Wine Country 2014 – Mary’s Peak Doppleganger

vineyard sketch

“PerryMasonVineyard”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This small vineyard tasting room made us feel like we’d been invited to join Perry and Della for a glass of wine on their patio.  The tasting at the Raymond Burr winery is complimentary (kind of a rare thing as near as we can tell), and the gentleman who served us says that Della (Barbara Hale) still comes up for special occasions because “she’s family”.  We sat in the shade at one of the handful of picnic tables, me painting, Griff working, as we listened to an odd mix of hummingbird buzzes, roosters crowing, a mockingbird, and 1980′s pop music from inside the tasting room.


We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect temperature (mid-70′s) or a more relaxing setting.  As you can see from the photo, I took the liberty of eliminating the big conifer and the brussels sprouts plants from my painting!   As I began to paint the big mountain (almost visible in the left of the photo, possibly Alexander Mountain but no one seemed really sure,) I gasped – the silhouette is almost identical to Mary’s Peak in Oregon!  A closer look revealed that the second hump is actually another mountain behind the first one.  Still, for a minute there I thought I had so imprinted that outline on my brain that I was no longer capable of doing an accurate mountain!

Lots more vine and vineyards paintings in the works, but here is a sketch of an unexpected view at the Castella di Amoroso vineyards in Calistoga:

"Unexpected Vista", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Unexpected Vista”, mixed media by Kerry McFall


Summer Gallery

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

The summer is flying by, and I realize I haven’t posted very often here.  It’s not because I’ve been slacking, I’ve just been very focused on the Sketchbook Skool courses I’ve been taking, which in turn has led to being immersed in the new community of artists I’m meeting there.  I’ve also been working away diligently at my eight Call & Responses pieces, which of course have to stay secret until October.  I just finished the above piece as part of a “16 Trees” challenge that evolved from the course, and there are two more from that series below.

Cleveland Botanical Garden

Zebra Butterfly by Kerry McFall

Zebra Butterfly by Kerry McFall

Cleveland Botanical Garden Glass House by Kerry McFall

Cleveland Botanical Garden Glass House by Kerry McFall

I could spend hours and hours in this place… the butterflies and birds are enchanting, and watching the people discover the enchantment is even more fun!

Sketchbook Project will be in Portland(ia) next weekend – oops, make it July 8 & 9…!

June 25 – just got word that dates have been changed to July 8 & 9, so changing them here as well.  KM

Last year I joined the Sketchbook Project when we were in Brooklyn, and now my little sketchbook is touring the country with 100′s of others in a special little “bookmobile”.    The topic I chose was “Borders”, one of those interesting multi-dimensional concepts that gives lots of room for interpretation.  I actually had a bit of “stage fright”, staring at that little blank book, but I approached like I do any other sketches, just get started and see what develops!

Sketchbook Project page spread, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Sketchbook Project page spread, mixed media by Kerry McFall

If you happen to be in Portland, I highly recommend stopping by and thumbing through a few sketchbooks.  I couldn’t believe how marvelous it was to hold the ACTUAL sketchbook in my hand, reading the artists’ own handwriting, seeing every stroke of the pen – it’s why original art is so much better than a copy, duh!  Here’s the scoop:

The Sketchbook Project Mobile Library is making two special stops in Portland, OR! To start, we’ll be at Portland Art Museum on Friday, July 8th and 9th. We’d love to see you out! 

Thousands of sketchbooks have been sent in from across the globe to make their rounds across North America on The 2014 Tour. We are only in town for 2 days before moving along our route, so you won’t want to miss it!

These events are totally free to attend. You’ll be able to browse sketchbooks cataloged by theme, materials, tags, location, and much more. You can even pick up a blank book for creating your own submission to next year’s project.

Please join us:

June 27th | 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave
Portland, OR 97205

June 28th | 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Director Park
SW Park Ave
Between SW Taylor and SW Yamhill
Portland, OR

My, What Big Ears You Have!

painting of Corgi black and white

“Clara the Corgi”, mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

I met Clara the Corgi last fall in Knoxville when she was still a puppy, looking for all the world like she was made out of spare parts: German Shepherd ears, quarter-scale Australian Shepherd legs, Basset Hound body, intense cartoon Mouse face… At that time, she could climb the stairs to get to the bedrooms, but she couldn’t figure out how to get back down.  Things aren’t much different now – the spare parts have all grown, but in the same mis-matched scale as before. However, she has developed the “coiling slinky toy” technique for getting downstairs, alternating front end to the east and rear end to the west, two steps at a time.  My Dad would have called that technique “ass over teakettle”.

She takes her security guard cues from Tay, a large (and slightly slow-witted) black Labrador, when anyone approaches the house or drives up the drive.  Clara trots up and stares urgently at Tay, the question clear on her face, “What should we do, Boss?!”  Tay determines, after careful consideration, whether or not they should A) bark hysterically, B) raise hackles and rush madly but mutely to the door, or C) just keep hanging out and shredding stuffed toys.  Options A and B are obviously Clara’s preferred choice, and there was ample opportunity for both as the house remodeling crews came and went during our recent visit.  But like a good pack dog, she follows her leader.  If option C can’t be avoided, she demonstrates her distaste with one disgruntled backwards “woof” as she returns to her cushion.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.


