I take generally the same route home from Washington State -- there are well spaced state parks to stay at, and it's both the shortest and easiest to drive (I-90 across Montana and South Dakota is blissfully traffic free). But it is fun to vary things a little. This year the Keyhole Lake state park in Wyoming was full when I wanted to travel, but I could venture a bit further off I-90 and stay at the Devils Tower KOA instead. It was fantastic. I got a campsite with an unobstructed view, and I sat out at my picnic table and sketched a ton in the evening and a bit more in the morning fog. In fact, I sketched so much that I'll split the sketches into two different posts so things will load more easily.
The first couple of days driving were hard. Lots of smoke and a closed interstate in Montana due to one fire. I generally like to sketch at least a little bit each day of the trip as a mental break from driving, but the air quality was awful, so I just hunkered down in my camper the first night with my air purifier running, and then in a gorgeous guest room of a friend in Bozeman. Julie kindly gave me sanctuary from the heat and terrible air, so I spent an extra day to let a cool front pass across. Then I headed to Devils Tower and had lovely weather to sketch. I was so grateful for that kindness. It made all the difference to the trip. Otherwise I would have been moving across the country at the same rate as the heat and smoke.
These sketches are all in my larger, watercolor specific Handbook journal (an 8" square that opens up to 16" across the fold). The next entry will have sketches from my smaller 5.5" journal. It was my go-to for some years, but I've enjoyed being able to switch back and forth from the larger to smaller size lately.
Dog and distraction
It’s been quiet around here as I made my way home across the country (2600 miles solo in the camper van), tried to wade through three and a half months’ worth of mail and necessaries, and FOUND A NEW DOG. This is Gideon. He’s an 8 month old Golden retriever , 62 pounds (so far — I’m hoping for a decent bit bigger), and one congenital heart condition discouraging folks from adopting him. He’s a sunny, sweet, attentive, smart love, though, and we’ll see what the vets say. We’re going to have us a good time for whatever time we get, though. That unscarred, love-the-world disposition can be hard to find in rescue dogs, who have tended to live through some tough stuff, and I just couldn’t leave him in a kennel. I still miss Mr. Darcy, but Gideon is going to be a quality companion too.
He started work yesterday as my studio dog and did great. He laid around in the floor and kept me company while I printed. I found out how out of practice I am though! I printed 40 small Walter Andersons, from a block I carved over the summer, but I completely forgot to reverse the direction on the color roll. I was watching the prints closely for crispness, but I totally didn’t notice that the colors were backwards from what I wanted. Now I’m not sure what to do with this batch. But at least I got my printmaking area cleaned up and going again. I’ll get locked in here soon I’m sure. You can see the proof in the top left, with the color the way I want it, and the others that just don’t match. (Feels like a Sesame Street exercise, doesn’t it?) Sigh.
This seems like the year to do a calendar again. Last year I did P is for Possum instead, and I love having a book. The book grew out of sketches I did to keep myself sane and happy as the world turned on a dime last spring. I needed bright colors and small daily joys to cheer me up. I had a ball with those sketches, and a calendar seems like the perfect way to share that ongoing joy in the small things with everyone else. I hope it brings joy and reminds folks of the daily good things that we can control for ourselves (unlike so much of the world outside).
You can preorder calendars in my online store. They'll print and mail out in September. Choose "local pickup" if you'd like to pick up in person in midtown Memphis, but otherwise please choose the shipping option.
When I am feeling a little lost, I often buy new art supplies to play with. So I've done a lot of that this last year and a half. One of those has been a bottle of walnut ink from the Art Center in Memphis. I love having a really good, locally owned art store that will not only stock my specific needs for me (18x24" linoleum blocks instead of just 12x12" ones) but that also has a wide array of alluring things to browse and try and play with. If you are lucky enough to have such a store, please support it. Online ordering just isn't the same.
So I came on this summer trip with a bottle of walnut ink and a very old dip pen that had been handed down to be and that has been sitting in a cup ever since, lonely and untried. I'm having a ball. The walnut ink nicely has a tight fitting top, and it rides around safely in the daypack with my art things, so I've been using it on site a lot lately.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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