I have news! The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., is redoing its Book of Common Worship, which they do every 25 or 30 years, and they have asked me to illustrate it. I am beyond delighted. I've done some illustration work for a couple of different publications for them in the past, but it was always journals or a year long study guide (for the Book of Revelation -- my first ever illustration job, and I dived into the deep end). Nothing that would be in print for a long time. I've been hoping recently to get to do more illustrations, and I am so excited to be offered this opportunity to work with Westminster John Knox Press. I'll be creating about 15 two color block prints, a cover plus a frontpiece for each main section of the book. The work will be due in June, so along with my March show I'll be having a busy spring, but I love having meaningful work to do, so that will be just marvelous.
(The print at the top is an older one of a church in Athens, but it seemed appropriate for this post.)
I'm doing a lot of proofing this week, including the two small Paris prints above that I want to print on my treadle Chandler and Price once I get them finished. I did the cafe one in red too, since that's how I've been planning the print. It was time to see how that looked.
I also took time out for a sister project. Erin wanted this for an anniversary present, and I loved Princess Bride too. It was a fun afternoon project, and I ended up with an edition of 14, so 13 are up for grabs, starting at our Dog Days of Summer studio sale next weekend (the 15-16th). Holler if you want one, though. They mail nicely. $60, 14x22".
I did a Valentine watercolor commission for the current owners of Mayor Crump's house here in Memphis. For music lovers, this was the Mr. Crump of W.C. Handy's song "Mr. Crump down allow..." You can see the historical marker over to the right. I love our music history here in town, and Andy Cohen had sung the song just the night before at my regular old time jam. (Which becomes slightly less old time when Andy's home from touring and rares back with occasional blues songs.)
I had such fun thinking about those connections that I walked over and painted Boss Crump's statue in Overton Park the next day. I was trying a new marker, and it got a bit muddy, but for the curious, here he is.
Here's a wider view of the statue from several years ago. This corner is a part of my regular walk.
The song was written during an election, and Handy had been asked to write a song for, instead of against, Mr. Crump. After the song came out, Boss asked him about it, and Handy told him he'd gotten a better offer from the opposition. Boss asked him how much he himself had offered Handy and then how much his opponent had, and when he heard the higher figure, he reportedly said, "You did right." And now it's his name that is immortalized in the song, so it worked out well for him in the end.
Here's the statue of W.C. Handy on Beale Street.
I sat outside today and painted the Red Cottage, my favorite of the Victorian cottages owned by Cape Resorts. It's got a lovely tower you can't see in my close up. Over three years of painting here, I've become much faster at painting architectural gingerbread.
Here's my set up. At 39 degrees, I figured none of the guests would be fighting me for a porch chair...
All the architectural gingerbread made me crave the real thing, so I warmed up afterwards with tea and a cookie.
I got an email from Cape Resorts in Cape May yesterday. They've got summer juice specials and a tomato summer sandwich menu and needed some illustrations. I love doing still lifes, and more and more I love the illustration piece of my job, so this was a welcome assignment. I hit the produce section of the grocery yesterday and took the day today to just focus in and do a series of quick watercolors, rotating the produce in and out of the various compositions.
Here's what my work table looked like.
I wasn't really planning to do them all today, but I've been working pretty obsessively ever since getting home from England last week (despite the utter absence of proof of that here....). I've been working on prints from my watercolors, and it made sense to just take a day to do this project, get it out of the way (since it was rolling along nicely) and be able to get back to the prints tomorrow with minimal interruption. If the work wasn't flowing I would have taken more time over it.
I hit streaks where I work and think about work at all hours, and then I take some time between streaks to recharge. That's the beauty of being self employed. Ideally the productive streaks line up with projects and shows. Having a fallow period with deadlines looming is pretty nerve wracking, but I've gotten better at focusing in and staying on track with projects over the last few years.
I ended up doing six small (6x8") still lifes today. Here are the rest. Tomorrow I'll get back to England, artistically anyway.
In previous years, I've done a series of prints to mark the season of Lent, but last year I read a quote from N.T. Wright talking about how we observe Lent for 40 days but only celebrate Easter for one. This year I decided to do a series for the season of Easter instead.
I carved the trumpet for the first print on my recent road trip, and, knowing I had a pretty quick turnaround after coming home, I also took my travel printing kit to be able to proof it and really have it ready to print when I got back. I found a train style make up case at the second hand mecca of Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama a few years ago, and it's the perfect size for my basic printing equipment.
When I got home I was ready to print the final image on the good paper in colored ink.
Then I set the wood type, using a metal frame called a chase. This means I can pick it up and move it around instead of having be stuck in my proof press, making me unable to print anything else until I disassemble the type. For smaller projects I can use a chase. For the bigger ones, I put larger type right in the bed of the press. This project is about 10x11", using my smallest wood type, so a chase is just right.
Finally I printed the type on top of the trumpet image.
And here's a sneak peek at week two of Easter. I couldn't resist a banjo, of course.
I'm doing one print a month for the First Presbyterian Church in Holley, NY. They are my longest running church patrons, and I love working with their minister Tom Gardner. For much of this year, I will create an "I am" statement for each month. This fall we'll continue the harvest series I began for them last year.
I'm playing with the positive/negative lettering for this series, which requires a fair amount of concentration, but thankfully I didn't make such a mistake on this one that I had to start over, like I did with the first one. Perhaps I'm getting into a groove with it.
I did forget that my proof press was full of type from another project, so I had to do the first proof the old fashioned way, by rubbing on the back of the paper with a flat wooden spoon. I did about three years' worth of prints like that, and it's a good reminder how fortunate I am to have a press now.
First Presbyterian Church in Holley, NY, is commissioning me to do another series of liturgical prints. I'm going to do a series of "I am" statements from John for their spring bulletins.
I started drawing the first one free hand, but using one of my type books as a guide for the lettering.
Then I got it transferred onto the block, outlined the letters with an exacto knife (to try to keep the edges sharp and keep me from cutting on through a line), and started carving. Things were going along great on the left, but then I started listening too hard to the Sunday morning puzzle on NPR and got distracted. The A in BREAD was supposed to be dark, to show up in the white of the bread, and I cut right into the letter. These positive/negative ones are especially tricky brainteasers for me. And that was in spite of the shading I did to try to keep myself straight.
Fortunately I wasn't too far along, so I started over, kept it straight, and managed to finish the print. Below is the first proof. I cleaned up the letters and edges a bit before pulling the final version at the top of the post.
I did this sketch just before dinner on my last evening in Cape May. It seems a good Christmas Eve one to share. I hope everyone has a marvelous Winter Wonderland kind of holiday with loved ones, wherever you are.
I met professional photographer Jackie Kane while I was up in Cape May. Since I'm working up there on my own largely (though the staff there always make me very welcome), it's fun to get to meet and talk to fun and interesting people. I met a couple of artists this time (I'm talking about you, Doug!), and it's always neat to talk shop. An added bonus was Jackie turning her talents to take shots of me while I was working. (The full set of them is on her site here.)
She found me on the coldest day I actually did work outside (middle 30's), so I'm embarrassed about the hat situation. I need my broad floppy hat instead of my cuter winter hat to give me shade while I work, so I had a stocking wool hat on underneath it. Sigh. A fashion plate I am not.
But it's kind of fun to get to see my set up through someone else's eyes.
Here's my favorite one. It really embodies the act of creation to me.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Gideon and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: