Tag Archives: Corvallis

Meeting Notes…aka Doodles

Trying out a new WordPress theme today, working toward getting the pages as simple as possible.  I like this.

Today’s challenge at my “real job” was a nearly-full-day meeting, and as always I found myself doodling.  I’ve read that doodling helps you concentrate and/or remember.  For me it has the added benefit of acting like a blood pressure medication.  I used to feel guilty because I would get so relaxed and absorbed in my drawing that I would fail to look up at the speaker.  The recent practice of bringing laptops, i-phones, etc to meetings, at least in my corporate environment, removes all guilt in that area.  NOBODY looks up.  Unless someone breaks out the bacon maple bars, of course.

The last few meetings, I have snagged the flowers from a co-workers desk, or picked up the nearest seedpod in the parking lot, and worked in a sort of still life setup.  With all those laptops and electronics on the table, no one really notices.  You can see that I got really bold a month ago and actually brought in my Moleskine sketchbook, but it attracted too much attention.  Besides, there’s something liberating about scribbling away in a notebook, no worries about the high cost of a “real” sketchbook.  I use whatever writing implement is handy, make color notes, and then spend a few minutes with crayon or colored pencil once I get home.   If you look really closely, you can also see a hint of “pentimento”, the notes on the back of the page or on the previous page.  I highly recommend doodling over staring at a laptop, and it’s a good way to sneak in a daily sketch and still have a job!


Mary’s Peak Butterfly

painting of butterfly

"Peak Butterfly 2012" mixed media by Kerry McFall

The flowers were not quite what I had expected up on Mary’s Peak on the Fourth of July, but the orange butterflies made up for that shortcoming.  They were everywhere, especially near the parking lot.  Dandelions seemed to be the flower of choice, at least in that vicinity, no doubt sprouted from invader seeds stuck to shoes and tires.  I need to research the butterfly name – Hey, Ralph, does this look familiar?

This sketch/painting wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I started, but it’s colorful and I think I’ll use the background patterning approach in another attempt, maybe not of this particular butterfly but in something soon.  The first glitch was a new “sepia brown” brush pen – the brush never did limber up, and the ink was essentially dried up from the get-go, so I tried to go over the dark spots first with another pen, then purple pencil, then black ink, and finally a brown pencil.  Overworked.  But I love the lacy wing edges, so I’ll use variations on those patterns again.  The triangle motifs remind me of Africa!  Hmm – I wonder if they have dandelions in Africa?


All over the map this last week or two… this must be what squirrels feel like when they’re about to cross the street.  If there has been any theme it has been small fluffy animals – kittens, chicks, and most recently puppies.  I’ll just blame that on my friends and their adorable little critters.  But there have also been landscapes, lettering, botanicals, and urban areas that caught my eye, so here they all are.

A word about small fluffy animals – I’m learning that it only takes a few lines to age them drastically.  The puppy for example – I really struggled to keep him a baby, all soft and round.  The result is a very pastel, low contrast piece, which might make a nice greeting card at some point, but it won’t knock anyone’s socks off.

And a word about the Bungalow style, which is part Art Nouveau, part Craftsman, part coloring book.  I am always really drawn to these styles, maybe that’s because I like to use line so much.  Thick, dark lines with nice solid color fills, bold negative spaces, unabashed contrasts.  I used the American Bungalow magazine from the library as inspiration for these studies – it’s a pleasing publication, partly because of the lovely high quality paper it’s printed on, and partly because of the focus on “human sized” homes, although most of the homes probably have at least three times the square footage of our tiny cottage.


Shadow Cat


"Shadow Cat", mixed media by Kerry McFall

This is a cat who is no longer a kitten, a cat of unexpected consequences.  I set out to sketch from a photo I stumbled into online of a fluffy yellow kitten, all wide-eyed innocence.  (I would credit the photographer, but I can’t find it again on the Internet and I vaguely remember it was by someone using a pseudonym that had the word flowers in it.  Sorry!)  I saw the photo and immediately thought – hey, cool shadows.  Very exaggerated.  Wonder if I could make that work?  Without even making so much as a pencil guideline for placing the eyes, I grabbed my Pentel brush pen, drew a border, and slapped on a couple of whiskers.  Footdang – too bold to capture the kittenish fluff.  But I was already committed, so I kept going.  Not bad, but with each stroke the cat got older, further and further away from generic cute kitty.  Closer and closer to a real personality.  Interesting.

I switched to colored pencil, then watercolor.  The watercolor wash wasn’t dark enough, and the paper wouldn’t take another wet layer, so I let it dry and switched back to dark colored pencil.  Still too pale.  Back to the brush pen – bingo!  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as good about contrast in one of my sketches as I do about this one.

As usual in a portrait, there’s something not quite right about the mouth, or rather the chin.  But what a sense of accomplishment.  And next time, I will draw those few pencil lines just to get my bearings before I bring out the ink.


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!

Claremont, California

In the festive whirl of Scripps graduation, I found a few minutes to sketch the fountain I’ve been admiring the last few visits in the courtyard at “The Coop” on Pomona campus.  I’ve heard people say that the Claremont Colleges have more fountains per capita than any other campus – and they’re all gorgeous.  Water is more about the movement of light than anything else, so fountains are challenging.  I started another sketch of a fountain in Seal Court  on Scripps campus, still working on that one.

And on the plane and in the hotel, I played with a vintage portrait from Artist’s magazine – another example of how many colors go into red hair! –  and a slightly absurd moose photo from the airline magazine that provided another water challenge.

All in alll, a good trip, and I hardly cried at all during the ceremonies!

Tomato Chairs

chairs serve as tomato cages

"Tomato Chairs", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Done!  Not only did I get the basil and tomatoes planted, I spray-painted the old metal chairs I’ve been using for tomato cages… I now pronounce the garden ready for a visit from the Queen.  The chairs were part of a patio set left on the curb by a neighbor years back, with metal crossbars in the place where the seats used to be.  They are perfect to use as substitutes for tomato cages, but far more elegant – a nice bit of re-purposing.  Here is a birds’ eye view photo if the sketch doesn’t quite make sense:
chair as tomato cage

Tomato Cage Chair - Bird's Eye View


One Among Many

"Horsetail Fern", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Funny how a meadow filled with horsetail fern looks like a mountain covered with Douglas Fir, especially through the camera lense.  I found these Saturday at Snag Boat Bend, in the area near the parking lot – which was as far as I ventured because it was a spur of the moment stop and I didn’t have my mud boots with me.  The negative space between plants is exactly a vertically flipped mirror image of the plant itself.  I find that I am always looking for patterns now, ways to abstract the plants and animals I’m focused on and turn them into patterns… this one may take me to some 1960’s sci-fi “Jetsons” kind of shapes.

"Nearly Normal's Outdoor Dining", mixed media by Kerry McFall

And in a completely unrelated sketch, here’s one for Alice, who misses Nearly Normals in Corvallis, but apparently not enough to come back here after she graduates!  The patio this summer features one plastic owl statue lurking among the pink flamingos near the water feature… to frighten away the sparrows and other crumb-seekers I assume, with limited success.   Let us know the next time you’re home, dearie, and we’ll treat you to something “normal”!

Vote for Your Favorite!

"Festival Flyover", mixed media by Kerry McFall

I had fun doing this piece to submit for the Fall Festival poster competition.  I got to use some of the new techniques I experimented with over the last year on my travels, and it’s pretty far afield from my usual style(s).  I didn’t make the final six, but if you go here you’ll see why – there are some incredible talents in this region!  (And when you click the link, you’ll be able to vote for your favorite, which enters you to win a T-shirt with the winning art on it.)  One of the most difficult parts of calling myself an Artist (note capital A) is that I have to risk rejection daily, hourly, weekly, constantly… if you don’t put yourself out there, you don’t grow, and, well – it’s been said before: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” My personal revision of that is , “What’s the worst that can happen?  I can spend several hours or days enjoying the creative process, and I wind up adding another image to my body of work, another style to my repertoire.”  It’s important to remember that it is your work being judged, not you, and it’s often rewarding to see who you are being compared to.  My son just recommended a very short video to me, Ira Glass talking about the creative process – it’s well worth the two minutes.

Go Ahead… Pull It Apart!

“Dark Spring” mixed media by Kerry McFall

Grape Hyacinth is another childhood favorite, like dandelions, only these are squeaky when you roll the little round blossoms between your fingers.  And the resulting sticky stuff is purple!  Oh, yes – and people seem to object more when you pick them, as opposed to dandelions, to which people mainly object if you get the sticky stuff on the upholstery… my friend Wendy says her mother called dandelions “the children’s flower” because no one cared if you picked them and pulled them apart!

It has been a dark spring, but finally we have had a few warmer days recently.  But thus the dark background, which I quite like. Contrast is something I plan to experiment with more.