I just hung all these for this weekend’s Open Studio, but it occurs to me that some of you might be too far away (or too busy) to make it to midtown Memphis just now. Here is the batch of small edible still lifes that are available this holiday season. The two oils have deep gallery sides and are ready to hang, and all the watercolors and gouaches are framed and ready to go. The oils are 8” square, and the others are in the 10-12” range. $225 each. It’s fun to see them hanging up all in a group in my hallway, but I’d be happy for anyone who wants to give the present of an eternal eclair or perfect avocado to take one home.
It’s been show season, and this weekend is the final one for me for the holidays, and always my favorite. If you’re around Memphis, please come out on Saturday or Sunday (the 14th & 15th) from 12-5 both days at 1780 Autumn in Midtown. As always, I’ll be joined by Melissa Bridgman and her gorgeous pottery. I recently hung up all my finished oils from the last year or so to look at and invite folks in to see. It’s fun to see them all together, dressed up and ready so to speak. I’m hoping to find an out of the house showing for them at some point, but Open Studio visitors will get a sneak peek.
I also have several recent prints and one set of brand new ones for this show. After my Daily Pleasures still life show this fall, I took the cherries image on the “choose joy” plate (one of Melissa’s!) and made a print. The show had been all paintings, but I really liked the image and wanted to play with it graphically as well. It’s a single plate, but I’ve been hand rolling different color combinations on it. Each one is a little bit different, and it’s been fun to play with them. Come see us if you’re able, and if you’re not, I’ve also been shipping prints off in a good quantity, and there’s plenty of time to get them before Christmas if you’d like to give some original artwork. My online store is at https://squareup.com/market/martha-kelly-art. I’m selling what’s left of the still life gouaches and oils too. I haven’t added them all individually, but if you’re interested, I’ll be happy to put up any that are in demand as needed. See the bottom photo for a sample of them. Give an eternal eclair or macarons with no calories!
This past weekend was the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, a longtime fair in Memphis, and I was the demonstrator for printmaking. It’s special for me to be out there. I started going to the fair with my parents as a kid, I remember getting to choose my special Christmas present just as I got old enough to fall in love with the silver handmade jewelry, and now I get to be a part of it. I don’t generally do outdoor fairs, and I don’t own a 10x10 tent, nor do I want to, but this fair puts me safely inside an enormous tent (which was key this past weekend) and lets me sit out and see all my friends and neighbors passing through the show.
It’s fun to sit and carve in my lap and let people see the laborious process (though deeply satisfying) that goes into each carved print. I like talking to the kids who love art, the teens who have done a block or two in school art class, and adults of all stripes who make art or appreciate it. I even get a little work done! This past weekend I worked on five different blocks. I had one large one going already and did a bit more on it, though you hit a point where damage can happen to something intricate if you’re in and out of concentration all day. I started a new large block for most of Saturday, but again, I felt like I needed more concentration to finish that one out. So later in the weekend I jumped to a smaller block based on a recent gouache painting of cherries. That gouache and all its friends are still up in my still life show Daily Pleasures at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis through November 3rd. I’d been thinking for a while of trying this one in a print as well, and I grabbed a scrap piece of Lino and drew it out Sunday morning to give me something new to work on. Above are yesterday’s color tests. I’m hand rolling several colors at once and printing it all in one go, a simpler form of color work than carving an individual block for each separate color.
One last tiny block I did was a snail, based on a sketch I did out west this summer. I had my sketchbook out with me, as I always do, and happened across that sketch. I always need new note card designs, so I’ll get this one printed for the later fall shows.
Here is one of the larger blocks I was also working on. The other hasn’t progressed far enough to really show yet. I’ve only got a small percentage done, even though it took a while to get there. Both are continuing my series about water that is mostly oils, but I’m working on getting some prints to go with the larger paintings. This one still needs a bit of work in the water, where light meets dark, but it’s mostly done now.
It's been a week, now. I did an artist market on Sunday, hung my main show of the year on Wednesday, and had the opening last night. It's lovely to see it all dressed up and on the wall. I've been showing bits of this edible still life exhibition along the way. It was my fun summer project, just grabbing something at a market or bakery and painting it without thinking too hard. I've always loved still life, and I've always loved the small things that together build daily happiness, so this show was a lot of fun to do. It's also the 20th anniversary of my first ever professional show, at Cecelia Lin Gallery, which is the last time I've done an exclusively still life show. It felt right to do one again and think about how lucky I am to do what I love every day. I'm so grateful for the whole tribe of folks who show up, spread the word, and sometimes even buy art. It was lovely to celebrate with friends last night.
I came to Paris with the intention of doing a series of gouache still lifes for my September show at Playhouse on the Square. (The opening is lucky Friday the 13th for anyone planning ahead.) I like the depth I can get with gouache, but I’m still learning how it works, and often I find myself thinking it was better two layers ago. I’m going to have to pay attention and try to keep from over fussing. Somewhere along the way, I did a couple of watercolor studies in my sketchbook as studies before doing the gouache, and I really liked the lightness and airy-ness of them. So I’ve ended up doing four watercolors for the show as well.
It’s easy to default into the familiar and comfortable, though, and there was a time when watercolor was incredibly hard going for me. It still is sometimes, but I’m glad I pushed through and got it into my regular tool kit. I gave up on gouache two summers ago and don’t want to do that again, but I am still struggling. I want to do some forest studies with it when I get home, and hopefully that will keep me excited about using it. You can see the two side by side here and decide foe yourself. I think the gouache needs a little more blue in the purple shadows. I’ve got a couple I’ll do a small bit of balancing/retouching on next time I get the paints out. Right now I’ve shifted gears a bit and am painting more out in the city again.
It’s been raining some here, keeping the weather thankfully cool and giving me a chance to do some painting indoors. I went to two big flea markets I love over the weekend, but I also came home after each one and did a small painting or two. Here are the still life ones. I’m very happy with the Mille feulle one, and pretty happy with the peach. At the bottom is the Cherokee purple tomato. My oil at home of several of those is my favorite of all the still lifes I’ve done so far, but this gouache totally bombed. I got it way overworked, and I don’t think the composition was that strong to begin with. I also struggled with the teapot one and walked away, but I may go back into that one again and see if I can spruce it up just a bit. A couple of artists I really admire on fb sent me encouraging words about that one.
I was awarded a show at Playhouse on the Square for this September. It’s in the most visible gallery there, and also a much smaller one than the enormous, cement-walled ramp I often get assigned. I’m so grateful for the better visibility, and now I’m scrambling a little bit (since I’ll be gone most of August) to make sure I have a solid show. I’ve been enjoying the still lifes lately, but I’ve also been away from my easel. I decided to try a couple in gouache, and I had a ball doing them. This is a good travel project for August as well, so I’m tentatively titling the show “Daily Pleasures” and pursuing this line of work for it. I’ve got a handful of larger oils already, and I think I can fill out around them. My very first gallery show was still lifes, 20 years ago in 1999, so it would be nice symmetry.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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