Tag Archives: Bald Hill Park

Need a Little Blue Sky in Your Home? New Pieces Available

The Call and Response show is over, and several paintings from the exhibit are now available for purchase.  I know plenty of folks around the country who have Cabin Fever and could use some blue sky, so here’s your chance!  The first two above are actually one piece: the square is a closeup of the center canvas.  The sassy parakeet is strictly for fun, and would make a cheery addition to a child’s room.

Free Shipping and Handling!  Available through PayPal payments only – or personal check if I know who you are.  Email kmcfall@gallerynouveau.biz

Mother Nature’s Math: Death = Renewal

I went to Bald Hill this morning for a quiet walk before the temperature passes 90 degrees.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks, dealing with my aging mother, worrying about world events, and I always find spiritual repair there, always see or hear some natural phenomenon I’ve never witnessed before, and come away uplifted.

Oak Leaf Gall, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Oak Leaf Gall, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Today was different, leaving me with more questions than answers.  The pasture seemed quiet and golden as I rounded the first bend and gazed out to Mary’s Peak.  The blackberries tumbling over each other beside the trail promised the first fruit of the season, but it was a tease.  The few dark berries among the red and green didn’t budge when I pulled on them,  Drat.

Then I saw the vultures.  Three very big and very busy black bodies flapping and fussing around something small and brown.  I was too far away to see what it was, probably a blessing.  Maybe a calf, maybe a dog or a fawn.  I’m not squeamish, but I just didn’t expect to be faced with death so graphically, not there, not in my cathedral of nature.

I walked on, thinking about National Geographic TV specials where the lions took down the reeboks, hearing that man’s soothing voice talk about the circle of life, using my hiking pole to keep from slipping on the loose gravel here and there.  Just a few steps away, as I planted my pole, there was a bit of fur.  I bent closer.  No, there was half a mouse, the tail half.   Death had visited the pasture twice in recent hours.  I know it is never far away in any natural setting, yet I have never seen it there before.  I resented its intrusion.

I started up the little hill by the farm house and saw a bluebird pair swooping in and out of one of the nest boxes on a fence post.  I stopped to listen and was rewarded with the reassuring sounds of baby birds inside.  Life goes on.  Life is good.  Up ahead, the pear tree in the ditch was heavy with small green fruit, and a distant cow called out repeatedly.  I continued to the west end of the pasture where the cattle had congregated in the shade – there were several calves in the herd, small and clean and perfect, that hadn’t been there three weeks ago when I came by.  A lone black and white and brown dog wandered casually at the edges of the herd.  Was he working?  Was he lost?  I decided today was not my day to fix that, or as a recently-heard quote sums it up so well:  not my circus, not my monkey.  Throughout the day there would be many people passing by who might be better prepared mentally to deal with him.  The cow continued to call for her lost calf.  Such a sad sound.  The odd thought occurred to me – how long before she realized the calf wasn’t coming back?  How long before her milk dried up?  Would her udders become infected?  How was it that I have lived 62 years and don’t know the answer to that kind of basic agrarian question?

Up at the barn, I sat for awhile and stared at the hazy silhouettes on the eastern horizon, glad I had brought a water bottle, savoring the sweet cool water.  Smoke must be drifting in from the fires in Eastern Oregon.  Mother Nature’s math: Summer heat + Lightning = Fire.  Fire = renewal.  Fire = death.  Ergo Death = Renewal?

I finished the loop trail, stopping now and then to breathe in the warm sweet scent of grasses and forest, picking up an oak leaf with a puff ball on its back – something to sketch in the afternoon.  Just before I reached the parking lot, my cell phone rang.  Dang, I meant to turn it off.  I almost didn’t answer, but it might be Mom so I fished it out of my pack… it was my son, and I don’t hear from him very often.  So I did what I criticize others for doing, I finished the last few yards of my walk with a phone pressed to my head.  My calf was calling me.  Life is complicated, but life is good… and the Rich Pageant Marches On.

