I've been struggling with the internet company for the last two weeks, so I'm way late being able to post, but here are a couple of compilation sketches from last Sunday's outdoor concert by the Side Street Steppers. I did all of these super vertical in my tiny square sketchbook, opened up to 11x5.5" across the fold. I put them in a couple of overall pages to post more easily. These sketches are all done in one of my new favorite inks, De Atramentis document fog grey (the "document" means it's waterproof) with a fat blue watercolor marker over the top.
I also did a few sketches of the audience.
There's been very little going on around here lately besides a little necessary cooking, a little sketching or carving in my lap on the couch, and trips to the dog park. I'm grateful for Henry to be able to get the exercise he needs when I'm still not up to much walking. As the weather gets nicer again, I want to do more sketching at the dog park (see below for this morning's sketch), and anyone who reads this blog at all knows I really love to sketch cake.
This cake is one a friend's mother used to make for me when I went to visit during my college days. No one had baked a cake specifically for me since my own mother died, so it always meant a lot. It's a sour cream/chocolate chip coffee cake that was my Christmas morning staple for the years I used to host a family breakfast here. I still like to revisit it periodically, and this week was one of those times.
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.
I had a ton of printing and scanning to do to turn preliminary images into WAMA for the show next year. I took a few days off Inktober, but mostly I have really enjoyed the reminder to sketch regularly and play with my dip pen and walnut ink (and a red marker for the pot). I'm also getting into a rhythm of having my materials next to my place at the island where I can sketch Gideon. I always used to draw Mr. Darcy on the couch, where he would settle in with me, but Gideon isn't as snuggly and prefers to be on his own on the floor. So this is where I get a good view of him when he's calm and sketchable.
I also sketched my new enamel pot yesterday. After the deadline I've really enjoyed a few quiet days -- doing a little painting for my own pleasure, visits with friends, and cooking a pot of spaghetti gravy yesterday. My old soup pot was aluminum, and I've been looking at a replacement. This isn't one of the fancy brand name enamel ones, but it's a gorgeous cherry red and gets the job done. I was delighted to find it at Target last week.
Below is a sketch from a meeting about saving the Greensward. Again. I can't believe we're in round 43 of this. We met outside at the gorgeous old Memphis Heritage building, and I sketched it waiting for everyone to show up. I'd biked over and left extra time, not knowing exactly how long that would take. A sketchbook is always a good companion.
I wrote yesterday about how much I'm watching the birds these days, and what a beautiful new awareness that is in my life. I've always admired them, but never sat still and long and really looked more than occasionally. The learning about birds been a huge gift of this quarantine season. And then this morning, an enormous owl flapped across my path in the forest and sat on a limb for ages, looking at me and chatting a little. I'd gotten over there very early (about 6:15), sadly without my smaller sketchbook today, since s/he sat so long. I wish I'd had it. It was still pretty dark to take photos, but I got a couple and locked in a little in my memory as well. Over breakfast I sketched out this page to help me remember in coming times. I loved the side to side head motion. I must have stood there 5 or 6 minutes. I think perhaps there was a nest nearby, or probably s/he would have just moved on. I finally decided I'd been an annoying presence long enough and took up my walk again, with such gratitude for the beauty of the forest and all its creatures.
I don't know if this is really a Quarantine Journal or a new normal journal. We're a long way in from what we used to think of as normal, though, so even though the shelter at home order is lifted, it feels like I'm still largely in quarantine from the virus if not the government.
My new garden, which has been giving me herbs, is now also giving me gardenias, and I could not be more delighted. They smell divine. One good friend has brought them to me before from her bush, and I've wanted one ever since. Our little midtown nursery is open air shopping, so I got there first thing a month or so ago. I also have my first hydrangea blossoms. It's been a joy to reclaim a bit of my messy yard for beauty.
I had lunch on the back porch today and watched a dove building her nest. With every beak full of straw, she stopped to perch on the fence across from me before she took it on to the nest. I finally got my sketching things and managed to draw her over several trips. After the Cardinal tragedy (though I'm happy to say they're still whizzing around the yard and seem to be mating again!), it's happy to see another nest being built. This one is quite high, so I'll have to just watch from a distance, but it's a joy. I've never watched birds the way I have this year. I feel like I'm turning into my grandmother, and it's really given me a lot of quiet happiness in the midst of the chaos.
I had a reptile kind of walk this morning. I got out early to beat both the heat and the holiday weekend crowds in the park, and I had the forest beautifully to myself. I had done a short walk with Mr. Darcy (who struggles with an arthritic hip these days) and then gone back out with my smaller sketchbook. I'm so glad I did. I found a turtle in the middle of the path, and he very obligingly hung around and let me sketch him. He didn't even pull into his shell.
Not five minutes later, I came across a pair of copperheads writhing together on the path. This time I took a photo but didn't stay in the vicinity long enough to sketch. I did the journal page looking at both my turtle sketch as well as reference photos for both.
These are the first snakes I've seen in ages, which is a little unusual for me. For several years now I've been a bit of a magnet for them, enough that the forester has joked about having the copperhead researcher (a professor at a local college) follow me around so she can find them more easily. I was beginning to feel like I might speak parseltongue without knowing it, though truthfully, a port key or apparition would be much my preferred form of Harry Potter magic. Today made up for the gap, however, since I saw two at once for the first time.
I’ve been slow on my journal this week since I’ve gotten back moving on prints, though truthfully, I’ve been slow on a lot of things. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my favorite reading chair with Wilkie Collins. I did at least draw the view. This is another corner I reworked recently in my push to get the house how I want to live in it. I found the little square stained glass lamp at a garage sale. It’s not fine, but it matches the wall well and cheers up to top of the cabinet. Hanging next to it is a Hatch Show Print I had bought years ago and never gotten around to framing. I love it, and it’s great to have it up on the wall. Less clearly visible to the left, on the oven with magnets, are a drawing from a friend for my birthday (which itself needs framing, but it came after my big order of frames and binge of work in that direction) and several show cards that inspire me and make me happy.
I’m trying to talk myself into more journal sketches again. I’m having a hard time finding the balance between cutting myself some slack and being even partially accountable for getting some work done. Today I carved after lunch and finally got this posted, so now I’m going to read a little more Woman in White.
I feel like most of us are having these most weeks. This week has been especially so for me. I had a lovely mother's day visit on the patio with my folks, from a safe distance. Then the baby Cardinals finally hatched. And then they died overnight in the nest, I think from cold. It affected me in an outsized way, although I imagine some of that is just the grief and stress of these times also showing up, and it's not bad to push a little of that out occasionally. Plus Mr. Darcy came over and gave me big sloppy kisses to make me feel better.
I found that I needed to physically turn the page on this page of my sketchbook, so I drew my dinner last night. I've never cooked beets before. Thanks to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (which I think is going to be key for my CSA journey), it was super easy, and I've had a couple of truly lovely beet salads with goat cheese and slightly candied walnuts.
Then today was lovely again. I met Dad and Pat at his grandparent's house, my great grandparents, about half a mile from their daughter's (my grandmother's) house where I live now. I never knew my great grandparents, or the house, and it's recently been bought by a lovely woman who is lovingly restoring it and who wants to know the history of the house and of our family as she moves in. It's beyond special to have someone there who wants to know and carry forward those family stories. We've had such a great series of emails over the last week, and it means a tremendous amount. I sat afterwards and sketched the house to have more happiness in my journal from this time. My favorite thing, aside from getting to see the place, was finding out that the sunroom off the main bedroom was called "The Joint" because it was jointly owned by my dad (with his bed there for weekend visits) and his grandfather, who kept his desk in there.
It's a glorious day, I got through the Farmers Market early enough to feel safe being there, and I came home with the most beautiful eggs I've ever seen. I sat on the back porch and sketched them, had my lunch, and watched Papa Cardinal chase off a Blue Jay and a mockingbird. I had grand plans to get back to my seagull block this afternoon, but I may take a nap instead.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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