Tag Archives: Kerry McFall

Are We There Yet?

posted August 4, 2020 by Kerry McFall, who is very tired of this 2020 ride…

Remember when you were a kid in the back seat of the car and the trip was taking an eternity?  That’s what this year feels like, and this month (which is now known as Faugust because it’s weirdly foggy and gloomy here in San Diego), and this week, and this afternoon, and – yeah.  The answer to “Are we there yet?” from my Dad generally sounded a lot like this hawk looks:

Swainson's Hawk painting

Swainson’s Hawk, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The answer from my Mom, the first time one of us asked, was usually something like, “Almost…” or “Pretty soon…”  The second time we asked her, the answer was essentially the same as Dad’s.  Only with less profanity.

This beautiful feisty bird was photographed originally by Christine Paige, Idaho wildlife biologist, who says that it will soon be flying off to Argentina… I wish it well, and I hope there’s no kids in the backseat.  I am fascinated by that blue beak!

Meanwhile, something that helped take my mind off the news/journey/insanity last week was a video about Urban Sketching by Sketchbook Skool.  Since I didn’t much want to go out into the Urban insanity here (“Life’s  A Beach, Bro!  Grab a Brew!  Who needs a mask?!”), I just paused the video and sketched the instructor, Jason Das.  Best hat I’ve ever done!

sketch of man in hat

Jason Das Urban Sketcher, mixed media by Kerry McFall

So Hang in There, folks.  But no, I don’t think we’re there yet.

#SketchbookSkool  #JasonDas #ChristinePaige  #Swainson’sHawk #AreWeThereYet #UrbanSketching

 

 

 

Floofy Red Flowers Instead of Fireworks This Year?

Posted June 25, 2020 by Kerry McFall

Red Gum Tree aka Beaker, mixed media by Kerry McFall

San Diego’s climate is often described as Mediterranean… but I’ve been to the Mediterranean, and this ain’t it.  Basil is Mediterranean.  Grapes are Mediterranean.  June Gloom (and May Gray) are not – I mean, for crying out loud, has it been this gray all month in Italy?!  I think not.

I’ve been trying not to whine about this for 8 weeks, but I’m an Oregonian, born and bred.  Sunshine is a major reason why I’m down here, but right now the surf and the sky are just all one big expanse of No Color, enough to make me think I’m back in Newport, Oregon, only not as wet.  Or cold.  Sigh.  Even so, San Diego does have saving graces: Red Flowering Gum Trees (a type of Eucalyptus) provide the earthbound equivalent of fireworks!  And that may be as close as we come in these Pandemic times to the old “bombs bursting in air” July traditions.  Bees and hummingbirds seem to drown happily in their fluffy blossoms, and I’m pretty sure that Jim Henson drew the Muppet character of Beaker based on the shape and coloration of red gum blossoms – see his head up there, second flower from left?  Just add googly eyes!

Once the blossoms are done, they transform into little goblet-shaped woody seed pods, shown below the vase.  I’m convinced that those goblets are used by the local Faerie folk, who carefully empty the last drops from all the beer cans and whiskey bottles left on the beach into their goblets, and then they enjoy some quite rowdy post-party parties!

Powder Puff Tree, mixed media by Kerry McFall

There are also Powder Puff bushes here, with even fuzzier round blossoms.  The seeds of the powder puff flowers are more like little hard holly berries that cluster into a raspberry shape, leaving berry decor on the plant for a long time past the blooming season, which was last March.  The Gum trees apparently never stop blooming – now is prime blossom time evidently, but there always seem to be a few branches on each tree heavy with red blooms, and seed pods in various stages of party-readiness.  Pretty magical all in all, even if the sky doesn’t cooperate!

Prickly Cliffs and Jewelled Surf

La Jolla Cliff Cacti, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The elegant homes on the cliffs at La Jolla near Bird Rock are teetering – literally – on the sandy edge of foaming, crashing waves.  To say that anyone with an ounce of common sense would never have built any kind of structure there is an understatement.  But I love the tiny “pocket parks” that have somehow managed to survive, wedged in between the mansions every few blocks, each one unique.  This painting shows the park that is at the top of a steep stairway down to the surf, a small wreath of jade-colored cacti with golden blooms, and waves of purple statice flowers, crowning the crumbling cliff.  Plenty of traffic even during pandemic, but on the edge of the sea the salt air is fresh and clean.  There is exactly one bench, but surfers apparently never sit on anything but a floating surfboard, which leaves that bench available for itinerant artists like me!

