Chas Martin Art

sculpture - painting - mentorship


Water changes everything

Poppy Dully

It’s ironic that we refer to scenic paintings as landscapes. While the land may be our focus, it is water that defines the land. Rivers, glaciers and tides are the sculptors that shape rocks and carve canyons. Water respects no boundaries or geographic borders. It belongs to no one, but nourishes everyone. Water is the essence of life, the agent of change and the most valuable element of the garden in which we live.

My paintings focus on water – its presence and its power. I hike and paint the wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest looking for vistas and atmospheric conditions most people will never see. Painting on location is the best way to capture the light, weather and energy. Some of my paintings are finished on location. Others are taken back to my studio where I may study them for days or weeks before finishing. Location paintings also serve as references for larger, more formal watercolors.   

My larger goal is to paint all the major tributaries within the Columbia River system. This 260,000 square mile region, roughly the size of France, drains portions of 7 states including the western slopes of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The variety of terrain and vegetation within the region spans alpine to coastal regions, cutting through high deserts and deep canyons along the river’s path. 

Water flows through the landscape, through my imagination and through my paintings. Preservation of water quality and the pristine environments of our wilderness areas are a critical step in sustaining life. Each of my paintings is an individual step toward that goal.

How a Writer Defines Painting

Poppy Dully

Wahclella Creek, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

I was first introduced to author David James Duncan’s work through The River Why. Fly fishing, as he defined it, is a metaphor for so many relationships. In a more recent writing, God Laughs and Plays, Duncan has again succinctly defined relationships. This time, through a critique of writing, he has defined painting:

“As readers are asked on page one to lay our hand upon the back of an author’s as he or she paints a world. If the author’s strokes somehow repel or betray our trust, if our concentration is lax, or if we’re biased or closed in some way, then no hand-in-hand magic can occur. But, when a great word-painter is read with reciprocally great concentration and trust, a wondrous thing happens. First, the painter’s hand disappears. Then so does our own. Till there is only the living world of the painting.”

With every painting, I hope to feel the hand of an observer on my back asI try to manipulate paint to create a living world.

Wahclella Creek will be among the watercolors on display during the Portland Open Studio Tour on October 11, 12, 18 and 19. Participating 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. 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.