I probably say this pretty often, but one of the really fun things about drawing in public is meeting so many different people. Yesterday I was still lacking a header for the Medicine section of the City Guide, so I headed to Methodist. I was lucky enough to find both shade (always a bonus) and also a couple of ambulance drivers (also hanging out in the shade) who were waiting for a new battery for their unit.
They were interested in what I was doing, and I learned why some ambulances are red and boxy (city-owned ones) and some are white (private companies). Having a little company gets me out of my BBC podcast routine and mixes things up a bit.
I've been working hard to get all the different categories illustrated for the Memphis Magazine City Guide. Above is an overall view of the skyline (maybe for the table of contents). Bonnie Hopkins, a Loyola art student and assistant at MCA this summer, went downtown with me Saturday afternoon to draw from Mud Island. We found a picnic table to work from (great comfort compared to my normal urban sketching on the sidewalk) and had a great visit while we worked. It was a very social and creative day for me, with the Memphis Urban Sketchers that morning and Bonnie's company all afternoon.
I also got permission to paint inside Brooks with my watercolors. I'd been wanting to paint the rotunda, and working for the City Guide issue seemed like a great opportunity. There's an arts section, and music is already pretty well represented in my illustrations, so I thought I'd plug my own area of visual arts instead.
Brooks allows sketching with pencils only during their regular hours, but they kindly invited me to come paint on an off day for this project. Since they regularly serve drinks at special events in this space, I didn't feel too bad asking for special treatment for my small palette cups. (It's a marble floor as well -- very little possibility for serious damage.)
It was a challenging subject, but also a lot of fun. And I liked that I could get in different forms of art -- the main sculpture, a framed painting and photograph on the left, and a peek at the ancient art collection on the mezzanine floor. It seemed like a good scene for "The Arts" section.
Saturday was our meeting of the Memphis Urban Sketchers, and we rendezvous-ed at the central library. It's a great building (except for the escalator in the center of the main floor, which I still hate) with public art and great views. I always love the chance to go out and work with other artists, get inspiration from what they do, and just squeeze in a little socializing to my normally solitary work time.
I took my time over the first one and then realized I had only 45 minutes left (the watercolors usually take a bit more than an hour), so I intentionally loosened up a bit and did the second one in time to meet up with everyone. It's good practice for me to sometimes break out of my normal work habits and try something new. And I'm always drawn to that fabulous hanging glass sculpture in the atrium.
I've enjoyed the few illustration jobs I've gotten to do so far, so I've been more consciously approaching people about the possibility of doing more such work. Very happily for me, the art editor of Memphis Magazine has asked me to do urban sketches to introduce each section in their annual City Guide edition. Usually they have lovely, glossy photos, and I'm so honored they wanted my artwork this year.
I've got a long trip coming up, so I'm working hard to get all of them turned in before I leave. Above is the one I did for the Newcomer's Guide section. We just drove in from Arkansas last week, and I loved the view of the Lone Star tower (sadly, soon to be torn down) with its "Memphis" guitar sign and the Convention Center behind it. However, there are certain views an artist (at least one who works on site) just cannot paint. The view from the interstate bridge over the Mississippi River falls firmly into that category. This was as close as I could get. I painted from the pedestrian bridge to Mud Island. You can still see the bridge and the exit signs for downtown, and I do like the addition of the Pyramid.
Below is one of today's paintings. "Volunteering" is another section of the City Guide, and MIFA is my favorite organization in Memphis. They do meals on wheels, emergency services and housing, senior ombudsmen, a handyman program, and other services too multitudinous to count, for a city that needs as much help as it can get. I set up this morning in the parking lot to get the meals volunteers loading coolers into their cars.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get occasional studio email updates.