Monthly Archives: July 2017

We Won’t Be the Only Ones Watching

Posted July 23, 2017 by Kerry McFall

#makingALivingAsAnArtist #totality #eclipse #fishArt

trout watching totality

“Oregon Eclipse 2017”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The media is abuzz about the potential crowds showing up for the coming total eclipse of the sun.  Neighbors are wondering how much food to stock up on before the hordes descend.  The library is full of cool books about eclipses – I checked out one called “Mask of the Sun” about the history and forgotten lore of eclipses.   I recently wrote about my concerns that eclipse fans need to stay on trails when they’re tramping around here in the woods.  And the OSU art gallery, the LaSells Stewart Center, is planning an exhibit in August focused on all things celestial.

I was going to submit my painting (above) for that exhibit, in fact I painted it expressly for that show, painted it on the day before the submission deadline.  I wasn’t procrastinating, I just managed to come up with the concept and squeeze in the two hours to create it in the proverbial nick of time.   I was wondering how the darkness would affect all of the creatures who would experience it.  And what about fish?  Would they be aware?  What would it look like from their watery viewpoint?  What do fish see anyway?

I actually have quite a long history with fish.  One of my middle school science projects involved getting up in the middle of the night for a week to see if my goldfish were sleeping.  Another project asked the burning question, “Do fish see colors?”.  Both projects led me to the conclusion that I was in way over my head for middle school research technology in the 60’s.  My kids were curious about fish, too -there was one memorable moment, waiting to attempt a left turn from 9th street onto Circle Blvd. at what passes for Rush Hour in Corvallis, when a small voice from the back seat inquired, “Do fish throw up?”  Still don’t have an answer for that one…

And over the years, I’ve made and sold quite a bunch of fish art.  Fiber art, digital art, sketches, oil paintings, birdhouses… fish are so very elegant and graceful.

“BirdhouseView7″by Kerry McFall, Acrylic and mixed media on roughcut cedar

So, I finished my Totality painting after some inconclusive internet research about fish that involved the potential for neon and infrared paint and light.  But then…  then I saw that it cost $20 to enter a piece (up to 5 pieces actually) to be juried in.  And then I realized that I didn’t have a mat and frame to fit the size of my painting, I would have to buy new.  So there’s another $40 to $60 for just a basic prep.  And then I thought about the gallery commission – it’s usually 40%.  And then I reminded myself that I’ve exhibited there many times, and nothing has sold.  I’m not being pessimistic, mind you, this is simply experience speaking.  Artists often pay – a lot – for the privilege of attempting to sell their work.  Just like corporations and governments rarely offer “real” jobs anymore, (they contract out to headhunters and middlemen who take 40 to 65% of what would otherwise be a decent salary), the majority of artists can expect to earn just about enough to buy their next batch of art supplies, if they’re lucky.

So now what?  I know ways to market my art.  I’ve studied it.  I’ve done it before, with some success.  But I’m so weary of all that.  This is not my year for that much effort.  Now I have another unique original to add to my “body of work”.  I like it.  I had fun doing it.  I learned something.  It makes me smile.  Those are the real reasons I make art.  And that’s enough.

“Outside of a dog…”

Posted July 19, 2017 by Kerry McFall

garden sketch

“Garden At Sylvia Beach”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

If you walk through that door (bottom left), the edge of the Nye Beach cliff is just on the other side of the lobby.  If you walk up the stairs, you’ll see a framed quote by Groucho Marx:  “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  And that’s what relaxation is all about: watching dogs run on the beach, laughing, and reading good books.  Well, and eating, and drinking good wine!  Oh, yes, and sketching!!

We spent a lovely couple of days last week at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon.  The sketch above was made in the little garden at the entry.  The sketch below is a detail of those red flowers right by the door, and I call them that because I cannot for the life of me remember what they’re named.

“Those Red Flowers”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Each room at the hotel is decorated around an outstanding author’s “body of work”.  We stayed in the Jane Austen room, which featured feminine Victorian details like doilies (a current theme in my life, what a coincidence!) and floral-patterned textiles, and of course a shelf full of her work.  I must confess that we really wanted the J.K. Rowling room, but it wasn’t available… just as well, the Hogwart’s decor was a bit unsettling.  Jane was much more relaxing, no need to worry about house elves showing up uninvited.
The dining experience at the hotel is both unique (family style seating, which encourages conversation) and gourmet (I have never had a souffle that really counted as a SOUFFLE before, which I didn’t even realize until I took my first bite of this one, and that was just the appetizer!)  The seating arrangement allows you to meet and talk with a fascinating array of amiable folks who know nothing about you, aren’t related, didn’t go to school with you or your kids, and have sense enough not to bring up politics.  Which makes it possible to play games like Two Truths and a Lie…  heehee!  Our table never got to game-playing, there was an instant chemistry which managed to get lively conversations going without any icebreakers.
I highly recommend a few days here when you need to unplug and calm the squirrels in your head – there are no TVs anywhere, no phones, no wifi.  There is a big library upstairs, overlooking the surf, filled with books, puzzles, games, books, and more books.  And a monstrous table of real dictionaries, which will remind you that dictionaries were leading us down the primrose paths of 30 minutes of random distractions long before the Internet was conceived of.  Heavenly.


Posted July 2, 2017 by Kerry McFall

sketch of 1940s gown with lace detail

“Peach Chiffon”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Floaty, delicate, demure, the peach confection unfolded itself across my mother’s bed like a weary dancer.  Just liberated from nearly 70 years in an airless cedar chest, it seemed to have a mind of its own.  Yards and yards of chiffon cascaded over the edge of the bed in a sudden gust of gravity to reveal — Ooh!  A black satin bodice!  I take back the adjective “demure”.  It’s sassy!  It’s just this side of ooh-la-la…  And that sheer yoke… Wait, is that possible?

This belonged to my mother?  At least, it was in her cedar chest, snuggled up next to her Very Virginal white satin wedding gown.  It looks like it is her size, quite petite except in the bustline, which can only be described as generous.  I don’t know what was the occasion when she wore it.  Prom?  Bridesmaid?  Had to have been a Momentous Occasion, because she was a poor farm girl in a tiny logging town.  Sometime around mid-1940’s I’m guessing.   But look at that sheer yoke and neckline! This was back in the day when one simply did not have visible bra straps… so, no bra?? I’ve always suspected she was a tease, but this takes that probability to new heights!  Hmm.

Now my curiosity is piqued.  But do I dare risk asking her about it?  Her dementia seems to come and go, sometimes allowing her to reminisce about her early years with confidence, but other times bumping up against blank spaces.  When the blanks present themselves, without hesitation she manages to create a believable patchwork of unrelated but slightly similar events and characters, reconstructed into a new fictional past.  The only way you can differentiate between the real  history and the fictional patchwork is if you lived it yourself.  Usually, it doesn’t matter.  The greater risk, though, is opening Pandora’s Box.  It hasn’t happened often, but talking about anything but what’s right in front of her can trigger her anger at the inevitable changes that have come with dementia.  Will thinking about parties lead to thinking about getting to parties in vintage cars, which leads to thinking about driving…  No, Mom. you can’t drive anymore.  You can’t live alone.  We can’t let you.

To ask or not to ask, that is the question.  I’ve brought the dress home for my daughter, who has been a costume designer and a model.  Although she doesn’t really want it (see my previous post about how nobody wants your “stuff“, and besides , she is too tall and broad-shouldered to be able to wear it,) I know she would be interested in the construction and design of the dress, and the story of the dress,  Now that I’ve had my enjoyment by drawing it, and letting the fabric drift through my hands, ultimately it may be donated to the local theater.   Maybe, reincarnated and re-purposed, it can once again dance and float!