Sketching Expedition: Newport, Oregon

This summer I have been going surfing out at Newport. As a result, I have been doing a lot of sketching in Newport and on the Oregon coast. An aspect of surfing that I have been enjoying is that while you are out in nature you are also close to cities and towns too. And most surfing spots have an active area near to them with a surf and coffee shop and other seaside businesses.

I have been finding Newport an interesting area to draw as well because of the diversity of people. The Oregon coast is a big tourist destination, so you get people visiting from across the United States and internationally. As a result, there is no end to the people watching around Newport.

Newport Skyline from Yaquina Head

Yaquina Head is best known for its lighthouse, but ironically, I most enjoyed the view of Newport from this location. Besides the lighthouse, there is also an old quarry on the site that sits on a cove on the headland. The parking lot for the cove features a bunch of benches that have great views over Agate beach to Newport and the Yaquina Bay Bridge behind.

Surfers at Otter Rock

The most enjoyable surfing spot in Newport I have found so far is Otter Rock. This beach sits behind a small headland just north of Newport. On top of the headland is a small community made up of a business area overlooking the ocean and private homes tucked behind.

The community is surrounded by the Devil’s Punch Bowl Natural Area, which includes parking, restrooms and showers. The natural area gets its name from the sink hole at the end of the headland, which is believed to have formed when a sea cave collapsed. This makes for a fun spot that is a hub of locals out to enjoy the beach and tourists stopping to see the Devil’s Punch Bowl.

Oregon Surfing: Central Coast by Scott and Sandy Blackman

Oregon Surfing: Central Coast is a lightweight book documenting the history of surfing on the Oregon coast put out as part of the Images of Modern America Series. It was written by two prominent figures in Oregon surfing (Scott and Sandy Blackman) who collected photos and stories from the beginnings of Oregon surfing in the 1960s up to 2011. The book is a fun way to learn about the Oregon coast and some of its history. Would have liked more text and less photos though.

The Kubota Mountain Side Garden

Kubota Garden is one of Seattle’s hidden gems. It is tucked away in the far southeast corner of Seattle, so it is not a spot you will find traveling Seattle’s main thoroughfares. It is well worth the drive or bus ride to enjoy this varied garden and its winding paths though.

The garden was originally the grounds of the Kubota Nursery. The gardens are filled with a variety of styles from Kubota’s native Japanese gardening to formal European gardens. Today, the City of Seattle owns the gardens and runs them as a park. It is an excellent place to explore a variety of garden styles, relax and get lost.

As mentioned, Kubota Garden is a bit off the beaten path in Seattle. The easiest way to get there is:

  • Driving, take the Martin Luther King (MLK) Exit on I-5
    • Follow the signs to MLK
    • When MLK takes a hard left turn continue straight onto Ryan Way
    • Take Ryan Way until you reach 51st Ave S
    • At 51st Ave S turn left
    • The garden parking lot is the first right turn on 51st Ave S
    • Note: If you go down MLK by accident you can turn right at Henderson St. and then take the second right onto Renton Ave to get to 51st Ave S.
  • Public Transit, take the light rail to the Rainer Beach Station
    • Get on the 106-bus headed to Renton from the train station
    • The bus stops at Kubota Garden a couple of miles after the Rainer Beach Station

Mountain Side Garden

This drawing is of the mountain side garden at Kubota. While most Seattleites would laugh at calling this hill a mountain the garden is meant to replicate the feel of a mountain and it does that wonderfully. It also brings an experience of mystery and transportation that is often missing in North American Gardens. All of which comes with a dash of history and a little sadness too.

Creating a Mountain from a Mole Hill

Fujitaro Kubota migrated to the United States from Japan and started a nursery on the site of Kubota Gardens in the 1920s. He brought with him the techniques and traditions of Japanese gardening as well as an extensive knowledge of horticulture. As a result, his nursery thrived providing plants and design services for Japanese and European style gardens.

In both Japanese and European gardens the recreation of natural environments was a common theme. Before the advent of fast and easy travel, people could rarely, if ever, travel to see great natural wonders. Gardeners would re-create the sense of these wonders for people in nearby gardens so they could have a partial experience of what it was like in these environments.

