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.
A lot of my sketches over Memorial Day weekend were at Anderson's cottage, with so many thanks to Tony DiFatta of WAMA getting permission for me to go there and spend deep time. I did a smattering of other, quicker sketches. I cycled over to the national seashore several times, which was delightful. It's just a few miles down the coast road (so fun in itself), and there's a great mix of swamp/trees/water. I did the top one in the marsh land as I cycled through. The nifty, bent-double tree caught my eye, and the breeze was stiff enough to keep the no-see-ums away from me, so I seized my opportunity. Next is one from a picnic table right down on the waterfront. Nicely the table is shaded by pine trees that grow right to the water, which is not the kind of shelter you end up getting at a more traditional beach.
One of the mornings I had slept really well and got myself up and out and down to the waterfront for the sunrise. I watched the pelicans and the morning light and did some super quick sketching with an ink brush pen.
Last I sketched my glass of wine from my crab cakes dinner at Maison de Lu, easily my favorite restaurant down there. I treated myself to one lovely dinner out for my weekend of workshop teaching. Several days after returning home, I dug out my coronation teacup (and George VI coronation spoon) to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee, and I've been using them all weekend. I think my mom would approve. We were raised on BBC and British history.
This month has been so non-stop that I have most of a sketchbook finished and almost no scans done until today. I put snapshots on site up on my social media and sometimes here, but the scans show the sketches so much more clearly. Here are a batch from the beginning of the month when I got to stay in this lovely artist cottage at WAMA. I take down my traveling teapot and electric tea kettle and have breakfast (and lunch and sometimes dinner) on the little balcony. It's a beautiful, peaceful place to stay.
Driving down that trip my art delivery day was February 28. The day before Mardi Gras. So I got to pick up an actual king cake on my way in to town. They are SO much better down on the coast. The Memphis versions I've tried have been very pale imitations, even though we're a good food town overall. So here's my king cake along with my travel teapot. All the essentials.
I admire the artists who do full on collage. I've always felt that mine look more like 4th grade projects. But with this sketchbook, I've been making small movements in a multi-media direction, pasting in bits of ephemera that evoke the moment. The king cake label was one, and this lovely card from a kind friend is another. I got called up to the front of the museum while I was there, and a longtime friend had seen me down there delivering art on fb and actually sent me flowers to celebrate that moment. It meant so much. They sat with me on my little balcony and nodded gently in the back of my hatchback as I drove back home to Memphis.
I always try to draw flowers when I'm lucky enough to get them. They are a gorgeous but ephemeral gift, and having them in my sketchbook helps me remember the moment and the beauty long after the original flowers have faded.
My deadline for the last two years happened yesterday when I dropped off art at WAMA. I was delighted to see this sign waiting by the gallery slated for my show. It was huge just to unload the car and see the work here.
I celebrated by going down to the water, wading and sketching on the beach, and having a little actual gulf coast king cake. I always try the Memphis versions and am always disappointed. Driving down here this time of year is a big treat. Here are a few images from yesterday.
I’m having a slow morning today and will go to the museum later to help lay out the graphic essay for the small secondary show.
I've been enjoying warm days again lately. A couple of times I've worked in the morning (good light on my work table for framing) and then taken off for the afternoon to go to the farm. The daffodils have started blooming, and I love bringing home a big bunch of sunshine. It's a little bittersweet this year to be without Mr. Darcy. We came so much last year for his last season, taking the time to enjoy ourselves together in his favorite place. Gideon is a doll and hilarious, but he and I don't have the history and emotional depth that I had with Mr. Darcy.
On the up side, we're making progress at the farm growing Gideon into an art dog. He usually just swarms me if I sit on the ground, so I've had to tether him to a picnic table at the park and then sit on top of it to sketch. At the farm, there is SO MUCH to smell and explore and get into that he's managed to poke around and let me sit on the ground to draw two times now. Both times he's come eventually to lie beside me but has let me finish the sketch. I hope that familiarity with this routine will add up and eventually transfer into city drawing too. Although the other big wild card will be people and dogs. He gets frenetically excited to see anyone, which will be a challenge if I have all my drawing stuff out. But it's been a nice start.
I’ve been working on the show this past week instead of making a lot of art from scratch (getting final copies of prints, putting together a catalog, gathering framing supplies), but I took a day off yesterday. It was chilly in the morning, so I cooked up a farmers market stew for the week, but the sun came out after lunch. I decided to head to the park and enjoy the nice weather. I took my Inktense pencils along with my paint set. I’ve been forgetting to use them lately, and it was fun to get them back out. I did one piece in the heart of the forest and another of the sky over the Greensward as I headed home. It felt so good to sit in the sun and sketch for a little while.
I also scanned in a couple of others from New Years Eve. It was another glorious day that day, so I took Gideon out to the farm and then had dinner on my screened in porch that evening. I had fun sketching both occasions to celebrate the end of one year and usher in a new one right.
I started the year out right, doing a tiny oil (8x10") of the morning sky at the Greensward on New Year's morning. And then I read and knitted and sat on the back porch. It was a lovely day. The warm weather (right up until ice started falling from the sky today) has made the holiday week especially nice. I've spent lots of time on the back porch, including a lovely new year's eve dinner.
Today has been the less fun part of being a freelance artist. Lately my emails to the people who have actively signed up wanting them have been getting caught in the junk folders of a lot of folks, including in my own gmail address. I send a test to see before sending the group. There are all kinds of words that can trigger a spam filter, but I'm super careful in my wording. I finally asked the fantastic #AmWriting facebook group (that's a great podcast by three writers who are living a creative life but also navigating all the business end of things that not many of us were trained for), and they said a free email can also flag that filter. So I spent the morning going through Weebly (my website), GoDaddy (my domain), Google (partnering with Weebly to offer an email address from my own domain), and MailChimp (to verify all this) and finally sent out an email that didn't snag in my own gmail account junk folder. Whew. I haven't felt like I needed a site specific email before, but now it seems I do. I will enjoy sending out emails more if they actually get to where they're going. It has felt recently like an exercise in frustration, unlike this blog which I really enjoy. So here's to a new year and sending out occasional fun emails that (may) actually make it through! If you're not on the list and would like to be, you can sign up for the studio updates right here:
I ran down to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to meet with the curator at Walter Anderson Museum of Art to make the final selection for my solo show there next year. This is a career moment for me, and I'm ridiculously excited. It was wonderful to get to lay out all the prints I've been working on for the last two years in the space where my work will be hanging next year.
It was also really wonderful to get away from the deadlines that have been crowding me so hard lately, and to breathe, walk, and sketch again. I hadn't been drawing for myself in more than a week, and it felt so good to dive in. I walked down to the beach for sunset, after checking in at the museum and putting my stuff in my room. I was just in time for sunset, and it was glorious. I did two very quick sketches in the half dark, and after dinner I drew my teapot and the shells I had picked up and a lovely tangerine (?) that was a present from some landscaping workers I had passed on my way to the beach. Really kind.
I also drew (and ate) a lot of good food. I have a friend who says "Always get the pink drink", by which she means to celebrate an occasion with something special. After my meeting the next morning to lay out all the art and finalize the show, I treated myself to a grown up lunch. I sat out on the front porch of Maison de Lu, under the live oaks that line Washington Street, and had a flat out delicious lunch, including a celebratory mango margarita. And then celebratory (and ridiculously good) white chocolate bread pudding. I'm going to have to walk a LOT this coming week to get my equilibrium back.
There was also a French patisserie four blocks from the cottage, which was seriously dangerous. I tended to take an early walk, buy breakfast, take it back to my small balcony, make tea, and enjoy it all.
The weather could not have been more perfect for sitting outside and drinking in all the goodness of the coast. I sat out with my banjo a lot, which I also haven't had time to do much lately. I have several more commissions due soon and some final paperwork for WAMA, but the break was wonderful, and I'm planning to be able to give myself some time off around Christmas. I've done a decent job of that the last couple of years after several of scrambling so hard right up until the day that I couldn't enjoy the family time as much as I wanted to. It feels good to be able to see some time off coming.
Cake and conversation
It's a good weekend for catching up with friends. There was cake and sketching yesterday on the back porch, one of the best kinds of parties. Muddy's had grasshopper cake for the first time in ages, and it's my favorite. Today will be pizza and more friends. I'm so grateful for my village.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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