I've spent the last two days with Elizabeth Alley, off and on -- hanging our show and then taping an interview for WKNO's Checking on the Arts (Thursday morning at 9am on 91.1 fm if you're in Memphis or streaming on their website if you're not).
Elizabeth is never, ever without a sketchbook. I frequently wander out of the house without one, but being with her always reminds me to make a renewed effort to have one on my person at all times. I was grateful to her tonight, because my board meeting lasted longer than the usual hour or so, and it was good to be able to sketch while I listened (really!).
It's been a crazy busy week. My dad got married on Saturday, and my big show for the year went up on Monday. Thanks to an all day framing marathon on Friday, I was able to relax and enjoy all the festivities with the new family and siblings (now we are six!). It's a hilarious, uproarious new family, and I couldn't be more delighted.
Monday, Elizabeth Alley and I showed up to hang our joint show at ANF architects on Union Avenue in Memphis. It's a beautiful space for art, and we had just the right amount to fill it up without overcrowding the space.
That's Elizabeth's work above, which I love, and it looks gorgeous in this sun-filledroom. My prints (top photo), which are the main body of work I've been preparing for this show, are across from the reception desk, and I'm thrilled with how they look on the wall.
We each have a "welcome painting" in a front alcove, and I also have several paintings and a couple of groupings of watercolor sketches in the hallways.
It was fun to get my prints framed and hung as the group I've been intending them to be.
I finished a couple of new ones at the last minute, and I'm glad I could get them in the show. My only regret is not getting the French Broad print done in time. The family wedding and related events cut into the time a little, but it's also a pretty complicated print, and it may take me a little bit longer to wrangle it where I want it.
Here are the couple of very recently finished ones. If you're in Memphis, I hope you can come out and join us this Friday, November 2nd, for the opening from 5:30-7:30.
The loveliest thing about illustrating the Presbyterian women's study guide a couple of years ago (my Revelation-based series of prints) is that I connected with so many churches around the country. The longest association has been with the First Presbyterian Church of Holley, NY. Thomas Gardner, their pastor, was the first subscriber to my weekly lectionary-based drawings, designed to be used in church bulletins.
We haven't met face to face, but I have enjoyed a growing friendship across the internet as we talk about worship, artwork, and other church topics. I've done occasional extra artwork for him and his congregation, and recently he told me he had based an entire sermon on the drawing I did for that week's text.
I was totally honored and asked if I could share the sermon here, along with my drawing, and he kindly gave permission. So here is one example of how art and worship can inform each other and hopefully grow into something larger than the sum of their parts. It means a great deal to me to be able to participate in worship in churches other than my own, and I'm grateful to all the ministers who include my work in their services.
A fellow Park Friends board member's wife asked me to do an Old Forest commission for her husband. He's put in tons of hours working on trails in the forest and made a number of trail signs like the one in the sketch.
I'm so grateful to everyone who steps up and takes a bit of ownership for the park. We have people who pick up trash every day, people who clear blocked trails, make long-handled pooper-scoopers for the field, work on flower beds, and a host of other things. It was neat to get to do this commission, as well as just a lovely way to spend a morning in one of my favorite places anywhere.
Here's the first pull of my Elmwood block. I intend(ed?) to carve leaves into the tree and have green showing through, but right now I'm pondering whether I just like it in black and white. Once I cut away, I can't go back, so I think I'll try painting some leaves on this proof and see what I think. There's a second Elmwood image that I think would be good in just black and white, so maybe I'll end up with a pair of black and whites. I'll sleep on it while I go dancing this weekend and take a short break.
What with traveling and working towards shows, I haven't been getting in too many commissions this month, but here are a couple of recent ones. (I have to wait to post them until they've been given, so I don't ruin any surprises.)
Both are in Central Gardens, and the lower one was the first time I'd taken my tricycle out to do a sketch. It was fun not to have to use the car.
This sketch was also done in honor of the home's centennial, which was neat to be a part of.
It was Pink Palace Crafts Fair weekend in Memphis this past weekend. Elmore has been a demonstrator for several years, splitting logs, chopping with his axe and adze, and making bowls. I've managed to slide in on his coat-tails (mostly because there's lots of space around his booth -- no one else wants to be too close to the flying wood chips), so I'm demonstrating printmaking now.
Ed Weston, a fellow Meeman Center classmate and participant in my dad's New Testament Greek group, was kind enough to give me this tiny press that had been kicking around his attic. Since my press is 1500 pounds, I can't just up and bring it to the crafts fair. This tiny one is perfect to show kids how prints are made. I loved watching their amazed faces as I peeled a tiny print off the tiny block. You can see the scale of the press from the mechanical pencil in the foreground. (It was probably originally for making ladies' social cards. It came with a form for three rows of type plus some cursive letters.)
In between questions and chatting (I see lots of old friends out there -- it's a fair I've been attending since childhood, and many Memphians also go without fail), I mostly worked on this new block. This is the first proof, and I'm continuing to do a bit of carving and cleaning up on it. It's the next installment of my series on womanhood. Anne Apple, one of the ministers at Idlewild, was kind enough to model for me on a recent Sunday.
Another reason I enjoy the crafts fair is that it was where I first met Elmore -- I walked into his booth and started chatting, and we had our first date later that weekend. So we always have a low-key celebration and take an anniversary photo out there. This was our ninth anniversary of that first meeting.
I have always loved old cemeteries. There is a marvelous Victorian one in Danville, Kentucky, where I went to college. My roommate and I would go walking there often, and my landscape painting class would have plein air outings there.
In Memphis, we have Elmwood, begun around the Civil War era and continuing through the yellow fever period, the Victorians, and on into the present history of the city. My mother-in-law was the staff historian for a while, which sounds like a marvelous job.
My travel prints got distracted from Memphis, what with my love of the St. Louis parks, but I decided I needed some more Memphis scenes and went sketching at Elmwood recently to get a good image for a print. I'm currently working on a print of the top left image.
Then this morning it was just lovely out, so I did a couple of watercolors before returning home to work on some more printmaking. I'd like to do a few more before my upcoming show. Cemeteries were early public spaces that influenced how we think about parks. One of Olmstead's early projects was a revolutionary design for one in California. Elmwood is a good fit for my public spaces theme of the upcoming show.
This is one of the first images I carved in my new series, but I didn't totally have my skills down yet. The drawings moved a bit as I was transferring them, and it wasn't printing well. I just recarved the blue block and did a color test to look at it. I was originally going to have green grass in the bottom section, but I think I like it just like this. It feels more like some of the old Japanese prints in this color scheme. (The cherry tree subject matter also contributes greatly.)
I'm going to try to have some of these printed and ready to go at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair this weekend. It originated in the Chickasaw Gardens neighborhood. Plus, I've been distracted by my many travels this year and done a bunch of non-Memphis prints. I need to do a few more for our area as well.
It's been so crazy since the Memphis Magazine issue came out that I've been tardy asking them for some PDFs to show on my website. But I met an illustrator on our recent trip who reminded me to have illustration highlighted on my website if I'd like to do more of it, so I've been working on that this week. I set up a new Illustration page here, and I got a batch of the magazine urban sketches uploaded. Hopefully I'll receive the rest of them to add soon. You can see all the excitement here.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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