Our fearless founder Elizabeth Alley was away this Saturday, so I was the official greeter for the Urban Sketchers meeting at the Peabody. Thanks to a recent newspaper article about the group, there was a huge crowd of mostly first-timers. By my count, we had at least ELEVEN TIMES the number of people (21 instead of 2) we had last time I facilitated (in 99 degree heat at Overton Park), so I'm calling the morning a howling success.
It is always great fun to get to talk shop with other artists -- we compared our travel art kits, our work habits, and our goals, and I think everyone enjoyed the chance to meet other people with the same interests. Lots of people lingered to chat a good while after the ceremonial duck march and the comparing of sketches. The duck master even came over to meet us and welcome our group to the hotel.
Photos from our outing:
One of the great privileges of being an artist is being able to preserve a special or beautiful moment in time and share it with others. I was painting the other day when the moon rose above a line of fir trees. I did the above watercolor sketch quite quickly, before moving on my next planned, much more detailed work.
The scene stayed with me, as several moon rises through the years have done, and on Saturday, I sat down and did a small carved block from it. Yesterday, I ran the block on the letterpress for new note-cards.
Most of the cards look like the one above, but instead of mixing the ink on a palette, I added the green and blue separately on the ink disc itself, so the first several (before it got mixed thoroughly by the rollers) have a more tie-dyed appearance (called a "rainbow roll" in printmaking). It's more subtle than the tree I did in yellow and blue (mostly because of the darker colors involved), but it's there.
The light and dark contrast of a single color block really changed the feel of the image away from the lightness and color of the original watercolor. I'm now working on a three color block that would let me get a little more of the original feel in a print. This scene hasn't quite let me go yet.
I had a standing morning obligation last week cancel, and the timing was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, so I headed to Dixon Gallery and Gardens. I started in the garden and painted first. I've been enjoying exploring their statuary in its natural surroundings -- a nice contrast between nature and man-made.
Then I headed inside to see the new Rembrandt to Rubens exhibit. As is always the case with smaller museum collections, there was a great deal of up and down in the quality, but the Speed has some lovely pieces that are visiting us just now. Aside from the stunning Rembrandt and Rubens of the title, they have an exquisite Pieter Claesz breakfast still life. Claesz is one of my favorites of the Dutch painters, a fondness dating back to my college art history classes, where I fell in love with the still life genre in general. There was also a quite lovely Van Ruisdel landscape. The Dutch pieces were definitely my favorites in the exhibit, but it's an interesting show and well worth seeing.
I hadn't painted at the local botanic gardens until yesterday. I started at Dixon (I wanted to see their new exhibit as well as paint), but after lunch I moved across the street. There aren't as many formal gardens as I had hoped (the Missouri Botanic Gardens blew me away last summer with their rich assortment of garden areas), but I did like the above view.
Just as I was finishing, I noticed the moon rising above the line of evergreens and did a very quick watercolor sketch.
The very coolest thing about Memphis' garden is the newish playground. Tree houses, sculptures, and play areas were all designed by local artists, and it is a charming and whimsical place. I did one watercolor of my favorite of the the tree houses.
By this time, it was late afternoon, and I'd been outdoors painting almost all day (with a short lunch break to see the paintings at Dixon). It was a wonderful way to spend a blessedly warm February day.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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