Movie mischief, Portland’s locally famous Laurelhurst Theatre
Before I moved to Portland I spent three months there to get away from the Vermont winter, and was invited by new friends to a Lord of the Rings marathon. The plan was to watch the first two at their apartment then see the Return of the King, third one, as it made its first rounds through second run theaters, like the nearby Laurelhurst. I had only ever been to mostly commercial chain theaters and never knew such places existed, where you could sit down at a table with a beer and slice of pizza while you watched your movie!
Three years later I had relocated to Portland and started Mason Parker Watercolors, adding this scene to the list. Motivated by both the good memory and having plenty going on in it to work with, it ended up being unique in many subtle ways.
Unlike my other theaters paintings, that I did before or after, I have seen none of the movies that are featured on its sign. Not that I cared to hold up my work schedule for any either and let working conditions get too unpleasantly hot and dry. Still, I took extra care to make a gradient of orange to blue in the sky and first glow of the streetlight switching on, to make it feel like it is a very warm midsummer evening.
On the ground is a cross section of typical shenanigans that go on outside a movie theater or concert venue while waiting in line for tickets. It stands out both in the number of human figures I painstakingly drew in, and that they are all in various forms of drama or totally goofing off instead of mostly going about their business as in my other street paintings. It is also what turned the piece toward a more Americana look than any of the others I have done.
Somehow motorcycles often and unintentionally make it into my paintings. I don’t know whether this is because I enjoyed riding them in my late teens, or I just like drawing all their parts like drawing spaceships before I was a teen. But they are certainly as common a staple of summer as miniskirts, melting ice cream cones, and sneaking into the movies just because you can.
Aside from over a decade of my style evolving, a 2021 version would likely have an LED streetlight and taller trees, maybe few homeless tents on the sidewalk, but compared to nearly every other Portland street scene I have painted this scene has changed very little since. Had I been a more advanced painter then, I’d have waited another half hour into darkness so I could get more emphasis on the Laurelhurst neon sign lighting up.
Laurelhurst Theater, SE Portland, Oregon, May 2007, ink & watercolor, 22″X15″