Elmwood has started something new! They had their first concert on Friday night, and it was total joy to sit out in the shade in a beautiful place, enjoy the breeze, and hear one of my favorite local musicians. I'm still not going to much stuff that's indoors, and an early, still-daylight show that's also outside was my total sweet spot. I took my sketchbook and had a ball. The top piece is a big, fat, water soluble, graphite crayon that I love with watercolor over the top. I'm still rusty drawing people (as I noticed during last Friday's impromptu porch concert), so I used a finer pencil to sketch out Amy LaVere and Will Sexton while they played.
Amy sang a bunch of good songs, mostly her own, and I love a woman with an upright bass. The crowd was really attentive, so she took the opportunity to do four songs that encapsulate her 11 song cycle about running away from home as a young teen. It was a cool piece (there's a full album to go with it that I'll need to get), and I love how she could take that episode from way back and make beautiful art from it. She also had a neat new song about a high school boyfriend that was beautiful and nostalgic. And she did a cool one about Memphis (always a way to my heart). It was fun seeing her play with her husband Will, who's an in demand guitarist and song writer in his own right.
I've done a motley collection of commissions lately. One from a sketch I did at Anderson's cottage, one of Rowan Oak for a friend who went to college there, and one of the river for a special 80th birthday. It's fun to get to help people celebrate their special moments in this way. I'm doing fewer than I used to, and I most enjoy making the art that is busting to get out of my head, but I do love it when people want to mark an occasion with art.
Very handily, the Memphis Urban Sketchers had their meeting at the Greenbelt park just when I needed to paint the river anyway, so I got to chat with friends while doing this one. So much fun to make art with friends.
This place --- these trees --- keep calling me. I'm not making any progress on the prints I have in my head yet, but I'm letting them roll around and seeing what develops while I work on several commissions and one "shiny object" (the term for a new project that draws your attention) that has spoken to me since the trees have. Just after a big show goes up is exactly the time to chase shiny objects and see which ones have long term projects. It's exactly the time to be a little ADD in your work, to play, to see what rises to the surface. So here are sketches of trees, and we'll see if the next shiny object even survives long enough to make the blog...
I took a bunch of intentional time off in April, but I've been having trouble reconnecting with my work. So Saturday I happily went along to Memphis Urban Sketchers at Crosstown Concourse, our remodeled old Sears tower. Nicely it was one of the places we meet that I can walk to, which is always a pleasure. Seeing friends was primary, and I had a lovely time sitting on the upstairs terrace and sketching the reflections in the door and chatting with my friend Christina. It felt good to draw with no agenda, and I ended up happy with what I had done.
Afterwards we moved out to the front plaza to watch the fanfare of Puppy Palooza. It was delightful to watch all the dogs go past and sketch the ones that caught my eye. Sketching dogs is sheer joy, and I stayed for lunch and an extended visit at Global Cafe afterwards.
I was on such a roll, and it was such a beautiful day, that I kept my sketching bag with me as I walked Gideon over to the park after I got home. We went around the lake but then found an open picnic table under my favorite tree. Gideon spotted a stick he liked, so I settled in to sketch and enjoy the afternoon. The good feeling and good sketching has extended into my week, I'm happy to say, and I made good progress on my current commission today. I'm grateful for such a wonderful group of artist friends to meet up with regularly. It's always good for my work to get out and sketch with other people.
The story of Emily Sutton was fascinating (and sad) to me. She owned a bordello, and her madam name was Fanny Walker. When the yellow fever epidemic hit Memphis like a brick in the 1870's, she turned her bordello into a hospital and nursed sick patients until she died, while many prosperous people fled the city instead. She was buried at Elmwood with a lovely marker, but the judgemental patriarchal society added not one, not two, but THREE large boundary stones with her madam name in large letters so no one would forget that she was "only" a prostitute. Jerks. You can see Gideon resting his chin on one of those while I sketched her.
My last sketch with the sketchers (Gideon was with me a different day for Emily) was a rapid walnut ink sketch with a dip pen back at the meet-up site waiting for everyone to gather. I'm really enjoying my dip pen lately. And the walnut ink.
I went to Shearwater Pottery yesterday because I always do when I’m in Ocean Springs. It’s in its third generation of family potters. I was mostly looking for a cream pitcher, since I’d broken one of my favorites recently. But I fell in love with this set. They don’t have a full set very often, and it’s lovely, and I figured I would really enjoy having an “I had a show at WAMA” tea set going forward. Happy memories every time I use it. And it’s lovely. It’s earning its keep this morning by posing while providing tea.
It’s been beautiful to have a couple of slow mornings here. I’m usually walking the crazy puppy at least a couple of blocks before I bring in the paper and make tea. And it’s been a long, intense lead up to delivering this show. So I’m grateful for space where all I have to do is exhale and sketch for pleasure. Or read my
book for pleasure. Or have Second Tea. I’ll be back at work soon, but it’s a beautiful short break. Even though I helped hang Daffodil Season yesterday, I had a slow morning and evening to bracket the day. Deeply good.
My deadline for the last two years happened yesterday when I dropped off art at WAMA. I was delighted to see this sign waiting by the gallery slated for my show. It was huge just to unload the car and see the work here.
I celebrated by going down to the water, wading and sketching on the beach, and having a little actual gulf coast king cake. I always try the Memphis versions and am always disappointed. Driving down here this time of year is a big treat. Here are a few images from yesterday.
I’m having a slow morning today and will go to the museum later to help lay out the graphic essay for the small secondary show.
I took a whole day off today and spent the whole day outside. It was glorious. Mid 50's, but sunny and calm, so it was really delightful to be outdoors. I walked Gideon, shopped at the farmers market, walked Gideon, went to Dixon, and walked Gideon again, taking a nice long, poking-around-in-the-forest kind of walk at the end of the day.
Dixon was great. I met up with two of my favorite sketcher friends. We drew for ages and talked in the sunshine, ran into the cafe to get lunch to go, and sat at an outside table, drinking in the sunshine, talking art, cats, dogs, more art, balancing jobs and life, travel, cats again, art again. It was so deeply good. I've really had my head down working to frame and get final prints for the show ever since new year's. It was wonderful to sit in the sun with friends for a long, unhurried time.
I haven't sketched outside the last week since Memphis has been living through an ice storm and some pretty cold weather, but here are the last couple of park sketches I did last week before the weather moved in. Hopefully we'll have some nice sketching weather again soon. I know others are more hardcore than I am about sketching outdoors in the cold, but I love summer and the South and have been enjoying my indoor work on my upcoming show while it's been frigid out. Plus we had limbs falling for a couple of days followed by ice raining down from the trees once it started to melt. I'm ok giving myself a pass on all of that.
The weather has been glorious this week -- 60's and sunny in midwinter. I'm framing each morning, as the sun hits my east facing work table. With full sunlight I can see each small speck and dog hair (!) trying to sneak into the frame. It's time consuming and exacting work, and I'm doing two or three a day. But then I'm doing my best to get outside, revel in the sunshine with my joyful dog, and get my hand back in at sketching from life. It feels great. Gideon and I are walking over to the park (four blocks away) several times each day, and I'm taking the sketching bag on most of those trips just now. He's still a puppy and swarms me if I sit on the ground to sketch, but if I can snag a picnic table to tether his leash to, I can paint on top out of his reach. He can then poke around and amuse himself for a while. It's not ideal, but it's a workable compromise, and we've both really enjoyed our park time this week.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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