Tag Archives: floral sketches

Clematis – A Study in Purple

sketch of purple clematis

“Clematis”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

My mother’s clematis has climbed above deer-head-level and is blooming hysterically.  It climbs up the side of the front entrance and spills over onto the roof, a cascade of purple and magenta – but only above the 7 foot level.  At 6’11” and below, there are only a few leaves and a lot of snipped stems.   Apparently deer enjoy purple salads.

Mom watched as I began the painting, frowning slightly.  In past years, she would have been busy with potato salad or pie or laundry or pruning, but at 80+ she’s finally slowing down, so she’s at my elbow.  We talked about the fact that some blossoms have four petals, some five, some six – rare in the plant world, and you don’t notice it until you begin sketching.  She asked why don’t I just say drawing instead of sketching.  I don’t really know – I guess “sketcher” sounds better than “drawer”, which is hard to pronounce.  She asked about how did I meet those people in Brooklyn and London, how did I manage to find these total strangers in strange towns.  Magic I tell her.  The magic of art and the Internet.  The frown deepens, the disapproving side of her mouth curves down with it.

She totters off for a while, then returns.  “That’s nice!”  She sounds more than a little surprised.

Phase One

Phase One

Phase 2
Phase 2

“It’s hard to know when to stop,” I tell her, laughing.  I take a digital photo, add a bit more paint, take another photo, explain that it helps me decide if I’m “done”.  I show her my china marker and how you have to “preserve” the white of the paper if you work in water color.  I pick up my colored pencils and add another layer of color, dig out my Pitt Artist Pen and show her about cross-hatching.  As I add the “chop” symbol in the corner I share what little I know about Asian traditions in recording who creates and owns art.

“That’s really nice.”  She nods her head approvingly.  I do one more photograph, then open Photoshop and show her a few of my favorite effects.  I open the Internet browser and show her the sketching sites that I go to often, how one thing leads to another.  She shakes her head and sighs.

She doesn’t really understand my passion for art.  But she likes pretty things.  She totters off to the garage and brings me back the garden clippers.  “You can cut off that branch of the wild cherry and sketch it if you want.”  It’s nap time for her.  I think I’ll go clip that branch and get started.


Martha Saves Christmas

sketch of pinkk cyclamen in lacy wrap

"Cyclamen Persicum" mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Having a quiet Christmas” is just code for “we don’t have anybody to play with.”  That’s what I’ve decided after spending the first Christmas in my life without being surrounded by all sorts and descriptions of friends and relations.  We thought it made sense to just stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet for once, after all the travels last year, and with the kids away in the wide, wide world…   as Christmas got closer, it seemed less and less sensible.  For a bleak while, it even looked like we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our Christmas Eve traditional dinner with friends because The Chef had to work… but Martha stepped up to the plate in the nick of time, and just like in the “Heroine’s-Name-Here Saves Christmas” kiddy tales, she went the extra mile, and we had such a lovely time at her home!  She and Dave and Alice and Avery gave us a very warm welcome, dinner was delicious, and except for an unlamented lack of illuminated reindeer or inflatable Santas, it was just like on TV!

Our hostess gift to her was going to be bulbs – maybe some paperwhite narcissus? – but the cyclamen shelf at Schmidt’s Garden Center caught my eye, so we decided she would be able to enjoy it indoors now and plant it when the sun comes out of hiding in a few months.  Plus, I really, really wanted to have a go at sketching those lacy silverish leaves… this has been photoshopped just a bit, and I’m still trying to decide whether or not to get out my pen and ink and do another session with some cross-hatching.

My New Year’s resolution is probably going to be “Don’t be Sensible.”  Especially about Christmas!

Sunday Sundae

I spent most of the weekend at my Mom’s dining table with my sketchbook.  With none of my usual domestic  distractions, I was able to finish the shading on the mini-pumpkin, do a little experiment with a doily, and work up an idea I’ve had since August for a floral piece.

The Dahlia Sundae was inspired by a photo in an article in the Sunday Oregonian Homes and Gardens section last summer called “Bad Kitty Bouquets” by Marsha Westcott Peck.  In a two-vase arrangement, she wedges a smaller vase inside a large vase, then layers odds and ends in the space between the two vases.  Fun idea!  I’d like to do a series with this idea but winter may not be the best time to start floral arranging.  I’ll be putting this idea away for next summer.

Winter is a good time for experiments with technique, though.  The background stripes for the pumpkin were “rubbed” using colored pencil over a plastic mesh.  The background for the orchids was another less successful attempt at rubbing, this time over Mom’s lace doily.  I think a pastel chalk might work better.  Using the barely-visible rubbing marks as guide, I added a few hand-made marks.  Still didn’t do it.  Next up was a white caran d’ache waxy crayon – not waxy enough, apparently, since it didn’t resist the watercolor that came next.  In spite of it not being what I had in mind, it does give a bit of texture and directs the eye around the piece, so this one goes in the “close but no cigar” file.