Monthly Archives: August 2020

Practice Makes “Perfect”

August rolls past Pacific Beach with an unexpected combination of Oregon-gray skies and Atlanta-salty sweat.  September lurks in the smoky distance.  I feel more than slightly lost in a Pandemic fog.

However, for perhaps the first time in my life, I just successfully hard-boiled two eggs to perfection!  The shells slipped off easily.  The yolks are firm, bright yellow, no green edges. The whites are pristine.  There is only one standard for perfect hard-boiled eggs, i.e. my Mother’s, and these have achieved that standard.  At last.  But who can I tell?  Mom, and Aunt Muriel who is perhaps the only other person who would understand, are dead.

photo of hardboiled eggs

Now that the eggs have been properly ensconced in the potato salad for dinner, I’m sitting here at my desk staring fondly at my recently-painted portrait of a San Diego artist named Alice Klauber (below).  She died in 1951, born 1871.  Working from a poor reproduction of a black and white photo, I got to choose what color to make her hair, her eyes, her skin!  I wish she could see it.  I wonder if she would appreciate my choices.  I wonder if she would recognize herself, or maybe would she see her grandmother?  Her cousin?  It’s not perfect.  Her smile was crooked, but not quite THAT crooked.  And as always for one of my portraits, the eyes are a bit wonky.  But I love it.

Alice Klauber Portrait, mixed media by Kerry McFall

And yes, paragraphs 2 and 3 are related:  the old saying goes Practice Makes Perfect.  But really, living life is about practice, not perfection.  Many artists refer to their “art practice”.  I begin to understand.  The practice, the act of doing the art, the movement of the brushes, the grabbing of a cloth to blot the accidental puddle, the complete presence in the moment as the paint dries, is an end in itself.  It is enough.

The practice does lead inevitably to the product: the eggs nestled for the moment amongst the chopped onions on the cutting board, or the sketchbook propped up so I can see the latest sketch each morning.  The real eggs will be gone with the potato salad – when I look at them, I don’t re-live the process.  Cooking is not my “thing”.  But looking with a critical eye at the paintings, I am there again, in that moment, making it, suggesting the next move to myself, wondering what impact one more highlight would have made.  I may never be able to refer to my art results as perfection, because there is never just one standard of perfection in art.  But I will always be able to enjoy my latest art, both during its making and long after as I flip through the sketchbooks.  I know “forever after” is a myth from a fairyland where there were no floods or wildfires, so for me “after” means at least until the next Tsunami or riot or whatever the rest of 2020 has in store for us!

Community Nest – Courtesy of Tracy’s Chickens, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The Arc of My Life

Painting of arched stained glass window

Gothic Stained Glass, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was listening to Michelle Obama’s first podcast – was it only two weeks ago? – when the phrase “the arc of my life” caught my attention.  I’m still not entirely sure I understand the meaning, even after a tour down Google’s Rabbit Hole, but I love the sound of it.  It seems to imply a vast existential rainbow, arching between …. what?  The fabled pot of gold and the glistening sea?  The majestic mountains and the undulating prairies?  Or perhaps, the arc of stones carefully pieced into a literal arch, each individual stone bearing its share of the weight of a magnificent structure?

The painting above was based on a photo I came across as I winnowed my way through several boxes of old photos (the Project That Never Ends or so it seems).  I think I took the snapshot on my first trip to Europe, probably in London in 1978, but I have no way of being sure where or when.  The stained glass, the shadows, the textures, the shapes, the patterns, the odd perspective – somehow that seems to better represent the arc of my life than a rainbow.  There is an unmistakable rainbow glow from the glass, but the real story of this arc is about the contribution of each stone, each phase of an individual life, no single stone more important than another, with the exception of the keystone, the one that holds it all together…

Like many people, my response to the Pandemic has involved much casting backward into a sea of memory, much probing forward into the fog of the future.  An Arc of a Life – what a lovely phrase to capture the ups and downs of the decades.  I think I’ll explore this symbolism a little more.  Maybe I can figure out what has been my keystone.  Maybe I’ll design a stained glass pattern… hmm.


Are We There Yet?

posted August 4, 2020 by Kerry McFall, who is very tired of this 2020 ride…

Remember when you were a kid in the back seat of the car and the trip was taking an eternity?  That’s what this year feels like, and this month (which is now known as Faugust because it’s weirdly foggy and gloomy here in San Diego), and this week, and this afternoon, and – yeah.  The answer to “Are we there yet?” from my Dad generally sounded a lot like this hawk looks:

Swainson's Hawk painting

Swainson’s Hawk, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The answer from my Mom, the first time one of us asked, was usually something like, “Almost…” or “Pretty soon…”  The second time we asked her, the answer was essentially the same as Dad’s.  Only with less profanity.

This beautiful feisty bird was photographed originally by Christine Paige, Idaho wildlife biologist, who says that it will soon be flying off to Argentina… I wish it well, and I hope there’s no kids in the backseat.  I am fascinated by that blue beak!

Meanwhile, something that helped take my mind off the news/journey/insanity last week was a video about Urban Sketching by Sketchbook Skool.  Since I didn’t much want to go out into the Urban insanity here (“Life’s  A Beach, Bro!  Grab a Brew!  Who needs a mask?!”), I just paused the video and sketched the instructor, Jason Das.  Best hat I’ve ever done!

sketch of man in hat

Jason Das Urban Sketcher, mixed media by Kerry McFall

So Hang in There, folks.  But no, I don’t think we’re there yet.

#SketchbookSkool  #JasonDas #ChristinePaige  #Swainson’sHawk #AreWeThereYet #UrbanSketching