I'm doing better with Inktober than I can remember. I missed one day so far, but overall I'm sketching daily, and it feels great. Above is black document ink from DeAtramentis with watercolor on top. Below is more traditional Inktober with just black ink and maybe an ink wash.
Today Henry and I delivered new prints to Elmwood ahead of their big do this weekend. Kim nicely wanted to have some on hand to sell. So we celebrated meeting that deadline with a walk through the cemetery and some sketching. These are two different sketches on the facing pages, but they harmonized really nicely into one composite landscape.
Then I was starving, so we went to Casablanca for lunch on their dog friendly deck. Lunch is my favorite there because they have the best black tea in town (lots of spices and honey plus ginger brewed in), but I can't have it at dinnertime that close to bed. I had half a shwarma platter and a lot of celebratory tea, and I'll add some broccoli tomorrow and have another fantastic meal tomorrow. Leftovers are the bomb for a single woman who doesn't much like to cook.
Later that afternoon, enjoying the beautiful weather, I picked up Henry at daycare, and we walked at the Greenbelt Park along the Mississippi. I love the cottonwood trees that line the river. It's the same black ink. I feel a bit like I'm making a coloring book for myself (and it would probably be a good exercise for me to do paint first and then line), but I also like that the line stays more prominent. It varies from sketch to sketch for me whether I like it or am annoyed. Anyway, it's all good practice, and I had a ball sketching outside this weekend.
It's Inktober, and I've never been good at those daily challenges and have never done a full month of anything every day. I have enough work that is due for various occasions without making sketching homework. But this morning I went walking at Crosstown, and I decided to take an "Inktober break" in my day. The month gave me that mental nudge to take a break and sketch, and I realized that it I frame Inktober (or any challenge) for myself as permission to sketch (and a reminder that I'm happier when I do it) instead of homework, then that challenge framework is a total plus for me. It helps that I have a fun new pen and am also enjoying rediscovering the joy of line plus wash, using a brush pen with a dark grey ink to add tone.
Henry is turning into a great art dog and settled happily while I sketched from the 5th floor or so (I lose track of which level is which if I'm going up and down the stairs for exercise). Afterwards, and here's the down side of going to walk at Crosstown, I decided to treat myself to an iced chai. The pollution in the air is better than it has been, so I also treated myself to sitting outside without a mask for a while to sketch and drink my chai. It was a perfect fall day with a breeze and no humidity, but still warm enough to bask a little.
I used that same invitation mindset to sketch at 2am the other morning when I couldn't sleep and got back up for mint tea and toast (my pavlovian craving when I'm awake through the dark hours of the night). Henry had come downstairs with me and curled up on the couch looking adorable.
I always am drawn back to Elmwood to sketch. My public art celebration there will be Sunday, November 19 from 3-5 --- band, snacks, fun! I can't show the columbaria carvings yet online, but as I start thinking about a new Memphis alphabet book, you'd better believe that E is for Elmwood, and I was out on a recent, beautiful day doing some sketches. I replaced the Ancient Copper ink in my new pen with a waterproof black ink by DeAtrementis, thinking ahead to the new book. My last two have been done primarily in Diamine Golden Brown. I think the new book will have a wider array of sketching materials, and black may pull all of them together best. Plus I do really love working with line and tone. The grey is a brush pen with warm black ink, and it feels good to get back to this kind of sketching.
I've got a new, fun fountain pen. It's a Majohn bent nib, so the line variation goes from thin to thick. Because of the thick lines, bent nib pens can run out of ink quickly, but this one has a huge well for ink, and it's clear plastic, so I can see when I'm running low. It's short and fat and super fun to use. Christina was given one by our friend Beth, and I got to try it at lunch with Christina soon after. She has Diamine Aurora Borealis in hers, so those first green/blue sketches are with her pen. I put Diamine Ancient Copper in mine, which is the new fun color I've been having a great time with. The first one I got kept sticking, but knowing that two others were flowing great, I did a return, and my new one is beautiful. I may have to get a second one to have a couple of different colors. Nicely they're just under $20, so a quite reasonable impulse purchase for something that feeds my work.
I've been lucky enough to meet up with my friend Christina for a series of sketching meals over the last month. I love getting out with a friend or two, enjoying some food, comparing sketching materials, and drawing together. You're not ignoring your dinner companion if she is also sketching. It's companionable and full of joy for me. We met up at Cafe Eclectic on 901 day (September 1st mirrors the Memphis area code, for those of you out of town, and we have a bit of a civic celebration that goes on.) I had fun with the red umbrellas and then sketched Christina in graphite with my newish graphite Kaweko mechanical pencil I got out west that has a huge, juicy, fat column of graphite in it.
I sketched at the Slider Inn with a dip pen and the Ancient Copper ink by Diamine I've been really enjoying lately. I didn't have the mental energy for watercolor that night, but it was fun to record the evening and play with line.
Finally was lunch at Boscos after the Memphis Urban Sketchers meetup. The same dip pen with a warm purple ink, but we lingered longer and I enjoyed adding the watercolor.
I’ve been doing a bunch of book work this week since getting the Apple pencil. It’s taken a bit of getting used to, but is so much better than scanning in and cleaning up huge blocks of text. I can also play with it and change sizes, wrap it around images, etc. It feels much more immediate, and while I’m working to keep my handwriting legible, I hope that energy will translate into the book. I see that the pencil somehow migrated in color a bit, but overall I’m getting the hang of things and am grateful for this new tool. This is a double page spread. Georgia and Walter were in the Oxford American essay, but no one who knows me will be surprised to see that I added Constable now that I have a bit more room. He’s my number one influence on work habits and art philosophy, but OA is about Southern culture, so I leaned into American artists for it. I’ve got a few more watercolors and a back cover to do, but I’m getting close. I forget how very much longer all this takes than I think it will, but it’s always worth it to have a book in my hands.
Depending on your point of view, I either got a new toy or invested in my work last week. I love making art on paper with paint or carving, but the text part of making a book is painstaking if I write by hand and scan in, cleaning up lines of text and trying to keep them in the correct area around the images and in a ballpark of the same size. So this week I got an iPad Pro and Apple pencil. Being able to write directly on the book page without the smudges and dirt a scanner can add in is a huge pleasure. I’m still getting used to the iPad version of photoshop and the feel of the pencil itself, but I’m feeling encouraged. I’ve got a couple of different book projects in mind, and I think this will be a huge help.
I’ll lose that variation of ink that a real pen gives you, but I’ll regain the energy and creativity of wrapping text around the images and playing directly with the spaces instead of trying to replicate that on a separate page. I’m still working to figure out sizes and keep my writing neater with the pencil, but I’m very happy with the early progress.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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