In the late 1920s, Kubota began building gardens on the site of his nursery as part hobby and part demonstration of his knowledge. For the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, he worked to recreate the experience of hiking up a mountain using this humble hill behind the nursery. From the approach to the hill pictured here we can see that it is hardly a mountain, but with some clever design it gives the sense of a grand hike.

Garden Illusions and Mysteries

An element that is sadly missing from North American gardens us a sense of mystery and wonder. North American gardens tend to be wide open and spacious, leaving little to the imagination. Kubota’s mountain side garden makes great use of illusions and mystery to take us on an experience.

The first illusion is the approach to the garden over this bridge. By giving us a full view of the garden from its base we get a sense of the hill towering over us. This gives a sense of height and scale to the experience we are about to have.

The next technique that Kubota used is to make the paths up the hill quite narrow and wind through dense hedges of Japanese holly. Two people can barely pass each other on these trails. This makes us feel that the trail is passing us by much faster than it really is and that the trail is taking much longer to complete.

This sense of the trail taking too long to walk is also accentuated by the tight switch backs up the hill. These make the path much longer than you might expect for the space. Plus the sense of a towering mountain that one gets from the approach primes you to believe that this trail will go on and on. Finally the hedges hide the paths from sight, leaving you to guess how much more trail is left.

Finally, there are regular overlooks and water features that cause one to pause as you walk up the hill. This in turn does delay one and make the walk longer. The end result is that one begins to lose sense of time on these small, winding trails buried in holly bushes and you begin to get the sense that perhaps you really have lost your way in the mountains.

A Sad Chapter for the Garden

With the outbreak of World War 2, the federal government detained Kubota and his family along with many other Japanese Americas. They had only days to close their nursery before being forced to leave by the federal government. They ended up at Camp Minidoka in Idaho and would remain there until the conclusion of the war in 1945.

Kubota was fortunate that a sympathetic family friend held his nursery in trust as he could not buy the land directly at the time as an Asian immigrant. When the federal government released the Kubotas, they could return to their nursery and rebuild. Millions of Japanese Americas were not so fortunate, losing farms and businesses that they were either forced to sell at steep discounts or the unscrupulous refused to release from their stewardship.

Kubota continued to build and maintain the gardens until his death in 1973. The City of Seattle acquired the gardens Seattle in 1987 and now maintains them as a park. Expansions and additions have been made to the garden in the years since the city acquired the gardens, but the space continues to retain the character that Kubota worked to imbue in the site.

Downtown Portland from Mt. Tabor

This month’s drawing is from the top of Mt. Tabor looking over East Portland to Downtown Portland. Mt. Tabor is pretty easy to find as it is one of the highest points in east Portland.

Mt. Tabor Park offers spectacular views and plenty of people watching. People come to the park to run and walk up its stairs and winding paths. Several colleges and a seminary are close to Mt. Tabor as well and you will find many college students on the parks’ lawns.

From I-205, take the exit for Division or Burnside. You can also get to Mt. Tabor from I-5 by taking Hawthorne Boulevard. It is easiest to find parking in the neighborhoods around Mt. Tabor and walk to the park.

Mt. Tabor Park

Mt. Tabor Park makes for a nice hike in the city. Going up the east side of the park, trails wind through Douglas Fir forests on the way to the top. On the west side elegant paths and stairs wind past reservoirs and through lawns.

This wide variety of paths attract many people. Retirees wonder up the wide paths and lawns on the east side while trail runners dodge through the forest. Meanwhile, the maintenance road on the west side of the park is a popular spot for bikers and long boarders bombing down the hill, over and over again.

The result is a lively space that feels happy and excited. You cannot help but smile at the bicycles looping down the hill and back or the family out for a Saturday afternoon walk.

Drawing the Portland Skyline

I find skylines particularly fun to draw since they have depth, but also act as an elevation. The skylines in the Pacific Northwest are particularly fun to draw since they usually incorporate dramatic mountains in the background.

