I think spring is finally here! I took a bike ride in a tank top this morning and watched the first spring training Cardinals game after lunch. I sketched the lovely tulips I got yesterday at the farmers market from Whitton Farms while I watched the game on my ipad. It felt good to mark spring and warmth in my journal after all the ice and snow and cold.
We've had some crazy freaking weather in Memphis lately. It was single digits overnight for about four nights, under freezing for a nine day stretch, tying a 1940's record. Really cold. Not my favorite. But I did take advantage of the situation to do some snow sketches that Memphis sketchers don't usually (thankfully) get the chance to do. The top one was done sitting inside looking out my front door with a lap blanket in my lap, but still a pretty quick sketch. The black and white tree sketches were done very quickly standing up in the park with a big, fat, water-soluble graphite crayon, and I added a little wash with my portable water brush. The bottom one was also quick and standing up, but with some watercolor added. Journal text back at home with a cup of tea.
I’ve been pretty quiet here lately because A. My art time has been doing a commission I can’t really show. B. Memphis has had two weeks of ice storm, unprecedented snow (at least in my lifetime), and now water troubles. We’ve been boiling water for days with no end in sight, and I’m washing my face at the kitchen sink with leftover tea kettle water. And C. Mr. Darcy is on hospice care in the middle of all this. His cancer is back. I’m hoping for a little more time with him now that we finally have good weather, but time is definitely short.
Above is a small detail of the commission. I’m designing the logo for the 2022 Music and Worship conference at Montreat, a huge Presbyterian center in Black Mountain, NC. I went to youth conference there every year as a teenager, and it was a really special place and event for me. I’m delighted to be asked to do this project. It’s taken a lot of sketches to get to the right place, a lot of carving, a lot of colors and rollers to print it this morning (I bought a few more small, 2” rollers to be able to use a bu ch of different colors together on the one plate and keep them clean), and there will be a decent bit of digital work this week once it dries enough for me to scan it in. They’ll need different shapes for all the various platforms (wide web banners, a vertical for the booklet, a square for IG, etc.). It’s been more of a project than I expected, but I need to just know to factor that in for church work, and I’m happy to be doing it. Above is a small detail of the finished print, since I can’t show the whole thing. It’s so nice to have your work sought out.
I've been taking Mr. Darcy to the farm a lot lately. His cancer has come back, so we're on a farm trips and extra chicken regime. He's still feeling good at this point, so I'm going to enjoy everything we get.
I painted out here daily when I started my art career, back when I was doing large scale pastels and carrying a box easel. I felt like I really did all the art I could see for a while, but it's been good to revisit it with a completely different medium after some time has passed. I'm really enjoying our sketching getaways, and Mr. Darcy is too.
I finally made it to the virtual Memphis Urban Sketchers, and it was fun to catch up with friends I haven't seen all year. I sketched the daffodils I brought home from the farm while we were talking.
I did this sketch a couple of years ago, fast and loose, and it's kept calling to me. I decided to try it as a print even though it's not my usual format. I've gotten this far. It has too much "noise", the traces left of the carving. I always leave a bit more than I think I really want because you can take more away, but you can't put it back in again. Conservative carving is the way to go. I played with it in photoshop a bit just to thin it out more and see which version I prefer. I'm trying to decide now. Sometimes I need to sit with things a while.
I’ve been slowly working on the element of these trees lately. I had the tree on the right first, then the background, and then I decided I wanted the tree to have a buddy. Today I printed the first batch of both of them. I’m also dreaming of a different background —- maybe daytime with clouds and birds. I’ve done a single, finished image for so long that I’ve really enjoyed playing around with blocks in different ways lately. I got a book about the three generations of Yoshida printmakers, and they often used the same blocks for both a day and a night scene. I’ve been thinking about ways to open up my own process and use blocks in a variety of ways. These are likely for my show at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in 2022. You never know for sure until you get all the work together and see what makes the cut, but I’m feeling encouraged about these.
Here is the first proof (on wrinkled-y newsprint, just to see how it is) of my companion tree for the recent one under the dome of the night sky. I’ll put this tree on the same background, and I may think of different backgrounds for both of them. I’m working towards my show at Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and I had a quote from Anderson in my head as I carved this one: "I took a long walk yesterday afternoon to the east and drew trees -- I like the wandering ones, not the absolute freaks but not just the ordinary healthy ones either." I feel exactly the same way, with a bulbous, burled tree at Overton Park being my absolute favorite one.
Speaking of that tree (in my P is for Possum book as well as in several prints), a friend of mine delighted me by telling me that her young grandson recognized that tree in the book as the same in a print on her wall. She told him it’s my favorite tree, and he’s now pondering what tree is HIS favorite. That is exactly the sort of nature excitement I hoped so spread with the book.
This tree, too, is a long time favorite. My family calls it the Hawk Tree, because hawks roosted there for a number of years. I’ve painted it repeatedly for the last 20 years. It’s good to have images that call to you in different ways across the years. I’ll clean this up a bit and then try it on the nocturne background.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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