Portland Skyline: There’s Fine Lines and There’s Tracing


Dreams of a pink skyline.

This post was inspired by the Pittsburgh Orbit, well, actually, the idea was straight up stolen from them. We only steal from the best. When I saw their tribute to Pittsburgh skyline art I was reminded of the images I’ve collected of precise lines and graphics that have created images of Portland skylines used in advertising, company logos, school murals and art pieces. I hadn’t gotten around to pulling them together but seeing the most recent Pittsburgh Orbit post made me realize it was time.

With no clear guidelines every design takes a stab at what to include and exclude. They might sneak in a bridge or two but all the bridges would be impossible. Distinctive skyline landmarks like KOIN Tower and Big Pink are a must. The goal is to make Portland recognizable. Otherwise, why bother? You’d be left with a generic urban landscape. There’s also the trick of creating a one dimensional image that may not jive with the East-West lay out of the city. Giving leeway to precise skyline design is necessary to fully appreciate different designs.

Getting Schooled

Opening doors for Portlanders.

When dealing with school murals it’s safe to assume the work is by students. This means I’ll step light with my critiques. At Jackson Middle School, the Portland skyline graces one of the front doors blending with door handles and windows. It’s a sunny depiction of downtown around the Hawthorne Bridge. (I risk a grilling if I get a bridge name wrong.) The scene stretches from Big Pink to the KOIN Tower with lots of Willamette River and a desolate Waterfront Park that resembles the morning after Blues Fest after everyone has gone home but cleaned up after themselves like good Portlanders. This portrait is colorful and cheery yet devoid of people. Perhaps a post-plague, Portland portrayal.

Portland’s lego inspirations.

At Wilson High School we get a 3D representation with dark shadows and blossoming trees. It’s a pure design I appreciate. I’m no art critic. I only long for images that fit the theme. This works well and it offers equal space to bold letters declaring the city’s name. This youthful statement of the obvious is forgivable. It only takes one recognizable building to make it an authentic Portland skyline and this fits the bill. The mural’s mostly monochromatic design works—like the city’s motto.

Simply Get it Right

Going Uptown!

It takes very little. If you want to make the skyline a logo you just have to work geometric shapes into the patterns that resemble downtown. Blocky rectangles topped with a triangle equals a KOIN Tower. We’ll take the graphic artist’s word for it. Uptown, downtown, wherever you’re going, you won’t get lost when your company name fits within the boundaries of a few of the city’s buildings.

Portland after dark.

The Audubon Society uses the city as a rallying cry. Save energy, birds and make the stars more visible it declares. This poster has nice detailing like purple skies, flying geese, a giant moon and it sneaks in the Steel Bridge. Some buildings don’t appear to be in the correct order. Is that Big Pink standing next to the KOIN Tower?  Who cares. There’s no need to get picky when it’s more about the message. If Portlanders turn off the lights there will savings, sightings and our skyline will pop like a breath taking silhouette for all to gaze upon.

Whimsical Wins

Life in a fairy tale.

I didn’t steal this image so much as borrow it. Famous last words. Details are sketchy. It may have been spotted in a coffee shop downtown. I love the idea of Portland as a land of enchantment of sorts, the kind an artist’s imagination brings our locale. Sandwiched between mountain ranges, we get clouds of falling rain, puffs of heart smoke from chimneys and an abstract rainbow mixed in with Portland landmarks like the St. Johns Bridge and the tram that bring the image home. The tram is part of the city’s whimsy and for lack of a better word, charm so it’s great to see it included. Bonus points are granted for the creation of an image of a place, I assume, most of us would be willing to live.

I’ll have a Portland bagel.

I entered Spielman Bagels in Multnomah Village after deciding to write about Portland skyline art. I was greeted by a theme appropriate illustration as part of their menu board. More whimsy here with what can be spotted under the bright lights. We get the tram, Mount Hood, the Freemont Bridge and the buildings that are a must invite for any skyline art party.


I know all of you are begging for more images which I hope to present sooner than later. Portland images appear before me with regularity and there’s  also a backlog on an old phone that couldn’t be located at press time.

2019 Year in Review: The Year of the Toothless Mermaid


Compromised grasp.

“When failure’s got you in its grasp.
And you’re reaching for your very last.
It’s just beginning.”   –David Berman

What a year! Why? Who knows? Each year seems crazier than the last. Was it better or worse than any other? How can you tell? It was living in all its clawing, spewing and hand stabbing glory. Here I sit stitches in hand scrawling the initial efforts of my year-in-review summation. The stitches resulted from an unfortunate kitchen utensil accident, nothing to laugh at and nothing to prevent me from scribbling some lines. Above all it’s been a year of considering the mission to keep bringing the world observations from my skewed vision. In summary I decided to reflect on three stories that stuck in my craw. The year ended with my attempts to tell a story that put a direct spotlight on my scattershoted mind. Those teeth! I rediscovered more intricate details concerning the visual overload I experienced at the Mermaid parade and I also wanted to revisit the explosion of birdbath yard art I wrote about in NE Portland.

The Hits:  Transmermaidions


Hidden behind photos of mermaid parade participants bursting with costume details exploding in color, fabric and under the sea energy were scenes of mystery and glamor that appeared with the aid of photo manipulation changing from color to black and white and cropping the photographs to add a whole other demension.


Parading is better.


Beyond the bridge.



Kid interview.


The Sleepers:  Bird Bathing in Yard Art


Hold that jug.

The minutiae of this display was the thing that has always inspired me. The languishing decorations reveal new details upon each viewing while the mystery of who’s behind it remains in tact to this date. In other words, it’s an oasis of yard art run amok that I have a full appreciation for it all from the Grandma shades on the windows, to the angel, frog and other assorted cement figurines, to the enigmatic smile that graces the face of the jug holding girl in the picture above, it all comes together, not really, yet so neatly, in one yard.


How do you spell squirrel?


The Misses:  Lost Teeth Found?


Street of teeth!

What started as something that seemed easy to write about got complicated. It took three posts to uncover the tip of an iceberg sized mystery. Still what a legend when you consider the unknown specifics of how it started and the evidence that still might exist if one were to look harder. Above is the neighborhood tucked away between the Naito Parkway and I-5 where SW Arthur meets SW Water Street. Below is a contribution to a Reddit discussion. I lost track of this passage. It would have helped after I borrowed this book from the library and I couldn’t find a denture reference after searching in vain. This may yet lead to another denture discovery.


Misplaced research!



Inspirational and noteworthy:

Queen City Discovery

Here’s your chance to visit Ohio and surrounding areas to look at great photos of aging buildings. If you like seeing images of small town business districts this is the site for you.


Love and Saucers

The movie, available on Amazon Prime, was slow moving until it dawned on me that the Alien encounters that seemed plausible could also have been fabricated. In the end it didn’t matter. The movie’s main character was unassuming and believable. The movie brought back fond memories of attending oddball art shows.


Dead Mall Stories

Worried about current mall culture? I know, you’re too cool for that. Someone is out there documenting the casualties of our changing times. I noticed entries that are out of date but it may be worth a look around.