I actually took a little time off around the holiday from my regular work this year, but I spent a lot of Thanksgiving itself in the forest. We've had a lovely run of warm, sunny thanksgivings, and it's become a tradition for me. My usual family do isn't often on the day, due to scheduling conflicts for other folks, and this year, of course, it was a thoroughly quiet day with Mr. Darcy and me eating by the fire.
I've been doing book work and prints and having trouble getting myself into sketching lately, so I decided to mix things up and try some watercolor pencils. I always want to like them and then don't, but the Inktense (made near the Lake District in England, by Derwent) have a lovely strong color and depth. Local museums won't let me sketch with my water brush and colors the way I can in Europe, and I've been wanting a color medium I can use in museums too. These are fun. They mix line and wash, and I like the colors. I still like fountain pen and watercolor best, but it's good to play. The first one is two colors of green pencil plus water soluble graphite. Then I added pen to the last one of the four, just to see how that was too.
I’m trapped tonight. I was going to do another entry in my Quarantine Journal, but I got trapped by this guy. And he’s so sweet I hate to move him. I’ve been trying to be really intentional about keeping this gray paper sketchbook plus some graphite on the coffee table so they’re always within reach for situations like this. I can’t reach my book, but I do have my knitting. Guess what else I’m doing tonight. No complaints.
Now he’s snoring. Life is good.
I’ve finally got a full proof of the Shearwater Diptych hanging in my work room. After several weeks it feels great to see it together, even if I’m still working on cleaning it up and considering a few smaller foreground additions. In the evenings I’ve continued to do some sketches of Mr. Darcy, so here are a couple of recent ones. I’m considering one or two for prints, so watch this space. Sometimes it’s nice to have a smaller print or two in progress to switch to when the big ones get a little overwhelming.
Y’all. I logged in to do this blog post and realized that it’s my 1001th blog since I started this blog almost exactly 10 years ago. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stick with it over the long haul, so this feels worth celebrating. Sometimes I’m more regular than others, but I usually manage at least one a week and try for a couple. When I’m traveling and having a lot of sketches, it will go almost daily for a bit.
This week has been busy with a family wedding (yay!), so I’m working less than usual, but I’m still managing to work a bit on this new print. It’s based on a recent oil painting of a hurricane tree washed up on a beach. Transitory beauty. You can see from the block at the top right that it extends above what I have carved and printed. I needed to get a feel for what was happening below before I could really decide on the sky. I proofed it yesterday and started carving the sky this morning, but the weekend will be some more wedding celebration, so any more work will have to wait till Monday or so. I also managed another small Mr. Darcy sketch. I’m enjoying doing those. He’s always my best muse.
I hope all of you have a great weekend. Go celebrate some small personal achievement and enjoy that happy feeling!
Update on this one. I’m still tweaking it, but it’s getting really close. I’ve been working on it most of today. I will admit to taking yesterday’s sunny, 63 degree day and cycling through the park a long time with an enormous grin on my face. In January sometimes you just have to seize those days as they’re handed to you and put work aside for a few hours. Today’s windy cold found me back at my work table.
Also here is last night’s sketch of Mr. Darcy. I’m still enjoying having this toned paper sketch book right on the coffee table where I can grab it easily when I’m reading or watching tv.
I’ve never known that much about abstract painting, and I’m generally drawn to more figurative work, but I’ve been looking forward to getting enough space from show season and crazy family stuff to get over to Dixon to see this exhibition. It’s a stunning one. I’ve been twice this week and could even be tempted to go back another time before it closes on Sunday. Rothko is my absolute favorite of the abstract painters, but I had fallen deeply for a Helen Frankenthaler painting in Omaha a few months ago, and there’s a less totally stunning but still lovely one in this show. There’s also a gorgeous de Kooning, and I loved the second show of just Dzubas paintings (an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with) collected by a local businessman. It was a stunning retrospective of four decades of his work, and a number of them sang to me. I loved seeing the progression too. My only quibble with the main abstract show was that it was only one painting per artist. I really like being able to see two or three of the same artist, compare them together, get more of a feel for the body of work. Their survey of women artists earlier this year (with many less famous names — I was already somewhat familiar with a number of the abstract painters) was even more disorienting that way. I wanted to see more than just one. It’s almost jarring to move artists with every painting and have no compare and contrast ability. But that’s a small complaint about a stellar show overall.
I went back the second time with every colored pencil I own to try to capture a little of the texture of the Rothko, and the Stamos had also been calling my name. I did one small sketch of each. The de Kooning was too intricate for me to take on that day, and I didn’t have any of the right colors for the Dzubas pieces I liked best. With watercolors I can mix anything, but pencils just are what you have. The last two pieces are both by Dzubas.
I did the Memphis Maker Market, coordinated by Muddy’s, this month. They are the most well organized, hospitable show I do, and there’s always a goodie bag for participants. In addition to a couple of hot drink coupons to get you through the cold day, there was a gray paper sketchbook with a white and a dark charcoal pencil. Bought, beautifully, from our local independent art store The Art Center. I’ve parked it on my coffee table and added a larger graphite crayon to go with the smaller pencils. It’s been really fun to have an easy to grab sketching opportunity at hand for the evening. If I’m settling in to read, I try to do one quick sketch first, especially if Mr. Darcy is posing cooperatively. I don’t often work on toned paper, and having the white to add as a highlight has been really fun to play with.
I had such a good time being back at the Rodin Museum the other day that I returned today. It’s my last couple of days here, and I’m spending them in my favorite museums. I started off at the Orsay and then went over to the Rodin for tea in the garden with my lunch and more sketching. This place always fires me up. I did the top one in my big watercolor sketchbook. I felt like getting out a real brush and really playing. The rest are in my small 5.5” book with the water brush. I sketched my tea because I liked the cute little teapot.
Last was the gray pencil again with watercolor. It’s a fun place to try a bunch of new things, and I really love drawing Rodin’s statues.
I got some sticks of water soluble graphite on the advice of Ruth, who works at our marvelous local art store the Art Center. I’ve loved my tin of it, which I use with a brush, but I hadn’t tried the sticks. I love having an art store with local artists working who know and use the stock. I especially love not having to order and wait for days if I get a new project in my head. I had woken up with several new prints dancing around in there and went to buy the blocks so I could start right away. I’m working on them now, but in the meantime, here are the graphite sketches I’ve been doing. After all the packaging and marketing and reprinting of the holiday season, it’s good to get to do spontaneous art again. I’m so grateful for everyone who buys real art for presents. I absolutely couldn’t do what I do without you. But I’m also grateful to be past the push and with a little winter time to play with new ideas.
Speaking of presents, I got an email from Antiques Warehouse (a big, neighborhood antique mall that I love) that they were open on Christmas Eve. I went over there just for fun on my quiet holiday and found the mirror above. I’d hoped for one on a stand that I could use for self portraits, but this one was $8, nice looking, big enough to really see, and lightweight to move around in my various work spaces. A total win. I got it and the Royal Doulton teacup (bottom right) for my gifts to myself, and I’m enjoying both of them. I feel some more self portraits coming. I’ve missed doing figures lately.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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