Monthly Archives: September 2013

Autumn’s Kitchen

sketch of acorn squash with guilted borderr

“Autumn’s Kitchen,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

At the risk of being asked to turn in my “Locavore” badge, or my Grow It Yourself license, I reveal that I was actually shopping somewhere where they felt it necessary to slap a sticker on a squash, proclaiming that it is “US Grown in WA”.  In my own defense, it was a full two days before the Farmer’s Market, and I was nowhere near the co-op, and it was raining cats and dogs,  and I was experiencing a brief Fit of Domesticity.  I had visions of steaming bowls of chili (my very own recipe for 3-Bean Chocolate Chili), rich baked acorn squash with brown sugar, and hot buttered biscuits.  The chili used up a big bunch of my homegrown tomatoes, if that earns me any points back.  Of course, as I pulled out the cutting board and knife for splitting the squash, it sat upon my kitchen table, burnished by some waxy substance rubbed over the surface by the grocer, calling out to me, “Kerry, paint my portrait!”  So as the chili simmered on the back burner, I pulled out my paints, and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.  Supper was a bit later than originally planned, but it was worth the delay.

The quilty border is a start on a new project where I will be exploring “lines and borders” as part of The Sketchbook Project that I am about to begin.  I might even make  a small print of this one and paste it in the beginning of the book.  More on that project soon.

Studies in Small Sizes

I’m running out of watercolor paper and haven’t gotten around to buying more.  After my Plein Air class this summer, I’m also trying to answer the question, “What size do I like best?”  My first instinct is that landscapes seem to demand big paper, yet my favorite paintings made by class members were invariably the smaller ones, some just 4 x 6″.  Smaller is also easier to squirrel away in a binder or portfolio for storage.  Given these three factors, and a very strong urge to sit and stare out the window at the changeable weather, this weekend brought a couple of 6 x 6″-ish studies of Small Things.

Like one leaf.  Oregon’s fall foliage doesn’t exactly blaze.  Native ash and oak leaves turn the color of paper bags mostly.  Vine maples and poison oak do a good job of providing some brief burgundies and oranges.  Sometimes you’re lucky enough to wander into a birch or aspen grove for a bit of gold.  And of course, evergreens stay… green.  Not that I’m complaining!  You just have to look really closely to see what’s going on in all those paper bag brown leaves:

Ash Leaf, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Ash Leaf, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This specimen, one of the first to drop, was laying on the damp trail at Bald Hill.  The black mold pattern caught my eye, and I decided I’d try to adapt it somehow to a pattern design.  First order of business, figure out how to get something close to that spotty black-on-paperbag pattern… watercolor, spattering, colored pencil, ink… nope.  Didn’t quite manage it.  But it was a fun start.

Next up, a duckling vignette to send to a very small person in Germany along with a book about cartoon ducks… I thought it would be good to show him that REAL ducks don’t wear rubber boots or baseball caps:

sketch of mallard duckling

Oregon Duckling, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This little mallard walked “duck-footed”, to the point that he kept tripping on his own feet as he waddled along.  He and his two siblings paused long enough for a brief photo shoot in spring at the Starker Arts Park pond.  I wonder what ducklings say in German?

All In A Day’s Work

Vet School Cow, pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

Vet School Cow, pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

Some days at work lend themselves well to taking a lot of breaks – the server is down, the maintenance guys are hammering away outside your office door, a co-worker is a bit too enthusiastic about that crisp apple snack.  Yesterday was like that, so I took my journal and a pencil and wandered off for a walk.  It was one of those days that make Oregon the perfect autumn destination, sunny, breezy, no humidity.  I’ve been taking advantage of a bench outside of the vet school pastures lately, hoping for a chance to sketch the fascinating parade of creatures that show up there now and then.  One of the regulars is the Jersey Cow shown above, who was dining on dandelions right up near the fence.  She has what appears to be a round rubber plug in her side, which is both intriguing and repulsive – it looks like the air valve for a swimming pool toy…

I had hoped to color her in a bit when I got back to the office, but the server was back up so that never happened.  I did go online though and asked Google for images of “Vet school cows”.  Up came a photo of the very thing, from an article in a Missouri University student news page named, oddly enough, The Maneater:   “The cow had an operation called a fistula, in which a hole was cut in its side, leaving an opening to the stomach. Second year veterinary student Leslie Pope said fistulas are comparable to a piercing, where the body heals to allow the hole to exist without harming the cow.  “Cows have a really strong immune system.  She can still have babies and milk,” Pope said.  The reason for the operation is to research how cows digest different kinds of foods. By reaching into the cow and pulling out the digested material, researchers can see what is best for cows to eat. They can remove bacteria from the cow to give to sick cows to make them better.”  Well then.  I learn something new every day.



