Tag Archives: backyard chickens

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

Easy As Pie

"Summer Pie Social", mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Summer Pie Social”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Pie fixes everything, even summer coming to an end.  Our friend Charlyn Ellis hosts a Pie Social several times a year, where lucky guests bring a “pie”, then enjoy samples of anything and everything from the loaded table, along with easy-going conversation.  This summer’s social was in her shady back garden, where cats and bunnies and chickens sat with us hoping for a dropped berry or some flaky crust.  Calories be damned, we got to eat as many desserts as we wanted, right in the middle of the day!  Such decadence!

I faced this truth years ago: pie crust is not that easy.  I’m pretty sure my mother originated the expression “easy as pie” just to make the rest of  us feel inadequate.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can wind up with something closer to Naugahyde than the fabled tender golden crust.  It’s also messy to do from scratch…  and since I’m not the only one to reach theses conclusions down through time, the definition of pie has always been flexible.  For example, think of all the variations, like crisps, buckles, cobblers, etc.  The definition continues to evolve as folks revise their recipes to suit their gluten-free or low-fat or vegan or “I don’t actually cook” needs, resulting in a very colorful and diverse table.  The most recent social’s table included, in addition to some truly delicious fruit pies, chocolate cheesecake, and a bonus peach upside down cake.  My husband even made his special chocolate banana pudding with vanilla wafers (that’s the easiest kind of pie of all, the ones I don’t have to make!)  Yum!

Thanks, Charlyn, for a great summer memory and sketch opportunity.


Summer Gallery

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

OSU Tree-Lined Promenade, Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

The summer is flying by, and I realize I haven’t posted very often here.  It’s not because I’ve been slacking, I’ve just been very focused on the Sketchbook Skool courses I’ve been taking, which in turn has led to being immersed in the new community of artists I’m meeting there.  I’ve also been working away diligently at my eight Call & Responses pieces, which of course have to stay secret until October.  I just finished the above piece as part of a “16 Trees” challenge that evolved from the course, and there are two more from that series below.

Chicken Duty

sketch of chickens

“Chicken Duty”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I’ve been taking care of chickens for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve learned several things:

  • Chickens are smarter than you think.  How hard can it be to get three chickens into their coop in a tiny, fenced backyard?  Plenty hard.  It’s like getting two-year-old triplets to bed – you just get two into bed and the third one bolts (I babysat for triplets once).  By the time you catch that one, the other two have disappeared…  The only solution seems to be luring them with dried mealworms — for hens that is, not kids.  Just give up with the kids, turn on a Disney video, and eventually their parents come home and it’s their problem!
  • Chickens enjoy hide and seek in the dark.  However, you always have to be It, and the concepts of the woodpile being “out of bounds” or the game being over escapes them.  They also do not function well in the presence of flashlights.  Flashlights shut down their brains and cause their bones to completely dissolve, which admittedly does make them easier to catch.  Thus did Colonel Sanders discover Boneless Chicken?
  • It’s not a good idea to walk around in Chicken Territory wearing flipflops.  Especially in the dark.  This is because chickens are related to dinosaurs, and chicken poop is roughly the same size as T. Rex poop.  Eeww.
  • Fresh eggs are magical.  They are luminescent, warm, perfectly shaped.  I almost feel guilty about eating them, but not quite.
  • Chickens purr.  Seriously.  If you just sit in a lawnchair and listen while they prowl and poke around in the grass, they make this low throaty purring sound.  They do!  However, chickens are way more trouble than cats, and you probably wouldn’t want one sitting in your lap for very long.  It’s those dinosaur genetics again.
  • Chickens are fun to draw.  Feathers are miracles of engineering and pattern and color.  Combs and wattles are hysterical – just touch one and try not to laugh!

I love backyard chickens.  I love the way they brag when they lay an egg.  However, I’m pretty sure I am over wanting to raise my own backyard chickens.  I’ll just be content to take care of my neighbor’s chickens.  My husband heartily endorses this conclusion!



Chickens Do Not Like Firecrackers

Closeup sketch of chicken face

"Chicken Textures", mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

Over the Fourth of July weekend, we’ve been helping take care of a neighbor’s hens.  We’ve learned several things:  Chicken poop is hard to get off your shoes.  Chickens are about as easy to herd as cats.  Chickens do not like firecrackers. Chickens do not tolerate attempts to pet their glorious feathers.

So you learn something new every day!  But these chickens were quite photogenic, and before the firecrackers started exploding right outside their fence, they were quite curious about someone who was silly enough to be wandering around the yard pointing a shiny little box at them.  Not wanting to really get down on their level, what with the poop and all, I have some rather odd perspectives.  This one is my favorite, but the resident art critic merely said, “That chicken needs a mouth.”  Sigh… not everyone appreciates unique cropping and perspective.

When you begin to sketch feathers and wattles, the lizard connection is inescapable.  The feather shapes overlap, like scales, making wonderful patterns even without the addition of the colors and textures of the feathers themselves.  Even on a very plain hen like this, the colors are iridescent.  And on the red skin (combs and wattles – and yes, I always have to Google the words for those because I missed Chicken 4H as a kid) the patterns are quite pronounced – diamonds, spirals, stripes – if you just look at it long enough and try not to acknowledge that the skin on my own hands is beginning to show that same “crepey” texture.  Ew.  I also noticed that the color of her eye is exactly the color of the egg yolk of a fresh free-range egg.  Cool.

Pecking Order

"Pecking Order" mixed media by Kerry McFall

Hens are fascinating to watch, and I’m sure that if you took your blood pressure before and after a few minutes watching them peck at bits of gravel or work their way through a patch of garden, you’d see a much lower reading afterwards.  I like the contrast between the sculpture in the pot, all smooth curves and simplified to icon form, and the real hens, resplendent in fluff and feathers and flowing lines.

The sketch inspired several “quiltie” borders that don’t really go with this piece, but I do like them so I’ll post them and let them simmer…

Chicken Borders, mixed media,copyright Kerry McFall

Mail Order Chicks

sketch of young chicken

"Mail Order Chick", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Tracy’s maill order chicks arrived about 10 days ago – talk about modern day miracles!  The post office calls her as soon as they’re in town, and there they are in their little shipping box, all cozy and warm and intact.  She does her Chicken Lady magic to be sure they aren’t dying of thirst and/or constipated, puts them in their new cardboard box home with special feeders and lights, and they begin their little Dance of New Life.  They cheep indignantly for no apparent reason, they peck at invisible things.  They scurry about in a panic when a camera invades their space.  They fall asleep standing up, and s-l-o-w-l-y tip over onto their beaks… it’s a hoot!

I drew this one from my photo taken when they were just past the fluffy stage and not quite into the Ugly Pinfeathers Stage, although you can see by her tail that it’s almost Pinfeather Time.  She still has remnants of the little “egg tooth” on top of her beak.  I’ll have to ask Tracy what breed this is – I call them Chipmunk Chickens, but I’m pretty sure the real name is something vaguely Welsh or British like Easter Egg Orphington or Buff Barred Linkhamshire.

When she grows up, this chick will be moved to Tracy’s backyard, where she will reside in sumptuous luxury in the Palais des Poulets – that’s French for Chicken Palace.  I’m sure their coop is without equal in the world of Backyard Chickendom.  I’ll have sketch it one of these days!

The quilt analogy in the background is reminiscent of some of my very early chicken-related art, which you can see in my Gallery of Works.  I didn’t realize how close the colors were to those pieces until I just now looked up the link.  Odd.

Struttin’ Our Stuff at LaSells

"Strut", 16 x 20", $250, mixed media on canvas by Kerry McFall

We just finished hanging “Call and Response III” at the LaSells Stewart Center Giustina Gallery on the OSU campus – whew, that’s a lot of work… but so worth it.  I love the way the “pods” go up, and it’s fascinating to be a part of the group dynamics.  Over the course of the eight hours we spent together, we each stepped in to specific tasks and roles, eventually evolving into quite an efficient team.  Now, tired but happy, we are looking forward to Monday night’s reception.  And we’re also pretty pumped to think that Michelle Obama, and any number of dignitaries will very likely see our works while she’s in town for the OSU graduation ceremonies – woohoo!

The rooster piece pictured above is not technically part of the Call and Response suite, but it’s also being shown at the gallery.  It’s my newest work, incorporating a “coloring page” design from last year.  It’s fun, but looking at all of our work in the gallery, it occurs to me that nothing I do is subtle.  My colors are always saturated, vivid, perhaps even LOUD.  Maybe I’ll make that a goal, to see if I can tone it down a bit in the next few months.  Then again, I like loud!

Bold and Brash

watercolor rooster with text

Bold and Brash - watercolor by Kerry McFall

 I stopped by Thistledown Farm outside of Eugene on Saturday, and this fine feathered fellow was crowing up a storm out behind the farm store.  I had planned to photograph their wonderful old barn and windmill, but the architecture had to take a backseat.  He strutted his stuff for me, a willing photographer’s model.  I have no idea what breed of chicken he might be, but he reminded me of a golden pheasant.  Not your usual backyard chicken.  And the way his comb was perched up on his head at that rakish angle – what a hoot!  I must say though that his double spurs looked positively lethal… So the barn will have to wait a day or two.  In the meantime, here is a coloring page – color him BOLD:

coloring page rooster

Click to enlarge for a coloring page

chicken coloring page

Feeding Time

colored pencil sketch of hen

Feeding Time


 I’m having fun with coloring pages again!  This intense hen was sketched from a photo by Aaron Jay, he of recent duck acquisition fame.  The lines were simple enough to make a fun coloring page.  But once I got started doodling around with feather patterns, the lines got more and more complex… and the colors got a little wild.  But it was fun!  So here’s the more complicated coloring page as well:
colored hen 

coloring page hen

Color me Hungry!