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 been working hard on my first public commission and not sketching much, but here are a few bits of happiness from the past week that I wanted to make sure I recorded.
This morning I saw two owls before sunrise (we're walking super early to beat the heat just now). They were calling to me and flew, one after the other, directly over my head to a new perch. It was magical. I did my best to hold the shapes in my mind so that I could put them in my sketchbook when I got back home to breakfast.
And on Saturday I listened to live music for the first time in a good while. It reminded me that I need to get out and find some more outdoor music on a more regular basis. Some of my favorite guys had their wedding gig cancelled due to Covid, so they decided to do a last minute concert on a porch. They put the word out on fb about an hour early, and I grabbed a chair and my sketchbook and boogied on over. It was delightful. I realized how VERY out of practice I am drawing figures now that I don't go out to shows or theater for the moment. I made poor Doug look like a muppet in the bottom sketch (and honestly Willy too), but I had so much fun drawing musicians with their instruments again. And seeing friends out at a show. It was a small but lovely group of folks. I was so glad for the chance to hang out, listen to some fantastic musicians do what they do best, catch up with a few friends, and enjoy the evening.
It was a very Lenten Lent, and it's an odd Easter. I don't usually play music in public, and I rarely post about music here, but today made me reach for both art and music. I dug out my creation paintings (see the last post) and then played this edgy, modal, shape note hymn that seemed perfect for this understated Easter. Grace and peace to all of you this year.
Memphis is agog over Hamilton this week, but I ended up at Hadestown on Broadway instead. Tennessee Shakespeare Company has an annual gala fundraiser every year, and the grand prize is a raffle for a trip to Broadway. I had one one book from the old Pinocchio’s Bookstore when I was maybe in 3rd grade, but otherwise I’ve never won a raffle. Apparently I was saving it up for something big. The prize was a trip to New York, two nights there, a fancy dinner out, and one Broadway show (not something as hard to get as Hamilton). I had recently seen Sarah Ruhl’s version of Euridyce and was transfixed by her retelling, so (without Shakespeare being really on offer during the summer tourist season), I chose Hadestown, a different retelling of the Orpheus and Euridyce myth in the form of a folk opera. It was also marvelous. Not as deeply thoughtful as Ruhl’s version, which I’m still really mulling over a year later, but a wonderful take nonetheless. It paired that couple with Hades and Persephone. The music was overall good, the dancing and choreography amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to see it again. My favorite was Hermes, an older gentlemen who looks like he walked straight off of Beale Street. My favorite thing about the play, and what is sticking with me, is the way it walks full tilt into tragedy, lets us mourn, and picks all of us up and says we keep singing the song, telling the story, and trying again.
Here are several sketches I did at the time in my sketchbook that I’ve pulled back out as reference material. Watch this space for more to come. If I can’t find it a home, I’ll put it on my own website.
What do you do when you have music fans visiting Memphis? You take them to Beale Street. And when you're really lucky, you'll spot Blind Mississippi Morris wheeling his amp toward a club, holding onto the arm of his "manager," as he calls her in air quotes. It was a fantabulous night with legit, old school Delta blues and an out of this world bass player.
The Memphis Symphony did an unusual concert last night. Our new conductor Robert Moody noticed striking parallels in the devil at the crossroads stories of Stravinsky and Robert Johnson and decided to do a mashup. He used a chamber group and brought in bluesman Vashti Jackson to both be narrator and to play Johnson's blues interspersed with the Stravinsky pieces. There was also dancing and and an actor and film bits shown as well. It sounded a bit bizarre, but it really worked. My companion noted that both musical forms have a strong percussiveness.
I had hoped to mix some ink that would be a lighter flesh tone in a brush pen (those are hard to mix in the dark of a theater), and I tested it at the top right before going. It was a sad failure and ended up both grainy and with the turkey basting quality of old TCM colorized films. I ended up just doing a series of line drawings in various pens, though I did add in the red suede shoes and matching tie of Mr. Jackson. It was a fun night.
I've been mostly DOING Inktober even though I've been bad about posting here lately. Most days I've managed one ink sketch, but the majority of my work this past week has been tons of computer work (taking my attention from scanning for other purposes) to get the Mr. Darcy Goes Home book and the related counting book ready to send out. I've got a mid November deadline to be able to submit to my dream publisher without needing an agent first, so I'm working flat out to get it ready. I'll show a couple of reject sketches from that process here, but for now, a few more Inktober sketches to show what I've been up to around the edges.
Above is the Side Street Steppers. Below is one sketch as I was stopped at a train on my way to a printmaking demonstration at Dixon (I'll be doing several more of those) plus a quick sketch waiting in line at Home Depot, buying materials to shore up my floor to receive the type cabinet (see the last blog post).
Plus I always enjoy drawing treats, as a way to keep enjoying them, and also remember nice days I've spent with other people. Here is one of those, just to round things out.
I was going to post this with the sketches from seeing this band, but I decided that would be too much to load on one page. I usually just talk about art here, but Christian called me up from the audience last night and had me play and sing a song. It was such a rush to get to play with a great band, one I admire, and music feeds my artwork. It's nice to have that energy going back and forth. So I decided for once to put a little music up on this blog as well. Usually I just play for fun on Mondays in a friend's back living room, but I really had a good time sitting in with these great folks. The bonus is I got really exited about playing and learned three new songs in the week since. Creative energy is always welcome.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Gideon and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: