Cue “Summertime…”

Posted May 2, 2016, by Kerry McFall (bonus – includes recipe!)

“…and the livin’ is eeeeasy…”

sketch of creek bank

“Battle Creek, Tennessee”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Battle Creek slid quietly past the dining room of our AirBnB accommodations, a welcome green respite after the festivities of the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, TN.  A muskrat paddled a slow V through the thick waters every now and then, and dragonflies the size of hummingbirds buzzed past.  Family, friends, and a glass of wine… Eeeeasy.

“Sow Pibbur” as the natives (slowly) pronounce it is the home of Lodge Manufacturing, where genuine cast iron skillets have been made since about forever.  And more’s the miracle, they’re still being made there!  Twenty years ago they began hosting the cornbread fest down the main street of this 3-Stoplight-Town (wait, now there’s four I think), and it has grown into quite the event.

Sitting on the bench outside the Quilt exhibit (which was in the American Legion hall), I sketched City Hall, which used to be known as “Pappy’s Bank” by my husband’s family.  Pappy let his grandkids play with the coins in the vault… innocent times.  The music events were really authentic country, this tent was full of traditional music including a washboard player.  At the Princess Theatre we even got to see the National Champion Buck Dancer both dance and play the fiddle – seriously, what a talent, but it was too dark to sketch or photograph in there!  The black and white painting I did from a vintage photo in the house – to be honest, there were actually three girls in the photo, but artistic license and a short window of opportunity meant that she got “cut”… sorry, dearie, but I assume she’ll never know!

I hope to do more sketches from my photos of the Vintage Car Drive Thru at the Dixie Freeze diner (yay, it’s still there, it’s still wonderful!) and I’m still trying to get caught up.

But how was the Cornbread, you ask?  We missed getting to sample the contest entries in Cornbread Alley (the line was long, and the pavement was hot…), but we enjoyed the hospitality of several local friends and acquaintances, and here’s my favorite recipe, courtesy of the generous fellow making the omelettes at the Kellerman’s brunch:

National Cornbread Festival Cornbread Omelet Recipe (which had the Western Sizzlin logo on the paper, so maybe it’s theirs)

2 Cups self-rising cornmeal
3/4 Cup self-rising flour
4 Tblsp sugar
1 Tblsp salt

Blend first 4 ingredients.  Add 1 egg, plus buttermilk to consistency slightly runnier than pancake batter.  Heat 8 inch skillet over medium heat, melt butter to coat, add cornbread batter.  When the edges start to brown, loosen and flip.  When done to your liking, put on a plate, add sauteed toppings on one side, fold over and top with shredded cheese.

Toppings can be… whatever you like!  I’m remembering bacon bits, peppers, onion, mushrooms, tomato… mmm.

For more info on the festival and some photos and maybe even recipes, check out

Feline Portraiture

Posted May 1, 2016 by Kerry McFall

cat portrait

“This wasn’t my idea!”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

As a rule, when I try to sketch a cat, they wait one minute so I can begin to draw their face, then they decide to take care of a little personal hygiene.  Predictably, most of my cat portraits have involved one hind leg in the air or a tail flag hoisted above a retreating patoot.  But I think this may be my solution: give her a starfish toy and get my husband to take a photo, then work from the photo!

This is Sparky, arguably the laziest cat in Corvallis.  She might be part Coon Cat.  Or not.  She is definitely asymmetrical.  Her chubby friend is Patrick, of SpongeBob SquarePants fame, whose one talent is that he sticks out his tongue if you push the button on his back.


The process, apart from the sneaky photo, was the fun part.  I started with light pencil, then some watercolor washes, using a sponge for background texture.  Black ink marker followed by dry brush watercolor and gouache for fur, followed by white ink for whiskers, more watercolor, and a few touches of colored pencil.  My resident critic/pet photographer says I need to do more stripes and detail on her body, but hey – the sun is shining, and when the sun shines in Oregon in May, I feel compelled to get outdoors!

Dibs on This Blossom, Too!

Posted April 28, 2016 by Kerry McFall   #blueberrybees  #oldbluerawhoney

A couple of weeks ago, I started to stroll past my blueberry bushes but stopped in my tracks.  It was barely mid-April, but- already they were in full bloom and COVERED with bees.  Inspiration struck and I had no choice but to pull out my paints and get busy.

painted sketch of bee on blueberry blossoms

“Dibs on This One, Too!”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, 8 x 10 prints $25

There’s nothing like the process of making art to make you pay attention: the tops of the pantaloon-leg blossoms are skyblue-pink-green-burgundy.  Gorgeous.  The blossoms are creamy and frilly, and filled with stamens and pistils and pollen, oh my!  The bees seemed drunk, the pollen sacks on their legs heavy with golden powder.  I snapped a few photos, and my favorite was this busy fella, head buried in one blossom and apparently calling dibs on the neighboring blossom by hanging on to it with one back leg.

