24 November 2021

A vanGogh Watercolor Pocket Box


Whether or not I actually get round to using them, I'm a sucker for pocket watercolor paint boxes. 

VanGogh, a brand of Royal Talens has a selection of good ones. They've curated a few themed sets; they have a 'vivid colors' box, a 'muted colors' box, a 'pearlescent and interference' box (stylish, in black) and a 'general selection'.

I got the general selection because I just play at watercolor at present. Here's what it looks like opened up:

The arrangement is a very nice size; there's pocket in my canvas shoulder bag it fits exactingly and satsifyingly. Ten colors, plus Chinese White for tinting and Payne's Gray for shading.

The little included brush is an interesting one. It collapses like many small brushes of that type, and the end of the brush has a sort of bevel that makes it resemble the end of a woodwind. This edge fits into a notch on the right side of that mixing tray, making it easy to pop it out to provide access to the one big mixing area in the lid. Otherwise it snaps in nice and tidy.

The quality of the paints can be seen in the following picture.

The quality seems comparable to Winsor & Newton's Cotman line of student/amateur grade colors, which means this is a good choice as well for amateur dabblers and those getting started in watercolors, who want more than a Prang box but don't feel confident enough yet to lay out the big bucks on professional grade paint.

They say you should buy the best you can afford, and I won't argue with that, but I'm sure I'm not the only aspiring artist who got sticker shock when we priced those paints. I mean, Bob Ross Inc. makes their video content next to free and widely available, but it's when you price paint and supplies when it dawns on you where that sweet sweet revenue comes from. I believe you should decide for yourself where the line between what one can afford and what one feels comfortable using, and buy as close to that line as you can get. I do think one shouldn't settle for less than student grade; you won't go broke that way while learning confidence with real big-kid art supplies.

The colors in the vanGogh general selection box span the primaries, with biases: Permanent lemon yellow/Azo yellow medium, Permanent red light/Madder lake deep, Ultramarine deep/Cerulean blue (phthalo), Sap green/Veridian, also the ever-dependable earths Yellow ochre and Burnt sienna, plus Chinese White and Payne's gray rounding out the set.

I also got a Niji medium water-brush pen, which was the first time I've ever used such a thing, and was quite a liberating experience. 

The Persistence of Memory, The Home Game


Who said Dali was just imagining it?

This was on one of the shelves at I've Been Framed-Art Supply Center, and it didn't have a price tag on it, but I imagine it was for sale. We just don't have a place in the house to display it, not really, but if I go back and it's still there, I just might figure out a place.

Bike City Art Store


I'm betting your art supply store isn't as au courant as mine.

Looking out onto SE Foster Rd from the watercolor section of IBF, three days ago.

Don't you wish your art supply store was hot like mine? 

The Current Painting: PaintWorks 73-91733, "Summer Farm", Plate 3


The progress has placed, now, a charming and nifty rock wall in the forefront of the painting. This took more than an evening because, first, there are so many little tiny regions to cover, miss, remix paint and return to, and second, I embrace this because it is very much a healing meditation.

It is, as all PaintWorks projects do, shaping up nicely, no?

Also want to mention that Princeton Art & Brush's "Snap!" value-priced line of brushes is the aspiring-artist-on-a-budget's best friend. Oh, I've said that before?

Well, it still holds true.

I finally got me a van Gogh pocket watercolor box and an water-brush pen for doing watercolors. It's a bit late, though, so I'm going to hold off on that until tomorrow. 

21 November 2021

The Current Painting: PaintWorks 73-91733, "Summer Farm", Plates 1 and 2


We have been getting back into painting, and PaintWorks' PBNs are always, always ready to go and great fun and much detail.

I've started one titled "Summer Farm", number 73-91733. 

This is plates 1 and 2 of progress on the bucolic scene.

The old truck emerges from the horse pasture it's abandoned in and doing all that foliage painting is great fun, very therapeutic. We need much therapy around here in the art way.

The Face of a Minstrel


There was an OryCon this year, OryCon 42. And they're taking a year off, a 1-year hiatus isn't a big deal when you consider 42 years without a break, including Pandemic Year, when it was virtual.

This made this our last chance to do a thing until 2023; seeing Alexander James Adams do his thing, which is a good thing.

The performance this year was a mild comedy of errors; filker Cecelia Eng and Alec appeared to be scheduled for the same space at the same time. In the spirit of full-speed-ahead that characterizes Pacific Northwest fandom, it kinda became an hour of Alec and Friends, and was no bad thing. Now, Alec lets us take pictures of him as he performs, which is totally generous. 

I got this:

This is not Alec mugging the camera. It is not posed. I happened to be pointing the camera his way and squeezed he shutter at just the right moment, and it's important to point this out because it expresses the way he approaches his performances and his life as a musician; all-in. Alec has an act, be he himself is not the act; that's real enjoyment, real emotion, 100% authentic; the expression of someone killing it at what they were born to do.

We've been listening and seeing Alec when we can for more than 30 years now. Watching him grow and develop during the years, even in our desultory way, is and will be the dearest of dear memories, for as long as we have lives to live. 

17 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 50: The End of the Road


The corner of Winter and Gaines Streets in north Salem ... That's the trip, my friends, those of you who have followed my string of babble and photos on this meagrely-read blog, I'm grateful to you.

For me, and for all I know, for my wife as well, a trip to the Coast and returning to the Valley have a certain bittersweet despair to it, and for me, it always has. You're back inland, it was cool and bracing and it's now warm and a little stultifying; such is the contempt that familiarity brings, and the northern half of the Willamette Valley is the literal ground from which I sprung, some patches of that dirt I literally know as well as parts of my very own body.

So, here it is: a picture of a modern street sign on a corner in sleepy residential North Salem, just a few blocks away from the house my wife lived in when I met her (an area she can still find her way about blindfolded, I'm sure)

It's still a damn fine place to spend ones' life, this part we know today as a part of northwestern Oregon, but compared to the Oregon Coast, everything seems a little lacklustre, at least for a while.

And so it goes.

16 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) part 49: Another View Down 12th Street Hill


This is a picture I've taken before, but I can't resist taking it again when I've the chance.

Coming north on 12th St SE, heading from the South Salem hill toward the city center, as one passes Madrona St SE one will notice the hill. A long, straight hill that connects 12th Street on the hill to its lower-elevation leg. It gives a great visual angle.

And, also, one pleasant trick of Salem geography is that a few streets look like they lead right up to the Capitol but don't actually go straight there. Center St NE is one. And 12th St SE, from this point, is another.

This angle also shows off one of Salem's most seductive aspects: so covered in trees that one has to get a pretty high vantage point in much of the town to actually perceive a town. Salem is all about trees, and that's one of the most beguiling things about it, but unlike Oregon's other big cities, it doesn't like to brag. It ... and its populace ... just enjoy what they have there. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 48: One Of The Most Interesting Street Blades In Salem


As proven elsewhere in this prolix chronicle, a road trip to me isn't complete without bagging a few street blades. And we were just happening to cruise down South Commercial into the hilly, forested demesne known as South Salem where two important local roads come together.

One, of course, would be Commercial St, SE or, in the local parlance, simply South Commercial. The other is the end of what seems to be 12th St SE, but not technically so. If one follows 12th south from the city center one will note that near that south end the street bends southwesterly to intersect with Commercial. While this directs all 12th Street traffic to a merge with Commercial, this street has actually changed its name. 12th St SE's name is extended straight south into the neighborhood immedately east of that; the diagonal road's name, reflecting its function in connecting 12th to Commercial via the path of least resistance is 12th Street Cut-off, SE. And the signs reflect this.

A further cut-off ramp reaching a little north on Commercial looks like this, omitting the directional SE:

Meanwhile, across the street, a severe angle with the intersection of Ibsen St SE put both streets on the same placard, as it were:

This sign is more in keeping with the general design grammar and logic of the average Salem street blade, while giving the eye an interesting thing to look at by enlarging the ST abbreviation to the visual precedence of the rest of the street name. 

However one looks at it, the blade for this Salem street has to do a lot of work, more than most, and makes the display of one of the more interesting street names in any town I've known just that much more memorable. 

12 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 47: At Salem


After all this rambling and ambling, we pass through the Salem City Center.

You can't help it, really. There's only one way to go if you don't know the area, and that's it.

Salem's a funny burg in this way. Currently, the population within the limits of Salem is about 175,000. It lies on both sides of the Willamette River, as do Portland and Eugene, but unlike Portland and Eugene (and especially Portland), there are only two bridges connecting east and west banks, and when you view the Marion and Center Street Bridges as two sides of one highway, there's only one real road over it. 

And if you don't hit the river crossing there, you have two choices; the bridge at Independence or the one at Newberg, which get you to countryside locations that are 10-20 miles distance. 

The inbound side of Hwy 22, which ends its westbound approach as a riverfront expressway bypass separating downtown West Salem from the river, becomes Center Street Bridge and comes to ground on the east side in downtown at Commercial St NE. As one crosses that bridge, this is view from the car window:

It's quite a beautiful riverfront these days, and a world's difference from when I was a teenager and a early twentysomething here. What amounts to high-rise buildings in downtown Salem can be seen here, too; one can quickly surmise that my old hometown is a pretty modest place. Salem always has been fairly modest about itself. Makes a rather lovely place of it, I can see now (in all honesty, I did not always see this. Perspective makes you consider things differently)

If one scans in from the left side, the first tall building one sees is the Capitol Tower. This is an 11-story high-rise at the corner of State Street and Liberty Street, and is about 151 feet tall as far as the building structure itself goes. This is the tallest office building in Salem, and the third-tallest structure in town after the First United Methodist Church (whose spire tops out at 188 feet) and the State Capitol (the coif of the Oregon Pioneer being 176 feet above street level). There is, alas, no observation deck (in that way, Portland and Salem have a common thing). 

