Monthly Archives: June 2012

Pecking Order

"Pecking Order" mixed media by Kerry McFall

Hens are fascinating to watch, and I’m sure that if you took your blood pressure before and after a few minutes watching them peck at bits of gravel or work their way through a patch of garden, you’d see a much lower reading afterwards.  I like the contrast between the sculpture in the pot, all smooth curves and simplified to icon form, and the real hens, resplendent in fluff and feathers and flowing lines.

The sketch inspired several “quiltie” borders that don’t really go with this piece, but I do like them so I’ll post them and let them simmer…

Chicken Borders, mixed media,copyright Kerry McFall


All over the map this last week or two… this must be what squirrels feel like when they’re about to cross the street.  If there has been any theme it has been small fluffy animals – kittens, chicks, and most recently puppies.  I’ll just blame that on my friends and their adorable little critters.  But there have also been landscapes, lettering, botanicals, and urban areas that caught my eye, so here they all are.

A word about small fluffy animals – I’m learning that it only takes a few lines to age them drastically.  The puppy for example – I really struggled to keep him a baby, all soft and round.  The result is a very pastel, low contrast piece, which might make a nice greeting card at some point, but it won’t knock anyone’s socks off.

And a word about the Bungalow style, which is part Art Nouveau, part Craftsman, part coloring book.  I am always really drawn to these styles, maybe that’s because I like to use line so much.  Thick, dark lines with nice solid color fills, bold negative spaces, unabashed contrasts.  I used the American Bungalow magazine from the library as inspiration for these studies – it’s a pleasing publication, partly because of the lovely high quality paper it’s printed on, and partly because of the focus on “human sized” homes, although most of the homes probably have at least three times the square footage of our tiny cottage.


Mail Order Chicks

sketch of young chicken

"Mail Order Chick", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Tracy’s maill order chicks arrived about 10 days ago – talk about modern day miracles!  The post office calls her as soon as they’re in town, and there they are in their little shipping box, all cozy and warm and intact.  She does her Chicken Lady magic to be sure they aren’t dying of thirst and/or constipated, puts them in their new cardboard box home with special feeders and lights, and they begin their little Dance of New Life.  They cheep indignantly for no apparent reason, they peck at invisible things.  They scurry about in a panic when a camera invades their space.  They fall asleep standing up, and s-l-o-w-l-y tip over onto their beaks… it’s a hoot!

I drew this one from my photo taken when they were just past the fluffy stage and not quite into the Ugly Pinfeathers Stage, although you can see by her tail that it’s almost Pinfeather Time.  She still has remnants of the little “egg tooth” on top of her beak.  I’ll have to ask Tracy what breed this is – I call them Chipmunk Chickens, but I’m pretty sure the real name is something vaguely Welsh or British like Easter Egg Orphington or Buff Barred Linkhamshire.

When she grows up, this chick will be moved to Tracy’s backyard, where she will reside in sumptuous luxury in the Palais des Poulets – that’s French for Chicken Palace.  I’m sure their coop is without equal in the world of Backyard Chickendom.  I’ll have sketch it one of these days!

The quilt analogy in the background is reminiscent of some of my very early chicken-related art, which you can see in my Gallery of Works.  I didn’t realize how close the colors were to those pieces until I just now looked up the link.  Odd.

Cusco Commute

"Cusco Commute", mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo credit Corey Jay

Daughter Corey sent a stunning photo of her “commute” to work in Cusco, Peru.  From her apartment she walks down ancient cobbled – well, “streets” seems a bit over the top for what might be better termed “pathways”.  The view opening at the end of the narrow, winding way is of a surprisingly large (to me) city filled with adobe and terra cotta tiles and flanked by rugged peaks.  Perhaps, if all goes well, we’ll get to walk this route some day before she leaves… I wonder if my knees are up to it?  Not to mention that at 11,000 feet altitude, it might be a bit tricky to catch a breath.

The “frame” is based on another photo of a vintage textile piece that she sent, which seems to be an abstract made up of alternating dragons and some kind of doorway protected by maybe a snake…   Without seeing it and touching it, it’s hard to say how it was made, but I’d guess it started out as yellow fabric, some kind of resist was used for the eyes and the yellow dots (representing eggs maybe?), and then the rest was dye painted on using a terra cotta color and maybe an umber.  In several photos that she’s sent from other adventures in Peru, I’ve noticed costumes and murals and textiles that feature some pretty elaborate dragons…. wait, dragons in South America?  Where did those come from? Evidently there has been quite a large influence from Japan over time, maybe that’s the origin.  (There were also a lot of gorilla costumes… that origin escapes me completely.)  Given the scariness factor of dragons and snakes, I decided that they would serve to protect her on her commute if I put them on “guard duty” in the frame.  Safe journeys, Corey!

Essence of a Kitten: Stealth and Raisin Pockets

"Stealth", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Be vewy, vewy cawefoh…” lisped Elmer Fudd as he snuck up on his victim.  I always hear that ridiculous phrase in my head when I see kittens preparing to pounce. This kitty was rescued recently beside a highway near the Oregon coast – she is so young (maybe 3 weeks?) that her eyes don’t really seem to focus, and yet she instinctively creeps up on potential prey.  She currently resides in a house slipper at Wendy’s friend Lisa’s home.  Thank you to Lisa for the photo that this was based on.  Ooh, dangling participle… sorry, but doesn’t it just sound friendlier than “upon which this was based?”

