Sunday, May 15, 2016

Clarno Unit

The full title of this post should read "Clarno Unit: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument". It is quite a grand title but, it is also a grand place. I am about to take off for another plein air trip and I suddenly realized, in all the crazy-business of my life these days, I haven't posted about last month's trip!

So to fill in a few details, I joined up with all the other artists in the Plein Air Painters of Oregon (PAPO) for a weekend of painting at the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Park which I will hereby refer to as Clarno. The link will take you to the National Park's website for more information. If anyone is curious, it is worth looking at. Clarno is a fascinating place to visit as well as paint!
We all stayed at the Hancock Field Station which is a research and educational station run by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The Hancock Field Station is not open to the general public.

I can go on for pages detailing the wonderful time I had. It was a bit like spring camp for plein air painters. We all got to pick which cabin to stay in. I ended up having a little cabin to myself which went by the sweet name of Rose Hip:

We were not allowed on the site until after 6:00 pm on Friday so the good folks could make the transition from one group leaving to ours arriving. Interestingly enough, the good folks were all biology graduates in their early 20's. They were absolutely wonderful, full of enthusiasm for the area and knowledge. My little cabin was very basic but I slept surprisingly well.

The first full day of painting we went out to a private old homestead in the morning. I never made it to the homestead proper as I was captivated by the massive scenery on the road in. Here is the painting spot I chose:

The river is the John Day River and must have been the lifeblood of all the old homesteads there. I am sure the few remaining still rely on it. The park has apparently gradually acquired the homesteads over the years. I never did find out how exactly they were doing that or for how long. The picture does not do the grand scale justice but if you follow the river into the photo the tiny lighter spots at the foot of the cliffs is the homestead. The scale of the area reminded me a tiny bit of Yosemite and its massive granite cliffs. Maybe not quite that big but the effect was close.

I did not get this painting finished. The problem I ran into with a scheduled event like this was that the meals were planned and scheduled too. We were miles from any town or store so we were relying on the camp for meals. I am not used to having to stop at a certain time for meals. Cell phone service is non-existent in this area too. That was interesting. I spent the entire weekend completely isolated from the rest of the world. I remember when that was a normal thing but now it isn't and even I felt the difference. I am not even that attached to my phone!

After lunch, we headed a mile or two in the other direction to the Pinnacles. There are beautiful rock formations everywhere but the Pinnacles are pretty spectacular.

The afternoon light was changing very fast and I took this picture at the end. The whole time we were painting there I could see and hear a pair of ravens who were nesting in this set of cliffs. It added a magical touch. Here is a close up picture of the painting:

The final day we packed up after breakfast and hit the painting spots on the way back to our respective homes. I decided to go back to the Pinnacles, and the ravens. Here is the painting I did there with a bit of additional work in the studio using my value sketch and memory:

This was all new country to me and also a very different light and landscape than I am used to here on the Oregon Coast. I had a beautiful drive home. I am always happy to be back at my beach:

Currently I am in the process of taking one of my paintings and making a larger painting from it using my sketch, notes, and memory:

Next up: Stehekin, Washington with the Plein Air Washington Association painters! I will be heading out later this week. It will be quite an adventure! I will be able to connect online from the area and will probably post a few pics on Facebook.

Happy Painting!

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