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.
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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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