Monthly Archives: October 2013

Knox Vegas, TN

Knoxville, Tennessee has many attractions, including two grandsons, a well-preserved historic downtown area, cardinals, mockingbirds, and syrupy thick Southern accents with the down-home expressions to match.   My current favorite: “Butter my buns and call me a biscuit!”  However, what I’m hearing mostly are loud, emphatic, “NOs,” because one grandson is a red-headed two-year-old.  And that, my friends, is why I haven’t been keeping up very well with my posts.

I’ve asked myself over the last couple of years why I hardly ever sketched for so many years – the answer is now crystal clear.  How quickly we forget.  You can sketch a bit with one child under the age of six, because they can sit beside you and offer suggestions, or better yet make their own art, but just give it up when there is a two-year-old in the mix.  This one has the attention span of a gnat, and apparently his crib is a portal to the Planet of Evil Twins – sometimes we have the angel twin, sometimes the evil twin gets beamed down in his place.  Look away for one split second and your watercolors have become lunch, or you hear a shriek of “MINE!” and your own sketch has become collaborative mixed media with crayon… pictured below was a rare moment of concentration and angelic quiet:



Taking care of the boys has been exhausting fun, and not a total loss for sketching.  The older boy, recently turned 5, is a great companion on hobbit hunts.  He gave me the specs for several pages of scary critters, then we tried a side-by-side demo of drawing a dragon “as heavy as cement.”

Drawing with Little Boys

Drawing with Little Boys

I also took advantage of the nanny and snuck away a couple of times to the Town Square for a bit of solo sketching.  The weather has been delightful and the leaves are still suprisingly green, making for deep shadows in the square that I intended to add later, which never happened; and the second sketch never really got off the ground but it was a fascinating subject.  If I get a chance to get back down there, I will focus just on the sculpture of the three women – as I was leaving I got close enough to read the inscriptions about the women’s suffrage movement in Tennessee.  Very inspiring – we owe our foremothers a huge debt, in so many ways.

"Knoxville Town Square 1", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Knoxville Town Square 1”, mixed media by Kerry McFall


“Knoxville Town Square 2 – unfinished”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Farmer’s Market Find: Studebaker!

sketch of red pickup

“Farmer’s Market Find,” mixed media drawing by Kerry McFall

Saturday found me roaming downtown by the river, enjoying that “last rose of summer” aroma in the air as autumn moves in.  You know that smell, still a little sweet, with the richness of wet soil and leaves beginning to decay.  I didn’t really want anything from the market, having gotten the Fit of Domesticity out of my system the weekend before.  But I was thrilled at what I found at the north end of the market – a brilliant red Studebaker pickup.  It was clearly somebody’s baby, not a speck of dust on it, gleaming in the October sun like a giant red chile pepper.  Gorgeous.  And I don’t even really like cars!  This is the first time I’ve ever been the least bit interested in drawing one – it must be the color that attracted me – and I have to say cars aren’t easy.  I think it must be like the relationship between anatomy and life drawing – you really need to know a little bit about the chassis (now there’s an automotive word!) underneath it to make a believable drawing of the outside.

I remember hearing my Uncle Creston argue at family reunions with my other uncles about how Studebaker was the maker of the best automobiles on the road… funny how some words stick with you, so the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the Studebaker logo shining on the passenger door was an image of Uncle Creston.  I’ll bet he would have loved this one!

Chocolate Checkerboard Chili

sketch of chili ingredients

Chocolate Checkerboard Chili, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Chocolate Checkerboard Chili

Don’t you just love alliteration?  The Checkerboard is kind of a stretch, but since the recipe calls for both black beans and white beans (and optionally red beans), at least the colors are reminiscent of a checkerboard or chess board…  This is easy because you use canned beans, and if you’re really short on time and energy, you can even use canned tomatoes.  This will be tastier and healthier if you cook in cast iron.

1 onion, finely chopped

3 or 4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 Tblsp olive oil

In a skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil until translucent, put in large kettle.

1/2 – 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)

Saute meat, sprinkle with a little sea salt (not more than 1 tsp, there’s already a lot of salt in the canned beans,) add to kettle.  (Did you know sauté comes from the French word for jump?  Watch the onions in a hot skillet and you’ll see why)

Add to kettle one can each (16 oz. cans if you can find them):

Bush’s mild chili (go hotter if you like spicier chili)

Navy (white) beans, drained

Black beans, drained

Kidney beans, drained – optional, good idea if you’re feeding lots of people

Turn burner on medium heat, stir ingredients well.  Add one can of tomato sauce – use a small can (or tomato paste) for thick chili, use the big 29 oz can if you’re doing all four cans of beans.

Chop and add one or two tomatoes, or a small can of cooked chopped tomatoes.  Stir again and simmer for about 20 minutes.


¼ tsp chili powder or red pepper flakes, or both, or a few drops of tabasco use more or less to taste

¼ C dark cocoa

1 tsp steak seasoning

The cocoa will give it a wonderfully rich color.  Simmer for at least an hour, longer is better and it gets thicker and yummier the longer it simmers.

Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese.  Serve with baked acorn squash and cornbread.