The Portland Skyline fits in perfectly as it is dwarfed by the Tualatin Mountains behind downtown. Eastern Portland is also heavily forested with few buildings rising above the canopy. The rest is a very lush green view that required a lot of tonal shifts.

This view also fun to draw due to the contrast between the rectangular buildings and the organic form of the mountains. This was particularly noticeable with the brick KOIN Center building on the left and the contemporary glass towers on the right.

I was glad I could work in the stylized castle structure for the reservoir station in the foreground. This and the people standing next to it ground the picture and give a good sense of scale.

In the future this would be a good spot to do a panorama from. This drawing mostly shows the southern end of downtown Portland. It is missing about half of the skyline that continues to the right with the Nob Hill and Pearl District neighborhoods.

Memorial Union East Wing, Oregon State University

It seemed like a perfect time to get in some impromptu drawing at the Oregon State University (OSU) campus with the weather warming and the sun staying out later. After wandering around the campus, I settled on this view of the Memorial Union’s east wing as the rhododendrons were particularly full here. The Memorial Union was also quite busy with various student events, which gave it a festive atmosphere.

Drawing the Memorial Union East Wing

This drawing was fun due to the contrast between the sharp geometry of the building and the organic shapes of the bushes and trees. The Memorial Union has a classical design that emphasizes geometry over decoration. Even the wave motif on the building’s facade is very precise.

The view was also interesting thanks to the variety of color in it. The red brick was a nice contrast against the greenery and was repeated in the red of the rhododendron flowers. It was also interesting to see how the copper roofing reflected the sky, so it appeared bluish when facing towards the sky.

A particular challenge was the railing on the edge of the patio. Unlike the rest of the building it had a lot of curves. It also presented an unusual perspective since I could just see the top of it.

People Watching and Exploring at the Memorial Union

The Memorial Union is an excellent place for people watching since it is the center of student life on campus. When I was drawing this scene there were plenty of people eating, studying and socializing. The Asian Pacific Cultural Center was hosting a night market and expectant graduates were in their gowns to take photos with the flowers.

While the Memorial Union is always impressive it is particularly beautiful in April and May as it is surrounded by rhododendrons. The effect was enhanced by being there during dusk. This gave the entire scene an ethereal air that suggested the possibilities of summer fast approaching.

The music coming from the Asian Pacific Cultural Center’s night market increased this sense of possibility. It invited people to visit and join in the fun. I did take a chance to walk through the market before drawing to see the various stands giving out stuffed toys, sharing information on various Asian and Pacific countries and cultures and offering games.

Aladdin Theater, Portland, Oregon

The historic Aladdin Theater is the northern anchor for the Brooklyn neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. It serves as a bright landmark on Powell Boulevard for this quaint neighborhood on Portland’s south side.

The Brooklyn Neighborhood is small, but has a vibrant business area and relaxed residential area. This includes several restaurants, the Aladdin Theater, and Rose City Coffee. You can tell that Brooklyn is a well-loved neighborhood.

Getting to the Aladdin Theater

The neighborhood is easy to get to since it sits on Powell Boulevard. This is the street name in Portland for Oregon State Route 26. From I-5 or 99E take the exit for Route 26 and follow the signs to Route 26. The Brooklyn Neighborhood and Aladdin Theater are to the right at the intersection of SE Powell Boulevard and SE Milwaukee Avenue.

Drawing Experience

I did the pencil sketch and line work for the drawing from the patio at Botto’s BBQ. I ate an excellent pulled pork sandwich while I was drawing. This was convenient as I had worried about finding some place to draw from and finding lunch.

I went to the Clinton Street Coffeehouse to finish adding the watercolor from a photo. This has become one of the new habits when I am drawing in southeast Portland.

The challenge of this drawing was the billboard in the background. I am not a cartoonist so rendering the Geiko Gecko was a stretch for me. While I captured the feel of the gecko, I don’t think Geiko’s marketing department will be calling me soon.

Exploring Portland’s Brooklyn Neighborhood

The Brooklyn Neighborhood has a lively business district along 4-5 blocks of SE Milwaukee Avenue. There are several restaurants and bars like Botto’s BBQ. Rose City Coffee Company offers warm drinks and a relaxed atmosphere. And a large neighborhood park provides green space, a play structure and a port-a-potty if needed.

The residential area is packed with bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s. The neighborhood is wedged between Portland’s main rail yard and the Willamette River. The rail yard workers made very efficient use of the space they had to build housing.

You would not know that the Brooklyn Neighborhood was a residential hold out in a primarily industrial part of Portland though. The small yards are lovingly planted with Japanese Maples, Woody Hydrangeas and other large bushes and small trees. This gives the neighborhood a sense of intimacy and a relaxed atmosphere.

I did visit the Brooklyn Neighborhood on a Friday, so it was quieter than I would expect it to be on a weekend. Most of the people I saw seemed to work in the area and came to get food. The Aladdin Theater and the neighborhood park hosts regular events that draw crowds too.

Reser Stadium, Oregon State University

Reser Stadium is the home of the Oregon State University (OSU) Beavers football team. It is also the center of the OSU sports complex and a convenient meeting place to explore campus.

Activities

Reser Stadium sits on the southern edge of the OSU campus. While not centrally located it is close to several sights off the beaten track on campus.

  • Beaver Store
    • The Beaver Store is located across the road from Reser’s main entrance. It offers Beaver Merchandise, food, and a variety of goods to OSU students.
  • OSU Sports Fields & Recreation Center
    • Past the Beaver Store and over the train tacks is the OSU Sports Fields and Recreation Center. This area offers plenty of people watching as people play on the fields and use the running track. The Recreation Center also has a cafe that is open to the public.
  • Veterinary School
    • On the other side of Reser’s parking lot is OSU’s veterinary school. It is fun to visit as the fields next to it often have horses, cows and other animals the school is using in its teaching activities.

History

Originally called Parker Stadium, Reser Stadium opened in 1953. It was originally named for Charles Parker, who served as the head of the fundraising campaign. It was renamed Reser Stadium in 1999 to honor Al and Pat Reser who had made major donations to the Beaver football program.

The stadium has gone through several renovations over its history. This has included adding roofs to the grandstands and the construction of a football center as part of the stadium. Most recently the western grandstand was imploded to make way for a new grandstand that will be completed in 2023.

Reser Stadium is also used for a variety of non-athletic events. During the COVID pandemic it served as a testing and vaccination site. In this sketch you can see the sign for TRACE, which was OSU’s community COVID testing program in Corvallis.

Design

Reser Stadium has an industrial look to due to its exposed scaffolding and plain concrete. The eastern grandstand and the proposed western grandstand do bring in some neomodern elements with their use of brick for decoration and geometric forms.

These are nice touches that give the grandstands more character. You cannot see them in this sketch, but the massive brick columns on the stadium’s eastern side provide a distinctive landmark visible across campus. They also serve as a visual queue on where to enter the stadium.

Sketchy Traveler Fall 2021 Sketching Expeditions in Seattle and Portland

In December, I went to Seattle and did some drawing along the way in Portland. This gave me a chance to visit some of my favorite spots in Seattle and explore some new sights in Portland. I also picked up a great book exploring the Portland landmarks featured in Beverley Clearly’s Ramona stories.

Clinton Cinema, Portland 11-22-21

A fun feature of Portland, Oregon is all of the old movie theaters in the city. The most prominent are the Bagdad Theater and the Hollywood Theater. Yet there are many small movie theaters that still host movies and performance arts. Their unique store fronts provide a nice break from the usual cityscape and offer some unique experiences.

In this sketch we see the Clinton Cinema, named for the street it is on. What I like about this theater is how it anchors this small business district at SE Clinton and SE 26th Avenue. I could imagine people coming out of the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and going to the bar across the street.

I did this drawing from an outside table at the coffee shop across from the theater. I had to be quick with this drawing as it was a cold morning and I was sitting in the shade. Another spot I would like to come back to.

CP Coffee, Seattle 12-29-21

One of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle is CP Coffee. I try to visit them whenever I am in Seattle. It is a true neighborhood living room where people come to conduct business, catch up with friends and enjoy the various events the shop hosts.

