Monthly Archives: March 2014

Taking Bar-Hopping to New Heights

sketch of rabibit jumping over brick buildings

“Taking Bar-Hopping to New Heights”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

McMenamins Edgefield resort is simply one of the coolest places in Oregon if you enjoy art, history, music, food, and drink … which ought to just about cover most of the human population.  It has more pubs (of various shapes and descriptions) per square acre than anywhere else I can think of, and art where nurses climb out of TV screens or pipes float mystically above matchbook flowers.  Black rabbits peer out at you from everywhere, much like the “hidden Mickeys” in Disneyland.

We suggested it as a meeting point for a business colleague, which gave us a great excuse to spend a night.  Just outside of the mythical Portlandia, its vintage buildings and gardens are gorgeous, and every building has at least one elegant restaurant or kitschy bar.  There is also a brewery, a winery, and a distillery.  The sketch above is the view from the Black Rabbit Bar in the main lodge, looking down into a courtyard-  even when it’s pouring rain, there’s plenty to sketch.  We had a gourmet dinner, (included in the “Hammerhead Package” price), followed by a free bluegrass concert in the Blackberry Lodge next door featuring “the Howlin’ Brothers”.

Another reason to go there: McMenamin’s Restaurants have a “passport” promotion going on, (the kind of marketing hype we usually avoid , but this is really fun), where you get a stamp in your passport book every time you visit a different location.  After ducking in to every bar on the property (and you don’t have to buy anything to get a stamp), we got a $20 gift certificate!  Many locations also have an art treasure hunt, so we shed our thin veneer of sophistication, wrote down the clues, and our inner 10-year-olds went skipping off to find Seamus McDuff hiding in a painting… and when we found him, we got a prize: a really nice corkscrew and a bag of freshly-ground coffee.


“McMenamin’s Edgfield Library”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The sketch above was made in the Library of the main lodge.  I was practicing interior perspective, and trying to convey just how rich in color and pattern the whole place is.  While I sat at a table there, a parade of interesting people buzzed around me, including the very damp staff of Oregon Brides Magazine as they set up a wedding photo shoot outside in the rain…

"Edgefield Bride", pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

“Edgefield Bride”, pencil sketch by Kerry McFall

WHAT were they thinking when they scheduled that?!  Poor girl was shivering even before they cranked up the dry-ice “fog machine”-  it looked like a Pagan Sacrifice more than a wedding… Rain or shine, though, Edgefield is a fun place to spend a couple of days.

3,500 miles: The Map

hand-painted map of 7 states

“Map of the Heartland”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I still have dozens of reference photos from our recent trip that I want to paint and sketch from, but I needed to put together this map piece before doing anything else – seeing the whole route really helps me make sense of the various bits and pieces of an adventure!  (You can read more about the trip in some of my previous posts.)  I was thinking as I worked on this that it would be fun to add little thumbnail images of the sketches and paintings I did in the various locations, but I decided that I’d really rather be working from newer inspirations.

Technique Notes:  

8.5″ x 12″ heavyweight sketchbook paper, AAA map section

1.  Laid some watercolor washes using the predominant colors in my memory – lots of browns and a bit of blue.  Carved a “stamp” out of a wine cork to resemble tumbleweed, randomly stamped over background.

2.  Pasted on the map overlay with acrylic medium, after using an x-acto knife to cut out all but the necessary borders and “blue highway” lines.

3.  Added vignette sketches from favorite points on the road – ink, colored pencil, watercolor.

4.  Added torn bits from used dryer sheets:  stretched to shape, dipped in watercolor, pasted on with acrylic medium.

5.  Added written descriptions; sealed with acrylic medium.

6.  Started planning next trip!

Visual Journaling: Affirmation

"Affirmation - Journal Page" mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Affirmation – Journal Page” mixed media by Kerry McFall

Spring is the ultimate affirmation.  We celebrate with symbols of our saintly (shamrocks) and pagan (painted eggs) pasts, we clean out drawers in some instinctive response to the urge to nest, we daydream in the park instead of doing our homework…

I’ve been taking a class at the local community college titled “Art Marketing/Support Group” from Cynthia Spencer, a well-know Corvallis ceramic and fine artist.  It has helped me focus and slow down.  Our final assignment was to make a plan to continue with what we’ve learned, so I whipped together a simplified version of a visual journal page.  As noted above, a visual journal or a sketch journal is a never-ending experiment, one which can be enjoyed as much during the making (cut, paste, scribble, splash!) as during the reminiscing a few weeks or years later when you thumb through the pages.  I don’t usually cut and paste much because I prefer to use my own drawings and designs, but after a prolonged daydreaming session, a nice reproduction (with source credited – thank you, Trader Joe’s catalog) provided a useful solution for meeting the deadline!

March Moon

sketch of moon behind tree branch

“March Moon”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Last night I looked up from my book and was startled to see the full moon gazing back at me.  The moon is even more of a stranger in March in Oregon than the sun!  Rising like a pearly balloon over the park, it floated among the tree branches, silhouetting the swelling buds.  Over the phone lines, beyond the tops of the distant redwoods, shrinking as it rose, I watched it climb until it disappeared above my window.  I found myself thinking how I would paint it as I gazed… so, I painted it!  Now it just needs a poem, or a haiku…

Taming My Inner Squirrel

Was it just a week ago that I picked a branch of tumbleweed out of a fence at a New Mexico rest stop on the highway, humming to myself that Sons of the Pioneers song about tumbleweed?


