French Broad River in progress
I did two different versions of this first color proof last night and this morning (three printings total). The top one has one solid green, but the clouds have both blue and black markings in them.
The second one has a lighter, yellow green rolled on top of the foreground trees, and only blue markings in the clouds. I took the photos in pretty bad light, so they're more yellow than they should be, but you can see the main elements.
I think I like the two different greens, but I can't decide yet which version of the clouds I like better.
I was trying to be economical with my good paper and did these proofs on newsprint, but I've learned that floppy, thin newsprint is more difficult to register (put in the press in the same place every for each printing), so unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to use the stiffer paper anyway and see how things line up before I do much refining. There's a bit of movement in both of these proofs, but I'm going to have to get more information before cutting away things I can't put back. Sigh. Live and learn.
All the work I've done for Cape Resorts Group in Cape May is being used by Stella Bean advertisers. They are building a new website for the group that incorporates my paintings, but Kevin Philip is also creating fun extras, like e-cards to send out for the holidays.
Below is the storyboard for the Congress Hall one, which uses three of my watercolors to make an animated card. You can flip through the document below to see the progression, and you can follow these two links to watch the full e-cards.
Several of my Christmas commissions were downtown, and it was fun to get to a neat part of town I don't visit that often. I did the above one perched up on a wide concrete wall at Butler Park, just by the old Goldcrest 51 brewery building I loved so much in high school. The neighborhood has changed greatly (and for the better), but the view is still amazing.
On my way home, I scored a parking meter just opposite the Fire Museum I needed to paint, so I worked in warmth and comfort. Perfect.
Cape May, off duty
I just moved my photos from Cape May onto my computer, and I thought I'd share the private side of my Cape May trip. I've been crazy busy this week doing commissions, but I can't share any of them yet, since they're all surprise presents for Christmas.
I had a room on the fourth floor of Congress Hall, a lovely old hotel with wood floors and silken bannisters (from generations' worth of hands sliding down them). The first morning I woke up to see the moon setting over the Victorian houses just across the way.
I loved my window with a deep sill and drug my chair over into the alcove looking out of it. I ate most of my meals with my feet propped up on the window sill, looking out at the houses and trees and reading the New York Times that appeared outside my room every morning.
I also spent some time sitting there playing my banjo.
The beach was beautifully deserted in December. I walked down it most days and enjoyed the sound of the ocean and the gulls swooping past.
One day it was even warm enough to go barefoot and wade in the surf.
I had a gorgeous misty morning walk one day.
I was mostly painting in the dusk time of day (lots of Christmas lights to do), but I did get to the beach for one lovely sunset.
I love the lighthouse.
But most of all, as I think I've mentioned repeatedly, I love the trees.
Cape May sycamores
My very favorite thing about being in Cape May is the sycamore trees. I walk every day along streets lined with Victorian homes and dancing sycamores in the median strips. I had been quite anxious about these trees through Hurricane Sandy. I was relieved to find them all standing when I returned to Cape May in December. (Small potatoes, I know, in the context, but small things make me grateful.)
My first time I didn't have time to paint them at all, but I had a little more personal time built into the schedule this go-round, so I spent most of it drawing and walking among the trees.
These trees look a bit Seussian to me, and I decided this trip that when I get to the point where my body is adding odd folds and bumps, I'm going to try to see it as my transformation into a beautiful sycamore instead of ugly old age. (We'll see how that goes...)
Many of these trees reside on Hughes Street, my favorite street in Cape May. I'm grateful to Jessica Scott, a life-long Cape Mayer, for sending me there, knowing my love for trees. Here's a larger overview of a whole flock of trees in front of a lovely 1840's or so home.
And I think the trees love me too. I found numerous hearts on them, as if they were just waiting for me to walk by, touch them, and find those hearts.
Here is the full set of O Antiphons, created for Call to Worship magazine. The series of antiphons were chants or hymns to be sung on the seven days leading into Christmas. Here are the block prints in order.
O Wisdom (O Sapientia)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
I have always loved the vision of Wisdom in the Old Testament as the female person of God. She became neutered in the Greek and changed to the Holy Spirit, so I was grateful for this chance to remember that one of our oldest understandings of God has a female personification.
O Adonai (O Lord)
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
O Root of Jesse (O Radix Jesse)
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
O Key of David (O Clavis David)
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Morning Star (O Oriens)
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O King of Nations (O Rex Gentium)
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
O Emmanuel (God With Us)
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Friday and Saturday nights are the best radio nights in Memphis. WEVL, our local community radio station, has a rockabilly show (with Lonnie, my very favorite dj) and then an awesome blues show on Fridays and a soul show on Saturday nights. Last night, with an evening at home and lots of work to do, I decided to go ahead and carve, proof, and print the final O Antiphon while listening to Soul Stew. It was a satisfying evening (and I took a small break to slow dance with my husband to Otis Redding, my favorite Stax singer, when he came on). I always love creating, and I feel so blessed to do it every day.
O Emmanuel, God with us, is the final of the seven days leading into the Christmas season. This hymn is sung on December 23rd. I love creating these through the season of Advent (instead of midsummer sometime). It means I'm working hard to hit the deadlines, but I also feel the season so much more strongly than if I were making these in a different time of year.
Many thanks to Call to Worship magazine for nudging me to take on the O Antiphons. It's been a lovely journey.
These are the three proofs I pulled as I carved last night. I carved the main bit, printed it, refined it a little, printed again, refined, and ended up with a final version.
Today I'm featuring The Virginia Hotel at Cape May, in my tour of places there I've painted recently. It is the truly lovely Victorian hotel owned by the same family as Congress Hall. I'm a total sucker for old buildings, and this is a lovely one. It also has an inviting and charming front porch, where one can procure a glass of wine and watch the world go by. Perfect.
Inside is the Ebbett Room, a truly first class restaurant. The kind that self-employed artists don't visit very often, so a real treat when I go to Cape May on this job is one utterly lovely meal in the dining room.
When I went back last week, the Virginia was all decked out for the holidays, and it was fun to paint its lighter side.
Congress Hall, Cape May
This is Congress Hall, the hotel whose owners have twice flown me up to do illustrations of this and other properties. This past trip (last week) was for me to be able to paint their many and varied Christmas activities. It was a perfect way to start the season for me. The family has created a marvelous holiday atmosphere, complete with a brilliant off-season use of the pool area as a German-feeling Christmas market. (But with hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's instead of the German gluhwine -- a vast improvement, to my mind.)
This trip I was able to stay in Congress Hall itself, which is a lovely old building with a double grand stairway upstairs that has railings that feel like silk from generations' worth of hands trailing along them. I adore old buildings, and this is a lovely and very welcoming-feeling one. The lobby, complete with its own tree, is shown below.
They are incredibly hospitable to me when I stay. At Congress Hall, I was delighted to find a New York Times outside my door every morning. And they feed me beautifully all week. They not only have wonderful restaurants on the campus (see the Blue Pig Tavern below), but the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome, since I was there traveling alone. This is a rare sort of job for a self-employed artist to find, and I still can't believe my luck. Even better, they say they're having me back in the spring. I can't wait.
Once again, WKNO hosted Elmore and me on their Checking on the Arts show ahead of our Holiday Open House this weekend. WKNO is unique in my npr experience (and I listen everywhere I go) in their twice daily interview show featuring the broad spectrum of arts in Memphis. I've heard other stations interview a band or musician in once in a while, but I know of no other radio station that will talk about visual art, dance, theater, etc., on a regular basis. Visual art is especially challenging over the radio, and they do it well.
Darel Snodgrass hosts the morning interview, and (like Kacky Walton in the afternoons) does research ahead of time, has a vivid memory for the work artists were doing the last time they came in, and asks great questions. He always encourages Memphis to buy local art, attend local theater and shows, and appreciate the variety of opportunities we have in our city. I hear about lots of great events on Checking on the Arts, so I'm grateful as a listener, and I'm also grateful as a self-employed artist doing my best to get the word out.
You can hear our morning interview by clicking the "play" button below.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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