Daily Archives: June 16, 2013


sketch of branch with cherries

“Cherry-Go-Round”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

At Mom’s suggestion, I clipped off this little low-hanging branch in her back yard and brought it inside to paint.  I was surprised to find that the cherries, all but one, were clustered around one part of it like horses on a carousel.  Leaves were all at the very end of the branch, fanned out and drooping.  Another thing about the world that I’d never noticed until I examined it with the intensity necessary to sketch!

As I was preparing to post this, motion caught my eye outside the window, and I looked up to see a squirrel.  Not in the cherry tree, as I would have expected, but hanging upside down from a wire, doing a paw-over-paw on his way to the birdfeeder.  For years, my father tried to “squirrel-proof” his birdfeeders.


At one point he had big squares of sheet metal surrounding homemade feeders that were perched on posts in the middle of the lawn.  Those came down the year the grandchildren’s heads reached sheet metal height and running in the yard meant risking being beheaded by the sharp edges…  He finally hit upon the wire approach, stretching a wire for a hundred feet between trees about six feet above the ground, and hanging the feeder in the middle of the wire.  I wonder what he would have thought watching that squirrel as he flipped and twirled and used his tail to spin himself upright!  His next stunt involved a tight-rope walker’s concentration as he took a few steps along the wire, lost his balance, and was hanging only by his hind legs.  Quivering with intensity, he was able to grab the wire with his front paws again, and he repeated the sequence.  By this point there were three humans standing at the window, laughing so hard we couldn’t speak.  He finally gave up, made it back to the fence, staggered to the deck and collapsed in the shade.  He sprawled on his belly, legs splayed out… just for a few minutes.  Then he was off and gone, I’m sure to raid another day at the birdfeeder!

Clematis – A Study in Purple

sketch of purple clematis

“Clematis”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

My mother’s clematis has climbed above deer-head-level and is blooming hysterically.  It climbs up the side of the front entrance and spills over onto the roof, a cascade of purple and magenta – but only above the 7 foot level.  At 6’11” and below, there are only a few leaves and a lot of snipped stems.   Apparently deer enjoy purple salads.

Mom watched as I began the painting, frowning slightly.  In past years, she would have been busy with potato salad or pie or laundry or pruning, but at 80+ she’s finally slowing down, so she’s at my elbow.  We talked about the fact that some blossoms have four petals, some five, some six – rare in the plant world, and you don’t notice it until you begin sketching.  She asked why don’t I just say drawing instead of sketching.  I don’t really know – I guess “sketcher” sounds better than “drawer”, which is hard to pronounce.  She asked about how did I meet those people in Brooklyn and London, how did I manage to find these total strangers in strange towns.  Magic I tell her.  The magic of art and the Internet.  The frown deepens, the disapproving side of her mouth curves down with it.

She totters off for a while, then returns.  “That’s nice!”  She sounds more than a little surprised.

Phase One

Phase One

Phase 2
Phase 2

“It’s hard to know when to stop,” I tell her, laughing.  I take a digital photo, add a bit more paint, take another photo, explain that it helps me decide if I’m “done”.  I show her my china marker and how you have to “preserve” the white of the paper if you work in water color.  I pick up my colored pencils and add another layer of color, dig out my Pitt Artist Pen and show her about cross-hatching.  As I add the “chop” symbol in the corner I share what little I know about Asian traditions in recording who creates and owns art.

“That’s really nice.”  She nods her head approvingly.  I do one more photograph, then open Photoshop and show her a few of my favorite effects.  I open the Internet browser and show her the sketching sites that I go to often, how one thing leads to another.  She shakes her head and sighs.

She doesn’t really understand my passion for art.  But she likes pretty things.  She totters off to the garage and brings me back the garden clippers.  “You can cut off that branch of the wild cherry and sketch it if you want.”  It’s nap time for her.  I think I’ll go clip that branch and get started.