I'm enjoying playing with watercolors without training wheels. I've never worked without putting some lines down first. Sometimes I get done and wish the composition were a little more balanced (there's no switching things around once the paint is down), but I think the energy and freshness are a good trade off. As I wrote yesterday, it's good to have these vacation spaces to experiment without feeling that a show is looming. I'm having tea on my worktable with a view of the mountains, listening to the radio, and playing with paint today. It's a good morning.
I've been trying to relax in my life lately and be a little bit less of a workaholic. I also think it's good for me to go through periods where I work quickly and loosely. Printmaking is so exacting that I can carry that tightnessback into my painting as well. I find that there’s a sweet spot at the center of the spectrum between too tight and being too sloppy, and what I tend to do is swing back and forth across that line, over correcting one way or the other in almost every piece. It’s the classic Goldilocks search for “just right.”
When I started watercolors, I was afraid of doing “little old lady” watercolors, and I felt that the presence of a strong line made them more sketchy and vibrant and energetic, as well as giving them a different feel from the old fashioned, very precise watercolors. I have mostly stayed with that style, though my lines have often gone from black pen to lighter inks to pencil. But O’Keefe’s simple and vibrant watercolors use no lines at all and simply sing. So after looking up that work of hers, I decided to try a few of my own. I can’t ever get as ascetic and spare and reduced as her gorgeous work. I’m simply too much of a detail painter. But it’s been freeing to use to lines and all and just play with paint. Here are the first four. It’s raining today, as it has been for most of my visit, this being Washington in the late fall. So I’m working from some photos I took on the one beautiful day I got to go out and take a gentle walk (while still fighting a cold). Perhaps if the weather breaks again and I feel better, I can do some on site painting as well.
writing and publishing a book but also how you order your creative life when that's the work that you do. Both books have given me a lot to think about this week. There's a picture of my basket of tools plus books below to celebrate the end of Hang Day.
Speaking of Inktober, I didn't get all of the sketches posted since it was such a busy month. Here's a roundup of some of the ones that slipped through the cracks.
It's been a busy show week here. My show got on the walls at Eclectic Eye and will be there until January 3rd, and we had a lovely opening thrown for us by the EE folks. I haven't had anyone throw me an opening where I didn't have to lug my own wine and snacks over in ages, with the one notable exception of Dixon a couple of years ago (which was such another category of exhibition that it almost doesn't count, but in an amazing sort of way). So it was a great evening. But with the framing and hanging and publicizing and tag making and all the other stuff you do around a show, I made very little art this past week. So it was marvelous to get out Saturday morning with the Memphis Urban Sketchers and just draw and see people.
I tend to get carried away and do a WHOLE WATERCOLOR PAGE most of the time in my sketchbook. I was feeling (maybe leftover from inktober) the urge to be a little more minimal and a little more line oriented this time, so I tried hard to restrain myself.
It was a misty, drizzly morning, and it felt a lot like sketching in Paris or Washington State. I spent a lot of it under my umbrella, balancing that as I sketched, and you can see how the rain drops caught me anyway in the last sketch. I was so impressed that we had a good group of folks coming out on such a morning.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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