Wait, you say, What’s a Raisin Pocket?  I grew up hearing that phrase in my friend Ellen’s house.  A raisin pocket is the tiny flap at the outside edge of a cat’s ear… in this sketch, you can just see a little pink area – and obviously it’s sized for one possible purpose: to carry a raisin in. ( In which to carry a raisin, if you prefer.)  All cats have them.  Not all cats understand the true intended function, however.  I suppose you might also be able to squeeze in one kitty kibble.  Kids – don’t try this at home!


Living In the Moment

sketch of salad ingredients

"Chickpea & Cucumber Salad", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Ever have those times when there are so many ideas bubbling in your head, that you simply can’t begin?  So you lay in bed and fret, wishing you had the energy to do the six things on your to-sketch-today list, PLUS go downtown and help with the photo survey of your dying neighborhood, PLUS run errands and buy groceries and clip the cat’s nails, PLUS spread the barkmulch before the weeds take over, PLUS edit the video from the Muddy Creek School Quilt project, PLUS change the sheets on your now-sweaty bed…  I have those days a lot.  The worst part is the things-to-sketch list… I absolutely ache to start them.  But this weekend I reached a compromise with myself: I gave myself permission to stop fretting, and to simply live in the moment.  If the sheets need changing, don’t rush through it just to get to the next thing on the list.  Just take my time, do it right, maybe stop for a snuggle with the kitty or a cup of tea.   No multi-tasking.  And so I moved through the weekend at a slow and steady pace, not feeling guilty about what I couldn’t get to, took a stroll around Bald Hill Farm (yes, the sun WAS shining!), and wound up my Sunday afternoon leafing through “Real Simple” magazine and making a salad.  Naturally, the luminescent cucumber, the blazing backlit basil, the little heart- shaped garbanzo beans, seduced me into starting another sketch.  But that’s okay.  It trumped everything else on the list, because it WAS the moment.  And I was totally in it, that moment when the scent of sliced cucumber and fresh-picked basil wafted through the kitchen.  It had to be done, right then.  And here it is.

The list in my head is just as long as it was Saturday morning, actually longer if you count that I added doing a sketch from Corey’s photo of her “commute” in Peru framed by a design incorporating her photo of an antique textile with dragons on it.  But that’s okay.  Its moment will come, eventually, and I’ll be in it, more relaxed if this whole approach works like it’s supposed to!

Shadow Cat


"Shadow Cat", mixed media by Kerry McFall

This is a cat who is no longer a kitten, a cat of unexpected consequences.  I set out to sketch from a photo I stumbled into online of a fluffy yellow kitten, all wide-eyed innocence.  (I would credit the photographer, but I can’t find it again on the Internet and I vaguely remember it was by someone using a pseudonym that had the word flowers in it.  Sorry!)  I saw the photo and immediately thought – hey, cool shadows.  Very exaggerated.  Wonder if I could make that work?  Without even making so much as a pencil guideline for placing the eyes, I grabbed my Pentel brush pen, drew a border, and slapped on a couple of whiskers.  Footdang – too bold to capture the kittenish fluff.  But I was already committed, so I kept going.  Not bad, but with each stroke the cat got older, further and further away from generic cute kitty.  Closer and closer to a real personality.  Interesting.

I switched to colored pencil, then watercolor.  The watercolor wash wasn’t dark enough, and the paper wouldn’t take another wet layer, so I let it dry and switched back to dark colored pencil.  Still too pale.  Back to the brush pen – bingo!  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as good about contrast in one of my sketches as I do about this one.

As usual in a portrait, there’s something not quite right about the mouth, or rather the chin.  But what a sense of accomplishment.  And next time, I will draw those few pencil lines just to get my bearings before I bring out the ink.


Dogface Butterfly… is that an oxymoron?

"Dogface Butterfly", colored pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

I learned when we visited the Santa Ana Botanical Garden (Claremont, CA) last month that the state insect of California is the Dogface Butterfly, not perhaps the loveliest of names.  I literally had to sit down and draw out a dog’s face on my sketchbook before I could see where they got the name… if you stretch your imagination, you can almost see a black-eared yellow dog laughing in the upper wings.  At the garden’s butterfly house they had specimens of the Dogface under glass, but no live ones, which was disappointing, but my recent Google search offers the excuse that they are very fast flyers.  That search also showed that a yellow-only version of the Dogface also inhabits Peru, which is where my daughter Corey has just started her new job.  It felt kind of like karma that during her graduation visit I had stumbled upon a butterfly that she might actually see in her new town – that is, if she goes to the Inkaterra hotel to see their butterfly garden.  Having a butterfly garden at a hotel sounds like such fun!  I wonder if it lives up to its potential?

Struttin’ Our Stuff at LaSells

"Strut", 16 x 20", $250, mixed media on canvas by Kerry McFall

We just finished hanging “Call and Response III” at the LaSells Stewart Center Giustina Gallery on the OSU campus – whew, that’s a lot of work… but so worth it.  I love the way the “pods” go up, and it’s fascinating to be a part of the group dynamics.  Over the course of the eight hours we spent together, we each stepped in to specific tasks and roles, eventually evolving into quite an efficient team.  Now, tired but happy, we are looking forward to Monday night’s reception.  And we’re also pretty pumped to think that Michelle Obama, and any number of dignitaries will very likely see our works while she’s in town for the OSU graduation ceremonies – woohoo!

The rooster piece pictured above is not technically part of the Call and Response suite, but it’s also being shown at the gallery.  It’s my newest work, incorporating a “coloring page” design from last year.  It’s fun, but looking at all of our work in the gallery, it occurs to me that nothing I do is subtle.  My colors are always saturated, vivid, perhaps even LOUD.  Maybe I’ll make that a goal, to see if I can tone it down a bit in the next few months.  Then again, I like loud!