I’ve been wanting to do some smaller prints that my treadle press can handle. The big ones I have to ink by hand, line up by hand, carry to the Line-o-scribe press, and print individually. The treadle press is harder to set up (getting the print where ink is hitting it all evenly), but once it’s going, I can do many more just by dropping paper in and letting the press do everything else. It’s harder to line them up just so, but if I plan prints where there’s a little wiggle room, they’re greatly fun to print. So I’ve got two new Memphis prints drawn out and underway. I got the holiday flu for a few days and am still feeling slow, but nicely, carving is a good sit down activity. So no proofs yet, but it’s fun to be working on something fresh after all the holiday shows. Each print will be two blocks and two different colors. The colors you see are watercolor and marker sketches just to make sure I’m doing what I want before I start carving.
I got some sticks of water soluble graphite on the advice of Ruth, who works at our marvelous local art store the Art Center. I’ve loved my tin of it, which I use with a brush, but I hadn’t tried the sticks. I love having an art store with local artists working who know and use the stock. I especially love not having to order and wait for days if I get a new project in my head. I had woken up with several new prints dancing around in there and went to buy the blocks so I could start right away. I’m working on them now, but in the meantime, here are the graphite sketches I’ve been doing. After all the packaging and marketing and reprinting of the holiday season, it’s good to get to do spontaneous art again. I’m so grateful for everyone who buys real art for presents. I absolutely couldn’t do what I do without you. But I’m also grateful to be past the push and with a little winter time to play with new ideas.
Speaking of presents, I got an email from Antiques Warehouse (a big, neighborhood antique mall that I love) that they were open on Christmas Eve. I went over there just for fun on my quiet holiday and found the mirror above. I’d hoped for one on a stand that I could use for self portraits, but this one was $8, nice looking, big enough to really see, and lightweight to move around in my various work spaces. A total win. I got it and the Royal Doulton teacup (bottom right) for my gifts to myself, and I’m enjoying both of them. I feel some more self portraits coming. I’ve missed doing figures lately.
I made it through three shows and two sets of houseguests (all delightful to see) in a week and a half period, and I was due for some serious vacation. I’m out in Washington state, sleeping late, reading lots of baseball news, hitting some truly great thrift stores, and revisiting some favorite places in an unexpected streak of sunshine. I’ve managed exactly one sketch so far, and I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. It’s sometimes good to take breaks.
I have been taking photos as I walk though. The frost is amazing, especially since I stay right along the Skagit River. I’d always heard the term “hoar frost” in the British novels I read, but I hadn’t been sure what exactly it was. It turns out that mist and fog rising off rivers in cold conditions can freeze in almost sculptural ways. I’ve had fun taking some photos.
The frost in the great meadow at Rasar State Park (one of my magic places) extends only into about a third of the meadow and burns off as it gets further away from the river. Part of that is the deep valley that keeps out most of the sun. The bottom right photo above is just about noon. I can see why fairy tales so often came from the northern regions. It’s not a little uncanny to walk out of strong sunshine and into blue dimness in the middle of the day. It feels like entering Narnia and the land of perpetual winter, where you walk over an invisble boundary into fairyland. My dad brought me a book of Scandinavian fairy tales when I was little that was one of my favorites for years. I’m feeling its echoes on this trip.
I also went down to the pebble beach at the end of the park, which is one of my favorite places. It’s stunning in winter in a completely different way. It was a gorgeous way to spend a morning, and then I headed back to the land of heating and good, local pizza after being out in the cold for a couple of hours.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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