Bees have had a hard time lately, but there are people paying attention and trying to help them survive and thrive, and making delicious honey, too.  For instance, in one of those serendipitous coincidences, just this morning I received an e-mail from a fellow artist endorsing a local honey producer, the folks at  I was not aware of them before, but their web pages are beautiful and quite amazing.  Talk about knowing where your food comes from:  they can tell you where, as in which meadow or mountainside, your honey came from, and whether your honey comes from primarily blackberry blossoms or poison oak (who knew that poison oak could be a great source of butter-scotchy-tasting honey?!)  They do Honey Tastings!  It must be like the “terroir” of  fine wine, with each geographic and botanical source lending its own special flavors…mmm.

On a smaller scale, a neighbor recently posted about her backyard hives in an article titled Bee Mysteries.

If you’re a bee or blossom fan, you might also like to take a look at another painting I did last year, “Apple Blossoms“.  The original is still available, email if you’d like to buy “Dibs” or “Apple Blossoms”!


The background was created using tulle netting for the small honeycomb textured areas, and sponges.  I used watercolor paint, black and white ink, and gouache paint.

Pig Latin

chicken wth quilt border

“Chicken What?!”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, based on photo from Schmidt’s Garden Center, with permission

My favorite garden center (Schmidt’s of course) published a photo of a chicken  that simply begged to be painted.  I chuckled the whole time I was playing with it.  My resident critic/husband walked past and said, “That really cries out for a caption.”  High praise from Mr. Symmetry!

How about: “I speak Pig Latin, ya know!  And someone clearly just said Icken-Chay Umplings-Day”!!  Then again, a face like that pretty much just speaks volumes on its own.

It also seemed to cry out for a quilty border, so this is a fun way to keep my quilting traditions alive but not have to get out the sewing machine!

I’ve done some chicken sketches before (Chicken Duty, Chickens Do Not Like Firecrackers, Technicolor Betty) but I think this is going to be one of my all-time favorites.

Coffee and Decisions at Schmidt’s

sketch of flower starts and coffee

“Decisions, Decisions…”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, $25 print

Osteospermum African daisies are among my favorite plants for my Pretend Porch.   The builder sadly forgot to add a front porch back in 1939, so I set my big metal glider chairs out there with a little side table.  Add a bottle of wine and lots of clay pots filled with bright flowers and you’ve got a pretty good substitute for a porch, especially when it comes to keeping in touch with the neighbors!  Porch season is not in full swing yet, but we’re getting close.  It’s about time to decide on a color theme for this year’s porch…

So I walked to Schmidt’s for my morning exercise walk, lured by their emails promising coffee and a new shipment of flowers.  I sipped my Mexican something-or-other brew (just coffee, no extra calories and a good rich color compliment match for the bronze daisy ) and painted for an hour. The front runners this year are the “Serenity Bronze”, which is a deep rich orangey magenta-ish glowy wonder, and the “Blue-Eyed Beauty”, which is actually not a bit blue but rather magenta-ish and lemony yellow and matches the color of the house a bit better than bronze…

I decided not to decide today.  Anyway, I couldn’t very well carry all those plants back home in my backpack.  Now I have to go back tomorrow – oh, Dear!


Lettuce Deadline Approaching

"Lettuce French Crisp", mixed media by Kerry McFall, prints $25

“Lettuce French Crisp”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, prints $25

This sketch/painting was done “en plein air” in the fragrant greenhouse at Schmidt’s Garden Center/Susan’s Coffee here in Corvallis.  The coffee is great, and their table surfaces are brightly-colored and textured, making an interesting foundation for what might turn out to be a little series of botanicals.

"Bucket o' Carnations", mixed media by Kerry McFall, $25 print

“Bucket o’ Carnations”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, $25 print

When I returned from San Diego late last week, I still had one small head of lettuce lurking among the blooming broccolini in the raised bed.  It didn’t last beyond the tuna sandwiches for lunch.  Hopefully the weather is going to stay cool enough to plant another 6 pack or two this spring, but if last summer was any indication of how long we can expect cool moist weather to continue, I need to put down the lattes and the paints for a day or two and get out there and get some “French Crisp” in the ground!

Process: Tiger Cub

Posted April 6, 2016 by Kerry McFall

"TigerCubSketch", mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS, photo credit San Diego zoo  The March 2016 issue of ZooNooZ magazine from the San Diego Zoo had a hypnotic photo of a tiger cub on the cover.  It combined the warm fuzzies of a kitten stalking its prey with the full-on predatory intensity of a major carnivore in its brilliant green eyes – I couldn’t leave it out on the coffee table, it followed me around the room.  When I finally was able to make a sketch based on it,  I was pleased with the soft fur effect that came from using a damp sponge to apply the watercolor, but I couldn’t decide if I liked the grey outlines or not.  I felt like I captured a good portrayal of the coming pounce, and I liked the little bit of license that I took with the shapes of stripes and whiskers, but the colors were too tame… my inner voice said, “Stop messing with it before you wreck it!”.  So I did, until I needed to turn it into a birthday card for a teenage boy.


