I'm still working pretty hard on the graphic essay, but I did a few sketches while waiting for the copy edits to come back. One of my favorite treats is a chocolate croissant from Lucy J's, so I drew out the enjoyment by sketching it. I also took a little time with the wildflowers in the Old Forest. The watercolor crayons overall were a little too candy bright for them, but it was fun to sit and sketch in the woods.
I put Henry in daycare today and did a twofer on local museums. I needed one really quiet day after getting in my final draft for the graphic essay, but then I was wanting to get out and see some great art, and we have wonderful shows up in Memphis right now.
The first was Harmonia Rosales at Brooks. Her show plays off of a lot of "Old Master" paintings and reimagines them to include heroines and mythologies rooted in West Africa. It is magic. I love painters with a strong sense of art history, and her cracking open those tropes to make room for the rest of the world is infectious and beautiful. She uses the gold of the Medieval icons and pairs it with the exuberant abundance of the Baroque, and she has a strong series of visual motifs that are meaningful and personal to her as a painter. It's a remarkable show.
I ran to the grocery and home for a sit down/have tea kind of lunch, and a bit after I went to Dixon. I love their show of American paintings. I've been three times now and have more pieces I want to go sketch, but today I worked from a huge landscape by Thomas Hill. I used watercolor crayons and inktense pencils since it's only dry media in the local museums. (I added paint to the Rosales copy when I got home while it was fresh -- I wanted that real golden feel to it.). That's limiting on colors and especially on skies, but it's so instructive to look at a painting long enough to replicate it and figure out how the artist made certain effects work.
The rain was holding off, and my favorite statue Ceres was surrounded by yellow daffodils and red tulips, so I did one more quick sketch before leaving. I love the graphic essay project, and it's wonderful to have someone want to publish you, but it's also fun to go make art purely for the joy of it on a day off. A perfect break.
Y'all, I'm so excited. I've been head down working on this for six weeks or so. And it was amazing to be asked to do this. I had sent them my Greensward essay a couple of years ago, which found a quick home at Memphis Magazine, bless them. Then in late January, one of their newer editors was going back through old submissions, said she loved my style, and asked if I had any more stories to tell.
I've done over 30 sketches since we got a general direction in mid-February, and it's just about to go off to the copy editor and layout folks for approval. The last step will be for me to hand letter all the text to fit into the correct spaces, but I'm ahead of a pretty tight deadline. It's so good to know I can work this quickly when I need to. I'm still struggling with long Covid fatigue, and this has been the just the right project for this spring. It's all small enough to do sitting down and even in my lap on the sofa, but it's new and exciting and something to look forward to. So perfect.
...But this one a good friend's. My friend Melissa Bridgman, potter extraordinaire, and I share a birthday week. Last year she came down to my WAMA opening and celebrated with me there. So perfect. This year she brought me a beautiful plate. She has made urns for my two most recent dogs, which means so much. She lost a dog recently and has a new puppy, and after all her kindness when I lose dogs, I decided to do three small sketches of Ajax (now gone), Buddy, and the new puppy Sissy. It was such fun to go through her facebook dog photos and do these small, quick sketches.
and look at paintings I might otherwise have passed by, and I was so glad she could join me on the spur of the moment. I stayed behind to sketch a Grant Wood still life that I've fallen in love with. So unexpected from an artist I mostly know as the American Gothic dude. I love the curve and rich shadows behind the arrangement and the way the flowers reach right out of the frame. I could only use dry media (pencils and watercolor crayons without the water), but I had fun looking at it deeply enough to draw it even if I didn't quite match the lovely colors. (The photo also fails to do them justice.) I want to go back and sketch several more in this show as well.
Henry came home exhausted, as did I, so we snuggled into a fuzzy blanket and watched British tv and chatted with friends on the phone and knitted. A lovely birthday.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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