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'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.
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.
We've had some crazy freaking weather in Memphis lately. It was single digits overnight for about four nights, under freezing for a nine day stretch, tying a 1940's record. Really cold. Not my favorite. But I did take advantage of the situation to do some snow sketches that Memphis sketchers don't usually (thankfully) get the chance to do. The top one was done sitting inside looking out my front door with a lap blanket in my lap, but still a pretty quick sketch. The black and white tree sketches were done very quickly standing up in the park with a big, fat, water-soluble graphite crayon, and I added a little wash with my portable water brush. The bottom one was also quick and standing up, but with some watercolor added. Journal text back at home with a cup of tea.
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.
There was a huge stack of boxes as I stepped out to get my paper this morning. No warning, no email, but I’ll totally take it! I’m signing this morning and getting a batch of them off to Burkes. I’m also selling them on my website at https://martha-kelly-art.square.site/
The signing includes me doing a small sketch in the front of each book. I’m celebrating the fact that I have a book to sign, and I want to make it special for everyone. If you’re local, you can pick them up from me as well. Just holler. And thanks to everyone for their excitement and support about this. It’s been a great journey.
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've been working on P is for Possum non stop this week. My brain hurts from learning about Library of Congress numbers (mine came today!), ISBNs, bar codes, and hardest of all, the formatting needed to actually publish it. Yesterday I reworked every page to the specs at Ingram (margins, space left in the gutter, different color system, etc.) and reworked the cover.
Today I assembled the interior of the book into one file, lettered and did decorations for the spine, if it's big enough to take something (fingers crossed), and ordered the cover template. I've got to letter the LOC number and add it to my publishing info page, but I'm going to wait till tomorrow to assemble the cover (inside and out) into the template. Then hopefully I'll be able to upload it and order a hard copy to make sure all the margins and whatnot are right. When I get that in hand, I'll finalize pricing. I'm reluctant to do that before I see what it actually looks like, though I know I should be taking pre-orders by now. Next time around I'll know a lot more what I'm doing and what I'm getting. I'm a total newbie. My brain hurts, but it's also really exciting.
Burke's Books, Memphis's 145 year old bookstore, is going to carry P is for Possum, and I'm so excited. I know them well enough to ask in advance, and Cheryl, the co-owner, has been really helpful as I finalize the details. Once I have a hard copy in hand, I'll be asking around a at other places too. Burke's has carried my calendars, given me a signing/print sale night for them, and even got in my Book of Common Worship despite it's not being available through their regular suppliers. They are fantastic, and I'm delighted that my first original book will have a home with them. I'm hoping other places that feature Memphis made things will also want to carry it, but Burke's has my heart. I've been cycling down there all year for curbside pick up of books to tide me through this crazy year.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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