Tower Grove Park is one of those places that immediately grabbed me as a landscape painter the minute I set foot in it. Very occasionally a place will reach out and say, "You belong to me." This happened to me as a college student on the North Yorkshire moors, it happened around that same time in Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Kentucky, and it happened more recently in Bergama, Turkey and Tower Grove Park. It's been some months since I've had a chance to paint in Tower Grove, and it was lovely to be back after the winter. I passed through on my way to and from Chicago and did four watercolors last week.
I started with the griffin I've always admired. There's a pair of them at the Grand Avenue gates.
I often find myself painting the same tree or structure repeatedly. The Old Playground Pavilion (below) and the bandstand (top picture) are both favorites of mine that I keep revisiting.
There are several groves of red buds I love, and they were in full bloom this time. I took advantage of the perfect timing to paint this one.
Tower Grove Park is having a one day art show on June 1st that I will take part in. It's fun to get to do a little more painting ahead of that anniversary event. I'm delighted to get to show my work in a park I love so much.
I've been doing lots of watercolors lately. Spring in Memphis has been at its gorgeous peak, and a number of people have kindly been taking advantage of that to have me paint their houses. It's fun to be out and about with commissions again, and I love trying to capture the dogwoods and azaleas that make the city pop right now.
One day was so gorgeous that even after a good day of painting, I couldn't resist a second trip to Overton Park to go paint my
Favorite tree, just because I wanted to.
This is one of my favorite places to sit. I also just take my banjo over some days and hangout with Mr. Darcy. I'm lucky to live only three blocks away from such a lovely park. It's nice to be able to just nip over for a little bit on a beautiful day.
Here is week two of the Easter Psalm series. I just looked at the liturgical calendar and realized I have six more of these to do. Possibly an ill advised series when I'm traveling so much, but I really like celebrating Easter for more than a day, especially in a year and a spring that are so personally joyful to me.
I've been doing watercolor commissions and liturgical prints all week, taking my walk late in the day and lingering a bit in the Old Forest to enjoy the wildflowers blooming there now. I've especially loved this glade full of phlox this past week.
On this Saturday morning, I decided to give myself a break on work for others and go paint the phlox while they're still blooming. Mr. Darcy and I walked over with my backpack and painting gear.
I think of myself as a landscape painter and not a flower painter, so I kept it pretty wide angle, but it was fun to try a different subject. There's a lot more surface movement than in most of my pieces, and I was trying to keep it from just looking blotchy, but I'm fairly pleased with the outcome.
Mike texted that it reminded him of the Van Gogh we saw last month in the Cincinnati Art Museum. A happier Van Gogh, he said. No greater compliment. I did love that painting, and apparently I do have it on the brain without quite realizing how much.
Below are some of the wildflowers Mr. Darcy and I have been enjoying in the forest lately. Just because they're beautiful...
In previous years, I've done a series of prints to mark the season of Lent, but last year I read a quote from N.T. Wright talking about how we observe Lent for 40 days but only celebrate Easter for one. This year I decided to do a series for the season of Easter instead.
I carved the trumpet for the first print on my recent road trip, and, knowing I had a pretty quick turnaround after coming home, I also took my travel printing kit to be able to proof it and really have it ready to print when I got back. I found a train style make up case at the second hand mecca of Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama a few years ago, and it's the perfect size for my basic printing equipment.
When I got home I was ready to print the final image on the good paper in colored ink.
Then I set the wood type, using a metal frame called a chase. This means I can pick it up and move it around instead of having be stuck in my proof press, making me unable to print anything else until I disassemble the type. For smaller projects I can use a chase. For the bigger ones, I put larger type right in the bed of the press. This project is about 10x11", using my smallest wood type, so a chase is just right.
Finally I printed the type on top of the trumpet image.
And here's a sneak peek at week two of Easter. I couldn't resist a banjo, of course.
I've been on a mini tour of the Midwest the last week. I rode along on Mike's business trip. We went through Illinois,spent four nights in Wisconsin, and an had utterly marvelous day in Chicago on the way home. I took my printmaking gear to get commission work done, but I've also done a little urban sketching along the way.
These black and white ones are pen and wash sketches done with a Lamy fountain pen and a water brush as the car was zipping along through Illinois. (Mike was driving.)
Here's a factory in Illinois I sketched while Mike had a meeting. I need to work on my skies in watercolor. I love doing them in oils, but watercolor has been an ongoing challenge with clouds.
One day after work we headed to Long Grove to revisit a historic town Mike used to go to some years ago. I loved the covered bridge especially.
This last was the loosest and most successful of the Long Grove sketches.
And here's the only one from Chicago I did, since we spent most of the day touring the Art Institute instead of making art.
I spent one quick day in Chicago on a loop through the Midwest. Typically most of it was spent in the Art Inatitute, but it started with tea and borscht at the Russian Tea Room.
I did a fairly comprehensive tour of the main collection at the Art Institute. I didn't do any sketching this time, but I learned about chiaroscuro woodcuts from the 15th century, and I want to look up more when I get home.
I also wrote down a quote from
William Blake about Ine of John Constable's tree studies: "Why, this is now drawing, but inspiration." Constable is one of my favorite artists of all time.
Another is Van Gogh, and it was powerful
to revisit his self portrait. The one here is my very favorite, and it meant even more to see it after staying in Vincent's own Paris neighborhood last year and shopping acRosso the street from the house he shared with Theo.
Walked on to Millenium Park afterwards. I'd never seen the famous bean. I did settle in to do one sketch there.
Finished the day in Evansville in a bar with gorgeous floating lights and the best gnocchi and bread pudding I've ever had. Good day.
The segment about me that was filmed by the PBS show Tennessee Crossroads is out and up on You Tube. You can watch the six minute segment at:
I'm always a little stunned at how Southern I sound outside my own head, and occasionally I feel like there's a reason I'm a visual artist instead of a verbal one, but they did a really nice job of putting together an overview of my life, work, and creative philosophy.
And they showed off Mr. Darcy....
The Memphis Urban Sketchers met at Elmood Historic cemetery on Saturday morning. I'd missed the last couple of meetings, and it was good to make this one in one of my favorite sketching spots.
It's one of the oldest cemeteries in Memphis and encompasses much of our history, through the Civil War and the yellow fever. I love the Victorian monuments and angels. So much more lovely than the fake golf course look of today's cemeteries.
It was good to be out working with a group of artists again, and I did two watercolors from the same vantage point, while I chatted with our founder and fearless leader Elizabeth Alley.
I felt I'd gotten a little bit tight and precious on the trees in the first one (and, on looking back at them, lost the shape of their canopies as well), so I loosened up in the second sketch and drew just with my brush instead of starting with the pencil.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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