Monthly Archives: July 2011

Photo of sketch of birdhouse

Empty Nest

Photo of sketch of birdhouse

"Vacancy" ink and colored pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

The baby swallows flew yesterday.  As we worked in the garden all morning, they cheeped insistently, poking their little smooth heads out, flirting with us, black bead eyes sparkling intelligently.  “He’s flying!” my husband gasped.  And suddenly there were three birds above us, swooping and diving.  Then a heartbeat later, four as the second baby took wing. 

We stood there grinning like fools, watching as they did barrel rolls above the rooftops.  Those little daredevils had been out of the confines of the birdhouse for five minutes and already they were doing things that amazed us.  How DO they do that?  How do they know how…? And where do they go now? 

I thought for sure they would come back at night to rest.  But no.  The little house is quiet today, just a lonely little trickle of dried poop showing that they were ever there.  Reminds me of the stuff left in my own kids’ rooms after they went off to college…

One of the side panels  of the house swings out for cleaning – I couldn’t resist opening it stealthily just to peek in after they left.  Inside was the expected dried grass and twigs, but also several huge fluffy chicken feathers!  A feather bed for the babies – how appropriate.  I don’t think I’ll clean it out just yet.


For my birthday Ben gave me an orchid plant, saying, “These are supposedly impossible to keep alive but I thought you’d like something with a small footprint.”   Now there’s a challenge!

Orchid sketch

Happy Birthday to Me! by Kerry McFall, colored pencil, ink, watercolor

This sketch feels somehow “oriental”.  Having fun with the little palette “signature”.  But somehow the burst of magenta at the end of that graceful long stem just didn’t seem bright enough, so I tried it again…

decorated orchid sketch

"Aura" by Kerry McFall, ink and colored pencil

And apparently this time it got away from me!  I had been skimming a book written in 1903 by Lews F. Day about pattern design, and one thing led to another.  I had also just looked through my old book about colored pencils, which mentioned putting something textured beneath your paper, so I tried coloring the background over a chunk of nylon net.  Quite useful!

That Monkey Needs a Hat

teddy bear sketch

"No Worries" by Kerry McFall, colored pencil

My husband surprised me with a birthday trip to the movies this weekend – not swashbuckling Jonny Depp, not deep and dark Harry Potter, but willy nilly old Pooh!  I knew as soon as the little girl from the audience finished her under-the-movie-screen-impromptu-ballet as the credits rolled, what my next sketch had to be.  Alligator the Bear (no one remembers the exact logic of his name…) and Monkey the Monkey (plenty of logic there, if you’re two years old) are some of Ben’s Best Friends in the World.  They don’t live with him now because they don’t enjoy Beer Pong as much as they might if they could actually drink beer.  They live on top of the corner cabinet now, on the shelf above the Hank Aaron baseball shrine.  No worries.  Not a one.

Teddy bears and sock monkeys are good subjects.  They do tend to have a little trouble sitting up straight for long periods, but they never complain that you didn’t capture their smiles properly.  The resident critic thought that Monkey looked like he was wearing a Saturday Night Live bald head after the first pass, so I worked a little more on that aspect.  As I did, it dawned on me that most sock monkeys have little hats with a red pompom on top… I wonder why I didn’t make one when I made this monkey?

photo of bear and monkey

Subjects Pose for Portrait

Library Lament

Sketches are below – can’t seem to get the formatting right for more than one sketch!

I spent several hours in the library Thursday, waiting for our newly-shampooed carpet to dry.  I was very excited to try a “dry run” of what I hope to be doing on a daily basis while abroad, sketching in museums and galleries and libraries and cafes.  I began with the fountain outside the reading room… but there was no water.  And the security warnings and exit alarms on the door were too big to ignore, so the sketch turned out quite different than what I had envisioned. 

Then I noticed the stacks of upholstered wingback chairs at the east end.  They’ve been cordoned off with caution tape for months.  I asked an employee what was up – they are “needing cleaning” he said.  A euphemism for covered with lice?  “No decision has been made,” he said, clearly uncomfortable with the dialog.  But before I could get started drawing the chairs, a young man sprawled out at the edge of the fountain, so I tried to capture him.  Dang – he got a call on his cell and off he went.So I searched out a cooking magazine, and retreated to the familiarity of voluptuous, rounded fruit, from a photo.  The glaze doesn’t dry up when the city funding does, there are no warnings to block the view, no danger of bed bugs or lice crawling off the pages (I hope).  I miss the days when there were people in the reading room, reading, and water sparkling in the fountain.  How was it that we could afford that, not so long ago?  I know I will encounter much worse as I travel with my sketchbook.  Corvallis, though, pretends we are different.  Pretends “it”  doesn’t happen here.   Wake up, Corvallis.

Alarm Will Sound, colored pencil & ink, by Kerry McFall


Kids Outside the Library, ink, by Kerry McFall

"Glazed Peaches", colored pencil, by Kerry McFall

Bald Hill – An Irreplaceable Treasure

Barn sketch

Bald Hill Barn by Kerry McFall

Bald Hill: open space, respite, sacred groves of madrone, sleepy sheep, happy dogs and hikers, bunnies napping on their “back porches” in bramble thickets.  It is a treasure, Corvallis, and if you love it too, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and donate to the Greenbelt Land Trust to keep it.

It exists as part city park, part farm but apparently the farm part is up for grabs.  NO!  To develop any part of this would be sacrilege.  Here there are ancient oaks, prairies that still bloom with camas lilies, views of the Cascades, quiet places to see the stars.  The shady part of the trail takes you into a fairy world of ferns and mosses.  The sunny part lets you flirt with calves as they reach under the fence for the best grass, and listen to bluebirds sing.  The little yellow farmhouse is adorable.   AND IT”S NOT FIVE MINUTES FROM TOWN!  Seriously, in five minutes from anywhere in Leave It To Beaverville you are in the parking lot of a unique and wonderful place.  This is what they dream of in City Planning school when they say “Open Space”.

This is where I came to heal after 9/11, after my father died, whenever my heart aches.  This is where I came to run with my dogs and ride with my children, to breathe sweet meadow scent, to picnic in the shelter of the open barn on many a rainy day.  Here you can be alone or enjoy the community of like-minded souls.  Several of my recent posts were sketched here.  I’ve always pictured bringing my grandchildren here someday.  This is what Corvallis wants to believe Corvallis is  – but is rapidly losing.  You don’t know what you’ve got’ til it’s gone… let’s not let it go.

Bold and Brash

watercolor rooster with text

Bold and Brash - watercolor by Kerry McFall

 I stopped by Thistledown Farm outside of Eugene on Saturday, and this fine feathered fellow was crowing up a storm out behind the farm store.  I had planned to photograph their wonderful old barn and windmill, but the architecture had to take a backseat.  He strutted his stuff for me, a willing photographer’s model.  I have no idea what breed of chicken he might be, but he reminded me of a golden pheasant.  Not your usual backyard chicken.  And the way his comb was perched up on his head at that rakish angle – what a hoot!  I must say though that his double spurs looked positively lethal… So the barn will have to wait a day or two.  In the meantime, here is a coloring page – color him BOLD:

coloring page rooster

Click to enlarge for a coloring page

Happy Dog

colored pencil sketch of black lab

"Annie", by Kerry McFall

I’ve always thought that dogs smiled, real smiles without agendas,  without premeditation, just in-the-moment ain’t-life-grand smiles.  Case in point: Annie.  Although to be perfectly honest, in this sketch she looks like she might have just heard someone say the word, “ball”…

Kayla Byers, one of her people, took the original photo and gave me permission to sketch  “the smile”.  And since I’ve never really drawn a dog before, this is the first time I realized what weird lips they have, like they were cut out with pinking shears on the sides!  Next time I draw a dog, I’ll see if I can figure out the anatomy of that odd tongue attachment on the bottom jaw, too… didn’t quite get it this time.

This was done with my new brush pen, colored pencil, and watercolors, then tweaked just a little bit in Photoshop to add the highlights to her eyes.

New Toys!

Wild Cucumber

Wild Cucumber by Kerry McFall

Treated myself to a new “brush pen” and a “multi-media” tablet that doesn’t crinkle when I use watercolors on it – love ’em!  I photographed the cucumber vine last weekend up at Bald Hill park.  The tendrils on these make sweet pea tendrils look pathetic by comparison – these could hold a logging truck in midair!

Pick One…

Day Lily sketch with border

Day Lily by Kerry McFall

Fourth of July weekend means I had time for a quick trip to the library on Friday.  As I walked out the door into the sunshine with my arms piled high, something about the scent of warm books transported me back to being eight years old… Suddenly I  was stepping down out of the bookmobile and into a simple summer day.  Nothing lay before me but the prospect of an armload of art books to read, and maybe a banana popsicle if I was lucky.  Sweet memory. 

The long weekend and nice weather also brought experimenting with ink outlines and working in the garden… Our back “garden” when we moved in to this cottage consisted of two thirsty clumps of day lilies, some feral iris under the hedge, and a whole bunch of what we used to call “Indian Tobacco” when we were kids.  The lilies were a deeper red than most I’ve seen, so I let them stay back against the fence and they are thriving now.  (The iris had to go, it was just too infested with thistles and the tobacco.)  The “flame” pattern in the throat of the lily lends itself nicely to making a ribbon pattern to go along the edge.  I like adding the borders to sketches, they will be fun to transform into greeting cards.

A Great Harvest… if you like onion seeds

colored pencil sketch of onion blossoms

Onions Blossoms by Kerry McFall

Taking it to the next level – the sketch and the related graphic border.  My main crop this year is last year’s onions, which are in full bloom in celebration of the beginning of July and fnally – two straight days of sunshine!  My raised bed looks like a salute to Russian dome architecture.  The curve of the onion bulb underground is duplicated in the curve of the bulb that contains the blossoms, and each individual blossom duplicates a tiny version of that same sensuous curve… which seemed to say to my brain: this calls for tessellations!  This border is more of an echo, and  isn’t quite a tesselation, but it is getting closer to what I invision for my sketch journals: words as well as graphics on the paper.