On Vacation...sort of
I should have posted to say before, but I've been working hard to get my urban sketching series ready for my November show, and I'm taking just a little time away from art. Please check back at the beginning of November for a new blog post. I've done a few small pastels the last couple of days in preparation for some winter oil painting, and I'll have them up soon. I'm also working on some small block prints, hopefully for letterpressed bookplates. And I'll be getting back to my urban sketching series soon.
Dixon Gardens Revisited
I took advantage of the early opening of the Dixon gardens this past Saturday morning to go paint there again. I'd been wanting to get back ever since our Urban Sketchers met there last month, and it was thoroughly satisfying. I love the shapes of formal, structured gardens, and the statues mixed in add an element of narrative as well as a different color family.
I never thought of myself as a cherub person, but both at the Peabody and now at Dixon, I find myself drawn to the cherubs holding up basins. They're like junior caryatids. I've painted the bird bath below twice now, and the Peabody fountain three times.
I'm very tempted to go back with my pastels to do more studies (they give me a much greater depth of color and value information). I'm just beginning to think that spending the winter painting formal garden studio pieces could be a lovely way of whiling the cold, dark season away.
National Ornamental Metal Museum
Memphis is lucky enough to have the only ornamental metal museum around. It's a fascinating place, with blacksmiths at work, a lovely small museum, a wonderful gift show, and an utterly fascinating main gate with scores of rosettes made by the many blacksmiths and metal artists who have passed through over the years. Each one is a tiny work of art, and I always spend some time lost in the magic of it when I visit.
The grounds are dotted with sculptures and other metalwork, including the gazebo above, and the view of the river, and the wide bend it goes into just south of the city, is the nicest around.
I spend an afternoon drawing down there this week and am dying to go back and do more. It's a stunning place.
I drive down East Parkway on my way to my old time jam, and I've enjoyed gazing east and seeing the new "Tiger Lane" green space and tailgating area. The open space gives the graceful old Liberty Bowl the vista she deserves.
The scene kept drawing me, so I went over on a recent afternoon to paint. It was great to see walkers and bikers using the area for a little pre-dinner exercise. I love public spaces, and I'm glad this one is being used for more than occasional tail-gating.
Pink Palace Crafts Fair
Elmore and I spent the last four days demonstrating at the crafts fair, so I haven't been drawing much over the last little while. Elmore demonstrated wooden bowl carving, starting with splitting big chunks of tree trunks and going from there. I was demonstrating printmaking, so I spent most of my time carving, but I did take a little time Saturday morning before things got too busy to do an urban sketch. The big lemon near our tent was new this year, at least in our area, and it amused me all week.
It was fun getting to sit and work and watch Elmore do his thing. Here's Elmore splitting a log...
and roughing out the inside of a bowl...
And here we are together, with me in his new rocking chair. We met at this fair eight years ago, so I always like to take an anniversary photo there.
The camping trip made me want to paint more at the river, so I took Merlin down the other afternoon, and he roamed around the Greenbelt Park while I painted. Things didn't click as smoothly as they had for me on the island, but I got a couple I'm pleased with. It's fun to paint sometimes without the pen drawing first, though I'm still trying to figure out the best way to make that work.
Our Memphis Urban Sketchers group recently got to go into the old Sears Crosstown building. It was a fabulous peek into a place that has loomed over my neighborhood for well more than my life, and I loved getting to draw inside it.
We weren't allowed to separate by the building's owners, however, so we all had to draw in set time periods as a group, and I felt rushed and not able to do my best work. The one above is my first one, and it's the only one I'm really pleased with.
In this one, I was drawn by the color of the sky through the windows, but it turns out that the space was too shallow to be interesting, and I didn't get enough contrast between light and dark in. If I'd had time to really look around and then paint, I think I could have done better, but it was a treat to be able to be in there at all.
The last two were done in about five minutes each, and they're interesting peeks into the building. The lamps in the cafeteria:
And a corner with a wagon and light falling on the floor (that I didn't get enough of into the frame):
Really the best thing I did, however unwittingly, all day, was model for my friend Matt Matthews' portraits of me painting. He brought his camera along with our group and got some amazing photos. You can see his photo stream of both the building itself and our group at work here.
I've gotten behind posting my new work, but I ran the 1909 letterpress a few days ago with this Christmas card. I was just given a second set of vintage wooden type (the large "N", about 3 1/2" tall) to go with my smaller set ("oel"). I'm busy folding and packaging these now while I listen to the Cardinals in the playoffs.
I got a late start yesterday morning and decided to stay close to home. This house is on my regular way to church, and it had been calling to me as I walked past it over the last weeks. It's nice to be able to paint close to home, so I took a whole camp chair with me as well as my regular backpack (luxury) and walked the two blocks to paint. The light moved around on me a good bit, since I was running into lunchtime by the time I finished, but I enjoyed painting one of the grander homes in our neighborhood. I also love the corner ones that slant expansively out to the corner instead of facing one street or the other.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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