Daily Archives: September 17, 2011


montage sketch
“London, Day 1” by Kerry McFall, colored pencil sketch montage

So much to see, and – gasp – almost enough time to feel like we can see it all!  The train trip beneath the Channel was underwhelming – just like being in the subway, then you find yourself at St. Pancras station wondering where platform 9 3/4 might be hidden… of course, it’s in some other station, but still, it felt like we were about to begin a semester at Hogwart’s.  Chocolate frogs, anyone?

We met our new host family, friends of Markus’, and were welcomed into their Victorian row house with a hot supper and cold wine.  Helen is a whirlwind of energy, a chemistry professor who does a terrific imitation of British upper crust voices, and Gary is quiet with a wry sense of humor.  They provided us with insights on getting around and a tiny guidebook (keeps you from looking so “touristy” when you pull out your map), then off we went to find my first art class.
Finding it took some serious bus navigating, which is always a bit scary in a new city, but Griff is a jewel, so we found the Battersea Art Centre, got set up for the evening class, then set off for the Tate Modern, which was in an entirely different part of town.  The Tate seems to be a big favorite locally, but for me, it was quite stark.  It has a fabulous view of the River Thames and all the famous landmarks, but perhaps I was influenced by my feet hurting at that point… then again, it is an excellent example of “industrial culture”, it being a power plant originally with one of the generator areas now devoted to being an “art space”… which had big blank walls at the time.  Ben – it was made for you and a few cans of spray paint! 
I sketched little scenes all day in the new “Moleskine” sketchbook that Larsen sent me (bravo, Larsen!), a sort of random series of impressions from vintage props in the Battersea center to a man in an inner city basketball court quietly drinking himself to oblivion.
I was exhausted by the time evening rolled around for the “drop in life drawing” class, and was on the verge of just going home instead, but fortunately Griff persuaded me to try it anyway.  Wow – just what I had hoped for, but sorry, not going to share these sketches on the web!  Well, not yet, anyway.  I will just say that the model, unlike Corey’s description of her first life drawing class, did not resemble Shrek.  More like the young greek hero in Mama Mia… All that and good art instruction, too!

Koln, aka Cologne

Stained Glass Abstract

"Koln Cathedral" by Kerry McFall, ink and colored pencil

After Mannheim, we spent a few days in Zweibruicken, on the French border, with Ursula’s parents.  Supper on the back deck was the perfect end to summer, with a big moon floating above, passion flowers blooming, and Marvelous German Wines from the Mosel valley.We were invited to join Berbyl and Dieter on a hike to celebrate a friend’s 70th birthday – what an adventure that turned out to be!  It began with coffee and cakes at 4:00 (eat dessert first… we’re pretty sure it’s German law!), then a scenic drive through the German and French countryside.  Finally the hike began at 5:30ish accompanied by an earthshaking thunderstorm, so we arrived totally soaked at a French inn an hour or so later, where we were expected for a 5-course meal involving the best mushroom soup I have EVER tasted, tender steak, five different types of potatoes, and way too much food in general.  During the hike/feast, we met roughly 20 new friends, and came away feeling that THIS is definitely  the way to celebrate your 70th birthday!  Or any other birthday for that matter…
The next piece of the journey involved exploring in and around Koln (the German spelling of what we spell Cologne) with Dieter, who is an unmatched tour guide – he is a geography professor of international renown, so we learned firsthand about history, industry, culture, and all of the things that give regions thier unique identities.  One of our first stops was the Cologne Cathedral – talk about visual overload.  Ohmigod.  And I’m sure that was the very response designers had in mind when they schemed it up: Oh. My. God. From this artist’s perspective – an artist who is very easily distracted by color and detail – the stained glass rose windows were completely overwhelming.  The cathedral is immense, and my architectural nomenclature isn’t up to describing it, but suffice to say, my neck hurt terribly and my jaws ached.   There are several places where dazzling modern glass art has been added, and the proximity of a simple pixelated patchwork of squares to a medieval orgy of embellishment is something that would require several days to fully appreciate.  I loved it.When we left the cathedral, I sat across the square with a “wheat beer” (hefeweizen?) and began to scribble.  There was a tree above the restaurant so I couldn’t see the famous cathedral towers, which forced me to focus on things like the street lamps, the entrance arches, some tiny details…  I swear there were three pig heads in one spot that looked just like the muppet pig gentlemen in “Muppet Christmas Carol”, and one cat face that was clearly from something Maurice Sendak drew, and the longer I looked the more I saw odd faces… what fun!  I wonder what might have been sculpted into those elaborate tops, way up there where no one can ever really see what the artists were up to?
sketch of factory

"Duisberg - Industriel Kultur"

One of Dieter’s specilaties is “industrial culture”, which involves among other things converting old abandoned mines and manufacturing areas into useful human spaces, without forgetting what the original use was all about.  The sketch above was made at an old “blast furnace” of a coal-fired iron plant, which now is a recreational center that features wall climbing, rock concerts, huge slides, light shows – very cool.

Taking A Breather

sketch of roses
“Mannheim Roses” by Kerry McFall

Today we decided to just “stay home” here in Lambeth and try to catch up with laundry, haircuts, and postings.

We stayed several days in Mannheim with our friends Marika and Vollker.  During that time we transformed their dining table into an art studio, with Ben (6) and Karla (4) and me having a grand time doing colored pencil works in spite of the language barrier.  Karla got fairly annoyed with me and Griff now and then – I mean, really, grown up people not knowing how to speak properly!  She forgave Griff though when he demonstrated that tickling is a Universal Language.  Although the art focused a lot on lions (which required a lot of roaring to get the message across as to just how scary they should look) and mice, I did find time to do one just for me of the roses.  Everywhere you look over here there are fresh flowers for sale – and very cheap.

On our final day in Mannheim, we went to the Luisenpark, a huge open park right in the city with small boats that followed a track on the lake.  They were slow, which allowed ample time for spotting turtles sunning on the rocks at the shore, and for being grossed out by the immense carp that came to the side of the boat and opened mouths the size of dinner plates to beg for treats…eew.  And I got to see storks in action, which really was very exciting.  Their eyes are really as huge as they look in my previous sketch, which I did from a photo that I thought surely had been retouched.  Every high spot in the park had an active stork nest, and some of them were even down stalking through the tourists on the lawn.  After the boat ride, everyone else went wading while I found a spot to capture the boats and the ubiquitous TV tower.  The towers remind me of the Space Needle in Seattle, every town seems to have one, some even with a revolving restaurant.  Scenic yet intrusive…
sketch of park in Mannheim
“Luisenpark” by Kerry McFall

So that wraps up Mannheim, next post will be about our travels with Dieter in Koln.