National Dog Day is the best holiday on social media -- tons of sketches of dogs. I celebrated by taking Henry to the park for a long dog park session and forest walk, and I've spent the rest of the day working on my book about Mr. Darcy. His Gotcha Day was a few days ago, and Gideon's is tomorrow, so it's a dog-themed kind of week. I'm enjoying, in a still bittersweet kind of way, revisiting Mr. Darcy's photos to add some extra sketches to the book, but I also drew Henry on the sofa last night and am greatly enjoying his company these days. Dogs with their necessarily short lives, will break your heart, but they are so, so worth it.
Tower Grove Park is always one of my most inspiring places. It's one of a handful of places that has called to me immediately as an artist and keeps calling me back. I walked and sketched and picnicked and dreamed there last week. I've been on a huge work streak since I got home. I'm working on two new books now, with a third I'm dreaming on about Tower Grove itself, but it makes sense for me to do a Memphis one first. I've had requests for it and know the bookstores here. But sometime I may do a TGP one as well.
In the meantime, here are some of the sketches I did while both enjoying the park and mentally exploring the possibilities.
I took a mini break (as the Brits say) to St. Louis this past week. Tower Grove Park has been one of my very favorite places to sketch for years now, and I found a beguiling Airbnb right on the park. It was perfect. A small converted 1920's garage with bead board everywhere, the original doors sliding open and shut to reveal a small private patio, welcoming touches everywhere, and some really nice art. It's called the Rabbit Hole (and I've got a thing about rabbits anyway, location aside), and I will totally be going back.
My first stop, as always, was Ted Drewes frozen custard for my favorite Cindermint with hot fudge on top (not mixed in). I've had a ton of deadlines and commissions lately, and I let myself just do whatever felt good in the moment without scheduling anything. The only thing I was sure about (aside from spending a ton of time in the park as I felt like it) was visiting the St. Louis Art Museum for a contemporary print show. The collection was owned by Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and his artist wife Maryanne Simmons, and it was marvelous. Modern and edgy in places, with a huge variety of both styles and print media. So good to see a huge works on paper show.
I sketched not only in the park (the cypress tree in walnut ink below), but I did two sketches in the Rabbit Hole since I was enjoying the space so much. And, of course, a celebratory one at Ted Drewes.
I am having the best time drawing Henry with his fetching ears. These are both a big, fat, water soluble graphite crayon with some water wash. It's a super simple combination. All you need is the crayon (less that $2 at my local The Art Center store) and a water brush pen that has water in the reservoir. You just squeeze a bit and push out a little water through the brush. No open cups needed. It's genius. For watercolor, I take more time and get out a really fun brush when I have the space and time, but for something like this, the water brush is perfect. I'm keeping supplies in easy reach on the coffee table so I can grab them when Henry is settled with me on the couch. Drawings dogs 101 from David Hockney is having the art supplies stocked in their usual places so you can sketch without disturbing them. Perfect advice.
I went down over the weekend to Ocean Springs to take a painting workshop from the talented and delightful Ellen Langford and also to see my show at WAMA actually on the walls one more time before I go pick up work at the end of the month. It's been such a thrill and a joy to see my work in that space that I've visited and loved for years.
It was a last minute trip, and I couldn't find a reasonable place to stay in town, so I ended up in a tiny cabin about 20 minutes away from the museum with a meadow of pines at my front door. I love being able to just walk around town, but this was a lovely and peaceful spot, and I did a couple of sketches Saturday morning, drinking my tea on the porch and warming up for the workshop to come.
I ended the day at Tom's Extreme Pizzeria, which has an excellent seafood pizza and which also has roosters roaming around the property. Since I'm still only eating outdoors, Ricky was my dinner companion for the evening. He hung out on the back of the bench next to me for most of my meal, crowing at intervals and watching the world. He was a great model. Near the end of the meal, a girl across from me coaxed him down to take some food, and I sketched the two of them together very quickly. I need to get back out in public and draw more figures again. I've gotten very rusty through the pandemic.
I have a new studio dog. I've been wanting a black and white dog for a while, just for the graphic deliciousness, and I found a dog in foster care for Memphis Animal Services who is snuggly and loves people and walks well and hangs out next to me while I work. We're having a ball. I'm really grateful. He's nervous being left by his own, which I hope we can lessen over time, but he's a fantastic companion.
Henry has also been encouraging me to get back into more steady sketching, so here are a few scenes of daily life along with Henry.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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