Surfers tote their boards up and down the steps with ease and grace, now skimming the foam, now plunging in and out of the waves.  As I watch, the color of the water transitions from chalcedony to turquoise to diamond, over and over, never the same…  Not coincidentally, those jewel colors are street names nearby!

Technique

I painted from my photo.  9 x 12″ Canson Mix Media sketchbook.  Watercolor first, nothing fancy, just trying to capture those jewel colors.  Then a sponge  (just a slice of an old kitchen sponge) on damp paint for some textures, followed by black ballpoint pen, more watercolor, a few white ink highlights.  Finally picked out the edges of the cliff and the “frame” with a blue 05 felt tip pen, and rubbed the edge of a colored pencil over that tuscan red plant on the right edge – no clue what the name of that plant is, but I’m pretty sure it’s a succulent…  Dr. Seuss would have loved it!

Let the Cherries Take You Away

Posted June 11, 2020 by Kerry McFall

Dark Cherries, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I recently saw a post (from Michelle Collier on Facebook’s Sketchbook Skool group) about “negative painting techniques”.  I was fascinated, so down the Google rabbit hole I dove, and began experimenting with what I have now come to think of as painting inside out.  It makes perfect sense currently, where everyone on the planet is at Sixes and Sevens (a British idiom for a state of total confusion).  We are re-thinking everything on every level: breathing, touching, going to work, cultural norms, racial stereotypes, rules of encounter, all of it.  We are re-learning lessons from the past, trying to understand how we got to this, hoping to re-build and build it better.  And yes, it is overwhelming.

So, be good to yourself every chance you get.  Case in point: I saw a big bag of fresh cherries at the Farmer’s Market down the street – it’s been re-worked for Pandemic Suitability, of course, but the cherries are still cherries, plump, colorful, enticing.  I ignored the sky high price, and bought the whole bag, knowing that although the cherries themselves would be gone very soon, I could paint them, and come winter I’ll be able to go back through the pages of my sketchbook and enjoy them over and over!

New (for me) Technique : Negative Painting

I usually start a painting with a sketch that roughs in all of the details, then I paint the focal points, and finish with the background.  Negative painting technique says ‘no’, do it inside out…  Start with the colors of what you want to paint, like cherries or leaves, just the colors, not the shapes, not the shadows.  Leave that pencil alone, pick up a big fat brush and get it juicy with color.  Slap it down, let it do its thing, trickle and run and meld.  Now go do the dishes (you know you need to anyway).

Work in Progress, Cherries Layer 1

(The small dark cherry up at the beginning of this post is what developed from the middle blob on the right side of this first layer.)  Once you’ve finished the dishes and your paint is now dry, maybe pour a glass of wine, and begin to pick out the edges of where your main shapes aren’t, aka ‘negative space’.  Go loosely, lightly, with a colored pencil maybe, drawing the shapes between the cherries or the leaves or whatever.  Soon the positive shapes come together from the outline of the negative shapes… then dip your brush in a darker color for the background, or dig out a big fat marker, or use the side of a colored pencil, and fill in that negative space.  Magic happens, and your cherries pop off the page!

Cherries Take Me Away, mixed media by Kerry McFall

This is when I struggle with knowing when to stop… I tend to overwork things, adding a shadow here and a highlight there, and fuss and bother about this and that, but it’s all part of the process, the process of learning, the art of relaxing and letting the cherries take you away from the 6’s and 7’s… Hmm, I just had a mental flash from an old Calgon bubblebath ad, “Calgon, take me away!”

 

Effervescence & Jubilation

Posted April 26, 2019 by Kerry McFall

painting of lilacs

“Jubilation”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I borrowed a stem of lilacs this morning from my neighbor to the south.  Much like daphne, lilacs beg to be picked and brought indoors, inhaled and celebrated, and I am not one to deny them.

I also snapped off a few stems of salal from my neighbor to the north.  They won’t mind.  They probably won’t notice.  The ajuga is my own, a hardy little vine that refuses to succumb to being trampled by our front entry.  Into my favorite simple round vase they all went, plunked on the dining table to be properly adored.  And painted and petted and stared at and re-arranged.

I used the term Jubilation when I titled my painting.  Because that’s what lilacs smell like – unabashed joy at being in bloom.  Joy at being lavender with rosy edges and tiny golden middles.  Joy at dripping big fluffy blossoms over the sidewalks and lawns of the latitudes lucky enough to host their beauty.

Then I thought better of that title as I added the final touch:  a few spatters of paint, just because!  Because it’s spring!  Because the sun is shining!  Because I have paint and I have an old toothbrush and I can see bubbles in the vase water as if it were champagne!!  Effervescence would have been a better choice, but too late…

Jubilation will do in a pinch, however.  May Day is only a few days away – go forth and jubilate!

 

 

Pandora’s Recipe Box

Posted by Kerry McFall December 3, 2018

Christmas is upon us, time to make fudge and cutout cookies, so out comes the old recipe box.  ‘Dusty’ doesn’t do justice to the accumulation of oily residue and fingerprints and smudges on it as I wrestle it out of its position as honorary bookend on the cookbook shelf, resulting in the usual cascade of books and 3-ring binders off the shelf and onto the floor.  Dang.

sketch of wooden box and recipes

“Pandora’s Recipe Box,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

I pry up the lid of the box, and there is “Kerry from Dad 87” etched into the inside top with a woodburning tool.  He made it for me during his Woodworker Phase, one of many oak-and-walnut projects, including my pepper mill.  Utilitarian and one-of-a-kind, both my Dad and the box.

The box is packed so full that opening it makes me wonder what keeps all those cards and papers from literally jumping out.  The dividers, printed in my hand-writing on blue cardboard, are frayed and stained.  Given the accessibility of recipes via the Internet, this collection doesn’t get as much use as it did back in the day, so it’s been several years since I really paid any attention to it, but I’m on a mission: the fudge recipe on the back of the marshmallow crème jar just doesn’t look right.  Didn’t the marshmallow jar used to be way bigger?  Wasn’t it the large can of evaporated milk, not this itty bitty thing?  I need to find my old “original” recipe, THE recipe that actually results in creamy, delectable fudge.  As opposed to gooey chocolate sauce with walnuts sunk to the bottom…

As my fingers “walk” through the categories (two of my favorites are “Front Burner” and “Tea Treats”), I am remembering when I discovered the hard way that just because my mother gave me A recipe didn’t mean she had given me THE recipe.  I had tried for years to make Parker House Rolls during the holidays, but they were never as light and fluffy as hers, which I couldn’t understand because she had copied the recipe for me.  And then one day, she said smugly, “Well, I see you still can’t make them melt in your mouth like mine!” The light dawned.  I compared the two handwritten 3 x 5 cards.  She had written “1 package yeast” on my card, hers said “2 pkgs yeast.”  She had written “let rise” on mine, hers said “let rise, punch down, knead lightly, let rise again.”  Oh for crying out loud!

I put that memory behind me with a low growl, and finally coax out the recipe in Mom’s handwriting that says fudge.  And sure enough, the label on the jar is different in several places from this old yellow chunk of legal pad where she copied the recipe, so I’m going to have to call my sister-in-law.  She’s got Mom’s old originals now… but then I realize that squeezing the recipes back into the box is not going to happen unless I get rid of some of the never-used bulk.  In my head I hear the words to “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…” echoing: “…he’s probably going to want a glass of milk…”

But it can’t be helped, they just refuse to be jammed back into the box.  I start at the back.  There is the 3-hole-punch version – with hand-drawn X-rated illustrations – of “Fricasseed Boar Balls” from a once-young man who shall not be named… I’ve always thought this could be used to great advantage in a blackmail effort given his affinity for public office, so clearly that has to go back in the box!  There is a page of graph paper with a recipe for a potato casserole, in French, from someone named Devismes – nope, recycle.  But I wonder who that was?  Is that the family I stayed with on my first trip to France?  A double-folded card spells out a complex process for a casserole from the mother of the husband of my husband’s ex-girlfriend, with a sweet note at the end: “When you take the first bite, think of Ursula and Christmas 1993 in Corvallis”.  Aww, what a sweetheart.

And so it goes.  I find my long lost recipe for Hot Buttered Rum squirreled away under Vegetables.   There are pages and pages of typed gourmet entries (which means the main ingredient was cream of mushroom soup) from my Aunt Muriel, who loved to entertain – I never tried most of them so they go into the recycling, but a few are now family classics.  Most of the recipes are on 3 x 5 cards in the handwriting of the cooks who shared them with me, with unintentional samples of most of the ingredients spattered here and there – those are very hard to part with.  Ultimately I was able to recycle just enough so that I can close the box – but this little exercise was thought provoking.  When I google a recipe, it comes with no memories, fond or otherwise.  It comes with no evidence of little helpers in the kitchen with peanut butter on their fingers, no notes from friends, no reminders of co-workers who organized recipe exchanges, no clippings from ancient newspapers with ads on the back for honey at $.59.  It’s faster, yes, but it is SO not personal.

