I'm still working pretty hard on the graphic essay, but I did a few sketches while waiting for the copy edits to come back. One of my favorite treats is a chocolate croissant from Lucy J's, so I drew out the enjoyment by sketching it. I also took a little time with the wildflowers in the Old Forest. The watercolor crayons overall were a little too candy bright for them, but it was fun to sit and sketch in the woods.
I love drawing tea things, and I'm still having a ball using the watercolor crayons as a drawing base under paint. My go to is ink, but the crayons have a fun texture. We had a rainy morning a few days ago, so instead of rushing out to get Henry to his playgroup at the dog park, I sat and enjoyed my tea and did a sketch afterwards. This is my newest teapot, from Potsalot Pottery in New Orleans (though Alex comes up to do the craft fair in Memphis every fall and is one of my closest booth buddies). I love all of his work, but this piece particularly sang to me. He told me he'd studied Japanese potters to get the spout right, and it's a beautifully precise spout (hard to find in handmade pottery). It's paired with a tiny cream pitcher I found in a brocante in Paris and a midcentury Frankoma cup and saucer.
I've been doing a little sketching alongside some work I can't show yet. It's been sunny the last few days, so Henry and I went to the park, walked a little in the forest, and snagged a picnic table for a quick sketch with clouds.
Melissa Bridgman brought me one of her gorgeous, tiny bud vases a few days ago with some gorgeous, tiny daffs in it. I did a still life this morning with my favorite farmers market chocolate croissant (from Lucy J's, for those of you in Memphis. So good) that is my favorite weekend treat. Celebrate the small things. And drawing it makes me slow down and savor it more.
There's been very little going on around here lately besides a little necessary cooking, a little sketching or carving in my lap on the couch, and trips to the dog park. I'm grateful for Henry to be able to get the exercise he needs when I'm still not up to much walking. As the weather gets nicer again, I want to do more sketching at the dog park (see below for this morning's sketch), and anyone who reads this blog at all knows I really love to sketch cake.
This cake is one a friend's mother used to make for me when I went to visit during my college days. No one had baked a cake specifically for me since my own mother died, so it always meant a lot. It's a sour cream/chocolate chip coffee cake that was my Christmas morning staple for the years I used to host a family breakfast here. I still like to revisit it periodically, and this week was one of those times.
I love sweets, and I love sketching them. It's fun to remember a really lovely treat later every time I open my sketchbook. Also the drawing of it increases the anticipation and enjoyment. Unlike a lot of meals, most desserts aren't hot, so they won't get cold and less appetizing if you take time to draw them. Ice cream is the super transient exception to this stability of drawing rule, so I rarely draw ice cream. But other treats are well worth celebrating. The caramel cake is from my come-have-cake-on-the-front-porch neighbors (even though we were inside this week with the wintry weather), so I'll remember the visit as well as the cake. They so kindly left me a second slice for the next day, so I didn't take time out of our visit to draw, even though I love drawing food with fellow sketchers when we get together and all draw at once.
Covid still lifes
I've been slowly recuperating, drinking a TON of water but also a lot of tea, and eating all the beautiful things people have been kind enough to bring me. I couldn't be more grateful for the folks around me. I'm doing very little work, and most of what I'm doing is a commission I have going, so I haven't had a ton to show. But I'm happiest when I'm drawing, so I've done a small series of still lifes, mostly of teapots, sitting on my coffee table while I watch some fun British mysteries on tv.
People have been wonderful. One sister brought me a tiny personal pie for Thanksgiving (in the little enamel dish in the first still life). My other sister mailed me a tea Advent calendar! A different teabag for every day in December, so I'm getting to try lots of new ones. Friends have brought food. I haven't had to cook a dinner in a week and a half. One dear sketching friend came to buy a book and brought me my VERY favorite Muddy's cupcakes. It's the season for Santa Baby ones, chocolate cake with peppermint icing. Another friend bought a different book tonight and brought me chicken soup.
It felt a little scary to be sick and living by myself right at first. Fortunately I wasn't very sick, and the outpouring of people taking the trouble to do kind things for me has truly meant the world.
This last still life is more real life. Instead of just drawing the tea tray, I took on the whole jumble of clutter that is my coffee table. I'd like to say it's because I'm sick and spending most of my time on the sofa, but truthfully the coffee table is usually a jumble of sketching things, books I'm reading, and sewing notions. I added in the new Gingerbread tea tin from Harney and Sons. I finally did a few errands yesterday (I've been driving mostly to the dog park to let Henry run up till now), and I fell for the seasonal display at Fresh Market. It's a quite good tea, and I love a pretty tea tin, so I added it in for one more small happiness to record for the week. This sketch felt a lot like the artist version of a gratitude journal. I've also restarted my practice of a daily gratitude list through this time to help me get out of the doldrums of feeling so exhausted. It's really helped. I haven't done a lot of sketching, but all of it helps. I think I'll try to do more as I go along. It's neat to document whatever is happening in your life, good or bad.
