Tag Archives: Willamette Valley

Arting in the Garden, SAGE style

"Multiple Crops". mixed media by Kerry McFall, 18 x 22, $125

“Multiple Crops”. mixed media by Kerry McFall, 18 x 22, $125

“Arting” with friends for a good cause (the Corvallis Environmental Center) plus a complementary gourmet dinner in the midst of a gorgeous late summer garden… life just doesn’t get much better!  I spent last Saturday afternoon happily absorbed painting bee boxes, pumpkins, and scarlet runner beans winding up stalks of ripening corn in the SAGE (Starker Arts Garden for Education) garden.

Painting “en plein air” adds several increments of excitement to what is normally a quiet and solitary process:  weather (in this case, sunny and warm, making the paint dry very quickly and making the light change every 15 minutes), bugs (bees and yellow jackets buzzing literally at my feet), and fascinating people.

"Bee Box", mixed media by Kerry McFall, 10 x10", Sold $100

“Bee Box”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, 10 x10″, Sold $100

I was thrilled when a man walked up and bought the first piece I finished (Bee Box)!  It was almost a cartoon, but I just HAD to draw something that colorful!  While I drew and painted at what was breakneck speed for me, I chatted with folks about community food webs, coping with stings and mean yellow jackets this time of year, and how to know when to stop painting.  Knowing when to stop is my biggest challenge right now, as you can see below in this series I did in the same garden as  a “warm up” for the event the week before:

If I had stopped at phase 2, without all the white highlights and blue tints I added, I would have been happier than I am with the “finished” piece.  Live and learn!

The pumpkin below was a “post event” piece, created from my photo taken on the day of the event.  This pumpkin was almost completely obscured by the leaves, which were ghostly with their coatings of powdery mildew.  I had my doubts about when to call it “finished” as well, but in this case I’m glad I added the dark outlines and took the background all the way to black (click the thumbnail to enlarge).

The “Multiple Crops” piece, “Cabbage Rose” and “Pumpkin with Ghost Leaves” are all for sale, contact me if you’re interested and half the proceeds will go to the SAGE project!  (Prints are available also)

Change: Mixed Use, Mixed Feelings

"Bucolic Barn OSU Campus Way Bike Path", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Bucolic Barn OSU Campus Way Bike Path”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The bike path from Oregon State University (Campus Way path) to Bald Hill runs through fields where the OSU Agriculture Department used to run sheep and cattle.  It’s still quite bucolic, but it’s changing rapidly, some good, some not so good.  Several of the old barns have given way to fancy new high-tech barns, and all but a few ragged old sheep have disappeared.  I miss them.  The barn I painted above is still standing, but I doubt for long, given it’s air of abandonment and open gates.  This time of year, I always pick blackberries along the edges of the path, but no, not this year.  The vines were scorched and thirsty, the few berries looked more like peppercorns.

Two of the old pastures are now  huge solar arrays, squatty faceless gray grids stretching on and on.  I took photos, but never have drawn from them – bo-o-ring.  U-u-gly.  But ecologically good, right?  Then again, I wonder what will happen when the thistles and ash tree seedlings grow so high that they shade the panels?  That much weedkiller would be horrific.  I read that the arrays are under scrutiny for alleged funny business with tax credits.  Tsk.  If I had known about them in advance, I might have asked about at least putting the panels up high enough for sheep to graze underneath them.  But OSU doesn’t ask for community input.  If you believe the banners hanging from light posts all over campus, it’s because Oregon belongs to the University.  As opposed to the other way ’round.  Tsk.

The pastures closest to the fairgrounds hold llamas and some intimidating windowless barn-ish structures.  There are bluebird nest boxes on many fence posts, and some good educational signage about wetlands down by the covered bridge.  A couple more pastures are being restored as wetlands or oak savannah, which is the least they can do given the adjoining acreage south of this area that was wetlands last year and is apartment buildings this year.  Not modest university housing, mind you, but luxury student condos… sorry, this is beginning to sound like a rant.

sketch of barn

“Not the usual bucolic stroll”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

After I photographed the barn, I stumbled upon the yellow jackets busily transforming half a mouse into a feast.  I took a quick photo and hurried to the other side of the path – yellow jackets are always cranky in the early fall.  (I wondered if the mouse fell out of the sky like a certain Herring…)  Around the next corner, a wasp’s nest hung ominously from a seedling tree, looking for all the world like a mummy’s wrapped skull.  I hurried across the covered bridge to try to beat the coming rains (for which we are all very grateful!) only to find turkey vultures hunched in the snag, watching me closely. Spooky.

Change is always unsettling.  The bike path is still a nice place for a stroll, and always provides glimpses of nature and food for thought.  This one was not the usual bucolic experience, but I enjoyed the challenge of painting the scary critters and the barn after I got back to my dry dining room table.  Once painted, it was interesting to examine the color palette that popped up when I saved the scary critters page – I would describe it as cranky.

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!

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.”

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.

 

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.

 

Call and Response: Raptor

To say I was not immediately struck by inspiration would be an understatement.  

My prompt for this year’s Call and Response* exhibit was “Quiet, Noisy.”  How in the world could I put the sense of hearing on a flat surface with paint?  How to translate audio into visual?  But soon enough, I was assaulted by the answer: I happened to be driving near the Portland Airport when a military plane took off from PDX and the afterburner kicked in… it was deafening.  I decided to contrast that with the silent flight of a hawk, often seen soaring over the fields as we drive up and down the Willamette valley.

Sketch, copyright K McFall2015

Sketch, copyright K McFall2015

My first sketch was for a triptych, made to look as if the observer is in a cathedral, the ultimate quiet sanctuary, looking out.  The backdrop was quintessential Willamette Valley, a lone “seed tree” fir silhouetted on a clearcut hillside above a field of grass stubble.  Next came some detail studies of the hawk:

study for hawk

Hawk Sketch, copyright 2015 K McFall

Once I started getting ready to paint, the reality of a triptych dawned: I have no place to paint big enough to allow me to work on three canvases at once, which I would have to do to keep the colors consistent.  So, down to one canvas, which would be simpler anyway, but sticking with the window arch idea… maybe making the entire piece a “window” done as if it were leaded glass?

 

But then I decided that I didn’t like the arch or the curving “glass” pieces, so I painted them out… or tried to…  So now we’re down to the simple sanctuary of nature, no cathedral in sight…

Next came the jet, which interestingly enough was called a “raptor” according to my Google research.  Hmm… possible title?  The underlying glass bits, which I had outlined in ink markers, bled through, even through several layers of thick gesso.  This “pentimento” became echoes of the jet con trail.  The jet and the bird are also going in opposite directions, both facing off the canvas, but the con trail(s) and furrows in the field below curve back to the center of the painting, the conflict of the quiet and the noisy.  Coincidence?  Works for me!

Carolyn Kindell, my neighbor, is an avid birder, and she shared several bird books to ponder for reference.  I learned that hawks glide over fields listening intently for mice and voles moving underground… as a “hidden Mickey” kind of a joke, I had already added a tiny field mouse in the grass beneath the hawk.  When she saw the work in progress, (she’s my neighbor and a frequent visitor, impossible to keep  it secret), Carolyn said “The mouse lives another day, but the hawk goes hungry.”  And possibly the hawk goes profoundly deaf,  after the afterburner event.  I decided that the mouse needed a bigger role, so I detailed in his little home entry and made him more obvious.

"Raptor," acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14", copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, $300

“Raptor,” acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 14″, copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, $300

Finished 2/12/2014.  The painting is now hanging in La Sells Stewart gallery on the OSU campus, surrounded by the responses of our seven Call & Response member artists, plus three guest artists.  I am thrilled with their responses.  If you’re in Corvallis, please take the opportunity to see how these artists chose to respond to my call.  It’s free!

*Call and Response is a community art exhibit created by eight Willamette Valley artists.  This is our fifth exhibit.  The C&R theme for 2014/15, was “Opposites”.  We each pulled a “prompt” slip of paper out of a hat, which contained two words that were the opposite of each other.   The painting that resulted from this prompt would be my “call” to seven other artists, one at a time, who would respond with a work of their own based on mine.  They would not know the words of my prompt, and they would not see the other artists’ responses; they all just knew that we were working with opposites.

Community Poetry Birdhouse – If Wishes Were Fishes

Linn Benton Community College sponsored a call for artist’s this spring asking for artist proposals to decorate “birdhouses” that will be mounted in their Albany campus parking lot.  But there’s a catch – they aren’t for birds!  They’re for interactive poetry… watch for more information from LBCC about how that will work, but in the meantime, here are some photos of my birdhouse, titled “If Wishes Were Fishes”.

When I heard the title for this project, words began to pop into my head: birdhouses > feathers > flight > community > a sense of place > icons >iconic fish > flying fish… and finally a snippet of a poem, “If wishes were fishes, then horses would ride.” I have never really understood that phrase, but I’ve always loved the mental images it inspires! So instead of birds being the focus, my sketches took shape as fish flew inand out of water waves and air waves, progressing through a day and a night in our part of the Willamette Valley, represented by Mary’s Peak and satellite imagery of the rivers.  My background as a fiber artist means that I just had to find a way to include some fabric, so the interior became a silky, glimmering stage to receive the poetry notebook.  A very fun project!

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!