Tag Archives: sketches

Making Do: Tussie Mussies

watercolor fo two RAF bouquest

“Double Fun”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I’m still working on Random Acts of Flowers paintings and sketches – there’s a steady stream of lovely bouquets to work with, and I’d love to be able to do them all!  Some recipient locations call for small bouquets (not a lot of room on a bedside table), and some days call for being able to stretch the limited number of donated flowers to reach all of the potential recipients.  (Interesting to note that brides try not to schedule weddings in Knoxville on football game weekends, so after a game, there aren’t as many flowers!)  Those are the days when volunteers rise to the occasion and come up with extra-creativity to use simple things like baby’s breath and a bit of ribbon, or maybe just two roses, to make delightful little “tussie mussies” or “nosegays”.

“Double Fun” above is an experiment in “loosening up”, not doing the usual detail I do over the watercolor base.  I kinda like it!  (I was tempted to paint in a couple of goldfish in the vases!)

“A Breath of Fresh Air” below, shows again how a vase can totally make the bouquet; this one looks like a tiny 1940’s vintage pitcher (maybe 4″ high?), possibly hand thrown but I didn’t get to check the bottom of it for details before it disappeared into the delivery van.  A few branches of some kind of shrubbery, a couple stems of baby’s breath, and voila – instant bouquet!

watercolor of baby's breath in pitcher

“A Breath of Fresh Air”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

 

Step by Step: The Next Wave of Bouquets

It looks like it’s a “GO!” to put together a series of Random Acts of Flowers Bouquet Paintings for greeting cards!  With that in mind, here are a couple of insights into the current process for creating the paintings.

The bouquet-creation process is described in detail in my previous post at http://www.gallerynouveau.biz/index.php/2014/09/arranging-flowers-not-so-random-acts-of-volunteers/.   That is the social part of the process for me, and being there as the bouquets are created gives me a powerful motivation for painting.  I don’t just get to play with flowers and chat with the other volunteers as they work their magic.  I witness the inspiration and inner workings of the organization,  like I did this morning: the door opened and a dripping woman appeared out of the driving rain, pushing one box through the door and going back for another.  “These are from my daughter’s wedding this weekend,” she said, “and since your kindness touched me so deeply two years ago when I was ill, we wanted to be sure these came to you.”  She had already made most of the flowers into small arrangements, the ideal size for an RAF delivery.  The few loose ones were scooped up almost immediately by delighted volunteers who needed just those two daisies or that one piece of greenery to finish off their bouquet.  Recycling flowers and smiles at its best!

So here are the steps to a painting:

Step 1.  Show up.  (Woody Allen maintains that this is the key to success no matter what you’re doing.)

Step 2.  Photograph some of the Fabulous RAF Bouquets – not fancy photos, I’d say they are more like utility photos to use as memory aids.  There are WAY too many  bouquets to choose from and they show up on the back shelves at a fast and furious pace, so this requires mostly good timing to snap the shot before they get loaded into the delivery van.

Step 3.  Go home, and start with a quick and loose “underpainting” in watercolor, based on memory and the photograph.  A glass or two of chardonnay is useful for encouraging what we artists like to call “spontaneity” at this stage.

Step 4.  Draw in some detail, usually in waterproof ink.

Step 5.  Optional:  Add more detail with whatever media works.  For a spattered, textured look, start flinging paint, or soak an old toothbrush in juicy paint and pull your thumb down over the bristles.  Or, grab the nearest three-year-old, take cover, and let him do it!

Step 6.  Scan or photograph the painting, process it in PhotoShop as needed.  I’ve begun adding a green border to the paintings to add some consistency to the format.

Et Voila!  The two bouquets in this post were created at RAF on Tuesday, September 29, 2014.

 

Easy As Pie

"Summer Pie Social", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Summer Pie Social”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Pie fixes everything, even summer coming to an end.  Our friend Charlyn Ellis hosts a Pie Social several times a year, where lucky guests bring a “pie”, then enjoy samples of anything and everything from the loaded table, along with easy-going conversation.  This summer’s social was in her shady back garden, where cats and bunnies and chickens sat with us hoping for a dropped berry or some flaky crust.  Calories be damned, we got to eat as many desserts as we wanted, right in the middle of the day!  Such decadence!

