Monthly Archives: January 2014

Keeping Texas Modest

It isn’t easy catching a squirrel and wrestling him into whitey-tighties, but given that the decency of an entire state is at stake, my brother-in-law Jere managed it:

"Keeping Texas Modest", mixed media with underpants

“Keeping Texas Modest”, mixed media with underpants

I gave this painting, “Bark!”, to my sister-in-law Bonnie for Christmas.  I gave Jere, whose birdfeeder has a huge squirrel fan base, a gag gift of squirrel underpants.  Obviously, he took it rather seriously…


Sketchbook to Brooklyn Art Library: Check!

The Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library is a marvelous concept – check it out  My finished sketchbook is definitely the rough product of a fun learning process – I used it to explore one of my favorite techniques, which is bordering my sketches.  Some of the books I saw last spring at the Brooklyn Art Library were anything but rough, but when I started this book I didn’t have the bandwidth or the studio space to do what so many artists did, which was to completely reconstruct the book using fancy papers, fabric, etc.  So I decided to treat it like a “real” sketchbook, where I doodle and think and write.  And the best part is – it’s done!  And mailed!  Feels like quite an accomplishment!  Watch for it when the Sketchbook Project comes to a town near you!

Primrose Optimist

sketch of orange primrose

“Primrose Optimist” copyright 2014 by Kerry McFall, mixed media

I quit my job January 10th.

Yes, that was me dancing with my steering wheel, the blasting soundtrack of Mamma Mia making my little car hop and skip up Harrison street that morning. (Out of deference to my children, who do still have to visit this town occasionally, I did not make a video of that and post it on YouTube.  You’re welcome!)

Verbs are important – note that I did not retire.  I quit.  I made an investment in my future happier healthier self.  I spent the first week waking up in a panic thinking I had slept through my alarm.  I updated my LinkedIn profile.  I started a class on The Art of Marketing Your Art.  One morning it felt like all of the federal passwords and userIDs in my head went into a bucket of sludge and were dumped overboard, leaving a lovely clear space on my internal disk drive.    I read the January issue of National Geographic cover to cover.

I quit.  What does that mean?  At the moment it means the same thing as when a highschool graduate, or a college junior, says, “I’m taking a break for a year.”  Or, “I’m taking a gap year.”  For them that probably  translates to, “I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up.  I’m moving back home.”

For me it translates to, “I’m hoping to take my art to the next level, and my husband and I are fully committing to it.   Because I’m as grown up as I’m ever going to be.   And I am very sure what I do NOT want to do.  Because I’ve done it for the last seven years.”   (I draw the line at moving back in with my Mom, though!)

The second week after I quit, I planted primroses in the pots on the front porch.  On a whim I pulled one back up and painted the above picture.  And so begins the next chapter of my life – colorful, optimistic, simple.  A day at a time.

Woohoo!  So long and thanks for all the fish!

(For the record, kids, next time I have that much fun, I’m gonna do the video!)



Arting in Museums, Bars, and Airplanes

Arting is a verb coined by my honorary granddaughter, Masego in Botswana.  When we would go out to the verandah and draw or paint together, she called it “arting”.  Perfect, and non-media-specific!  Our recent visit to Dallas/Fort Worth provided several arting opportunities:

"Granite Bull" mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2014

“Granite Bull” mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2014

My favorite museum in Texas was the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), where they provide an arting haven for anyone who wants to participate – and it’s free!  In a series of rooms there are easels with paper and pens and a sculpture to sketch, mirrors and tables and pencils for self-portraits, boxes of junk and glue to create collages – and the best part is, there are people of all ages laughing and chatting with total strangers as they make their art.  I adored it!  The Granite Bull piece above was sketched in one of the galleries, then finished with water color back at our lodgings from a reference photo taken in the gallery. It was a slightly ironic choice, given that the next day we went to watch a herd of longhorns parade down the street in Fort Worth…

I also really loved the DMA’s Edward Hopper exhibit where his original sketches were hung beside the finished paintings, along with explanations and quotes from Hopper.  The take-away message was, “Simplify!” which I needed to hear, and it was even better to actually see how he had done it.  Here, too, there were clipboards and pages for people to use as sketching prompts, which were a big hit with parents of wiggly small children.  It is mesmerizing to watch a child draw.

