08 August 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: First Strokes of Taste Of Italy

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I've begun painting the PaintWorks piece Taste of Italy. And there is a ton of detail here and with the glorious opportunities thereunto and the advanced techniques I have a chance to employ, I get a 'tyranny of choice' situation. It's impossible to choose where to start.

When I begin with color, though, I know where it's going to start (thanks to a suggestion from Library Gordon), but first, I took he simplest choice. Just do the black areas.

As earlier pointed out, the black areas are picket out by regions of darkest tone. On the diagram chart, they are starkly black; on the panel, with its screened-back printing, it's a very very dark gray. Still easily identifiable; it's the single darkest tone.

Just cover it with black.

I started in the dark areas in the fruit stall.


This took somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes of work, for two reasons: I was getting the feel of a new brush (Richeson's Gray Matters #2 round, which has immediately become indispensable) and the desire to make it a sort of meditation. PBN is great for this.

After two days of work, I nearly have the entirety of the simply-black spaces covered. After blacking-in the RISTORANTE IL VESUVIO lettering, that'll cover it.


This detail shot gives you the idea of what the black areas on the panel looked like before coverage, and after.


After the sign is painted, on to the first applications of color.

06 August 2018

A Glance At "Pencilgraphing", a Vintage How-To-Draw Book From the Thirties

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It's evolved that one of the things I'm coming to greatly enjoy as age presents itself to me is the idea of antique and vintage art instuctionals. There have been people who want to make a living teaching the average you'n'me how to make drawing a hobby for at leastas long as there's was a Bill Alexander and even longer.

The art publication in the last missive was printed, as near as I can determine, in the mid 1960s. If that seems and antique, how about one from the Great Depression?

Pencilgraphing is the title of this slim, black hardback book I found at Powell's for a song on Saturday. It was published in 1936, by Pencilgraphing, Inc. of none other than little ol' Wenatchee, Washington, and the tagline is Makes sketching as easy as writing.

The title shows three pencils askew of each other and a chisel-shaped eraser similar to a Pink Pearl.


The title pages is handsomely laid out on the verso with an asymmetrical illustration from the author's own hand, presumably the calibre of the work one might eventually produce with diligent practice of the technique.


Like many artistic techniques, George Elgo's teaches you to reduce things you want to draw into the simple forms. In his specialized lingo, the basic shapes are measuring units. Every method maker wants thier own rubrics, and Elgo was apparently no exception.




The tools are simply enumerated: four erasers, three pencils, and a sheet of 00 sandpaper. The pencils are B, 3B, and 6B. Three of the four erasers are those wedge-shaped cap erasers that we all put on the ends of our pencils in grade school when we wore the standard erasers down, and the fourth is the larger, Pink Pearl-style erasers, which are important for their chisel-shaped ends. The drawing ground was simply specified as typing paper. So, the tools are at least accessible.

After a dead-serious couple of lessons introducing the aspiring Pencilgrapher to the basic thin strokes and how to make shading and modeling (massy) strokes, the catalyst is introduced in the use of the erasers.

The author introducing the proper use of the wedge-shaped cap eraser

The erasers are mostly used in this method as a stump or tortillion is used in graphite and pencil art - for blending graphite and modelling shade. Think of the way Bob Ross uses his palette knife to lay in the shading on the side of mountains and you'll have the basics of the idea. In the case of the large chisel eraser, this is used to 'cut' lines, produce highlights, and for blending out or removing large areas of shade as needed.

The author demonstrates use of the large chisel eraser

The sandpaper comes in when you want to do 'modeling': the 6B is scratched against it to leave graphite which can be picked up from it with the wedge-shaped eraser, which is then used to stroke graphite on the paper in the manner of a paint brush. The sandpaper also cleans off the eraser's surface and keeps the edges of the erasers keen as well as shaping the pencil point.

The combination of specialized, simplified strokes with the intentional use of the eraser as a drawing tool and the consolidation of all activity on the pencil brings everything into one functional concentrated place where you're using the pencil like a combination of pencil and blending tool and this is where the author evidently felt that sketching would be as simple as handwriting.

