I got to spend one lovely night at one of my favorite places on earth recently and catch up with old friends there. It was great to sit and paint the mountains before breakfast with a pot of tea.
There was a noticeable trend last year in my art fb circles of people doing ink drawings for "Inktober." This year I was given a lovely new/old fountain pen just at the end of September. I've been using more pencil than pen with my watercolors recently, except for my quick sketches from Paris this past summer, so I'm enjoying playing around with the pen and waterproof ink as a new-again thing for me.
Here are a bunch of sketches from my recent time at Country Workshops, a woodworking school on a beautiful farm in North Carolina. It's one of my favorite places to paint. Above is Big Boy in my lap, one of my very favorite cats.
Below are the cows I kept drawing. Both those scenes are looking out the window from the work table I use when I'm there.
My lovely friends at the woodworking school Country Workshops invited me to come and stay with them for a few days. I'm in a busy patch of life, but they are dear people, and it was lovely to get away for a little bit and see my sister on the way as well as my friends who live there and around there.
I also ran into Asheville for a little recreational bookstore time.
I've been focusing and printmaking and sketching the last few years, but Dixon wanted some oils as well for my fall exhibition with them. It took me a while to get my head back in this space, but I've been flipping through some sketchbooks and found several images I'd enjoy painting, and I really have been having a ball. There's something very immediate and responsive about oils. They're lush.
I'm also enjoying revisiting a special place. This painting and the moonrise one (last blog entry) are both from watercolors I did at the woodworking school Country Workshops. My friends Drew and Louise Langsner live there and run the school, and their farm is one of the loveliest places I know. They periodically invite me to visit them and paint for a bit, and I always look forward to my time there. It's a fruitful place for my art.
I've got a new painting underway for my fall exhibition at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. This is an evening sky I painted in watercolor when I was in North Carolina last fall. I've already done a print from that sketch, but the image continues to call my name. My favorite thing to paint in oils is big, lush skies. That medium does skies better than anything else I work in. I've enjoyed getting back into oils for this exhibition.
I spent a rocking Saturday night at Kinko's last night, using their over-sized scanner to scan in some of my recent prints for my upcoming Dixon show. They want some images to use in their newsletter. It's getting real! The curator is coming out to see what I've got so far early next month. There's some pressure there, but I really love creating a show for a specific space and making work that will hang together thematically and visually. When I'm doing it for an actual museum show, that's just amazing.
So here are a few that are finished and ready. I have several more I'm still getting final prints of but that are mostly or fully carved. Above is Rainbow Lake at Overton Park.
Below are two images from Country Workshops, the wood working school I house sit for occasionally and visit friends at in between times. It's one of the wellsprings of my work over the last dozen years.
This last one is a tree from one of my sketchbooks. I only had a line drawing of it, but it was enough to make a print from, and I couldn't resist the shape of this beauty. It's also my first print on black paper, and I like the effect that gives. I'm going to keep my eyes open for more subjects that might be suitable to try on black.
Here's a new block I've almost got done this week. It's a scene from Country Workshops, a grove of trees I've painted several times over the years. I intend this print for my fall show at Dixon Gallery and Gardens.
This is the first color proof, but it's close to what I want. I'll do a little clean up carving, and I think I'll hand paint a blue sky, just to see what that would look like. I'm really trying to keep a lot of these prints to just two blocks, though. It's a huge addition of labor each time you have to mix ink, hand roll each one, line it up, and print it on the proof press. Two times is way better than three, but the blue sky in the original sketch is pretty integral, so I'm going to try it.
Here's the underneath block. I roll the green and yellow at the same time, using one block there instead of separate printings.
Here are the two blocks together along with the original sketch.
This is the seventh of the eight week series of Easter prints, done for various churches that subscribe to my artwork and use it in their church bulletins. I based this one on a painting I did at the woodworking school Country Workshops, located on a gorgeous piece of land that is one of my favorite places to paint. You can see the original painting and then the pencil sketch and the trace of it (to transfer to the block with carbon paper) below.
Here are the block and the color print. I had fun mixing the colors on the block with three different rollers, blending as I rolled. I was totally absorbed in the process and didn't think to take photos at the time, but I'll be doing this again. I've learned a number of things from doing this series, but the color inking has been the most fun thing to play with.
The type printed on top was the last step, after the original block
The downside of printmaking for me is the added technicality. I love making images, but prints are more complicated than just brushing paint on canvas. I still struggle some with registration issues and occasional press maintenance, but sharpening my gouges is the hardest ongoing issue for me.
I'm incredibly lucky to be friends with John Kraus, a toolmaker, fiddler, and all around great guy. John teaches tool making at Country Workshops and John C. Campbell Folk School, among others. Once a year or so he's kind enough to put a fresh edge on my gouges that I then gradually fail to maintain until I need help again the next year.
This year he not only sharpened everything for me (photo above), but he tempered a couple of the blades that were too hard to sharpen well (below).
John's partner is Nancy Darrell, a fellow printmaker with a background in pottery. I got my Line-O-Scribe proof press from her a couple of years ago (which has changed my life), and we have a great time comparing work and talking shop.
This trip we also went out and sketched together, painting by the pond on the Countey Workshops campus next door. I did a couple of quick watercolors and enjoyed just sitting in the sunshine a while.
Afterwards I got to play music with John, and Nancy had been kind enough to invite Drew and Louise Langsner over from next door at CW, so we had a lovely dinner with all my friends up there at once. That pair of farms is a real haven for me, thanks to kind friends and a beautiful landscape. I feel lucky to be a regular visitor.
I did two tiny (3x4ish) watercolors this week for the Madison County Arts Council in North Carolina. It's run by my friend and banjo teacher Laura Boosinger, who is an amazingly talented musician. They have an after school music program (local mountain music and instruments) for the kids in town, concerts, art shows, and all kinds of neat things. I've painted right in their neighborhood, staying at the Country Workshops woodworking school, and I always go over to Marshall for a banjo lesson too. So, in spite of this mostly being a North Carolina artists' project, Laura was nice enough to include me too. The sales of the tiny paintings will benefit arts organizations across Western North Carolina, and the exhibit will travel around the region.
Above is the French Broad river, as seen in Hot Springs, NC, and below is one of my favorite trees at Country Workshops.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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