I always am drawn back to Elmwood to sketch. My public art celebration there will be Sunday, November 19 from 3-5 --- band, snacks, fun! I can't show the columbaria carvings yet online, but as I start thinking about a new Memphis alphabet book, you'd better believe that E is for Elmwood, and I was out on a recent, beautiful day doing some sketches. I replaced the Ancient Copper ink in my new pen with a waterproof black ink by DeAtrementis, thinking ahead to the new book. My last two have been done primarily in Diamine Golden Brown. I think the new book will have a wider array of sketching materials, and black may pull all of them together best. Plus I do really love working with line and tone. The grey is a brush pen with warm black ink, and it feels good to get back to this kind of sketching.
I've got a new, fun fountain pen. It's a Majohn bent nib, so the line variation goes from thin to thick. Because of the thick lines, bent nib pens can run out of ink quickly, but this one has a huge well for ink, and it's clear plastic, so I can see when I'm running low. It's short and fat and super fun to use. Christina was given one by our friend Beth, and I got to try it at lunch with Christina soon after. She has Diamine Aurora Borealis in hers, so those first green/blue sketches are with her pen. I put Diamine Ancient Copper in mine, which is the new fun color I've been having a great time with. The first one I got kept sticking, but knowing that two others were flowing great, I did a return, and my new one is beautiful. I may have to get a second one to have a couple of different colors. Nicely they're just under $20, so a quite reasonable impulse purchase for something that feeds my work.
I've been lucky enough to meet up with my friend Christina for a series of sketching meals over the last month. I love getting out with a friend or two, enjoying some food, comparing sketching materials, and drawing together. You're not ignoring your dinner companion if she is also sketching. It's companionable and full of joy for me. We met up at Cafe Eclectic on 901 day (September 1st mirrors the Memphis area code, for those of you out of town, and we have a bit of a civic celebration that goes on.) I had fun with the red umbrellas and then sketched Christina in graphite with my newish graphite Kaweko mechanical pencil I got out west that has a huge, juicy, fat column of graphite in it.
I sketched at the Slider Inn with a dip pen and the Ancient Copper ink by Diamine I've been really enjoying lately. I didn't have the mental energy for watercolor that night, but it was fun to record the evening and play with line.
Finally was lunch at Boscos after the Memphis Urban Sketchers meetup. The same dip pen with a warm purple ink, but we lingered longer and I enjoyed adding the watercolor.
I’ve been doing a bunch of book work this week since getting the Apple pencil. It’s taken a bit of getting used to, but is so much better than scanning in and cleaning up huge blocks of text. I can also play with it and change sizes, wrap it around images, etc. It feels much more immediate, and while I’m working to keep my handwriting legible, I hope that energy will translate into the book. I see that the pencil somehow migrated in color a bit, but overall I’m getting the hang of things and am grateful for this new tool. This is a double page spread. Georgia and Walter were in the Oxford American essay, but no one who knows me will be surprised to see that I added Constable now that I have a bit more room. He’s my number one influence on work habits and art philosophy, but OA is about Southern culture, so I leaned into American artists for it. I’ve got a few more watercolors and a back cover to do, but I’m getting close. I forget how very much longer all this takes than I think it will, but it’s always worth it to have a book in my hands.
Depending on your point of view, I either got a new toy or invested in my work last week. I love making art on paper with paint or carving, but the text part of making a book is painstaking if I write by hand and scan in, cleaning up lines of text and trying to keep them in the correct area around the images and in a ballpark of the same size. So this week I got an iPad Pro and Apple pencil. Being able to write directly on the book page without the smudges and dirt a scanner can add in is a huge pleasure. I’m still getting used to the iPad version of photoshop and the feel of the pencil itself, but I’m feeling encouraged. I’ve got a couple of different book projects in mind, and I think this will be a huge help.
I’ll lose that variation of ink that a real pen gives you, but I’ll regain the energy and creativity of wrapping text around the images and playing directly with the spaces instead of trying to replicate that on a separate page. I’m still working to figure out sizes and keep my writing neater with the pencil, but I’m very happy with the early progress.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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