We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.
There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.
All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.
Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.
This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.
One of the artists that is showing at SideStreet Arts along with Auntie Bridgett is Gail Owen. Gail had her home studio open Saturday as part of Portland Open Studio Tour, and we went by to visit. I always love to see how artists make their magic, and print making, with its steps which must happen in reverse, has always fascinated me.
Gail came to print making after a career in aerospace, working for the Boeing Corporation. We talked about the different aircraft plants in California. My dad worked for Douglas Aircraft for many years and she had almost worked at ‘his’ Long Beach plant. Finding commonality with new people is always a treat. Her experience with parts and engineering gave her a leg-up on printmaking, she said. It made sense to her.
A self-taught printer, Gail began with small format prints with just a few colors, and worked her way up to much larger pieces, some of which are two by three feet. These larger pieces are made up of sections, each one designed and printed on its own and then sewn together, matted, and framed. The accuracy needed at every stage is amazing and intimidating.
Gail walked us through her process, which starts with taking black and white photos of flowers in her neighborhood. Then she chooses her color palette, working with up to eight colors on one print. She cuts into linoleum sheets to make her pattern, cutting away each section as she gets it the way she likes it. Once she is finished, that piece of linoleum is a mess, with sections gouged away, and can never be used again.
When Gail only wants to use a few colors, or make many more prints, she uses a process where she has different stamps for each color. Each stamp has only the part of the picture that will be in that color. This process makes more sense to me, but is still incredibly precise.
Gail also uses her printing to decorate wooden toys worked with strings, such as her Flying Hearts and Climbing Bears. There is a simplicity and whimsy in all her work which is very endearing.
I am grateful that Gail took the time to show us her art and her process, and happy that I get to see her work at SideStreet Arts!
This past Sunday we had plans. Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I decided we would drive through the country to hike around Silver Falls State Park. We enjoyed the fields of wheat, hay bales, vineyards, and grazing llamas. We were amazed at how close all this country is to the BIG city of Portland!
At Silverton, we got off Highway 213 and started out to Silver Falls, but because of a confusion of which direction to go, we needed to make a U-turn. And that’s when we got waylaid by serendipity.
On a narrow street, we saw cars lined up in front of an old stone gateway. This is the entrance to Coolidge and McClaine Park, where the Silverton Fine Arts Festival was being held! After about 30 seconds discussion, it was agreed that we should investigate. Bridgett saw art, I saw local history, and Grandpa Nelson saw Karmelkorn! It was destiny.
Laid out along the shady paths of this hundred year old park were booths selling every kind of hand craft. Quilts, stained glass, paintings, metal sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, hand sewn backpacks and bags. There were some wonderful “burses”, which are purses made using recycled book covers as the sides. I wasn’t able to get a picture because of the crowd.
I wandered down toward the creek, following chalk arrows that said “mosaic fountain”. I found local mosaic artist Christine Carlyle and her band of volunteers, putting the finishing touches on a wonderful project, a refurbished wading pool. Eighty years ago, this shallow pool was created for the little kids to play in while the older ones swam in the creek, but it has fallen into disrepair.
Christine was hired by the city to create the design, which is a tribute to local beauty. The tiles were laid by more than 250 volunteers, each working on small sections. It should be done, they told me, in a few weeks. There will be the pool and a center column with a sprinkler, all lovingly created and tended to by the local folks.
We had brought a picnic, but there were crepes and paella, so we had those instead. The food was so good, spicy, and made by people who were happy to talk about how they do it. I may want to try some paella myself, when the weather cools a bit. There was also lovely wine and beer from Silver Falls Brewery.
We saw many lovely things, but only two came home with us: a tall ceramic vase featuring the Portland skyline made by Portland ceramicist Nicole Curcio, and a set of pot holders by quilter Linda Lu. Practical and beautiful, these things will remind us of this day for a long time.
When we were full of food and joy, loaded down with treasure and ready to drop, Grandpa Nelson drove us home. We all found places to nap until it was time for a light salad dinner and movies, a broadcast of Finding Nemo and my newly purchased copy of Sneakers. Then off to bed.