I've been enjoying being back in my historic neighborhood of Evergreen lately. It's fun to have the mix of houses and buildings that an older neighborhood gets. I've also been taking more walks around blocks looking at houses since Gideon can't go as far, instead of just taking off for the forest and burying myself in it. I've been taking out my sketchbook occasionally to do some quick sketches on walks.
The other day I took my bike over to Victory for service (beautifully I can ride through the park to get there and not have to disassemble it to drive it somewhere in my tiny car). They were so fast that they were done before I even got my gear out and sorted to start sketching, but the day was so lovely I just stayed to sketch before riding home. That water tower is as iconic for Broad as the Sputnik sign at Joe's Wines is for Evergreen. We have such a funky mix of visual treats in Memphis.
These are the quicker, out-on-my-walk sketches with just a brush pen or two and my fat felt tip pen.
This last one is one of my favorite houses. I've done sketches and several prints of it over the years. The gables and arched windows along with that fantastic tree up front keep drawing me back.
My last day of the trip was Missouri and Arkansas. I stayed at a different park in Missouri than the one I love (full after the last minute delay due to smoke), so I slanted down the state through the Ozarks. The stand out highlight of the trip was a small antique store in Knob Noster, MO, (that name!) that had a commercial kitchen attached and homemade PIE. A brilliant combination. I didn't buy anything permanent, but I did get a strawberry rhubarb pie with some of the best crust I've ever had.
It was a great easing into home, since I've come back to a fantastic exhibition of Wayne Thiebaud's prints and paintings at Dixon. I've been looking forward to this show for months. I went the first week with an artist friend and had such fun comparing our ideas about the work. Yesterday I went back to spend more time with specific pieces I love and do a little sketching. I plan to go at least once a week while it's here. I'm fascinated with how he uses hatching to define spaces instead of outlining all the time (the meringue below, or the man with the paper's shorts. Exquisite.)
One thing I thought about over the summer is how to take the slow down of the last few months back into my home life. Sadly fall is going to be less busy than I'd hoped, given the resurgence of the virus, but I still want to be intentional about giving myself permission to take days off without feeling guilty. I love working in my house and having studio space available right here, but it can be hard to take time off when work is in the next room hovering over your consciousness. Potter Melissa Bridgman, who works harder than about anyone I know, gives herself a weekday sabbath, since weekends get so crazy. I love that, and I plan to implement that for myself. I'd like to use it to do more regular museum visiting, since that really feeds me. Yesterday I took my first weekday off. I went to Dixon to sketch, had a leisurely lunch on the back porch with my journal, banjo, and the Thiebaud catalog, and visited a friend in her yard in the afternoon. It was marvelous. I've got time before WAMA to get my prints in order for the show, and I'm going to enjoy the lead up instead of stressing about it.
A very kind friend wrote me two different times (I was out of town the first one) to offer me peonies. I adore them and had wanted to paint some. Maybe next year I can plant some of my own, but this year, thanks to Kerrie, I got to paint these lovely things. I'm so lucky in my friends.
I have an insane amount of stuff to do this week, but I celebrated finishing my last commission by stopping at Dixon on my way home to see the American Impressionists exhibition one more time before it closes. I also wanted to sketch this lovely Boudin from our permanent collection. It’s not always on view, and I love having it out. I’m way out of practice for this and didn’t leave enough room on the left (I always get larger as I go), and pencil is not my best medium, but it was so good to spend some time looking deeply at this one. I’m celebrating vaccines by making time for some important things I haven’t been able to do lately. Like getting a couple of waltzes and a good visit with my sister yesterday. Means so much. I have missed dancing for that jolt of joy in my life. Art is deeply satisfying and necessary and how I interact with almost all the world, but dancing is JOY. I’m so grateful to be easing back with a vaccinated partner or two even if it will be a while before we fill a gym with sweaty, smiling people.
I also met a fantastic dog and got to love on him a bit, thanks to his person and my friend Charley. I am still deeply missing Mr. Darcy, and it's going to be a very long summer travel season before I'm able to get another dog. The longest I've gone in my adult life without a dog companion. So some dog love along the way means a great deal.
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.
Another post vaccination celebration is visiting my sister and her husband. We hung out on the porch, petted cats, and caught up. It’s so good to see my people. And with a big list of commissions and other appointments lately, it felt great to sketch just for me and because I want to. I’ve missed feeling I have time to do this.
Marian took an evening ride, and later the moon rose over a white horse. He was moving too fast for me to get what I’d hoped for, and it was dark for painting, but it was fun to try to capture the beauty of that time.
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.
A good friend offered to come sketch with me in my neighborhood and bring me a cupcake. What a total win. I hadn't drawn with anyone in a year, and it was so good to sit outside, masked and at a distance, but able to visit and draw. I hadn't been out sketching a lot in my neighborhood lately, and it's good to mix things up creatively.
Not sketching with people, I'm also out of practice drawing them. I'll look forward to getting to do more people sketches as the world opens up more.
I'd been feeling a little wonky for a few days, so it was nice to get out and go walking and sketching today. "Plein Airpril" is happening on Instagram, and I'm a sucker for a punning, art-themed month (see also "Inktober"), so I jumped in today. I love this sycamore and paint it every so often. I didn't feel like I really locked in today, but it was nice just to get out and work. I decided to change it up and do a real close up once I got in the forest. The mayapples are in full bloom, and I love their sculptural umbrella shapes and shy flowers hiding underneath.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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