Whychus paint-out inspires


Last updated 7/21/2009 at Noon

Maret Pajutee

Sandi Melchiori paints alongside the rushing waters of Whychus Creek.

Umbrellas and easels sprouted in strange places along the banks of Whychus Creek last weekend as Sisters hosted the first Whychus "Paint-Out."

The outdoor art competition attracted 30 Plein Air artists from across Oregon to capture their vision of a wild river that few people know. Artists had only four hours to hike, paint, frame their piece, and return it to Sisters Art Works for judging. "Plein Air" comes from the French expression "En plein air" which is commonly interpreted "in the open air" but actually means "in full area" and is used to describe the act of painting in a scene that surrounds you outdoors.

The purpose of the event was to help promote upcoming restoration work on Whychus Creek this September 26 during a special National Forest Foundation work party called "Friends of the Forest Day."

A winning piece by Janet Guiley of Bend will be featured on the Whychus Friends of the Forest Day poster.

A painting by Jerry Dame of Harrisburg was chosen to be purchased by the National Forest Foundation and sold at a benefit auction in New York. Paintings by Donna Simpson, Phil Bates, Paul Alan Bennett, and Kay Baker were chosen as "Best in Show" and will be used in other promotions.

The National Forest Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the Forest Service and conservation work on public lands. They have recently chosen Whychus Creek and the Metolius River as a focus for a major conservation campaign.

The event was an idea of artist Kathy Deggendorfer who visited the wilder parts of Whychus with National Forest Foundation and Forest Service organizers. She was captured by both the area's beauty and the signs of reckless damage done by some partying users who shoot trees, draw graffiti on towering rock cliffs, and litter beer cans and garbage along the stream. By drawing attention to the beauty of Whychus Creek and sponsoring restoration work she hopes to help bring a change.

"Overall I think the 'Paint-Out' was a rousing success," Deggendorfer said. "People who didn't come were talking about it and maybe we planted a little seed of something that can grow."

Artists were challenged by the July heat, lugging easels, paints, and canvases across flagged networks of rough trails to find just the right spot for an inspiration.

Some perched on cliffs, others befriended a shady old growth pine tree, while a few hid in the bushes communing with water and rock. Artist John O'Brian, a retired dentist from Bend is a fan of Plein Air painting and chose a remote leafy site below an unnamed waterfall.

"I was so enthralled with that particular spot, the river going over a series of falls, the way the water breaks against the rocks," he said.

Practitioners of plein air painting say it puts you in touch with a place in an unexpected way, making you aware of the movement of the sun during the day, the light, temperature, flies, and wind. But just getting your easel level can be a trick.

Sisters artist Paul Bennett produced a piece judged as one of the best in the show. Bennett was impressed by both the place and the people.

"It was really quite wonderful, the sense of camaraderie, artists encouraging each other's work, it was quite a celebration," he said. "It's like quilting in a way, each person does a piece and when you saw the whole body of work you couldn't help but feel proud and think this is really something here!"

Forest Service Volunteer River Stewards Terry and Keith Mischke were applauded at the reception that followed the event by artists who appreciated their regular cold water deliveries, safety checks, and help with moving their supplies across the rugged landscape. Terry Mischke noted the diversity: "It was wonderful to see people from the ages of 10 to 80, out in nature, making so many different kinds of art."

National Forests Foundation event Organizer Candice Polisky summed up the day:

"It was amazing to witness the transformation from a blank paper or canvas to the finished, framed pieces at Sisters Art Works. Art in the studio is inspirational enough, but this plein air competition along Whychus Creek was extra special."


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