Daily Archives: February 25, 2014

Getting Acquainted

sketch of little boys and huskie puups

“Getting Acquainted”, pencil sketch by Kerry McFall copyright 2014

Getting out in the world can be so Life Confirming!  Sometimes it’s not the spectacular landscapes, or the fabulous architecture, or the breath-taking performances that mean the most, although those are richly rewarding.  Sometimes it’s just being on the path, at the moment when two Husky puppies encounter two little boys, that warms your heart and makes the memory.

Last week I was walking along the path at Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, Colorado), camera in hand, having one of my “Overdose on Awesome” moments.  I had been gaping at rock spires the colors of fire, almost dizzy as I turned from one overwhelming vista to another, when I saw these little ones.  Whew, I thought, something on a human scale.  The grownups who were with them were hanging on to leashes and waistbands to be sure nobody got rambunctious, but I’m pretty sure they would have done fine on their own.  I suspect that both the puppies and the boys had encountered members of these species before, because they all approached the opportunity with cautious optimism and wagging tails.  I had a brief opportunity to snap a quick shot and then fade back into the background, and I was lucky enough to catch this rich moment, so full of possibilities!  And of course, after awhile, I got to pet the puppies too!

Oddly enough, this got me started thinking about my mother, and the topic that she keeps pushing away, which is that she should no longer be living alone.  She refuses to live with “all those old people” (she is 84) in retirement facilities.  I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s my conclusion: senior residences, or nursing homes, or whatever you call them, should ALL include a day care center, and be across the street from a park with a playground and/or open spaces.  Even if you were not able to stroll across the park to meet the new toddler or play frisbee with the puppy, you could at least see the fun and chuckle. You could watch the sky change and see the birds fly overhead.  You could get acquainted with people of all ages, maybe read to the kids in daycare, and not be restricted to just conversations with those “old people” about which of the residents went into the hospital this week.  Let’s hurry up and get this going! It is absolutely worth a fortune to see or participate in encounters like the one above.

Technique Notes: I grabbed my journal this morning and started scribbling.   I added just a touch of pale pink and light blue colored pencil, and then thought, Dang, I wish I hadn’t done this on lined paper!  But as always, sketching in my journal, instead of on “nice” sketchbook paper, takes away the pressure to be so careful… and as often as not, the results are better than on “nice” paper!

“…So Good It’ll Make You Slap Your Neighbor!”

Colorado was 200 miles of Awesome.  Kansas was miles and miles of Flat and Tidy.  As we traversed the state of Kansas (West to East, mostly on Highway 400), I slowly understood why the first part of the movie “Wizard of Oz” was black and white: the wind sucked out all the colors.

sketch of winmills on prairie with quilt pattern border

“Kansas Landscape”, mixed media copyright 2014 Kerry McFall

Approaching Kansas from an artist’s perspective, the Kansas horizon must be drawn with a ruler, precisely perpendicular to the power poles and windmills of various vintages.  Below the horizon there is grass – in February, it’s dead, drained of color by the vampire wind.  Above, there is silvery bluish sky.  Okay, that was easy.  Next, a little contrast maybe, some shadows, some texture?  Nope, not in the winter.  No trees.  No blackberry vines.  No ivy.  No scraggly jumbles of overgrown anything anywhere.  Not even a sly dandelion lurking just under the surface.  You would never need a weed whacker in Kansas.  The grass is all precisely 1.5” tall, even in the back corners of trashy trailer parks.  Which aren’t very trashy because the trash all blew away.  (Apparently to Missouri or Colorado, where plastic bags make eerie ornaments on trees and barbed wire.)  Even though the simplicity is somehow soothing, if I was an artist living in Kansas, I’m pretty sure I would start doing abstracts.

After hours of flat, straight, dry pavement with absolutely no traffic, and that colorless landscape, an emerald castle on a hill above a misty field of poppies seemed like a really good idea.  Hell, Flying Monkeys were beginning to sound like fun!  Until the speeding ticket.  But I digress. To be fair, it is February, and apart from the wind, we had marvelous weather – a tiny bit of gropple, according to the weather guy, but it just looked like snow to me.  So Kansas is appealing in its own symmetrical way.  I’ve gotta believe that spring on the Kansas prairie would be fabulous.  And it was worth the whole drive just to see signs like “Aunt Toadies Diner,” and discover this field full of “political sculpture” outside of Mullinville, Kansas.  It stretched for acres, and although this photo doesn’t reflect the R-rating, you can see more details at this website http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11212

Political Sculpture

Political Sculpture

Now we’re in Missouri, where BBQ joints advertise that their “burnt end sandwich” is so good it’ll make you slap your neighbor.  (Don’t worry, Caroline, the last thing I want to do is slap you since you take such good care of the kitties while we’re out gallivanting all over the country!)  McDonald’s and KFC may be as ubiquitous as ants, but I simply cannot imagine them coming up with marketing phraseology as original as that… and it WAS good barbeque!  And guess what beer was on tap?  Deschutes Brewery.  ‘Nuff said.

Technique Notes:  The border I added to the Kansas landscape above is a pieced quilt pattern called Rocky Road to Kansas, among other names.  Tradition has it that this was popular as emigrants headed west, which according to my map analysis means that the rocky road to Kansas is actually… yep, in Missouri.