I've been diving back into oils this week. I have one painting that has languished on my easel for far too long. I was working on it when Dixon hit last year, and by the time that was all over, plus Christmas shows, I had just lost steam and momentum on painting. Prints continue to call my name, but lately I've been looking at skies, and I can't do them as well as I'd like in watercolor. I decided it would be fun to try some in oils, and it would give me something different for my fall show, since my last Paris show three years ago was all watercolors and prints. This one will be heavy on done-on-site watercolors as well, but I'd like a variety of work to go with them.
Plus, my early watercolors didn't have enough depth to paint from. These later ones have more shadow and layering and give me enough information to try a little painting. So I'm branching out again and trying to keep the brain fizz that comes from doing new things humming along.
Aside from my printmaking workshop this weekend, I've been to the Shell twice in two nights for the free concert series. (In my park, five blocks from my house. Perfect.) Friday night was the Steep Canyon Rangers, and I was too busy listening and hanging with friends to sketch. Last night was the Stax Academy kids, and I did a watercolor of the bandstand for an upcoming feature for the Daily News (so I won't post it yet). I also had a couple of young boys come watch, ask me to sketch their shoes, and then want to draw with me. The more excited one wanted to use my paints too (I had my full set out for the watercolor instead of just my mint tin one). I showed him how I have different sections to mix different colors, and he was super careful to keep all the colors placed right. It was neat to see him so excited about making some art of his own. I sketched his shoes while he did a landscape. He had done his shoes too and also asked me to draw them. I did one for him with both their pairs of shoes and then a second quick one for me to remember the moment in my journal.
After I got home, I was having such a good time drawing that I did Mr. Darcy, along with my foot, as we were hanging out on the couch. It had been a little since I'd drawn him, and I was due.
I had a historical kind of day on Saturday. I walked through both Yorktown and Williamsburg. It was fun to see the old houses and history, but once again, I notice that what I actually sketched are the trees. I have realized recently that one reason I like old places is that they also tend to preserve their old trees. I sketched the tree above on the fringe of the Yorktown battlefield.
Just for variety, I tried the bridge nearby as well, next the farmers market they have. I've been trying to work more in markers again, but this one wasn't particularly successful.
I finished with one more garden, somewhat hidden away, with a gorgeouly gnarled tree at its center. It was a lovely shady place to sit, and I couldn't resist sketching as well. Many thanks to my patient tour guide who hung out while I did all this. I was just on a panel at Crosstown Arts about art and travel, and one of my fellow artists said one key piece was to pick patient traveling companions and also make sketching just the thing that you do, so they know it's a part of who you are. Good advice all around. I tend to travel solo usually but am grateful to my periodic traveling companions who do end up being kind and patient while I sketch a bit.
I am a total sucker for sawgrass. I got to hike in two Virginia parks over the weekend that featured water snaking through sawgrass, ospreys, herons, eagles, crabs, dragonflies, and sunshine. Both parks also had gorgeous forests, but since I get to do forest sketching at home, I focused on the more exotic (to me) scenes.
I had such fun the other night on a panel discussion at Crosstown Arts on art and travel, two of my favorite things. I flipped through a bunch of old sketchbooks getting ready and realized that I haven't been using markers lately, and I've also been using much less text and narrative in my sketchbooks. Both of those add texture and depth, so I'm going to try to move back in that direction. Here's my first marker sketch in a while.
He played banjo tunes and led the group in singing. And most of all, he radiated warmth and kindness to everyone throughout the evening. I had just been thinking about the craft involved in weaving a set together instead of just playing a bunch of songs, since I had performed on a small scale last Saturday. Joe has it down. He does enough introduction to really get the audience invested in a song (which especially helps if you play less familiar music), giving a bit of background or information as a hook, but he never talks long enough that you wonder when the song is gong to start already. (Which can be a common failing.) I feel quite comfortable in the role of dance caller talking to a room full of people, but doing a solo set is a whole different thing. Joe was perfect. The whole room was charmed.
Mr. Darcy was charmed too. We were both sad to see them go this morning, but I loved having a slow morning and breakfast out with them before they left. The thing I miss most about calling dances regularly is hanging out with the musicians, who seem to always be quality people. Joe was also kind enough to agree to jam with my local group here after the concert, in spite of being in the middle of a multi day drive. It was joyful to my house to have all of that music and laughter fill it, and I was so delighted to be able to have my friends meet and hear him.
I finished the three day process to a second proof of the phlox forest today, and I'm largely pleased. There's a little glare on the photo. The black will be black in person. And I have to clean up color in the path a little, but it's about ready to pull some final prints.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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