I have done a couple of graphic essays that, for one reason or another, have never really made it out in public. I've been inspired to do one about this last season I got to have with Mr. Darcy. Very different from the children's book I also never managed to get right (although I'm thinking of seeing if the third time is the charm and taking it west for a summer project). I always seem to work things out on paper. Writing (in a new and gorgeous daffodil journal given to me to celebrate the daffodil season I had with Mr. Darcy by a kind and empathetic friend) has really helped me the last few weeks. I think it may distill out into these images with a little bit of text.
Last night I was reading Mary Oliver, looking for a title for my WAMA show, and I found this poem fragment. It took my breath away, and it will definitely be part of the essay.
I'd been feeling a little wonky for a few days, so it was nice to get out and go walking and sketching today. "Plein Airpril" is happening on Instagram, and I'm a sucker for a punning, art-themed month (see also "Inktober"), so I jumped in today. I love this sycamore and paint it every so often. I didn't feel like I really locked in today, but it was nice just to get out and work. I decided to change it up and do a real close up once I got in the forest. The mayapples are in full bloom, and I love their sculptural umbrella shapes and shy flowers hiding underneath.
It's gorgeous weather for park visits lately. I took my bike out to Shelby Farms (brown fountain pen plus watercolor) a bit ago, and more recently I took a little bit of time for wildflower sketching (green ink in a brush pen with inktense pencils) on my more regular walk in Overton Park. I'm so grateful for spring after all that awful February weather.
I've been working on a new print of Mr. Darcy this week from one of the farm photos I took. I've done a painting and several sketches of him in water before, and the subject continues to draw me. This one needs a little thinning and refining since it is the very first proof I've pulled, but I'm happy with where it's going.
I've also been playing around with watercolor, working on images from our farm trips this spring. I've been thinking of the series in my head as "Daffodil Season" and wondering about a graphic essay. I'm so grateful to have art as a way to work through grief and also memorialize times that are dear to me. Here is the watercolor version of that same scene.
We had a couple more farm visits before Mr. Darcy hit the point where he was dragging too much and not wanting to eat the things he had formerly loved. It was apparent it was time, but I was so grateful for one more day to ride around with his head out the window, have a little steak, see a couple of loved people and sit in the sunshine with lots of pets and kisses. It was a good last day, and I'm so grateful for how peaceful and sweet it was. I miss my studio helper and muse, but it's the deal you make getting a dog. The timeline is uncompromising, but the rewards are enormous. I'm so grateful to have had him as a companion as long as I did.
Hospice for Mr. Darcy continues with almost daily farm visits. It's his favorite place, and he enjoys the ride with the windows down, sniffing out the window, as well as the actual walking time. It's also the best place for me to be able to evaluate how he's feeling. Plus I'm doing a good bit of sketching while we're there and getting some good print ideas going. It's definitely some time away from my main work, but I'm grateful to be able to be this flexible and really enjoy this last time with my boy and main muse.
We're trying to go to the farm every other day for joy. I'm so glad the daffodils are blooming during this period. It's been lovely to bring home a fistful of sunshine from these trips. I've been sketching around the farm, and today I decided to draw the daffodil hill itself. With a really quick, sketchy Mr. Darcy. I refilled a couple of fountain pens with favorite ink, so it was fun to use this cacao de Brazil ink that I haven't used lately. I've never been able to get a sketch of the daffodils that does them justice, but it's fun to try.
I've been taking Mr. Darcy to the farm a lot lately. His cancer has come back, so we're on a farm trips and extra chicken regime. He's still feeling good at this point, so I'm going to enjoy everything we get.
I painted out here daily when I started my art career, back when I was doing large scale pastels and carrying a box easel. I felt like I really did all the art I could see for a while, but it's been good to revisit it with a completely different medium after some time has passed. I'm really enjoying our sketching getaways, and Mr. Darcy is too.
I finally made it to the virtual Memphis Urban Sketchers, and it was fun to catch up with friends I haven't seen all year. I sketched the daffodils I brought home from the farm while we were talking.
I find it very easy, like the rest of the world, to pull out my phone reflexively when I'm waiting for something. But when I have enough bandwidth, I also enjoy sketching, and I always feel better afterwards when I've made that choice. I sat outside the vet for a while earlier in the month and played with my new Inktense watercolor pencils. It's fun to be able to get texture, line, and wash all at once. I added a little ink in the lines, and the sky is also blue ink from a brush pen.
Some time later, I waited at Muddy's to pick up my Christmas order, along with about half of Memphis. They had an efficient system going, and I was grateful for the chance to have something special to perk up an otherwise gloomy holiday season, so I didn't mind. It was barely raining, but with both bits of rain and constant edging forward while standing up, I kept things super simple and just used my fountain pen to do several quick sketches from different places along the line.
For anyone in Memphis, I tried the take and bake biscuits as well as the quiche for the first time, and I am strongly looking forward to more biscuits in the new year. The line should vanish with a bigger window of time for pick ups and not everyone doing it all at once. I'm so grateful to Muddy's for making this year a little more cheerful.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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