Tag Archives: sketches

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”.

Whoopie Pies & Other Maine Things

You can plan and plan, but sometimes you stumble on to a place by accident that simply demands that you stop and “be there”.  Fryeburg, Maine, was just a dot on a blue highway map, on the way to Somewhere Else, until we actually got there.  It was nearly lunchtime, and the driver was getting sleepy, so we pulled over at the farm stand and parked in the shade of an enormous old maple.  There was a convenient picnic area on the lawn in front of the store, so I sketched the barn and store, while my husband went sound asleep in the car.

sketch of farm stand

“Whoopie Pie”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I left the foreground blank, thinking I would find a peach or something inside to add later.  Nope, no peaches in Maine in early August, BUT they did have baskets of intriguing little homemade treats called Whoopie Pies.  The young clerk explained that they were made from, “… like, um, cupcake tops, with, um, you know, stuff in the middle…”  Icing?  Frosting?  “Well, yeah, kinda but different.  They’re a Maine Thing.”  I have always thought that the whole point of a cupcake was the icing – in fact, when my kids were in school, I maintained that I could have re-used the same set of cupcakes for 10 years because kids only ever licked off the icing and threw away the actual cake.  Maybe these Mainers were on to something!  Taking off the saran wrap took some doing, but eventually we succeeded.  Whoopie!  It was like having a giant soft Oreo only with triple cream cheese filling, so you twisted it open, licked off the filling, and tossed the cake bits, which were stale anyway.  I never did figure out the “pie” reference, sorta like Eskimo Pie I guess… but it was the perfect pre-lunch post-nap snack.

The store had a lot of “Maine things” on the shelves; the ubiquitous maple syrup in little jugs that wouldn’t be allowed on the plane home in a carry-on bag, adorable knit baby socks and thick mittens that I have absolutely no need for, and much, much more.  I finally opted to photograph some of the unique produce and paint it later – who ever heard of yellow-eyed peas, or canned fiddle-head ferns?

sketch of canned goods and dry beans

“Maine Things”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The pickled cauliflower sounded yucky, to be honest, but whoever prepared it had the good sense to stick a red pepper in the jar for visual appeal, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been…  It took me three weeks to get around to it, but here are my slightly-wonky-perspective sketches from my photos.

On the checkout counter at the farm stand I had seen a donation box labeled, “Save Our Spire”.  A good idea, because we had noticed far too many little villages like this where the famous New England church spires were missing, leaving squatty little churches decaying by the roadside.  We left the store and looped back to the main street, where I had spotted the 302 Smokehouse Tavern.  It was a lively place, and a good lunch, and I was pleased to discover that the spire repairs were indeed underway across the parking lot!

FryeburgMaineSpireRepairSketch

“Fryeburg’s Steeple Repair”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I read in a newspaper article that the community and church had raised $33,000 so far of the $186,000 necessary for the job – ouch.  I wish them luck – maybe Donald Trump will stop by in a generous mood…

Angeles National Forest Artist in Residence 2015: Sketchbook Journal Project

Update 8/12/2015 0- here’s a link to an article about the program from the Pasadena news: 

“What’s an artist in residence?”  No one quite knew what to make of an art program in a Forest Service campground, until I pulled out what came to be known as my “arting gear”, including small personal sketchbooks, colored pencils, rubber snakes and toy bears, and invited them to join me at the shady picnic tables.

The campground families and kids hopped right in, choosing their favorite “model” and colored pencils, and about an hour later there were drawings of dragons and condors and landscapes and flowers, and lots of happy campers, including me!  The program gave all of us a way to simply be together in the woods, quietly sharing our insights about nature, looking more closely than we usually do, making drawings that will take us back to those woods for years to come.  The art sessions also gave families a way to keep the kids busy without having to organize a big expedition.  My two favorite participants were A.J. and Zack, the sons of the cafe manager and his wife.  Their parents were very hospitable, and their excellent food kept me from having to do much camp cooking and being able to just make art!

photo of instructor and children making art at picnic table

“Arting at the Campground”, Kerry McFall

Before I began this Artist Residency adventure a few weeks ago in mid-June 2015, I didn’t know there WAS a national forest anywhere near Los Angeles!  But there is, and it’s beautiful by any forest standards.   Mountains, vistas, forest, flowers, fresh air… but no water this year.  The drought is So Very Real…  However, the Crystal Lake Campground has an infrastructure of historic facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the Depression era that give it an aura all its own – who needs water when you’ve got ghosts?  

"A Look Back", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“A Look Back”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

There are remains of the stone walls, fireplace, bandstand, and dance floor of a fabulous ballroom (or maybe a tent with a stone foundation?)  which was legend for big band events in the 1930’s – 1950’s, hidden in plain sight.  If you can’t hear the music and see the dancers at night, you aren’t paying attention…  but oddly, photos of that era are hard to come by.  I would love to do more research, but being off the grid up there at 5,500 feet, there weren’t many opportunities.  There are also plenty of ghost stories involving attacks by phantom bears back when the facilities were being built… gave me the shivers…

When I wasn’t “arting” with other campers or exploring the trails, I had full use of the welcome coolness of the Studio, an old building re-vamped for use by artists, to work on my own art.  Over the course of a week, I completed 20 mixed-media sketches in the journal that now belongs to their program – the sketchbook gallery below includes my favorites.  My husband and I hiked and wandered until it got too hot by Oregon standards, then I sketched and he wrote.  I worried about bears and mountain lions, and there was plenty of evidence of the critters, but all we encountered were lizards and blue jays and one horrendous spidery bug… I didn’t know whether to be relieved or just the tiniest bit disappointed about the bears…

The Angeles Forest has just been augmented by the newly-designated San Gabriel National Monument, and I got the first calendar slot for the new-this-year artist residency program.  The rest of the summer will bring nine other artists working there at different times in different media – it should be a terrific season!

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.

 

Happy Pi Day – with Pie!

painting of pies

“Pie Social”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I just finished this a few weeks ago, painted from a photo by Charlyn Ellis of her Pie Social last November (2014).  You’d have to live under a rock to not know that today is “3/14/15”, (the beginning of the number PI), and after seeing all the bad pie/pi puns on social media, I just couldn’t resist posting a painting of PIES on PI DAY!  The big one up front must be Boston Cream Pie… looks tempting.

Spring Comes Early to the Willamette Valley

painting of apple blossoms

“Apple Blossoms,” mixed media by Kerry McFall, 12 x 12 framed, $200

This is another piece from the Call and Response show, perhaps my favorite this year, painted last spring (2014).  I saw this broken but still beautiful branch on an ancient tree behind the homestead at Finley Wildlife Refuge, hanging on by a thread of bark and a bit of wood.  The blossoms and bee are cutouts, made from watercolor, ink, and gel pen.  The background is a collage of various papers and paints.  The “float” frame makes it possible to position the cutouts into a 3-D setting.

I am amazed at how quickly spring is barreling in to the Willamette Valley right now… the honeybees seem to be having a hard time keeping up.  So many flowers, so few bees.  I noticed this morning that strawberries, blueberries, and pears are blooming in my front garden – WAY early!

"Ouch!" Mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

“Ouch!” Mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

The little Fuji apple tree is a bit behind because some butthead college kid tore off the best fruiting branch one night in the wee hours in January … grrr…   I scrounged around in the garage and found an old can of pruning tar to seal the wound.  (Tip: wet coffee grounds are very useful for scrubbing pruning tar off your hands and arms.  Also nail polish remover.) Apparently they had a go at uprooting it as well, but with a little luck and a few bungee cords… I hope the tree lives.  And, I hope he/they (yep, pretty sure it was males) woke up with MAJOR headaches.

 

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!

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.

 

 

Celebrate the Arts!

painting of Old City Knoxville TN

“Celebrate the Arts!”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This is the third in my Old City Knoxville series.  Last week at sunset I was looking up at the Commerce Building on Gay Street, wishing that modern architects understood the appeal of arched windows, and loving the way brick ages.  I had hardly even noticed what the text on the banner said — I was thinking that between the brick and the banner I could get a very “University of Tennessee Orange” color scheme.  Serendipity – it was about celebrating art!

This series has become an adventure in painting with the color palettes of old brick.  I am becoming more and more enamored of the brick “pentimento,” those vintage painted signs that can still be seen on many buildings, advertising “shoes and rubbers” or “the best part of the meal”, some in layers over each other.  Here in the Old City, it’s like searching for ghosts from Knoxville’s Industrial past, peeking between old factories and new skyscrapers to find clues of who used to work and live here.

Knoxville local developers have made a good faith effort to revitalize the neighborhoods yet keep the architectural “old city” feel.  We have been staying here downtown now for going on three months, and loving that art is indeed celebrated, and so is fine dining, not to mention we can walk everywhere, or take a free trolley.  That being said, I can also see the unintended consequences: every time one of these grand old buildings gets renovated into condos or upscale retail or office space, another artist has to find a different and affordable studio or gallery space, because yeah, most artists can’t afford the upscaled rent.  That means moving ever further into the abandoned industrial (and sketchy, in the personal safety meaning of the term) areas, or out into the vast strip mall wastelands of Kingston Pike. Ouch.

Here’s a glance at all three in the Old City series together – please remember that you can click Buy Now to get your own prints for just $18 each!