Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bavaria, Franconia, and Ingolstadt

sketch of pretzels

"Bavarian Pretzels", by Kerry McFall - watercolor, ink, colored pencil

Europe at last! Our friends live in Bavaria about an hour outside of Munich in a Corvallis-sized town called Ingolstadt. The first Bavarian state university was founded here. Beavers gnaw at trees along the Danube. The resemblance between home and here ends there. Bicyclists rarely wear helmets. Pedestrians of all ages (not just college students) cross the street at unexpected times and random spots, cars honk at them but rarely slow down. There are no bumper stickers. The town mascot is a creature that is obviously a griffin – well, maybe a dragon – but they call it a panther. Centuries of history unwind as we walk along cobbled streets. Duke Ludwig the Bearded built a New Church in 1418; he was succeeded by his son Ludwig the Rich, who apparently imprisoned his father to be sure he DID become “the Rich”. Museums abound, notably the “Alte Anatomie” medical museum, which served as inspiration for the Frankenstein tale. We had a delicious Pancake Soup with our lunch – what a fabulous way to use up leftover pancakes! – at an inn whose claim to fame was serving the local doctor who was the model for Frankenstein…

When we arrived yesterday, our host presented us with a traditional Bavarian midday feast of steaming white sausages drowned in honey mustard, fresh pretzels, and Hefeweizen beer – mmmm. The pretzels were gorgeous and golden, spread with real butter (there went my illusion of losing weight with all the walking). Sketching them was the logical choice for the day, given my jet lag.

As I worked on the sketch and tried to stay awake, Markus baked a fresh plum cake and tea for the four o clock traditional “snack”. The “eat dessert first” philosophy may have originated here! At the evening meal, (fresh salad, cheese, cold cuts, more pretzels, and bread) I was introduced to the region of Franconia via Franconian wine. Evidently Franconia (spelled Frankisher in German) is in north Bavaria – somehow we skipped that in 5th grade geography… but it’s pretty important out here… kind of like the Corvallis/Sweet Home relationship… It was a crisp Pinot Grigio-type and was quite good. We’ve been promised a different wine with this evening’s meal… I really like Bavaria so far!

Scripps: The Last First Day of School

sketch of Scripps College

Scripps College, watercolor, ink & colored pencil

Last Saturday we navigated what’s left of the California freeway system from Sacramento to Claremont in a car crammed to bursting with Corey’s posessions and our travel gear, Corey continually reminding me that holding on to the car door does not make a bit of difference as to whether or not the idiots in the next lane will stop careening along so crazily.  At one point it reached 113 degrees fahrenheit as we crept along in 7 lanes of traffic at 20 mph.  Evidently, a paper bag over my head and a bottle of wine are the only way for us to survive those freeways.

Griff and Corey unpacked her things and schlepped them upstairs to her room, while I spent a hot hour under a white tent on the lawn, my feet and ankles being nibbled by unseen insects, sketching the outside of her dorm and drinking in the scent of oranges ripening on the nearby trees.  The outside looks like a Mexican villa, the inside looks like Harry and Ron and Hermione should be arriving at any moment down the chimney of the Common Room.   A glorious place for what Corey termed her Last First Day of School as she begins her senior year.


First Leg: Coast Starlight to Sacramento

Sketch of train depot

Sacramento 6:30 a.m.

I am writing from Ingolstadt, Germany, safely arrived with our dear friends Ursula and Markus and Baby Simon.  But I want to record the journey in order, so stepping back a few days to put first things first. 

The first “leg” of our journey was Albany to Sacramento on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. I love train travel! We arrived at the Sacramento depot at 6:00 a.m., where we waited for Corey to pick us up. The architecture is elegant simplicity, curves and arches, marble and stones, with a huge mural from the WPA project era at one end. The fittings have endured – wooden benches, wrought iron chandeliers, cast iron door handles. Decoration celebrates every detail without being fussy. Why is it we can no longer put together such pleasing, enduring projects to keep artisans employed? Surely we can… Dear Congress – think WPA!

Even early as it was, the train coffee was strong, so I drank enough of it to be able to focus and sketch. I tried to convey the incongruity of the architecture as a backdrop for the garish plastic signage advertising the new do-it-yourself ticket machine, so out of place at such an early hour…



sketch of annoyed cat in suitcase


Yesterday I found Sparky reclining in my husband’s suitcase. (He
packed early to do a “rehearsal week” to be sure he had everything he’ll
need.)  Disdain is the only word to describe her attitude. “Seriously? This whole travel thing just isn’t working out for me.  And leaving me with some strangers who have a DOG!?  I don’t think so.  By the way, while you’re up, could bring me a handful of those kitty treats… thanks.”


Eight – -no, 4! –Days and Counting

I posted this digital montage the other night when I was so
tired that I managed to delete all the text that went with it.  Now, six days later, I’ve finally got the presence of mind to type it into a text editor, then paste into the blog so I
don’t delete it with the stroke of a tired heavy thumb!  I made this several years ago, watercolor meets August berries via photoshop – it seemed appropriate since I haven’t had time to sketch much, given the frenzy of packing, and the last-minute details
of arranging a 4-month leave of absence from Life in Corvallis.

The names of fabulous museums and institutions of art education and galleries and artists and designers are swimming in my head – Tate, Ruskin, Battersea, Oxford, Victoria and Albert… ohmigosh!  I am really going!   People I work with look at me with disbelief for the most part – FOUR MONTHS? Relatives and close friends raise their eyebrows … some actually say it – how the hell can you afford this?  We rented our house to people who are willing (bless their hearts) to take care of the cats, we’ll be staying with friends or family (bless their hearts), and … it’s complicated.  We live simply and small, because we live for adventure and the people we love who live far away.   This is our chance – we are both healthy, we are both ready for change, the nest is empty.  Yes, the stock market is flaky, the dollar is sliding, London has been burning, travel is risky, they’ll probably confiscate my toenail scissors, but I’d rather die in a London riot than rot in Corvallis!

To quote Buzz Lightyear, To Infinity and Beyond!

graphic mixed media

Berry Baskets



Sweet Peas and Cattails

sketch of pink sweet peas

Creamy Pink and Ink

Sweet peas fill the air with perfume as they struggle to get up the trellis.  It’s been a tough summer for everything, and most of my garden is stunted because of the late start.  I tried a few with my ink brush pen, then tried some more flamboyant blooms with colored pencil.

Sweet Pea Montage


And I found another way to use the “palette signature”!

cattails in front of tiles

Cattail Still Life

Goldfish for Breakfast

sketch of raccoon

"Goldfish for Breakfast", by Kerry McFall, colored pencil, watercolor, ink

Cool, cloudy mornings seem to make the local wildlife forget that, sooner or later, the sun WILL come up and it WILL be daylight.  Yesterday I was startled to see this guy finishing up his breakfast at the edge of my backyard pond, flossing his teeth with cattail leaves, washing up after a tasty breakfast of what I assume was the last of my goldfish…

Raccoons evidently have the same public relations firm as squirrels, i.e. it’s hard to be very angry with something that cute and fuzzy for long.  And he was kind enough to stick around long enough for me to track down my camera and get a quick portrait (my automatic flash actually went off, that’s how foggy and dark it was still at 8:00 a.m… is it really August?).  But it is SO annoying to have put wire over the pond and gone to all the trouble of covering the edges of the wire with moss and rocks, and to have carefully threaded the cattails and grasses through the wire, and to have placed a series of bricks and empty flowerpots for fish hiding places, only to have this joker show up once a week and wreak havoc!  Grr.

Thumbnail Sketches

Water Studies

water ripples

"Water Study Flamingo Hotel" by Kerry McFall, watercolor and colored pencil

The light playing on water is mesmerizing.  Always different, always the same…  my mother used to sit on the cabin porch at Twin Lakes Lodge and “watch the diamonds dance” as she phrased it. 

At the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, I listened to mouthy affluent children as they dove and splashed, and managed to almost catch the S-shaped nuances of the reflections.  Soccer Moms, do you understand what little monsters you are creating as you cheer your children on, at first pretending that everyone is equal, then going berserk as one clearly excels?  Those children echo your every word, and in the end, their allegiances are as transparent as yours… biggest, best, fastest.  Even at a hotel pool.

More from Santa Rosa

vineyard sketch

"Ledson Vineyards" by Kerry McFall, colored pencil, ink, watercolor

Ledson vineyards has a huge “castle”, complete with classic fountain and white rose trees out front.  The castle is notable here for its absence – I didn’t sketch it because I couldn’t figure out how to get situated where a) I could see it and b) I wouldn’t roast in the sun.  So I opted for sitting on a picnic bench in the shade of a huge oak, and sketching the vines instead.  Good way to spend an hour before lunch.

Sun, Wine, and Good Company: Life is Good in Santa Rosa

sketch of vineyard

"Row 1", Benziger Family Winery, by Kerry McFall

 We just spent four lovely days in Santa Rosa and saw four lovely plays at SRT (Santa Rosa Theatre)… it’s hard to face reality after all that sun and fun.  Even after last year’s winery explorations, I am in awe of Sonoma County land use planning.  McMansion developments are few and far between, although castles at the vineyards seem to sprout up like mushrooms…  There are tasting rooms around every bend!  This trip was the “dress rehearsal” for sketching hours on end – and apart from still needing a “water brush”, I think I’ve got the basics down.  I still have klutz moments when colored pencils begin rolling off benches or tables, but that’s just because I get so excited I don’t put them back in the case before I grab the next one.

This sketch was at the Benziger Family Winery, one of a handful of “bio-dynamic” wineries.  The tour was intriguing and fun, the wine was excellent, and there was a kitten playing in the shrubs.  I tried to figure out how to capture grape vines while hummingbirds buzzed around me.   Much like when I tried to sketch at the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t figure out where to look…

Here is what Photoshop thinks it could look like in a more abstract manner – I like it!

"Row 1 Again", by Kerry McFall