I so look forward to first Saturdays. It was our monthly urban sketching day, and we met at the botanic gardens to see what was in bloom. I'd been out fairly recently to paint the cherry trees lining their road, but I hadn't been inside in a few months. The rose garden (completely unplanted in February) was brimming with rosebushes, so I did the above piece -- though I was as much drawn by the shapes of the hedges and spaces as by the roses themselves, which are only in the background and at the side of this piece.
I did a second quick one of some foxgloves, but we were on a hard and fast schedule. They charged us the full $8 rate (no group rate, as they'd said they would have for us in advance), and they never once mentioned that there was an egg hunt that day, so we'd have to vacate at noon. They tried to throw several people out at 11:00, in fact, just an hour after we'd gotten there. You'd think the staff might have mentioned that small detail when we paid to get in. And my friends I invited for the first time weren't there at noon when we regrouped. I hope they didn't get thrown out. All in all, this was our least hospitable outing to date, even though the gardens looked nice with their blooms.
Last week I picked up this press from my friend Nancy Darrell in North Carolina. She upgraded and sold me her old Line-o-Scribe. Best $50 I ever spent!
I love my beautiful letterpress, but it has severe size limitations and is much more suited to small notecard-sized images than the 12" or so prints I tend to favor. Ironically, this much smaller and lighter press will do those easily. It's got a 14" bed, so my 14 1/2 x 16" standard paper just fits perfectly, and i can do much longer, taller things, just not wider than 14". I'm planning a couple of larger pieces in my head, now that I'm no longer having to print by rubbing (and rubbing...and rubbing) with a wooden spoon on the back of the paper. It's going to open up whole new worlds.
I tested the press with my largest type-high block, one I'd done for the letterpress when I first got it, before discovering this was too large and too dark for it to handle. It did just beautifully on the line-o-scribe. I can build up around the block (or around my larger wooden type for posters!) with "furniture", differently sized wooden strips that are lower than the block, so they won't get ink on them or print when the press rolls. I didn't have to use quoins for this -- just wedged thin strips into the wood to hold it steady. Since it all stays horizontal, it doesn't have to be as precise as my lock-up for the C&P.
This press also has a paper gripper to hold the paper in place while the roller goes across.
I just did several on newsprint to test out the press.
Finally I reprinted some of the Country Workshops tree print, which I was running low on. SO much easier than using the wooden spoon!
I had such fun painting at the opera Saturday night that I decided to paint at the Bach at Idlewild concert Sunday afternoon. It was a perfectly lovely day, and I enjoyed the walk back over to church. The music was lovely (I'm a big fan of the harpsichord, and they did a piece written for it, cello, and clarinet, and the choir and soloists sounded great as well). And the concert was the perfect length to draw one fairly intricate sketch of the sanctuary full of people. Then I had an even lovelier walk home as the day cooled off for early evening. I love midtown.
I've been doing a little work for Ned Canty, the new director of Opera Memphis, so I showed him my pencil drawings from Die Fledermaus. Ned is excited about all kinds of local art, not just opera, and he invited our whole group of urban sketchers down to draw the opera. I love the growing number of organizations (Playhouse on the Square is another) that value art across all the platforms, not just the ones they specialize in.
Most of our group went down Thursday night for the dress rehearsal, and fellow urban sketcher Stuart told me there were 15 or 20 sketchers there, which is great. I was out of town, so I just drew during the Saturday performance I was already going to with my dad.
Instead of a tiny, sparkly clutch, I trotted on down to the opera with a messenger bag full of watercolors and sketchbooks. I never have that fully put-together look. I'm also fairly certain I was the only one there walking around looking for a place to dump out my palette cups at intermission. Maybe I can make the dress rehearsal next time and not be quite so out of step.
It's also tricky drawing in the dark, and I'm not great at people during the best of circumstances, but I was pretty pleased with how the color came out, even in adverse conditions. I'm doing this enough to know my way around my palette even in pretty low light. And, of course, the lobby painting was done before things got started, so I had full light for that one. I painted two during the first act and then settled in and just enjoyed the show after intermission. It was a wonderful opera. Donizetti is my favorite composer, and they did a bang up job. I'm really excited about the direction Opera Memphis is taking lately. We're so arts rich in Memphis. I love this city.
After my trip through Kentucky, I headed over to the closest corner of North Carolina to pick up my "new" Line-o-scribe proofing press and see friends there, and then I spent two nights with my sister. We had a great catch up, shopped for a new couch for her, trolled thrift stores, revisited our childhood by watching Remington Steele episodes together, and I got to visit the non-profit she's been working with recently.
Mane Support uses horses in counseling sessions with youth who are grieving or troubled. Horses are honest and immediate in their responses to people and can tell you a lot about yourself in how they react. It's a neat concept and a great group of people, and what's more, they have gorgeous views from their stable. I painted two vistas from two different sides of the barn while Marian and her friends worked with their horses in an informal session. It was a good morning for everyone, and I was pleased to see the place where she's been spending her time.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Gideon and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: