Need a Little Blue Sky in Your Home? New Pieces Available

The Call and Response show is over, and several paintings from the exhibit are now available for purchase.  I know plenty of folks around the country who have Cabin Fever and could use some blue sky, so here’s your chance!  The first two above are actually one piece: the square is a closeup of the center canvas.  The sassy parakeet is strictly for fun, and would make a cheery addition to a child’s room.

Free Shipping and Handling!  Available through PayPal payments only – or personal check if I know who you are.  Email kmcfall@gallerynouveau.biz

Crocus Gone Wild

sketch of crocus growing wild in lawn

“Crocus Gone Wild” mixed media by Kerry McFall

I’m glad to be back home in Corvallis after several months in Tennessee.  It was a weird homecoming, which involved some unexpected surgery, but I’ve catalogued my sketchbooks from my last year on the road, and am preparing for a sketchbook exhibition titled “Road Trip!” next month.  Watch for details soon!

There is an older home in my neighborhood that has “naturalized” crocus carpeting the whole front of the property, even spreading on the south side to part of the neighbor’s lawn.  I don’t know whether they hired a crew of squirrels to do the planting, or if it just happened all by itself.  For two or three days each spring, we all walk past gasping at the sheer numbers,  then – poof! – they’re gone, and we can barely remember which house it was.  Fleeting glory!  Early spring here in Oregon seems like a good idea at the moment… but I’m pretty sure we might change our minds come about July when it gets much drier.

I was purposely trying for a “loose” approach here, with plenty of spatters and splashes and not many lines.  It seems to fit the general wilderness effect of this “lawn”, which only a few days from now will be adrift in dandelions.

Call and Response: Raptor

To say I was not immediately struck by inspiration would be an understatement.  

My prompt for this year’s Call and Response* exhibit was “Quiet, Noisy.”  How in the world could I put the sense of hearing on a flat surface with paint?  How to translate audio into visual?  But soon enough, I was assaulted by the answer: I happened to be driving near the Portland Airport when a military plane took off from PDX and the afterburner kicked in… it was deafening.  I decided to contrast that with the silent flight of a hawk, often seen soaring over the fields as we drive up and down the Willamette valley.

Sketch, copyright K McFall2015

Sketch, copyright K McFall2015

My first sketch was for a triptych, made to look as if the observer is in a cathedral, the ultimate quiet sanctuary, looking out.  The backdrop was quintessential Willamette Valley, a lone “seed tree” fir silhouetted on a clearcut hillside above a field of grass stubble.  Next came some detail studies of the hawk:

study for hawk

Hawk Sketch, copyright 2015 K McFall

Once I started getting ready to paint, the reality of a triptych dawned: I have no place to paint big enough to allow me to work on three canvases at once, which I would have to do to keep the colors consistent.  So, down to one canvas, which would be simpler anyway, but sticking with the window arch idea… maybe making the entire piece a “window” done as if it were leaded glass?

 

But then I decided that I didn’t like the arch or the curving “glass” pieces, so I painted them out… or tried to…  So now we’re down to the simple sanctuary of nature, no cathedral in sight…

Next came the jet, which interestingly enough was called a “raptor” according to my Google research.  Hmm… possible title?  The underlying glass bits, which I had outlined in ink markers, bled through, even through several layers of thick gesso.  This “pentimento” became echoes of the jet con trail.  The jet and the bird are also going in opposite directions, both facing off the canvas, but the con trail(s) and furrows in the field below curve back to the center of the painting, the conflict of the quiet and the noisy.  Coincidence?  Works for me!

Carolyn Kindell, my neighbor, is an avid birder, and she shared several bird books to ponder for reference.  I learned that hawks glide over fields listening intently for mice and voles moving underground… as a “hidden Mickey” kind of a joke, I had already added a tiny field mouse in the grass beneath the hawk.  When she saw the work in progress, (she’s my neighbor and a frequent visitor, impossible to keep  it secret), Carolyn said “The mouse lives another day, but the hawk goes hungry.”  And possibly the hawk goes profoundly deaf,  after the afterburner event.  I decided that the mouse needed a bigger role, so I detailed in his little home entry and made him more obvious.

"Raptor," acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14", copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, $300

“Raptor,” acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 14″, copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, $300

Finished 2/12/2014.  The painting is now hanging in La Sells Stewart gallery on the OSU campus, surrounded by the responses of our seven Call & Response member artists, plus three guest artists.  I am thrilled with their responses.  If you’re in Corvallis, please take the opportunity to see how these artists chose to respond to my call.  It’s free!

*Call and Response is a community art exhibit created by eight Willamette Valley artists.  This is our fifth exhibit.  The C&R theme for 2014/15, was “Opposites”.  We each pulled a “prompt” slip of paper out of a hat, which contained two words that were the opposite of each other.   The painting that resulted from this prompt would be my “call” to seven other artists, one at a time, who would respond with a work of their own based on mine.  They would not know the words of my prompt, and they would not see the other artists’ responses; they all just knew that we were working with opposites.

Call & Response 2015 – Coming up January and February at La Sells on OSU Campus

 

postcard image

Reception Tuesday, January 27th

The Call and Response show has become a community tradition and something of a magical mystery tour for viewers.  This will be my 4th year responding to our seven other members, plus we’ve added a couple dozen guest artists!  As a viewer, your job is to figure out how each “response” relates to the original “call” – this year’s overall theme is Opposites.  Sometimes it takes three or four times around the gallery to see all the connections… It’s fun!  Let me know if you’d like a personal guided tour – I can give you a few hints here and there!  I’m also going to post each image here along with commentaries once the show gets going – stay tuned.

Here is your invitation:

PostcardBack

 

Run Find Out

sketch of horse and cat

“Run Find Out Meets BackOff Bozo”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

We visited a friend’s pasture in South Carolina over the Thanksgiving Holiday, and I spent a chilly afternoon observing and photographing while the guys messed around with fences.  When we pulled up in the truck, it was thrilling as twelve horses thundered up to us.  “Be careful,” Jim warned us, “They won’t kick you but they will kick each other and you might be in the way.”  Hmm.  They dropped me off and headed down the road.

A sorrel came trotting right up to me.  I learned later from Jim that his name is “Run Find Out!” for obvious reasons.  He nuzzled my shoulder.  Then my coat pockets – got any apples?  We began a little waltz around the trunk of an oak tree as the rest of the herd drifted away to the barn.  I know enough about horses to know that it takes the average horse 30 seconds to recognize a Horse Averse Human (H.A.H.!), and then they begin to plot their mischief.  I am not so much averse as I am… shall we say, cautious.  I’ve wound up in too many ditches and puddles and hedges to be enthusiastic.

A very vocal grey and white tomcat appeared from behind a pile of fenceposts to join our waltz. To my relief, the horse was more interested in the cat than in me, so I left our dance floor and stood back with my camera.  The horse was getting a bit too familiar for the cat’s liking, so the thought bubble here would be, “Back off, Bozo!”  What a brave little cat to challenge such a huge beast! Eventually Run Find Out trotted off to find out how the fence was coming along, and the cat and I both retired to the protection of the pile of fenceposts, where he snooped for mice and I continued to enjoy the sunset and the unhurried pace of the pasture.

Process:  The cat happened by itself pretty much – a couple of lucky strokes with pale blue watercolor and bingo – grey cat!  I proved to myself once again with the horse that Nature Sketch 130 lb. sketchbooks can’t handle all the layers of paint and pencil that I want.  The background, representing leaves on winter grass, was a few blotches of pale brown watercolor , let dry, china marker blades of grass in random patterns, then green watercolor blades made with the nearly-dry bristles of a square brush.  Kinda looks snowy!

Puppy!

sketch of white puppy

“White Puppy” mixed media by Kerry McFall , from a photo by Stella Rose Wyatt, copyright 2014

A friend’s little white dog had puppies about a month ago, three of the floppiest, sleepiest little chubbies imaginable.  Up until this week, the photos could have been of fluffy stuffed toys, but this last batch showed mischief and curiosity and plenty of motion.   I asked her to please make them stop growing until we get home in a few weeks for a nice little cuddle… she said she would, but I’m pretty sure they’ll ignore her, as puppies do.

Sometimes I look at my grandsons and wish for the same thing – they grow too fast, they grow UP too fast.  We’ve seen so many changes since we’ve been here in Knoxville, every week there’s a new skill, a new attitude, a new posture, a new maturity… but inside those sparkling eyes there is always that familiar little spirit.  Even if we could slow it down a bit, we wouldn’t.  It is a blessing to be able to watch these little personalities emerge.

Technique

Sketched from Stella Rose Wyatt’s photo.  White charcoal and pencil on a gray ground, with just a hint of blue colored pencil in the eyes.

Christmas Bride

Santa mug flower arrangement

“Gift for the Giver”, based on a Random Acts of Flowers arrangement, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I lit a cinnamon-roll scented candle and put a CD into the player the other day as I was about to start this painting, and was transported back to 1964.  At the first “DooWaaaaah” from the Ray Conniff Singers (yes, DooWaa’s are a major feature of their version of “White Christmas”), I was surrounded by a sea of Harvest Gold shag carpet, and I could feel the pressure of knowing that I should be doing my homework or folding the laundry instead of daydreaming about Christmas weddings.

Our stereo was a huge colonial-style maple edifice that occupied one entire end of the living room.  I cursed it every Saturday morning as I dusted the half acre lid, but when I opened it, I always felt like I was getting away with something slightly naughty. You had to be about 14 years old before you were allowed to actually play a 33 rpm record (play a record – doesn’t that sound archaic?), so it was kind of a Big Deal.

