Monthly Archives: August 2017

Summer’s End: Waste Not, Want Not

Posted August 29, 2017 by Kerry McFall

painting of Asian Pears

“Monday Windfall”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The Eclipse seems to have worked some kind of dark magic on the Pacific Northwest, dark in the sense that our skies are smudged with the smoke of many acres of forests burning.  The smoke has actually mediated the heat a bit, shielding us slightly at the height of the afternoon’s scorching temps.

Smoke in the Willamette Valley is not a new thing.  Native Americans used fire long ago to keep the meadows free of pers istentfir tree invaders, leaving forage and open access for game animals.

I am old enough to remember the Field Burning Years, those final hazy days of summer, breathing grass smoke and picking blackberries in a sweating frenzy to earn money for back-to-school: Pendleton wool pleated skirts and knit kneesocks.  The smoke and heat lasted well into September.  Makes my legs itch just thinking about those hot woolly walks home from school.  I can’t imagine today’s young women putting up with those outfits for a minute!

Pendleton Skirt ad

For many years, growers would burn the stubble in their grass and hay and wheat fields, eventually resulting in freeway pileups and a legislative ban on field burning.   Ironically, they thought the burning was necessary to clear the way for the next year’s crop, I vaguely remember something about mildew spores, but turns out it’s better for the soil to just turn the stubble under… Not that I would wish to go back, but for what it’s worth I have concluded that within reasonable limits, the smell of sweet grass smoke was better than the acrid forest smoke we’re putting up with now.  But we can’t legislate away the wildfires.

Under these golden smoky skies, our tiny fruit trees are dropping fruit on the sidewalk left and right.  The Asian pear is having a particularly rough time, with leaves looking scorched and sad.  “Windfall” usually describes fruit dropping conveniently so you don’t have to figure out how to reach it to pick it. Our windfalls seem premature, but maybe this is just Mother Nature eliminating the wormiest runts.  My husband salvages them all, laboriously cutting out the yucky bits, peeling off the tough bumpy skin.  He collects the resulting sweet tiny bites on a saucer and serves them for breakfast.  Waste not, want not!

This painting was made on grey toned paper, using watercolor, gouache, brown ink, colored pencil, ceramic marker, and white ink.

Harvest Time: an Ugly Duckling Tale

Posted August 24, 2017 by Kerry McFall

The heat has not been nice to my cucumber vines.  My tomato vines are not happy either.  Even though Ricardo my young garden assistant watered faithfully and thoroughly while we traveled a couple of weeks ago, now my backyard is full of crispy sunburnt leaves, and wilted stems.  I got my old re-purposed lawn chairs/vine supports out late this year, so nothing wanted to grow as I envisioned, leaving a garden full of ground-hugging ugly veggies.  Not good.  No matter how Not Beautiful my produce is, though, there is NOTHING that can compare to that first burst of real home-grown tomato flavor each summer!

final version of watercolor of veggies

“Tuesday Harvest”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The sketch/painting above was spur of the moment, made a couple of days ago in my standard white sketchbook while slurping the bounty of the first harvest.  The lemon cukes are seedy, yes.  The tomato skins are tough, and there’s a bit of blossom-end-rot, but nothing a good paring knife can’t take care of.  I admit I got a little carried away with the splatter technique here, but the idea was to convey how juicy it all was. Possible alternative title: Ugly Duckling Harvest!

Painting of cucumbers and tomato

“Thursday Harvest”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Now this is more like it!  Whatever that means in terms of art…  more like what I had in mind, I suppose.  A more careful composition, more thoughtful execution, more attention to detail. The grey toned paper in this sketchbook makes the highlights really pop! The veggies are just as scrawny and misshapen, but they are just as much fun to paint, and just as tasty as if they were blue ribbon winners at the county fair!

Eclipse: The Real Deal

Posted by Kerry McFall, August 21, 2017

“Totality 2”, mixed media by Kerry McFall


“Totality, The Real Deal”, mixed media by Kerry McFallA few weeks back I imagined what the eclipse might look like, and posted my painting here.  Today, I saw the Real Deal.  Totality at 45 degrees latitude.  Magic.  Wonder.  Awesome in the truest sense of the word.  But I’ll never know what the fish did during the eclipse…

One second I was fiddling with my eclipse “shades” trying to figure out where the sun had gone.  The next second the park filled with gasps and sighs.  I pulled off the shades, and was speechless.  Right up there above our redwoods, above our playground, above us tiny mortals, there were three huge spikes in the glistening corona.  The sun had hidden her face and donned her crown.  If I had been a primitive woman, I might have recognized an ancient symbol, maybe a celtic triskele foretelling my reincarnation as a goose, or a Norse symbol for Odin’s Triple Horn.  But being the creature of my own experience that I am, the first thing that popped into my head was a car logo… Cadillac?  Packard?  Oh for crying out loud.  I scolded myself.  Then I thought that maybe had I been Native American a few centuries back, would I have seen a wolf or a coyote?  Or, scary as it was, as an early Christian would I have seen the devil…  Then boom some idiot set off a few fireworks, which pulled me away from going down that mental path.

And then I got caught up in the chill of the moment — it really did get chilly.  And caught up in the thrill of the moment: Oh My God it’s really happening!  It was dark, “adult dark” as we called it in our family – time for the kids to come inside, but the kids always protested it was still light enough to play outside.  Street lamps flickered.  Elderly neighbors across the park turned on the lamps in their living room.

I was thinking about how I would paint this scene.  This was a dark that wasn’t the right thickness somehow…  There’s a star!  And another!  Moments later the three spikes were out-sparkled by a new pearly bead on the bottom right of the crown…

Everyone sighed.  There was a general kerfluffle as we had to put those pesky shades back on to see what was happening to the spikes.  Poof.  They were gone.  There were calls for instant replays, complaints that no way was that two minutes.  More sighs, sighs of satisfaction.  Sighs of gladness.

Some experiences live up to expectations and go beyond.  Like the color of the water on Hawaiian beaches, the totality of a solar eclipse goes beyond what we were led to believe.  I don’t want it to be over.

Editing a bit at 6:30 p.m., still Eclipse Day:  after seeing some photos by photographers in my area, specifically Christine Paige  , I edited the original (below) to widen the spikes a bit, also the corona.  Even so, I was pleased to have gotten as close as I did from memory to the general layout of the corona!

Corona of solar eclipse at totality