Has it been just a week since I left colorless winter behind and came home to a muddy garden lush with weeds (and slugs… and sowbugs…)?

sketch of tumbleweed

“BitterCress”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Driving through so much flat, brown land back in the heartland had calmed my Squirrel Brain a bit, but as soon as I touched down here at home, it was back with a vengeance.  Gotta finish the Call and Response piece!  Gotta make a painting from all of those photos!  Gotta fertilize, gotta weed, gotta take care of a mountain of mail!  But then it slowly dawned on me Sunday evening that I was NOT getting up to go to work the next morning, so I didn’t have to get that all done in one fell swoop.  What a luxury!  I really can draw every day.  I don’t have to give up anything else to make that happen.   Happy sigh.  My Inner Squirrel is now seated quietly in a yoga position, softly humming the tumbleweed song… which is stuck in my head…

I’ve always wondered what the name of that little weed was.  Yesterday a neighbor clued me in to Bittercress – it grows incredibly fast, matures quickly, and once it starts to shoot seeds like a machine gun (thus the nickname shotweed), your garden beds are doomed!  On the plus side, it is edible… supposedly tastes like radishes.

Technique Notes – The Bittercress painting was sketched lightly in pencil, then outlined with a Pitt artist pen.  I painted the plant with a thin watercolor brush, let that dry, then outlined around the ink lines with white china marker.  I then quickly flooded the page (outside of the circle and inside the border) with blue (spring sky blue!) using a fluffy fat brush.  I like the “resist” effect so much!  Once dry, I added a few tiny shadows, etc. with colored pencil.

3,500 Miles & Seven States

In three weeks we’ve traveled over prairies, plains, and plateaus in a big loop starting and ending at Denver.  We stayed 24 hours ahead of the Arctic Vortex at every stop.  Another title for this adventure might be “50 Shades of Brown on the Blue Highways” … this time of year, 90% of everything in America’s Heartland is either brown, or brown covered by snow.  This is a trip we would probably have never thought of if a business project hadn’t made it possible – you’ll never see a glossy tourist brochure for, say, McAllen, Texas in early March… It reached a point where we almost looked forward to roadkill just to break the brown monotony.  (There was actually very little roadkill – apparently only skunks venture out in winter…) But even so, It was fascinating, enlightening, I’m very glad we did it and I would do it again.   Just not right away… my buns are tired of sitting.

It’s good to be back in our lush Willamette Valley.  I wish everyone in Oregon could see all of that brown back there, up close and personal; I wish everyone could read all the notices about drought and crop failures, could drive past all the dried up little towns – we would never ever pave another square foot of this paradise if they had taken this trip.  This is the best farmland and forest land in the world, bar none – we need to remind ourselves and our land use planners and legislators of this constantly.

sketch of adobe buildings

“Canyon Road, Santa Fe”, mixed media sketch by Kerry McFall

Okay, I’ll come down off my soapbox now.  My favorite state on this tour was New Mexico, favorite city was Santa Fe, aka Disneyland for Artists.  Definitely on my list of places for a return trip, and hopefully to spend several days.  There was no one around much, this being the “off season”, so I had 100+ art galleries and museums all to myself.  That provided a great opportunity to talk with gallery owners, and to learn what kind of art and artists they are interested in representing.  I made the above sketch of a group of sculpture galleries from across the street at an outdoor cafe – it was out of the wind, and that was as close to “plein air arting” as I got, munching on a panini and sipping a nice Chilean chardonnay.

One of the best art venues in Santa Fe was the New Mexico state capitol building, which was filled with art in every nook and cranny.  Bonus: it was free!  In the 90’s some visionary legislators put into place an art acquisition program for works by NM artists.  Reading the well-written artists statements about each piece was an education about New Mexico history, culture, technology, economy and vision for the future.  If you find yourself in Santa Fe, check it out!



AirBnB – A Lovely Way to Travel

sketch of pitcher and Tabasco

“Austin Hospitality”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Our Heartland Tour continues into week three.  Driving this time of year gives us a clear sense of when we drive into a new season – Spring started two miles south of Waxahachie, TX on 35E, with a thin veil of green beginning to flutter in a few trees.  Summer started in Austin, with flipflops and short shorts everywhere.  Summer ended the next day as temps went from 80ish to 40ish… weird weather, but our luck is holding out.  We’ve missed the artcitc blasts, driving about 100 miles ahead of the storms… fingers crossed that we can hold on to that good fortune!

Since this trip is a business trip with slightly different requirements than our usual gypsy wanderings, we’ve been staying mostly in hotels.  Austin was apparently gearing up for their South by Southwest festival though, and hotels were packed, so we fell back on our “Default Accomodations” resource, AirBnB.  If you’re not familiar with it, this web-based organization provides unique ways to stay in private homes.  We have been both hosts and guests, and we love it.

Our Austin hosts provided a lovely home in a quiet neighborhood, a silky soft old dog named Heidi, good conversation, and (of all things), a vintage golf club for my husband as a parting gift!  Bonus!  I was able to start a pencil sketch of part of their collection of Mexican pottery before it was time to head for South Padre Island and more summer weather.

Technique Notes – I finished painting and drawing from a quick photo.  The china marker outlined the highlights on the glass first, then paint and colored pencil followed.  I used a brush pen with black ink for some outlining, then my white water-based paint marker reinforced the highlights, and finally a white colored pencil made some nice transitions over the top of that.  I really like the color palette of this one – bright and full of contrast.