I’ve been enjoying doing some small oil paintings lately, mostly 9x12”, of my morning walk, my recent trip to Ocean Springs, a lovely moonrise. They’re quick and achievable and images that are hanging with me from my daily life. Except for a couple of final print versions still needed, I’ve got my show set for WAMA and my Christmas commissions finished, and it’s fun to just paint for joy a little bit. An added bonus is that they are small and impulse purchase sized, so I’ve sent several off to happy homes, which also feels good. I’d like to keep doing these this coming year as my time allows, maybe have a show of small paintings toward the end of the year.
I just made out my list of goals for myself for the new year. Getting the WAMA show up and framed and hopefully properly celebrated (pandemic allowing) is the biggest thing, but I’m pondering putting together another book, trying to keep sending a monthly email (blog posts are more immediate and fun, but email reaches a different set of folks), I’m working on streamlining my website, and I’ve been asked to do my first public art commission, which I’m very excited about and will be able to share more on later once the ideas get approved and it’s moving forward. I feel so grateful to be making a life doing what I love and surrounded by a host of supportive and kind people who follow along and occasionally buy a painting or book or print. Thank you all of you, and happy new year!
WKNO has a great local show called Checking on the Arts every weekday and often twice. They interview actors, directors, musicians, artists, and anyone putting on arts events locally. I love listening and finding out about things going on around town (especially without the local paper's weekend guide that used to be so good). They're always kind to me and had me on before Christmas to talk about my current show at Eclectic Eye and my upcoming show at WAMA.
I drove down to Ocean Springs last week to meet with the curator, decide on the final pieces, and lay out my exhibition that opens in March. The nice thing about prints instead of large canvases is that I can take proofs of everything. We dumped them all out on the floor, laid them out, and moved them around in the actual exhibition space. It was thrilling to see it come together in a space with four doorways through to Anderson’s own work, visible in all directions. And it was deeply satisfying to see the whole body of work as a set after two full years of work on it. I had just the right number of pieces, which is a great feeling. The space was bigger than I remember (which is always how it happens). Prints are so detailed and take so much time for each piece that I had been wondering halfway through if I would have enough work. It was great to have the long lead time to make this show the best work I can muster for such a special place.
Now I have a nice couple of months for framing, which is good, because I’ve got 21 pieces to frame, easily double the number I’ve done before for any show. I have three more commissions to finish, and then I’m going to give myself some actual time off during the holidays before I start framing. I’ve done that successfully the last couple of years after several years of scrambling right up to Christmas. I’m looking forward to some down time after all the deadlines, but I’m so grateful for the work I’m doing these days.
I ran down to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to meet with the curator at Walter Anderson Museum of Art to make the final selection for my solo show there next year. This is a career moment for me, and I'm ridiculously excited. It was wonderful to get to lay out all the prints I've been working on for the last two years in the space where my work will be hanging next year.
It was also really wonderful to get away from the deadlines that have been crowding me so hard lately, and to breathe, walk, and sketch again. I hadn't been drawing for myself in more than a week, and it felt so good to dive in. I walked down to the beach for sunset, after checking in at the museum and putting my stuff in my room. I was just in time for sunset, and it was glorious. I did two very quick sketches in the half dark, and after dinner I drew my teapot and the shells I had picked up and a lovely tangerine (?) that was a present from some landscaping workers I had passed on my way to the beach. Really kind.
I also drew (and ate) a lot of good food. I have a friend who says "Always get the pink drink", by which she means to celebrate an occasion with something special. After my meeting the next morning to lay out all the art and finalize the show, I treated myself to a grown up lunch. I sat out on the front porch of Maison de Lu, under the live oaks that line Washington Street, and had a flat out delicious lunch, including a celebratory mango margarita. And then celebratory (and ridiculously good) white chocolate bread pudding. I'm going to have to walk a LOT this coming week to get my equilibrium back.
There was also a French patisserie four blocks from the cottage, which was seriously dangerous. I tended to take an early walk, buy breakfast, take it back to my small balcony, make tea, and enjoy it all.
The weather could not have been more perfect for sitting outside and drinking in all the goodness of the coast. I sat out with my banjo a lot, which I also haven't had time to do much lately. I have several more commissions due soon and some final paperwork for WAMA, but the break was wonderful, and I'm planning to be able to give myself some time off around Christmas. I've done a decent job of that the last couple of years after several of scrambling so hard right up until the day that I couldn't enjoy the family time as much as I wanted to. It feels good to be able to see some time off coming.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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