It has some merit. I can see some aspects of it that can be used in any drawing practice, and the dependence on the eraser as an all-purpose blending tool isn't wholly innovative but was a fresh approach to the aspiring artist coming from a layman's perspective.

05 August 2018

Vintage Walter T. Foster Publication Celebrating The "New" Acrylics

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Very old how-to-draw publications find their way to Powell's, as I've shown before. This one here is an unexpected delight, and timely into the bargain.

This is the front cover of what appears to be a periodical, or at least an occasional series, called How and What To Paint. Charmingly cover-priced at the modest amount of thirty cents (at your art store). The publisher, that titan of how-to-do-art books, Walter T. Foster.


This, volume 5, concentrates on three main things: How to draw bears (hence the cover art), mixing colors, and an exciting new thing ... the versatile new plastic paints. What that is, of course, is acrylics; acrylic paint media is pigment emulsified in an acrylic polymer medium, and acrylic polymer is a type of thermoplastic.

When you're painting in acrylic, you're painting with plastic.

The number is undated, though an ade for a brand of mediums and varnishes on the back cover features an oil by Frederic Taubes dated 1964, so it certainly can't have been published before that, quite obviously. Given my recent excursion into the acrylic medium by way of PBN painting, finding this historic jewel is both timely and serendipitous.

The article only covers one spread (less ads) and here is what it looks like:


As exultant the article, penned by managing editor Dixi Hall, was, the charming ads really win. Brushes from Langnickel, and illustration board from Hi-Art, a brand of the National Mat, Card, and Board Co, which exhorts the reader to request free Hi-Art samples, so they may not be left behind when all the other fellow artists rave about it at the next art club meeting.

Truly, we have come so far.

03 August 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: Unboxing Dimensions PaintWorks Taste Of Italy

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So, this is a first for this blog ... an 'unboxing' post. Only this isn't any sort of tech toy. This is a Dimensions PaintWorks PBN kit, the most advanced one I've seen yet, a light-year ahead of any I've done so far.

The-clock-she-is-a-ticking, so let's get started.

PaintWorks is a brand that is part of the Simplicity family of art and craft products. It is a large-format, detail-oriented work intended for the ambitious PBN enthusiast who loves detail and is ready for a challenge above and beyond the more pedestrian Royal & Langnickel works.


The above is the box for PaintWorks #91320, Taste of Italy. It is, as can be seen, a charming, idealized Italian village street scene, bursting with color and Old World pulchritude.

This is 20 in by 16 in. Compared to the works I've been doing so far, this is like a large dining table with the extender in. A couple of things of note here; the piece actually credits the designer (an early sign we're working on another level here) and the picture, if one lets the eye linger in the details, seems to be of the completed PBN work itself, not the detailed picture that the project was abstracted on.

Let's empty the box, shall we?


Here it all is: eighteen snap-together paint pots, the project panel, and a chart sheet with painting diagrammed and charts detailing the paint pots and the various color mixes.


Here, the paint pots unsnapped from their circles and laid out in rows. Note the colors are printed on the fronts of the pots, a real boon ... no scrawling them on the cap in Sharpie this time!

There are two ways to specify the colors. The number in front of the parenthesis is the number used on the diagram itself, and the number in parenthesis is a code number to order more if you happen to run out ...

SCREECH! Hold the bus a moment, driver. 

They actually anticipate you running out of paint?

I'd best paint wisely. As the website on the box is no longer operant and the pages at Simplicty.com that list the PaintWorks kits have no obvious route to ordering replacement paint, a side process here will be researching if that is possible at all. This is a big panel. I can get started but I must do so thoughtfully.

Anyway. Onward into the materials.

This table on the chart is a listing of 'pot' colors ... the unmixed paint. Two points of note: 17, black, is noted on the table with a black swatch. This is one intriguing new thing; the solid black color areas on the panel are where you put the black. You'll have noticed them by now in the picture above where I've arrayed the paint pots; look just below at the solid dark colored areas. I'll just be going over those with black.

Paint color #18 is a thing I've not seen before. It is only used in mixes, never appearing unmixed in the painting.


And, this table lists the mixed colors I'll be creating to complete the painting. This is different from the others, if on the other kits I was to mix #1 and #7, for example, it would be noted as "1/7" on the panel. Here, it's simply A.

Also, see the space on the table that has "7 + 15", how there's a gray swatch next to it? Just as there are solid dark areas to be covered with black paint on the panel, your 7/15 mix is to cover gray-filled areas.

Pretty smart and just the thing for those of us who like 'work-y' art. I have a feeling I"m going to love this.


Here is a closeup on the chart. Here's an important thing. The dashed lines indicate areas that call for a rather advanced painting technique for PBN ... drybrushing. This is meant to produce a visual blending effect. More on this just down the posting.


Here's a closeup of one of the thoughtfully-designed paint pots. They open and close air-tight but easily, and the wide base makes it very stable.


And here's the instructions on drybrushing. You drybrush along the boundaries that are dotted lines to give the appearance of a gradated blend, and a more sophisticated finish than your more average PBN work. And the way this is taught, it instantly occurred to me that this is a portable, and also rather sophisticated skill. This kit is teaching a fairly advanced technique in the context! Exciting, really.


In the way that I used marker in the last work to make it sort of a multimedia thing, the instructions indicate detailing with marker or pen may be called for.


Withal, this looks like a project that will teach as well as entertain in the doing. I can't start it immediately but very soon, and I can't really wait to get started ... though I'll have to!

Check in here for the painters progress.

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Diner, Completed

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So, I glide-pathed gracefully into the end of Royal & Langnickel's PAL28-3T: 50's Diner. Of the various projects I've done since PBN has re-introduced itself to me, and me, it, this has been by far the most fun and satisfying.

Whoever designed the kit knew just what to leave out and put it. The rendering of the illustration onto PBN abstract was immaculate, as far as I'm concerned.


As I've mentioned under other aegis, the plan was to work from the outside in. That meant sky, ground, foliage, cars, building, sign. It worked out very well in this one. The above picture was the first fillins to the building, which was, by then, the only part of the picture remaining un-painted. The long lines and straight spaces contrasted interestingly with he ripply reflections in the windows.


Filling in the rest o the windows and getting the dark areas in the building gave it solidity and dimension and really started to make the painting pop.


The completion of the sign atop the diner was the final pin that the logic of the lighting pivoted on. The bright yellow of the neon in the word DINER gave the yellow areas of reflected light on the cars and the building's side its internal sense. It was also terribly much fun to do.

There area  couple of small things that actually makes this, by definition, multi media. The black print on the sign and the numbers on the license plate have issues; the plate gets covered up by the light blue and the part of the sign with the writing on it is unpainted (that's the panel showing through) and the writing is in the same screened-back blue that the rest of the painting's marks are. Fine line Sharpie to the rescue! So, I can truthfully say that this is a work in acrylic paint and marker. Multi-media artist, me, now!

And we'll put this one on the wall near the others. It should be a centerpiece, really.

Next up, we have an uncommon thing for this blog ... an unboxing! And it all has to do with the next project.

29 July 2018

On Entering Into Painting with Acrylics

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The recent fun and adventure of The Daily Paint By Number series has really turned me on to the idea of painting with acrylics as an ongoing thing.

There is a great deal about painting with acrylics that I've heard: They're versatile, vibrant colors, can be impasto'd like oils but flow and mix like watercolors. All this, I've found to be true, even with the cheapo barely-student-grade acrylics included in the Royal & Langnickel kits.

They are quick-drying, yes. But that's something you can learn to anticipate. These PBN acrylics dry in under a half-hour (hell, I think it only takes about 15 minutes), but if you stay on top of it and keep thinning it with a little water (just a drop, literally, will do) you can keep painting as long as you keep paying attention to the work. For someone who's using art making as therapy and meditation, this hits the mark exactly and satisfyingly.

Last night, at Powell's, I found a couple of great books on the deep information on painting with acrylics, generally. The Wife™ has a few books from when she was experimenting with acrylic painting and I'm looking into those as well. So, here, the exploration begins; I'll still work the PBNs, because when you want to do art but have nothing in mind, they're just the thing to practice one's touch and develop dexterity. Mixing paints is fun, too!

