Tag Archives: Finley Wildlife Refuge

Spring Comes Early to the Willamette Valley

painting of apple blossoms

“Apple Blossoms,” mixed media by Kerry McFall, 12 x 12 framed, $200

This is another piece from the Call and Response show, perhaps my favorite this year, painted last spring (2014).  I saw this broken but still beautiful branch on an ancient tree behind the homestead at Finley Wildlife Refuge, hanging on by a thread of bark and a bit of wood.  The blossoms and bee are cutouts, made from watercolor, ink, and gel pen.  The background is a collage of various papers and paints.  The “float” frame makes it possible to position the cutouts into a 3-D setting.

I am amazed at how quickly spring is barreling in to the Willamette Valley right now… the honeybees seem to be having a hard time keeping up.  So many flowers, so few bees.  I noticed this morning that strawberries, blueberries, and pears are blooming in my front garden – WAY early!

"Ouch!" Mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

“Ouch!” Mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

The little Fuji apple tree is a bit behind because some butthead college kid tore off the best fruiting branch one night in the wee hours in January … grrr…   I scrounged around in the garage and found an old can of pruning tar to seal the wound.  (Tip: wet coffee grounds are very useful for scrubbing pruning tar off your hands and arms.  Also nail polish remover.) Apparently they had a go at uprooting it as well, but with a little luck and a few bungee cords… I hope the tree lives.  And, I hope he/they (yep, pretty sure it was males) woke up with MAJOR headaches.


Hazelnut Harvest

watercolor of hazelnut in casing

"Hazelnut Harvest", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Tyee Vineyards is such a lovely spot in the autumn: excellent wine, beautiful scenery, gorgeous grapes, and hazelnut orchards.  We took guests for a Willamette Valley Tour a few weeks ago, including the Corvallis Farmer’s Market for picnic ingredients, Hazelnut Hill where we had dessert first (always a good policy), Tyee, and Finley National Wildlife Refuge.  The only disappointment was Finley – see previous post – but all is again right with the world since the geese are more or less “back” at this writing (November 6, 2012).  Hoping to do a goose painting for my next post.

This piece is primarily watercolor with just a few touches of colored pencil.  I used real watercolor pencil for once, as opposed to my slightly-flimsy sketchbook, and took the time to stretch the paper before painting… it worked!  I have a flat painting!

And So It Begins

fish skeleton on parched lakebed

"And So It Begins," mixed media by Kerry McFall

Global warming is upon us.  This was the scene on October 7th, 2012 at Finley National Wildlife Refuge.  It takes 15 minutes to drive there from home – reality doesn’t get any closer than that.  This was the large reservoir at the refuge, where for 20 years we have come in October to hear my Goose Choir, to hear the ducks gabble, to watch elk roll in the mud, to see the water circles of rising fish mirror the sky circles of eagles hunting above.   There were no birds, not a one, only the smell of decay, and this evidence of the carp that inhabited the water.  “Not a big loss,” commented an acquaintance about the carp.  But what of the other aquatic creatures, the minute organisms that geese and ducks eat?

Sure, it could be just a peculiar rainfall year .  No way to know what next year will bring.  Maybe as I write this today’s rain has replenished most of the water.  Maybe not.  Even so, it was sobering, saddening.  Is this the future of my church of nature?  Please, no.

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”!

Mistletoe at Finley, mixed media, by Kerry McFall

Working at Muddy Creek school over the last couple of weeks gave me the opportunity to take the long way home via Finley Wildlife Refuge several times.  And the sun was shining – whoa!

Finley is my “church”, a place for quiet meditation, contemplation, rejoicing in nature even in the barest months of winter.  Huge flocks of geese rise as one with no prelude, and give voice like no other choir.  The oaks are the altars, the firs are the spires pointing to heaven.  The elk slip in and out of the thickets and meadows, the spirits of the ancestors.  Quiet pools mirror the sky in the marshes.  Bald eagles drift through now and then to remind me that there could be angels… but then just for the hell of it they buzz down over the resting geese and send them thundering skyward again.  And it turns out that even the humble mistletoe has a place in ancient myth and religious symbology, at least according to Google.  Beautiful.  My humble and sincere thanks to everyone who had a part in preserving this sacred place in the Willamette Valley.

Daydreaming about May

Sketch of wild iris

"Daydreaming about May", mixed media by Kerry McFall

Going through photos from 2011 as part of my “get better organized” New Year’s resolution yielded a nice shot of wild iris at Finley Wildlife Refuge from last May.  It’s been so bleak and soggy here since we got home that I felt like a bit of Flower Therapy was in order for the sketch book, so I spent a couple of glorious hours Sunday afternoon daydreaming about May…  I put into action a suggestion from a wonderful  book about sketching that I’m reading (The Art of Travel with a Sketchbook by Mari Le Glatin Keis) – start with a watercolor wash on the page.  So simple, but so effective, and as I read I was delighted to recognize the names of several contributing Corvallis artists I know: Gale Everett and George Norek.  I wish I had read the book before I traveled, but then again, it felt like I had enough going on without more ideas to overwhelm me!

After enjoying the book so much, I was left with a sense of real loss when I googled her name and discovered that she died about this time last year from breast cancer.  She was about my age.  I wish I had known her.  The book seems like such a gift for those of us who couldn’t go with her on her sketching journeys.  And it is inspiration to keep looking and seeing and sketching – and daydreaming on paper.

Sketches Before Supper

three birds of prey, colored pencil sketch

Cruel Beaks

Making a sketch a day is practicing what I preach.  I have told my children for years that if you want to call yourself a writer, you must write every day (not an original idea).  A singer must sing every day.  Ergo, if you want to call yourself an artist, you must make art every day.  Or at least something that has to do with art.   Thus daily sketches.  However, in the crush of making a living (art is not particularly conducive to that currently) and keeping up with family, I have to fight for my creative time.  I ignore the people at work who razz me when I leave “early” after six hours to try to get to my studio for a few hours each day (yes, the math is undeniable – “part-time” artists work 60 hours a week minimum), I ignore my cats yowling to be fed, I try to listen to my husband…  but the hours spent with art are hours of low blood pressure and quiet satisfaction.  Thus it is that tonight I had 40 minutes between chopping carrots for the chicken pot pie and putting the bubbling pie on the table to devote to birds of prey.  A labor of love.   The pie wasn’t too bad, either. 

Even the most rudimentary sketch teaches me to pick out the key elements and patterns.  Birds are amazing, they just have too many feathers…  These are from photographs by Jim Leonard, someone for whom I cannot find an email address, so more research is necessary before I can give him proper credit.  Like me, he loves Finley Wildlife Refuge.  Unlike Mr. Leonard, I do not have a telephoto lens… so I hope he does not mind if I learn from and rejoice in his photos.