Tag Archives: colored pencil sketches

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

Cuter Than a Speckled Pup!

That was something my Dad used to say when his John Wayne sensibilities wouldn’t let him coo or fuss over a cute baby.   Appreciative, yet understated.  It was the 1960’s version of the “Cuteness Overload” comments we now see about cat videos…  Watching the arrivals of John Churchman’s spring lambs over the past few weeks in Vermont (please see https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sweet-Pea-Friends), I must say it’s quite accurate about the appeal of speckled babies of any kind!

sketch of speckled lamb

“Cuter Than a Speckled Pup”, mixed media by Kerry McFall based on photo by John Churchman

Eyes are always a challenge when doing “portraits”, but sheep eyes simply take the cake – their pupils are horizontal, and rectangular.  The area around the eyeball is much like other mammals, lovely fringed lashes, a bit of an eyelid (I think, although I’ve never been close enough or paid enough attention to actually see one blink come to think of it…), a smidgeon of eyeliner from all appearances.  BUT – that rectangle in the middle is quite unique.

Another challenge on this little fella was that the speckles were spattered all over his nose, making nostrils a bit awkward.  But the fun part about the various babies arriving in close order is noticing that each one really has a funky little face all its own, thus the Quilt Block Border.  Some have ears the size of Michigan, some have freckles, some actually smile!  I can’t remember if my “model” was Atticus, Speckles, or Freckles, but I suspect there are about 2,000 other people on Facebook who are sharing John’s farm adventures and can probably tell exactly which lamb he is!

Tulip Tree

 

drawing/painting of tulip tree

“Tulip Tree”, copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, Prints $25

This tree portrait represents an experiment with “focus”.  Inside the enlargement, I used both opaque watercolor and transparent watercolor initially, then highlighted using a brush pen.  I blurred the background branch by scribbling over it with white china marker, and I drew over the outline of the foreground branch and blooms with the marker also.  Then I added a blue transparent wash over the entire background, which fuzzed things up quite nicely. A few touchups with transparent watercolor and .03 Pitt Artist’s Pen, then I added the quick sketch of the entire tree as it appears outside my kitchen window.  The final touch was to spatter pink paint from a toothbrush on the blossoms – next time I think I’ll use thicker, brighter spatters.

 

Sunday was a blustery day so the petals are now scattered all over the neighborhood.  In another few days, they’ll be soggy, brown memories of their former pink glory.  Time marches on.

 

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.

 

 

Grandma Kerry Is GLAD That Eloise and Edgar Are Not Hamsters

"Eloise Elphant", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Eloise Elphant”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I want to go on record as being completely humbled by those young parents, and aunts and uncles, and grandparents, who have been doing the online art course in Sketchbook Skool with Very Small People at their elbows.  And into their art supplies.  And crawling all over their studios… or dancing on the kitchen tables…  as they try to draw and paint.

We are currently in Knoxville, Tennessee to spend about four months with our grandsons, aged Almost 3 and Already 6.  It has been such fun, and we’ve only been here a week.  Right now we are sharing Kid Wrangling duty with a young friend/babysitter/nanny (Bless you Alex!) until their Mom and Dad get back from a business trip.  There is simply nothing like the excitement of a train – a “longlonglonglonglong TWAIN!!”, or of a Krispy Kreme donut assembly line – “a Piwate donut!!” (yes, they now make donuts decorated like pirates), when you are holding the hand of someone with red hair and boundless energy.  Think Gerald McBoingBoing.

Over the last 30 years, I had forgotten the energy  and manual dexterity and back muscles it takes to just get a squirming 30 pounds into a car seat.  Or to remember to cut up the onions and Green Stuff into invisible minced bits for spaghetti sauce.  Or to not actually say, “Don’t point the slingshot at the window!” (say, “Point it at the dirt,”, no need to be planting ideas) – or more to the point, “WTF was their father thinking to leave a slingshot within reach?!!”

So we’re all fine here, but some of us aren’t getting very much art done until Mom and Dad get back to town in a couple of days.  I hope to be able to do a trip map with sketches about our 12 day, 3,000+ mile drive to get here.  But in the meantime, kudos to those of you who find the time and energy to paint with and in spite of the Very Small People in your lives.  And enjoy every minute of it, it slips away in a heartbeat.

"Patrick Strikes Again", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Patrick Strikes Again”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I wish I had taken a picture of the homework page that Henry did with his sketch of Eloise, but it went back to school with him on Monday and it’s now probably in the Library of Congress.  That’s okay though, I’m guessing there will be more art to share in a day or two!

A Few Minutes’ Peace

white roses on rose arbor

“A Few Minutes’ Peace”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The world has been at “Sixes and Sevens” lately (I first heard that phrase years ago in the play THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder, my one and so far only venture into acting.)  The total insanity of national and international news sometimes just washes over me and makes me feel … can I even describe it?  Middle-aged and cynical?  Sad and wrung out?  If you’re old enough to remember the 60’s and you’re not frustrated, you’re not paying attention.

This is when gardens and open spaces are critical – close to home and easy to get to.  Earlier this week I was able to spend a few quiet moments in the rose garden at Avery Park.  The sweet scent was soothing, and in spite of the park designers’ best efforts to install all benches facing tree trunks instead of roses, I found a shaded spot where I could see  to draw just this little snippet of the garden.

At first I was annoyed that pretty much all I could see were white roses.  My grandmother used to say that white flowers were pointless – if you can’t have color, why bother?

Drawing the curliques of the little run of Victorian fencing forced me to slow down mentally and concentrate: up, down, and around, over and over.  The breeze in the trees was reassuring.  As I began to paint, I decided I was glad of the white roses, they were not clamoring for attention, not insisting that I mix just the right shades to achieve their colors.  They were like cold clear water on a scorching day.  My intention was to finish by writing something profound in the bottom right corner, but my mind went to mush, so I used the space for a palette square “quilt” (which had a surprising lot of colors even with the white roses!).  And I felt so much better afterward: a final drawing to finish off this sketchbook, and a few minutes’ peace to carry with me into the fray.  Life’s Rich Pageant Marches On.