Yesterday, at I've Been Framed, I've gotten a few extra brushes. I already have a number of watercolor brushes of various sizes, but so far, for the detail that PBNs sometimes call for, the #2 Round is proving to be a real work-horse. I got a #1 and #2 Round made by Grey Matters by Jack Richeson, and spouse found a #2 Round Liquitex in the bargain bin out on the sidewalk.

I strongly encourage anyone wandering in the Foster Powell area and looking for real art-supply bargains to check the bins out on the sidewalk in front of IBF. Such great found-objects, clearance and used-but-still-usable art supplies you'll find nowhere else in town, and it's one of the man reasons why IBF is a gem.

26 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Cars at the 50's Diner

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The detail on the cars is complete. The colors are rich and bold and fun.



The richness and boldness of the colors really kind of kick this up to a whole 'nother level that Flying Fortress didn't go to, and that level has made this picture a whole lot more fun to do.



25 July 2018

Zob the Glob and the Pause That Refreshes

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Or, to mix commercial metaphors and taglines, let's just say that Zob probably does this at 10, 2, and 4.

We are a Dr Pepper household after all.

Zob the Glob by The Wife™. Used with permission.

Zob loves him a little soda pop, but who doesn't?


24 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Diner, 50's Car

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Proceeding with the painting, I've blocked in the sky and parking lot and the trees, the cars, and the building stand out in negative space.


This has so far been a most satisfying experience; I love the rendering and the colors they've chosen. Despite being an old set, the colors are creamy and go quite a ways. They stand up to a lot of thinning.


The completion of the foliage in the background left me with the option of starting on the building, since I like to do these things in stages, or the cars. Continuing on the outside-working-in method, I start with the foreground car on the left. Which is a Ford, I guess, or something.

I'm only really good at classic VWs.



You'll noted a little smudge of color outsdanding the left edge of the diner building and to the right of the dark blue smudge in the white area. This is what we PBN insiders call an 'oopsie', and something that I will have to fix as I go into those areas of the painting. With these inexpensive acrylics, it won't be hard, really.


19 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: 50's Diner Sky Complete, and Laying The Asphalt

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The experience so far working 50's Diner is more satisfying than Flying Fortress was. This subject was much better-adapted, or maybe it suits the PBN mode better. Also, the choice of colors is much more apt. Add that to a panel that has the lines and numbers in a very light blue, but still readable, and you have a project whose progress is, so far, quite pleasing.


The top third of the panel now has the sunset sky standing out, and despite the abstraction, the effect is very pleasing to the eye. The bottom is the blues, blacks and grays of the parking lot asphalt: There's a two part swath of a #5/#10 mix, and a larger swath of a deeper, blue-tinged black of a #5/#16 mix.

The plan next is to cover the area to the right of the parked cars. There's a challenge here that was unexpected; the area marked 10/25 is bracketed by two parking lot areas that have no numbers in them at all, not even a hint as to what the maker figured was the appropriate color. I'm going to freestyle it, of course; after I see what 10/25 looks like, I'll either mix a harmonzing color out of two of the three of #10, #25, or #16, or just use the #5/#10 mix. It all depends on what #10/#25 look like. After that, I'll bracket the diner by doing the foliage, then fill in the muscle cars.

I like moving in from the edge to the middle. With this work, it's aquitting the effort magnificently so far.

Here's what it looks like beyond the painting:


The rectangular tray is a nifty palette I got some years back. It's designed for acrylic paints; white, because that's what is best to mix these colors against; it has four rubberized feet, so as not to slide about, holds the brushes well in that side-channel, and is made of a nice durable plastic. This allows me to simply scrape/peel the dried paint off with the edge of a retired debit or credit card.

I'm sure there's some irony in using a retired financial instrument to clean an acrylic paint palette this way, but the words escape me just now. If it's important enough, I'm sure I'll find 'em, someday.

The Royal Society Affirms Captain Haddock's Yeti Hypothesis

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The Wife™ has recently been ethusiastically enjoying a book on cryptozoology and cryptids by Bryan Sykes, Bigfoot, Yeti, and the Last Neanderthal. She likes it because the author seems to be a skeptic who kinda wants to believe but is unafraid of exploring the subject anyhow. She says it's compelling reading.

In her own exploration of the subject, she stumbled on a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (yes, that Royal Society) titled "Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates". This study reports on the effort to resolve the origins of a number of hair samples of 'anomalous primates'; the abstract at least dashes the hopes of cryptid-lovers early; the closest to outre it gets is that two samples were synchronous with the Paleolithic polar bear, the rest were traceable to a 'range of extant mammals'.

Now, I'm no real Tintinologist, but my spouse knew the following would delight me:


... confirmed Captain Haddock's suspions that the yeti was an ungulate.

Sure, Tintin was the main character, but not only did Captain Haddock steal the show most of the time, he's the one that got published in the scientific literature. Not bad for a reformed (although unwittingly-so) drunken sea captain, but then, Haddock was a genius at self-reinvention.

 Lest we forget, the cite:
One wonders what Herge would have thought. Probably would have been delighted.

Captain Haddock for the win.

17 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: The Sky Over The 50's Diner

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... and on to our next project.

As promised, it's Royal & Langnickel's PAL28-3T, titled 50s Diner. It's a stereotypical roadside diner straight out of all your 1950s American fantasies, with two classic muscle cars parked in front. I'm starting with the sky and will probably do the ground then work my way in.

The sky is darkening to night, so it'll be deeply blue toward the zenith. This is accomplished by using #16, a royal blue, and #5, a lighter blue (we saw this one in PAL21, Flying Fortress) and a mix of the two.


Another plus on this kit is that the markings, while still readable, are done in a very screened-back blue. This will obviate the problem on my other two R&L kits, that is, markings that still show plainly through the otherwise-opaque paint.

16 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: The Flying Fortress Is Complete

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I present for the delectation of all, Royal & Langnickel's PAL21, Flying Fortress, complete at it's gonna git.


It does indeed have the sort of animation-rotoscoped look that Library Gordon said it did. Like most PBN works, it looks a little better when you step back from it and let the colors and textures loose sharp definition and visually blend (this is why Chuck Close's work looks the way it does and works the way it does).

I move on now to the next work, R&L's PAL28-3T, 50's Diner.

12 July 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: PAL-21 "Flying Fortress" Is Almost Done

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TDPBN (Which, strictly speaking, isn't daily but this is my art and my blog and I do what I want) checks in with this nearly-complete piece.


The atmospheric feel kinda comes through, kinda. But the adaption of the original picture to PBN was kind of misguided, I thing. Still, it's a good deal of fun.

I"ve located another project for following up this one ... well, actually, The Wife™found it, languishing in our lodger's gear and he doesn't want it so it's mine. It's R&L's PAL28-3T, titled "50's Diner". Yep. You've seen this picture in some form whenever you've had a burger in the USA, because burger dives are marooned in the 1950s with no hope of rescue, along with pictures of Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean. No Elvis, Marilyn, or JD in this one, just classic muscle-cars parked outside a caboose-car diner. So adorably, charmingly, cliche. If THIS doesn't lend itself to PBN, nothing does.

And here's a Protip: keep the pots of paint you don't use for these, not because it's just a frugal thing to do, but R&L's PBN paint series uses the same code numbers for all their paints across the lines. So #1 is the same white as in PAL21, and #3 is the same yellow, #5 is the same cool grayish-blue ... so I have backup paint supplies now (or replacements if the ones in this one have gone bad in storage). This next one is missing #32, which is a hot neon pink-scarlet color (and judging by the smear of color it didn't go from the package without a fight), but I just checked one of the colors in that set I got last month as Craft Warehouse and there's a hot pink that's near enough as makes negligible difference.

 

10 July 2018

The Saint Johns Bridge: Coming Back To Town

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Got another snap before we left the parking area on Bridge Avenue: as I said earlier, the west end of the bridge runs right into the hillside. At that end, the roadway makes a T-intersection with Bridge Avenue which allows a good viewpoint for a straight-on view up the road.


