I've been so busy with Christmas commissions and shows that I haven't made it out with my tree journal lately. The weather Christmas Day was sunny and quite warm for December, so my present to myself was a couple of hours in the forest between family events. It was lovely to spend that time sitting with trees (and Mr. Darcy) and doing a little art just for myself.
And just because it's a beautiful spot, here's the morning walk photo I took earlier in the day. I'm thinking of doing a painting in this light.
I love my park. It's such a huge part of my quality of life.
I've been running a little nuts up here painting a ton of itty, bitty Christmas lights, so I haven't been posting every day the way I try to when I'm traveling. But here are a few of the watercolors I've been doing.
Above is the porch of the Blue Pig Tavern. And below is the porch of the Virginia Hotel. They have marvelous porches here.
And here are a couple of beautifully decorated lobbies. Congress Hall first and then the Virginia. They do really lovely details everywhere here.
But, man, lots of little, bitty lights....
I sat outside today and painted the Red Cottage, my favorite of the Victorian cottages owned by Cape Resorts. It's got a lovely tower you can't see in my close up. Over three years of painting here, I've become much faster at painting architectural gingerbread.
Here's my set up. At 39 degrees, I figured none of the guests would be fighting me for a porch chair...
All the architectural gingerbread made me crave the real thing, so I warmed up afterwards with tea and a cookie.
It was a lovely weekend's sale this past weekend. I enjoyed having so many friends in my house, and I also loved having Melissa Bridgman's pottery in my front room. I was sad to see it all packed up to go home, but I'm glad I got to keep a tea canister with a tiny bird's nest on top. It matches my teapot and cups.
After two days of socializing and doing the selling part of art, it felt great to draw out a new print last night. I've been looking at this page in my sketchbook for my next print, and I drew it out to size last night so it will be waiting for me to dive right in when I get back from Cape May.
I leave tomorrow for a week's worth of illustration job at Cape Resorts. I'm looking forward to painting all their Christmas decorations. Click on this link to watch a bunch of my previous paintings for them flash back. It's such fun to see my art used like that!
This week I'm cleaning my studio in preparation for my annual Open Studio holiday sale, all the while singing, "Make your house fair as you are able" from one of my favorite Advent hymns. My fair never looks like other people's fair, but it will be good enough to invite all of you lovely people in to have cookies and cider next weekend. And you should totally turn out to see Melissa Bridgman's marvelous pottery. I'm so excited she's joining me this year.
One of my preparations is printing the invitations on my press. I hand set the type, which takes me a while since I don't do it that often, but it's also highly satisfying.
I casually mentioned a "California case" the other day and came up against a blank stare. Just like typewriter keyboards, printers cases are organized so you can grab the more used letters more easily, so they are not a to z in the alphabet song order. I still have to cheat and look at my diagram sometimes. (I always lose the "k.") Here's the case, pulled most of the way out of my cabinet, along with the diagram.
I set the type in a smaller block and then build out around it with wooden "furniture" to make it fit inside the "chase" or frame that fits in my press.
I was on a printing roll this week. I got a bulk order for some cards, so I reprinted these trees as well. I'll have a bunch more at my open house. Stop by next weekend and have a cookie or three.
Another page in my new tree manga features a poem by my sister, a talented wordsmith. It has become not only my favorite of her poems, but one of my very favorite poems period.
Here is the text in a more readable form:
A Good Life
bewail its fate?
Does it mourn that it had no chance
to grow taller, broaden its base,
and live out all its lichen-covered days?
No, it falls with majestic assurance
and solidity of intent,
gracefully inverting its upward career.
It rests peacefully,
branches lightly touching the earth,
saying softly to the ground from which it grew,
"Did you see the way I danced with the stars?"
I had an utterly gorgeous day today. It was 70 degrees here in Memphis. Cloudy and windy, but beautifully warm, so Mr. Darcy and I headed for the forest right after lunch and stayed till just after sunset. We sketched a good bit but also sat and watched birds and just drank in the beauty of the forest. I figured a day like that at the end of November was not to be wasted.
I've got a new project I'm really excited about.I even dreamed about it last night. I've been reading more graphic novels and travelogues, and it recently occurred to me that what I would most like to do a graphic book about is trees. People and plots are both hard for me. Trees would be perfect. And there are several lovely photography books on trees, but I don't know offhand of an illustrated one.
So I've started a dedicated sketch book just for trees, to see what happens on the page. Of course, my tree book may not be immediately discernible from my regular sketchbooks, but I'm being a little more intentional about it and playing with layouts across the page.
When I saw the Hokusai exhibit in Paris this fall, he had made a huge series of books that he called Manga. I had no idea the word was so old. In his time the word meant "diverse drawings," and he used these manga to show art students how to draw a myriad of things. There are collections of drawings of mountains from all distances and angles, of people in all forms of activities, of animals, and the list goes on. So I'm starting a tree manga.
I would really love to publish a graphic book someday. My graphic travelogues of North Carolina and then of Paris this fall were my first steps toward experimenting with the genre, and this is another. We'll see it goes.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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