I met up with friends today and painted in Overton Park. I've always loved both the Brooks building and the way-funky trees in front of it to sketch. Everyone else brought oils, so I was the outlier just hanging out with my sketchbook, and my dog. Henry hasn't graduated to settling in calmly beside me while I paint out in the world. I have to tether him to something so I can work, so my view was decided for me, with one small tree that looked promising for him to be tied to, but it was a good view.
When I finished, sooner than everyone else because watercolors are much faster, I did a couple of quick sketches of the crew. I haven't been drawing people much through the pandemic, and I'm trying to take advantages of opportunities to get more practice in.
Here's Christina, with her hair blowing in the pretty stiff wind we had, alongside a very quick sketch I did to celebrate the Solstice. More and more the day we turn back towards the light is one of my more important days of the year. The winter darkness is hard for me, so the turning point is always worth celebrating.
I went searching this blog for tree prints and realized that while I had scanned in this small trio of new prints, I hadn't yet posted them here. I've been working on a HUGE companion to these three (18x24", which is at least huge for me, and which took me multiple days to carve), but I had wanted to start small to make sure things worked visually before I invested that amount of time into a large print.
I went to Faulker's home Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, earlier this year for the first time since my teens. It's a fantastic house, full of his personality and creative spirit, but what grabbed me most (as always) was the trees. They are as full of character as Faulkner was himself. I sketched a whole series of them and have been back to sketch several more time over the last few months. The same first trip, I stopped at Eudora Welty's house in Jackson, and I was surprised and delighted to find a series of five Barry Moser carved prints of her at various stages of her life. I think those two experiences fused, and when I worked on this trio of prints, I was very much thinking about how Moser handles his backgrounds. These are portraits of trees instead of faces, but the prints felt similar to me in style and intention.
These small three are all 9" high and various widths, to suit the individual trees. I've got finished prints of them (even though my holiday show plans went off the rails this month). They're $60 each or $150 for the trio. I plan to do some color prints from Rowan Oak next, but I've been easing in with the black and white ones.
Here's the first proof of the 18x24" one. I'll have a black and white edition for sure, once I smooth out some edges and balance a few of the limbs for width. I'm also going to test it with a couple of different color backgrounds and see what I think about them.
He doesn't have a huge range of sleeping-on-the-sofa poses, but he's just so much fun to draw. I also like the mindfulness and happiness of doing a sketch sitting on the sofa in the evening, and there he is. So I'm mixing up the materials some and just continuing to draw him.
Once again I'm doing mostly commission work that I can't show here, but I have been doing some Henry sketches in the evenings just for me, and last night, after a week of rain, we had an actual sunset. I celebrated by sketching it quickly from both memory and a phone photo when I got back in from a short pre-dinner walk. It felt like a moment I wanted to mark.
Covid still lifes
I've been slowly recuperating, drinking a TON of water but also a lot of tea, and eating all the beautiful things people have been kind enough to bring me. I couldn't be more grateful for the folks around me. I'm doing very little work, and most of what I'm doing is a commission I have going, so I haven't had a ton to show. But I'm happiest when I'm drawing, so I've done a small series of still lifes, mostly of teapots, sitting on my coffee table while I watch some fun British mysteries on tv.
People have been wonderful. One sister brought me a tiny personal pie for Thanksgiving (in the little enamel dish in the first still life). My other sister mailed me a tea Advent calendar! A different teabag for every day in December, so I'm getting to try lots of new ones. Friends have brought food. I haven't had to cook a dinner in a week and a half. One dear sketching friend came to buy a book and brought me my VERY favorite Muddy's cupcakes. It's the season for Santa Baby ones, chocolate cake with peppermint icing. Another friend bought a different book tonight and brought me chicken soup.
It felt a little scary to be sick and living by myself right at first. Fortunately I wasn't very sick, and the outpouring of people taking the trouble to do kind things for me has truly meant the world.
This last still life is more real life. Instead of just drawing the tea tray, I took on the whole jumble of clutter that is my coffee table. I'd like to say it's because I'm sick and spending most of my time on the sofa, but truthfully the coffee table is usually a jumble of sketching things, books I'm reading, and sewing notions. I added in the new Gingerbread tea tin from Harney and Sons. I finally did a few errands yesterday (I've been driving mostly to the dog park to let Henry run up till now), and I fell for the seasonal display at Fresh Market. It's a quite good tea, and I love a pretty tea tin, so I added it in for one more small happiness to record for the week. This sketch felt a lot like the artist version of a gratitude journal. I've also restarted my practice of a daily gratitude list through this time to help me get out of the doldrums of feeling so exhausted. It's really helped. I haven't done a lot of sketching, but all of it helps. I think I'll try to do more as I go along. It's neat to document whatever is happening in your life, good or bad.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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