsit at the top of the house. When I looked out my windows I was looking through a lattice of tree branches to the street below. When I first moved in they were bare Winter branches, and as the days progressed I watches the leafbuds gradually unfurling and growing into full fledged leaves, and the colours changing with the passage of time and maturity. I concentrated on a particular branch and grouping of buds. Besides the leaves, the occasional bird wandered by as well, but unfortunately I have no nesting stories to tell ... perhaps if I'd stayed in that place for several year ... but Cornwall beckoned, and when that opportunity happened, there was no real contest. Looking back, I had stayed in London, probably five years too long.


Spencer Creek is a few miles from the clearing where the Aspen fell over, and in October when I returned to the area, I camped a hundred yards from this scene. It was not as secluded, but was a lovely spot, and deer came through every day.

Three years ago I laid a final coat of White Lead Priming on a bunch of panels. I have two different lead primers; one by Rublev and the other by Williamsburg.  The Williamsburg is quite stiff, and it occurred to me that if I didn't thin it down with mineral spirits this time, I might be able to get an interesting brush stroke texture in this final layer. And so it was. This is the first of those textured panels that I have used, and I quite like the results. However, I think you have'll to be careful in your choice of subject, when using these panels, but I feel this autumnal leafy stream was a good choice. I hope you do too.

Pigments used in the painting were:
Imprimatura & Drawing: Rublev French Red Ochre;
Pigments: W&N Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale, Ultramarine Deep Blue;
Rublev:  Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, French Red Ochre, Orange Molybdate, Lead White #1;
M. Graham: Cobalt Teal;
Michael Harding: Genuine Ultramarine;
Gamblin: Permanent Magenta;
Schmincke: Caput Mortuum.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Wonderful Snowfall of June the 9th.

“The Wonderful Snowfall of June the 9th”
(Winter Ridge, Oregon Basin & Range)
Oil on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
9” x 12”

This painting was intended to be posted not more than a few days after the smaller study that was posted in mid-May, but once I got back to civilization I found that I had more to do than I had thought, so this posting kept being put off. But now after seventeen days in town, I am back out in the wilds, and I can be getting on with things. It was instructive working on the smaller study (see last post), and it was instructive seeing how much longer this larger one took to do, even with the knowledge already gained. The pigments used were exactly the same for both works, and a nicely limited palette as well.

The Pigments used in the painting were:
Imprimatura & Drawing: Rublev Italian Burnt Sienna;
Pigments: W&N Cobalt & French Ultramarine Blues;
Rublev:  Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Lead White #1.

Two earth colours and blue ... I could have used only the French Ultramarine, for my blue, but the Cobalt was already on the palette, so was used rather than let it go to waste. The French Ultramarine was necessary to mix the darkest greens; darker than could have been achieved with the Cobalt Blue.

In the Block-in, shown below, you can see the effect the Imprimatura still has on the Block-in layer. It still affects the final paint layer, but is less obvious. In the finished work, the Imprimatura gives warmth to the greens, and helps to grey the blues in the distance. It also gives a hint of the earthy red pine needle covered forest floor beneath the thin snow cover, especially in the roadway.

The Block-in

I returned to the wilds on Thursday, June 4th, passing through La Pine, and heading east on country  road 22, as the Sun was lowering in the west. With the light behind me, I noticed how hazy it was in the rear view mirror, and then I noticed that the haze was swirling, much as if it were smoke. I looked to the hood of my car to see if smoke or steam was coming out from under, but detected nothing. I looked back in the rear view mirror, raising my head so I could see the road closer to the car in my wing mirrors. It looked like faint whispers of smoke, but the colour was a yellowish green, as was the general haze back down the road. I pulled over, popped the hood, looked under and all around the car, with fire extinguisher in hand, and ... nothing. I stopped twice more ... and nothing.  I reached camp about an hour before the Sun set, and noticed that the dust on the car was yellowish green, but down on the car body, near the wheel wells, it was the usual reddish brown ... the last four miles to camp were on dirt roads.

The next day, after tramping around a bit, I noticed the bottom of my trousers had a layer of yellowish green dust on them. I brushed it off, only for it to return after another bit of tramping around. The day after that as I was tramping around in the woods, I noticed that with each footstep I wouldraise a small cloud of yellowish green dust, which would then settle on the bottom of my trouser legs. I have never noticed this before. Oh, ordinary dust, yes.

There are a couple of possibilities that come to mind. One possibility is that perhaps it was dust carried from a far away place on high altitude winds. Occasionally,  when I lived in England, dust would be carried all the way from the Sahara, in North Africa. Perhaps this was a similar occurrence.  The other possibility is that it is  pollen, from these extensive forest hereabouts. In support of that, the colour reminds me of pollen covering the surface of several lakes up in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington, when I was up there in June 2018. It got quite thick in some parts of the lakes. I'm plumping for the pollen theory. If it is pollen I wonder if it is from the pine trees ... I have a vague recollection of hearing of such phenomena.

Additional to the above, is that after a week in camp, I went into La Pine to get ice and fill my water containers. It had rained the previous night, and on the forest roads the now empty puddles and rivulets all had a yellowish green scum-line, like a bathtub ring. I suppose it could be dust from afar, but because it formed these scum-lines, I believe it was finer and lighter than the already fine road dust, and floated on top of the rain water, so I'm still plumping for the pollen.


There is a particular type of American moron that comes out to these wild places. I use the term ‘American’ advisedly as it has to do with an attitude of mind to be found predominately, if not exclusively, in this country. The particular persons to which I refer are those that come out to these wild places with the attitude that “since I have a right to be on these public lands, I can pretty much do what I damn well please.”, forgetting  that with rights come responsibilities. In the little over three weeks since I was at my present camp (I'm stopping here briefly before moving further out), it has been occupied by some of the particular morons to which I'm referring. The evidence is several beer cans, broken bottles and empty food tins left in the fire ring; at least four live trees cut down for firewood (I have photographic proof of two that were alive a month ago), ignoring a couple of dead ones that could have been chopped instead (and which would have made a better less smokey fire); spray painting on a tree trunk, and then using the paint can for target practice and then leaving it littering the landscape; driving ATVs off into the surrounding woods, thus leaving ruts which will take months, and sometimes years to disappear (I know they're called All Terrain Vehicles, but they are supposed to be used on roads and certain trails, not willy nilly into the woods, and the National Forest and BLM personel, I believe, would agree).

With rights come responsibilities, and I would go further and say ... obligations, especially here on our public lands, and to the Natural World. A final note would be the leaving of their spent cartridge casings littered about the camp ... this latter almost every shooter seems to do ... I have done so, but nowadays, if I do a bit of plinking, I try to police up my shell casings as much as I can. The amount of brass piled up since last month, indicates there must have been a tremendous firefight here ... attempting to protect all that toilet paper they no doubt hoarded at the beginning of the pandemic. I have no real objections to a bit of target practice.; I just wish that some of the brass would be picked up afterwards.   What I truly object to is the wanton, and very unnecessary, destruction of living trees for too large campfires, and the littering of the landscape, with no regard, or respect, for others who come afterwards to these same wild places. I say again ... with rights come responsibilities and  obligations, to your fellow man, and especially out here in the wild places ... to Nature.  Learn respect for these wild places,  or please stay home.