I'm continuing to try to have a sketchbook with me at (almost) all times and to use small bits of time to do quick sketches. Above is one from Cafe Eclectic, when I got there a few minutes early for lunch with my friend Meghan.
Below are two recent theater outings. Opera Memphis recently put on Hansel and Gretel, with sets designed by marvelous Memphis artist Michelle Duckworth. Her fairy tale style is a perfect fit for set design, especially for a fairy tale opera. I love that Ned Canty, the newish head of Opera Memphis, is forging connections across art disciplines. He has added so much richness to the company.
Then last night Meghan and her husband Boris and I went to The Rocky Horror Show at Playhouse on the Square. The fabulous Jerre Dye was Frank-n-furter, and he totally rocked the show. It was marvelous. I was too busy enjoying it to sketch much, but I did do a quick one of one of the zombie theater ushers before the show started.
I am absolutely delighted to announce here that I will have a solo show at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens this fall. They are having a show of Southern Impressionism as their headline exhibition and have asked me to create a show of southern landscapes to harmonize with it. The show will hang from November 1, 2015 to January 3, 2016.
For non-Memphians, Dixon is one of two local art museums that not only has a lovely collection of its own but also headlines major shows. They just finished a large exhibition of Rodin sculptures and opened a British painting collection, which I can't wait to see. Being invited to have a show there is a career moment for me.
It's also beautiful timing. I had just been feeling that as much as I love traveling and painting in other beautiful spots that it is time for me to get back to my roots as a painter. I spent a number of years painting our lovely local landscape of rolling fields and spreading oaks and hoping to help people here see our own places with fresh and appreciative eyes.
My favorite painter is John Constable, who declined to do the grand tour to Italy and chose instead of paint his father's mill, his path to school, the places he lived later with his own family. I have read his biographies and a chunk of his letters (there are many), and his practice of painting outdoors (he influenced the French on that point), doing sky studies, and painting the landscape of his home have greatly influenced my own practices as a painter. He wrote, "Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate 'my careless boyhood' with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful."
My Dixon show will pay homage to Constable and be called "My Own Places." It will be prints and paintings that prominently feature my family's farm, where I first began painting, and Overton Park, where I walk daily and paint often. Above is the first print I've created, a view of the Old Forest in Overton Park from across the lake. It's too far out to know what exactly will be included in this show, but this is where I'm starting.
I'm trying my very first print on black paper. A friend with a great eye for art nudged me in that direction a while ago, wondering what a different block of mine would look like printed in white ink on black paper.
I didn't try that one, but the comment planted a seed, and I started this block soon after. This is only the first proof. I did some more refining this evening.
Below is the green block, printed first.
Then I had to carve the pattern block, which took a bit longer than I first thought. Sometimes the simpler designs leave more scope for pattern as you go, which can take longer than a more detailed drawing to start with.
I'm still trying to get the ink lightness just right on the dark paper. More proofs to come.
I've been enjoying the gorgeous weather by taking Mr. Darcy out to the country to sketch the last couple of days. Here are the first day's results.
And here's my boy keeping me company while I work. I do love having a buddy with me.
It was a gorgeous January afternoon --- sunny and mid 50's -- and my regular forest buddy got taken to the farm by my dad, so I decided to go down and sketch by the river instead. I wanted to try some new Tombow pens (above) and visit a tree my friend Matt Matthews had photographed (below). See his marvelous photo here.
I did a couple of very quick watercolor sketches with Stabilo pen as a base, and I did a marker sketch of a nifty driftwood sculpture I came across. Gorgeous day. Tomorrow I'm heading to the country to paint.
It was absurdly cold on Saturday morning, so the Memphis Urban Sketchers met indoors at the Arcade. Usually we scatter to paint, so it was fun to sit in a group, look at each others' sketch books, and (because I have to when I go there) eat sweet potato pancakes.
Mr. Darcy and I spend a number of evenings on the couch, with a book, journal, a little Downton Abbey, and usually a sketch book nearby. Here are sketches from the last couple of days.
The forest print stalled out a bit while I came down with the family epizudiac and did sit down work instead. But today I couldn't stand the suspense of what it will look like, so I did the standing up work of pulling the second block in the four proofs I have going (color tests on different papers). The second block is three colors, with three rollers to blend the colors on the block. My printmaking is getting more complex as I go along, but multiple colors also helps me keep the number of blocks needed at a minimum. This print will be three blocks total, which means three printings, instead of five or six if I did one for each color.
I started another print while I was doing sit down work. I flipped back through my travel sketchbooks from the year. I'd halfway forgotten about this moonrise watercolor from my September stay at Country Workshops. I thought at the time it would make a good print, but then I got distracted by further travels and shows. So it was good to get a start on this one as well. It will be two blocks, with grey cloud cover underneath this main one.
I'm working on a new print this week. It's a direct result of my carrying a sketch book more often. I was out doing errands one day, and it was warm and lovely, so I walked through the park on my way home and just saw this. I'm glad I had the materials with me to draw it.
I love all my travel painting, but I've been feeling that it's time to get back to painting my home that I love as well. I'm planning a landscape show for the fall that will be home scenes instead of travel ones.
Here's the first proof of the key block (the main design block).
This is what's a lesson in patience about printmaking. I've got all three blocks carved now, but I'll have to wait another two days to see what they all look like together. The ink needs drying time between layers. I just printed the first layer today. It's two shades of blue grey rolled together. The fall colors in the trees will go on next, and the key block in a darker grey will be last. Then I'll see what adjustments I have to make to my carving before I pull the finished prints, also in three stages. Printmaking is the antitheses of quick, immediate gratification watercolors.
New Year's Eve was cold but sunny, after a good bit of grey, so I took my sketch pad over on my daily walk to Overton Park. I want to do an oil of the scene above, mostly from a watercolor sketch I have, but I needed a little more information about the left hand side trees.
Then the sky was so lovely I just wanted to mark the last day of 2014 by doing a sketch of the magnolias I love at the edge of the Greensward. It's a dear place to me, and marking it with a sketch seemed right.
By then Mr. Darcy and I were quite cold, so we walked.
New Year's day was the third year in a row for a potluck jam with the group of musicians I play with most weeks. (Very informal -- just tunes in someone's back living room.) Playing music in a roomful of people I care about is a wonderful way to start the year. I'm grateful to Mike and Lisa for starting this tradition and welcoming us into their home.
I'm going to continue try to keep sketching more this year. That was the biggest change in my work in 2014, and it was a very enjoyable one. It has also carried over into my printmaking and painting, so I'd like to keep up my momentum.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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