Tag Archives: squirrels

Taming My Inner Squirrel

Was it just a week ago that I picked a branch of tumbleweed out of a fence at a New Mexico rest stop on the highway, humming to myself that Sons of the Pioneers song about tumbleweed?


Has it been just a week since I left colorless winter behind and came home to a muddy garden lush with weeds (and slugs… and sowbugs…)?

sketch of tumbleweed

“BitterCress”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Driving through so much flat, brown land back in the heartland had calmed my Squirrel Brain a bit, but as soon as I touched down here at home, it was back with a vengeance.  Gotta finish the Call and Response piece!  Gotta make a painting from all of those photos!  Gotta fertilize, gotta weed, gotta take care of a mountain of mail!  But then it slowly dawned on me Sunday evening that I was NOT getting up to go to work the next morning, so I didn’t have to get that all done in one fell swoop.  What a luxury!  I really can draw every day.  I don’t have to give up anything else to make that happen.   Happy sigh.  My Inner Squirrel is now seated quietly in a yoga position, softly humming the tumbleweed song… which is stuck in my head…

I’ve always wondered what the name of that little weed was.  Yesterday a neighbor clued me in to Bittercress – it grows incredibly fast, matures quickly, and once it starts to shoot seeds like a machine gun (thus the nickname shotweed), your garden beds are doomed!  On the plus side, it is edible… supposedly tastes like radishes.

Technique Notes – The Bittercress painting was sketched lightly in pencil, then outlined with a Pitt artist pen.  I painted the plant with a thin watercolor brush, let that dry, then outlined around the ink lines with white china marker.  I then quickly flooded the page (outside of the circle and inside the border) with blue (spring sky blue!) using a fluffy fat brush.  I like the “resist” effect so much!  Once dry, I added a few tiny shadows, etc. with colored pencil.

Keeping Texas Modest

It isn’t easy catching a squirrel and wrestling him into whitey-tighties, but given that the decency of an entire state is at stake, my brother-in-law Jere managed it:

"Keeping Texas Modest", mixed media with underpants

“Keeping Texas Modest”, mixed media with underpants

I gave this painting, “Bark!”, to my sister-in-law Bonnie for Christmas.  I gave Jere, whose birdfeeder has a huge squirrel fan base, a gag gift of squirrel underpants.  Obviously, he took it rather seriously…



sketch of branch with cherries

“Cherry-Go-Round”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

At Mom’s suggestion, I clipped off this little low-hanging branch in her back yard and brought it inside to paint.  I was surprised to find that the cherries, all but one, were clustered around one part of it like horses on a carousel.  Leaves were all at the very end of the branch, fanned out and drooping.  Another thing about the world that I’d never noticed until I examined it with the intensity necessary to sketch!

As I was preparing to post this, motion caught my eye outside the window, and I looked up to see a squirrel.  Not in the cherry tree, as I would have expected, but hanging upside down from a wire, doing a paw-over-paw on his way to the birdfeeder.  For years, my father tried to “squirrel-proof” his birdfeeders.


At one point he had big squares of sheet metal surrounding homemade feeders that were perched on posts in the middle of the lawn.  Those came down the year the grandchildren’s heads reached sheet metal height and running in the yard meant risking being beheaded by the sharp edges…  He finally hit upon the wire approach, stretching a wire for a hundred feet between trees about six feet above the ground, and hanging the feeder in the middle of the wire.  I wonder what he would have thought watching that squirrel as he flipped and twirled and used his tail to spin himself upright!  His next stunt involved a tight-rope walker’s concentration as he took a few steps along the wire, lost his balance, and was hanging only by his hind legs.  Quivering with intensity, he was able to grab the wire with his front paws again, and he repeated the sequence.  By this point there were three humans standing at the window, laughing so hard we couldn’t speak.  He finally gave up, made it back to the fence, staggered to the deck and collapsed in the shade.  He sprawled on his belly, legs splayed out… just for a few minutes.  Then he was off and gone, I’m sure to raid another day at the birdfeeder!