A college friend was in town and at a conference in the Peabody, so we met for breakfast and had a wonderful visit. I love reconnecting with old friends, and Facebook has made that possible in several instances.
I took advantage of being downtown and did another Peabody lobby sketch. I keep going down there meaning to paint a different view, but every time the fountain draws me. Today I did a closer up study of it. I've had fun drawing statues lately and need to get back to the Dixon Gardens and do a few more.
I'm a complete and shameless NPR junkie. I listen to their talk programming and podcasts while I work (I love to distract the verbal half of my brain, and let the visual and instinctive part do its job uninterrupted), and it's a huge part of my life. So in thinking about my Memphis landscape, I realized that my audioscape is largely our local public station, WKNO (with a little WEVL music and St. Louis Cardinals broadcasts thrown in). I really wanted to include them in my upcoming Memphis-themed show, and Justin Willingham, my favorite on-air guy and a former student of Elmore's, was kind enough to let me go out and sit in the booth while he worked.
It was fun to get to see the behind the scenes rhythm of a normal day. I'd been interviewed before on the local "Checking on the Arts" show that highlights art happenings around the city, bless them, but it was neat just to see a normal, "All Things Considered" afternoon and watch the preparation that goes into the station breaks. I really appreciated Justin letting me sit in for that, and I ended up quite happy with the sketch as well. It's a departure from my usual landscapes, and that made it fun to do.
I'm having a letterpress couple of days around here. On Monday I ran my first holiday cards and also did some posters for Cooper-Young festival this weekend about my note cards. On the poster, I got to play around with my new fonts and show a bunch of them off.
Above is the holiday card as I intended it when designing. However, it's hard to keep something that solid that dark on the letterpress, which was built to print type (with small amounts of dark and lots of white around each letter -- less pressure needed). So as the inking cycle made its way around, I got lots of notecards like the next one.
This is where the press can be a partner in the creative process, and not just a passive tool. I decided I liked the effect of a glowing sky, so I didn't fight to keep each note card dark, and I have a spectrum of them available. Folks can choose which they like.
I finished up using my saxophone carving from the Park Friends Month of Music poster to make a note card as well. I paired it with a word in my wood type (the "PEACE" is the same font of wood type, only capitals) and ran a series of these. They're inspired by my friend and neighbor Jim Spake, saxophonist extraordinaire and a part of my favorite band anywhere. Memphis is lucky to have so many amazing musicians.
Because I'm always thinking about the image first, I didn't even notice that I was painting a firehouse the weekend of September 11th. I've always loved the old, tile-roofed building on Union, though I suspect it might be nicer to look at if you don't have to live in the antiquated conditions. I did two versions of it yesterday, one from the Walgreens parking lot (in a banner moment for me this series, I took an actual CHAIR to paint in. Much more comfortable, if you don't have to carry it too far) and one from right beside the station. I met lots of super nice firefighters who all wanted to see what I was doing.
They ended up being the ones to remind me of September 11th, because they pointed out the new benches, one of which I was sitting on, that had been provided by Home Depot. I'm not a huge Home Depot fan, preferring to patronize Stewart Brothers and Gate City, the small, locally owned hardware places that have been in Midtown for decades, but I was pleased to know that our local Home Depot is investing in the community that way. The benches are right by the bus stop as well as the fire station, so they really are a gift to the community.
Anyway, and all in all, this seemed like a good day to post these watercolors.
The river is a big part of my husband's and my lives, especially Elmore's. He got me started on kayaking as soon as I met him, and for him it's his normal exercise, like going for a jog. It takes longer than my regular walk, so I don't do it as often, but I do love to be out on the water in a small, quiet, close-to-the-water craft. I feel connected to a millenia-old tradition, and I love being able to explore new places under my own steam. So my personal landscape wouldn't be complete without some paintings of the riverfront and also our marina, where we keep the kayaks right on the water.
Our Memphis Urban Sketchers chapter met this weekend at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. They open up the gardens early on Saturday morning (for free!), so I got there as soon as I could after my farmers market run that morning. They've got a lovely outdoor cafe set up as a special feature during the run of the Forain exhibit, and it was the perfect gathering place for our group. We came and went and drew what called us, but most of us ended up back there for lunch. I always love the chance to sit around and talk art with other artists.
I did two morning watercolors, had lunch with the group, and then went inside to see the exhibit properly. It's an amazing show, more so than I had expected. I love getting to see the whole arc of an artist's career, and he did beautiful work in a variety of media. I especially liked the watercolor/guache pieces and the etchings.
I also really enjoyed painting the structured gardens (I've always been a sucker for formal gardens and have loved this spot since I was a teenager). I think I'm going to have to go draw there again so these two sketches don't get lonely.
Yesterday was Elmore's and my anniversary, and we're lucky that the Center for Southern Folklore downtown puts on a music festival to help us celebrate each year. One of things we most love to do together is go listen to live music, so it's a perfect way for us to celebrate. We went down in the late afternoon, had dinner with good friends we ran into (our best music-listening-to friends), and hung out all evening listening to various bands. We had a little time between two that we wanted to hear, so I tried a nocturne. Painting at night is a little tricky, since you have to find decent light to work by, and I'm not sure this really reads clearly as a night scene, but I was attracted by the string of lights and by the full crowd over at the Majestic's patio.
In that glamorous, dog-ownership kind of way, I had to deliver a sample of Merlin's pee to our vet this morning. They're right on a funky, double, across-a-train-track intersection that I've driven through all my life. The intersection of Southern and Highland always seems to define its neighborhood for me, so I took my sketching gear to take advantage of driving out there and did this drawing.
Wednesday night was my bookclub, and we alternate between meeting in Midtown and going out east. Again, since I was driving somewhere different anyway, I took advantage of the opportunity and headed out early to draw the neighborhood I grew up in. This is right along Poplar near Colonial, which was my street growing up. The Clark Tower dominates this whole part of town, so my Memphis series wouldn't be complete without it.
I spend a lot of time in and around Overton Park. Above are apartments just across Poplar from the park that have been calling me to paint them for a couple of years, and I finally found the right medium.
Below is Brooks, the art museum in the park. I love having a museum I can walk to, and they have a lovely collection of their own as well as getting some great shows. A few years ago they had one of my very favorite Constables in the world, as part of their Edinburgh National Gallery traveling show, and I walked over just to call on it at least weekly while it was in the neighborhood.
Last up is the golf clubhouse, as seen from the Greensward. Merlin and I headed over one nice morning for me to paint and him to nose around and enjoy the hint of fall in the air. Having such a great park just a few blocks away is a huge boost to my quality of life.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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