Today I'm featuring The Virginia Hotel at Cape May, in my tour of places there I've painted recently. It is the truly lovely Victorian hotel owned by the same family as Congress Hall. I'm a total sucker for old buildings, and this is a lovely one. It also has an inviting and charming front porch, where one can procure a glass of wine and watch the world go by. Perfect.
Inside is the Ebbett Room, a truly first class restaurant. The kind that self-employed artists don't visit very often, so a real treat when I go to Cape May on this job is one utterly lovely meal in the dining room.
When I went back last week, the Virginia was all decked out for the holidays, and it was fun to paint its lighter side.
This is Congress Hall, the hotel whose owners have twice flown me up to do illustrations of this and other properties. This past trip (last week) was for me to be able to paint their many and varied Christmas activities. It was a perfect way to start the season for me. The family has created a marvelous holiday atmosphere, complete with a brilliant off-season use of the pool area as a German-feeling Christmas market. (But with hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's instead of the German gluhwine -- a vast improvement, to my mind.)
This trip I was able to stay in Congress Hall itself, which is a lovely old building with a double grand stairway upstairs that has railings that feel like silk from generations' worth of hands trailing along them. I adore old buildings, and this is a lovely and very welcoming-feeling one. The lobby, complete with its own tree, is shown below.
They are incredibly hospitable to me when I stay. At Congress Hall, I was delighted to find a New York Times outside my door every morning. And they feed me beautifully all week. They not only have wonderful restaurants on the campus (see the Blue Pig Tavern below), but the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome, since I was there traveling alone. This is a rare sort of job for a self-employed artist to find, and I still can't believe my luck. Even better, they say they're having me back in the spring. I can't wait.
Two of Memphis' fine musicians got married last night, with many more fine musicians in attendance. The bride had asked me to sketch the wedding, and it was my very first time to do such a thing. I'd never even thought of sketching a formal wedding before, but apparently it's becoming something of a thing, since there was a recent New York Times article about just that phenomenon.
I was honored to be asked as well as both pleased and a little scared that the bride trusted me with her special day. I don't do faces much at all, but she had loved the opera sketches I did a while ago (very quick and impressionistic), so I said I'd do my best.
It was quite a whirlwind -- partly because of the short ceremony (fortunately the rehearsal beforehand let me do some extra sketches of the ceremony poses) and partly because it was my first time to try to capture such a broad, changeable event.
Here were people signing the guest book before the ceremony. The wedding was in an art gallery with gorgeous black and white photos all over the walls, which made for a great backdrop.
There was wonderful music. Sean Murphy played a wooden flute, bowls, and drum for the ceremony. I recently sketched his brass band playing at the end of a race. I think this is my favorite sketch of the whole group.
In addition to six finished watercolors (more to come as I get them scanned in), I also did 23 quicker pencil sketches in a book that the bride can keep. Here are the first two. Again, I'll post more as I get them scanned in. It was an intense three hours, but also very rewarding.
First the front piece. (I should have gotten someone else to do the lettering.)
And the bride arranging her own flowers. I loved the laid-back, easy feel of this wedding. It was a delight to be included in the festivities.
A fellow Park Friends board member's wife asked me to do an Old Forest commission for her husband. He's put in tons of hours working on trails in the forest and made a number of trail signs like the one in the sketch.
I'm so grateful to everyone who steps up and takes a bit of ownership for the park. We have people who pick up trash every day, people who clear blocked trails, make long-handled pooper-scoopers for the field, work on flower beds, and a host of other things. It was neat to get to do this commission, as well as just a lovely way to spend a morning in one of my favorite places anywhere.
What with traveling and working towards shows, I haven't been getting in too many commissions this month, but here are a couple of recent ones. (I have to wait to post them until they've been given, so I don't ruin any surprises.)
Both are in Central Gardens, and the lower one was the first time I'd taken my tricycle out to do a sketch. It was fun not to have to use the car.
This sketch was also done in honor of the home's centennial, which was neat to be a part of.
It's been so crazy since the Memphis Magazine issue came out that I've been tardy asking them for some PDFs to show on my website. But I met an illustrator on our recent trip who reminded me to have illustration highlighted on my website if I'd like to do more of it, so I've been working on that this week. I set up a new Illustration page here, and I got a batch of the magazine urban sketches uploaded. Hopefully I'll receive the rest of them to add soon. You can see all the excitement here.
