For week two of Advent, I'm delivering two more O Antiphon prints to the churches that subscribe to my weekly bulletin drawings. Usually I do lectionary based pen drawings, but Advent is my favorite season of the church year, and I like to do something special for it. Often I do a special series for Lent and Easter as well. This Advent I'm doing the seven O Antiphons. Above is O Key of David, and below is O Root of Jesse. (Given the Presbyterian nature of the churches I serve, I'm not using the traditional Latin titles. I'd like to give people an easy way into the images.)
I'm having fun playing with the "O" motif and getting it prominently into each image.
These images will be published next year in Call to Worship magazine, published by the PC USA.
My last of four issues of Call to Worship magazine that I'll be illustrating is Advent-themed, and the deadline is a bit into the new year, but near enough that I'm thinking ahead and creating art for this Advent at the same time. I had pondered a print series based on the hymn "How Can I keep from Singing", which I love, but Call to Worship suggested the O Antiphons instead, and they grabbed my imagination. I didn't have time to do both just now, so O Antiphons it is.
Advent snuck up on me this year, what with several trips, my dad's wedding, a good friend making the hospital/nursing home transition, and a few other distractions. I usually like to have time for a print series to marinate a bit in my head. This time I felt under the gun, started carving right away, and as a result have recarved three of the original four.
Here's a snapshot of the first batch.
The first one is O Wisdom, or Sophia in the Latin. She is the female personification of God in the Old Testament, and I love that image of God. She was neutered into the non-gendered Holy Spirit when the Bible moved into Greek, and I'm happy for the chance to reach back into the Hebrew tradition and show the female side of God.
Below is O Adonai, one of the names for God.
I was happy with my original image for it, but I recarved the other two prints, as well as one more not shown here. Fortunately these are small, just 4" square, but I'm going to try to think through the final three more clearly and not be as rushed. I had to get images to my churches for their bulletins, though, and sometimes time gets short.
I'm printing invitations to our home show today. I've got a 1909 Chandler and Price letterpress that I am the current caretaker for, and I feel so privileged to have it in my home. I mostly carve blocks for it and do note cards, but occasionally I have an invitation I'd like to print, and (thanks to a letterpress fairy godmother here in town who's traded me type for paintings), I have type I can set to create my own postcard. It's a satisfying process to do that from start to finish.
Today several people have dropped by to pick up calendars or prints and have gotten to see the press in action. I realize this isn't something most people are able to see in their everyday lives, and one friend too far away to drop by requested a video. So here it is. It's the first time I've used this feature on my small digital camera, so the sound isn't great, but you can see the beauty of the press in orbit.
Here's a scan of the invitation I'm printing. It's fun to try different type and ornaments that Cheryl has given me.
And here's what the first 100 or so looked like, before I caught the mistake.
At least I'm in good company. I learned in my Meeman Center class on Shakespeare with Mike Leslie earlier this fall that when they were printing Shakespeare's First Folio editions, someone would stand by the press and proofread as it was running. If he found a mistake, he'd yell, "Stop the presses!", and they'd fix it, but they wouldn't waste the pages they had already printed. So there are several different versions of the First Folio floating around with various typographical errors.
In my case, the places for the "a" and the "r" letters in a California case are right next to each other, and obviously I just grabbed the wrong one.
Here's how the letters are laid out in print shops. I still have to use a diagram to go very quickly, but I'm learning. It's a fun trade to learn. I feel connected with centuries' worth of important history as I print with moveable type. My whole church (Presbyterian) sprang out of the printing press and the new ability it offered to spread both vernacular copies of the Bible and theological tracts.
Two of Memphis' fine musicians got married last night, with many more fine musicians in attendance. The bride had asked me to sketch the wedding, and it was my very first time to do such a thing. I'd never even thought of sketching a formal wedding before, but apparently it's becoming something of a thing, since there was a recent New York Times article about just that phenomenon.
I was honored to be asked as well as both pleased and a little scared that the bride trusted me with her special day. I don't do faces much at all, but she had loved the opera sketches I did a while ago (very quick and impressionistic), so I said I'd do my best.
It was quite a whirlwind -- partly because of the short ceremony (fortunately the rehearsal beforehand let me do some extra sketches of the ceremony poses) and partly because it was my first time to try to capture such a broad, changeable event.
Here were people signing the guest book before the ceremony. The wedding was in an art gallery with gorgeous black and white photos all over the walls, which made for a great backdrop.
There was wonderful music. Sean Murphy played a wooden flute, bowls, and drum for the ceremony. I recently sketched his brass band playing at the end of a race. I think this is my favorite sketch of the whole group.
In addition to six finished watercolors (more to come as I get them scanned in), I also did 23 quicker pencil sketches in a book that the bride can keep. Here are the first two. Again, I'll post more as I get them scanned in. It was an intense three hours, but also very rewarding.
First the front piece. (I should have gotten someone else to do the lettering.)
And the bride arranging her own flowers. I loved the laid-back, easy feel of this wedding. It was a delight to be included in the festivities.
I've been taking orders for calendars around here to celebrate Small Business Saturday. I also went to Sew Memphis today, our wonderfully funky and artistic fabric store, to help celebrate their open house. I went to Burkes Books (which is throwing me a calendar party for Cooper Young Night Out on December 6th), the farmers market, and our locally owned dog food store. A satisfying morning out and about.
Calendars are in stock and ready to go out, so if you'd like to give a small, local gift this year, let me know. I'll be making up several orders to take to the post office Monday, so this is a perfect time.
Here is the array of images in the calendar, all watercolors done on site.
It has been a glorious few days in Memphis. So in spite of a stack of commissions, I've been hard pressed to do anything but wander a few blocks to Overton Park with my sketching gear and just enjoy the day. I did get three commissions done this afternoon, but I've done a number of park watercolors as well over the last three days, and here they are. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather spend a beautiful afternoon.
And here's the one from my previous block post, but it really belongs with this set.
People periodically ask how I knew I wanted to be an artist and when I knew. The how is easy. I wake up every morning thinking about what new print I want to work on or what place I want to paint next. Or just remembering beautiful trees or shadows that have caught my eye and need to make their way into my artwork somehow. I am hardwired to create art.
WHEN I knew I wanted to be an artist is a little trickier, but it was mercifully early. I know so many people who want to be creative and aren't quite sure how. I've felt blessed to always have a clear vision of what I want to do, even if making it happen is a big next step. By the summer after my high school freshman year, I was making up for an absolutely pathetic art program at my school by auditing intro classes at the Memphis College of Art (MCA) --- not for credit, but just to prepare myself to be an art major.
I think the actual moment I went from enjoying drawing to really wanting to be an artist, though, was in a summer MCA camp program I took at age 13. The class was painting outside the Brooks Museum, and I chose a statue in a birdbath that I painted again today.
My 13 year old version of it was much larger and closer up, and somehow the greens and blues I used for the statue melded on the paper in a way that I didn't expect and was much more beautiful than what I had planned. It was magic. I vividly remember the sheer amazement of that moment and wanting to take part in that magic again. I think that's when I decided seriously to be an artist.
Even now, years later, that particular magic only happens once a year or so. Every other piece comes out not quite matching the vision I had in my head when I started, even though I end up happy with most of them. But once in a great while, something even better than my original idea ends up happening, somehow, and it's still a transporting moment for me.
This print is one such piece. I did it for another audited class a few years ago, and I was so pleased with how it turned out that it almost single-handedly launched me onto the path of becoming a printmaker. Several years later, it's still the prints (most often) that I wake up planning in my head. I'm so blessed to know what it is that I want to do and blessed to be able to do it every day.
I'm the illustrator for the four editions of this year's Call to Worship magazine put out by the Presbyterian Church. For the upcoming edition, they've asked for four small prints to show the progression of worship -- gathering, word, eucharist, and sending. I'm using my own church Idlewild as a model for the prints -- sketching on Sunday mornings when I'm there and coming home to do the prints. Here they are in progress, and I'll post the finished prints soon.
For the top photo, you can see three progressive proofs, where I carve a little more each time and then print again to se
When I disappear from here for several days without warning, the odds are I'm taking a dancing break. I grew up doing folk dancing with my parents and found contra dancing in college. It continues to be the fastest jolt of joy I know. I see old friends at various weekends, get to dress up beyond my regular printmaking jeans, and almost always get some transporting waltzes.
I both hang out with and dance with my sisters.
I dance with old friends.
I dance on playgrounds.
I dance in gardens.
When I'm very lucky I get dipped in fountains.
And sometimes I get to call with the really fun band.
It's always a joyful break for me. Now I'm back to work.
(photos courtesy of Dave Pokorney, Bob Trimble, Wally Stewart, Greg Rodhe, and Bob Green, and me. The Latterday Lizards are the truly awesome band in the photo, and they played this past weekend in Atlanta as well.)
When I got to my opening last week, these flowers were waiting for me on the sales table. Friends of mine for all my life, friends of my parents before I was born, had kindly marked my big occasion of the year this way. They were the first people in the door for the show as well. One of the things I love about living where I've grown up is the continuity of friendships across the decades. I'm so grateful for all the old friends in my life.
I wanted to send a nice note, so this is the quick sketch I did of the flowers for the thank you card. Years ago I found a book about Edouard Manet's last paintings, small paintings of flowers that his friends sent him while he was sick. He painted them in bed, I think. They are exquisite. I can't come close, but it was a bit of an homage to Manet's inspiration for my painting that I gave it a try.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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