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 actually lost track of how many house portraits and other commissions I’ve done this season. It’s been lovely that folks want to give art, since none of my shows happened this year, and it means a lot to help people make this year stand out. I love getting to memorialize special places for folks. Over the years I’ve done houses people live in, houses from their childhoods, vacation houses, houses they’re letting go of to downsize, spots where they had first dates or got married or more wild places outdoors that mean a lot to them. It’s an honor to get to help people mark their transitions or celebrate milestones. One person teared up picking a painting up recently. I love that art can mean so much to people.
I’ve been really quiet lately online since I can’t actually show any of these commissions. They’re all surprise paintings for the holidays, but here are a few close ups that won’t be enough to tip anyone off. I’ve got one more to do, and then I’m going to take a week’s vacation or so. Which may mean that I start making the art that’s been in my head lately that I haven’t had time to get to, but that’s always part of my celebration after a show or a holiday season. I’ll also be reading some of the books I’ve been buying from Burkes, my favorite local bookstore. They have a curbside service, and they’re close enough to bike to on nice days, which makes a lovely outing. I have new yarn for a new project, an ongoing quilt, and a good dog who sleeps on my feet on the sofa. So I’ll be taking it a little easier and having a quiet, cosy holiday. I hope all of you have good ways to celebrate this year in spite of all the craziness. Be kind to yourselves and spread it around a little as you can. I figure some recharging on the couch with give me a little more bandwidth to do some of that myself.
It's been a kind of stressful week for the country, but the weather was flat out glorious yesterday, and I spent the whole day outside painting. It felt marvelous. I did two journal spreads for myself, one large and one small, and I did two commissions. My house portraits often get a little tight, but this was for a fellow artist, and I let myself play more than usual. I had been loosening up in the forest, and I intentionally went straight on over. Unusually for me, I did the paint first and added the lines after, something I'm trying more of lately to get more motion in my pieces. Houses are easy to get too tight and precise about. I was pleased with the results, and (beautifully) so was she. I love doing paintings for friends. I haven't got permission to share the other one yet (sometimes they're surprise gifts), but I'll post it when I can.
I can safely post holiday commissions now. It’s fun to get to participate in people’s special occasions and help with preserveing memories. I did three versions of this house, one with its current paint color and two with the color the kids grew up with. I also got to paint one adorable dog.
There's a lovely article in the Presbyterian Mission about the upcoming Book of Common Worship that I spent a lot of last year doing illustrations for. It's coming out in May in three different editions, all with my Tree of Life linocut stamped into the cover. I am beyond excited and can't wait to hold it in my hands. I'm going to have to get the smaller personal prayer edition as well as the desktop one. The third is for pastoral use during hospital visits, weddings, etc. -- also smaller to carry around.
I am deep in the midst of carving linoleum block prints to illustrate the upcoming edition of the Book of Common Worship for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. There will be 15 prints about 5.5x8" plus another 13 or so tiny 1.5" ones. Plus 19 ink gesture drawings. It's definitely my biggest commission ever. Work is due in early July, so I'm nose to the grindstone until then. I can't share the full images, but my editor said it would be fine for me to show some process shots and details of the blocks as I'm working. Despite the modest size, I'm including as much detail as I can. The carving has been a lot of fun.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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