Tag Archives: Nature drawings

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

 

 

 

Pandemic, Pandemonium, & Trash Pandas

Posted 7/14/2020 by Kerry McFall

Three young raccoons

Three Musketeers, mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Hi.  Whatcha doin’? Can I play too?  And my brother and sister – can we all play?”  It would be such fun to see what these three could get up to on my desk with my paints and brushes and the paint water and my wine glass and the rest of the mess that I play with all the time now… if you’ve ever seen young raccoons “at work”, you probably have a good idea of what I’m hinting at: pandemonium.  Not to be confused with pandemic… then again, maybe the two words are not that far off: totally unpredictable, potentially dangerous, unrelenting…

This painting was based on a terrific photo featured on the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescuescwildliferescue.org site, with their permission.  They have a facebook page as well, which always includes great photography and fascinating details about their various guests and patients.  While I play with my art, the volunteers at humane societies and wildlife rescue facilities all over the world work round the clock to help keep other creatures healthy.  We all have so many people to thank.  I hope they know we think fondly of them and their work every day.

Raccoons have such intelligent faces, and they do look so much like little bears.  Although I’m sure it’s not politically correct, the term Trash Pandas has always seemed to fit their devil-may-care approach to living life to the fullest.  One creature’s trash is another creature’s treasure.  Painting them is challenging because they are 1) furry (which takes a lot of practice and a special brush), 2) intense, and 3) they have odd-shaped little noses, even weirder than dog noses in my opinion.

Watercolor, colored pencil, brush pen on Canson Mix Media 9×12″ sketchbook

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!

Purple Rain

Posted June 4, 2020 in San Diego, CA

Mixed Media by Kerry McFall

Jacaranda – Purple Rain

I’m accustomed to Oregon’s “pink snow” week, when ornamental cherry trees drop pale pink petals by the thousands onto the streets and sidewalks.  It usually happened in May.  This in no way prepared me for the absolute saturation of deep purple blossoms of San Diego’s many Jacaranda trees.  These trees start out slowly in mid-May, with a few blooms tantalizing passersby from way up in the bare branches.  But now, early June, it is breathtaking to see the trees in rows, draped in the deepest of royal velvet cloaks, blue from one angle, purple from another, but never ever pale, no subtle lavenders or lilacs.  Just PURPLE!!  And once in full bloom, it rains purple for days!

The trees, according to my Google sources, are a type of Mimosa, Jacaranda mimosifoila, with tiny rows of leaves similar to the Mimosas I have seen in other places in the world.  But instead of the Seuss-like fuzzy pinkish blooms of those mimosas, these have big bell-like blossoms that could swallow a hummingbird alive!

I think I saw my first Jacaranda in Botswana, but there were so many other amazing new things for me to absorb that they took a back seat.  The Shelter In Place happening now in Southern California has given me many opportunities to walk through the neighborhoods, so now I know where to find the prime Purple Rain.  In the painting above, I tried to capture the special leaning-toward-indigo color of the shadows, and the sheer volume of petals, with limited success.  I think this may be another example of me being overwhelmed by color…  But I may take another stab at it using a more botanical style.  Unless I get distracted by some other Seussical wonder… or a hummingbird…

 

Natural Wonders

Posted August 15, 2018 by Kerry McFall

The term “Natural Wonders” may bring to mind the Tetons, Victoria Falls, orchids, rhinos.  But think smaller, think about your own little piece of paradise.  The wonders are right beside you, you just have to look a little closer, a little longer, maybe get out of your car and put down your phone.  And maybe grab a sketchbook or a paintbrush and make the full impact of that wonder last for hours, even years!

oaks on a hill plus a turkey feather

“Bald Hill Iconic Oaks”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Sunday morning I got up early – well, not fishing trip early, but early enough that the cat wasn’t clamoring for breakfast yet.  As soon as I could get my sketching gear into the car (and feed Sparky) I was off up the road toward Bald Hill Farm, aka my “church”.  The staff at Greenbelt Land Trust (which owns the farm) had organized a “Paint Out”, so I got to go beyond my usual trails and the closed gates, past the house and barns, all the way around the next long curve in the gravel road to the shop.

Rebecca, who works for the Trust, explained a bit about the Trust and how the land belongs to the Calapuya people, which we are holding in trust for the future.   The farm is being managed as a working farm with a goal of returning the landscape to the native oak savannah of Calapuya times and to bring back many endangered or at risk local species.  I find it comforting to know there are so many people in this area with priorities focused on the future rather than profit.

The critical first part of a paint-out involves choosing your subject.  For me, that was right where I stood beside the shop, looking west toward a cluster of oaks outlined against the crest of a golden hayfield.  The bottom edges of those oak branches looked like they had been drawn with a ruler, a product of hungry cattle or deer reaching up as high as possible for tender new growth.  A gobbling noise drifted down to me, and voila, a flock of wild turkeys suddenly found themselves in my painting!

A few more quick strokes, and I went in search of another subject.  As I walked through the oak forest, avoiding poison oak, and mysterious holes in the ground (snakes? bunnies? moles?) I gathered several turkey feathers. Those turkeys are big, and so are their feathers, 10.5” x 2.5”.  If you pull the “vanes” of the feather apart, (vanes are those little skinny threads coming out of the quill, the stuff that clumps together and makes it, well, a feather,) you can see what might have been the inspiration for Velcro – talk about a wonder of nature!  And then you can smooth the vanes back together again and the feather is good as new!  Did you ever do that when you were a kid?

I was about to wander past the logging truck parked up the hill, then decided it might make a challenging subject, a contrast to all the surrounding organic shapes.  Apparently it’s used when needed to clear out the invasive fir trees in the oak savannah areas.  The background was splashy and quick, just took a few minutes.  But then I began detailing the truck, carefully sussing out those little holes in that chrome muffler pipe thingy that runs up the back of the cab, or counting how many lugnuts on each wheel…

logging truck in oak forest

“Working Farm,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

The end of the Paint-Out came much too soon.  As I packed my art supplies and feathers, one feather drifted down across the first piece I had done – and “Oh!”  That was just what it needed, so once back at home, I painted in a feather right in that spot where it had landed.  Since I was painting with watercolor over some of the original landscape, the feather seems a bit ghostly, perfect for the feeling that this place belongs both to the future and the past.  Perfect for a natural wonder.

The allure for me of Bald Hill Farm is not so much that this place is particularly unique or full of hidden treasure,  The appeal is simply that I know it is there, with its natural wonders quietly existing as they have in the past and will in the future.  Thanks for reading!

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger image of other recent paintings:

 

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

Giving Thanks for Can Openers and Alley Fairies

sketch of coastline San Diego

“Pacific Beach Pier”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

We spent Thanksgiving in San Diego at Pacific Beach, where our children now live.  Pacific Beach is a small marvel, a colorful, vibrant place on a human scale that is a great place to sketch when it isn’t raining and windy.  You can almost afford to live there.  Just down the boardwalk a ways is La Jolla, also beautiful and vibrant but way upscale for members of the 99% like us.

We enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving foods (does anyone else call marshmallows, whipped cream, pineapple, and cherries a “salad”?) and traditional pastimes (watching and singing along to Muppet Christmas Carol while digesting turkey and salad), and I got traditionally teary-eyed when saying what I’m thankful for.   I’m still adding to my gratitude list, looking back on the day.

When it was time to make the “salad”, my daughter dug through a couple of kitchen drawers and came up with what was supposed to be a can opener for the pineapple cans…can mangler would have been a more accurate name for that particular implement.  It occurs to me now that I take my can opener for granted – I’ve had it for probably 40 years, still works like a charm.  It’s easy to forget that everybody doesn’t have one, at least not one that works, nor do they have any cans to open.

The mangling tool in question came from “the Alley Fairy” as they call her, who has designated a place by the dumpsters in the alley where vacationers and landlords toss the stuff they know is too good to throw away but they’re too busy/lazy to take it to GoodWill.  My kids are grateful to have a working microwave, four chairs, a desk, a spatula, and an a couple of fans courtesy of said fairy.  The fairy even left wine glasses the night before our feast (also what appeared to be a large cement cutting tool, which we left for someone else to figure out).

Now you might think that can openers are old-fashioned… nope.  Cans of sugar-baked beans and tuna and peaches make up the bulk of my Earthquake Emergency Food Supplies, because they’re edible without further intervention and will last a good long time.  Without a sturdy can opener, we couldn’t get to all that nutrition.  So I am grateful for my sturdy can opener, for my shelves of cans out in the garage, for my optimistic and loving kids and their creative acquisition methods, and for San Diego beaches where fairies dwell and the clouds part nearly every day making for gorgeous sunsets.

The gratitude list goes on, but I think I’m ready to focus on the next holidays now.

PelicanSketchX

Pelicans rarely fret about the holidays…

Holiday Show at Studio 262 – Diangles!

Fir Diangles, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Fir Diangles, mixed media by Kerry McFall, beginning at $45

I’m very excited to announce that Studio 262 has opened their Holiday Market here in Corvallis, and they are selling my Diangles!  If you’re not familiar with diangles, click  here for an explanation and examples of this interactive wall art, then drop by Studio 262  which is in the Starbucks building downtown at 4th and Madison, you can enter from either street.

“Quilters will find Diangles especially fun – they’re never stitched down, you can always change your mind and re-arrange them!”

They are also selling Coloring Cards made from my Diangle designs, so if you haven’t worked up the nerve to try the new Coloring Books for Adults  which are all the rage, you can start small with a card!  There really is a “Zen” to just coloring in a design, it’s worth digging out the old crayolas!

We're Not Dead Yet, mixed media by Kerry McFall, starting at $45

We’re Not Dead Yet, mixed media by Kerry McFall, starting at $45

P.S.  The “We’re Not Dead Yet” zombie OSU Beaver Diangles would be the perfect gift for all you “diehard fans”.

Sketch Crawl October 24, 2015

—That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame. —

sketch of artist

“Oceanside Artist”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was invited to lead a “Sketch Crawl” last weekend (Oct. 24) in the village of Oceanside, Oregon.  The term Sketch Crawl I think is an adaptation of Pub Crawl, the difference being that you’re not limited to pubs, but you do progress as a loosely-connected group as the day plays out, plying your art, eating, drinking and being merry.  It’s simply great fun!  And how does one lead a Sketch Crawl?  For this one, I shared a few of my sketchbooks, I showed a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up (mostly from Sketchbook Skool), I briefly demonstrated two of my favorite tools (china marker and waterbrush), and then we headed out to let the art happen.  Leading is less like an art lesson and more like a pep talk: “Afraid of that blank sketchbook page?  Try drawing a border first in pencil – and voila, you’ve started!  Or just splash on some watercolor in the basic shape of what you see…”

Tiny Oceanside (which is near Tillamook of Tillamook Cheese fame) offered a one-block strip of sketching opportunities, which included the Three Arch Inn (our launching point), the community center deck overlooking the surf, the Post Office, a fire station, and two restaurants. A few sandy steps down, and you were on the beach.  The “crawlers” included around two dozen folks, literally from ages 9 to 90, beginners to accomplished professionals, who came to enjoy the glorious weather (! yes!  in Oregon in October at the coast!!) and the company of other artists, even if they all weren’t quite sure what a Crawl is…

We spent the morning choosing a likely spot in the village, pitching our folding chairs and stools, and “arting”.   It was fun to spot the crawlers on the sidewalks and decks and beaches, and to look over their shoulders as they worked.  We re-grouped for lunch, most of us at the Blue Agate Café, then carpooled up the cliffs to Cape Meares.  It was breezy there, but we all found another couple of magnificent views to fall in love with.  Close to four o’clock, we returned to our starting point in the lobby of the Inn.  The Art Accelerated group who organized the event provided snacks and wine and tea and coffee, and I encouraged everyone to share the results of their efforts.

What accumulated on the floor of the Inn as we laid out our sketchbooks was exactly what I had hoped for: a wide range of styles, subjects, and media.  That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame.  From houses on the hillside to morning glory blossoms, from the geologic marvels of the coastline to the ever-changing waves that sculpted them, each page was unique.  Each choice of color or tool reflected something about the artist and the day.  Judging from the glow on the faces of the participants, even the shy ones who protested they weren’t artists, it was clear that they were pleased to say they had been on a “sketch crawl”.