Aliens Land In Cleveland

"Star Gazer" sketch by Kerry McFall

“Star Gazer” sketch by Kerry McFall

This lady was about 6″ tall and completely captivated me.  She stands in the Cleveland Art Museum, staring intently at her plexiglass enclosure through to the ceiling.  Such simple lines.  I am not sure exactly how she wound up in Ohio after being dug up in Turkey, but I am convinced that she must represent an alien traveler that was stranded here on earth eons ago… the grace of her slender body, the shape of her head, tiny pinpoint eyes, none of which bear any resemblance to female statuettes from ancient times (at least not that I’ve ever seen).  Well, okay – maybe Egyptian… but the alien theory works for me!

Cleveland was a little detour en route to Eerie.  The flight to Ohio offered several people-sketching opportunities from magazine ad photos (below), then the art museum and the Cleveland Botanical Garden provided more sketch fodder .   The Botanical Garden provided a fluttery bonus in the glass house – dozens of tropical butterflies on the wing!  I took lots of photos and will be working on paintings from them soon, in between drawing lessons with a curly-headed two-year old, who really can dial Lithuania with amazing speed and stealth…




Lovely Day for a Quick Plein Air Sketch

sketch of lupine

“Lupine”, watercolor and ink, by Kerry McFall

sketch of fields and mountains

“Midge Cramer Trail”, ink and watercolor by Kerry McFall

Half a mile from the parking lot at the fairgrounds, there is a bench on the Midge Cramer trail, the perfect spot for sketching.  By the time you’ve reached it, you can’t help but feel your batteries re-charging.  It smells good (wild roses and sweet meadow grass), it sounds good (crickets and birdsong), it’s gorgeous and green.  People jog and pedal along smiling, dogs can barely walk for wagging, the occasional horses even seem glad to see you.  There are lots of wildflowers this time of year, and unfortunately also lots of poison oak so stay on the trail.  The lupine I sketched above are undoubtedly transplants from someone’s garden via a blue jay or squirrel, they’ve sprouted up just behind the bench.

Technique Notes

I sketched these in my Grey toned Strathmore book, which just happened to be the right size to fit in a small pack, and discovered that a toned paper is really great when you’re sitting out in the direct sunlight.  Instead of being blinded by the reflection on bright white paper, you can actually see what you’re doing.  And as a bonus, just a white charcoal pencil makes for easy highlights.  I wondered if the watercolor and colored pencil would still be as bright after photographing, and I think they look good!

Flaming Rainbow

"Flaming Rainbow", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Flaming Rainbow”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Rainbows are so simple, and yet so magical.  And so difficult to capture on paper, especially when they are flaming in the sky for 20 minutes!  The science is apparently wrapped around words like parhelion, or sun dog, or irridescent cloud – I like my term better, a Flaming Rainbow.

Seeing it was also an interesting social/cultural experience – I was sitting at a sidewalk table on campus when it appeared.  The folks who weren’t staring at their cell phones were staring at the sidewalk as they trudged past.  Feeling a bit like the Village Idiot, I kept pointing at the sky and saying, “Look Up!”  Almost to a person, they would look at me as if I had sprouted antlers, carefully and quickly look up like I might try to take their cell phone away, then gasp.  Then take a picture of it with their cell phones, of course.   But at least they got to see it, and most of them thanked me and were quite excited to have seen it.  Apparitions like this are so magical, and just a little unsettling for those of us who thought there was nothing new under the sun!

Mary’s Peak from Bald Hill Trail

"Mary's Peak from Bald Hill", mixed media sketch by Kerry McFall

“Mary’s Peak from Bald Hill”, mixed media sketch by Kerry McFall

A lovely bright green morning called for a sketching expedition.  I packed up my arting bag and my 3-legged stool/cane and found a good spot beside the fence up at the Bald Hill natural area.  The cloud cougar was about to creep over the top of Mary’s Peak at first, but it slunk away, leaving the silhouette shining in the sun (you know how people see shapes in clouds?  the clouds behind the peak always look like a cougar to me, just waiting for its chance to leap over the mountain and into the valley.)  It was fun to see all the Mother’s Day hikers (one little guy had a pair of binoculars, wrong end up, and spent a good long time staring at me) and bikers, even a couple of horseback riders.  I’ve been wished Happy Mother’s Day from most of “my” kids all over the world, I’ve got a bottle of Cupcake Champagne chilling in the fridge, and I found some leftover chocolate truffles from Christmas, so I’m a happy Mom!


If I Were a Beer Brewer…

…I would be in Seventh Heaven here, watching my hops vine climb merrily over the fence, across the neighbor’s deck, and up onto their garage roof.  I may not be able to keep a sunflower plant from being chewed to bits by unknown cooties, but my hops are phenomenal!


We’ve reached the point in the Willamette Valley spring where if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour… anything goes!  The sky was gorgeous one warm afternoon last week, here seen from under the bridge just south of Corvallis: 

"Willamette Spring", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Willamette Spring”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The week before that, a mean little hailstorm attacked my baby lettuces, but they survived with bruises and spots.  

"Hailstorm Sketch", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Hailstorm Sketch”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Now the question becomes, did I jump the gun this morning and plant my tomatoes too soon?  Time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m just sketching away every day, finishing up assignments for my online Sketchbook Skool, and preparing for the next class.  Here are a few of my recent sketches: