Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chocolate Fantasy 2013

fabric art of mountains and invasive blackberries

"Encroachment", fabric art copyright by Kerry McFall

If you have a Chocolate Fantasy “golden ticket”, on Friday evening, March 1st, this could be yours!  In honor of the Corvallis Art Center’s 50 anniversary, Chocolate Fantasy is taking on a slightly different twist – visit the Chocolate Fantasy page to find out what treats lie in store!  I donated this piece to support the continuing efforts of the Art Center to bring art in its many forms to Corvallis.  The title reflects what power such a simple thing as a blackberry vine can have as invasive species encroach on our fertile lands and lovely open spaces.

And if you like chocolate-covered filberts, you’ll love this next piece, which will also be available at the arts sale at the Chocolate Fantasy — but this one you can simply purchase for $150!  You’ve probably seen this one before when I posted it here – it’s my favorite from 2012 I think.

watercolor of hazelnut in casing

"Hazelnut Harvest", mixed media by Kerry McFall

It’s the same original watercolor, with a slight mix of colored pencil, but of course, this time it’s matted in a lovely chocolate brown mat (of course) and framed!  I hope to see you there on Friday!

Fairy Flowers Among the Ruins

sketch of green and pink flowers

"Fairy Flowers Among the Ruins," mixed media copyright by Kerry McFall

It wasn’t easy to resist climbing across the skinny little rope separating me from a patch of gorgeous wildflowers, but I behaved myself.  At the edge of the Inca ruins at Sacsay Huaman, just above Cusco,  I snapped a couple of photos on the most magnified setting that I could.  These bell-shaped flowers were sprinkled in amidst some bright purpley-blue Lupines, and although I’m very familiar with lupine, I’ve never seen anything quite like these delicate fairy ballerina costumes, lacy green petticoats beneath bright pink skirts… I still didn’t get quite the detail that I had hoped for, nothing that a little abstraction and Photoshopping can’t fix.  I’ve tried to identify these via Google, but with no luck, so I’m hoping some of Corey’s friends in Peru can help me put a name to them.

Made with colored pencil, ink, watercolor, salt, white china marker, digitally manipulated in Photoshop

Sugar Loaf of the Inca

“Clash of Culture” hardly does justice to what happened when the Spanish showed up in South America with Salvation (and vast treasure) on their minds.  Every time these histories were recounted during our visit to Peru, I kept thinking back to being a kid in Klamath Falls, Oregon and watching the devastation of the tribes and the tribal lands there.  I never really understood what was going on at the time, but it was still actively being pursued in the 1950s and 1960s–although Americans prefer to not discuss it.   I think one major difference between our interactions with the Native Americans (especially on the West Coast) and the Spanish interactions with the Incas several hundred years earlier was that our diseases did a more thorough job of wiping out the populations, thus there were fewer folks left to offer any resistance.  The Spanish brought disease, too of course, but somehow there were more folks left who needed saving, and the Spanish Catholics were ready for the challenge.

Building cathedrals and monasteries on top of Inca temples just seems to me like adding insult to injury, but apparently this was just part of the Spanish plan.  Using tricks like stagecraft mirrors scattered throughout the cathedrals, they attemped to  persuade the “primitive” Inca people that here in the new church they could see their own souls, way cooler than the Sun God ever showed them their souls in the old shrines.  Every effort was made for several centuries to make True Believers out of them, and erase the influence of their previous religion.   The results are fascinating.  The main cathedral on the square is a good example, covered inside in gaudy re-purposed gold and silver from the original temple.  There is no stained glass like the European cathedrals, but there are lots and lots of mirrors, and platforms for saints surrounded by wood carvings painted in colors not found in nature (the platforms are also used to parade sculptures and paintings of the saints around town during festivals, just like the Incas used to do with their mummies…hmm.)  The cathedral walls are covered with the requisite dark and bloody medieval paintings of religious subjects, with a couple of unique twists.  One was the painting of the Last Supper, a Cusco-styled replica of the old classic with blue-eyed blond Jesus and disciples but with a roast guinea pig and local fruits in the center of the table, and Pisaro posing as a very dark Judas … at least, that’s one interpretation that takes very little imagination to see.  Even more remarkable to me, in a very dark corner at the back of the main chapel, there is a simple sculpted stone, roped off by dusty old velvet cords.  A security guard was sitting on a nearby bench when Corey pointed it out to us, but when we approached, he quickly went away.  Corey called the stone the “sugar loaf”, something she picked up from a tour with her history teacher during her first visit to the cathedral while she was studying with Pro World Peru.  She said it was the only remaining artifact from the original Inca temple.   Apparently not too long ago, the church officials had tried to relocate the stone and remove it from the cathedral,  but loud local protests prevented it.  So now there it sits in its dark corner, scrupuloulsy avoided by most tour groups, with coca leaf offerings strewn on the floor around it, a symbol of enduring tradition and belief, against huge odds.

And continuing in the spirit of mixing a dark medieval Catholic heritage with a sun-worshipping primitive culture, our hotel breakfast room was adorned by a series of vivid paintings of various saints and Madonnas in elegant carved gilt frames, all with gleaming patterns of gold paint at every point of their huge haloes and pretty gold swirls at every possible spot on their garments – they looked like somebody went crazy with the gold puffy paint from the craft store!  I sketched my two favorites, one with an eye-roll to Heaven that puts any teenager to shame.  The really striking thing about the paintings was that in the morning light, they were eerily reflected on the glass doors, through which you could clearly see the original Inca stonework of the entry hall… it’s hard to erase or outshine history.


Purple Corn

sketch of blue and purple corn cobs

"Maize Morado - Purple Corn", mixed meida copyright Kerry McFall

The San Pedro market in Cusco, Peru is one of those places where your “overload” buzzers start going off the minute you set foot near the entrance.  There is so much going on that you can’t begin to take it all in – the colors, smells, sounds, energy – it whirls around you like frogs in a blender…  And that’s not just an expression.  Frogs were at the far back corner, in a big yucky bucket, but according to our fearless guide Corey, the Frog Lady for some reason did not have her blender with her the day we were there.  Thank goodness for small favors.

I would have loved to wander around with my sketchbook and capture some of the unique sights, but I suddenly found myself feeling self-conscious and intrusive, not to mention Tall and Nosy.   I tried to subtly take a few photos, but it didn’t feel right.  These people where just doing what they do at their market, and with the exception of the little girl whose mom was selling quail’s eggs, none of them wanted to be photographed.  The little girl, age three or four, already knew that when the gringo’s come at you with a camera, hold out your hand and smile big for a few soles.  It felt like the moral equivalent of a Peruvian trying to photograph me as I shop at Fred Meyer – no thanks, I just want to get what’s on my list and get on with my day.

Much like Freddies, the San Pedro market provides “one stop shopping” – warm Llama wool scarves, chicken feet, bread, fresh flowers, camera cases, frogs, and huge phallic carvings…  I did take a few photos in spite of my little fit of shyness, and one was of the amazing barely-real-looking purple corn.  As soon as I got back to the hotel, I parked myself on the patio and sketched from the photo, using my newest sketching discovery, a white gel pen.  The white gel will cover nearly all colored pencil, ink, or watercolor, allowing me to make highlights at the end of the process instead of being required to reserve the white of the paper from the very start – Wonderful!  Plus, the waxy white china marker makes for some interesting “resist” possibilities for watercolors, and it also works as a blender.  If I’d had my wits about me, I would have bought some of the corn and tried painting with the juices – given the brilliant color of “chicha morado” the local corn drink, I’ll bet it makes an incredible magenta wash!

You Just Gotta Touch ‘Em

sketch of Inca Ruins

"SacsayHuaman", mixed media copyright 2013 by Kerry McFall

The stones of  Inca ruins, much like quilts, must be touched to be fully appreciated.  Looking is nice, but running your fingers over the rounded edges is the only way to understand how rocks can be so “soft” and yet so completely unyielding.  And just like at a quilt show, you’re likely to get scolded if you do touch, especially the famous ones…

Just above Cusco there are ruins of Inca structures at a spot called SacsayHuaman.  It’s a short taxi ride up, and for folks with bad knees it’s a fairly easy slope from the entrance to the “big rocks”.  It’s a good introduction to the incredible masonry that is quite literally at the base of nearly every building in and around Cusco, and here, at least for now, it’s okay to touch.  I found a shady corner and sketched and painted while the rest of the family went exploring the caves and arenas and thrones and other mysterious structures.  I made friends with several batches of Peruvian children as they curiously scampered around me – they were generally not impressed with my work until I showed them my sketches of dragons (sorry, can’t post them yet, they’re for a secret project) -clearly, a bunch of dumb old ruins just can’t compare to the universal “wow” factor of a snarling dragon!  I was also closely supervised by a small brown sparrow-like bird with an orangey ruff around his neck and a top-knot like a bluejay, but he was hyperactive and not a good model…

