My last day of the trip was Missouri and Arkansas. I stayed at a different park in Missouri than the one I love (full after the last minute delay due to smoke), so I slanted down the state through the Ozarks. The stand out highlight of the trip was a small antique store in Knob Noster, MO, (that name!) that had a commercial kitchen attached and homemade PIE. A brilliant combination. I didn't buy anything permanent, but I did get a strawberry rhubarb pie with some of the best crust I've ever had.
It was a great easing into home, since I've come back to a fantastic exhibition of Wayne Thiebaud's prints and paintings at Dixon. I've been looking forward to this show for months. I went the first week with an artist friend and had such fun comparing our ideas about the work. Yesterday I went back to spend more time with specific pieces I love and do a little sketching. I plan to go at least once a week while it's here. I'm fascinated with how he uses hatching to define spaces instead of outlining all the time (the meringue below, or the man with the paper's shorts. Exquisite.)
One thing I thought about over the summer is how to take the slow down of the last few months back into my home life. Sadly fall is going to be less busy than I'd hoped, given the resurgence of the virus, but I still want to be intentional about giving myself permission to take days off without feeling guilty. I love working in my house and having studio space available right here, but it can be hard to take time off when work is in the next room hovering over your consciousness. Potter Melissa Bridgman, who works harder than about anyone I know, gives herself a weekday sabbath, since weekends get so crazy. I love that, and I plan to implement that for myself. I'd like to use it to do more regular museum visiting, since that really feeds me. Yesterday I took my first weekday off. I went to Dixon to sketch, had a leisurely lunch on the back porch with my journal, banjo, and the Thiebaud catalog, and visited a friend in her yard in the afternoon. It was marvelous. I've got time before WAMA to get my prints in order for the show, and I'm going to enjoy the lead up instead of stressing about it.
This seems like the year to do a calendar again. Last year I did P is for Possum instead, and I love having a book. The book grew out of sketches I did to keep myself sane and happy as the world turned on a dime last spring. I needed bright colors and small daily joys to cheer me up. I had a ball with those sketches, and a calendar seems like the perfect way to share that ongoing joy in the small things with everyone else. I hope it brings joy and reminds folks of the daily good things that we can control for ourselves (unlike so much of the world outside).
You can preorder calendars in my online store. They'll print and mail out in September. Choose "local pickup" if you'd like to pick up in person in midtown Memphis, but otherwise please choose the shipping option.
I'm slow getting these scanned in (it's been a somewhat eventful summer), so here is a report on one lovely day taking the ferry out to Friday Harbor in the San Juan islands back in the middle of July. Jude's cousin Liz, an artist and photographer and all around delightful person, was visiting, so it was the three of us. I sketched on the ferry the way I did several years ago. I've been doing passenger seat sketches this summer, and the ferry is about the best version of that -- not as fast flashing past everything, but a kaleidoscope of a changing view. Such fun.
There were many more people in the way of the view in July than there had been in September, but it was still fun. I think my favorite ferry sketch was this simple one done only with green ink in a brush pen.
I've been doing more landscapes than anything else lately (which are always the primary draw for me), but I've done a handful of smaller scale, daily life sketches lately, and I really enjoy them as well. Here's a round up from the last month, since they haven't been fitting thematically into the posts I've made lately. I always enjoy opening sketchbooks back up later and remembering a favorite luncheon, a date at an ice cream parlor, or an especially yummy dessert.
Or even a medical check up...
And my very favorite -- Belgian torte from a dessert shop I had tried two years ago up in Bellingham on a day out up there. I was delighted that the place had made it through the pandemic. The torte was at least as good as I had remembered.
I had a really good day yesterday. I'm two and a little bit weeks after vaccination, and I'm starting to ease out in small ways. My best friend has been coming over and perching in a chair outside to chat all along, but we had given up our regular tea ritual. Yesterday we shared a teapot and cream pitcher and she brought me flowers from her garden. We still sat outside and distanced, but it felt lovely to have tea together again. I didn't sketch the outside set up -- I went in and had lunch and headed out to the farm to see my folks instead. It was a lovely day, and the buttercups were blooming. I had intended to sketch for a print, but the trees I needed weren't leafed in yet. So I just had a great visit with more loved people and sketched buttercups for fun. After supper I got Jill's flowers and the tea things and did a little sketching on my counter to mark the day's happiness. I'm going to get to see my sister soon as well, and all of this feels hopeful and lovely after the year we've had. I'm definitely on the cautious end of things, but I'm so grateful for small steps back toward the people I love.
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've been running a little crazy since I got home, dealing with mail and other things that had been piling up, seeing people I've been missing, and trying hard to get the book published in time for the holidays. I had a whole plan that failed on me, and I'm regrouping. So I haven't sketched much, but I have done a couple. Above is the Shelby Farms dog park, at the east end of the park. I hadn't been there before (further into the park than I've ventured on my bike, and my dog isn't a dog park kind of guy). But it was just around the corner from the vet where I had to leave him several hours, so I took a walk with my sketchbook and did a bit of exploring. If I had a more social dog, it would be a wonderful resource to have available. I see why people drive out from midtown.
I'm also back at my local farmers market with joy. It was lively to have tomatoes, broccoli, fresh flowers, and bread (though that didn't make it in the sketch). I really like the rhythms of Saturday mornings at home, though there certainly things I'm missing about out west as well.
I was more tired on the way home than heading across in July, but I still did a modest amount of sketching on the way home. I'd been looking at the night skies all summer and thinking of painting one, so I took the chance coming across before I got home to the city light pollution. As always, I sketched a good dessert to help me remember the joy of it. I'm also still really enjoying sketching Alice. The last day I was playing banjo in Missouri, and a deer came to watch. Apparently banjos aren't that common. I grabbed the sketchbook next to me and did a very quick gesture of it. The ears were adorable. It wasn't a lot of sketching, but it felt nice to do a few small, happy things in the middle of six days' worth of driving.
I’ve been balancing work, vet care, and vacation out here. With P is for Possum finally finished, scanned in, and at the printers for a proof, I’m leaning more towards vacation (and preparations to head home, which is a bit of an undertaking). So I celebrated a couple of lovely small things in my latest journal page — an enormous tomato gift from a friend plus a second breakfast. I did that a couple of times this past week, having berries and tea when I got up but then joining Jude in an egg a bit later. It’s nice to be cooked for sometimes.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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