Roger Long is the artist among us
Nature and spirit are depicted in each piece
Many citizens have the intention of leaving a lasting impression on the community through leadership and altruistic deeds. Few however will leave as lasting, or as unique an impression as Lake Oswegos Roger A. Long. His legacy to the community is his art, visible to all who travel on Evergreen Road in Lake Oswego.
A native Oregonian, Long began his art career in high school as a member of the yearbook staff, hand drawing advertisements for business sponsors. He attended University of Oregon beginning in 1954 and studied business administration in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, but he ran short of money before graduating. He decided to enlist in the U.S. Army, and as luck would have it, he was assigned to the Third Infantry of the Presidential Honor Guard. He served at Fort Meyer, Va., as an illustrator.
This unit was the cream of the crop, he said. His duties included drawing detailed diagrams of properly arranged barracks, so that every service man and woman knew the exact placement of every item.
I also created decorative scrolls for retiring generals, he said. Long was given carte blanche to create special displays and his art. He remembers that at the time he was making relief encaustic paintings on Upson board, and was told to go to the Pentagon and get what you need.
He met and married his wife, Jean, while in Virginia, and when he was discharged, the couple drove back to Oregon in a 1957 Plymouth Plaza.
Thats what they were using as New York City taxicabs, so I thought it would surely get us back to Oregon, he said. After seven days on the road, the family, which now included daughter Beth, arrived in Portland just in time for the blustery Columbus Day Storm. That day, 46 people died in the Pacific Northwest, though the Longs were unharmed.
Long went to work at Pacific Stoneware for $1.25 per hour (Imagine that! Married with a child thats the equivalent to $20 a day!) pouring slip and loading the kiln. The family later moved to the Burlingame area. While driving through Lake Oswego, Long noticed a For Rent sign in an alley and inquired about it. The terms were acceptable: $25 per month for half the studio space and with that Long Alley Gallery opened in 1963, showing Longs art and that of other artist friends.
The gallery was uniquely successful, partly due to how the artists were paid. Traditional galleries split sales in thirds: a third went to the gallery, a third to the artist and a third was used to purchase materials to continue creating works. Long choose to take just 20 percent for the gallery and paid the rest to the artists, paying them each week instead of on a monthly basis.
We kept reinvesting in ourselves, he said. We created a continual flow of work and it grew and grew and grew. The gallery lasted an impressive 14 years.
Longs art focuses on the communion of earth, nature and life spirit. For his encaustic sand paintings he hand gathers sand from Oregon beaches, sifting it for fine and coarse sizes. He frames his art almost entirely with red cedar. His subject matter is based in nature as well.
He was one of several artists invited to hang art at Salishan Lodge (now Salishan Spa & Golf Resort) when it opened in 1965, and several pieces still grace the walls of the popular Oregon coast resort.
Long exhibited his Cascade Journey series of 33 paintings in 1967 in Lincoln City; it was a huge undertaking to exhibit such a large collection. Wishing to include a statement for each piece, he left Jean to finish hanging the pieces and headed to the beach.
I went to write the statements and started walking the beach, listening to the beat of my heart, my steps, the waves, he said. He was overtaken by inspiration to write beautiful prose describing each painting, writing it more like life upright, whole and balanced.
This was the birth of Longs Living Script, the beginning of a whole new art journey.
Living Script was described by Beverly Lovstrom in the March April 1970 edition of Northwest Art as a symbolic script designed to give more profound meaning to our traditional alphabet. Each letter and number has its own meaning meanings that probe the essence of life, beauty, nature.
Longs works incorporate words and symbols, becoming a philosophical message as well as a visual experience. His unique art expresses how he sees the world and the peace that he feels radiating from nature. It is something he creates joyfully each and every day.
Long has exhibited at Bryn Mawr Art Exhibit in D.C., Oregon Artist Invitational in Coos Bay, Atrium Art Gallery in Clackamas, Portland Art Museum, Klamath Falls Art Gallery, Lincoln County Art Center, Allied Arts Center in Tacoma, The Dalles Cultural Center, Lawrence Gallery in Sheridan and OConnell Gallery in Portland. His art is in the permanent collections at Salishan Lodge, Bank of California, First National Bank, Far West Federal Savings and Loan and Portland Art Museum.
He was appointed to the Oregon Art Commission by then-Gov. Tom McCall and served from 1974-78.
You can view Longs art in the Living Script Garden, behind Our Lady of the Lake and across from Longs house in the700 block of Evergreen Road in Lake Oswego.
Ive been an artist my whole life, he said. Its just what I do.