Successful outdoor painting, like successful traveling, can require us to rouse our spirits and spit in the eye of circumstance. One simply cannot allow fate or the elements to...

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Successful outdoor painting, like successful traveling, can require us to rouse our spirits and spit in the eye of circumstance. One simply cannot allow fate or the elements to stand in our way.

Willapa Bay: Located near the southwest corner of the state, a watery heaven on Earth for ducks, oysters and cranberries. Over 260 square miles of estuary, wetlands, tidal flats and bogs that more than 100 species of birds visit or call home. Roosevelt Elk squish in the mud along its shores in the company of salamanders and otters. Long Island, part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, boasts 900-year-old red cedar trees.

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I had traveled to the area with the intention of sitting by the bay, painting. But Washington delivered the kind of weather better suited for ducks, oysters and cranberries than watercolorists; it rained the entire time I was there. Well, very nearly.

PAUL SCHMID / THE SEATTLE TIMES
From the back of my car, a misty view across Willapa Bay toward
Ledbetter Point State Park.


The rain stopped briefly while I was eating in the Corner Cafe in Raymond, and not a drop did I see on my drive down or back to Seattle. It truly seemed that fate had me in its sights.

The turning point came on my second day, when

I awoke to a promisingly dry morning. Skipping breakfast, I raced down to a nice spot the rain had chased me from the day before. I quickly set up my easel, sat down — and saw the first big drops land on my watercolor paper.

PAUL SCHMID / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Willapa Bay’s mudflats provide food and shelter for shorebirds, making it environmentally vital.


Shouting “I’ve had enough!” flinging down my brush and throwing a fit had no effect, so I fished around in the back of my car, and, muttering to myself, sat in the downpour with my palette on my knees, holding an umbrella over my easel, and painted the beautiful, vivid colors of that sodden sky and marshlands. I loved it.


Later that day, I crouched beneath the hatch of my station wagon and tried to capture the misty violets of the mudflats idling peacefully in the rain near the village of Bay Center.

I have always loved the moody colors created by our damp Northwest weather and was delighted to have discovered that it doesn’t mean I have to put away my paints — possibly something fate had planned for me all along.