I've been reading Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist, and the idea of a log book really appealed to me. I'd been doing a gratitude list at night in my regular journal for a while and fizzled. I'm pretty bad with doing anything daily except dog walks. But I'd kind of missed that reflection and thought I'd try it. It's not a ton of writing about your day -- a few, quickly recorded highlights.
I'm teaching a Keeping a Sketchbook workshop at WAMA at the end of this month, as well as a Sketching Outdoors one. I keep food journals in sketchbook form, a regular sketchbook, and travel journals when I take trips. It felt like the right time to test drive a new thing and see how I like it -- and to have another option to show, even if I don't do this daily going forward, which honestly feels a little iffy even though I like it when I do it. I wrestle with "shoulds" and feel like there are enough on my list (house issues, commissions, etc.) without my gratuitously adding to them. I am enjoying getting reacquainted with markers, though. And it's fun to do something this informal. I like graphic storytelling, even though I don't see myself going into full-on comics.
A friend of mine uses the hashtag #dailyish to denote both intention and built in grace. I love that and feel that way about sketching, work, and all kinds of things. This type of journal may go in that category.
Darel Snodgrass of WKNO fm kindly hosted me again to talk about my show at WAMA, sketching (always), the new catalog for that show, and my graphic essay about Mr. Darcy. With all that, he also kindly let me go on longer than usual. I'm so grateful for this daily show about the arts in Memphis. It gives musicians, theaters, dancers, artists, and other creatives a way to get the word out about the things we're doing, and I always learn a ton when I listen.
Y'all, WAMA has made a gorgeous website for my exhibition! I couldn't be more pleased. Above is a screenshot of the top of it, but to navigate the images and read all the text about the show and see photos of me working, click here. They are doing a beautiful job on every aspect of this show, and I can't wait to see it hanging in their space. I deliver art on Feb. 28th, and I have 20 of 21 prints framed.
I'm partway through mounting all the pieces (20 watercolors plus text bits) for the separate graphic essay about Mr. Darcy that will hang in a separate space. It's their first time hanging just mounted art instead of framed, their first graphic essay, and their first time hanging in a salon style (a more informal, collage style grouping). I'm so grateful they're trusting me to do this new thing for them. Mattie Codling, the curator, had asked me if I wanted to write a bit of story about Mr. Darcy to go with his print in the show, knowing what a large part of my art making he had been to me. I told her I would love to and that I also had this graphic essay about his last couple of months called Daffodil Season. It doesn't go with the formal print exhibition, but she found a separate space for it in the museum and is diving into this new thing. I have so appreciated her enthusiasm and support in the two years preparing for this show. It will be special to honor Mr. Darcy in this way, and I think anyone who loves and loses a beloved companion will resonate with it. Anderson had a number of animals he spent time with and painted and called familiars, so it's appropriate for his museum to honor these muses.
It's been an exciting week around here. I worked on a graphic essay about the zoo's land grab for Overton Park's Greensward, the one huge, escape-from-the-city meadow, several years ago. Then the zoo and city backed off, despite the council having handed them several acres of it, and plan to raze about 85 trees and raise the parking lot up level with the meadow so everyone is staring at car bumpers instead of trees and sky. Then, in an underhanded Friday 5pm news dump, they announced they're going ahead with construction anyway. So I updated this essay and sent it off to a couple of publications. They're both in the same publishing family and BOTH decided to use it. I was delighted. You can read the full essay at Memphis Magazine or the Memphis Flyer (our weekly paper).
I'm sad for the reason but delighted to see this essay in print. It was the first graphic essay I had worked on, and I really love the story telling mix of paint and text.
I'm late getting things scanned in, but I had a really wonderful time sketching on my cross country trip last month. I'm going to put them up on the blog in chronological order. My first night was in Long Branch State Park, Missouri. It's always my favorite stop, and I got the spot I like with the tiny lake beach, but it was cold and rainy, so I didn't linger as long at the lake as I normally do. I sat inside and sketched the peonies that I'd brought with me because they were too lovely to leave. You can just see the lake out the back door window in the distance.
The next evening was Lake Vermillion in South Dakota. I played with my intense pencils again. I wasn't thrilled with the results, but I do now remember sitting and looking at the sunset across the blue lake and also seeing Alice's shadow (my camper van) with the sun behind us while I was having breakfast and tea the next morning. Even if sketches don't always turn out as hoped, looking at anything long enough to sketch it is an exercise in both memory and mindfulness, and almost always a pleasure.
Marian’s greeter cat is adorable, easy going, and a perfect ambassador for his species. He makes even inveterate dog lovers fall for him. Someday it would be fun to try a book about him too, but for now I’m just having fun sketching him as he hangs out with us on the front porch.
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.
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 poetry, 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'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.
Darel Snodgrass kindly had me on his Checking on the Arts show again this week. I'm so grateful to WKNO fm for promoting artists daily on the radio, everyone from dancers to musicians to actors to visual artists like me. I always get great ideas about what's happening in the community and new shows I want to see (in normal times). And he always pays attention, knows your work, and asks good questions. It's such a fun time to be invited to talk about something you love. So check out the interview if you live outside Memphis and didn't get a chance to hear it. I talk about making art during the pandemic, sketching in the Old Forest, the general awesomeness of local bookstores, and my upcoming show next year at WAMA.
Burkes Books and Novel both made sure they had a stack of books ready for when this went on the air, and you can also order copies from my online store. All of these copies will have an individual drawing in the front as well as a signature. I've celebrated by making each one special, since having a book to sign is such a delight.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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