I did a quick sketch of CP Coffee’s new outdoor seating area. They have always had outdoor seating, but it was not covered. For COVID times they added this covered deck on the north side of their building to protect guests from the elements.

I only did a quick drawing as it as very cold that day and the space heaters could only do so much. The space was very empty too as it was a weekday and heavy snow in Seattle had snarled traffic. Hope to make it back soon for a more detailed drawing.

Mt. Baker from West Seattle 1-2-22

A great feature of Seattle is that it is surrounded by mountains. In this view we look north to Mt. Baker on the edge of the North Cascades National Park. While Mt. Rainer is more famous Mt. Baker is usually the star of views from West Seattle like this drawing.

I have always appreciated this view from the edge of the Mt. St. Vicente Nursing Home lot. The steep hill provides a dramatic foreground while the many layers leading up to the mountain create a great sense of perspective. This view also includes several Seattle landmarks including the Space Needle, Queen Anne radio towers and Elliot Bay.

I actually drew this view from a photo. Seattle was in the middle of a cold snap and deep snow that made extended drawing outside unreasonable. Drawing from a photo allowed me to capture a lot more detail than 10 rush minutes to beat the cold.

Would love to come back to this view using watercolors in the summertime. The trick is finding a time when Mt. Baker is not hidden in clouds.

Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Clearly’s Portland by Laura O. Foster

While visiting Powell’s Books I came across this fun book (Walking with Ramona) on Beverly Clearly. Clearly was a childrens author who grew up in Portland. She set most of her stories in Portland and many places in Portland play an important part in her stories.

The book provides a unique perspective on Portland through stories Clearly wrote. Most of this is about the history of the city. An interesting historical fact was that all the buildings in Portland were renumbered in the early 1930s.

The book also provides a look into the culture of Portland in the 1920s and 1930s though. Clearly’s mother for example thought that people who living in apartments were untrustworthy. The author points out the irony given the large rents people now pay to live in Portland’s apartments and that a recently built apartment building in the Hollywood neighborhood is named for Clearly.

The one drawback to this book is that it has one walk through the Hollywood neighborhood. While this was the main setting for Clearly’s books other areas of the city are visited. A section on riding Portland’s light rail like the characters ride the trolley in Clearly’s books could have been a fun addition.

COVID-19 Walking View: The End?

In February of 2020 I made a drawing trip to the Hollywood District in Portland, Oregon. News of a new virus outbreak in China was spreading, but at the time it seemed like past outbreaks. Little did I know my next trip to Portland would involve face masks, carrying hand sanitizer and wondering where I would find an open bathroom.

The State of COVID in October 2021

Hollywood District, Portland, Oregon February 2020

Twenty-two months after my last drawing before COVID lock downs things seem to be gradually improving. As of this writing cases are dropping from the fourth COVID wave in the United States of America. It remains to be seen how holiday travel will impact the case rate. Meanwhile, vaccination rates remain low, but are rising, and life is slowly opening up.

The general sense of a period ending fills the moment and it seemed appropriate to revisit the place where it all began for me. Plus I wanted to explore the Hollywood District further and take some time to reflect on my experience doing these COVID Walking views.

COVID Hollywood District

I was happy to see that the area I had visited seemed to have made it through. The businesses that had been at this location in February 2020 where still there when I drew this in October 2021. A group of people celebrating a birthday even came out of the Wiggle Room.

Yet the area remained oddly empty. The main foot traffic was people scurrying in and out of the library I drew in front of. Gone where the retirees chattering about selling their homes over a post-yoga coffee.

Walking from the main Hollywood District to Fremont Street showed other changes. More people out walking in the residential neighborhood between Sandy Boulevard and Fremont Street. On Fremont a newly covered patio hosted a band and singer performing Embraceable You.

The New Urban Landscape

As COVID over took the world in the spring and summer of 2020 many people predicted the end of the city. Yet the impact in the Hollywood district and elsewhere has been far more complex than a simple ending.

