Tag Archives: Willamette Pass

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

A Taste of Winter

sketch of Odell Lake

"View from Odell Lake Lodge", mixed media copyright 2013 by Kerry McFall

We spent a relaxing long weekend up at Odell Lake Lodge, my husband skiing at Willamette Pass, me toasting myself in front of the lodge fireplace.  As always, Odell came through for us:  we drove up on dry pavement, it snowed the second day, there was perfect powder the third day, and the sun came out for a glorious finale and dry pavement to drive home.  I sketched this view from the back corner of the dining room on Saturday morning, racing the clouds to get the mountain outlined before it disappeared for two days.  A storm was blowing in, and the only thing that really didn’t change as I worked was the rock in the foreground.  Everything else tossed in the wind or foamed in the current, and a few hours later the landscape became a study in white and grey, very different from the early spring feel of this sketch.

Once I finished this one, I moved into the fireplace lobby, where I had fun sharing my pencils and paper with several children who were in between snowball fights, skiing, and games of CandyLand.  My new surrogate grandchildren, Kyle, Anya, and Ryan, were eager students.  Kyle at age 12 was reticent to share his drawings, Ryan at age 4 made all of his into paper airplanes and flew them on suicide missions into the fireplace, but 7-year old Anya carefully crafted this detailed sketch and left it for me of the elk’s head mounted over the mantelpiece:

child's drawing of elk above mantel

"Anya's Elk" by Anya age 7

Well done, Anya!  It was a much-needed dose of winter quiet, of simply watching sparkling snow, swaying trees, endless waves on a wide expanse of water.  Odell Lake Lodge is a hidden 1920’s vintage gem in the Willamette National Forest, only two hours away on a good day from Corvallis.  I’ve been visiting Odell since I was a child.  There are cabins for those who want to have a family outing – nothing fancy, but a kitchen for making spaghetti or brownies – or simple lodge rooms and a lovely dining room for those who prefer to enjoy someone else’s cooking.  You can rent snowshoes or cross country skis if you have knees that still function, grab a beer from the cooler or a red licorice rope from the jar, or just sit by the fire.  Otters play (and poop) on the docks, eagles swoop at the edges of the lake, and by Sunday afternoon I felt like a queen with the whole place literally to myself – except of course for the concierge and the chef, who kept the fire crackling, brought me more chardonnay, and made extra-crispy bacon for my BLT croissant with avocado.

Summers are busier at Odell, with their own appeal – but it’s not summer, and our taste of winter was idyllic.  Thanks, Odell!