I faced this truth years ago: pie crust is not that easy.  I’m pretty sure my mother originated the expression “easy as pie” just to make the rest of  us feel inadequate.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can wind up with something closer to Naugahyde than the fabled tender golden crust.  It’s also messy to do from scratch…  and since I’m not the only one to reach theses conclusions down through time, the definition of pie has always been flexible.  For example, think of all the variations, like crisps, buckles, cobblers, etc.  The definition continues to evolve as folks revise their recipes to suit their gluten-free or low-fat or vegan or “I don’t actually cook” needs, resulting in a very colorful and diverse table.  The most recent social’s table included, in addition to some truly delicious fruit pies, chocolate cheesecake, and a bonus peach upside down cake.  My husband even made his special chocolate banana pudding with vanilla wafers (that’s the easiest kind of pie of all, the ones I don’t have to make!)  Yum!

Thanks, Charlyn, for a great summer memory and sketch opportunity.

 

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.

A Question of Color

 

painting of bridge

“Golden Gate Bridge”,mixed media by Kerry McFall

As I stood beneath the bridge, I wondered why it looked so red.  It isn’t a bit golden!  So when I returned home and Google was at my fingertips, I typed, “Why is the Golden Gate Bridge red?”  Brilliant, incisive question.  As it turns out, not particularly original, since if popped up as an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) on several entries.  Turns out it isn’t red either, it’s International Orange to be precise.  But I only had a red pen, so my color scheme can be chalked up to artistic license.

“Consulting Architect Irving Morrow selected the distinctive orange color because it blends well with the span’s natural setting as it is a warm color consistent with the warm colors of the land masses in the setting as distinct from the cool colors of the sky and sea. It also provides enhanced visibility for passing ships. If the U.S. Navy had its way, the Bridge might have been painted black and yellow stripes to assure even greater visibility for passing ships.”  Ooh, that would have been fun – then it could have been called the BumbleBee Bridge.

Here is a snapshot of the beginnings of the “fast/slow” process taught by Danny Gregory – a quick splash of color to get things going, then slowly add details as you really look closely at what you’re drawing.

watercolor beginning

“Golden Gate in Progress”, by Kerry McFall

Guardian of the Grapes

gnarled grape vine

“Guardian of the Grapes,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

The best image from our California Wine Country tour was not in a vineyard, not in a tasting room, but in a vacant lot in St. Helena, beside the city library and the Robert Louis Stevenson museum.  I was sad to see the abandoned, gnarly old vines, looking more like tortured tree trunks or driftwood than anything I would recognize as a grape vine.  This one took the shape of a skull, maybe a horse’s skull, with what appeared to be an eye glaring up at me.  This year’s new growth sprouted from its forehead like horns, thick as my wrist.  The vines were heavy with grapes – blue, amethyst, amber, green – although some were raisins already, some mashed by unseen forces.  The message was clear:  try a grape at your own peril.  I fear for the future of whoever drives the backhoe that uproots this Guardian, this Demonic Troll… beware the uprooted ghost!

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

Lovely Day for a Quick Plein Air Sketch

sketch of lupine

“Lupine”, watercolor and ink, by Kerry McFall

sketch of fields and mountains

“Midge Cramer Trail”, ink and watercolor by Kerry McFall

Half a mile from the parking lot at the fairgrounds, there is a bench on the Midge Cramer trail, the perfect spot for sketching.  By the time you’ve reached it, you can’t help but feel your batteries re-charging.  It smells good (wild roses and sweet meadow grass), it sounds good (crickets and birdsong), it’s gorgeous and green.  People jog and pedal along smiling, dogs can barely walk for wagging, the occasional horses even seem glad to see you.  There are lots of wildflowers this time of year, and unfortunately also lots of poison oak so stay on the trail.  The lupine I sketched above are undoubtedly transplants from someone’s garden via a blue jay or squirrel, they’ve sprouted up just behind the bench.

Technique Notes

I sketched these in my Grey toned Strathmore book, which just happened to be the right size to fit in a small pack, and discovered that a toned paper is really great when you’re sitting out in the direct sunlight.  Instead of being blinded by the reflection on bright white paper, you can actually see what you’re doing.  And as a bonus, just a white charcoal pencil makes for easy highlights.  I wondered if the watercolor and colored pencil would still be as bright after photographing, and I think they look good!