Technique notes

Sharpie fine point pen on NatureSketch 130lb 8.5 x 11

Obviously the leaf needs another couple of layers of green colored pencil at this stage in the photo, and it turned out well, but I’m too hot to take another photo and repost it…I’m pleased with the puffball (gall).  The highlight on the ball was preserved by rubbing a white wax pastel over the area early in the process, after just a light yellow wash and preserving some blank white – it resists transparent watercolor.  I recently learned from experience though that opaque watercolor just paints right over wax, like acrylic.  There’s always something new to learn.  I think the lettering is too heavy for the sketch, but oh well, different pen next time.


Lovely Day for a Quick Plein Air Sketch

sketch of lupine

“Lupine”, watercolor and ink, by Kerry McFall

sketch of fields and mountains

“Midge Cramer Trail”, ink and watercolor by Kerry McFall

Half a mile from the parking lot at the fairgrounds, there is a bench on the Midge Cramer trail, the perfect spot for sketching.  By the time you’ve reached it, you can’t help but feel your batteries re-charging.  It smells good (wild roses and sweet meadow grass), it sounds good (crickets and birdsong), it’s gorgeous and green.  People jog and pedal along smiling, dogs can barely walk for wagging, the occasional horses even seem glad to see you.  There are lots of wildflowers this time of year, and unfortunately also lots of poison oak so stay on the trail.  The lupine I sketched above are undoubtedly transplants from someone’s garden via a blue jay or squirrel, they’ve sprouted up just behind the bench.

Technique Notes

I sketched these in my Grey toned Strathmore book, which just happened to be the right size to fit in a small pack, and discovered that a toned paper is really great when you’re sitting out in the direct sunlight.  Instead of being blinded by the reflection on bright white paper, you can actually see what you’re doing.  And as a bonus, just a white charcoal pencil makes for easy highlights.  I wondered if the watercolor and colored pencil would still be as bright after photographing, and I think they look good!

Keeping It Simple

sketch of leafless oak

“November Sky”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Sunday was another clear, frigid, rare November weekend day, so off I went to my Default Trail: Bald Hill.  I made the circle around the pastures, through the wetland, up to the barn, camera in hand.  From the hilltop at the barn, this was the view.  The ancient oak was naked, black against the waning daylight – at 4:00 p.m., mind you… I could just make out the slight swelling at the ends of the bare branches, next season’s leaves waiting their opportunity.  I decided that in spite of all the closeups I had taken of hoarfrost on fallen oakleaves, of rosehips and snowberries gleaming in Christmas color schemes, of teazels and tangles of blackberry vines, I wanted to convey that cold simplicity: past, present, and future stark against the heavens.

A quick pencil sketch, a few strokes of my brush pen, a watercolor wash in a limited palette, and all I needed was a bit of texture.  Rubbing the side of colored pencil leads over the watercolor, mostly black, a little purple, I found not only the contrast I wanted, but the texture, and it was still very simple.  Some days, that’s what this journey is all about – enjoying the basics, relishing the walking and the looking, simplifying the process.  Other days – let me at those fussy details!

Symphony on the Land

sketch of musician

“Bald Hill Symphony”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Bald Hill is to me what Notre Dame is to the French.  I go there to rejoice, to grieve, to heal, to find peace, to think, to stop thinking, to draw, to walk, to laugh, or to be silent and still.  It’s a five minute drive from home.  The trails meander through meadows and oaks, beside streams, up hill and down dale.  Cows, or coyotes, or geese, take the place of Notre Dame’s gargoyles, glaring or ignoring me.  And now, thanks to the Green Belt Land Trust and their recent acquisition of the farm, I can put to rest that whiny little voice that has always been with me when I’m there, that voice that always said, “When will the subdivisions begin to sprout…?”

