Tag Archives: florals

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.


Making Do: Tussie Mussies

watercolor fo two RAF bouquest

“Double Fun”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I’m still working on Random Acts of Flowers paintings and sketches – there’s a steady stream of lovely bouquets to work with, and I’d love to be able to do them all!  Some recipient locations call for small bouquets (not a lot of room on a bedside table), and some days call for being able to stretch the limited number of donated flowers to reach all of the potential recipients.  (Interesting to note that brides try not to schedule weddings in Knoxville on football game weekends, so after a game, there aren’t as many flowers!)  Those are the days when volunteers rise to the occasion and come up with extra-creativity to use simple things like baby’s breath and a bit of ribbon, or maybe just two roses, to make delightful little “tussie mussies” or “nosegays”.

“Double Fun” above is an experiment in “loosening up”, not doing the usual detail I do over the watercolor base.  I kinda like it!  (I was tempted to paint in a couple of goldfish in the vases!)

“A Breath of Fresh Air” below, shows again how a vase can totally make the bouquet; this one looks like a tiny 1940’s vintage pitcher (maybe 4″ high?), possibly hand thrown but I didn’t get to check the bottom of it for details before it disappeared into the delivery van.  A few branches of some kind of shrubbery, a couple stems of baby’s breath, and voila – instant bouquet!

watercolor of baby's breath in pitcher

“A Breath of Fresh Air”, mixed media by Kerry McFall


Pink Snow

"Pink Snow", watercolor and ink by Kerry McFall

“Pink Snow”, watercolor and ink by Kerry McFall

Oh, Yeah – that was really fun!  After a week of being dazzled by the Danny Gregory Sketchbook Skool online course, I tried to clear my head with a glass of bubbly Proseco and a painting where I just did what I know how to do.  No new media or techniques.  Nothin’ fancy.  But lots of fun!

How I Spent my Sunday Afternoon

How I Spent my Sunday Afternoon

The streets in our old neighborhood were lined with these double-cherry trees (prunus Kanzan? Japanese flowering cherry?)..  I walked there yesterday to see if they had begun to bloom.  They were at full throttle, bursting and waving in the breeze.  Another two or three days, and drifts of pink petals will fill the streets… Pink Snow Week!


sketch of daffodil

Daffodil, mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

Time flies… I would have said I made this sketch a few days ago.  Nope, more than two weeks ago – a quick colored pencil sketch, a touch of watercolor, a photoshopped border.  And now the daffodils are nearly finished blooming.  Every year when their bright faces appear – and how can you not think of them as faces? – I remember bits of a nursery rhyme about daffy down dilly.  No clue what it meant, but it’s fun to say!



sketch of hydrangea blossoms

"Hydrangea Burst", mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

July 4th takes on a slightly different meaning when you’ve been out of the country for part of the year, and when one of your children is on the other end of the globe.  Her friends in Peru were apparently a bit puzzled by our quiet observation of the holiday, just a hike up Mary’s Peak and watching Ben paint a bus bound for Cuba, a bit of sketching, lunch at the Dairy Queen in Philomath.  Given the lavish spectacle that Corey reports from Cusco’s celebrations of various holidays, it must seem tame.  It wouldn’t be possible to watch your son paint a bus, bound for an embargoed destination, in front of the Courthouse in every country of the world.  The politics interest him, but his passion is for the art, and the communication:  “Si Se Puede”, “yes we can.” It might not always be possible here (thinking about the McCarthy era…), but for now we feel lucky for such freedoms.  And it was actually far from quiet by the time darkness fell – explosives that must have come from some nearby reservation thundered all over town.  We went outside to appreciate the full moon and the riverfront fireworks at about 10:00 p.m., joining neighbors in the street – for most Americans, that’s really what the Fourth is about when you get down to it – quiet sunny days and Street parties at night!

With the sunny day, the hydrangeas literally burst into balls of color, lavender, blue, and pink all on one confused bush.  (Usually, one plant is one color, depending on the acidity or alkilinity of the soil.)  I love the creamy pale green petticoat of the newer blossoms.  And with this sketch, I think I’m finding my “style” for sketching finally… I like doing an inky loose frame outline,  sometimes with objects sneaking over the edge.  It gives the sketchbook a kind of consistency, ties the different subjects and approaches together a bit.  I also like the “stamp” that includes the date and the weather, maybe sometimes even the temperature for outdoorsy things if at least started plein air.  Given the Oregon inclination to dampness at short notice, plein air isn’t always possible, but even when sketching inside from photos, the weather has a huge impact on the finished sketch.

February “Bouquet Garni”

"Gerbera Daisies in Under 40 Minutes", digitial image by Kerry McFall

Bouquet Garni is usually a bundle of herbs used to flavor a soup or stew, I know.  But on Friday I needed something to fill out a bunch of leggy Gerbera Daisies that I picked up at the grocery store (funny how you get them home and there don’t seem to be nearly as many blossoms once you take that wrapper off), so I ventured out into the bog in my backyard in search of greenery.  I found several stems of slug-chewed mint, one twig of rosemary long enough to hold its own, and some glorious purple-veined Swiss chard… not too bad for the gloomy depths of February.

I spent the next 40 minutes breathing in the herbs and splashing on a watercolor base, then filling in with colored pencil.  It was bright and colorful, and after an additional 10 minutes in Photoshop I pronounced it “done”.  Anybody need cheering up?  Here ya go!


orchid sketch

"February Surprise", mixed media by Kerry McFall

When this orchid showed up last summer, I would have given you good odds that it would be in the compost heap by Christmas if not before.  It didn’t even have a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot!  …So here it is February, and it’s not only alive and kicking, it’s blooming beautifully!  The inescapable conclusion is that orchids thrive on neglect.

The purple is almost effervescent, with just a touch of peach and lime.  A lovely surprise, and a simple subject for a quick sketch.  It’s fun to choose a couple of colors and begin sketches with a splash of watercolor before I make any other marks, then figure out how to either work around the splashes or work them in to the forms.  The watery “bleeds” of the green into the purples made the perfect segue into moss.

Sweet Peas and Cattails

sketch of pink sweet peas

Creamy Pink and Ink

Sweet peas fill the air with perfume as they struggle to get up the trellis.  It’s been a tough summer for everything, and most of my garden is stunted because of the late start.  I tried a few with my ink brush pen, then tried some more flamboyant blooms with colored pencil.

Sweet Pea Montage


And I found another way to use the “palette signature”!

cattails in front of tiles

Cattail Still Life