Monthly Archives: June 2016

Stirring the Soup and Watching the Whales

Posted June 23, 2016 by Kerry McFall

“Oh, sure,” I told our friend Brett carelessly out on the deck the day before, “I’ve seen whales before.”  To be honest, off the Oregon coast, I’ve seen what might have been whale spouts a time or two, in between rain squalls that would choke a frog.  I’ve never really been able to just stand and watch because it was always freezing and/or windy.  But this!  The spouts came one after another, playful sprays, now here, now there, now two at once!  I squealed with delight and wonder, over and over, even seeing the glistening of huge bodies breaking the surface!   We all watched from the deck the first night we were here, marveling as the sea breeze calmed and the warm scent of eucalyptus trees floated up to us.  I stirred a thin spot in the bottom of the soup pan last night because, again, I just couldn’t stop watching.  Whales. Real whales! Close!  Whoa.

"Whales in Bolinas Bay", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Whales in Bolinas Bay”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

"View from Mt. Tamalpais", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“View from Mt. Tamalpais”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This place, this peninsula off the California coast, is magical.  Any time I’ve been here, it has revealed enchantments like nowhere else I have ever been, with the possible exception of Botswana.  I feel so fortunate to be here.  Brett chuckles at my painting, saying that the scale of the spout might be a little off… as if a 200 foot redwood had sprung suddenly from the sea.  No, that was exactly how big it was in my mind!

The Old Stomping Grounds

Posted June 18, 2016 by Kerry McFall

The origin of phrases is just one of the sources of my “squirrel brain”, i.e. a short attention span.  As I typed the above title for this post, the squirrel zipped off to and was gone for quite awhile.  During the interlude, I learned about stomping, stamping, and congregating.  This same syndrome used to happen any time I picked up a dictionary back in the day, an old-school time sink.  But I digress…

"Willamette River from the Footbridge", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Willamette River from the Footbridge”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I made this watercolor sketch in a “hurry up it’s going to rain” interlude after a stroll in the Rose Garden across the Willamette River from Valley River Mall on the footbridge.  I went to highschool and university in Eugene, so this is part of my old stomping grounds.  In the days when shopping malls were the bees knees and downtowns were dying.  Eugene downtown tried to “revitalize” before it even died.  They weren’t just early adapters, they were pro-active, but to their detriment.  By making a  pedestrian mall, and an “Overpark” (multi-story parking garage)  and park blocks to attract shoppers, they managed to shut down the  downtown for months with the construction projects.  Aside from the fact that the finished Overpark terrified women – who was lurking there in the dark? – you couldn’t drive your Chevy or your Olds and park right in front of the store like you always had.  So, you braved the freeway overpass, drove further to the mall, parked in the mall lot (way far away from the shops in a cookie-sheet-hot parking lot in summer, or drenching wet in winter), and considered yourself quite modern.

"Red Tail Hawk over Laurelwood Golf Course", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Red Tail Hawk over Laurelwood Golf Course”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Sometimes going “back home” reveals things you hadn’t noticed way back when, or just never got around to.  The hills south of the University, for instance, offer much more than dead end roads where couples with amourous intentions can park… but that’s a story for another time.


“Spencer Butte”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Case in point, this week we found Laurelwood golf course, a public course with a terrific view of Spencer Butte, Eugene’s iconic mountain.  Bonus: they have a pub, serving really excellent food, and they are happy to let you sit for several hours out of the rain or hot sun while your spouse plays golf!

The More Things Change…

Posted June 12, 2016 by Kerry McFall

"Pelargonium," mixed media by Kerry McFall, 8 x 10 prints $25

“Pelargonium,” mixed media by Kerry McFall, 8 x 10 prints $25

Crystal vases send sparks of color and light in every direction, confounding all I’ve learned and observed about figuring out which direction the light source comes from…  which is an apt metaphor for this phase of my life.  Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the rules change.  Or, it turns out that there are no rules after all.  Suddenly instead of painting the simple vase of flowers before you, you’re dealing with refraction issues from sunbeams originating from a skylight that you had forgotten was up there…

As a young woman, I never gave a moment’s thought to what my life might be like when I was beyond 60.  Life whizzed past, and I grew older, but I didn’t waste any energy on planning for actually BEING OLD.  I planned for the next family meal, the next quilt, the next grand travel adventure, the Big Earthquake (no heavy framed art above the bed, keep the gas tank full, and a garage full of bottled water and granola bars!).  When friends began dealing with cleaning out the homes of their deceased parents, I decided I didn’t want my children to be faced with file cabinets and cupboards and bookshelves full of my past – so I planned for my actual demise by downsizing and simplifying.

But who can plan for a future that only existed as science fiction?  I’m sitting here at my mother’s dining table, in front of a tiny computer that even George Jetson didn’t anticipate.  The universe has expanded a billion times since Carl Sagan introduced us to black holes decades ago.  A woman has just won the Democratic presidential nomination.  It’s all amazing.

That being said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The rich still get richer.  Babies still need to be held and cuddled and sung to sleep. Geraniums are still beautiful and complex.  My mother still reloads the dishwasher after I put the dishes in, and she still refuses to consider using a cane, removing her throw rugs, or leaving her home and moving to Assisted Living.

Planned for or not, if you manage to stay alive, you’re going to get OLD.  And sitting there feeling old, you’re going to be surprised by a skylight somewhere that sends sunbeams through crystal. and there you are, completely unprepared for the result.  I hope that I will always be able to adapt, to learn, and to revel in the challenge presented by rogue rainbows.


I wandered through Mom’s garden in search of a subject.  The geranium begged to be chosen.  I picked a sprig, chose a small vase out of the china cabinet, and found a lovely pale linen tea napkin to set it on.  I began this piece using watercolor, and a little gouache for the linen; no pencil first.  Next a .01 ink marker for details, a bit of colored pencil, and a bold outline using a .03 ink marker.   Enter the rogue sunbeam… an AHA moment!  Use the Force, Kerry – the Photoshop Gradient Tool force.  With a few other little tweaks and warps.


Ice Pink

painting of pink poppies

“Ice Pink”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, prints $25

June is a riot of color in our neighborhood, underscored by green that makes your eyes pop right out of your head.  Even artists become almost immune to it.  What caught my eye a couple of days ago, though, was a subtle icy pale pink.  I know, we don’t usually think about pink being a cool color, but the poppies down the street stood out just because of their cold, frosty aloofness, nestled calmly in the fuzzy jungle of their own leaves.

My husband moved slowly behind me as I began this piece at the dining room table.  I could tell that he was doing his “risk assessment”, trying to decide if he had enough bonus points built up from making my coffee that morning to offset the potential trouble from commenting on a painting-in-progress.  He evidently decided he was on the plus side of the scale, so he said quietlly, “Aren’t poppies supposed to be orange?”   My reaction clearly conveyed that the coffee had not been that good, and the next morning was going to require cinnamon rolls to make up for his gaffe.  He quietly backed away.  Smart man.


The background texture was a fun experiment.  I had dripped laundry detergent onto the shelf liner in the laundry room cupboard, and as I was cleaning up the mess, I thought that maybe this chunk of plastic textured liner could be used as a sort of stamp.  I spread watercolor over it, then laid it carefully onto the paper, pressed it down, and pulled it off – cool!  It looked kinda like faint text from an old book.  I was afraid that painting over it might smear it, but that didn’t become much of an issue.

My textile art often used a “page layout” approach, incorporating vignettes or geometric components separated by borders of varying widths.  That happened here also, as if I was pasting graphic pieces into a page of text.  The little patchwork in the corner is something I do sometimes as I prepare an image for posting online, a way to emphasize the palette used in the piece.  Once a quilter, always a quilter!