The characteristic trapezoidal shape of the doors, windows, and wall insets was apparently intended to withstand earthquakes, with great success – the wider bases transfer the pressures and jolts so the rocks lean into each other for support even during movement.  Existing boulders were left in place, trimmed up a bit to fit, and used to support the majority of the structural weight.  Where stones joined one on top of another, the surfaces were carved concave over convex, which let them “ride” and slide against each other and stay put, rather than rattling off to the ground – predecessors of the lego concept?  And apart from the practical aspect of these meant-to-last structures, they are simply beautiful.  Each stone is smoothed to near perfection, there is no mortar, no spaces.   We were told by several folks, including Paolo Greer, that this was probably accomplished by whacking away at the quartz with harder hammer stones…  apparently persistence pays off.   Makes my shoulder hurt just thinking about it.  And makes me doubt that the labor was voluntary…

Enter the Spanish Conquistadores.  With missionary zeal unrivaled in history, they pulled down temple walls and built their own monuments to their own god on the Incan stone foundations.  There are pieces of Inca walls everywhere you look – the entrance to our hotel was about 30% Inca stonework.  But more on the Spanish next time… now it’s time to finish unpacking!

Peru, Dragons, and Bucket Lists

sketch of HuanaPicchu

"Who Says There Are No Dragons in Peru", mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

We’re back from Peru, and in addition to several sketches, I have a few humble observations to offer about life, dragons, and bucket lists.

The closest thing that I have to a bucket list is a “Why Not!?” kind of wanderlust that takes me wherever and whenever an opportunity presents itself.  Opportunities generally arise in the form of people I cherish inviting me to visit them in places that are Not Where I Am.   This has taken me to New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, France, London, Botswana, Georgia, Tennessee, and several other exotic locales, and I’m always glad for the experiences, always the better for the relationships and the “Aha!” moments that can only come from stepping outside your comfort zone.

Up until a few years ago, the only “person” I knew from Peru was Paddington Bear… ( little known fact that he is a Spectacled Peruvian Bear).  When daughter Corey decided to take her semester abroad in Cusco, Peru, I thought it was an interesting choice but didn’t really understand her motivations – in fact, I’m not sure SHE understood her motivations.  When she wanted to go back, and back again, I understood it even less, but finally decided the only way to figure it out was… well, to just go.  So we did.  And it was amazing, living up to and exceeding every postcard scenario.  It was also thought-provoking, providing a snow-globe sort of perspective on what happens when cultures collide.  There’s not a lot of snow in the Andean snow-globe these days…

Because Corey works in the travel industry, we got the Supremo Grand Tour, and it was wonderful to meet her sweetheart Moises, and the people she works with, and to get to know people like her original Host Mom Nelly and her family.  Everyone we met – the drivers, the guides, the friends, the co-workers, the shoe-shine kids, the Llama Ladies – added something to the flavor of the trip, all of them diplomats and ambassadors in their own way.  I now truly admire Corey’s chutzpah at venturing alone into a completely unknown world – I certainly would not have braved it as a young woman.  We also got a bonus Archaeological/Historical perspective  from none other than Paolo Greer, a well-known explorer.  Corey and Ben had attended a lecture he presented the week before we arrived, and he joined us for a private lecture and even dinner one night.  Wow – he is a force of nature.  Hopefully we will hear more about his efforts to preserve and protect what has not been plundered already.

So I encourage you to take a look at your bucket list, and go.  Now.  That’s what credit cards are for.  The world is changing so fast that even “protected” world heritage sites cannot remain unchanged, and you won’t always be this healthy, so go – Now.  You will learn something important, every day.  You will experience something that makes you search your soul, every day.  Do a bit of reading first – “Turn Right At Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams is a good one if you’re heading to Peru.  The Internet is a great resource, but find a good travel consultant if you’re going someplace where driving laws are seen as suggestions and gringoes stick out like a sore thumb – I’m so glad we had Corey’s knowledge and experience to fall back on.

And about those Dragons… if the Incas could build all of those fabulous stone sites up there in the clouds, without spaceships or road graders or even wheelbarrows, then there could have been dragons.  I’ve seen some representations of dragons – although everyone else seems to think they’re just lizards or snakes – in some of the artifacts.  And when I was sketching Huayna Picchu (sp?- maybe Wayna Picchu?) I saw not only a condor outlined in the cliff, I saw a dragon.  Do you see it?  So there.

More sketches to come in the next few days as we get re-organized!