The only other tall building you can see there is a 7-floor condo silo down on Front Street. That was a bit of surprise for me ... there's apartment towers in downtown Salem now. My little home town is really starting to grow up, I guess.

Here's another experiential landmark:

This is the Equitable Center at Center and High Streets. It tops out at a modest 7 floors and was built back in the 1970s and, like certain other tall buildings I can think of, is named for a financial institution that no longer exists as such (or at all) but, palimpsest-like, the name lingers on. Quite a stylish example if the day, I always thought (as I came home from school in the evenings on the Cherriots bus). 

And, no matter where you are in central Salem, you're never far away from this modern monument:

Why didn't I ask The Girl to pull over on Court Street to snap some update pictures? Well, you know that point in your trip where the pull of home is very strong? We were there. 45 minutes down Interstate 5 and we'd be back. 

We did a little loop around town (I have a few more pictures to share) and then headed back. And there must always be a reason to come back to town because few opportunities seem to present themselves these days, and reasons for follies such as these must always be at the ready.

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 46: Hwy 22 West Of Salem


This is kind of a continuation of the feeling I started in the last post, but with a different angle of incidence. How things were to how they are.

After passing the junction of Hwy 22, Hwy 223, and Hwy 99W that has developed over the last 40 years to enable you to bypass the intersection burg of Rickreall so well that you don't have to go through it even if you are trying to get to Dallas from Salem, the highway bents from NW-SE to dead-on E-W and begins the first part of the final approach into Salem from the west across the flat farmlands that dominate the area between there and the edge of the Eola Hills that define West Salem. 

Just like many things I comment on in my roadworthy experience, this was not so remarkably as it is. That is actually a banal observation overworded because I wanted to, but no less true: the interesting thing about Hwy 22 coming into Salem from the west is how it's evolved. The only similar highway I can imagine in form and function is Portland's own Sunset Highway, but that was laid down at one more-or-less fell swoop. It's a full-on freeway. Hwy 22 started out as a local road and evolved that way, and it hasn't finished its evolution. 

Dig, if you will, this picture:

This is along part of that length I mentioned before. Straight on like an arrow from Rickreall to the Hwy 51 junction just west of Eola Bend. Less than a mile to the right as this angle has it, there's a local road called Rickreall Road that winds close to the namesake creek, intersecting 99W just south of 22 at the namesake community. This road used to by Hwy 22, and was bypassed by the road in the picture above, which went in around 1970, give or take a couple of years. 

At the time and for many years after the verges each side of the road were treeless, giving unobstructed views of the fields and farms on either side and the rail line it passed over, but at some time during the intervening 30-plus years succeeding the 1980s someone got the idea to plant these trees, and I did rather enjoy the feeling of going down a tree corridor as we passed through this part of Polk County approaching the metropole. 

The next picture is taken from the car window at a place I like to call Eola Bend: the historic townsite of Eola still exists here and this amounts to the business district. It's the extreme western edge of the incorporated area of Salem, and it's where Hwy 22 finally comes up against the Willamette.

The name on the building reads Eola Inn, because that's what it was as a business and what it is as a landmark. It's been a roadhouse, middle-to-upperbrow supper club, and a outlier to the Rock'n'Rogers chain of un-remarkable painfully-50s burger dives. 

It now appears to be the central building of an awkwardly-arranged used car lot. Never saw that one coming. 

11 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 45: The Long View Down 22


Just a nifty long view down State Hwy 22, which comes down as a diagonal until you reach Rickreall and it straightens out for a direct east-west approach to the Capital City:

The wavery watery look reminds me very well of the somewhat-unwelcome feeling of warmth of the inland areas this day ... it was in the eighties. Back at the coast, it was still in the sixties.

That's one reason why Valley people assault the Coast during summer, anyway ... not-gonna-Oregon-lie about it. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 44: Farms of Polk County


Salem and Portland are similar in that the metropolitan city has a west-side county that's still greatly rural that the main coastal route runs through but that's about it, really.

Polk County is no Washington County. It's more like Yamhill County but it doesn't take itself as seriously as Yamhill sometimes does. And there's certainly no sprawling western suburbs, no Silicon Farmland. 

Here's one of the farms we saw off OR 22 that day:

And here is the collection of buildings ... including no less than three grain elevators ... near Rickreall:

Hwy 22 is increasingly becoming a freeway as you pass through the farmland east of Salem but we don't sprawl here in Oregon. Development has not shot rhizomic tendrils out into that area, and it still produces the crops. And the fields all but abut the western city limits of Salem, which is a city of nearly 170,000 (the second ... or third ... no, second ... check back later ... city in the state).

It's timeless and sweet, not everyone's can of beer but for those who love the country, you don't have to go very far out of town to find it, here in the Willamette Valley.

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 43: Hwy 22 Through The Coast Range


Like I said earlier, there's a certain 'gateway' feeling, like passing through a door, when you take a certain path away from a place going to another place. This is a powerful feeling when you're a child of the Willamette Valley in any way, because if you're leaving Lincoln City you begin to fell inland as early as Neotsu, and certainly by the time you hit Otis. 

These two locations are within three miles of the Pacific beach, Neotsu in particular now actually existing within L.C.'s boundaries, but if you're headed home, and home's the Valley, the Ocean may as well be three hundred miles away instead of just three. You're going home, and the beach is nowhere near it, and that's all you feel from there on out.

The journey eastward from L.C. to the Valley took us along OR 18 which handed us off to OR 22 as we passed through the Grand Ronde Valley which straddles the boundary between Yamhill and Polk Counties. Passing by Spirit Mountain Casino is hardly the event one expects; It's just a big resort hotel, really. Just past this, across the floor of the Grand Ronde, just after OR 18 receives OR 22 from the north at Valley Junction, the highway has become an expressway of sorts, the sides of the highway separated by long string of Jersey barriers, and one fully-separated expressway interchange (Fort Hill Road, which is EXIT 25, despite being the only such exit along 18 or 22 in the Coast Range, because giving exits a number based on a milepost is a standard now in Oregon). 

As the combine highway leaves the Grand Ronde, OR 22 splits to the right. This is how you come back into the Valley, bound for Salem.

Now, I'm going to be a little sacrilegious here, or at least sound that way, but OR 18 and 22 crossing the Coast Range is a bit of a paradox. It is beautiful, Oregon Beautiful. It is simultaneously dreary. It's the same beautiful up and down the pike, all the way, and it's a longish drive, so you begin to yearn for some city (unless you're a country mouse, in which case, you don't have to go to West Virginia for Almost Heaven; it's right here). The VanDuzer Forest Corridor, which you drive through over the Coast crest (a clever thing; they harvested trees only to within a half-mile of the road, so the clearcuts remained tastefully out of sight and mind) is a beauty; you leave it, and farm land clings to the road here and there. Eventually, the view from the car looks like this:

This is 100% full-on Oregon countryside, the ones the colonists came to farm. As perfect a modern farmland idyll as can be had on a road trip; it seems as though a great deal of it has never changed and never will, and is as distant as can be.

07 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 42: The Beach at Roads End


I've alluded to Roads End before.

To recap, it's a community at the north end of Lincoln City; if you're leaving L.C. on the north side, Hwy 101 curves inland towards Neotsu, the Hwy 18 junction, Neskowin and points north. Just at that point where it curves away from the beach, a road, Logan Road, strikes northward further but into a cul-de-sac of a residential district where L.C.'s highest-numbered streets can be found. Blocked in by a headland literally just north of the city limits, one must turn around to get back out; ergo, road's end. 

It's a charming little neighborhood with a very accessible beach access. And that's where we went.

 It's also very very popular. Parking was easy to get to and hard to actually find. But we did, and had our reward thereupon.

The wind as mas macho this day and spray coated our glasses and we had to take time and wipe 'em; I nearly lost Birthday Hat for good, pretty close. There was a fellow there who did two things simultaneously that Oregonians do when they go to the beach: fly a kite and board the waves. The photo, back before this last one, shows him; he leapt and soared but came back down quickly each time, and looked quite exhilarated.

Actually, here, we came back. We were intending  to finally strike out for the Valley, and home, but after we got just past the Hwy 18 turnoff, the Girl turned round and we went back; north of that, 101 did its inland thing and we both wanted to see a bit more of the ocean, feel the breeze, hear the surf.

And why not? We could. That's the beauty of being grown ups. When you're kids on a trip to the coast, you're driving away from the beloved beach and you have to go along with that. But if you're a grown-up and you're behind the wheel, you want one more good look at the Pacific, then you get it. It's your call.

We got what we needed, in this grace-note last look. Stiff breeze, the smell of the sea, the roar of the surf, people enjoying the beach in that Oregon way (down jackets, kiteboarders, the freshness of the air), the clouds coming down to touch the water ... and we left when we were good and ready.

Adultness has its burdens, and life is finite in span and constrained in possibilities, but we do have this and, for the time being, it kind of makes it all worth it. 

I love Lincoln County.