Chas Martin Art

sculpture - painting - mentorship

oregon landscape

You Never Find What You're Not Looking For

Poppy Dully
As the Crow Flies - Watercolor on paper: 14x11"

As the Crow Flies - Watercolor on paper: 14x11"

I worked for years as a creative director. The goal: help others invent, nurture, expand ideas they hadn't thought of before. Part of that process is to challenge people to see the invisible. It's a real challenge. How do you see what isn't there? You stop believing everything you see and start believing the impossibilities suggested by your imagination.

The series of paintings I'm working on currently combines what I see with my eyes and what I see with my imagination. What you see with your eyes is usually a projection of what you expect to see. It's a reflection of what you believe is possible based on past experiences. What you see with your imagination is completely different. If you can suspend what you know or think is real long enough to let impossibilities exist, you may be surprised by what you find.

This is one of the common traits shared by many of the most creative people. When you stop looking for something specific and let your imagination show you illogical alternatives, you venture into the realm of unique perspectives.


On October 11, 12, 18 and 19, Portland Open Studio Tour will expose local artists to the public. Artists will be displaying and talking about their work, their processes, their inspirations and their obstacles. I'll be among the 96 artists featured this year. I'm honored to be included with people like William Park. See the complete list of artists.


Painting With Norman Maclean

watercolor, norman maclean, river runs through it, fly fishing and painting, fly fishingPoppy Dully

I have several methods to juggle my imagination when I need a jolt. My favorite is to select a book from my shelf, open it randomly and begin reading. This morning, I found this:

“One great thing about fly fishing is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly fishing. It is also interesting that thoughts about fishing are often carried on in dialogue form where Hope and Fear – or, many times, two Fears – try to outweigh each other.”

Dependable Norman Maclean penned this observation in “A River Runs Through It.” I’ve read it cover to cover several times, discovering fresh inspiration with each reading. As he did so well so often, this passage has defined a universal truth with a minimum of words.

Ashland Creek - 9x12" Watercolor on paper

It is also true that fly fishing is like painting, especially plein air painting. After a while, nothing else exists. The challenge to capture the moment is immediate and all-consuming. While trying to describe an indescribable sensation with paint, nothing else exists. It becomes a meditation beyond time and space. Hope and Fear are real and constant. I Hope I can re-present this incredible experience in two dimensions. I Fear I will overstate it. Understate it. Overwork it. Turn light into mud. But, even Hope and Fear do not exist really. It’s just me, paint brush in hand trying to apprehend a fleeting experience – the color of light, the reflections on water, the shapes of clouds, the staccato dance of the ouzel, the color of moss, the depth of shadows, the breeze with a hint of sage or juniper or pine.

And then, nothing else exists. Instead of conjuring a trout to rise to a fly, I cast pigments onto paper with the Hope that I can recreate magic.  

Thank you, Norman Maclean. I’ll return this afternoon to one of my favorite river spots. I’ll think about that trout hiding beneath a riffle shielded by reflections of leaves and clouds. I’ll think about which pigments will describe it best. And then, nothing else will exist. If, in the end, I am successful, I’ll have something to take home. If not, I will at least have had the moment and the memory of the one that got away.

Ashland Creek will be among the paintings displayed during the Portland Open Studios Tour October 11, 12, and 18, 19 from 10am to 5pm.