I went into Asheville yesterday and did my favorite thing there --- browsed my way through bookstores. Malaprops is my favorite. It's a smallish new book store, but they always have unusual and enticing selections that I've never seen anywhere else. This is my main reason for supporting local book stores instead of just ordering online. Browsing can't be beat for discovering new treasures.
I left with one utterly charming picture book for kids (though bought totally for myself --- monsters and patchwork cats and tea and toast were irresistible) and one grown up picture book, a travelogue by a 27 year old woman having an adventure in Europe.
She sketches her way through the trip and is an accomplished cartoonist. I love her storytelling and labeled sketches of food and sites. My friend Elizabeth Alley is also a master of those quick, narrative sketches. The book made me want to document this trip, but I'm such a landscape artist at heart. All I've managed so far is a series of watercolors out the window of the view from my work table.
Here is last night.
At least I got fired up to paint reading Knisley's book. (I also loved her emotional honesty about the life choices she faces. A very courageous book. I highly recommend it.) I would love to try more narrative in my work, and maybe I'll push my limits this trip. Though I didn't bring a second sketch book, so I may have to truck into Asheville again if I really catch fire...
Here are this morning's series of watercolors. I lingered over breakfast and tea and just kept painting.
And my work table with simultaneous breakfast and painting going on. Now on to some printmaking.
I'm carving a new block, but I'm also taking a little time to get out sketching on the farm. I'm still playing with markers and pens and seeing how I like them.
I went out sketching a couple of days ago with printmaker Nancy Darrell. Here are he sketches of me sketching. She, too, wants to work on people more.
I'm nominally off the grid for a bit, staying with friends in the mountains, but I found out that the neighbor cabin down the hill has wifi to share on the porch, so I can do a few blog pieces too.
I'm starting slowly, recovering from recent travels and the calendar push, but I did a couple of pen sketches yesterday, and today I'm drawing out another England print, which I'll post when I have the full design finished. Baseball on the radio tonight (thank goodness for a crazy strong signal from KMOX in St. Louis), and sketching tomorrow with the printmaker next door. Life is good.
I've been bouncing back and forth between doing computer work to put the calendars together and working on final prints for my England show at Playhouse on the Square in November and December. These are just snaps of them. When I get a chance I'll have them scanned in (they're too big for my home scanner), but it will give you an idea of what I've been working on.
It feels nice to sign and date a whole stack of work (I've also been scanning in all the England watercolors) and realize just how much work I've done over the last few months.
This one was a problem child. I originally planned a color block for underneath, but somehow the carving got too offset. A friend on FB suggested just printing the key block since it's so graphic. Getting the tree dark surrounded by light sky and not clogging up all the small bits made this one quite tricky to print, but I got a number of good ones in the end. They'll all dry while I'm out of town next week and be ready to be packaged up or mounted when I get home.
I've been a board member of Park Friends for some years now, as well as a (thankfully) past president. It's a small volunteer group that does clean ups, trail maintenance, tree planting, and other projects in Overton Park, the large park with a tract of Old Forest that I walk in daily with Mr. Darcy. It's Memphis's Central Park. I also paint there regularly, and this park, four blocks from my home, is a huge component in my quality of life. I tell people I live in the heart of the city and walk in a forest every day.
I spent a quite intense few years as president. The city was trying to dig up our one big open picnic field for a storm water retention basin. I went to public meetings, engineering meetings, storm water meetings, and city council meetings, and thankfully, another solution was found that left our park intact. I felt so lucky to be able to have the flexibility in my work to take that time for something really important and join with other citizens to find a different path. I've been glad not to be president after all that, but I am so grateful for what our group does for the park I love. So I've put together a calendar to benefit Park Friends. 55% of the proceeds will go to that organization.
The images included in the calendar:
Opera Memphis continues to do opera outside the box under director Ned Canty. I think this is the third year they've done "30 Days of Opera,' popping up and doing free bits of opera at the dog park, along the parkway during rush hour, at an arts fair, really just about anywhere. Today they were out at WKNO, our local public radio station. They did an hour's worth of opera on the patio at lunch hour, broadcast on the radio, of course, and invited folks to show up with their lunches to listen. I love sketching at music events, and I've been working hard to put together my 2015 calendars and prep for fall shows, so I decided I was due just a fun sketching break and went out. Plus I love seeing all the 'KNO folks as well as Ned. I got a ton of hugs, did some fun sketching, and enjoyed breaking away from my computer for a while. Thanks to both organizations for a neat event!
There are three options for calendars this year. I've got my traditional Memphis one, but I also put together one of watercolors from my family trip to England this past summer. I'm having a show of the England work at Playhouse on the Square from Nov. 7-Jan5 (opening Nov. 14th), so I want an England calendar to go with the show, but I don't want to end up with a bunch of leftovers. I'll be ordering some Memphis ones to sell at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, Burke's, Trolley Stop Market, and WinterArts again this year, but I don't want to pay for leftovers, so I won't be ordering tons.
Here are the images for the My Memphis calendar:
Here are the England images:
And here are the Overton Park images:
I have apparently lost my mind this year, with three calendars to keep track of. But I'm very grateful to my local printers directFX for being willing to juggle three sets of images and not make me have a separate minimum order for each. They are marvelous, if you happen to need a printer. Chris Warner there will take good care of you.
I've spent several days printing prints that were mostly finished and just needed tweaking as well as doing computer work. Both of these are necessary (the computer work is putting together two calendars for 2015 -- a Memphis one and an England one), but neither is particularly creative. So by 9:00 last night, I was ready to just be a little creative.
I sketched my favorite banjo and my banjo playing chair -- one of my happy places. And, of course, I sketched Mr. Darcy. Again. He's so handy, right on the sofa with me.
Tonight I'm knocking off, and it's only 8:30. Maybe I can manage a little more sketching....
I did a watercolor commission this morning, but the rest of the day so far I've been editioning prints. This involves cleaning any ink smudges off the margins, and signing, numbering, and dating each set.
I also have a record book of prints in which I keep information on the details of printing (color mixes, how many blocks, what color and sized paper, etc.) but also a running tally of how many prints have been pulled for each image. You can see it open at the top left, with color samples of the ink I've used so I can match colors for the next batch. Unless it's a small run of letterpress images (like the letterpress "posters" below), I don't usually print a whole edition at one time, since I do all my printing by hand. My drying rack gets filled up, and I get tired.
I've printed a third to a half of each edition of the England prints above (editions of 30 each). It's been kind of nice to sign so many prints "2014" and realize how much work I've actually gotten done this year. And there are definitely more prints to come. I've also been scanning in all the watercolors from England and haven't even started on the Paris ones yet, so that's nicely affirming. In spite of all the travel (and also because of it), I have a good array of new work for the fall and holiday shows.
I'm sorting and counting and trying to figure out how many prints I need to do some more of before the Pink Palace Crafts fair in October and my show of England images in November. Next I'll have to start packaging them all....
I had such fun with the Stabilo felt tip pen sketches at First Congo on Sunday that I've been doing a few more. I sketched Mr. Darcy on the couch with me last night. He's an agreeable model, and I find him quite handsome as well....
I did another couple of sketches today as we were waiting for the vet for his annual check up.
None of these achieved the depth I really liked in the First Congo sketches, but they're also much closer up as well. There's just not as much depth in the subject.
I also revisited my favorite of the First Congo ones and added just a little bit more wash, going up higher on the page and distinguishing the banners from the space behind. On the left is the original version, and on the right is after I had tweaked it a bit. I want to get out and do some more cafe/landscape/bigger space sketches like this...
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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