I'm still really enjoying doing some colorful, quick sketches as I adjust to the new world normal. I also turned off the news today and caught up on my favorite writers podcast #AmWriting. It's three friends talking about the self directed creative life (including lots of nuts and bolts advice that transfers over to lots of creatives, not just writers), and it's warm, funny, and super informative. I've learned a ton over the last few years. Last week's episode was on websites, and it made me consider how mine looks on a mobile phone. Fortunately my Weebly platform converts itself to mobile. I love having a site I can control, update, and expand without knowing coding. But I hadn't considered the question of which information rises to the top as my two columns on the main site merge into one. Now I've got that fixed for better information sooner.
In the process, I scanned in my recent sketches. I've been mostly just snapping iphone photos and throwing them up lately, but boy howdy, are they nicer when I take the time to scan them in. So here are the next installments of the Quarantine Journal, and I decided to give it its own page as well. They'll pop up here first, but there will be an in order narrative on the QJ page.
One of my important preparations for staying home a while was to stock up on sketchbooks. I was out of two different kinds of bigger ones, and I also wanted to support The Art Center, a fantastic local art supply store that is central to my life. I’m still really excited about my WAMA exhibition (and very grateful it’s scheduled for two years out with the way the world is going!), but I’m also having trouble focusing on that work. I’ve been working on my first large sized print (18x24”, my biggest ever), and it’s incredibly complex. My brain hurts, and I have been reluctant, in a way that is not at all normal for me, to sit down and carve. Art is usually a haven for me, and I’m remarkably lucky that my daily life is largely intact — I work at home and live with a great dog in a stable, welcoming space. I can still take walks and bike rides in the park and holler at friends from a safe distance. I’m remarkably lucky, but even so I’m struggling to digest the way the world has turned on a dime in the period of a week or two.
So yesterday, after a little work on the block, I decided to pull back and make cheerful art. My sister started the semester in a drawing class, which we’ve had fun talking about over the last few months. I haven’t sketched with waterproof ink in a long time, but I was recommending she try some pen sketches with washes of color. This is how I started in watercolor, but then I got more serious about the paint and minimized my lines to either more subtle fountain pen ink, that melds with the paint, or pencil. I decided it was time to play a little more and do some colorful, cheerful sketches of my daily life during these times.
Urban sketchers, known for sitting out on the sidewalk and doing “reportage drawing” from life, has a new hashtag. #uskathome. Sketchers around the world are shut in their homes and having to find new subjects, drawn from their daily lives. It’s been fascinating to watch these glimpses of quarantine around the world. I should still be able to sketch in the park some, though I’ll definitely be moving further off the trails before settling down. Not everyone is keeping the distance that I feel is safe, and when you’re sitting down with your art supplies spread out, you’re a bit of a sitting duck for what the world sends. I’ve known that for years. It’s usually wonderful to have unexpected conversations, but there are also predatory men who take advantage of the situation. This is a whole different level of threat, so I’ll be careful. But I also want to just document my days and how I’m spending them. Here are the first three drawings in my new journal. They helped. I felt tremendously better going to bed after sketching in the evening.
Boy howdy, y’all. The world changed fast. So I’m hunkering down to make art and am feeling continually grateful for my WAMA show to work towards. It gives me something positive and productive to focus on and it also means that I’m in a hunker down and make art period anyway instead of a cancelling shows period. I’m deeply lucky to be in the haven of a family house with a fantastic dog and a beautiful forest nearby to walk in. There’s enough space there for people to spread out. Watching my friends in the denser cities in Europe I feel very lucky indeed.
I’m also grateful that I’ve spent time over recent months trying to make my home the place I really want it to be. I had my birthday in mind as a deadline. I’ve lived in this house 25 years and have just lived with many inherited, not ideal things. Like the wallpaper in my bedroom. I decided I wanted to change it now so I can enjoy the next 25 years instead of waiting until I have to move. There are a couple of things on the list that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I have painted my bedroom, cleaned various spaces, framed and hung artwork that has been sitting around waiting for me to get to it, and bought a few things that make me really happy, like a stained glass panel for my landing window. My house feels really good to be in now, and I’m grateful to my friends who are wizards at creating warm, welcoming spaces for inspiring me to finally move in this direction.
Yesterday before dinner I sketched my birthday flowers from my dear friend Melissa Bridgman (bridgmanpottery.com). She so kindly left them by my side door, and I love being able to capture them to keep them forever in my sketchbook. Looking back through the years there are other birthday bouquets from her as well. Such kindness.
I’ve been working on my first large block (18x24”) for the new press, and it’s been going incredibly slowly. I’ve also been a little under the weather, so sketching has been sparse lately, but here are a few. They postponed baseball today, so I took to the forest with Mr. Darcy to draw. Always a good option, no matter what is going on, and I needed to clear my head.
A couple of nights ago I got super tired of my own cooking, and I headed to Huey’s. It’s One Week, 100 People on Instagram, and I’m home by myself too much to make any headway, but I did go do a token couple of pages. I got in 12 on this page and another few close up sketches in another book, but I won’t be getting close at all this year.
This last one is older — a couple of weeks ago. It was a gorgeous day, and I took my bike out the green line and had lunch at the park at the edge of town. There’s a bench by a small lake that always has ducks (and occasionally buffalo hanging around behind a fence too...don’t ask), and it’s my favorite long bike ride destination. The flowering trees are going like crazy right now, which always makes me happy.
Y'all!! Huge news! I'm going to have a solo exhibition at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art! Anderson is one of my main art heroes, and his museum is holy ground for me. I've been visiting for years just to drink in his work. I've been lobbying for this since last spring (and the curator Mattie Codling has kindly continued to look at the work I've been sending), and I finally got the ok. I've been longing for a substantive show to work towards again. The best work I do is for a specific place with a theme that resonates, and when I have time to create from scratch for a show. This show will be January to August 2022, so two years from right now. I'm delighted to have time to make my best work for it, and I'm also glad not to have it flash past too quickly in a stressful rush.
Mattie put me tentatively on the schedule at the end of January, but I had to wait for committee approval to be able to announce it. Four days after talking to her, I found the new press. It will greatly expand the size of the prints I'm able to do, and all of this coming together just felt meant to be. You can see below my old print bed with my maximum sized old print sitting in the new press bed, for comparison. I'm thrilled to be able to grow just as I work for this deeply special exhibition.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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