The pavement makes it easy to snap this POV without having to walk out into traffic to do it and really puts the gothic arch details of the tower into viewable aspect, letting them be the star.

This corner of Portland is quite far out from the city center, nearly seven miles out. Views south and east from the roadway, both NW Bridge Avenue and NW St Helens Road, reveal the working harbor of Portland, the lowest few miles of the Willamette River - wide, cool, and mighty.

That lift span bridge in the middle distance is Portland's hidden bridge, which doesn't even have a name really, and carries the railroad main line north into the cut through the North Portland peninsula and to Vancouver and points north.

Though the area on the west side of the river does have a rather descriptive name: Willbridge. 
 

NW Saint Helens Road travels between industry and tank farms on the left as you're inbound to city center, and on the right, the towering, forested hills of Forest Park. Old, careworn industrial lots and orphaned gas stations predominate on the right hand side of the road as well, with a handful of homes (including two rather incongruous vintage fourplexes) scattered amongst, and a few avenues intersecting numbered in the NW 60s running back only about a block before dead-ending into the hill.

Very soon on the end of this district, at the cross street of NW Kittridge Avenue, the main road swerves and assumes the name NW Yeon Avenue, Saint Helens Road assuming the role of the old highway and straightlining amongst the industrial district toward the center of town. It's then, more than three miles out, that you notice the great arch of the Fremont Bridge, one of the other iconic river landmarks.

It's somewhat intimidating when you get to the point illustrated here:


... and you're still more than a mile away.

08 July 2018

The Saint Johns Bridge: Framing and Color

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Now that I was finally on-point, it was time to play with framing and the effects thoughtfully provided in-camera to the Canon Powershot S-100 by the manufacturer.

This first one is something of an "expected" compostion, good for just a nice picture you can enjoy and lose yourself in. Landsape.


I've zoomed and cropped to give you a good look at a couple of features of the local geography. Notice the grove of evergreens there at the middle of the left side of the photo? That's a large park on the west side of the St. Johns neighborhood called Pier Park. And, despite the proximity to some of the working Portland harbor, it's not named for a bit of nautical architecture, but a city commissioner, Sylvester Pier, who was Parks Commissioner from 1919 through 1923.



Above the right end of the grove you can just barely see the cone of Luuwit ... Mount St Helens. The predominance of blue light and white cloud makes the volcano kind of soften back into the background. On a truly clear day you can just sew Washington's highest peak, mighty Tahoma ... Mount Rainier.


Just a few feet up the trail from the viewpoint an opening in the foliage provided an additional framing opportunity so I grabbed it. The strong vertical lines of the bridge's towers lent themselves aptly to a portrait orientation.

Still, the photo doesn't do justice to the way the bridge's architecture dominates the visual field. This is something you have to experience in person. Framing and composition, as with Wy'east, only gets you part the way ... a great deal of the way, but there's nothing like the human experience.

And, the next two photos take advantage of the monochrome filters on the camera to produce dramatic images with emotional content for me. I recall seeing similar monochromatic images as station-ID cards on local TV when I was just a runt, so this takes me back to Silverton, when my only idea of what Portland was, was on the TV.

Black and white:


... and an unexpectedly-intriguing blue tone, which works even better in portrait.


The Saint Johns Bridge: The Path Up To The Viewpoint

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The trailhead to the trail to the viewpoint is easy to miss. The stairway to the trail was built aeons ago, in anno urbis Portlandiensis terms, and it blends in amongst the slope and the shade from the trees and the ivy that covers the hillside. This is what it looks like in Google Street View because I was so intent on going up there, that I didn't stop to lens it.

I, like my camera subsequently, was auto-focussed.


It's easy to drive past. The parking area for this, additionally, is about 200 feet (more or less) down the slope (on the left of that view). It's also not much of a parking area: it's more of a wide-spot turnout. Five or six cars and its full.

But it did give me the chance to take a few nifty snaps on the way up. So, there's that.


This steep, narrow, old concrete staircase is the first step. Up, left, up, right, then to a levelled-out spot created of that big retaining wall.

You'd think there'd be something of a view of the bridge from that, but, no; the trees that have grown there over the years completely obscure it. Of course, the view of the trees, as is the knowledge that one is on the edge of Portland's Forest Park, is invigorating in its way.

It also becomes obvious why they call it that ... if it wasn't already.

Herein, the top of those stairs:


The blue-clad lady is actually a forest nymph of whom I'm terribly, terribly fond. Below the railing is the bridge approach. Diverging up and behind her is the trail to the viewpoint.

This, as one can see, is not a 'walking path' or a bike route (well, unless you're insane). This is a trail, in the sense of a path I would encounter back when I was the world's most crap Boy Scout. This an old school trail. And the trail, as can be seen in the next photo, is kind of treacherous in spots; the wifely nymph, who has occaisional problems with vertigo affecting her sure footing elected to stay here and wait on me.


That root and the slope across the trail are ankle-twisters for sure. I could not criticize my wife's reluctance.

But for me, onward ... ever upward. The trail after that is narrow, but passable and steep, but not too steep. My out-of-shape self broke a sweat. But it was a beautiful environment to be in.


The viewpoint comes on you suddenly after less than three minutes of climbing this path. It's a wooden platform with a rail on the downhill side; the ground below it kind of dips into a tiny crevice, only a foot or two deep, giving the impression of a half-bridge. Though small, there's enough room for a modest number of people to view, and while a few people came past me as I was there, I never felt crowded.

And all you have to do there, is turn, and look through the foliage. There it is.


The feeling of depth and space and vista overtakes one immediately. The image above seems to be of looking out through a tunnel in the ground cover. The truth of the spot is it actually feels wide and open, something of a visual megaphone: like the sound version amplifies your voice from a point to spread out via a horn, the outlook seems to be a lens, pulling in more space and distance than a mere photograph can illustrate.

I stood for a number of minutes before I actually snapped any pictures, taking an experiental snapshot, a memory that I should hope never fades.

I then, of course took a number of pictures. More on that next episode.

07 July 2018

Approaching The Saint Johns Bridge From The West

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The two approaches to the Saint Johns Bridge couldn't me much more different if they were placed in different time zones.

The east approach, from the business district of its namesake Portland neighborhood, is kind of what you'd expect from a bridge like this. From a high point on N. Philadelphia Avenue just a block or so south of Lombard street, the land drops away on a quick but gradual slope and a long steel trusswork which goes on for what must be 800-1000 feet before entering the main suspension span of the work.

The west end runs straight into the side of a hill.

Below the west end of the Saint Johns Bridge US Hwy 30, a/k/a NW Saint Helens Road and the main road out of the northwest corner of Portland and the route to the coast at Astoria, runs. It's probably about 100 feet straight up. So they engineered an approach on the west side that involves a side road, and this road is called NW Bridge Avenue. Climbing at a remarkable slope, maybe a three or four per cent grade, I don't know, it connects with the west end of the bridge a its summit before descending again to reconnect with Hwy 30.

This is part of the nature within Portland that everyone knows us for, and it's beautiful and busy and urban all at the same time. While the view of the bridge itself from the viewpoint is stunning, there is much to look at and admire on the way up, here at what is the edge of Portland's Forest Park.

You're already on the side of the hill by the time you're halfway up to the bridge entrance, so while the views aren't as stunning as the one from the viewpoint, they're still exceptional.

Such as ...


Looking down the hill you get glimpses of the wide Willamette, thick trees, and the bluff of the North Portland peninsula, looking pleasantly green on this warm early-summer day in Cascadia.


Just out of shot on the right in this photo, the end of that nearly horizontal tree truck ends in a fractured tree trunk and stump, probably some sort of windfall. What keeps the windfall from being a deadfall is that there are so many trees here that if and when it falls, it won't fall far. The motorists on NW Saint Helens Road below have nothing to worry on, I'm certain.


And, as much as the bridge looks gorgeous, framing it as weaving itself in and out of the nature that's already there makes it terribly artistic and harmonious. The gothic lines of the bridge harmonize nicely with the chaotic joy of the sylvan canopy.