The Fate of Tomatoes


"It's Been A Good Summer", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“It’s Been A Good Summer”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Long, hot summers make for fat, red tomatoes!  Not something we experience in the Willamette Valley very often, so it’s much appreciated when it happens.  Right now, mid-September, I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.  My friend Tracy said, “Roast ’em – they make great pasta sauce!”  So I picked a bunch, washed them, and three jumped out of the colander and onto the pages of my sketchbook…  The rest of them went into a 275 degree oven, after rolling around briefly in olive oil, basil, oregano, and sea salt, and there they basked for two hours or so.  Here are the phases of their fate:

It’s too hot to cook, so tomorrow they will reach their ultimate fate: the key ingredient of spaghetti – or if tomorrow is too hot, into the freezer they go.


Back Into the Garden


sketch of onions and flowering plants

“Autumn Pick Me Up”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

It’s been a long, hot August, and I for one am glad that it’s just a teensy bit cooler and the days are just a little shorter so I can get back out into my garden.  Everything looks tired – the cucumbers have had powdery mildew for awhile now, the sunflowers got so heavy they tipped themselves over and right out of the dirt, tomatoes are sprawling… all of this probably partially due to benign neglect on my part, I have to admit.  So this morning I wandered out and did a little trimming here and there, pulled up a few pathetic specimens, and rewarded myself with a trip to Schmidt’s Garden Center.  I returned home with a glowing golden chrysanthemum, two purple asters, broccoli starts, and some baby onions marked “Candy” on the label.

After doing such picky details in my last sketch (Buzz the horse) I decided to loosen this up a little.  The paper curled because the sketchbook really isn’t intended for watercolor, but it will lay flat once I close the book and put it under some weights.  I sat out back in the shade of the neighbor’s fir tree for a couple of pleasant hours working on this, and finishing one of the paintings from my plein air class (below).


I still don’t really like this one… somehow yet another view of local landmark Mary’s Peak just didn’t appeal to me.  I tried incorporating words, I tried inflating the silhouette, there’s about a dozen layers of colored pencil and ink and china marker, but… meh.  Oh well.


Horse Whiskers

sketch of horse

“Horse Whiskers”, mixed media, copyright Kerry McFall

Another possible title:  Got Carrots?

We are staying at Elkhorn Valley Inn B&B, the residence of Larry our Host, and Woody and Buzz.  Larry makes tasty beautiful breakfasts (fresh-picked plums with yogurt, fruit medley, omelet, English muffins, bacon, avocado, golden potato slices, good coffee – which could fuel a young field hand for three days), and in his spare time, works at the Elkhorn Golf Course just down the road.  Woody and Buzz are two young horses who live in the neighboring pasture – Woody is the Pinto (?), about two years old, Buzz is the Palomino, just 8 months and suffering from parasites.  Yes, named after Toy Story.

Larry showed up last night at our cottage door with a bag of carrots for us to feed to Woody and Buzz.  I’m not sure who was more excited, me or the horses.  But it was dark, so into the fridge went the carrots, and I looked forward to feeding them in the morning.

Ah, the best laid plans.  When it rains at the end of a drought, you can’t complain.  You mustn’t complain.  Especially in Oregon, where a drought takes its toll so quickly on plants and animals accustomed to water.  So we enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof, had our lovely breakfast, and finally during a break in the Water Event, Griff held out carrots over the fences while I photographed.  “Do all horses have whiskers?” he asked incredulously.  I suspect that Buzz has more than his share, but yes, I’m pretty sure they all have whiskers.  Then again, I’ve never really looked that closely at a horse’s chin before.  So the fact that I was unable to perch on my stool in the pasture and sketch today is not lamentable… to be honest, drawing and painting from the cottage kitchen table has been delightful.  And much drier!

Once downloaded to my laptop, the photo of Buzz stood still for three hours!  That is roughly the equivalent of a two-year-old human sitting still sans screaming for three hours without the benefit of an I-Phone.   And I was able to capture every gossamer hair of his mane, every whisker, every eyelash.  What a delight for me.  And Buzz had some nice treats, too – although after the first carrot, (“Buzz, don’t crunch so loud!” ) Woody figured out what was up and came trotting over for his share.   With a bit more discretion and some table manners, Woody could have had more carrots to help fill in his skinny rib cage, but  Larry says the meds are doing their magic, and all in all, a rare relaxing day.