It was a really good day. I put a commission I was pleased with in the mail to its new owner, I turned in three coloring book pages (my first ever) to the Memphis Flyer to see if they want them for a Memphis coloring book. I love the Flyer, it's a great idea, and they'll split proceeds with the artists instead of just asking for free art. It was fun to do a few of my favorite places and also play with a new format.
In even better news, my mama cardinal was back sitting on her nest. She'd disappeared for a couple of days, and she'd seemed bothered by me right through the window when I used my kitchen sink. She hadn't been sitting yet, so I'd been a bit worried they had decided just to start over somewhere more private. She's been spending a lot of time in the nest today, though, and she stayed while I sketched her. I'm delighted.
I rewarded my morning of work on a gorgeous day by getting on my bike and going to Elmwood, always one of my favorite places to sketch. There are MANY fewer people than in Overton Park these days, so I feel much safer and not at all crowded there. I rode a couple of loops around it, stopped to sketch, looped through Central Gardens on my way home, and ended up with an 11.5 mile ride, which felt great. A late sunshine walk with Mr. Darcy and a happy domestic evening (with asparagus brought by a kind friend after she got my email update!), and I'm living well today.
I'm still doing commissions (and thank you, good people, who want to celebrate your special days with original art!) along with a little slow carving, so nothing except journal to show just now. It's fun to have something quick to do when other projects take longer.
The international Urban Sketchers group has had a challenge going lately to bake something and then sketch it. That got me craving cookies. My baked goods are usually utilitarian -- good but not so pretty. I decided it would be fun to draw the ingredients before starting though, so that's what I did. And I added in the super simple recipe. Since it's got oatmeal as the biggest ingredient, it's got to be almost healthy, right?
I also sketched the book I just finished and really enjoyed. I'm finding that good fiction is what I want just now. City of Girls was great, and I also loved The Other Bennet Sister. I rarely read the Austen fan fiction follow ups, but I heard the author talking on npr and was impressed with her. I also fell in love with a play about Mary that Tennessee Shakespeare did this past Christmas, so I was primed for another investigation of her. The first part ran parallel to Pride and Prejudice, which I didn't like as much, but I felt it got better after it took Mary on her own journey. It definitely took some liberties with several of the characters, and some of the themes felt very 2020 (the research into personal happiness), but the writing was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was quite sorry to see it end and will now have to come up with another book I look forward to reading as much as this one.
It feels a little silly in April, but I've gotten chilly on damp evenings a few times lately, and I'm ongoingly grateful for these gas logs that bring happiness and coziness to just such days. Mr. Darcy is quite happy about them too.
I've been working on commissions the last few days. It's lovely to have some short term structure to supplement the very long term museum show I'm working on. It's surprisingly happy to cross a finished project off the list. So I took a break from the journal while I worked on a couple of those, but last night it felt good to get back to it. I froze some individual slices of my birthday cake last month when I realized it would be me and a whole cake alone in the house. Last night I got a slice out for after dinner. I'm glad I spread out the enjoyment of it. And so are my jeans.
The last two days I've had a pair of Cardinals building a nest JUST outside my kitchen window. I am delighted and hoping for babies. It would be a perfect spring to have a little extra company and something gorgeous to watch.
Yesterday I took Mr. Darcy for his walk through the forest and then went back. He's got a little older dog hip trouble, so he can't do my full walk with me these days, but I went back with my sketchbook and painted the fading wildflowers. It was a joy just to sit and paint and listen to the birds, who seem louder this year than I've ever heard them. But perhaps I'm just noticing more.
It's not that I don't ever cook. In fact, I eat at home most of the time and cook chicken for salads/toasted sandwiches, and I have a go-to spinach/black bean/feta recipe that I make a lot. But I've been trying more new things lately, getting tired of my old standbys with no break. The NYT has been running some comfort recipes. My pantry looks as if I don't really cook a lot, so I had to substitute rice for small pasta and swiss chard for kale (better to my mind anyway). I was skeptical as this was cooking, but it ended up really nice and especially good with an egg on the side. So I marked the moment in my journal.
For anyone who would like to try it, I'm writing out the recipe as I did it below.
1 med. yellow onion (or a handful of white onion chopped in my case)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary (this I DID have, right out my door in the new herb bed!)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c. tomatoes (either canned or diced -- I used small ones cut up)
4 c. swiss chard or other greenery
vegetable or chicken stock as needed
cooked rice to add (or pasta, or whatever -- jasmine rice was lovely)
grated cheese for topping (which I forgot, and with the egg didn't need it)
Brown the onion (plus garlic, if you want it), add tomatoes and chickpeas and cook till soft. I probably did 10 minutes. Add rosemary, red pepper flakes. Smash about half the chick peas to thicken the stew. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in rice and swiss chard and wilt down. I added a little vegetable stock at this point to keep it a little liquidish, and I simmered covered for another 5 minutes or so while I cooked the egg.
I'm lucky to have work I love in a home I love, and overall I've been pretty content in my daily life. Yesterday it was suddenly hard to see all the family groups together in the park, and as I was walking home, I got a text out of the blue that friends were doing a birthday rolling party in their gorgeous old Thunderbird. I ended up visiting with another friend and neighbor on the sidewalk as we waited for them to get there, and it felt so perfectly time that they seemed like angels dropping in just when I needed them. I'm so grateful for my community, even at arms length at the moment.
I intentionally got back to more color today, and it felt really nice. Mr. Darcy and I walked over to the park and sketched Brooks after my bike ride this afternoon.
Today I carved a small version of the pelican block I did several weeks ago. I'd like to be able to do a note card too. I decided it was the right size to just paste on into the journal, so this is mostly sketches but with one real print added in. Print work is more and more what I'm doing these days. Sometime I need to sketch my press, but this was an easy way to add it today. I'd like to get back to more color. This one is very monotone, and color was the primary thing I wanted when I started this. But it does describe my day pretty well.
It was a cold, gray morning today, and I decided to extend my holiday a bit more. I've been needing to mark this moment, since I usually spend it with family and also with a very dear second "Easter family." So I played a lot of music last night, had a little champagne with my farmers market dinner, and today I got out my great grandmother's violets and daisies china that I love and lingered. It felt nice to draw through breakfast, read the paper, and spend some time on the sofa with a new book that came in the mail today from my sister.
Now the sun is out, which helps amazingly, and I'm going to lock into a little more work and a walk this afternoon. But I figure we all need to give ourselves a little self grace these days to be less productive than we might otherwise be. I'm grateful my WAMA show is a good ways off. I'll have plenty of time to do it well and still give myself some half days when I need them.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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