I love our farmers market here in Memphis. I go quite early, to get my pick of things and enjoy the hammer dulcimer that often is playing in the 7-8 am hour. Today I decided to linger for a while, do a sketch, and wait for my sister to join me for a visit and some people watching. The perfect Saturday morning.
We had a perfect vacation this year -- a week in the mountains on our way to a second week at the beach, meeting up with my family. I got to do lots of drawing, and I started the second week of the trip drawing on the ferry that carried us to the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke. That's our green car in the foreground with kayaks on it (my other main occupation for the week was paddling).
Ocracoke is a charming harbor town with a great small bookstore, some lovely craft shopping, a New Orleans restaurant (yum!) and fun-to-draw architecture. The above sketch was done from our third story balcony.
There is also a historic lighthouse that my sister is in love with, so I made sure to paint it from several angles and distances. I loved the old trees that surround it once I walked out to see it up close.
Elmore and I spent a week at the small woodworking school Country Workshops this month. He took a class in Japanese woodworking, and I sat on the porch with my banjo or book and roamed around the farm with my sketch pad. It's a gorgeous place with small classes and amazing food, so if anyone is interested in woodworking, cooking, or basketry classes, I strongly recommend a visit. You can see their class schedule here.
The last two sketches show at least a bit of Louise's garden. She maintains more than an acre of vegetables and flowers, and fruit trees are scattered around the property. She cooks three meals a day for the group, largely from the bounty of her garden, and we eat meals in an open air pavilion with a view of the valley. Dinnertime, with lightening bugs and relaxed conversation, is my favorite part of the day.
Our Memphis chapter of Urban Sketchers had our monthly meeting this morning in the lobby of the historic Peabody hotel. It was a brilliant stroke of genius for a hot Memphis day. We got not only air conditioning but waiters bearing mimosas. I have never had such an elegant morning of urban sketching (though they do ply me with white wine and Greek salads at my favorite Athens taverna when I'm drawing there).
This was the most intricate architectural sketch I'd attempted in a long time, and I took more than my normal 20 minutes or so, but I had a great time doing it.
I also enjoyed that we artists had grabbed a luckily available sofa area, so we were all there drawing elbow to elbow and able to chat more than when we do our normal spread-out-into-the-landscape type of outing. I really enjoyed meeting some new people and watching how other people handled the challenge of the space.
We took a weekend over at Calico Rock, AR recently. It's situated on bluffs above the White River. I did a series of pastels there a couple of years ago, and i was excited to get back and try watercolors this summer.
Below is as urban as the sketching gets in Calico Rock. This is the historic main street with stone houses to match the stone bluffs. It's a charming place, very quiet, one of my sanctuary places when I need a real rest.
Here are two more neighborhood sketches. Above is the 1936 WPA-built band shell. My great grandmother did costumes for the Memphis Open Air Theater there when they were putting on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in the 40's and 50's. I love that I can still walk over from my house and sit under the stars and listen to free concerts 10 weeks out of the year.
Below is the formal garden, in the same large park (Overton Park) as the band shell. I walk through this area every morning, and a number of my paintings and prints are from this same park.
I spent a day and a half in Pleasant Hill, Ky recently. I'd call it urban sketching, but it's urban dating back to the 1820's. It's a gorgeous full village where you can stay in the old houses, eat at a lovely restaurant, and see craftspeople working during the day. It's one of the most peaceful places I know, and I spent my time just walking and sketching and playing the banjo. The perfect retreat.
I've joined a group (well, you do that by showing up) called the Memphis Urban Sketchers. Elizabeth Alley, a fabulous artist here in town, started the group after attending an Urban Sketchers conference. We meet once a month to go out and paint somewhere in the city.
I love being out with other artists and seeing their takes on the same environment, but it's also spurred me to spend more time with my sketchbook in between our meetings. I'm experimenting with watercolors to add to my pen and ink drawings, and I've been going out in my neighborhood to draw more regularly. It's always good to keep pushing yourself as an artist.
All three of these sketches are just a block or two from my home.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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