Tag Archives: daily sketch

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.

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.

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!

Life Passages: Cruel Shoes

My newly-wed daughter is home for a week.  The To Do list includes: apply for Creditcard at friendly local bank, find your sewing machine (garage? attic?), clean your junk out of the attic (especially shoes, art supplies, theater props, and prom dresses).

Being happily married means you can chuck the extreme shoes and get comfortable, at least chuck the ones that scream, “I’m in the mood to lacerate your insteps!”   And so we say goodbye to these Cruel Shoes, black suede, metal stilettos, with little rhinestones at the edges, and silvery flaps of satin at the heel and toe, kind of like wings… anybody interested?  Size 7 and a half…  The rest have gone to GoodWill, but I just had to draw these before she parts with them!

painting of metal stiletto heels

“Farewell, Cruel Shoes”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2015

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.

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.