I've been painting like crazy since I got home, and I don't tend to push myself to sketch if I'm making art exhaustively in another direction, but I did finally get my sketchbook back out Sunday, and it felt good. I had biked to church and found myself with extra time, since I usually walk instead. I wanted to do a quick sketch of the chapel with the paraments I had sewn a few years ago. It turned into a muddy mess, though. So after church I cycled over to the park to spend a little time before meeting friends for brunch, and I decided to add trees. Trees make everything better. It was fun to sit on the other side of the park than I usually do -- faster to get there on my bicycle.
Then I continued on to Overton Square for jazz brunch at Lafayette's. All three of Di Anne Price's "boyfriends" now play with a guitarist there every Sunday. I so miss Di Anne on piano and singing her songs, but it's good to still have Sunday music with the guys.
Once a year, a painting just flows as I work on it and is better in front of me than the vision I had been hoping for. It’s magic, and it’s what hooked me on being an artist. That happened for me the first time when I was 14 painting in a Memphis College of Art summer kid session. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often. Even after decades of making art, usually what comes out never matches the vision in my head when I started. Which doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my work, but it does mean I always see the bits I wish were different.
I was struggling to paint all summer, and it was deeply good to come home from Paris with new ideas and inspiration. This is an image from there, even though I took the photo several years ago and have been thinking about it and waiting for it to make sense in my mind before I started to paint. I’m enjoying being back to oils now that I’m home with my easel (this is 3x4’, so not a travel kind of piece), and even though I’ll keep struggling with paintings in this water series, it was a lovely gift to get started again and have it be so much fun.
It's been a week, now. I did an artist market on Sunday, hung my main show of the year on Wednesday, and had the opening last night. It's lovely to see it all dressed up and on the wall. I've been showing bits of this edible still life exhibition along the way. It was my fun summer project, just grabbing something at a market or bakery and painting it without thinking too hard. I've always loved still life, and I've always loved the small things that together build daily happiness, so this show was a lot of fun to do. It's also the 20th anniversary of my first ever professional show, at Cecelia Lin Gallery, which is the last time I've done an exclusively still life show. It felt right to do one again and think about how lucky I am to do what I love every day. I'm so grateful for the whole tribe of folks who show up, spread the word, and sometimes even buy art. It was lovely to celebrate with friends last night.
2020 Memphis Calendar
I've had a number of requests to do a calendar again for 2020 after taking 2019 off. I was busy last year, but also the last calendar I did had a bunch fewer orders than previously. There were a lot of local artists doing calendars last year, and I wasn't sure if folks were tired of mine. This year I decided to assemble the art and take online orders. If I get enough orders to make it worth the printing costs and amount of time it takes, I'll go ahead and get it printed. If I don't get enough orders, I'll cancel all orders (well ahead of any credit cards being charged). So here's your chance if you want a calendar for 2020. Go ahead and put your order in now on my website, and if I get enough, it will happen. I'll say again that NO CHARGES WILL GO THROUGH AT ALL unless I actually get the calendar in hand and have it ready to distribute. You can "vote" and place your order at my online store.
Calendars are $18 again this year, and choose from the website for pick up (if you're local and willing to pick up from me in Midtown) or shipping for 1, 2, or 3.
The group of images for this year is brand new -- no repeats from previous years (as always).
Last Day in Paris
I'm slowly scanning in at least my favorites from my sketchbook, so I thought I'd write about my last day. I had finished the work I needed to do there (still lifes for my September show and sketches for a graphic essay I'm planning), so I treated myself with another beautifully quiet morning at the Orsay and lunch at one of my favorite bakeries. It was amazing (and emotional) to stand with this self portrait by Vincent for 45 minutes, practically on my own. Two couples came through, saw it, and left. Otherwise it was just Vincent and me. Usually this piece is five people deep with everyone trying to take selfies. I felt so privileged to spend this quiet time with it. I've been thinking about self portraits a lot, had been doing some of my own (an annual Paris occupation for me) and had already done my study of Berthe Morisot's stunning one. I couldn't catch Vincent's likeness, and the background got a bit too dark, but it was wonderful to look at it deeply as I did the copy.
My friend Beth Rowlett so kindly made me a watercolor kit especially for this kind of sketching. It's attached to a wristband with heavy velcro, so I don't have to juggle the paint box as well as the book and water brush when I'm standing up in a museum. I like to sketch from a bench when I can, but there aren't benches everywhere I want to draw. You can see that I use the left side of the page to test colors or blot my brush as needed.
I also did a copy of a Bonnard painting. One of many things I love about the Orsay is that it has an absolute host of paintings of women and dogs. This one is completely charming, with their heads so intimately together. It speaks of the love in that relationship, and I was missing Mr. Darcy. I'd meant to copy it two or three years ago but hadn't gotten around to it that first summer of spending time here. Then it disappeared. The Orsay rotates paintings regularly. So when it reappeared this summer, I knew I had to take the opportunity.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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