Wine and Watercolor

We recently drove with my mother to King Estate Vineyards, where I told them that what they really, really need is an Artist in Residence… what could be better than spending your afternoons painting and drinking wonderful wines?  And I nominated myself, of course – now to persuade them!

"King Estate Patio" mixed media by Kerry McFall

“King Estate Patio” mixed media by Kerry McFall

We enjoyed a gourmet dinner on the patio, looking over the flowers and hummingbirds out to the Willamette Valley and it’s ever-so-green-and-gold meadows and hillsides.  I sketched and painted between bites and courses, concluding that hummingbirds are going to take some more practice.

Lavender blossoms send up their sweet scent all around the restaurant and winery, planted in every possible spot and at the ends of the grape rows.  As we left, I snapped a few photos of the shadows creeping from the big firs on the hill crest over the rows, undulating across the curved hillsides… you don’t see shadows this shape in most vineyard paintings!

"Lavender Shadows at King Estate Vineyard", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Lavender Shadows at King Estate Vineyard”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Angeles National Forest Artist in Residence 2015: Sketchbook Journal Project

“What’s an artist in residence?”  No one quite knew what to make of an art program in a Forest Service campground, until I pulled out what came to be known as my “arting gear”, including small personal sketchbooks, colored pencils, rubber snakes and toy bears, and invited them to join me at the shady picnic tables.

The campground families and kids hopped right in, choosing their favorite “model” and colored pencils, and about an hour later there were drawings of dragons and condors and landscapes and flowers, and lots of happy campers, including me!  The program gave all of us a way to simply be together in the woods, quietly sharing our insights about nature, looking more closely than we usually do, making drawings that will take us back to those woods for years to come.  The art sessions also gave families a way to keep the kids busy without having to organize a big expedition.  My two favorite participants were A.J. and Zack, the sons of the cafe manager and his wife.  Their parents were very hospitable, and their excellent food kept me from having to do much camp cooking and being able to just make art!

photo of instructor and children making art at picnic table

“Arting at the Campground”, Kerry McFall

Before I began this Artist Residency adventure a few weeks ago in mid-June 2015, I didn’t know there WAS a national forest anywhere near Los Angeles!  But there is, and it’s beautiful by any forest standards.   Mountains, vistas, forest, flowers, fresh air… but no water this year.  The drought is So Very Real…  However, the Crystal Lake Campground has an infrastructure of historic facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the Depression era that give it an aura all its own – who needs water when you’ve got ghosts?  

"A Look Back", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“A Look Back”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

There are remains of the stone walls, fireplace, bandstand, and dance floor of a fabulous ballroom (or maybe a tent with a stone foundation?)  which was legend for big band events in the 1930’s – 1950’s, hidden in plain sight.  If you can’t hear the music and see the dancers at night, you aren’t paying attention…  but oddly, photos of that era are hard to come by.  I would love to do more research, but being off the grid up there at 5,500 feet, there weren’t many opportunities.  There are also plenty of ghost stories involving attacks by phantom bears back when the facilities were being built… gave me the shivers…

When I wasn’t “arting” with other campers or exploring the trails, I had full use of the welcome coolness of the Studio, an old building re-vamped for use by artists, to work on my own art.  Over the course of a week, I completed 20 mixed-media sketches in the journal that now belongs to their program – the sketchbook gallery below includes my favorites.  My husband and I hiked and wandered until it got too hot by Oregon standards, then I sketched and he wrote.  I worried about bears and mountain lions, and there was plenty of evidence of the critters, but all we encountered were lizards and blue jays and one horrendous spidery bug… I didn’t know whether to be relieved or just the tiniest bit disappointed about the bears…

The Angeles Forest has just been augmented by the newly-designated San Gabriel National Monument, and I got the first calendar slot for the new-this-year artist residency program.  The rest of the summer will bring nine other artists working there at different times in different media – it should be a terrific season!

Escaping to the Coast

sketch of children playing on shore

“Simple Pleasures”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

When the temp reaches 97 degrees in the Willamette Valley, plus a pollen count that’s off-scale even for here, it’s time to skedaddle to the coast.  Oregonians call it “the coast” because it’s not a beach… it’s a rocky stretch of sand scoured by cold wind and covered by clouds and fog.  It’s just not a place where you stretch out with your paper umbrella in your drink and your floppy hat covering your face from the sun.  Floppy hats must be anchored with elastic chin-bands, and drinks just make your hands colder.  But we love it.  You cross the center line of Highway 101 to turn onto the coast access road, and the temp plunges 40 degrees – no kidding!  The brave little souls painted above were having a marvelous adventure because they don’t know any different… I hope their hot cocoa was waiting for them when they finally were dragged away!