Sliding the Christmas with Conniff record out of the well worn jacket took coordination and hands big enough to span from the center label to the outer edge.  Heaven help you if you actually touched the grooves, and trust me, such things did not go unnoticed.  There was a special velvety brush and a tiny bottle of liquid for removing fingerprints and dust, always applied by my father with a stern lecture to the offender.  About the only thing worse you could do was to not put a screwdriver back in the proper hanger on his workbench…

I don’t know much about music, my own musical education consisting of about 4 piano lessons at age 8 from Mr. Fox, an old man with a huge nose that he actually powdered.  But “Christmas with Conniff” was a beloved family Christmas tradition, and without intending to commit it to memory, I know every note, anticipate every cheesy call of “Hey, kids, wanna build a snowman?”  Only from Conniff have I ever heard calypso guitar, drum brushes, harp, tambourine, Irish tenor, and cowbell all in the same song: “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” never had so many minor falls and major lifts…

I remember listening over and over one year to the song about being a Christmas bride… “Santa, make me his bride for Christmas…” But that never happened, the jerk didn’t propose.  My little brothers put their allowances together that year and bought me a tiny diamond pendant necklace for Christmas.  Very uncharacteristic of boys who usually showed their affection for me by feeding my date’s hat to Heather the Disappearing Airedale.

My own kids have endured the album (…and the tape, and now the CD…and me singing along!) with relative good humor for their entire growing up years.  My daughter is about to become a bride for Christmas, and I’m lobbying hard for “Christmas Bride” to be on the wedding dance tape my son has promised to produce.  My grandson, who is considerably cuter than me, is lobbying just as hard for, “Who Let the Dogs Out”, so we’ll see how much clout me and Mr. Conniff can still wield!

Flatland Touristers (& Other Tennessee Road Hazards)

autumn colors in Cades Cove

“Unimproved Road”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Ever heard the expression, “She looked like 10 miles of bad road”?  If there was ever any doubt in my mind about what that might look like, it was swept away last week when I looked at myself in the rear view mirror of our little Fiat.  Only it was 12 miles of bad road, to be exact.

If you go to Cade’s Cove, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains during the riot of autumnal glory known as “The Colors”, you will find a lovely valley, equipped with a one-way loop of perfectly good paved road, featuring fabulous landscapes and a few historic primitive buildings.  If you go with my husband, you will then find yourself taking the “Cherokee Graves Trail” shortcut, also known as Rich Mountain Road, out of the valley for the allegedly even-more-fabulous view from the top of the ridge. The entrance to the road is clearly marked with a sign reading “unimproved road“.  If you catch “The Colors” toward the end of autumn, the “road” itself will be all but invisible beneath a thick, lovely blanket of colorful leaves.

In Tennessee, apparently “unimproved road” is shorthand for a series of stone formations eroded into 12 miles of washboard switchbacks, pocked by deep pools of runoff, with steep dropoffs down one side and tangled tree trunks up the other.  Don’t even think of turning around, not even to save your marriage.   Until you hit the first rock formation at 30 mph, you might be convinced that it could at one time have been called a “road”.  However, it was clearly intended to be used as a footpath for bears and wild pigs.  The nickname about the graves begins to make sense about 6 miles in — we didn’t see any actual graves, but those guys were obviously murdered by their wives once they finally got to the top, because they still had to get the rest of the way down in the dark.

After this adventure, my husband is no longer allowed to call himself, “a Tennessee Boy” (or ‘Boah’ as the locals pronounce it).  For Christmas he will receive a custom-made T-shirt proclaiming him to be what his mother used to condemn, the dreaded and despised “Flatland Tourister”.

And in point of fact, gorgeous colors in the dark are simply… dark.

 

 

Celebrate the Arts!

painting of Old City Knoxville TN

“Celebrate the Arts!”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This is the third in my Old City Knoxville series.  Last week at sunset I was looking up at the Commerce Building on Gay Street, wishing that modern architects understood the appeal of arched windows, and loving the way brick ages.  I had hardly even noticed what the text on the banner said — I was thinking that between the brick and the banner I could get a very “University of Tennessee Orange” color scheme.  Serendipity – it was about celebrating art!

This series has become an adventure in painting with the color palettes of old brick.  I am becoming more and more enamored of the brick “pentimento,” those vintage painted signs that can still be seen on many buildings, advertising “shoes and rubbers” or “the best part of the meal”, some in layers over each other.  Here in the Old City, it’s like searching for ghosts from Knoxville’s Industrial past, peeking between old factories and new skyscrapers to find clues of who used to work and live here.

Knoxville local developers have made a good faith effort to revitalize the neighborhoods yet keep the architectural “old city” feel.  We have been staying here downtown now for going on three months, and loving that art is indeed celebrated, and so is fine dining, not to mention we can walk everywhere, or take a free trolley.  That being said, I can also see the unintended consequences: every time one of these grand old buildings gets renovated into condos or upscale retail or office space, another artist has to find a different and affordable studio or gallery space, because yeah, most artists can’t afford the upscaled rent.  That means moving ever further into the abandoned industrial (and sketchy, in the personal safety meaning of the term) areas, or out into the vast strip mall wastelands of Kingston Pike. Ouch.

Here’s a glance at all three in the Old City series together – please remember that you can click Buy Now to get your own prints for just $18 each!