The weather has been delicious for getting out and sketching lately. Memphis Urban Sketchers met at Elmwood, the historic cemetery in Memphis, which is one of my favorite places to go. I love the enormous magnolias paired with the angels and upright monuments. And then the Memphis Urban Sketchers exhibition started at Dixon, so for a third time, I have art in that beautiful museum. I went to check it out and see the large show of the usually in storage permanent collection there (they have much more than they can show regularly and still have traveling exhibit space). Of course I had to sketch While I was there. I’m always drawn to Ceres. I just can’t resist her graceful curves. And the tulips are fabulous right now.
I've been mostly DOING Inktober even though I've been bad about posting here lately. Most days I've managed one ink sketch, but the majority of my work this past week has been tons of computer work (taking my attention from scanning for other purposes) to get the Mr. Darcy Goes Home book and the related counting book ready to send out. I've got a mid November deadline to be able to submit to my dream publisher without needing an agent first, so I'm working flat out to get it ready. I'll show a couple of reject sketches from that process here, but for now, a few more Inktober sketches to show what I've been up to around the edges.
Above is the Side Street Steppers. Below is one sketch as I was stopped at a train on my way to a printmaking demonstration at Dixon (I'll be doing several more of those) plus a quick sketch waiting in line at Home Depot, buying materials to shore up my floor to receive the type cabinet (see the last blog post).
Plus I always enjoy drawing treats, as a way to keep enjoying them, and also remember nice days I've spent with other people. Here is one of those, just to round things out.
I ran some new business cards today, using my small cut of the Ceres statue at Dixon Gallery and Gardens, since I'll have a piece in their group show there from now till April. Jude Dippold is visiting and took some video of me running my lovely old Chandler and Price Old Style. You can see the treadle action in the video (and, very authentically, hear the baseball podcast I'm listening to as I work -- I thought he was taking still instead of a video). He nicely waited out a batch of swearing to get a clean one. I was having trouble with lighter than usual paper sticking to the ink and gumming up inside my rollers. My paper supply place went out of business last year, and I haven't found a good replacement yet. So I still look a bit tentative in this clip. I finally got a rhythm going later, but it took me longer than usual to settle in for this run.
Jude also got a couple of photos of me working the day before, typesetting the card and laying out the paper placement in the press. You can see more of his photos (usually landscapes, and quite stunning ones at that) on his tumblr blog. He's got some fun Memphis shots up at the moment from his time here.
I dropped my phlox print off yesterday for an exhibition at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. They're having a retrospective show for artists who have exhibited in the Mallory/Wurtzburger gallery there. I am delighted to have work hanging in that museum again. The opening is this Thursday, January 19, from 6-8pm with music and food. The show will be up through April 9 to complement a show of current American art by the Crystal Bridges museum.
I'm still scrambling around with my show a bit, since the opening is tomorrow night (Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, 5-6:30pm), but I did manage a bit of sketching. The weather is fixing to change, so I took yesterday afternoon to go hang out in the forest with my sketchbook and drink in the last of the gorgeous weather. It's good to have the flexibility to do that and reorder my priorities as bit as the weather calls to me. And it was fruitful. I might try an oil from this first one. We'll see.
Then tonight I went to Dixon to see Wayne Edge's new show and hear some of my favorite jazz guys play at the reception. I couldn't resist sketching them too.
publicly invited Mr. Darcy in a facebook post to come in for the interview as well. He's got three rescues of his own and knows that Mr. Darcy is my constant art companion. So we both went in this morning to the studio.
What I realized today (aside from what a southern accent I have, which hits me annually as I do this interview for my big show of the year) is that my brain really closes one book artistically and moves straight into something else. I came home from Paris and spent a good bit of time painting and making prints from the landscape watercolors that I did there, but in the two weeks since the show got on the walls, I've completely shifted over to this new series I'm doing, and that's what was in my brain to talk about. Fortunately the first one of the self portraits was in the show, so it was a legit topic of conversation. And talking about the trip and my art process gave me things to say that weren't "Hey, I did this specific piece that you can't see because it's radio!"
So here's the interview, about 15 minutes, for anyone who's curious.
I did several oil paintings for my exhibition at Dixon last year (at their urging, since the space was large and needed a few big paintings), but I went straight back to prints afterwards. They have been what I'm really excited about the last eight years or so. This past summer, though, I decided that I really missed the way I used to paint skies. I have struggled to do clouds to my satisfaction in watercolor, so around about June, I declared it my summer of skies. By happenstance, I ended up staying in that magnificent apartment in Paris with a two story window and a huge sky view (unlike my house in Memphis, which is surrounded by trees that have great beauty but also largely block my view of the sky). So I ended up watching the sky a tremendous amount over the summer and painting from windows both front (above) and back (below). Somewhere in that process, I felt an internal pull toward oil paint again, and I did several studies toward the end of the trip specifically thinking of a painting to follow.
For several years as I was starting out, my watercolors were much more line drawings with a splash of color. They didn't have the depth or richness to give me enough information to use them as sources for oil paintings, and I mentally wrote off that use for them. But I have been painting with more layers and richer pigment the last couple of years. I am delighted to have suddenly realized that both my full watercolors and many of my sketch book sketches are now strong enough to let me do paintings from them. Sometimes I write something off in my mind, and then it takes me a while to question that closed door and reassess the situation. Armed with that new perspective, I've been going back through a couple of other Paris journals to see if there are other sketches I might want to paint from. It's been a bit of a balance for me to spend more time in recent years with a sketchbook instead of making "exhibitionable" work. The sketches have pushed me into doing prints I wouldn't otherwise have thought of doing, but if I can also do oils from some of the sketches, that doubles the appeal and helps me feel less self indulgent spending time with my sketch journal instead of doing stand alone watercolors.
Here is a quick oil I started late in the afternoon. I didn't really have time, but I was on a roll and excited, so I ended up diving in. This was a sketch I did at bedtime one night in Paris. I was ready for bed and closing my curtains when I glanced out and saw this view. I had to run downstairs for my paints and sketch it before I went to bed. That place was just magic for me. You can see the sketchbook below sitting on the easel in the background, along with my self portrait watercolor I've also been painting from. I took photos along the way with this one so you could see my progress.
I just about finished the self portrait one yesterday as well. It's a different kind of piece for me, and I really enjoyed branching out into something a little more narrative.
My work for the Daily News has given me a leg up on the calendar this year. Here is one of Jerry's SnoCones I did for them over the summer. I'm laying out both Memphis and Paris calendars this week and will have them available for order soon. I'll have a bunch of full page watercolors like this one, but following in last year's footsteps, I'll also include a few more sketchbook feeling pages as well. Here's my musician one for this year. A sketch of Breeze Coyolle's band on top and Le Tumulte Noir on the bottom.
I also think I'm going to be a little self indulgent and include my show from last year at the Dixon. It was such a highlight for me that I want to just keep savoring it a little bit. I'll probably make that one March for my birthday. I'll post the full set of images and get them up for order soon.
My next to last day in Paris was a lovely transition for the next bit of my trip. I had seen a poster for an exhibition of Dutch landscape drawings, so I set off to find it. There's a Dutch institute in Paris, which I am delighted to know about. They had a gorgeous landscape exhibit, and also a show of recent Dutch printmaker Jozef Van Ruysdevelt.
I did two sketches (looking at skies) in the landscape show. Huge, glorious watercolors and wash drawings.
I didn't draw in the print exhibit, but I did buy the catalog, which did my suitcase no favors at all. Given that the language choices were French and Dutch, I figured it would not be available at home. I also took a picture of his sketchbooks displayed in a glass case, which gave me a thrilling flashback to my Dixon show last fall. And I love seeing people's sketchbooks now that I'm having such fun keeping my own.
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: