I've got a call with the curator at WAMA tomorrow to have a look at where I am for my 2022 show there, so I've been trying to finish or at least proof all the prints I've had sitting around in various stages of completion. I had printed all the backgrounds for this set back in the fall, and I had all the birds carved, but I hadn't finished the printing until today. It's fun to see them all together. I'm mostly doing landscapes for WAMA, so we'll see if these make the cut or not, but I really like them as a set. I'll try to get better photos of them with good light. I haven't been charging over to Kinko's to scan the bigger things in with the pandemic raging.
This sketch got lost in the flood of Christmas commissions, and I wanted to scan it in and post it. I'd been doing a ton of forest sketches last fall, and on one gorgeous, sunny day I felt the pull of something different. I walked over to the park and sketched the Brooks Museum. I love these statues and the shadows on the white building plus the color blocks of the sign. It was fun to do something different and remember a time when I felt safe going to museums and standing in rooms full of art.
On a sunny, windy day I took Mr. Darcy out to the country for a Christmas treat. I took my Inktense pencils that I'm still having a ball playing with. We had a great walk, and I found a few strategically sheltered spots to be able to sketch without my pages blowing backwards. I still love pen and watercolor best, but I really am having fun playing with the textures of the water soluble pencils. Unlike watercolor pencils, they have really rich and saturated colors. The greens are lacking, though, so I added green washes from my watercolor kit as I worked, as well as some smooth blue sky.
I’m excited to be refocusing on my prints in January after the bustle of holiday commissions. My show at WAMA will hang one year from now, and I’m glad to have something happy and positive to work towards through this dark winter. I’m hoping there can be a party to celebrate by then, since it will be a huge moment in my career. This one is moving slowly. I’d set it aside back in the summer, unsure how I felt about it. I’ve been thinning it out and balancing it while working SLOWLY on the trees, and today I wanted to see where I was with it, even though there are still trees to go. I have sunshine on my east facing work table in the mornings to help me see the delicate edges and bits of cutting. In the afternoons (for winter warmth, anyway), I take a walk. I took a couple of days of pure vacation, then I started easing back into sorting through prints and getting my head back in this work, but I’m still giving myself some time off in the afternoon to recover from December. Afternoons are also good for printing, since I don’t need the super bright light. So this is what January will look like for me, and I could do a lot worse.
I had more of a last minute holiday crush than I had anticipated, but I’m giving myself a few days of vacation now to regroup before diving back into prints for my WAMA show a year from now. I’ve got good ideas and am looking forward to it, but a few days of doing very little will get help me find that energy again. I’ve started a new, simple, meditative knitting project and am listening to library books on tape. If I get super ambitious, I’ll play my banjo and get back to my quilt. But only if I really feel like it.
Here’s to a new year, and some knitting cosiness for the dark winter that we’ll still have to make it through before the spring. All the best to all of you. Thank you for following along here. It really means a lot.
I find it very easy, like the rest of the world, to pull out my phone reflexively when I'm waiting for something. But when I have enough bandwidth, I also enjoy sketching, and I always feel better afterwards when I've made that choice. I sat outside the vet for a while earlier in the month and played with my new Inktense watercolor pencils. It's fun to be able to get texture, line, and wash all at once. I added a little ink in the lines, and the sky is also blue ink from a brush pen.
Some time later, I waited at Muddy's to pick up my Christmas order, along with about half of Memphis. They had an efficient system going, and I was grateful for the chance to have something special to perk up an otherwise gloomy holiday season, so I didn't mind. It was barely raining, but with both bits of rain and constant edging forward while standing up, I kept things super simple and just used my fountain pen to do several quick sketches from different places along the line.
For anyone in Memphis, I tried the take and bake biscuits as well as the quiche for the first time, and I am strongly looking forward to more biscuits in the new year. The line should vanish with a bigger window of time for pick ups and not everyone doing it all at once. I'm so grateful to Muddy's for making this year a little more cheerful.
One of the crazy fun things about having artwork at Dixon Gallery and Gardens is being able to go out and do a tour on various afternoons. For me, as an artist who works mostly at home in solitude, it’s great fun to get to dress up, go out in public, and talk about art, ideas, and where my work comes from. I love getting to answer questions and see folks interacting with my work. This year, of course, things are different, but Linley Schmidt taped me (outdoors in the cold, bless her, because I didn’t want to take off my mask indoors, and I’m terribly muffled talking with it on) in the gardens and shared this video for a virtual “tour.” It’s a little harder to just wind up and go without questions or feedback, but fortunately talking is one of my comfortable places. And I do really love the chance to have to put into words the less formed ideas floating around in my brain while I’m working. It pushes me and clarifies my own thinking. Being in this show is a huge honor, and I enjoyed getting to draw the through lines from the St. John’s gospel back through the history of marrying art and text.
There was a huge stack of boxes as I stepped out to get my paper this morning. No warning, no email, but I’ll totally take it! I’m signing this morning and getting a batch of them off to Burkes. I’m also selling them on my website at https://martha-kelly-art.square.site/
The signing includes me doing a small sketch in the front of each book. I’m celebrating the fact that I have a book to sign, and I want to make it special for everyone. If you’re local, you can pick them up from me as well. Just holler. And thanks to everyone for their excitement and support about this. It’s been a great journey.
I’ve actually lost track of how many house portraits and other commissions I’ve done this season. It’s been lovely that folks want to give art, since none of my shows happened this year, and it means a lot to help people make this year stand out. I love getting to memorialize special places for folks. Over the years I’ve done houses people live in, houses from their childhoods, vacation houses, houses they’re letting go of to downsize, spots where they had first dates or got married or more wild places outdoors that mean a lot to them. It’s an honor to get to help people mark their transitions or celebrate milestones. One person teared up picking a painting up recently. I love that art can mean so much to people.
I’ve been really quiet lately online since I can’t actually show any of these commissions. They’re all surprise paintings for the holidays, but here are a few close ups that won’t be enough to tip anyone off. I’ve got one more to do, and then I’m going to take a week’s vacation or so. Which may mean that I start making the art that’s been in my head lately that I haven’t had time to get to, but that’s always part of my celebration after a show or a holiday season. I’ll also be reading some of the books I’ve been buying from Burkes, my favorite local bookstore. They have a curbside service, and they’re close enough to bike to on nice days, which makes a lovely outing. I have new yarn for a new project, an ongoing quilt, and a good dog who sleeps on my feet on the sofa. So I’ll be taking it a little easier and having a quiet, cosy holiday. I hope all of you have good ways to celebrate this year in spite of all the craziness. Be kind to yourselves and spread it around a little as you can. I figure some recharging on the couch with give me a little more bandwidth to do some of that myself.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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