I've been having a bit of a spring break. After my birthday weekend in Cincinnati, I spent much of the week doing spring cleaning ahead of five house guests and the annual late night swing party I give in conjunction with the Memphis contra dance festival.
It was such fun to have a house full of both old and new friends, as well as having both sisters and other great folks in town for the weekend.
Now I'm back in Cincinnati for their annual dance weekend, one I try always to go to. There are always lots of old friends here, since I went to college nearby.
I got in town a night early and went out to hear some music last night. Ricky Nye, a great jazz and boogie woogie piano player, was joined by a lovely vocalist and a trumpet player at Arnold's downtown, just across the street from Ohio Books, my happy place. We were there for the full two hours, just having a laid back time and listening to the music. I love sketching musicians and had fun doing this one drawing during the course of the evening.
Next up, dancing all weekend!
Almost every year at the end of March I go to a dance weekend in Cincinnati and get there early for a pilgrimage to the Ohio Book Store. It's a five story second hand bookstore with a bindery in the basement. Amazingly cool.
This year I went up to spend my birthday there, so I managed a whole, deliciously slow afternoon crawling through Ohio Books, and I ended up with a lovely stack of books as my birthday present to myself. I didn't manage a tour of the bindery, though, so maybe I can take some photos there in a couple of weeks, when I'll be back for the dance. They have a bunch of machines that are cousins to my beautiful Chandler and Price 1909 press.
For my actual birthday, I had chicken and waffles for lunch at a Belgian place (surprisingly delicious) and visited the Cincinnati Art Museum. I had never been, and they have a marvelous collection -- a gorgeous late Van Gogh, a Georgia O'Keefe, a couple of lovely George Inneses, a delightful Rubens preparatory oil sketch (I love his sketches best of all), an El Greco, several Corots and Courbets, a Manet, and four lovely Tiffany windows. Among many other beautiful things. I was really impressed.
The Urban Sketchers have been a good influence on me about keeping a sketch pad with me at all times. I'm not 100%, but a little 3x5" one lives in my purse, so I did a couple of fountain pen wash sketches as I went through the museum. It always helps me remember something if I look at it long enough to draw it. I loved the Medieval painted statue of St. Anthony Abbot clutching his fat book.
My day ended with Parisian-like patisseries from the Findlay Market, which brought back happy memories of my travels last year.
The downside of printmaking for me is the added technicality. I love making images, but prints are more complicated than just brushing paint on canvas. I still struggle some with registration issues and occasional press maintenance, but sharpening my gouges is the hardest ongoing issue for me.
I'm incredibly lucky to be friends with John Kraus, a toolmaker, fiddler, and all around great guy. John teaches tool making at Country Workshops and John C. Campbell Folk School, among others. Once a year or so he's kind enough to put a fresh edge on my gouges that I then gradually fail to maintain until I need help again the next year.
This year he not only sharpened everything for me (photo above), but he tempered a couple of the blades that were too hard to sharpen well (below).
John's partner is Nancy Darrell, a fellow printmaker with a background in pottery. I got my Line-O-Scribe proof press from her a couple of years ago (which has changed my life), and we have a great time comparing work and talking shop.
This trip we also went out and sketched together, painting by the pond on the Countey Workshops campus next door. I did a couple of quick watercolors and enjoyed just sitting in the sunshine a while.
Afterwards I got to play music with John, and Nancy had been kind enough to invite Drew and Louise Langsner over from next door at CW, so we had a lovely dinner with all my friends up there at once. That pair of farms is a real haven for me, thanks to kind friends and a beautiful landscape. I feel lucky to be a regular visitor.
I'm doing one print a month for the First Presbyterian Church in Holley, NY. They are my longest running church patrons, and I love working with their minister Tom Gardner. For much of this year, I will create an "I am" statement for each month. This fall we'll continue the harvest series I began for them last year.
I'm playing with the positive/negative lettering for this series, which requires a fair amount of concentration, but thankfully I didn't make such a mistake on this one that I had to start over, like I did with the first one. Perhaps I'm getting into a groove with it.
I did forget that my proof press was full of type from another project, so I had to do the first proof the old fashioned way, by rubbing on the back of the paper with a flat wooden spoon. I did about three years' worth of prints like that, and it's a good reminder how fortunate I am to have a press now.
We currently have an ice storm in Memphis, so I'm still dreaming about being in Florida last week.
My sister and I visited our friend Heidi, who has moved to Tampa to be the animal nutritionist at Busch Gardens. (I'm pretty sure that's not her real title.) Heidi has bought an utterly charming house just across the road from this small park and river. It was peaceful hanging out at her place for a couple of days, and I loved lounging around in a tank top and bare feet.
I walked over to the park to do Heidi a watercolor of her river as a hostess present. (It was pretty cloudy for picture taking, so there's a bigger discrepancy than usual between the photo and the watercolor.)
I got in some great sister time with Marian, both at Heidi's, with her people climbing cat, and at the dance up in Gainesville. The blue lights were for the Saturday night black and white ball. We also saw our "Florida tribe", some of our extra sisters, and had great playtime with them.
I even got to hang out with my very favorite band, the Latter Day Lizards. We ate BBQ for lunch....
.....then Stuart Kinney, the bass and banjo player I want to be when I grow up, took me thrifting in his host's convertible. I'd never ridden in a convertible before. It was the perfect Florida weekend. BBQ and thrift stores are the normal activities with these guys, but the gorgeous weather made it especially sweet this time. Not to mention the black and white dress I found just in time for the dance. A great weekend away.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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