I’ve been mostly working on commissions this week, but I’ve been carving a little and pulling an occasional proof of this one as I go along. This morning I used one of the proofs to watercolor on so I could see if I want to do a second block with a blue background. I like them both ways and am leaning toward doing sets of prints each way at the moment, but I’ll look at them a few more days before knowing for sure.
A good friend offered to come sketch with me in my neighborhood and bring me a cupcake. What a total win. I hadn't drawn with anyone in a year, and it was so good to sit outside, masked and at a distance, but able to visit and draw. I hadn't been out sketching a lot in my neighborhood lately, and it's good to mix things up creatively.
Not sketching with people, I'm also out of practice drawing them. I'll look forward to getting to do more people sketches as the world opens up more.
I have done a couple of graphic essays that, for one reason or another, have never really made it out in public. I've been inspired to do one about this last season I got to have with Mr. Darcy. Very different from the children's book I also never managed to get right (although I'm thinking of seeing if the third time is the charm and taking it west for a summer project). I always seem to work things out on paper. Writing (in a new and gorgeous daffodil journal given to me to celebrate the daffodil season I had with Mr. Darcy by a kind and empathetic friend) has really helped me the last few weeks. I think it may distill out into these images with a little bit of text.
Last night I was reading Mary Oliver, looking for a title for my WAMA show, and I found this poem fragment. It took my breath away, and it will definitely be part of the essay.
I'd been feeling a little wonky for a few days, so it was nice to get out and go walking and sketching today. "Plein Airpril" is happening on Instagram, and I'm a sucker for a punning, art-themed month (see also "Inktober"), so I jumped in today. I love this sycamore and paint it every so often. I didn't feel like I really locked in today, but it was nice just to get out and work. I decided to change it up and do a real close up once I got in the forest. The mayapples are in full bloom, and I love their sculptural umbrella shapes and shy flowers hiding underneath.
It's gorgeous weather for park visits lately. I took my bike out to Shelby Farms (brown fountain pen plus watercolor) a bit ago, and more recently I took a little bit of time for wildflower sketching (green ink in a brush pen with inktense pencils) on my more regular walk in Overton Park. I'm so grateful for spring after all that awful February weather.
I've been working on a new print of Mr. Darcy this week from one of the farm photos I took. I've done a painting and several sketches of him in water before, and the subject continues to draw me. This one needs a little thinning and refining since it is the very first proof I've pulled, but I'm happy with where it's going.
I've also been playing around with watercolor, working on images from our farm trips this spring. I've been thinking of the series in my head as "Daffodil Season" and wondering about a graphic essay. I'm so grateful to have art as a way to work through grief and also memorialize times that are dear to me. Here is the watercolor version of that same scene.
Darel Snodgrass kindly had me on his Checking on the Arts show again this week. I'm so grateful to WKNO fm for promoting artists daily on the radio, everyone from dancers to musicians to actors to visual artists like me. I always get great ideas about what's happening in the community and new shows I want to see (in normal times). And he always pays attention, knows your work, and asks good questions. It's such a fun time to be invited to talk about something you love. So check out the interview if you live outside Memphis and didn't get a chance to hear it. I talk about making art during the pandemic, sketching in the Old Forest, the general awesomeness of local bookstores, and my upcoming show next year at WAMA.
Burkes Books and Novel both made sure they had a stack of books ready for when this went on the air, and you can also order copies from my online store. All of these copies will have an individual drawing in the front as well as a signature. I've celebrated by making each one special, since having a book to sign is such a delight.
I’ve been slowly working on proofs of this piece, since you have to leave the first layer to dry overnight before adding the second one. It’s from a sketch I did a bit over a year ago in Ocean Springs, the trip where I got on their calendar for an exhibition. I want to have a number of my own home places in the show, since that’s what Anderson did, but I always love sketching down there and would like to have a few pieces where I interpret the landscape his work sprang from in my own voice. I hung out on the pier sketching a good bit, bundled up against the wind since it was January, but land-locked folks need to take advantage of the coastline when they manage to get there. I’d actually hoped to be able to be down there a good bit more while preparing for the show, but none of us saw COVID coming, so I’m still working on early 2020 sketches.
You can see the top print set against the first one I did, which was too dark, and the second one, which was too light. It’s been a bit of a Goldilocks situation working my way toward “just right.” I want to try this level of blue with just gray clouds. I’m of a divided mind about the pink. It’s fun to be able to try different versions before printing the final edition. I’m always impressed with the printmakers who do reduction prints, which means they lay down one color (usually the lightest), carve away more of the block, lay down the next one, keep carving, and repeat. I’d have had the blue layer too dark, and the whole print would have been wrong. I just can’t imagine it before seeing it on paper, so I tend to do a separate block for each color, and that gives me a lot of options. And sometimes it’s fun to play later with a completely different color scheme.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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