Tag Archives: Tennessee

Arranging Flowers: Not-So-Random Acts of Volunteers

sketch of coral roses

“RAF Coral Roses”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Tuesday morning the Random Acts of Flowers office was a sea of roses and leafy branches, bordered by dozens of vases and rolls of ribbons – a flower lover’s Disneyland!  After my flower arranging class a couple of weeks ago, I had worked up the nerve to volunteer.  The other volunteers were cinching up aprons and diving in to the blooms as my new friend Lorraine showed me the ropes (and scissors, and wires, and even how to de-thorn roses using a little flexible plastic soap dish!)  Many of the volunteers were seasoned regulars, and by working with them, I learned all kinds of interesting tips and tricks.  The most important thing: shop the entire room, plus the cold room, plus the vase warehouse, because you just never know what treasures lurk beneath the tubs of blossoms.  Treasures like dried cattails, bunches of those little red or pink berry thingies,  a clear coral-colored lucite vase, probably vintage 50’s ( I managed to snag that one!)  Or three velvety deep burgundy callas, ever so gorgeous and elegant, plus a metallic 80’s-style vase which coordinated perfectly with them, which became the inspiration for this arrangement by another volunteer:

sketch of metallic vase and flowers

“RAF Gorgeous”, mixed media with digital manipulation by Kerry McFall

Time flew past as we all chatted and clipped and consulted.  I was in my “arting happy place,” that same place I find myself when I draw or paint: completely oblivious to anything but what is before my eyes and in my hands.  Noon already!  And I was thrilled to look up and now see wave after wave of carefully arranged flowers, each one unique to the arranger’s designs and whims, each one including a Random Acts of Flowers card with the name of a sponsor or donor.  The flowers had come from weddings, events, florists, families; some arrived in perfect conditions, others needed serious de-constructing and trimming and rehabilitation in a fresh water bath.  Another set of volunteers had accomplished all that earlier on Monday.  Still other sets of volunteers spent hours washing and counting vases (recycled or donated), cleaning up after everyone else, and finally delivering the arrangements, delivering the smiles.

It occurred to me only as I was too tired to really do anything about it, that I should photograph some of the arrangements and paint them.  Another volunteer was talking about making prints of photos or paintings and doing cards or a calendar, thus giving the arrangements an even fuller life.  Hmmm… great idea!   So as a possible proof of concept, here are two paintings, the first one based on my favorite arrangement that I put together, the second one based on one of the volunteers’ favorites that hadn’t already been put on the delivery van by the time this inspiration struck.

What could be better inspiration?  All the flowers and arrangements and creative arrangers that I could possibly imagine, a fun group of volunteers to work with, and smiles all around.  I’m liking Knoxville!

Technique Notes:  I photographed the arrangements in the workshop – not the best lighting, but a good tool for remembering details.

Back in my “studio” (aka the dining room table,) the first painting was lightly outlined with transparent watercolor, spattered with a toothbrush all over, then lines were drawn with ink.  Several more layers were then painted using both opaque and transparent watercolor, and highlights were emphasized with wax pencil and white Sharpie marker.

The second painting was done using the same sequence, only more wax pencil to make the batik-type white edges.  BUT after all that fuss and bother, it wasn’t as colorful as the original, and I didn’t like the proportions – wonky vase, flowers not big enough, etc….  So I fired up my Photoshop and messed around until I had it closer to what I originally intended – ain’t technology grand?

Paris, Athens, London… and Possum Hollow

Day before yesterday, we were in Paris, Athens, London, and Possum Hollow… all in one day, and all in the Great State of Kentucky!  Paris even had a cute little Eiffel tower replica in front of the feed store.

Driving through horse country was a visual treat, with “The Colors” at their full luminous peak.  If you can stay off the freeways and on what we used to call the “Blue Highways”, you can see old black tobacco barns, farms with “hex symbols” on the outbuildings, foxes, mules, intricate stone walls… I’d love to go back and do a sketching tour.

"Ohio View," mixed media by Kerry McFall

“Ohio View,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

We took an unexpected side trip to Rockbridge, Ohio, in the Hocking Hills to stay as guests of a new friend in his country house, which was filled with art created by various members of his family.  This was the view of essentially uninterrupted woods, illuminated by the last rays of sun.  The deck was thick with dead lady bugs, which was sad, and we encountered them in several places in Tennessee also.  Evidently they swarm this time of year, trying to find shelter before the first freezes.  From this spot, our rental car “Never Lost” gps  (perhaps a slight misnomer) led us a merry chase through the countryside, up ridges and down hollows – luckily, we even found a few remaining country diners.

And now we’re back in Knoxville, about to head West… I just need about three more days to finish my sketches!


Misty Valley Tennessee

sketch of Tennessee old barn

"Misty Valley Barn," mixed media by Kerry McFall

Two weeks in Tennessee trying to keep up with a four-year-old and a 10-month-old, and no workable internet connection, meant limited sketching and no blog posts.  This is my favorite of the five that I managed to finish, showing the old barn at the neighboring property where we stayed in Knoxville.  As Henry the four-your-old pointed out, it’s called Misty Valley because it’s misty.  Misty means filled with mockingbird melodies in the morning, and muggy so you fell like you are a stale jelly donut all day and the powdered sugar on your skin has turned very, very sticky… all part of the love-hate relationship I have with the south.

Update – Monday 10/8/2012 This is what the owner of the barn wrote to my son when he received a copy of the piece:  Hello, Thank you so much for this watercolor, it’s just beautiful, she sure did do that old barn justice! Tell her we love it. She can paint anything around here that she wants to. Thank you so much, neighbor.. Dee and Dennis

Here are a couple of other sketches.