Here is the first proof (on wrinkled-y newsprint, just to see how it is) of my companion tree for the recent one under the dome of the night sky. I’ll put this tree on the same background, and I may think of different backgrounds for both of them. I’m working towards my show at Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and I had a quote from Anderson in my head as I carved this one: "I took a long walk yesterday afternoon to the east and drew trees -- I like the wandering ones, not the absolute freaks but not just the ordinary healthy ones either." I feel exactly the same way, with a bulbous, burled tree at Overton Park being my absolute favorite one.
Speaking of that tree (in my P is for Possum book as well as in several prints), a friend of mine delighted me by telling me that her young grandson recognized that tree in the book as the same in a print on her wall. She told him it’s my favorite tree, and he’s now pondering what tree is HIS favorite. That is exactly the sort of nature excitement I hoped so spread with the book.
This tree, too, is a long time favorite. My family calls it the Hawk Tree, because hawks roosted there for a number of years. I’ve painted it repeatedly for the last 20 years. It’s good to have images that call to you in different ways across the years. I’ll clean this up a bit and then try it on the nocturne background.
I gave Mr. Darcy another farm treat after his latest treatment. I’d been thinking about this tree and wanting to draw it again. It’s one of the ones I always return to, and just afterwards, I got a four year old memory (second photo) of drawing it from Facebook. I’ve done one small print of it, but I’ve been working on a tree under night sky print, and I’d like a companion to that tree. So I drew this one again, and I started carving it this week. As I type, I realize that I haven’t shared that first tree print here. I’ve been in a spurt of printmaking work ahead of a call with the curator at WAMA to check on the state of my show. She’s delighted with the trees as well as the water prints I’ve been doing, and I feel really good about the direction I’m going now. That’s always a boost before a big show. But I’d been working to get prints far enough along to show her. Here’s the first one. The arch still needs a little smoothing out, but I’m overall really happy with it. This second tree will be in the same scale and will fit the same background, and then I might dream up some alternate backgrounds for them as well.
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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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