Tag Archives: Willamette River

Sitting Ducks

paintng of boat ramp

“Sitting Ducks”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The urgent cry of a young osprey is immediately recognizable, “Mom!  Mom! Wait for me!!”  As my Plein Air class painted from the small dock at the Crystal Lake Drive boat landing in Corvallis, we heard it several times from across the river or from above us.  I kept anticipating that they would make a dive into the swift river and fly up with a fish, but eventually I decided they must be waiting for just the right moment to snatch a meal from the gravel bars mid-river.  A small flock of ducks there was barely visible from my vantage point – I was glad the ospreys didn’t make their move while we were there!   A slow parade of boaters came and went on the ramp, yanking on starter cords of old outboard motors, one carrying a bow with arrows tied with fishing line for hunting carp.  An otter was sighted briefly – or maybe it was a nutria, hard to tell.

When we arrived at 5:30 p.m., the sky was overcast, the light was flat, the river was a dull brownish green, and I was thinking to myself that it wasn’t the most dazzling spot for painting.  But as the evening progressed, the mood changed dramatically.  The cottonwood trees began to quiver, it rained a bit off and on for a few minutes.  The clouds above us gradually parted, emerald trees glistened in front of black thunderclouds to the east, the river shifted between blues and greens and silver.  It was impossible to figure out where to look, what to paint.  Was it Buddha who said, “Change is inevitable.  Get over it.”?  As we propped up our work for a critique session at 8:00 p.m., a rainbow shone above us in the gathering dusk.  Just another glorious August evening on the Willamette River!

River Rhythms

"River Rhythms", mixed media by Kerry McFall

People who live in Corvallis tend to look down their noses at Albany, the slightly smaller “used-to-be mill town” just a few miles south (oops, north – my husband the geographer has pointed out that my total lack of compass has once again triumphed) on the Willamette River.  This conceit is completely unjustified, particularly if you compare the summer music events:  pretty much just one concert in Corvallis, something they like to call Red, White & Blues over the Fourth of July, where admission is charged, and porta-potties and bouncy carnival thingies obscure what little riverfront is left after they lock you out of most of the lawn with their ugly temporary fences.   There are plenty of good restaurants along First Street, but you can’t see them, and frankly, who wants to stroll along beside the potties on the way to dine.  There’s simply no There there.

Albany, by contrast, has one or two free concerts weekly known as River Rhythms, set in a gorgeous little amphitheater overlooking the Willamette.  Yes, there are potties, but they don’t obscure the views.  Take last night for example – The Loving Spoonful entertained us, old rockers having a lot of fun singing for “old farts” as they put it.  But there were also people of all ages and walks of life, and the people-watching was terrific given the warmish weather.  Kids and families can splash in the water, dogs can dig in the sandy riverbank.   Albany also has many good restaurants nearby, plus soon they will have what promises to be a knockout carousel museum.  Come on, Corvallis – get over yourselves and do something to make summer a reason to be downtown!

Whoops – almost forgot to mention Da Vinci Days.  There is usually some good music in the midst of this nice little July weekend festival, and I just heard that our native boys YoYa will be playing – go Alex and Noah!  But it’s not on the river… and it’s not free.  So, yeah.  Why live on a river if you don’t play on it?

This sketch was made from a deck just downstream from the River Rhythms concert area in Monteith Park.  I’ve always wanted to sketch the bridge, so we went a few hours before the concert started.  I had just about figured out a composition when that sly crow flew down and teased me with the promise of posing.  He was very still just long enough for me to get him started, then he did a 180 for another 30 second pose, and flew off with a derisive Caw.  I was hoping that I could use the direction of his eye glancing back into the center of the piece to keep all of the lines from dropping off to the east, but his beady little eye just isn’t quite enough… oh, well, better luck next time.

And while I’m ragging on Corvallis – while we’re slapping together townhouses in our quiet little village for 20,000 more hard-drinking OSU students, let’s just go ahead and stick a WalMart on 9th street…  Nuff said.