Later that afternoon, enjoying the beautiful weather, I picked up Henry at daycare, and we walked at the Greenbelt Park along the Mississippi. I love the cottonwood trees that line the river. It's the same black ink. I feel a bit like I'm making a coloring book for myself (and it would probably be a good exercise for me to do paint first and then line), but I also like that the line stays more prominent. It varies from sketch to sketch for me whether I like it or am annoyed. Anyway, it's all good practice, and I had a ball sketching outside this weekend.
It's Inktober, and I've never been good at those daily challenges and have never done a full month of anything every day. I have enough work that is due for various occasions without making sketching homework. But this morning I went walking at Crosstown, and I decided to take an "Inktober break" in my day. The month gave me that mental nudge to take a break and sketch, and I realized that it I frame Inktober (or any challenge) for myself as permission to sketch (and a reminder that I'm happier when I do it) instead of homework, then that challenge framework is a total plus for me. It helps that I have a fun new pen and am also enjoying rediscovering the joy of line plus wash, using a brush pen with a dark grey ink to add tone.
Henry is turning into a great art dog and settled happily while I sketched from the 5th floor or so (I lose track of which level is which if I'm going up and down the stairs for exercise). Afterwards, and here's the down side of going to walk at Crosstown, I decided to treat myself to an iced chai. The pollution in the air is better than it has been, so I also treated myself to sitting outside without a mask for a while to sketch and drink my chai. It was a perfect fall day with a breeze and no humidity, but still warm enough to bask a little.
I used that same invitation mindset to sketch at 2am the other morning when I couldn't sleep and got back up for mint tea and toast (my pavlovian craving when I'm awake through the dark hours of the night). Henry had come downstairs with me and curled up on the couch looking adorable.
I always am drawn back to Elmwood to sketch. My public art celebration there will be Sunday, November 19 from 3-5 --- band, snacks, fun! I can't show the columbaria carvings yet online, but as I start thinking about a new Memphis alphabet book, you'd better believe that E is for Elmwood, and I was out on a recent, beautiful day doing some sketches. I replaced the Ancient Copper ink in my new pen with a waterproof black ink by DeAtrementis, thinking ahead to the new book. My last two have been done primarily in Diamine Golden Brown. I think the new book will have a wider array of sketching materials, and black may pull all of them together best. Plus I do really love working with line and tone. The grey is a brush pen with warm black ink, and it feels good to get back to this kind of sketching.
I've got a new, fun fountain pen. It's a Majohn bent nib, so the line variation goes from thin to thick. Because of the thick lines, bent nib pens can run out of ink quickly, but this one has a huge well for ink, and it's clear plastic, so I can see when I'm running low. It's short and fat and super fun to use. Christina was given one by our friend Beth, and I got to try it at lunch with Christina soon after. She has Diamine Aurora Borealis in hers, so those first green/blue sketches are with her pen. I put Diamine Ancient Copper in mine, which is the new fun color I've been having a great time with. The first one I got kept sticking, but knowing that two others were flowing great, I did a return, and my new one is beautiful. I may have to get a second one to have a couple of different colors. Nicely they're just under $20, so a quite reasonable impulse purchase for something that feeds my work.
I've been lucky enough to meet up with my friend Christina for a series of sketching meals over the last month. I love getting out with a friend or two, enjoying some food, comparing sketching materials, and drawing together. You're not ignoring your dinner companion if she is also sketching. It's companionable and full of joy for me. We met up at Cafe Eclectic on 901 day (September 1st mirrors the Memphis area code, for those of you out of town, and we have a bit of a civic celebration that goes on.) I had fun with the red umbrellas and then sketched Christina in graphite with my newish graphite Kaweko mechanical pencil I got out west that has a huge, juicy, fat column of graphite in it.
I sketched at the Slider Inn with a dip pen and the Ancient Copper ink by Diamine I've been really enjoying lately. I didn't have the mental energy for watercolor that night, but it was fun to record the evening and play with line.
Finally was lunch at Boscos after the Memphis Urban Sketchers meetup. The same dip pen with a warm purple ink, but we lingered longer and I enjoyed adding the watercolor.
I had SUCH a good day out on Tuesday. I had errands to do, so I put Henry in daycare, but the air felt good and there's always a breeze by the river, so we went down and walked the Greenbelt park at Mud Island before I dropped him off. One of the big cruise boats was docked down there, so I tucked Henry's leash around my shoe and did a quick sketch. He's learning to settle in nicely while I work, which is such a blessing.
I'm trying to get back to more quick sketching in my daily life again, and I'm back to the bent nib fountain pen, a Sailor fude, that's satisfying with a lot of line variation. I've got some waterproof De Atramentis fog grey ink in it, which has a blueish cast. I hit an antique mall and the Goodwill as well as doing my more necessary grocery shopping, and I lucked into an awesome polka dot dress that I sketched that evening from the sofa. That one is in an "urban grey" ink with a dip pen. But first I picked up some fish tacos from Soulfish, sketching from the curbside pickup parking spot, and I caught a quick one of Henry on the couch with me as well. On the days I'm really in a groove doing work in the studio I'm not worried about getting something in the sketchbook too, but I am going to try to get back in a better habit of sketching out and about. All of this was fun yesterday.
I wrote in my last post that I like the shape and impact of my bigger summer sketchbook, but I also find it deters me from picking it up sometimes, just because it feels like a big commitment to cover that larger real estate. So I started a new smaller 5.5" sketchbook too. It's by Handbook, and I really like the size, the landscape shape when it's opened out, and the pocket at the back for tickets and other ephemera.
A facebook memory came up of one of my tiny oils on this plate by Melissa Bridgman. It had a dark background and a different feel, but it made me think about cherries and her pottery and what a satisfying combination that is. So a good first sketch for a new sketchbook. Below is the oil that made me want to revisit the subject. Beautifully it now hangs in Melissa's kitchen.
It was a perfect summer morning yesterday. I know the news has been all about how summer is now apocalyptic and not a happy season, which made it feel all the more necessary to get out and enjoy it. I dropped Henry at daycare for the day to be able to go to the sale at the Woodruff Fontaine House museum, and I sketched early, waiting for them to open. In the best possible scenario, I came away with a sketch but no more stuff for my house.
I decided to treat myself to an art day, so I headed on to the Metal Museum from there, since I was already downtown. They have a brand new show up I wanted to see, and I saw an artist friend working in the gift shop and had a wonderful natter about shows, framing, and all the nitty gritty. I sat out in the wrought iron pavilion and sketched the bridge and river. By then I was hungry, and I drove to South Main. The Arcade had tables outside (I'm still not eating indoors with a ton of strangers), so I got some sweet potato pancakes and did one more sketch of their nifty, old school sign.
This summer sketchbook is much bigger than I'm used to, and it takes more time and paint to cover. It's fun, and I'm enjoying the shape more than I thought I would, but I also find myself less excited about picking it up because of the investment once I get going. I'll probably move back to my normal one after, but it's fun to do different things for a season and challenge myself.
Henry wore himself out at daycare as much as I wore myself out running around, so we had a heavy nap on the couch in the later afternoon before dinner and baseball. A pretty perfect summer day.
Memphis Urban Sketchers met inside at Crosstown Concourse to beat the heat on Saturday. It was great to see friends and hang out sketching, and Henry behaved himself beautifully. I did the big overview first and then realized we had another 45 minutes or so and did a quicker sketch of French Truck Coffee toward the end. I get overwhelmed with all the angles and levels every time, and all the planes don't quite match up right, but I was pleased with the overall impression.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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