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.
I got to go to a great house concert over the weekend. My banjo mentor had seen a group from Johnson City called Bill and the Belles and liked them enough that he arranged for them to play in Memphis when they were passing through on the road. They were marvelous. Old time swing, lots of songs from the teens and twenties, a good dose of Jimmie Rodgers, and a bunch of new songs that sound delightfully old. As usual, I sketched as well as listening. This group is used to artwork too. They're the only band I know that has an original linocut of the group for sale along with the usual cds and stickers. It was as old timey as they are, so of course I came home with it, along with my own sketches.
One of the great things about Christmas being over is that now I once more have time to make art for myself. I love commissions, but I have a backlog of ideas that I am now champing at the bit to get to. Steady readers of this blog will remember this block from back in October. I had meant it to be a single, black and white (or brown and white) image, but I began to wonder about putting color behind it. I've carved a second block, and yesterday was its first test run. I have to fix places where the color drops down into the figure, and I'm doing a bit more refinement as I go, but it's close to what I want. The orange definitely amplifies the 70's vibe it already had, but I'm a child of the 70's, so that works for me. I'm hoping it conveys the joy I feel when I play music.
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is hang out with my friends Rene Miller and Stephen Harrison while they play. Rene is from Louisiana and plays masterful slide blues on an old metal resonator guitar, but he mixes in all kinds of other songs as well and always makes them his own. I so admire that about his performances. He's also been playing on the street here for 25 years or so and is an unflappable master of accepting all kinds of odd happenings and weaving them into the show. Stephen is a fabulous bass player (touring with various folks as well as playing with the orchestra here), and he joins Rene when he's in town. They're magic together.
This past weekend they were set up on the bridge by Hotel de Ville, and I spent chunks of both days sitting out on a park bench and listening and chatting with them and watching the people watch them. And sketching. Of course.
I was using a Pentel dark, smallish brush pen. I've been wanting to work on my people, since I'm enjoying the idea of more illustration, so I did a ton of gestures sitting out there through the Sunday midday.
I was also kind of fascinated by their shadows extending towards me and did a couple of quick watercolor sketches, one with the bridge railing in it and one without.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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