Or "Things We Don't Have Down South."
I've got several truly intricate blocks to carve for the book project, which have been taking all my attention lately. But I've been missing sketching, and I decided to do a quick lunchtime sketch to remember this delicious thing that I have certainly never run into back home.
I've been enjoying illustrating poetry lately, and I did another one today. It's based on this poem, and I had been carrying this phrase around for a week or so, wanting to paint from it. I treated myself to a long lunch at a pebble beach. I took a picnic and Mr. Darcy and did three watercolors while enjoying the sunshine and warmth that have finally arrived.
I also did a second version of the last poem I illustrated. I wanted it in my journal too, and I had fun placing the words in a longer format instead of the more square watercolor paper I usually use. It's based on this poem. The rocks are less detailed, but I think the wording was more successful.
Here is the original version.
I am deep in the midst of carving linoleum block prints to illustrate the upcoming edition of the Book of Common Worship for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. There will be 15 prints about 5.5x8" plus another 13 or so tiny 1.5" ones. Plus 19 ink gesture drawings. It's definitely my biggest commission ever. Work is due in early July, so I'm nose to the grindstone until then. I can't share the full images, but my editor said it would be fine for me to show some process shots and details of the blocks as I'm working. Despite the modest size, I'm including as much detail as I can. The carving has been a lot of fun.
I have been enthusiastically collecting river stones since I got to Washington, as well as for years before. I remember the pebble beach on Hydra that my sister Marian and I went nuts poring over, picking up, putting down, ultimately bringing a few multi-colored stones home to remember that place. There's a small shelf over the sink in my bathroom with stones from a number of special places and trips. My friend, show-partner, and fellow stone nut Melissa Bridgman more recently turned me on to both heart shaped and striped stones. She gave me one of each in a hard place last year, and they have been talismans for me since. She says stones with an unbroken stripe around them bring good luck. Both are in profusion here in Washington. I have never seen so many heart shaped stones in my life.
Yesterday Jude took me to a national forest with a gorgeous boat ramp/pebble beach at the confluence of two small rivers. I was charmed and brought home a handful of stones, and he later wrote a poem about it. You can read the full poem on his tumblr site. Melissa has sketched lovely river stones in her journal and made pottery in their image, but the poem gave me a new twist to use instead of just copying her idea. I've had a full day of printmaking but wanted to do something fun for myself, as well as celebrate this beautiful poem.
My friend John Reed is a poet in Memphis, and there is a documentary being made about him and his work. For part of the project, artists have been invited to create works based on his poems. I have been enjoying painting from other poetry and jumped at the chance to be included in this project. I've always loved John's poetry. Plus the Mr. Darcy blog has me enjoying mixing text and images again and working in foutain pen and watercolor together.
I knew exactly which poem I wanted to paint from, and I made a trip down to the coast on a sunny day to visit an overlook where I could see the coastline laid out beneath me. I did two journal sketches (below) on site and then came back and used them to create the triptych. Each panel is 6x8", since I work in modest sizes in watercolor, but the three together hold a nice space.
Here's what it looked like laid out on my work table.
And here is John's award winning poem, which he was kind enough to say I could share here.
The Cartographer's Proposal
I've set their names on maps, but never found
the things themselves. Vainly, I sought escape
in Mystic, Concord, Providence, New Hope--
a gazetteer of irresistible lands
each marking a potential journey's end.
Always a stranger, I never learned the ropes
and wasted time exploring tourist traps,
missing what I'd come so far to find.
But look: a place explorers have passed over
and mentioned only in this arcane chart,
pristine and fraught with possibility.
No human plan's imposed on plain or river,
but mail addressed to Mercy, Healing Heart,
will reach us there, if you will come with me.
John Richard Reed
River Styx 97
I'm enjoying the new-to-me wildflowers here and have been taking photos to look them up in field guides. On the left is Vanilla Leaf (though I can't tell that it smells like vanilla), and on the right are flowers that just popped out all over the place. At home I would say Forget-me-nots, but I can't find quite the right identification in the small field guide where I'm staying. I'll have to stop in a ranger station at some point and do further research. But I love the blue and pink combination.
I went up Mt. Erie (to the mild dismay of my hill-challenged Prius) on a rare gorgeous morning to sketch the view. I'm hoping to do something from these sketches, but even if it doesn't pan out, it was a lovely site to visit. I was huddled in a down coat as I worked. I keep hoping spring will arrive in Washington. We've seen a few lovely flashes of it, and the wildflowers keep coming out, so perhaps I will be able to sketch without chill here soon. In the meantime, I have plenty of indoor work on the prints going along as well.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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