I’m in Washington State for a few weeks and away from my scanner. I’m mostly giving myself vacation time, but I’ll post snapshots of my sketches here instead of the cleaner scans I do at home.
First up were the welcome flowers, including some amazing stargazer lilies. (I love that name!) A couple of days later we went to the youth symphony to see Jude’s granddaughter play violin. I always love the juxtaposition of bodies with instruments, so I had fun sketching through the concert. I used my big, fat, water-soluble graphite crayon with a water brush over the top of it for quick, dense shadows. Loose and fun.
Our normal spot in the shade with a view of the band was taken by the time Henry and I got there, so I sat in the way back to give us both shade and had a pretty obstructed view. So no full body sketches of musicians, but I could see bits of them, and I also just did a bunch of rapid sketches of the audience, which has grown each week as word has gotten out. It was an easy, laid back way to enjoy a lovely afternoon.
Eventually both the red dresses and Christian's fancy shirt felt like they deserved a splash of color, so I worked quickly with the water brush in my lap and had a good time. They dedicated "Walk the Dog" to Henry and ended with "Wagon Wheel." All so good.
I've been struggling with the internet company for the last two weeks, so I'm way late being able to post, but here are a couple of compilation sketches from last Sunday's outdoor concert by the Side Street Steppers. I did all of these super vertical in my tiny square sketchbook, opened up to 11x5.5" across the fold. I put them in a couple of overall pages to post more easily. These sketches are all done in one of my new favorite inks, De Atramentis document fog grey (the "document" means it's waterproof) with a fat blue watercolor marker over the top.
I also did a few sketches of the audience.
Several sketcher friends showed up for the outdoor concert by the Side Street Steppers today. We had so much fun drawing them and having a pen and ink convo. I was trying various samples of ink I had ordered. It's all De Atrementis document (waterproof ink). Above is the fog grey, I think my favorite, with a splash of red watercolor. Below is brown (on the left) and urban grey, with a bit more fog in the center. That was testing out a new Kawecko pen, but I liked the broad strokes of the dip pen best.
My last page was Henry sprawled out with a sweet young girl. I did a quick still life this evening to test one more ink, a Diamine Eclipse that's the darker of the two on the right, along with the fog grey I'd been using. I think I really like it. Half grey and half purple.
I started the day with this watercolor. It's done with Diamine golden brown ink, which is my absolute go-to. But after that I couldn't resist the new samples and switched over to just line drawings afterwards. It was such a fun afternoon, and I'm glad they'll be doing it all month.
I had so much fun on Sunday! I met friends out at Saddlecreek, which is hosting a Sunday series of concerts throughout May with the Side Street Steppers. Dog on leash were welcome, so I took Henry and my sketching things and listened to live music (a more rare treat these days for me) and had a ball. Christian and Vera are super into fountain pens, so we had a whole pen/ink convo at the break. It was good to sit out with some favorite people in the sunshine and enjoy the show and sketch. I think we’ll have a few more next week, which will be great fun as well.
My friend Meghan got this bit of video of the band.
I had a wonderful New Year's Day. I'm slowly feeling more and more like myself again, and yesterday I started the day at the dog park watching Henry frolic. Then I had a walk and a visit with my sister in from out of town. And then I went to an all afternoon music jam. That's been my main new years celebration for years now, but like many gatherings, we took the last couple of years off. It was a delight to play tunes out in the sunshine of a 75 degree day and see old friends. I came home and sketched the graphite sketch above with a banjo, dog, books, and painting, to set my intention for the year and celebrate the day that had been.
NPR had a wonderful story on the difference between resolutions and intentions, saying resolutions tended to be both negative and specific (lose 10 pounds or stop eating certain foods), and they set people up to get discouraged and quit. Intentions are looser and more positive, like taking time to be creative or (and I loved this one) "being in your body", including taking a walk/run, reveling in a bath, breathing deeply, or remembering to check in with all your senses. Intentions feel like they have a measure of grace built in, like my favorite hashtag #dailyish, which I have always described as intention plus grace. It lets you focus on a goal without the self flagellation and pressure of absolute daily homework.
My intentions for the new year personally are to check in with my body regularly, breathing, stretching, using more senses than just my eyes (where I often get stuck), and hopefully working back towards more regular exercise. I had just been getting in shape when covid hit me, and I'm taking a long time to get my energy back. My word of the year, even before hearing this NPR story, is grace, though, so I'll take it gently. I'd also like to sketch more often at the dog park, since Henry and I spend 45 minutes to an hour there each day. It will be weather related and energy related and not daily, but I'd enjoy sketching more people again after the isolation of the last few years, and dogs are always happy to sketch.
I have a whole list of professional goals, but those are the more personal life ones (though, as always, personal life and art blend together pretty seamlessly). For my work, I want to keep working on the Rowan Oak tree print series I have going and find a place to exhibit it. I'd like to make an M is for Memphis book to go with P is for Possum. In a related goal, I want to figure out the handwritten font tool I bought last year and not have to hand letter the entire book. A font would keep all the words the same size, which I have trouble doing freehand. I want to keep working on "sequential art" (graphic essays or more narrative sketches that tell stories). And I want to get better at saying no to commissions that don't fit with what I want to be doing and that take me away from the art I most want to put my time towards. There are probably a couple of others since I'm not looking at my list, but those are the main ones. It's fun to look back at that goal page in my monthly art bullet journal and see how I'm doing as the year progresses. I met every goal this year except making a new graphic essay, so I felt really good about my year's work.
Yesterday and today I made a start at sketching at the dog park. It helps that this week is warm enough I don't want to just shove my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. But I've also been knitting hand warmers (fingerless mittens) to keep me warmer and leave my fingertips free to grip pens, so I'm preparing for the rest of winter. Here are the first three double page sketches. And happy new year!
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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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