There's an absolutely lovely couple I've known all my life who really like the watercolors I've been doing lately. They have always been supportive of my work and bought pastels from my very first gallery show back in 1999, but the recent assignments were extra special. They are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend, and months ago, they both happened to call me on the same day to order paintings for each other as presents. That's when you know you've been married a beautifully long time.
They both wanted their house (above) plus something else. I was asking when the wife might be gone so I could paint the house as a surprise, and the husband said, that's OK -- we'll tell her about the house, and then she won't be suspecting the other ones. Almost identically, when he told her about the house, she said that if he knew about that one, he wouldn't be expecting a second painting.
He asked for the church they married in, Trinity Methodist (a lovely stroll around the corner with my folding chair -- the best kind of commission)....
...and their current church, St. Francis of Assisi.
She asked for the Shelby County Courthouse, where he's a judge. It was fun to sit on the sidewalk for this one and have lawyers stepping over my legs and taking a peek as I worked.
This set of commissions taxed my always deficient verbal filter, but I managed not to blurt anything out and ruin the surprises. The best part was going out this week to do their home, the last painting due, and seeing them give all the paintings to each other early because they couldn't bear to wait. It was just lovely to get to be part of such a wonderful celebration.
I probably say this pretty often, but one of the really fun things about drawing in public is meeting so many different people. Yesterday I was still lacking a header for the Medicine section of the City Guide, so I headed to Methodist. I was lucky enough to find both shade (always a bonus) and also a couple of ambulance drivers (also hanging out in the shade) who were waiting for a new battery for their unit.
They were interested in what I was doing, and I learned why some ambulances are red and boxy (city-owned ones) and some are white (private companies). Having a little company gets me out of my BBC podcast routine and mixes things up a bit.
I've been working hard to get all the different categories illustrated for the Memphis Magazine City Guide. Above is an overall view of the skyline (maybe for the table of contents). Bonnie Hopkins, a Loyola art student and assistant at MCA this summer, went downtown with me Saturday afternoon to draw from Mud Island. We found a picnic table to work from (great comfort compared to my normal urban sketching on the sidewalk) and had a great visit while we worked. It was a very social and creative day for me, with the Memphis Urban Sketchers that morning and Bonnie's company all afternoon.
I also got permission to paint inside Brooks with my watercolors. I'd been wanting to paint the rotunda, and working for the City Guide issue seemed like a great opportunity. There's an arts section, and music is already pretty well represented in my illustrations, so I thought I'd plug my own area of visual arts instead.
Brooks allows sketching with pencils only during their regular hours, but they kindly invited me to come paint on an off day for this project. Since they regularly serve drinks at special events in this space, I didn't feel too bad asking for special treatment for my small palette cups. (It's a marble floor as well -- very little possibility for serious damage.)
It was a challenging subject, but also a lot of fun. And I liked that I could get in different forms of art -- the main sculpture, a framed painting and photograph on the left, and a peek at the ancient art collection on the mezzanine floor. It seemed like a good scene for "The Arts" section.
I've enjoyed the few illustration jobs I've gotten to do so far, so I've been more consciously approaching people about the possibility of doing more such work. Very happily for me, the art editor of Memphis Magazine has asked me to do urban sketches to introduce each section in their annual City Guide edition. Usually they have lovely, glossy photos, and I'm so honored they wanted my artwork this year.
I've got a long trip coming up, so I'm working hard to get all of them turned in before I leave. Above is the one I did for the Newcomer's Guide section. We just drove in from Arkansas last week, and I loved the view of the Lone Star tower (sadly, soon to be torn down) with its "Memphis" guitar sign and the Convention Center behind it. However, there are certain views an artist (at least one who works on site) just cannot paint. The view from the interstate bridge over the Mississippi River falls firmly into that category. This was as close as I could get. I painted from the pedestrian bridge to Mud Island. You can still see the bridge and the exit signs for downtown, and I do like the addition of the Pyramid.
Below is one of today's paintings. "Volunteering" is another section of the City Guide, and MIFA is my favorite organization in Memphis. They do meals on wheels, emergency services and housing, senior ombudsmen, a handyman program, and other services too multitudinous to count, for a city that needs as much help as it can get. I set up this morning in the parking lot to get the meals volunteers loading coolers into their cars.