I wipe down the recipe box, and try not to think about how much shelf space I could regain if I took the time to sort through the cookbooks before I smash the books back into a row and wedge the box back on the shelf.  The fudge ingredients are calling my name…  I’ll save the cookbook shelf “weeding” for another Mouse and another cookie on another day.  Besides, I had to write about this while it was fresh in my head, and after I make the fudge I want to do a watercolor of all the ingredients and the recipe box… Time Flies!

(No surprise, finished the painting, still haven’t gotten around to the fudge or the cookies or the cookbook shelf.  What the hey – Christmas is still WEEKS away, right?)

Ducks Foot In The Mud – Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Geese are reliable, to a point.  They fly in V formation.  Pretty much.  They migrate every autumn and spring.  Except the ones who decide that life on the golf course year round is way less work.  They are majestic flyers.  Mostly, aside from those awkward landings now and then.  I suspect that they post sentries, so most of the flock can relax and poke around in the mud — I saw it at least once, and tried to capture it “en plein air”, as shown below.  What you don’t see here is that these guys were around the edge of the marsh, but several hundred yards north were literally thousands of geese.  They were all about 1/4″ apart, gabbling excitedly in the shallow water… until with a roar they were suddenly all airborne!  Didn’t manage to capture that…!!

painting of geese in the marsh

“Finley Geese Sentries,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

Ducks I know less about.  When I hear them communicate out at Finlely, I am reminded of the Three Stooges laughing, “quwhack-whaa-whaack!” The one thing I’m really sure of about ducks is that their wings flap really, really fast when they fly.  I also know that they leave terrific footprints in the mud, and the traditional quilt pattern Ducks Foot in the Mud is based on the simple geometry of their webbed feet.

Traditional quilt pattern interpreted 

Purists may look at the painting below and note that the quilt pattern in the border is about ducks, but there are no ducks in the painting.  What you don’t see is all the mud where the cattails grew, and there were bound to be some duck (or goose) prints in that mud, so technically we’re OK.  Call it artistic license!

Painting of cattails with quilt-like border

“Ducks Foot in the Mud”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Speaking of technical, below is the progression of my paintings.  The final one above was Photoshopped using the Poster Edge tool, which gives it a bit more texture than the one in my sketchbook.

We Won’t Be the Only Ones Watching

Posted July 23, 2017 by Kerry McFall

#makingALivingAsAnArtist #totality #eclipse #fishArt

trout watching totality

“Oregon Eclipse 2017”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The media is abuzz about the potential crowds showing up for the coming total eclipse of the sun.  Neighbors are wondering how much food to stock up on before the hordes descend.  The library is full of cool books about eclipses – I checked out one called “Mask of the Sun” about the history and forgotten lore of eclipses.   I recently wrote about my concerns that eclipse fans need to stay on trails when they’re tramping around here in the woods.  And the OSU art gallery, the LaSells Stewart Center, is planning an exhibit in August focused on all things celestial.

I was going to submit my painting (above) for that exhibit, in fact I painted it expressly for that show, painted it on the day before the submission deadline.  I wasn’t procrastinating, I just managed to come up with the concept and squeeze in the two hours to create it in the proverbial nick of time.   I was wondering how the darkness would affect all of the creatures who would experience it.  And what about fish?  Would they be aware?  What would it look like from their watery viewpoint?  What do fish see anyway?

I actually have quite a long history with fish.  One of my middle school science projects involved getting up in the middle of the night for a week to see if my goldfish were sleeping.  Another project asked the burning question, “Do fish see colors?”.  Both projects led me to the conclusion that I was in way over my head for middle school research technology in the 60’s.  My kids were curious about fish, too -there was one memorable moment, waiting to attempt a left turn from 9th street onto Circle Blvd. at what passes for Rush Hour in Corvallis, when a small voice from the back seat inquired, “Do fish throw up?”  Still don’t have an answer for that one…

And over the years, I’ve made and sold quite a bunch of fish art.  Fiber art, digital art, sketches, oil paintings, birdhouses… fish are so very elegant and graceful.

“BirdhouseView7″by Kerry McFall, Acrylic and mixed media on roughcut cedar

So, I finished my Totality painting after some inconclusive internet research about fish that involved the potential for neon and infrared paint and light.  But then…  then I saw that it cost $20 to enter a piece (up to 5 pieces actually) to be juried in.  And then I realized that I didn’t have a mat and frame to fit the size of my painting, I would have to buy new.  So there’s another $40 to $60 for just a basic prep.  And then I thought about the gallery commission – it’s usually 40%.  And then I reminded myself that I’ve exhibited there many times, and nothing has sold.  I’m not being pessimistic, mind you, this is simply experience speaking.  Artists often pay – a lot – for the privilege of attempting to sell their work.  Just like corporations and governments rarely offer “real” jobs anymore, (they contract out to headhunters and middlemen who take 40 to 65% of what would otherwise be a decent salary), the majority of artists can expect to earn just about enough to buy their next batch of art supplies, if they’re lucky.

So now what?  I know ways to market my art.  I’ve studied it.  I’ve done it before, with some success.  But I’m so weary of all that.  This is not my year for that much effort.  Now I have another unique original to add to my “body of work”.  I like it.  I had fun doing it.  I learned something.  It makes me smile.  Those are the real reasons I make art.  And that’s enough.

Happy Birthday Oregon!

Oregon became a state on Valentine’s Day, a particularly inspired piece of “branding” way back in 1859.  Although it wasn’t intentionally planned to celebrate either Valentine’s Day or Oregon statehood, I had a chance to spend the whole Valentine weekend “arting” at Odell Lake Lodge, one of the prettiest places in the state in my opinion.

painting of white mountain reflected in lake

“Sunny Morning, Diamond Peak”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, $30 print

This is an example of what Sketchbook Skool (my online art educators) would call Art B4 Breakfast, but in reality it was before, during, and after breakfast… and I was glad I started so early, because the sunshine only lasted a couple of hours.  The next morning was very gray, so it was a very different art opportunity.

I spent the entire weekend either in the dining room at the lodge, or in the big fireplace room, sketching and painting whatever struck my fancy, indoors and out.  The dining room is complete with binoculars on the windowsills so you can watch the eagles and mergansers above the lake or on the creek.  If you’re a skier, which I no longer am, that first day was terrific.  If you’re an artist, every day is terrific, rain, snow, or shine!  And my thanks to the Lodge staff for putting up with me and my paints, pencils, and pens being underfoot all weekend!

IHeartOR

Proper Winter

Even though we know that climate change is upon us, even though we know we can’t pretend it’s gone away even for just a month or two, even though half of our continent is having haywire weather this season… still, it just feels so right to have a bit of proper winter weather here in Oregon.

"Willamette Pass Summit", NFS, mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo by Ben Jay

“Willamette Pass Summit”, NFS, mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo by Ben JayT

The painting above was made (with permission) from a photo taken by Ben Jay the Sunday after Christmas at the top of a Willamette Pass ski lift.  Last year there was zero snow.  So far this winter, there is plenty – Hallelujah!  But there’s nothing like a mountain top view to remind us that we are indeed on a very round planet hurtling through space.  The clouds began to whirl around the sun about lunchtime, when this photo was taken, leaving little doubt that more snow was coming, and soon.  From my perspective as an artist, following that very pronounced “whirl” with my brushes was an epiphany about painting skies: no more flat horizons for me, if I can just remind myself often enough how effective this circular movement is!

"Out of Control", mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

“Out of Control”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

Meanwhile, as Ben was up top, I was down in the lodge, sketching and warming my hands around a hot toddy or two. My title  “Out of Control” refers to the central skier, a figure who reminded me too much of myself and my characteristic skiing style.  I was very content to be rubbing elbows with the ski bunnies in the lodge, rather than providing the comic relief  out on the slopes.

It wasn’t really much warmer inside than outside. I was wearing full winter gear (except mittens) the whole time as I sketched and painted.  One man watched me draw for awhile as he ate his lunch.  When I got out my paints, he said, “It should be easy to paint snow – just leave it blank!”  I told him I was about to conclude the exact opposite as skiers and snowboarders slashed down the no-longer-smooth white slopes.  How to portray those tracks and cuts and popcorn mounds – so many subtle shades of … what? purple? blue? grey? green?  Fun to experiment!

"SnowyFir", mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS

“Snowy Fir”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, NFS