“Tiger Cub 4 Wedu”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS, photo credit San Diego Zoo

This particular teenager I haven’t been able to be with in person for too many years, but I know from Facebook and Skype that he is the epitome of “warm fuzzy” adolescence rushing into the sharp-edged intensity of approaching adulthood.  Taking the image of the sketch into Photoshop was the solution: mess around all I want, but don’t change the sketch itself.  So above is the “final final”, which primarily used a combination of the Cutout tool and the Poster Edge tool.  (There’s no way I could re-create the sequence that actually got me to this result, it’s kind of like foostering around on the Internet – I have no idea how I got somewhere… ) There was then that inevitable moment when the voice said, “Ooh, what if you filled in the white part of the background with black instead?”…Nah.  I’m ready to move on to my next challenge: lettuce.  No eyes, no motion, no fur, no threat!

Marching On

Posted March 18, 2016  by Kerry McFall

Life’s Rich Pageant brings me to San Diego again sooner than I had anticipated (here to help while my son recovers from a skateboard accident), so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to sketch and paint.

The center sketch, “Missouri Street” is absolute proof that architectural perspective is not my friend yet, and I’m sure my grandson would not approve my version of any of those unrecognizable cars, but I am pretty pleased with the suggestion of people relaxing on that patio on the left.   I’m working up my nerve to tackle a seascape… or a sunset…

Process: Digital Time Warp

Posted by Kerry McFall on March 8, 2016

As I was wandering around the Pacific Beach neighborhood in San Diego last week, I took  photos of flowers and trees that struck me as “exotic” for spring.  The orchid tree was one that seemed particularly unique, with it’s double-lobed leaves.  Now back home in the rainy gray of Oregon March, I can play with my paints and pens as I get to know each plant better.

Phase 1 was some splashy fast watercolor in my Pentalic ‘Nature Sketch’, a la Danny Gregory’s “Seeing” in Sketchbook Skool (at least I think it was that class!).  The paper wasn’t a great choice for this many glazes…  Phase 2, I added some black Prismacolor marker lines (.005, .01, .03, and .05) and background blues.  After I’d darkened the background more with Payne’s Gray and indigo colored pencil in Phase 3, and kind of went crazy with my white pen, I decided oops, better hop on the Time Warp.

I was able to backtrack with Photoshop: I layered Phase 3 over Phase 2, and using an airbrush-type eraser, I got rid of the bits I didn’t like from Phase 3, revealing the simpler treatment of Phase 2 underneath.   It’s hard to see in a thumbnail, but enlarged it’s quite noticable.  Still haven’t decided which I like best, 2, 3, or 4… but on to another plant, this one’s overdone!

Cultural Blender

Posted March 6, 2016 by Kerry McFall

I’m taking a break in San Diego with family, reveling in the sun, the sea, and no schedule.  I am so lucky.  There is time to talk and to listen, to wander and paint, and to watch people.

This part of the world is a cultural blender that is churning out polyglot human “smoothies”.  (Polyglot is a good thing, by the way – it just means speaking at least three languages!)  A trip to Balboa Park or the beach boardwalk finds us surrounded by beautiful children who casually move from English to Spanish to Asian languages in one lyrical sentence.   (A tantrum is still a trantrum in any language, however!)

The renowned San Diego Zoo is at one end of the park.  Three generations of one family, each new generation showing the racial influence of another continent, laugh at the antics of a young African deer-type animal playing with a ball, or hold their breath as a snow leopard silently sneaks on the sky bridge above them.  The bus driver began a zoo tour by pointing out the most dominant species on the planet: humans.  So many humans… (I want to learn to draw them more effectively.  Right now they are not much more than awkward stick figures.)

"Cheetah's Companion Dog", mixed media by Kerry McFall, based on photo by San Diego Zoo

“Cheetah’s Companion Dog”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, based on photo by San Diego Zoo

At one point, we saw a cheetah on a leash, walking along the path beside a golden retriever on another leash, both calmly returning the gazes of startled people fumbling for their cell phones.  The Zoo has a companion animal program where, believe it or not, dogs are trained to work with wild animals to help the wild animals understand that there is no need to panic. “It’s cool, bro, just chill…” Amazing.  Truly amazing.

The idea of the blender and its rich results makes me think about upcoming US elections… with a shudder.  Such a contrast of environments:

  • The Zoo, filled with music and laughter, and the occasional human tantrum or howl of an indignant adolescent monkey.  This is a place where families learn together, being mindful of the environment and our impact as humans,
  • The Election/Circus Sideshow, filled with cruel laughter and backbiting rhetoric, racist and ethnic slurs, desperate lies and threats, and the more and more frequent howls of indignant politicians as they  throw tantrums or descend into adolescent taunts about their own extremities… what is the lesson here for families?  Turn off the TV and the computers, for one.  Ugh.  The world is appalled, and rightfully so.

Oops, turning into a rant… sorry!