Tag Archives: Sketchbook Skool

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”.

Too Hot – Vamanos to the Libraries!

When it’s NOT hot, which is pretty rare lately, this is how I spend my afternoons.  Working from my photos or a still life like this bowl of fruit from my neighbor, I sit at my dining room table and draw and paint, getting up at regular intervals to let my demented old cat in/out/in/out/in because she’s pretty sure I haven’t fed her lately, the full kibble dish in the kitchen notwithstanding…

But most days this summer, it’s just too hot.  So rather than fry, I put the kitty and her bowls out back under the fir tree, and pack up my Art Bag and go someplace cool.  This last week I went to three libraries and a wine bar:  OSU Valley Library is the largest and seems to be the one with the oldest art books; Corvallis downtown, by far the most populous; and LBCC, which was small but has an interesting assortment of art books.  I didn’t want to drag my heavy old computer along, so I grabbed a random book from whatever was on the shelves, flipped to an interesting page, and pulled out my paints.  Since school’s out and there weren’t any students around, nobody seemed to mind or even notice.

The portrait of the long-necked lady was inspired by a painting in a book (I wrote the credits on the page).  My sketching friends (mostly from Sketchbook Skool – it’s a great online community) and I have been discussing online the relative merits and various approaches to learning from the masters – this painting was shown in a black and white photograph, so it left lots of room for color interpretation.  The Ansel Adams portrait was from a black and white photo taken by one of his friends – another opportunity for interpretation.

After the LBCC library, we stopped to see the birdhouse I painted last spring for them – it really is a nice concept, with a little book inside where people passing by have written poems or drawn pictures.  It was shady there in the quad, but not cool, so on to Albany.  The wine bar was in a historic brick building that was lovely and air-conditioned to the “just right” mark on the thermometer.  We chose a table that had a good angle on a mirror.  Since I had my gear spread all over the table, it was difficult to finish unnoticed.  Our server put the word out, so I had several admirers, and the owner wanted a photo when I finished – very kind and flattering folks.

Maybe it will cool off and I’ll be able to focus this next week and finish the travel journal sketches from New England, but if it doesn’t, at least I know that I can always hole up in the libraries to beat the heat… I knew there was a good reason for all those taxes we pay!

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!

flower arrangement

Random Acts of Sunflowers

 

We hit the ground running when we arrived in Knoxville and were invited to attend an award ceremony honoring our son Larsen Jay.  He founded a charity called Random Acts of Flowers about six years ago, dedicated to recycling and repurposing flowers and delivering them to people in hospitals and care facilities who might not otherwise ever get flowers.  Or visitors.  Or know that someone cares.  (Back Story: he broke every bone in his body falling off a roof.  He got a lot of flowers while in the hospital.  He took them around to other patients, and was amazed at the response. He wanted to pay it forward.)   He received the Innovation award from the Healthcare Heroes organization at the luncheon.  Kind of a Big Deal. 

Later that evening, I was lucky to be able to attend one of RAF’s special flower arranging events (photos below), where you learn from a pro PLUS you get take home an armload of flowers.  The RAF staff were so welcoming, the snacks and wine were terrific, and for a newcomer to town, it was a great way to meet like-minded people.  The arrangements I made are not going to change the face of floral design (it’s way more complex than I ever imagined!) BUT they made great fodder for a couple of paintings/sketches!  I’m hoping to volunteer to do some arranging and delivering for RAF while we’re here – it’s like Arts in Healthcare that I did in Corvallis:  you experience firsthand the fulfillment of giving.  No thank you cards, no fancy plaque, but giggles and smiles and handshakes and hugs.  And the occasional tears. 

Technique Notes:  The big bouquet is apparently known as “hand tied”… it was a huge handful of flowers, and my tying was fairly arthritic, but the good news was there was a big vase to hold them all, so tying was kind of a moot point.  For me, the whole point was the camaraderie, and the painting to come.  I began the painting with some big sloppy shapes painted with opaque watercolor, which makes a nice bright base.  Then I used brown ink, and added transparent watercolor washes.  Oh, yes, and spatters of opaque.

The smaller bouquet was made in a 4” glass cube.  A bit of chicken wire was folded over the top, then a big square of burlap was tied around that.  Flowers and a small cabbage were stuffed into the holes in the wire – okay, that’s the short version of what happened.  But it didn’t have to be the same on all sides, it didn’t have to be symmetrical, and it was still “hip.”  Worked for me!  This one was done just with transparent watercolor, no opaque.

 

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.

 

Drawing Stuff

sketch of mugs and spoon

“Mugs” mixed media sketch by Kerry McFall

I’m almost finished with my Sketchbook Skool online course, “Seeing.”  It has been such fun, and I have learned a lot – and it has encouraged me to give myself permission to just draw stuff.  Drawing stuff, as opposed to creating a masterpiece for exhibition, is completely absorbing and relaxing.  Drawing stuff makes the world with all its insanity, both near and far, just fade into the background, like thin watercolor pigment drying on a hot summer day.

This assignment was to look at the patterns in objects (like teacups) and architecture, and to use a thumbnail to sort out the details in your head.  The instructor, Liz Steele, is Australian, and tea and teacups are two of her passions.  She understands a proper Devonshire tea much in the way that Americans do not.  Loved her attitude!

Unfortunately my teacups were victims of downsizing, and they are now packed carefully away in boxes in the garage (or is it the attic?), waiting for the next Christmas Tea.  But I do still have my favorite mugs handy, and drawing them was a trip down memory lane.  Each one evokes the face of a particular person or event at a time past, and the aroma of a cup of coffee, or the taste of tea with milk and sugar.  Sweet reminiscences.

San Francisco On Foot

We parked at the Presidio near the Golden Gate and took off walking without a plan, which is unusual given that I married a man with a degree in planning!  We lucked into a sunny day, not much wind, and nowhere we had to be.  It was midweek so our companions were mostly professional dog walkers with their packs of pampered pooches, and honeymooning couples.  It’s impossible to watch dogs running without feeling your spirits lift, and it was sweet taking photos at the couples’ requests.

visual journal page

c “Introspection”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Wandering along the waterfront led us to the Palace of Fine Arts, its gold dome gleaming above a construction site.  I was amused by signs at the entrance warning against “agressive raccoons on the grounds” (I was picturing that toothy raccoon with the submachine gun slung over his shoulder from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”).  No raccoons in sight, so we pushed on.  Looking up, I was fascinated by the classical sculptures of women at the top corners of every building.  They slumped over the edges, as if staring  into empty wells…

I suppressed the urge to shout, “Don’t jump!”  I found a bench and began sketching as Griff wandered in search of racoons.  The closer I looked, the more I thought they might be talking on their cell phones… all of their faces were hidden, but all of their heads rested on one hand.  I did some research once we got back to our AirBnB lodgings, and learned that these are known as the Weeping Women, created in 1915 to express “the Melancholy of Life Without Art”… so not cell phones after all!  The sculptor certainly nailed the melancholy, but apparently he was also really good at sculpting buns.  Turns out the same sculptor created the Golden Pioneer on Oregon’s capitol dome – I’ll have to remember to check out those pioneer buns the next time I’m in Salem!

"View from Neptune's Restaurant", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“View from Neptune’s Restaurant”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

We continued along the marina, up a hill, and down into Fisherman’s Wharf.  Suddenly it was like we had fallen into a giant flea circus – so many people!  So few restrooms!  We spent the rest of the day in various cafes sketching and enjoying some intensive people watching.  Also sea lion watching, which I didn’t sketch because a) the page was already full, and b) from my vantage point they just looked like monstrous floating cowpatties, sprawled motionless on their special little “reserved for sea lions” docks below the restaurant.  I was pretty sure we had walked at least 5 miles, but it was probably only three-ish.  Still, taking a taxi back to the car seemed like a good plan, and we could watch the city lights in comfort.  Now I have dozens of photos, just begging to be turned into sketches and paintings… here are a couple more winery sketches from the week:

 

Summer Gallery

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

The summer is flying by, and I realize I haven’t posted very often here.  It’s not because I’ve been slacking, I’ve just been very focused on the Sketchbook Skool courses I’ve been taking, which in turn has led to being immersed in the new community of artists I’m meeting there.  I’ve also been working away diligently at my eight Call & Responses pieces, which of course have to stay secret until October.  I just finished the above piece as part of a “16 Trees” challenge that evolved from the course, and there are two more from that series below.

Sketchbook Project will be in Portland(ia) next weekend – oops, make it July 8 & 9…!

June 25 – just got word that dates have been changed to July 8 & 9, so changing them here as well.  KM

Last year I joined the Sketchbook Project when we were in Brooklyn, and now my little sketchbook is touring the country with 100’s of others in a special little “bookmobile”.    The topic I chose was “Borders”, one of those interesting multi-dimensional concepts that gives lots of room for interpretation.  I actually had a bit of “stage fright”, staring at that little blank book, but I approached like I do any other sketches, just get started and see what develops!

Sketchbook Project page spread, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Sketchbook Project page spread, mixed media by Kerry McFall

If you happen to be in Portland, I highly recommend stopping by and thumbing through a few sketchbooks.  I couldn’t believe how marvelous it was to hold the ACTUAL sketchbook in my hand, reading the artists’ own handwriting, seeing every stroke of the pen – it’s why original art is so much better than a copy, duh!  Here’s the scoop:

The Sketchbook Project Mobile Library is making two special stops in Portland, OR! To start, we’ll be at Portland Art Museum on Friday, July 8th and 9th. We’d love to see you out! 

Thousands of sketchbooks have been sent in from across the globe to make their rounds across North America on The 2014 Tour. We are only in town for 2 days before moving along our route, so you won’t want to miss it!

These events are totally free to attend. You’ll be able to browse sketchbooks cataloged by theme, materials, tags, location, and much more. You can even pick up a blank book for creating your own submission to next year’s project.

Please join us:

June 27th | 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave
Portland, OR 97205
RSVP AND GET EVENT DETAILS HERE

June 28th | 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Director Park
SW Park Ave
Between SW Taylor and SW Yamhill
Portland, OR