Facebook brings us any number of images — snapshots of family and friends, political photos and plenty of cute cats and dogs. But longtime Newport resident Ed Cameron does something different, posting his delicate watercolors, often of iconic Nye Beach scenes, and bringing delight to viewers during the current pandemic. Unlike much of what we find on the web, Cameron’s paintings offer plenty of good cheer.
“I’m fond of the positive feedback on Facebook — it’s a connection that is going on and is a big part of the fun I talk about with doing my art,” he said.
Cameron started posting his paintings on Facebook about two years ago. “I had been on Facebook a few years before that for general conversation with the community, and I have always done art,” he said. “It occurred to me to post my paintings on my site and share them — I do a lot of watercolors and this was an opportunity to share them.”
His Facebook watercolors start with a roughed-out sketch in pen and ink or pencil that he has reduced to inked lines in preparation for the internet. “Then I scan it from my printer to my computer,” he said. “I print that out on 8-1/2 by 11-inch cardstock. Then I start painting.”
After he completes the painting, he scans the artwork again into the computer for color enhancement before transferring the digitized file onto his Facebook page. He works from a backlog of drawings he has amassed over the years and adds watercolor to his chosen piece. He said he tries to average about one watercolor a week.”
Cameron’s posting of his watercolors is blended in with one of the major innovations of the pandemic, the use of Zoom. He explained that he has been experimenting with a form of Zoom video, a slide show of about 20 watercolors with a musical track, “sort of like walking through an art gallery,” he noted. He has shown his paintings on several Zoom sites to good response, including with a San Francisco theater group he has been involved with for decades.
A large part of his time currently is spent working with that San Francisco group, which he describes as a kind of street theater relationship dating back to his days living in that city in the ’70s. “We’ve been in contact ever since — first by mail, then by email, now by Zoom,” he said.
Cameron will also display his watercolors at local dance and theater benefits. But his emphasis, he said, is not on finding commercial outlets for his art, adding, “That’s a distraction for me. I like the idea of showing my art but I’m not too much interested in marketing it.”
He noted that he has always worked in some form of journalism, whereas his art is “kind of playtime.” While Cameron said he has been enjoying the isolation of quarantine, he is busy much of the time online with family and friends as well as with researching topics in history, biography and current events.
He has never taken any art classes, although he signed up for an oil painting class in Richland, Wash., but lasted only a couple of sessions before heading back to Oregon. “Oils did not interest me,” he recalled.
Cameron grew up in Portland and considers himself a “Willamette Valley kid.” He had lived in California — first San Francisco and then Los Angeles — for 10 years before he moved on Jan. 1, 1979 to Newport, where his friend Dick Kennedy had settled.
“I was surprised at how attached to living at the coast I was,” he recalled. “I never dreamed I would come to the coast. Now I’ve been here 40 years, and I think I would be unhappy anywhere else.”
Most of his watercolors are recognizable subjects to locals, but a recent project is a little different. His granddaughter in Eugene follows his work and recently asked him to do a sketch of her aging dog so she can have that translated into a tattoo. “That’s a donation I’m very happy to be part of,” he said.
Among longtime locals, Cameron is known for producing the Gilmore Gazette, which ceased publication about 30 years ago but still elicits fond memories. “I still get lots of comments about it,” he said. “It was the kind of journalism I was interested in at the time. Now I have periods when I write and periods when I draw. It strikes a balance.
“A lot of what I’ve done in art is cartooning, and I did a lot of that here,” he said. He also published the graphic novel “Gilmore by the Sea” — the title refers to a landmark described as “the only flop house with an ocean view and a waiting list,” now refurbished and known as the Sylvia Beach Hotel. The book, published in 2011, is a collection of cartoons and short stories from the Gilmore Gazette period.
“After I published it, I stopped drawing except for sketching,” he said.
Many of Cameron’s Facebook paintings are of Nye Beach, “and the rest I consider to be part of the Nye Beach vision,” Cameron reflected, noting there are also plenty of paintings of local cats and dogs. “It’s Nye Beach when it was Nye Beach, and it’s definitely not the same anymore. Café Mundo is closed and the social center has disappeared. It’s an interesting passage because Nye Beach is the arts community for the town and the central coast. Facebook does a lot but it doesn’t provide personal interaction, yet it’s still a central collection of the Nye Beach consciousness.”
And to those who remember the earlier Nye Beach, that consciousness can still be found in soft watercolor at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger.