Tag Archives: Oregon

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.

Happy Birthday Oregon!

Oregon became a state on Valentine’s Day, a particularly inspired piece of “branding” way back in 1859.  Although it wasn’t intentionally planned to celebrate either Valentine’s Day or Oregon statehood, I had a chance to spend the whole Valentine weekend “arting” at Odell Lake Lodge, one of the prettiest places in the state in my opinion.

painting of white mountain reflected in lake

“Sunny Morning, Diamond Peak”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, $30 print

This is an example of what Sketchbook Skool (my online art educators) would call Art B4 Breakfast, but in reality it was before, during, and after breakfast… and I was glad I started so early, because the sunshine only lasted a couple of hours.  The next morning was very gray, so it was a very different art opportunity.

I spent the entire weekend either in the dining room at the lodge, or in the big fireplace room, sketching and painting whatever struck my fancy, indoors and out.  The dining room is complete with binoculars on the windowsills so you can watch the eagles and mergansers above the lake or on the creek.  If you’re a skier, which I no longer am, that first day was terrific.  If you’re an artist, every day is terrific, rain, snow, or shine!  And my thanks to the Lodge staff for putting up with me and my paints, pencils, and pens being underfoot all weekend!


Proper Winter

Even though we know that climate change is upon us, even though we know we can’t pretend it’s gone away even for just a month or two, even though half of our continent is having haywire weather this season… still, it just feels so right to have a bit of proper winter weather here in Oregon.

"Willamette Pass Summit", NFS, mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo by Ben Jay

“Willamette Pass Summit”, NFS, mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo by Ben JayT

The painting above was made (with permission) from a photo taken by Ben Jay the Sunday after Christmas at the top of a Willamette Pass ski lift.  Last year there was zero snow.  So far this winter, there is plenty – Hallelujah!  But there’s nothing like a mountain top view to remind us that we are indeed on a very round planet hurtling through space.  The clouds began to whirl around the sun about lunchtime, when this photo was taken, leaving little doubt that more snow was coming, and soon.  From my perspective as an artist, following that very pronounced “whirl” with my brushes was an epiphany about painting skies: no more flat horizons for me, if I can just remind myself often enough how effective this circular movement is!

"Out of Control", mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

“Out of Control”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

Meanwhile, as Ben was up top, I was down in the lodge, sketching and warming my hands around a hot toddy or two. My title  “Out of Control” refers to the central skier, a figure who reminded me too much of myself and my characteristic skiing style.  I was very content to be rubbing elbows with the ski bunnies in the lodge, rather than providing the comic relief  out on the slopes.

It wasn’t really much warmer inside than outside. I was wearing full winter gear (except mittens) the whole time as I sketched and painted.  One man watched me draw for awhile as he ate his lunch.  When I got out my paints, he said, “It should be easy to paint snow – just leave it blank!”  I told him I was about to conclude the exact opposite as skiers and snowboarders slashed down the no-longer-smooth white slopes.  How to portray those tracks and cuts and popcorn mounds – so many subtle shades of … what? purple? blue? grey? green?  Fun to experiment!

"SnowyFir", mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

“Snowy Fir”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

Sketch Crawl October 24, 2015

—That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame. —

sketch of artist

“Oceanside Artist”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was invited to lead a “Sketch Crawl” last weekend (Oct. 24) in the village of Oceanside, Oregon.  The term Sketch Crawl I think is an adaptation of Pub Crawl, the difference being that you’re not limited to pubs, but you do progress as a loosely-connected group as the day plays out, plying your art, eating, drinking and being merry.  It’s simply great fun!  And how does one lead a Sketch Crawl?  For this one, I shared a few of my sketchbooks, I showed a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up (mostly from Sketchbook Skool), I briefly demonstrated two of my favorite tools (china marker and waterbrush), and then we headed out to let the art happen.  Leading is less like an art lesson and more like a pep talk: “Afraid of that blank sketchbook page?  Try drawing a border first in pencil – and voila, you’ve started!  Or just splash on some watercolor in the basic shape of what you see…”

Tiny Oceanside (which is near Tillamook of Tillamook Cheese fame) offered a one-block strip of sketching opportunities, which included the Three Arch Inn (our launching point), the community center deck overlooking the surf, the Post Office, a fire station, and two restaurants. A few sandy steps down, and you were on the beach.  The “crawlers” included around two dozen folks, literally from ages 9 to 90, beginners to accomplished professionals, who came to enjoy the glorious weather (! yes!  in Oregon in October at the coast!!) and the company of other artists, even if they all weren’t quite sure what a Crawl is…

We spent the morning choosing a likely spot in the village, pitching our folding chairs and stools, and “arting”.   It was fun to spot the crawlers on the sidewalks and decks and beaches, and to look over their shoulders as they worked.  We re-grouped for lunch, most of us at the Blue Agate Café, then carpooled up the cliffs to Cape Meares.  It was breezy there, but we all found another couple of magnificent views to fall in love with.  Close to four o’clock, we returned to our starting point in the lobby of the Inn.  The Art Accelerated group who organized the event provided snacks and wine and tea and coffee, and I encouraged everyone to share the results of their efforts.