I had a wonderful dinner last night with two favorite art friends, plus Henry. Casablanca beautifully welcomes dogs on their patio, and they're always one of my favorite restaurants. We caught up and talked art and supplies and midlife sleep and travel and shows. It still, after the last couple of years, feels extra special to sit with people and share food and relax in public. It was extra celebratory last night with a birthday party near us. They nicely followed the kindergarten maxim of "bring enough for everyone if you're going to bring it at all" and shared cupcakes with everyone on the deck. Such kindness.
Henry had a ball and made about 15 new friends, especially the waiter who asked me to bring him back soon. We lingered and sketched as the evening lengthened. I was super happy with the Zinnies sketch. I often get too tight with my architecture, and this one was so fun to do. Less successful was my warm up sketch. I'm so out of practice on people that I did NOT do Christina any favors, and I felt bad about that. It's also odd spatially because I wanted both Henry and my friends, but it's a fun record of the evening for me to have in my memories. And I wanted to celebrate their yummy tea as well.
Celebrating endings too
Then I went to the museum and sketched some more. They'd put a beautiful wooden chair in the gallery, and I've always liked my work combined with wooden furniture or sculpture, and I wanted to mark its being there one more time. Drawing for me is a way to savor things.
I stayed at a small cabin right on the bayou with a wonderful breeze off the water. I sat out both evenings and watched the crescent moon set over the live oak trees. The second evening I had just one more page left in my sketchbook, and it seemed to be a perfect way to end the exhibition and the summer both by finishing the book right on the cusp of Labor Day weekend. I drew the moon in the half dark and didn't get all the colors quite right since I'm using a new palette I'm still learning my way around, but that also adds some energy and life to a sketch that might otherwise have been too one tone.
Friday Mattie wrapped the work as I packed the car, and I drove it back to Memphis. I'm sad for the show to be down but so grateful I had it, and so grateful also for the friendships I made at WAMA. They're going to keep having my prints and books in the museum store, which is wonderful, and it will also give me an excellent excuse to pop down to the coast fairly regularly. I'm still feeling the afterglow of this whole wonderful experience.
I took a mini break (as the Brits say) to St. Louis this past week. Tower Grove Park has been one of my very favorite places to sketch for years now, and I found a beguiling Airbnb right on the park. It was perfect. A small converted 1920's garage with bead board everywhere, the original doors sliding open and shut to reveal a small private patio, welcoming touches everywhere, and some really nice art. It's called the Rabbit Hole (and I've got a thing about rabbits anyway, location aside), and I will totally be going back.
My first stop, as always, was Ted Drewes frozen custard for my favorite Cindermint with hot fudge on top (not mixed in). I've had a ton of deadlines and commissions lately, and I let myself just do whatever felt good in the moment without scheduling anything. The only thing I was sure about (aside from spending a ton of time in the park as I felt like it) was visiting the St. Louis Art Museum for a contemporary print show. The collection was owned by Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and his artist wife Maryanne Simmons, and it was marvelous. Modern and edgy in places, with a huge variety of both styles and print media. So good to see a huge works on paper show.
I sketched not only in the park (the cypress tree in walnut ink below), but I did two sketches in the Rabbit Hole since I was enjoying the space so much. And, of course, a celebratory one at Ted Drewes.
Ocean Springs workshop
I went down over the weekend to Ocean Springs to take a painting workshop from the talented and delightful Ellen Langford and also to see my show at WAMA actually on the walls one more time before I go pick up work at the end of the month. It's been such a thrill and a joy to see my work in that space that I've visited and loved for years.
It was a last minute trip, and I couldn't find a reasonable place to stay in town, so I ended up in a tiny cabin about 20 minutes away from the museum with a meadow of pines at my front door. I love being able to just walk around town, but this was a lovely and peaceful spot, and I did a couple of sketches Saturday morning, drinking my tea on the porch and warming up for the workshop to come.
I ended the day at Tom's Extreme Pizzeria, which has an excellent seafood pizza and which also has roosters roaming around the property. Since I'm still only eating outdoors, Ricky was my dinner companion for the evening. He hung out on the back of the bench next to me for most of my meal, crowing at intervals and watching the world. He was a great model. Near the end of the meal, a girl across from me coaxed him down to take some food, and I sketched the two of them together very quickly. I need to get back out in public and draw more figures again. I've gotten very rusty through the pandemic.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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