“Gas Light” at the Camp Sherman Store
Metolius River, OR | 16 x 20 inches | oil on panel
I painted this last summer, in late August, and am only now finally getting around to uploading it online. It was commissioned by the owners of the store, and this is perhaps one of my favorite places in all of Oregon.
My wife (then girlfriend) first took me to this place soon after we started dating. I immediately fell in love with it, which was handy since I was already in love with her. She had spent much of her childhood summers here on the Metolius, in the cabins, with her parents and sisters. She and her three sisters would walk a mile down a road made red and dusty from ground up lava to the store you see here, where they could buy penny-candy by the fist-full, or float down to the store on the icy water and walk back up again just for a change. A childhood idyl.
The first time I drove into Camp Sherman I felt as though I was driving back into time. Everything seemed rosy and filled with a kind of soft nostalgia. Kids with fishing poles were walking along the river. Dogs were napping out in the road. And people were sipping a pop or eating ice cream on benches by the door. And out in front of the store, beyond a parking lot studded with full-grown Pondarosa Pines, was the Metolius River itself; burbling and twisting in every way. There was also a platform over one edge of the bank so you could hold your kids up to see trout huddled together against the current. This was (and still is) old-school Oregon. Central Oregon.
The Metolius quickly became a favorite haunt of mine as well. A place to go as often as possible every summer. To paint, and hike in the mornings, and to relax into a hammock during the hot afternoon. In fact, it still is. My wife’s parents once own half a share in a cabin in Tract C. If you want one yourself you can still buy one if you wait long enough. If you can pony up the money when one come up for sale. Or if you know someone before it comes up for sale. But you can’t buy the land under a cabin. The land is owned by the Forest Service and only offered as a 99 year lease. Which keeps things pretty darn quiet around the place.
But what’s in a name? For the life of me I can’t seem to figure out what I should call this painting. “Gas Light” is obviously a pun, and I’m not normally big on punny titles because they can easily become too cutesy-woosty for my liking. I painted this on the spot over two sweet bug-free nights, standing in the parking lot. Chatting with the various Shermanites as they came out of their cabins for a post-prandial stroll. I painted it while wearing a headlamp, with two LED lights clipped to either side of the easel, which made the colors a bit of a challenge. It was nice that Kathy and Roger (the owners) roped off the parking lot, and allowed me to defeat the light sensors so the pump lights could come on early, before they went home behind the store. Because it’s those pum lights that make the painting. But I just don’t know what it should be called.
What do you think? Maybe you can help me out . . .