I finished printing the first batch of "Midnight" this morning. The print is based on a journal sketch I did of Amanda Parer's art installation Intrude at the Brooks Museum in Memphis. I did a number of color tests on this one and ended up with a lighter sky and paper. I had thought that perhaps a darker gray would be nice, but it didn't pop as much.
I was completely enchanted with this lit up installation. I have a major illustration project in house right now for the national Presbyterian Church, and I have a show to hang March 1, and all my brain can think is "BUNNIES!! I want to make art about BUNNIES." You can see that I caved. Sometimes you just have to go with what's calling your name at that moment.
Here are the color tests I did.
And here is the original sketch.
I am so enjoying the Intrude exhibition at Brooks by Amanda Parer. It delights me. Mr. Darcy and I stopped to sketch again yesterday on our way home from the forest. I like the nocturne better, but it was fun to do this one as well.
For some serious happiness, treat yourself to two minutes of Bard Cole's marvelous video of the bunnies, beautifully edited and set to music. He caught me there sketching, but of course Mr. Darcy is the real star of that small clip. Thanks to WKNO for putting this out.
I did a whole show of river paintings some years ago and largely haven't revisited it since. But the river is where you can truly see the sky in Memphis, and skies are fun in oils, and a photographer visiting Memphis got me back down there to sketch. I started this oil this morning, and it will get some cloud work and a second layer after this layer dries.
I'm planning to do a few small river oils for the self portrait show. The show is a wide definition of self portraiture with still lifes and dog/banjo paintings as well as ones of me. The show began as a "woman alone in a large world" series, but it took a turn along the way. Jude Dippold wrote a poem about the first self portrait I did, against the large window in Paris, and I'd like to use several of his poems about me as one lens to see myself in this show. He's also written two with the Mississippi River in them, and I think a few river paintings would complement them nicely. Here is one poem I plan to include in the show.
The last light of a winter's afternoon
glimmers on the hills
above the Skagit.
I hold to that amber glow
with thoughts of blankets
warmed through the night
and the promise
of the sun circling back
over the Mississippi
Below is the journal sketching working from that I did while we were down at the river last week. I can never catch the sunset the way it looks, but I was pleased with the sketch as a thing in itself after the fact.
Here are a few quick sketches from my week. My favorite is the installation of enormous, inflatable bunnies at the Brooks Museum of Art. It's an installation about invasives and the damage they do by Australian artist Amanda Parer, but she admits it's also winsome, and the child in me is utterly delighted. I was also excited to do such an interesting nocturne piece, and I'll have to go back and do more before they depart Memphis.
There was also cake in my immediate past (Muddy's Bake Shop, my favorite), and a trip to the Metal Museum. It's been a lovely week.
I ran some new business cards today, using my small cut of the Ceres statue at Dixon Gallery and Gardens, since I'll have a piece in their group show there from now till April. Jude Dippold is visiting and took some video of me running my lovely old Chandler and Price Old Style. You can see the treadle action in the video (and, very authentically, hear the baseball podcast I'm listening to as I work -- I thought he was taking still instead of a video). He nicely waited out a batch of swearing to get a clean one. I was having trouble with lighter than usual paper sticking to the ink and gumming up inside my rollers. My paper supply place went out of business last year, and I haven't found a good replacement yet. So I still look a bit tentative in this clip. I finally got a rhythm going later, but it took me longer than usual to settle in for this run.
Jude also got a couple of photos of me working the day before, typesetting the card and laying out the paper placement in the press. You can see more of his photos (usually landscapes, and quite stunning ones at that) on his tumblr blog. He's got some fun Memphis shots up at the moment from his time here.
I dropped my phlox print off yesterday for an exhibition at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. They're having a retrospective show for artists who have exhibited in the Mallory/Wurtzburger gallery there. I am delighted to have work hanging in that museum again. The opening is this Thursday, January 19, from 6-8pm with music and food. The show will be up through April 9 to complement a show of current American art by the Crystal Bridges museum.
I have news! The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., is redoing its Book of Common Worship, which they do every 25 or 30 years, and they have asked me to illustrate it. I am beyond delighted. I've done some illustration work for a couple of different publications for them in the past, but it was always journals or a year long study guide (for the Book of Revelation -- my first ever illustration job, and I dived into the deep end). Nothing that would be in print for a long time. I've been hoping recently to get to do more illustrations, and I am so excited to be offered this opportunity to work with Westminster John Knox Press. I'll be creating about 15 two color block prints, a cover plus a frontpiece for each main section of the book. The work will be due in June, so along with my March show I'll be having a busy spring, but I love having meaningful work to do, so that will be just marvelous.
(The print at the top is an older one of a church in Athens, but it seemed appropriate for this post.)
The river is always the most stunning thing about Memphis to show out of town visitors, so I headed there for a spectacular sunset with my house guest. It was a stunning evening and changed quickly, but I did one quick sketch during one of the permutations. I loved the bridge leading across the water into the setting sun.
S0ulfish for some great catfish (and sweet potato fries with remoulade) is also always a winner. They've expanded recently and doubled their size. I hadn't been since the remodeling was complete. I loved the funkiness of the old place, but it is nice to have plenty of tables for the popular spot. We didn't have to wait. And the silver fish on the wall are pretty cool, even though I miss the "EATS" sign.
Here is my sketch from the same painting that I did in the exhibition 13 years ago.
I've been so enjoying oils again lately. I almost stopped doing them eight years ago when I fell in love with prints. I seem to do things in spurts, focusing in for a while, and now I seem to be back to oils again. They're much faster than the intricate prints I had been doing, so it's fun to be able to push out a whole series of the images bouncing around in my brain in (comparatively) short order. The bigger ones, the full self portraits I've been doing, take longer, but these small ones (they're all in the 8" range) go pretty quickly. I come back and work more the second day once they've dried and I've thought about them a while, but SO much faster than prints. And since I have a show looming for March and a bunch of images that built up in my head through the Christmas show season, when I really couldn't tend to them, it's lovely to have a faster medium speaking to me at the moment.
These top two are from years past in Paris. I've pulled out my sketch journals to find see what images might be a good fit with my upcoming self portrait show. I've sketched my feet in various spots that are important to me for years. Having my feet on much loved ground is key to me as a landscape painter, and I both experience and celebrate meaningful things in my life by drawing them. So I drew myself in Paris.
Another meaningful part of my life is Mr. Darcy. And music. So here are two small self portraits that combine those two loves. I spend many evenings with Mr. Darcy and my banjo. I'm trying to push the envelope on what "self portrait" entails for the show, so I'll have some nice variety. I also think it will lend a full picture of my life.
The Hotel piece is finished. All of these others are in various stages of putting a bunch of color down (early) and tweaking (afterwards). I'm still monkeying around a bit with the other three.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get occasional studio email updates.