Last night was a celebration, out in the middle of the pasture where sheep often graze.  The Willamette Symphony braved a sassy summer wind and performed a lovely symphony, accompanied by crickets and tree frogs.  They anchored their instruments and sheet music with feed sacks and clothes pins – like the emcee said, it’s amazing what you can rustle up on a moments notice from a working farm.  The musician on the northwest end of the stage absolutely glowed as the setting sun turned his hair to silver.  Local wine, beer, and crepes were available – I love Tyee wine!  People walked, biked, or took a shuttle from the fairgrounds – so very Corvallis.  I hope that the entire community can experience the Bald Hill that I know and love, and I look forward to seeing how stewardship of the land can work in our lifetime.  Thank you, Green Belt folks.  So much.

White Horse, Red Barn

"White Horse, Red Barn", mixed media by Kerry McFall

I finished this quick sketch last night from a photo taken last month up at Bald Hill Farms.  White horses really make the flies obvious – poor thing, they were all over him.   Or her – I didn’t really notice at the time…  Still need to work on faces and hooves – is it just me, or should it be physically impossible for such a large animal to stand on such tiny hooves?


Bald Hill – An Irreplaceable Treasure

Barn sketch

Bald Hill Barn by Kerry McFall

Bald Hill: open space, respite, sacred groves of madrone, sleepy sheep, happy dogs and hikers, bunnies napping on their “back porches” in bramble thickets.  It is a treasure, Corvallis, and if you love it too, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and donate to the Greenbelt Land Trust to keep it. http://www.greenbeltlandtrust.org/

It exists as part city park, part farm but apparently the farm part is up for grabs.  NO!  To develop any part of this would be sacrilege.  Here there are ancient oaks, prairies that still bloom with camas lilies, views of the Cascades, quiet places to see the stars.  The shady part of the trail takes you into a fairy world of ferns and mosses.  The sunny part lets you flirt with calves as they reach under the fence for the best grass, and listen to bluebirds sing.  The little yellow farmhouse is adorable.   AND IT”S NOT FIVE MINUTES FROM TOWN!  Seriously, in five minutes from anywhere in Leave It To Beaverville you are in the parking lot of a unique and wonderful place.  This is what they dream of in City Planning school when they say “Open Space”.

This is where I came to heal after 9/11, after my father died, whenever my heart aches.  This is where I came to run with my dogs and ride with my children, to breathe sweet meadow scent, to picnic in the shelter of the open barn on many a rainy day.  Here you can be alone or enjoy the community of like-minded souls.  Several of my recent posts were sketched here.  I’ve always pictured bringing my grandchildren here someday.  This is what Corvallis wants to believe Corvallis is  – but is rapidly losing.  You don’t know what you’ve got’ til it’s gone… let’s not let it go.

New Toys!

Wild Cucumber

Wild Cucumber by Kerry McFall

Treated myself to a new “brush pen” and a “multi-media” tablet that doesn’t crinkle when I use watercolors on it – love ’em!  I photographed the cucumber vine last weekend up at Bald Hill park.  The tendrils on these make sweet pea tendrils look pathetic by comparison – these could hold a logging truck in midair!

Suddenly Summer

Pastorale scene with sheep
Bald Hill Pasture
 Sunday late morning I sat on the bench just off the Bald Hill trail and lost myself in the sweet scent of blackberry blossoms and the song of bluebirds swooping and diving over the pasture.  It was truly “pastorale”.  I learned a lot, too, as I sketched and painted and chatted with passersby:
  1. Sheep cannot be counted upon to stay still.  Although they are not darting about like bluebirds, they are in constant steady motion.  So the moral is, draw the critters first.
  2. Always take a paint rag because you never know when you’re going to stick your thumb into the gooey blue paint.  Also, find a better tin for water colors.
  3. Order that nifty “water brush” that holds water in its handle that you can supposedly sqeeze out while you paint.

After my resident art critic pointed out that the wire fencing didn’t look “like it should”, I re-visited the piece and added more colored pencil.  I like the result but it still has plenty of room for improvement… for one thing, true to the actual motion of the animals, the whole piece looks like it’s in danger of wandering off the right side of the frame, like a Harry Potter photograph.  I think if I had made the grasses in the foreground blow to the north instead of the south, it would have been a more stable composition.  The mid-day lighting was tricky, too, putting shadows directly beneath the objects – never realized how that warps perception.