Trip Report: Plein Air Painting in Oregon

Trip Report: Plein Air Painting in Oregon

By Richard J Oliver

My recent return trip to Portland along the Northern California and Oregon coast was as usual, an over reach which I completely underestimated. A long time ago, when I was just a lad I sat down with a friend to plan a cycle trip. I figured at the age of 14 we should be able to ride an average of 10 miles per hour for 10 hours per day and we should be able to tour the whole of Wales nice and easy in about a week. You figured it, I was wrong by a long way. 30 years later this trip to Oregon was planned in the same fashion. I figured I could take the scenic route up the coast, stop to sample the bars and restaurants in each town and make plein air paintings all the way up and back. I gave myself 4 days to drive the 2400 mile round trip. Not only did I not factor in sleep and eating, I failed to assess the terrain which ended up taking 40+ hours of overall driving time. With all this being said, I had an absolute blast on the trip, taking in the scenery as quickly as I allowed and conducting a swift research and reference imagery trip to make some studio paintings which, if I do say so myself, came out quite well.

Oregon Trip - Richard Oliver

I set out on the Friday morning and started the trip in good time. My goal was to get to Westport before dark. Unfortunately traffic in San Francisco put a spanner in the works. 

By the time I got to Bodega Bay it was pitch black and the drive up through Salt Point was very windy and at times treacherous. I know I was hugging the coast line and wished very much I could see it but I eventually arrived at my campsite at 11pm. I found it easy to set up the Six Moon Lunar Duo tent in the dark and in very little time. I chose to bring the duo on this more civilized car trip because of its extra size and comfort since I was not limited for space or weight. Had I been backpacking or bikepacking, I would have brought my Gatewood Cape instead.

The next morning when I awoke and pulled back my door I was witness to the most gorgeous views from where I lay.

Richard Oliver Plein Air Painting in Oregon

Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo and Minimalist V2

In addition to the Shelter that Six Moon Designs provided me with as part of their ambassador program, I have the new Minimalist V2 Ultralight Backpack for carrying all my Plein air painting gear. I’ve said it so many times before that plein air painting is hard enough, both physically and mentally, that opting for comfort and convenience whenever possible is a must. Because of the mental and physical benefits that plein air painting provides people, especially as we age, having the best most lightweight and comfortable gear like what Six Moon Designs make allows us painters to go further and often for longer to paint those special scenes and views not often captured. The minimalist is perfect for carrying everything I need on a painting trip in addition to the essentials for staying out a few days. When I am car camping I only have my painting gear which barely fill ⅓ of this 40L pack. 

Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 and Silver Shadow Carbon

I’ll keep the details of what I take for another blog post also but here’s a picture of my gear for day to day plein air painting.

Oregon Plein Air Painting - Richard Oliver

The Saturday was filled with joy as I stopped in awe to take photographs of the gorgeous Coastline of Northern California at each turn. After a while I started inland towards Legget and spent 50 dizzying miles climbing hairpin turns again and again until I came to this stunning bridge near South Fork Eel River and captured some of my favorite photographs of the trip which I definitely intend to make into Studio paintings.

Oregon Plein Air Painting

By this time I was running behind schedule and needed to really make up some time. Much of Saturday and Sunday was a blur of driving, sleeping at rest stops for a couple of hours and then pushing on. I’d drive for 90 mins and do some NSDR (Non Sleep Deep Rest) meditation like Yoga Nidra to reset my mind and body and this would allow me to keep going. I don’t remember when I crossed the state lines but it remained beautiful all the way up to Lincoln City where I cut inland to head to Portland late Sunday Night. Here are some photos and potential paintings of this portion of the trip.

Oregon Trip Plein Air
Oregon Plein Air Painting
Oregon Plein Air Painting

On the way back home from Portland I took the I5. I hit a very tricky section climbing over Mount Shasta when a blizzard came in and I feared getting stuck on the North side of the mountain range. Fortunately the truck driver ahead of me knew the route well and I survived by staying about 10 feet behind him all the way since visibility was really bad.

Oregon Plein Air PaintingOregon Plein Air Painting

All in all, my plan to paint was a little too ambitious but the gear I took with me worked better than I had hoped. I have since taken the Minimalist backpack out painting with me many times and it more than meets my needs, and the comfort and convenience has yet to be matched.

Oregon Plein Air Painting

I’ve also used the Lunar Duo on a bunch of occasions, even motorcycle camping with my son. I was amazed that I could fit all our camping gear into the side panniers of my motorcycle so nothing needed to be strapped on. My next plein air painting trip will be bikepacking up near Big Bear where I’ll have to be very conscious of weight and size so I’ll for sure be taking my Gatewood cape shelter on that trip.

Oregon Plein Air Painting

My latest paintings of this trip will be on display at the ‘Beverly Hills Art show’ and also ‘Art in the park’ in Ojai later this month.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at or message me at my Instagram page @richardjoliverpleinair and ask me anything specific about the gear I use and the wonderful backpacking equipment that I am proud to be an ambassador for. 

Stay safe!

Richard J Oliver

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