Also at DMA, I have to say that I really did NOT like the Jim Hodges exhibit which was in the very next room over because –  I’m sorry if I offend – squares cut from old nylon nightgowns, or chains of bedraggled artifical flowers, just don’t take much thought or effort.  Do they really make a statement about “Give More Than You Take” (the title of the exhibit)?  And since I’m a fiber artist, I think I’m allowed to hold fiber artists to a higher standard.  He had one piece worthy of notice, and he didn’t even “make” it – he designed it, and someone else manufactured it.   Maybe I just missed the point, or maybe it wasn’t fair to judge because I saw the Hopper exhibit first.

Across the street from DMA is the Nasher Sculpture Garden, where we sat outside in the gorgeous weather, wined and dined, and I sketched a Picasso sculpture of a woman’s head.

"Picasso in the Sculpture Garden," ink and colored pencil, copyright 2014 by Kerry McFall

“Picasso in the Sculpture Garden,” ink and colored pencil, copyright 2014 by Kerry McFall

Next we drove to Fort Worth, and entered a completely different world down in the Stockyard District.  This next pair of sketches was made on my wire-bound notebook, which doesn’t seem to attract as much attention as I draw as a sketchbook:

"Belly Up to the Bar, Boys", ink sketch by Kerry McFall

“Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”, ink sketch by Kerry  Mc Fall


"Cougars", ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

“Cougars”, ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

But Fort Worth isn’t all cowboy hats and tacky bar signs.  There are some good museums there as well.  The Modern Art Museum had an exhibit called Mexico Inside Out that was politically charged, thought-provoking and memorable.  The Kimbell Museum had some well-known classics.  After the night at the honky-tonks preceding our tour there, I was really quite amazed at what diversity there is in that community: from cowboy hats to pink bowties on museum guards.

"Guardian", ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

“Guardian”, ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

Another great travel opportunity for arting is in airports and on planes.  Again, I’m finding that a small spiral notebook goes unnoticed if you want to be the Stealth Artist.

"Flight Delay", ink sketch by Kerry McFall

“Flight Delay”, ink sketch by Kerry McFall

In-Flight magazines don’t usually have much content, but there are always some “not too bad” ad photos that are fun to do:

"Crab Pot", ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

“Crab Pot”, ink and colored pencil by Kerry McFall

What I love about travel the most, apart from the fascinating people we meet, are the many opportunities and ample time for arting!

Gracie, An Elegant Dog (of Unknown Pedigree)

"Gracie," mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2013

“Gracie,” mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2013

Gracie and her person, Jeana, were our hostesses while we stayed in Dallas.  Gracie, during the rare moments when she was NOT plotting to steal socks and slippers so we would play Keep-Away with her, was a very elegant dog.  Her coloring was Harlequin – a bit of gold, bit of brown, bit of white.  She had incredibly intense ice blue eyes, so maybe there’s a little bit of Huskie in her family tree, but also a bit of Egyptian Goddess given the perfect thick black eyeliner around them.  One seemingly arched black eyebrow gave her a constantly quizzical look.  Her smooth short hair was soft, her tail was deadly at full wag, and her Boxer or Bulldog nose was always on the alert for the aroma of socks – or shoes might do in a pinch.

Her ears were tall and alert, reminiscent of a Great Dane, and given her size (70 pounds?) that could be a real possibility too.  She did not appreciate being photographed, though, so my first sketch (“Not Quite Gracie,” below) was a composite of several shots snapped as she ran way, and clearly I had the ears and nose too long.  I started over using a couple of photos that Jeana had taken, and finally got the proportions just about right.  I’ve decided I quite like drawing dogs!

"Not Quite Gracie," mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Not Quite Gracie,” mixed media by Kerry McFall


Never a Dull Moment

"Texas Sketches", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Texas Sketches”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The blue highways winding from Dallas to Austin, and the museums and galleries in Dallas and Fort Worth provided a lot of sketch fodder.    I confirmed toward the end of the trip that Longhorn Cattle do actually exist, although in very limited numbers (mostly in parades), but apparently there is no such thing as a living visible armadillo.  I saw several halves of armadillos on highway center lines, so perhaps there are a few live ones hiding in the brush somewhere, and there are many stuffed armadillos hanging above doorways in bars and boot shops, so maybe the live ones are all just invisible, like unicorns… but there were plenty of other wonders to behold.

Take for example the five-legged donkey, which was impressive for those of us who haven’t been around farms or ranches much lately (my, my, they do make ’em big in Texas.)

More Texas sketches coming soon.