Towns have been overrun by urbanites fleeing the pandemic, looking to escape the city life and seeking more affordable housing. Meanwhile cities find their streets emptied of cars, but full of people.

This has resulted in a rapid re-thinking of the urban landscape. Cities find their public spaces repurposed for people, but face increasing social unrest. Towns find themselves filled with investment, but that it comes with escalating housing costs.

The true impact of these changes remains to be seen. The urban landscape as we knew it is gone along with so much in the pandemic. As with all loss though this is an opportunity to leave behind what was not working and find new ways of living and healing together in the places we love.

Portland International Rose Garden, Gold Medal Garden

The Portland Rose Garden offers a beautiful break from the city. It also has some great views over Portland and is close to several other sights in Washington Park. This and its fee free admission make it a great place to start exploring Washington Park

Activities

The Portland Rose Garden is in Washington Park above downtown Portland. The parking lot is small, so arrive early or park along the road from the garden to Portland. The TriMet light rail red and blue lines stop in Washington Park and are a good way to avoid parking.

Some interesting sights close to the Portland Rose Garden in Washington Park include:

  • Portland Japanese Garden
    • The Portland Japanese Garden has really great views of Mt. Hood on clear days. The garden has examples of landscape, strolling and rock gardening styles from Japan.
  • Oregon Zoo
    • The major zoo for Oregon with animals from around the world. It also features many animals native to the Pacific Northwest.
  • Hoyt Arboretum
    • A large collection on conifers though some deciduous trees are included too. The arboretum also has 12 miles of hiking trails if you want to get in a long walk.

History

The Portland Rose Garden was started in 1917 to save roses during World War 1. It was feared that bombings could destroy hybrid roses that only existed in Europe. English rose breeders sent many samples of their roses to Portland for safe keeping. This lad to Portland being chosen as an international rose test site.

The garden grounds were completed in 1924 and opened to the public. The garden was designed by the city landscape architect Florence Holmes Gerke.

The garden has severed as an international test site for rose hybrids since 1919. This week’s view is of the Gold Medal Garden. It features the rose breeds that have won the rose hybrid gold medal in Portland since 1919.

Design

The Portland Rose Garden was designed by Florence Holmes Gerke. She was charged with the design of the garden in 1921. In designing the garden she used a formal design.

French Formal Gardens became popular in the 1600s and 1700s in France. They used geometric plans to show order and reason. The most famous French formal garden is the Gardens of Versailles.

Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR

Autzen Stadium sits on the grounds of Alton Baker Parker. This makes it a good place to start a walk in the park. Alton Baker also makes going to Ducks games fun.

Activities Near Autzen Stadium

Alton Baker Park houses many attractions besides Autzen Stadium. These include:

  • Cuthbert Amphitheater
    • Hosts local and national musicians in an outdoor amphitheater. Also has food booths and a beer garden.
  • Eugene Science Center
    • Has exhibits and classes on science and technology. Also has a planetarium.
  • Disc Golf Course
    • Enjoy a round of disc golf on an 18-hole course through the park.
  • Pre’s Trail
    • The University of Oregon has one of the top track and field programs in the United States of America. This soft surface running trail was designed by Prefontaine, one of the program’s legends
  • McMenamins North Bank
    • Enjoy a cold drink and burger with a view of the Willamette River. Take the bike path to the other side of the bridge on Alton Baker’s north edge.

History of Autzen Stadium

Autzen Stadium was completed in 1967. It replaced Hayward Field as the place where University of Oregon football was played. The stadium was named for lumberman Thomas Autzen.

Autzen Stadium has grown since then in both seating and facilities. Today the stadium can seat 54,000 people. The stadium is famous for being very loud from its sunken design.

Design of Autzen Stadium

Autzen Stadium is special as it uses several design methods:

  • The original bleachers use an industrial design. They are practical with concrete seating held up by a steel support structure.
  • The sunken playing field also makes use of landscape architecture as part of the design. This gives the stadium its famous noise levels and a unique approach.
  • A 2002 change gave the stadium a neomodern facade seen in the sketch. This new facade used clean lines and repeating geometric shapes to give the stadium a friendlier face.