I've only ever been able to go for one day, sandwiched in with other things, so that was a rare treat. All the folks who work there were warm and welcoming, and I got to have some great conversations as well as looking at art.
They also went above and beyond the day of the opening. It was a day of six hour tornado watches and a huge wave of bad weather coming across the state. It would have been supremely easy for them to simply push the opening back a day. But they knew several of us had come to town and stayed for the party, so they decided to work quite late two nights in a row and had a storm party on Thursday and the official opening on Friday, an evening later than originally planned. I was so grateful for this generosity because it was a huge marker for me to have art in what is essentially sacred art space for me. Those of us who were there got a marvelous tour of the collection with Mattie Coddling, the curator who has recently put up a comprehensive exhibit tracking the progression of Anderson's life and work (which are essentially the same thing).
The unexpected and amazing bonus was that John Anderson, one of Walter's children, generously came out on a terrible night to be present. It would have been even easier for him to simply stay home. Because of the smaller crowd, I ended up having a couple of long and delightful conversations with him. He was kind and remarkably generous with his family stories. I was halfway through his mother's memoir, Approaching the Magic Hour, which is marvelous. John talked to me about art in general, living as an artist, and how his father wanted to invite everyone into the process. It was a standout moment in my life, and I could not be more grateful to everyone involved in making it happen.
I saw outside the Walter Anderson Museum of Art last Thursday before my opening and drew the tunnel of live oaks that reach across Washington Avenue. I love the fern covered lives oaks of the Deep South. They have a character no other tree has. So incredibly expressive. I took a few photos of my process as I was doing this one so you could see how I work.
After that I forgot and just dove into the paint. It’s hard for me to think about anything else when I’m painting.
It was art drop off yesterday at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the opening isn’t until tomorrow, so today I roamed around, sketched, sat in the sunshine, and (of course) bought a teapot and a few things at Shearwater Pottery, the family business Anderson grew up in that’s still being run by family members. I’ve only ever just had a day here before, so it was a real luxury to walk around town with my sketchbooks and no schedule. Plus it was a flat out beautiful day — with rain likely tomorrow, so I’ll spend more time in the museum then, I imagine.
It has been several years since I saw pelicans, and I love them. It was fun to sit down by the water and just watch the birds for a bit.
The weather has been delicious for getting out and sketching lately. Memphis Urban Sketchers met at Elmwood, the historic cemetery in Memphis, which is one of my favorite places to go. I love the enormous magnolias paired with the angels and upright monuments. And then the Memphis Urban Sketchers exhibition started at Dixon, so for a third time, I have art in that beautiful museum. I went to check it out and see the large show of the usually in storage permanent collection there (they have much more than they can show regularly and still have traveling exhibit space). Of course I had to sketch While I was there. I’m always drawn to Ceres. I just can’t resist her graceful curves. And the tulips are fabulous right now.
I had a lovely evening this week having dinner with two artist friends. Christina cooked a yummy Mexican chicken soup for us, and Elizabeth brought homemade cake. That alone would have been awesome, but talking shop, visiting more generally about our lives, and hanging out sketching after eating made it a perfect night. As did sitting in Christina's marvelous mid-century house that always makes me want to come home and get my own in better order. I'm grateful to Memphis for having an art community that supports and roots for each other.
I did most of a still life today. I’ll look at it tomorrow with fresh eyes, and I’m sure there will be some adjustments, but it’s close to what I had hoped (assuming I still like the wallpaper tommorrow — that’s the big variable). It’s from a farmers market bouquet I bought on Saturday that I couldn’t stop looking at and wanting to paint. Last night, after finally finishing and submitting (to a first place, anyway) the graphic essay, I treated myself by doing a quick watercolor of the bouquet after dinner and before heading to my jam. I don’t too often splurge on buying flowers, and it’s fun to make them more immortal in my sketch journal when I do. That way I can enjoy them all over again whenever I open the book.
This sketch went well, and I was really charmed by the whole bouquet. It reminds me of the small, last still lifes Manet painted in bed as he was dying. His friends would bring him bouquets, and he would paint them lying there. That’s what I hope for myself — to make art right up till my last days. And these pieces are absolutely exquisite and have some gorgeously handled glass as well as the flowers. I’ll never have that facility, but it was fun to try my own version. After thinking about the sketch overnight, I decided to do a full on oil today.
I drew it out on the canvas just after breakfast, and then I went on my walk to be able to come back to it with fresh eyes and make any adjustments necessary before committing to paint. Then I painted straight through till after my regular dinner time. I’m exhausted, but it’s deeply good to have a whole day to dive into art and just paint until I get to the natural end.
Here are several sketches I did at the time in my sketchbook that I’ve pulled back out as reference material. Watch this space for more to come. If I can’t find it a home, I’ll put it on my own website.
I was away for the weekend but came home, locked in, and spent the morning printing a color version of this print. It takes more concentration to print color than black and white, since I have two small rollers and have to hand mix the colors on the block each time. They’re all in the same general pattern, but there is necessarily a little variation with each one.
This is a varied edition, which is labeled “ed var 1/40” at the bottom of each print. That means that there are 40 total prints from this block, but they don’t all look alike. I ran out of paper at 13 colored ones (I’d meant to do 15), so the rest will be black and white. It’s not worth setting back up another day for just two more. I usually pick one good look and go with it for the final print, but I liked both versions of this one, and sometimes it’s nice to have some variety to offer people. Just for fun.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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