Monday, July 16, 2012

The Maestro and Dr. Saji Eapen

Most of you who have been visiting this blog for awhile, are familiar with the Maestro.  Mr. William Matheny, of Lenoir City, Tennessee, who I affectionately and respectfully refer to as, "the Maestro" is a very dear friend, painting teacher and mentor. 

When I was a struggling painter living with my wife in Madisonville, Tennessee, the Maestro and his wife, Diane lived a short distance away.  Our real estate agent and friend, Mr. James Reynolds, told me about this wonderful artist he had dealt with, and thought, perhaps I'd like to meet him.  Of course I said, "YES!".  Some months passed, but finally the day came and Jim drove us over to meet the man.

When I entered the Maestro's home for the first time, I was staggered by what I saw.  The walls of their home were covered with beautiful oil and watercolor paintings and drawings.  When I was finally able to speak, we had a pleasant conversation and I learned of his art career, primarily in San Francisco and the famous artist-teachers he had studied with.  It was all I could do to muster the courage to inquire if he ever took students.

He replied he didn't, but left the door open by inviting me to give him a call the next week.  The following week I made what would be one of the most important and valuable calls of my life.  He invited me to come to his home, I believe, to learn more about me and attempt to determine if I had any fire in my belly or was just a hobbyist.

That led to a fifteen year on-going friendship and teacher-student relationship.  No matter where either of us has lived, we stay in touch via phone and Internet.  His art lessons and lessons about life, have meant the world to me, both as a painter and human being.  This year, the last day of February, the Maestro was diagnosed with lung cancer.

He is enduring chemotherapy with bravery and even good spirits and when we spoke last week he was most definitely upbeat.  His most recent cat scan showed the tumor has stopped growing which would normally be all the good news he could stand, but it got better.

His doctor, Dr. Saji Eapen, after giving him the great news, handed him a portrait.  The Maestro, who has unparalleled drawing skills was very impressed and deeply touched.  Doctor Eapen told him he had not drawn in ten years, but he felt something special about Bill and made the drawing.  The Maestro was, and still is, brought to tears over this wonderful and unexpected gift.  Each day has become more special to him and this amazing act of empathy...humanity...kindness...whatever you choose to call it, continues to have a profound impact on his spirit and desire to keep fighting. 
 Mr. William Matheny, the Maestro, by Doctor Saji Eapen, 2012.

The New Bridge Is Open!

Several posts have featured photos of the new pedestrian/bicycle bridge being built over Interstate-5, from Lair Hill to the South Waterfront.  Yesterday, Saturday, July 14th (Bastille Day) it finally opened.  I made a point of jogging to the bridge today and climbing the eight or nine stories to take it to the western terminus.
The start, Lair Hill.  You can see the OHSU medical building on the right.
Jaffles and Wraps at the western end of the bridge:  Some great food to power your walk or bike ride across or returning.  I resisted, but just had to take a photo.
About half way across, looking back (west) you can see the OHSU hospital complex and the aerial tram.
Getting close to the east end, a nice view of downtown Portland.  The building we live in is in this view, but it's not as far away as it looks here.
The aerial tram goes directly overhead while you're on the bridge.  Here, it looks like a giant vitamin pill.
It's quite a way down with many steps, but there is an elevator.
View from the east end, showing the South Waterfront condo towers and parks, with the OHSU medical center on the left.
This view shows the Zidell Marine Corporation's barge building facility.  If you click to enlarge this photo you'll see red, white and blue bunting on the bow of this new, ready-to-launch barge.
The aerial tram is about to make a landing.
Eager visitors beginning their trek up the many stairs.  As you might expect with the nickname, "The Rose City", those red flowers you see planted on the slope are indeed, roses.
Back on the ground, I stopped at the Zidell Marine Corporation to get a shot of this giant propeller and the beautiful flowers.  They have a large tent set-up for the barge launch which may be held tomorrow.
The final shot on our tour today, is of the new Oregon Health and Sciences University building under construction.  It's going up fast, as is the light rail bridge being built across the Willamette River just east of this locale.  The trolley, MAX light rail and aerial tram will combine to offer staff and patients superb mass transit opportunities to get to work or make it to an appointment.  Bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated with extra wide sidewalks with separate lanes.  What a city!

It's a wonderful example of Portland's dedication to non-motorized transportation.  Besides that, the views of the city and the South Waterfront are pretty great.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Wagner Brothers Visit My Studio.

Gordon Wagner, my friend and building neighbor, and his brother, Stuart, who's in Portland visiting, came by my studio on Monday.  Gordon, who does not appreciate my efforts to portray him in paint, mugged for the camera, trying to mimic the pose he struck in this ever-morphing portrait.
Here they are--the Wagner Brothers.  That's Stuart on the left and I'm sure you recognize Gordon from his portrait.  You can tell he's either in great pain or having fun.

Stuart Wagner, Gordon's younger brother, is a famous artist and very nice person, too.  His work is at times, cutting social commentary, poignant and touching or whimsical and hilarious.  Much of his art  should be in museums.  You can see it here: 
We tried to get Gordon to mimic the pose, but we couldn't find a hat.  He gave it his all, nevertheless.

After visiting my studio, we walked to Jake's for Happy Hour, (Gordon paid!!) then wandered around the Pearl District for a couple of hours, showing Stuart the many sights, but mainly walking off the drinks and food.  The day was comfortable and a good time was had by all.

Finally, I made some "re-progress" on the commission.  Both Gordon and Stuart thought it should be called finished, but they were just being nice.  What they saw needed a massive effort just to get it back to where it was a few days ago.  I was quite pleased with it at that time and nearly took it to the future owners for a look.  Unfortunately, in the on-going attempt to make it better, I seriously gooned it.  A couple of more sessions and it was back to what I want it to look like.  Tomorrow, I plan on leaving it alone for a day.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Blues Festival, Happy Birthday America!

It happens nearly every year.  The fourth of July rolls around and the rains stop.  Almost like clockwork.  As I write this post, it's perfectly sunny and 75-degrees.  The 25th-annual Blues Festival is underway and the huge crowd couldn't possibly be in a better mood.  Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge on my way home, I enjoyed a wonderful panorama of the crowd, as well as, the huge number of boats of every size and description anchored close enough to enjoy the action
Patriotic "pirates", tied up and waiting for tonight's fireworks extravaganza.  The festival is on the opposite bank, but it was too crowded to run there. 
Another of the countless vessels on the Willamette River today.  Perfect weather and lots of sunshine- the perfect recipe for the 4th of July holiday.  The five stages of the Blues Festival couldn't hurt either.
This view, taken from the Hawthorne Bridge, gives a better idea of the size of the Blues Festival Navy.  Many of the vessels arrived a week ago! 
You can see the huge crowd in this shot.  A gazillion people having a good time.  The festival is spread out in Waterfront Park with five stages.  If you enjoy the Blues, this would be heaven!
This sailboat has the "green" thing going on.  Notice the wind turbine spinning.  Now that's really taking advantage of the wind...twice!
Four boatloads of happy people!  Don't click to enlarge this or you may go blind.
Grilling on the river.
For those of you who are visiting for the first time, the Blues Festival here is the largest west of the Mississippi River.  This year, with the economy still depressed, but beautiful weather, I'm guessing the attendance records will be smashed, especially if today is any indication.  We live only about five blocks from Waterfront Park and could clearly hear the opening act which began playing around noon.  After the show tonight, a barge loaded with fireworks will move into position on the Willamette River and a spectacular fireworks will follow.  On my jog home at about six PM, I was on the East Bank Esplanade and folks were already staking out their spots to see the show.  I snapped some photos for your entertainment.  Happy Birthday America!  The festival runs through Sunday, so come on out!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pat's Apple

Pat Demartini, a friend here in the building, recently expressed interest in getting back to painting.  She's gone so far as to convert her master bedroom into an art studio, but has had trouble actually starting to paint once again.  She asked if I would mind if she stopped by my studio some day just to watch me paint.
                                                                       Pat's Apple
I eagerly said yes and today was the day.  She arrived at two PM, fairly bursting with excitement.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and I was excited and honored that she wanted to see how I work.  I did warn her that watching me work would be like watching grass grow, but she was not discouraged.  I did my best to work on the commission, but talked as much as I painted and I'm quite certain she was underwhelmed.

I decided she should have a go at it, so I put the commission down, replacing it with a sparkling white 20 x 16-inch canvas.  I squeezed out a nice amount of burnt umber, along with a generous dollop of Liquin and she used a palette knife to create a juicy dark.  She mostly covered the canvas and then I had her use small scraps of paper towels to "draw" a teapot.  Her skills were evident and after I added more of the mixture to cover that effort, we moved on to doing an apple.  Next, it was time to play with color.

Pat responded much like I did when the Maestro would ask me to try doing what he'd shown me.  She felt put on the spot and wasn't particularly prepared to actually paint today.  Using all my not inconsiderable powers of persuasion and a calming voice, I told her I knew exactly how she felt, but hoped she would keep going.  She did, and turned out a darn impressive apple, using a photo of a painting of an orange as her "model".  I delivered the painting to her upon my return home this evening and was treated to a tour of her studio.  It's most impressive and shows just how dedicated she is to painting.  Resting on her easel, was a painting done years ago of a Morandi-inspired still life.  It was REALLY GOOD.  Pat was exceptionally gracious in thanking me for kick-starting her return to making art.  It was obvious she possesses abundant talent and a true passion for painting and I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with in the coming months.

Just To Let You Know...

No, I haven't thrown the brushes away and chopped off an ear.  The Mitsuru Takahashi portrait is resting while I work on a commission.  I won't be posting any of the "dailies" of the progress, because I don't want the future owners to see just how horrible it looks during the early stages.  The painting is on a 30 x 24-inch canvas and it must be finished by October.  By my standards, that's a "rush order".  Actually, my friends have encouraged me to take my time, volunteering to visit  us in Hawaii to pick it up!  Now, those are some savvy clients!

So, this blog may feature more summer events here in Portland for awhile.  The 25th anniversary of the Waterfront Blues Festival is about to begin, running from Wednesday, the 4th of July, until Sunday, July 8th, bringing about 100,000 people to Portland.  During the same time, the Barbershop Harmony Society International's 74th annual convention will be going on.  Seventy top quartets and thirty elite choruses will compete against each other.  This event should bring another 6,000 folks to town.  And today is the final day of the Organic Brewers festival.  There is even talk that President Obama might stop here.  Oh yeah, the Wooden Boat association is doing their thing, too.  Luckily, the rains are about to end, (traditionally just after the 4th of July) so we're all in for a nice summer.  I hope to have some paintings to post before long, so, in the meantime, do your best to keep cool.