I've never done a CSA before, and for years now I've traveled too much to even consider it. This year, however, I will be staying home, and I'm trying to shop as little as possible. Plus I'm tired of my same cooking, so it seemed like a good idea to branch out, support fantastic local farmers Whitton Farms, and learn to cook some new things. Boy howdy, it's a lot of food for one person though! I can see that I may be sharing some with my folks as we go along, but it's exciting and very beautiful to paint. This week I am going to learn to cook beets (which I usually just buy cooked and ready to go), and I think I'll try my hand at a beet/goat cheese salad. Or feta, depending on whether I can get some goat cheese easily. And I haven't had sweet potatoes in a while. It's good to bust me out of my routines.
I also did a nest sketch. The mama goes off occasionally for short periods, so I sat up on a ladder (inside my kitchen, not near the nest!) to peep down in. It's quite a deep nest, and I'm hoping another egg or two is hidden on the near side that I couldn't see. But it was fun to glimpse the one speckled one. I didn't even know what a cardinal egg looked like. I'm so excited about a baby or two.
My sister gave me a gorgeous book called The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse for my birthday. It’s not only gorgeous and wise and kind (and about cake to a pretty good degree!), but the drawings are superb. Charlie Mackesy has a lovely IG feed with more drawings, small readings from the book that are kind of perfect for now, and also time lapse videos of his pen doing these drawings that vary from very thin lines to very thick ones. It reminded me of what I’d heard about fude pens, and I decided now was the time for a new toy. I can’t put it down. I got a Sailor fude (navy, 40 degree angle instead of 55) plus an ink converter, for right about $20 total, in case you’d also like a new toy.
The line variation is delicious. I’m still learning how to hold and vary it, but I’ve had such fun playing with it the last two days. In fact, I think I’m heading over to the forest now with my sketchbook. The forest is so beguiling for line drawings, and it’s a glorious day. I’ve had a ton of commissions lately, which is excellent, but it felt good to finish the last of them (for now) last night. So today I’m making art, but making the art that feels like fun because it isn’t due or required for anything.
I’ll probably come back with more, but here’s the total crop right now. I’m using a basic black, water soluble ink right now, but at some point I may try waterproof so it won’t run with paint. I’ve really enjoyed my waterproof marker and colored paint in the Quarantine Journal project lately.
I’ve never done a small test/sketch print before. I always do drawings first, but not prints. However, with the new larger size I’m working (at least part of the time), it suddenly makes more sense. That’s a huge time commitment, and I saw a printmaker I follow on IG do a test print and thought, yes! Also it’s a chance to print at several different places in the carving process and see what I think. So here is a small test print of a tree tunnel just outside of Auvers-sur-Oise, just up a small path from the cemetery where Vincent and Theo are buried together. I went two years ago and went back several days later to sketch it again. Both times I got distracted by color and texture and straightened the tree out more than I meant to. So when I went to do a print, I pulled out my reference photos along with the sketch. The sketch captures what grabbed me about the scene, the photo helped me get the shape truer to what it is. Here are the sketch plus my more careful drawing for the print.
I almost never do reduction prints because once you cut away, you can’t put it back again. And I have trouble planning in my head several layers without being able to see them put together and then adjust them. So I usually do several blocks. But for this small test print (and a simple, two part image), I printed the green at two different stages first and then cut away more for the black to go on top, printing the solo black somewhere between those two stages. I still cut away more of the green than I think was good. I’ll go back in with markers or paint and play on top of these proofs before doing the bigger one. But I think it may be possible, with that level of preparation, to do a simple reduction instead of doing two separate blocks. That would definitely be less carving and also less expensive, buying one larger block instead of two.
Here is what the two different base layers of green looked like before I printed on top of them. I wish I’d left the green a little higher along the horizon line. That’s one thing I’d like to play with and likely change in a larger version.
It's a glorious day, I got through the Farmers Market early enough to feel safe being there, and I came home with the most beautiful eggs I've ever seen. I sat on the back porch and sketched them, had my lunch, and watched Papa Cardinal chase off a Blue Jay and a mockingbird. I had grand plans to get back to my seagull block this afternoon, but I may take a nap instead.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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