I had a way fun week last week. A longtime friend and favorite swing partner came to town, and several of us friends went out three nights in a row to hear live music and do a little dancing. Not my normal life, but it was fun to take advantage of the opportunity.
We started Wednesday night with hearing the Side Street Steppers on the deck at Central BBQ.
Thursday night, without a favorite band playing anywhere, we played tourist and went to Beale Street, where there's always live music of some sort. It was fun to go down and walk the few blocks and check out the offerings. We found a fun rockabilly show at Jerry Lee Lewis's place. The Jason James band put on a polished and accomplished show of songs that came from Memphis's Sun Records heritage (Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johny Cash). We did a little dancing and sketching and enjoyed the lead singer's rapport with the audience.
Then we moved on down the street to a smaller blues club that was playing some authentic Memphis blues and did some more dancing. It was lovely. Then we found a patio with something more in the soul range. We hit the trifecta of Memphis music that night.
I went to see a play over the weekend. "Seminar" at Circuit Playhouse, which is part of Playhouse on the Square. I love that theater company. They do professional, moving, powerful plays, musicals with strong singing and dancing, and they support other arts around town. I came home from New York earlier this spring feeling very good about the quality of theater in Memphis.
Anyway, I did a little sketching out front before the theater and then inside drawing the set. Parking has gotten crazy enough at Overton Square that I decided just to get there early and take a little drawing time. It made for a nice evening out.
I had a sketching dinner with Elizabeth Alley last night. Every once in a while we go out to sketch together, talk about our travels, talk about materials, techniques, teaching, and whatever else. I usually sketch solo at places, so it's fun to have a meal with someone else who's doing the same thing.
I've been in and out of town and also working on some other projects, so this print has been limping along for a few weeks. I was really ready to get it all put together in a first color proof and see what it's looking like. With some prints I have a pretty good idea as I'm going along, but others are harder for me to visualize, and this is one of the latter.
I wish I'd been a little more conservative carving the "windows" in the green areas. I would have liked a little more shadow on the undersides of those areas. There's no going back in carving -- once it's gone, it's gone. But I can try some shading in the ink to see if that would help.
Here are the first two layers of the proof before I printed the key block (partly carved at the time on the left) over the top. The green and yellow are a bit too vibrant, but they're not as strong with the black on top as they were by themselves. It's so funny how much that can change with one more addition of pattern.
I think I'm going to try doing some gradients in the colors and see how I like that, as well as dulling the colors just a bit. I have several color proofs in my figure with this one.
I'm continuing to do website work and add sketches to my site, since they are so much a part of what I do these days.
I drove up to Kentucky on Thursday and spent that night and most of Friday at Shakertown with my sketchbook (and banjo) for company on my way to meet friends and sisters at a dance weekend. Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill (to give it its full name, though the locals and highway signs all say Shakertown) is one of my favorite places in the world. The buildings are mostly early 1800's, and they have been beautifully restored. It sits on a ridge with a view out over the blue Kentucky hills, and it's one of those places where nature and craft have combined in complete and beautiful harmony.
I'm posting the rest of these on my sketching page, where you can also read more about the place and my time there.
Website maintenance is not the sexy side of being an artist, but it can nonetheless be both satisfying and a little compulsive. I'm working on a new print at the moment that is not yet photogenic, but I also scanned in my entire Amsterdam sketchbook to put on my website. In the process, I realized that sketching is increasingly an important part of my work, and that there is not a dedicated area of my website for it.
I do so many different kinds of work that it's tricky to keep the website tidy and also display all the various facets of my art. I don't want to spill off the toolbar at the top of the website and have some categories not visible, so periodically I rethink my entire organization. This time I removed the "Commissions" section, to put under other areas, and gave "Sketches" their own section. They'd been hiding under the "Watercolor" section before. I also moved "Prints" up to the first spot on the toolbar. I do so little oil painting now that prints deserve the pride of place. They're where my heart is at this point, though I still work in oils occasionally.
Check out my sketches and see what I've been up to lately. I'll be adding a few more sections there as I get more scanned in.
Our last day was spent revisiting a country family home we had stayed in back in 1982. I was 12, and Memphis arranged a Friendship Force exchange with Enschede to honor our longstanding partnership. The Van Heek family took us in at the last minute when our scheduled hosts got sick. They were out of town, but allowed us to stay in this lovely house for a week. It is a bit outside of town and in an utterly lovely setting of gardens and fields and patches of woods. I had forgotten how beautiful. I could happily paint there a week or more.
It was a holiday weekend, and many of the kids and grandchildren had returned to the family center, but they welcomed us in warmly, gave us coffee and homemade cakes on the terrace,and showed us around the house and land. It was special to me to be there again. The trip was the last one we took with Mom. She was in remission at the time, before her final round of cancer. Being back in those spaces we shared with her meant a lot.
And the family was so very kind to us. The two things I remember so clearly from that trip were the overwhelming hospitality of the Dutch people (we Southerners take such pride in it, but I thought the Dutch outstripped us by miles) and the fact that they ate chocolate for breakfast. I couldn't believe I hadn't grown up in such an enlightened country.
We spent the second week just across the field with Fleur, the sister of our original host. She took us in, also at the last minute, after my sister broke her ankle and we couldn't move to Amsterdam with the rest of the group. Fleur had a sod-roofed home, baby goats, a lamb to bottle feed, and a duck named Walter who waddled across the bike path from the lake for his dinner every night. Marian and I were both enchanted. Fleur very kindly let us come visit her home too, and walking in to see the big round coffee table for some reason evoked the previous trip in the strongest way. Memory is a funny thing. It was so special to be there with them and welcomed back to this lovely place. I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
I didn't have time to sketch much at all, so I'm adding a few photos as well.
Here's Fleur with me at her home. I hope to get some more of the family photos from Dad but haven't yet.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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