No trip to the coast is complete without a trip to Mo’s Chowder.  We sat out of the wind and enjoyed garlic cheese bread with our bowls of buttery chowder, and I had a perfect view of the dock and the Tsunami-bait homes out on the jetty.

sketch of dock

“View from Mo’s in Lincoln City”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

We stayed a few nights, had quite an adventure in the casino, and were ready to come home to a much more comfortable stretch of temps in the 70’s… whew!  Here comes summer!

Post-Trillium Sketches

The Trillium Project Residency left me with a camera full of images and a head full of things to ponder (click here for a look at the sketchbook journal I did during the residency, and more about the project itself.) So far those have evolved into two paintings – not Plein Air, mind you, because logging trucks (aka flying dragons) and artists sitting in the gravel at the side of the road don’t mix well!

sketch of old bike

“Spring Green”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The first one was inspired by an abandoned rusty bike on Shot Pouch road, just west of the cabin.  I suspect that the bike may have had a close encounter with something on bigger wheels, the rear tire is actually wrapped completely around the back part of the frame… but the handlebars are pointing out over the spring greenery of the meadow in such an optimistic attitude.  Bittersweet.

The second was painted from a photo I took just outside the community of Harlan, up the road a piece from Burnt Woods and Shot Pouch road.   Harlan is one of those Oregon places that has been transformed several times, much like the little valley where one branch of my family settled.  At first, men fought the trees to the ground with crosscut saws and whipsaws. Once those Monster Logs were gone, the forests were bruised from their passing, but still, there was forest.  Technology changed – enter the chainsaw and the gasoline engine.  In the boom years, logs flew by on roaring trucks, huge logs, maybe only three to a truck.

meadow view of clearcut

“Harlan Legacy”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I remember the first time I saw a logging truck in Georgia in the 1980’s, with dozens of piddly, skinny logs roped to the truck. I smirked, “You call that a log?  We have REAL logs in Oregon.” And then I flew back home, and saw the mountains from the air for the first time…  Industrial logging techniques  had morphed into clear cutting, and little was left but eroding scars.  A fringe of trees was left standing at the sides of the highways and on the ridge tops, leaving us down in the valleys with our illusions of forest.   The “real logs” were quickly becoming history, the forest had become “managed” timber lands.

That old clearcut above that little ranch in Harlan seemed so familiar, though I had never been there before.  It was beginning to green up as the red alder and blackberry moved in.  Life is returning.  But my gut tells me that every clearcut diminishes the potential for recovering the diversity of life in a forest, and the legacy of that land will never be as rich as it could have been.

BFF – More Than Just An Abbreviation!

BFF = Best Friends Forever.  Everybody knows that, right?  Now it’s a special wine vintage  and a wine cellar, and I was fortunate to be asked to design the first label!  My friends Marcia Gilson and Robin Baker have partnered to begin BFF Cellars, and to make a series of wines, each with a label designed by a local artist.  Here’s the art for the first label,  I’ll post a photo of the actual bottle and label as soon as I can get my hands on it!

"BFF", mixed media by Kerry McFall, all rights reserved by BFF Cellars

“BFF”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, all rights reserved by BFF Cellars

Here’s what Robin had to say this morning as she made it all official on FB:

BFF Cellars will be releasing our first wine on June 12th from 6-8 at the Wine Vault in Philomath. Part of the proceeds will be going to support CARDV (Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence). Our first Artist series done by our amazing friend and artist Kerry McFall. Thank you Kerry for sticking with us for our First vintage, and all of our decisions that we kept changing. Marcia Gilson it is great to have a BFF that I enjoy spending time with and working on a project that will, every year, help women and children’s programs in the Corvallis and Benton County area. Hope everyone will will put the 12th on your calendar and come join us and help support CARDV.”

Trillium Project Sketchbook Journal

sketch of trillium

“Wake Robin”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

It’s been a month since I posted because I’ve been finishing up a special journal sketchbook for the Trillium Project!  This opportunity was made possible through the Spring Creek Project at OSU’s College of Liberal Arts, which provides an artist residency program during “trillium season” at a special cabin in a private wildlife preserve.  Just Wow.  Three days and two nights of gurgling spring, perfect weather (seriously -perfect!), and so many flowers to draw that my brains fell out… except trilliums, I could only find one because spring came so early.  So here is a little tour of the major sketches and paintings:

I think that the larkspur and the columbine are my favorites because the idea of a bottom border showing life stages of the plant seemed to come together nicely.

