Marian’s greeter cat is adorable, easy going, and a perfect ambassador for his species. He makes even inveterate dog lovers fall for him. Someday it would be fun to try a book about him too, but for now I’m just having fun sketching him as he hangs out with us on the front porch.
Another post vaccination celebration is visiting my sister and her husband. We hung out on the porch, petted cats, and caught up. It’s so good to see my people. And with a big list of commissions and other appointments lately, it felt great to sketch just for me and because I want to. I’ve missed feeling I have time to do this.
Marian took an evening ride, and later the moon rose over a white horse. He was moving too fast for me to get what I’d hoped for, and it was dark for painting, but it was fun to try to capture the beauty of that time.
I hit the point of full vaccination last week and have been doing a few cautious things the last few days. I've been wanting all spring to go to Dixon and see the American Impressionism show there, so Tuesday morning I went right as they opened and had the exhibition to myself. It was gorgeous and thought provoking and interesting, and I got a lovely chat with Kevin Sharp who saw me there and talked about the Prendergast piece and also Euphemia Fortune's chickens. They were one of my favorites, and he said he loved that she lived just near the big, craggy ocean shore but chose to paint daily life, and beautifully. I loved that too. Although I hated that she felt she had to disguise her name and go by a first initial to be able to exhibit.
There was a bench by the William Wendt (sadly not by the chicken piece, though I may still go back), and I loved the upright composition of this one, with the brown creek at the center falling out from underneath the viewer. I loved the tiny line of sky at the top and the dark masses of trees. I had taken my Inktense pencils (my watercolor brush pen, fine in Europe, is not allowed in the local museums), and I drew very quickly in the almost dark. The painting is lovely, and the sketch is chicken scratch, but it reminds me of the composition, and spending enough time looking at a painting to draw it is always a good exercise.
I also wrote down the quote from fellow Texas painter Edward Eisnlohr: "If you can't find a landscape worth painting within ten miles of where you are, then you shouldn't be a painter." This reminded me strongly of John Constable and Walter Anderson and all my art heroes who painted their own places instead of rushing off for the grand and fashionable scenery of the day.
The next day I went to Brooks to see the French posters exhibition, which I also had to myself for the first hour. They have enormous Mucha, Steinlen, and Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs. Fantastic. I love Mucha for detail and fun, but I must admit that the Toulouse-Lautrec ones had the most arresting compositions. I sketched this one, partly for the wonderful design, and partly for the bass player at the bottom. It's been wonderful just to stand in the presence of art again. I have missed that so very much this last year. And I love sketching from it as well. I learn so much every time.
Really good day
I had a really good day yesterday. I'm two and a little bit weeks after vaccination, and I'm starting to ease out in small ways. My best friend has been coming over and perching in a chair outside to chat all along, but we had given up our regular tea ritual. Yesterday we shared a teapot and cream pitcher and she brought me flowers from her garden. We still sat outside and distanced, but it felt lovely to have tea together again. I didn't sketch the outside set up -- I went in and had lunch and headed out to the farm to see my folks instead. It was a lovely day, and the buttercups were blooming. I had intended to sketch for a print, but the trees I needed weren't leafed in yet. So I just had a great visit with more loved people and sketched buttercups for fun. After supper I got Jill's flowers and the tea things and did a little sketching on my counter to mark the day's happiness. I'm going to get to see my sister soon as well, and all of this feels hopeful and lovely after the year we've had. I'm definitely on the cautious end of things, but I'm so grateful for small steps back toward the people I love.
I’ve been mostly working on commissions this week, but I’ve been carving a little and pulling an occasional proof of this one as I go along. This morning I used one of the proofs to watercolor on so I could see if I want to do a second block with a blue background. I like them both ways and am leaning toward doing sets of prints each way at the moment, but I’ll look at them a few more days before knowing for sure.
A good friend offered to come sketch with me in my neighborhood and bring me a cupcake. What a total win. I hadn't drawn with anyone in a year, and it was so good to sit outside, masked and at a distance, but able to visit and draw. I hadn't been out sketching a lot in my neighborhood lately, and it's good to mix things up creatively.
Not sketching with people, I'm also out of practice drawing them. I'll look forward to getting to do more people sketches as the world opens up more.
I have done a couple of graphic essays that, for one reason or another, have never really made it out in public. I've been inspired to do one about this last season I got to have with Mr. Darcy. Very different from the children's book I also never managed to get right (although I'm thinking of seeing if the third time is the charm and taking it west for a summer project). I always seem to work things out on paper. Writing (in a new and gorgeous daffodil journal given to me to celebrate the daffodil season I had with Mr. Darcy by a kind and empathetic friend) has really helped me the last few weeks. I think it may distill out into these images with a little bit of text.
Last night I was reading poetry, looking for a title for my WAMA show, and I found this poem fragment. It took my breath away, and it will definitely be part of the essay.
Spring in Overton Park
I'd been feeling a little wonky for a few days, so it was nice to get out and go walking and sketching today. "Plein Airpril" is happening on Instagram, and I'm a sucker for a punning, art-themed month (see also "Inktober"), so I jumped in today. I love this sycamore and paint it every so often. I didn't feel like I really locked in today, but it was nice just to get out and work. I decided to change it up and do a real close up once I got in the forest. The mayapples are in full bloom, and I love their sculptural umbrella shapes and shy flowers hiding underneath.
It's gorgeous weather for park visits lately. I took my bike out to Shelby Farms (brown fountain pen plus watercolor) a bit ago, and more recently I took a little bit of time for wildflower sketching (green ink in a brush pen with inktense pencils) on my more regular walk in Overton Park. I'm so grateful for spring after all that awful February weather.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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