I've been quiet here lately as I frantically get ready for a month in France. One of my wonderful new sisters set me up to pet sit for three weeks with a friend of hers in Paris, and I'll spend one more week traveling the countryside somewhere. I leave this morning, and I've got copious sketch books packed, along with watercolor and pen and ink. I've never been to France at all, and I'm thrilled to have this chance to see the art there, see the churches and gardens, and make some of my own art as well.
In the meantime, here's a watercolor I did this week at Dixon Gardens with the Memphis Urban Sketchers.
I did two house portraits on the same block this week. It's fun to be painting with the flowers out, and it's good to have sunlight to paint in again. I also enjoyed working for friends who know both me and each other. It felt neighborly.
Below is the first house portrait I've done that included people. My recent wedding sketches gave me the confidence to say yes when Rosemary asked. She and Sasha are leaving the house they love for a different school district, and it was special to be able to help them make a keepsake of a place they had been very happy.
Huey's on a Sunday afternoon with a great band playing is one of my happy places. Less happy now that Di Anne Price is sick. She was my favorite to come out and hear, but two of her "boyfriends" played this past Sunday with the Mighty Souls Brass Band. (Click here for their website.) They're a recent band (I heard them for the first time in the fall), and they include a number of my very favorite musicians in Memphis. They totally rocked the joint at Huey's. And it was lovely to be there with longtime friends and see other friends and neighbors I care about. I love that there's great music within walking distance of my house on a regular basis and in the afternoon, instead of crazy late at night. The fact that I can get a great burger and have a glass of wine at the same time is icing on the cake.
Above are Sean Murphy on sousaphone, Tom Lonardo on drums (I was sad I didn't do better justice to him -- he's a great guy and totally cool looking as he plays), Jim Spake on sax, Jeremy Shrader on trumpet, someone I didn't know at all on trombone, and Victor on trombone as well. Victor and Jeremy also play for the Bluff City Backsliders, another one of my very favorite bands. I've seen Sean play (and sketched him) in several different venues, including the first wedding I did sketches for. Jim and Tom are two of the three Boyfriends in Di Anne's band and longtime friends. It was a great afternoon.
Below are Jeremy and Tom.
I'm not sure if "landscape illustration" is a proper art term, but it's how I describe lots of what I do lately. This term for me includes house portraits, commissions of people's homes, but also paintings of businesses, hotels, or restaurants for use on websites or in brochures. I have really enjoyed branching out into this category.
The best ones for me involve either beautifully enticing travel (like my work in Cape May, NJ) or merely require me to stroll around the block with my chair, as was the case with the top painting. This house backs up to my block, and I love walking past it. It was fun to get the opportunity to paint it.
Sometimes commissions surprise me as well, once I get to the address in question. The house below belonged to friends of mine some years ago, and I used to babysit their daughter in this house. When I drove up to find the address on my assignment, it was fun to find an old friend to paint.
Last night was the Gala for the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. It was my dad's first date (more or less -- it's hard to completely define these things after decades of friendship) with his new bride, also known as my former favorite English teacher and theater buddy. I could not be more delighted and went with them to celebrate.
Here are a couple of sketches from the auction portion of the evening. I'm glad to always have a sketchpad in my purse these days.
I think Donizetti is my favorite opera composer. I know that Lucia de Lammermore is my very favorite opera, and I've also enjoyed the recent Donizetti comedies Opera Memphis has put on. Last night was a performance of Elixir of Love, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They set it as a western in a frontier town, and here's the sketch of the set I did before the curtain and during the interval. It's fun to do a little drawing at a live performance, although GPAC (the theis darker than the Orpheum, so I didn't sketch during the opera itself this time around.
I've been involved in the volunteer organization Park Friends for some years now. It's focused on preserving and maintaining the large park (Memphis' version of Central Park) near my home. Occasionally projects sap my art time for a while (usually fighting some major threat to the park, like the city plan a few years ago to dig up the picnic field for a storm water retention basin), but it's been quieter lately, and helping out always feels like a great cause, since the park is where I walk daily and paint often. It's my closest sanctuary place, and the most important, since I can be there in a lovely three block stroll.
Recently a small group of folks donated a number of new trees to the park. It started as a small-scale project, but a number of factors (a nursery closing and giving us good deals on trees as well as donated work by landscape designer Tom Pellett, also an Urban Sketcher) made the project blossom. We ended up adding 300 new trees to the park and another 100 shrubs. You can see me above helping to plant a bottle brush buckeye with my new nephew Max. Tom is standing just behind us.
Today was the celebration for the new trees, and it was a joy to walk over past many of them to drink a little champagne.
I decided that the best possible way to mark the celebration would be to sketch a tree there in the park, so I did this drawing of an old magnolia I've been admiring and meaning to paint for some time.
I'm looking forward to walking in the park for many years, visiting the new trees, watching them grow, and painting them as they grow into mature and lovely creatures.
I keep mentioning it, but the Memphis Urban Sketchers have changed my life. Several people in there are never without a sketchbook, and I'm trying to emulate that. This is from my tiny one (3x5", I think) that fits in my pretty small purse. I also learned this sketching technique from the Memphis group recently -- just a fountain pen and a water brush for washes. It's a very nifty, streamlined kit to carry around with me, unlike my usual bulky backpack of supplies. And I love being able to pull out a sketchbook wherever I am. Hopefully I can keep this up.
It was another beautiful day in Memphis, and by the time I got home from church, I grabbed my sketchbook and headed to Overton Park to draw my favorite tree. Again. Before lunch. This is the view from my favorite picnic table, where I also sit and play banjo if the weather is warm enough.
I went back later in the afternoon to do two more tree studies. I'm still having fun playing with the fountain pen/wash technique. I should have been doing printmaking or painting, but it was the Sabbath, so I gave myself permission to take a nap and make the art I wanted to instead of working on things due.
Above is a sycamore that rises up over Rainbow Lake, and below is a tree with mistletoe. My other favorite picnic table is below it.