The skies were amazing at the beach, and I so enjoyed sitting out under the sky and seeing the whole dome of sky there. I love our huge, hardwood forest in my neighborhood, but it does mean that I only see bits of sky at a time.
I had my big, fat, water soluble, graphite crayon with me, and it was pretty perfect for working after dark with just it and a water brush. No colors to try to decipher in the dark. It was fun to just put down a few impressions of the sky and the full moon.
My favorite place on Dauphin Island, along with my upstairs balcony for the evenings under the sky, was the Bird Sanctuary. My sister and I cycled down to see it, and I took my sketching things along. It was gorgeous. A lovely variety of landscapes, from a lake with water lilies and a resident alligator to beach to pine forest. I had a ball sketching, though it was slightly disconcerting at first to sketch with an alligator gliding directly underneath the dock I was sitting on.
The pine trees above were at the fringe of the beach. I always love a beach that has trees as well as sand. A perfect combination. Below are two different takes on the lily pond lake. I did the one with more sky first and then circled around at the end to do a second one with more emphasis on the water. It got a little overworked and lost the looseness of the first one, but there are things I really like about both of them. I'm in the middle of Mad Enchantment by Ross King, a book about Monet's creation of his late, huge waterlily paintings, and it was fun to get to paint my own thinking of his.
I also did a little bit of dip pen drawing. I'd used the pen for the green ink on the other sketches, but for these I just left them at the line stage. The pine trees reminded me of Walter Anderson, so I was surrounded by art heroes as I worked.
I took a week last week to go to Dauphin Island with my sisters and their families. We rented a house just off the beach and hung out and read and took naps and walked and rode our bikes. It was marvelous. One of the best things for me was the upstairs balcony in the evenings. It was too sunny during the day, but I sat up there for a while most evenings and watched the sky. Memphis is into the season of largely flat skies for summer, but at the coast, the air is so variable that the clouds are spectacular. It was super windy, and there were only three days of the week I could really paint outside at all, but I enjoyed them. And I loved watching the pelicans fly past me up on that high balcony.
I also took my sketchbook down, one of the still(ish) days to the beach at the western end of the island, where there was just sand and dunes instead of houses built out blocking the beach every so often on piers. It was unaccountably soft for walking -- there seemed to be no packed down part at the water's edge. But the views were lovely to sketch.
I got lucky enough to see another owl up close. I'd been out early one morning and gone to the forest to see if I could spot one without any luck. When I got almost back to my house, though, I heard a whole group of birds kicking up a ruckus. One of the best pieces of life advice I've gotten is to listen for the birds going ballistic somewhere and then try to spot the owl they're fussing at. This time, unlike often when they're super high, she was sitting on a decently low branch in the alley just across from my house. Sometimes what you're looking for is at home all along.
She sat and watched Gideon and me for 7 or 8 minutes. Just watched, occasionally twisting her head in odd but lovely ways to watch other things and then looking back at us. I took a chance, put Gideon in the house, grabbed my sketchbook, and she was still there when I got back. So I spent another 10 minutes sketching her. The first two are a water soluble graphite crayon, and the second two are a fat felt tip pen and some lighter ink wash. I'm getting really close on my finishing my big commission, and I may have to do a print of this owl afterwards. I enjoyed doing the series of birds for my show at WAMA, and as much as I love owls, I think an addition to that series is needed.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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