What accumulated on the floor of the Inn as we laid out our sketchbooks was exactly what I had hoped for: a wide range of styles, subjects, and media.  That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame.  From houses on the hillside to morning glory blossoms, from the geologic marvels of the coastline to the ever-changing waves that sculpted them, each page was unique.  Each choice of color or tool reflected something about the artist and the day.  Judging from the glow on the faces of the participants, even the shy ones who protested they weren’t artists, it was clear that they were pleased to say they had been on a “sketch crawl”.

We Need to Talk


sketch of antique gun

“The Old Pistol”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I made this painting last year in Tennessee, showing one of the keepsakes from my husband’s family which surfaced after his brother’s funeral.  In the excitement of my daughter’s Christmas wedding, I don’t think I ever got around to posting it here on my blog.  But today, the day after another slaughter of innocents here in my home state of Oregon, it seems appropriate.

We Americans need to talk to each other.  To communicate.  To think together.  We’ve got to figure this out. Not scream at each other, not shake our fists and our heads, not fall back on the old “tried and true” battle cries about gun control vs. constitutional rights, but really put our heads together and figure something out.  Nobody has to be right, nobody has to be wrong, but we are broken.  Here’s what I wrote to my U.S. Senators and Representatives this morning:

“Let’s talk about freedom and security, the concepts that anchor the Second Amendment.  Are we free?  Are we secure?  Security is really all about fear, so we also need to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of?

Do I feel secure because the old guy down the block has a couple of deer rifles in his closet, just in case some college frat boy gets so drunk he tries to go in to the wrong house?

Do I feel secure because the woman at the desk next to mine has a concealed carry permit and a small handgun in her handbag?

Do I feel free when I’m not allowed to take my wine corkscrew on a plane?

Do I feel secure when I go to the movie theatre here in little Corvallis, Leave It To Beaverville, and the teenage ticket taker asks to look in my handbag?  And what is she, all 110 pounds of her, earning minimum wage and with no relevant training, supposed to do if she does find a gun?

Do I feel free OR secure because I know that any bat shit crazy yahoo can go down to the gun store on the Highway and buy a semi-automatic weapon?  And walk into a community college classroom with it?  And murder – wait, how many innocent people is the count up to now?

You and I grew up with duck and cover drills, afraid of “The Russians” (who are still kinda scary).  My grandchildren are growing up with Lockdown Drills, afraid of … who?  Us.  Any of us,  all of us,  “Bad Guys with Guns.”  Not bad guys with knives, or corkscrews, or chainsaws.  With guns.  When we are this scared and angry and confused, none of us are free, and none of us are secure.

Let’s work on this.  Thank you.”

Looking at that old gun is instructive, especially today.  I think it’s probably one of a pair of dueling pistols.  I don’t know how old it is, several hundred years I imagine, but it was clearly intended to fire one shot.  If you couldn’t hit your mark in one, you were done. Pure and simple.  It is a work of art in its own right – silver, mahogany perhaps, polished to perfection, mounted on velvet.  It was revered by generations, passed along, cared for, exhibited with pride.   It was probably around when the 2nd amendment was written, when one of the worst fears of our forefathers was not being allowed to defend themselves against foreign armies.  Its one-shot original owners couldn’t have begun to imagine the destructive technology that holds us all hostage today.  We owe it to ourselves, and to them, to figure out how to cope with this monster we have created.

My Dad and my uncles were all soldiers and hunters.  I grew up around guns.  Old guns.  Buckshot was about as high tech as it got.  I’m realizing as the day goes on that the questions I asked in my letter, except the last one, are questions that on any given day I could answer either way.  At 4:00 a.m. with a big jerk in my back yard trying to pry open my emergency food supply, I might be pleased to see that old guy with his deer rifle, assuming the cops were busy dealing with the 9.2 earthquake damage down the street…  There are no easy answers.    We all need to be a part of this conversation.  Write to your legislators.  Talk to your neighbors.  Think.  Listen.


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

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!