This residency is a little different than most I’ve done: I got to work on my own pieces the whole time.  In some ways I missed interacting with others, usually children, but at the same time, it was so wonderful to be able to focus for three whole days!  Completely off the grid, no sirens at night, just the occasional logger rumbling past on a Flying Dragon:

map of Trillium Project at ShotPouch Cabin

“Treasure Map,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

We who are lucky enough to live in Oregon take so much for granted that we rarely slow down to appreciate all that surrounds us.  If you’re someone who enjoys wildflowers, go on that wildflower hike now, don’t wait til June or July.  Everything is blooming NOW as near as I can tell – get out there and glory in it!

Spring Baby: Atticus

 

sketch of lamb with quilt block borders

“Atticus Lamb”, mixed media copyright 2015 Kerry McFall, photo credit John Churchman

This is the third in my series of Lamb Portraits based on John Churchman’s photographs.  The first one was an experiment (see thumbnail below), the second a “proof of concept” (see “Cuter Than A Speckled Pup“), and this one is my favorite so far.  More lambs arrive almost weekly on John’s farm in Vermont, so this week I’ll try to finish #4 in the series!

painting of sheep with quilt border

“Sweet Pea”, mixed media copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, photo credit to John Churchman

Atticus was done using a quick pencil placement sketch, ink, watercolor, china marker, and gel pens.  The quilt border features the traditional quilt pattern “Friendship Star”, which I have always loved – it seemed particularly fitting since John’s “Sweet Pea and Friends” Facebook page and upcoming children’s book has developed so many friends and fans!

My New Loves: Avocados and Peruvian Tapas!

sketch of avocado with decorative borders

“My New Love”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyight 2015

My daughter and her new Peruvian husband re-introduced me to avocados when they visited last month, and in addition to the tapas they taught me how to make (recipe below,) I made a few discoveries on my own that made me love avocados:

1.  If you only want to use part of the avocado for your sandwich, slice out a quarter or a half, then leave the skin on and the pit in, put it in a refrigerator container, and keep it cool.  It won’t turn brown – well, hardly at all, and you can easily slice that yucky edge off.

2.  You know how avocado slices slip right out the back of  your sandwich?  Make a paste instead of slices!  Just mash it in a small bowl with a fork, add mayonnaise if you want, then spread on the bread.  No slippery slimy fallout!  Just a very tasty, rich “guacamole” sandwich!

Now for the Recipe:

Mini Causa Bites

"Causa Bites"

“Causa Bites”

These are based on a traditional Peruvian dish  Causa Rellena, and I’m sure the way it’s presented in Peru is WAY spicier than my version, mostly because I couldn’t find any aji (yellow chile) peppers.  They are made with mashed yellow potatoes, seasoned with peppers and lime, which surround a center of chicken salad (they also use crab salad or tuna salad I’m told.)  It’s beautifully presented, garnished with olives, hard boiled eggs, and avocado.

You’ll need a simple open cookie cutter to shape them – you use it as a mold, pressing them in from the top, then slipping them out of the bottom.  The ones pictured are avocado-shaped because the only good cookie-cutter that my daughter could find in my jumbled collection was meant to be an Easter Egg shape.

Prep Time: 60 minutes +, depending on how fancy you want to get!  You can cook the potatoes and chicken the day before if desired.

Ingredients

  • 8 yellow potatoes (about 1 pound) – Yukon gold was what I used, they are quite sweet
  • 3 fresh yellow aji chile peppers (or not…)
  • 2 limes, one for juice, one for garnish
  •  2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
  • 2 gloves garlic
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or less)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (or not)
  • 2 ripe avocados, one cut into small chunks, one sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olives, pitted
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and quartered
  • several sprigs of fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft.  Drain and cool, then peel each one by picking it up with both hands in the middle and twisting in opposite directions, like you’re going to open a plastic Easter egg.  This splits and loosens the peel and you should be able to slip it right off.  Mash the potatoes – you want them smooth but still “moldable” – and set aside.

If you decide to go Hot and Spicy:

  • You can just use a few drops of your favorite hot sauce, although any Peruvians in the crowd will raise their eyebrows… If you can find aji peppers, remove the seeds from the chili peppers and discard, then saute the peppers in vegetable oil with the garlic until softened. Place them in a food processor or blender, along with the juice of the 3 limes, and salt/pepper to taste.  Process until smooth. Stir lime/chile mixture into the mashed potatoes.
  • If you decide to stay with my Mild Gringo version, sauté the garlic in the vegetable oil until softened. I don’t have a blender, so I just mashed the garlic right in with the potatoes.  Add lime juice if desired.

Chill potatoes, uncovered for several hours or overnight.

Poach the chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt, pepper. (Poaching just means bring the water to a boil, add the chicken, then let it simmer for about 40 minutes or so until cooked through.)  Let it cool a bit, then shred the cooked chicken, and mix with the mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill.

To assemble mini causas:

Lightly grease the cookie cutter, and lay it on a square of waxed paper on your counter top.

Place about 1 tablespoon of mashed potato in the cookie cutter and gently flatten to fill the bottom of the cookie cutter shape.  Next press a layer of about 1 teaspoon of the chicken salad on top of the potatoes, then add a thin layer of avocado chunks, then add a final thin layer of potatoes. Carefully lift with a spatula and transfer to a serving plate, and press gently from the top to ease the little “sandwich” out of the mold.  Garnish each causa with a sprig of fresh parsley or half of an olive (I used kalamata).

Garnish the plate with the remaining avocado slices, lime slices, salted hard-boiled egg slices, and black olives. Chill until ready to serve.

Tip:  A pie server is a good way to transfer the causa bites from the serving plate onto your cocktail plate.

It’s Biscuit O’ Clock Somewhere in the World

 

sketch of biscuits

“Biscuit O’Clock”, mixed media, all rights reserved, by Kerry McFall

This is one of my worst “FAILS” ever, and yet I love it!  I just entered it into the Biscuit Fest art competition in Knoxville, TN.  I spent fall quarter 2014 out there in KnoxVegas… between all the biscuits and the bacon I consumed, I gained several pounds and destroyed my gall bladder.  But I couldn’t resist the Call to Artists for making biscuit art – if you can’t eat it, paint it!   So I dug out my Mom’s old biscuit/donut cutter, and the cast iron skillet I swiped from Dad’s camping gear years ago, and got busy.  The subject matter and the vintage equipment cried out for a quilt border, but I just couldn’t get excited about sewing.  Thus you see below the digital mockup, with a “quilted” edge of faux-vintage patterns, which I modified from vintage swatches and/or made up from imagination.

"Before...", copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall

“Before…”, copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall

Wonky, right?  The skillet appeared to have had one too many close encounters with a campfire, warped like 1950’s Tupperware in the bottom rack of a 1970’s  dishwasher.  (The biscuit cutter really IS that warped!) The lettering was icky.  I persisted.  It didn’t get better, and the hand-lettering got worse.  I decided not to submit it, but photographed it anyway, and lo and behold, as I was trying to size it for the web in Photoshop, suddenly only part of the image appeared on my screen.  Voila!  The perfect solution – crop the heck out of it!  Even though it meant losing the quilt border, it really improved the composition, and it salvaged a good week’s worth of fuss and bother.

The moral of the story: “Persistence (with a little help from Serendipity) pays off!”  …even if it doesn’t get accepted, it was way fun!

Vicarious Road Trip, Anyone?

Come on along!  The Wine Vault in Philomath is now showing my first-ever Sketchbook Exhibit!

montage of sketches and maps

Road Trip and Wine Tasting!

My sketchbooks/journals and my “art bag” have become my traveling studio as my husband and I have converted to a minimalist lifestyle.  We downsized in a big way, and have visited far-flung friends and family on several continents.  Now you can flip through four of my most recent sketchbooks at your leisure as you taste fine wines and relax at the Wine Vault.  The exhibit includes wine-related and travel-related wall art, and individual sketches illustrating some of our adventures.  Archival prints and greeting cards of my sketches are also available.  My work will be on display through June, 2015.

PLUS:  The Wine Vault has announced the release of a very special new vintage – check it out at http://www.gallerynouveau.biz/index.php/2015/05/bff-more-than-just-an-abbreviation/.

Wine Vault  www.winevault.biz/
hours: Saturdays and Sundays only 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.
1301 Main Street, Philomath, OR 97370