On a sunny, windy day I took Mr. Darcy out to the country for a Christmas treat. I took my Inktense pencils that I'm still having a ball playing with. We had a great walk, and I found a few strategically sheltered spots to be able to sketch without my pages blowing backwards. I still love pen and watercolor best, but I really am having fun playing with the textures of the water soluble pencils. Unlike watercolor pencils, they have really rich and saturated colors. The greens are lacking, though, so I added green washes from my watercolor kit as I worked, as well as some smooth blue sky.
I find it very easy, like the rest of the world, to pull out my phone reflexively when I'm waiting for something. But when I have enough bandwidth, I also enjoy sketching, and I always feel better afterwards when I've made that choice. I sat outside the vet for a while earlier in the month and played with my new Inktense watercolor pencils. It's fun to be able to get texture, line, and wash all at once. I added a little ink in the lines, and the sky is also blue ink from a brush pen.
Some time later, I waited at Muddy's to pick up my Christmas order, along with about half of Memphis. They had an efficient system going, and I was grateful for the chance to have something special to perk up an otherwise gloomy holiday season, so I didn't mind. It was barely raining, but with both bits of rain and constant edging forward while standing up, I kept things super simple and just used my fountain pen to do several quick sketches from different places along the line.
For anyone in Memphis, I tried the take and bake biscuits as well as the quiche for the first time, and I am strongly looking forward to more biscuits in the new year. The line should vanish with a bigger window of time for pick ups and not everyone doing it all at once. I'm so grateful to Muddy's for making this year a little more cheerful.
I'm chasing my tail at the moment shipping books and doing commissions for Christmas, but I did do a sketch the other evening sitting by the fireplace. I've got out some of my Grandmother's madonnas for the season, tucked in amongst the family photos over the fireplace, and Mr. Darcy was on the rug in front of me, so I did a double sketch. It was peaceful and happy. I'm grateful that people want art for Christmas, and I will also celebrate getting back to doing a bit more sketching for myself and prints for my WAMA show once we get past the holidays.
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've been loving the forest sketching lately with all the autumn colors and swirly vines, but it's a little socked in. Walking home from the forest the other day, I saw this sky and had to stop and paint a big wide open sweep. Such fun.
Bard Cole of WKNO, our local PBS station, has done a series of nature videos this summer and fall. We both walk daily in the same park and forest, and several of the shorts feature the Old Forest. I was thrilled he asked me to do one with him, and we took advantage of a lovely day on Monday to go walking, sketching, and talking. Bard has a beautiful way with a camera, and if I had worn a better shirt, it would have been a thoroughly beautiful occasion. Sadly I didn't really consider sitting hunched over to draw. It looked ok standing up, so I walked out wearing it, but that's pretty true to life. I don't often think too hard about what I'm wearing, and I certainly don't pay much attention to anything else when I'm painting. Berthe Morisot's mother worried about her not getting a husband because of the fierce face she made when she painted. It's hard to make art and look presentable at the same time.
The sketch itself isn't my best. Bard did a slow circular crawl around me as I worked, and I ended up overworking it a bit while we talked. It's hard not to be self conscious about sketching on camera. But I loved the conversation we had, and I'm so grateful to get the chance to talk about the place that continues to be the very heart of my work. Watch the rest of the shorts here. I love the one about the birder. Bard's camera work is exquisite.
It's been a kind of stressful week for the country, but the weather was flat out glorious yesterday, and I spent the whole day outside painting. It felt marvelous. I did two journal spreads for myself, one large and one small, and I did two commissions. My house portraits often get a little tight, but this was for a fellow artist, and I let myself play more than usual. I had been loosening up in the forest, and I intentionally went straight on over. Unusually for me, I did the paint first and added the lines after, something I'm trying more of lately to get more motion in my pieces. Houses are easy to get too tight and precise about. I was pleased with the results, and (beautifully) so was she. I love doing paintings for friends. I haven't got permission to share the other one yet (sometimes they're surprise gifts), but I'll post it when I can.
I printed in the morning, sketched in the afternoon, and ordered a hard copy proof of P is for Possum just before dinner, for a rare art trifecta today. I’d been waiting for the chance to order a proof since I uploaded my files on Saturday. I’m using Ingram Spark to self publish. Ingram is a wide reaching company that supplies books to libraries and book stores, and I wanted to support them instead of Amazon for self publishing. They also offer a hardback option, which Amazon doesn’t, but I’d heard nightmare stories about getting the formatting right for them. I did a bunch of research last week, and I was thrilled to get the email today that everything checked out. First try. It’s the small things.
Now that the book is turned in, I’ve been working on printing the blocks I carved this summer while I was away. Today’s theme was green (sounds like Sesame Street!), so I proofed two different blocks and also did layer two of the French Broad River print from several years ago. I’d printed the blue layer before my trip and then gotten sidetracked. Today, since I had green ink mixed and going, I picked the thread back up. Tomorrow I’ll get to proof on top of these gradated color layers with the much more intricately carved key blocks and see what things look like. Seeing it all together for the first time always feels like Christmas.
This afternoon I took my walk with the sketching backpack along and stopped in the Old Forest to sketch. I’ve been pondering more forest prints, and sketching helps me look deeply and think more clearly. We’ll see if anything comes of this, but it felt lovely to take the time to do it.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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