I started the year out right, doing a tiny oil (8x10") of the morning sky at the Greensward on New Year's morning. And then I read and knitted and sat on the back porch. It was a lovely day. The warm weather (right up until ice started falling from the sky today) has made the holiday week especially nice. I've spent lots of time on the back porch, including a lovely new year's eve dinner.
Today has been the less fun part of being a freelance artist. Lately my emails to the people who have actively signed up wanting them have been getting caught in the junk folders of a lot of folks, including in my own gmail address. I send a test to see before sending the group. There are all kinds of words that can trigger a spam filter, but I'm super careful in my wording. I finally asked the fantastic #AmWriting facebook group (that's a great podcast by three writers who are living a creative life but also navigating all the business end of things that not many of us were trained for), and they said a free email can also flag that filter. So I spent the morning going through Weebly (my website), GoDaddy (my domain), Google (partnering with Weebly to offer an email address from my own domain), and MailChimp (to verify all this) and finally sent out an email that didn't snag in my own gmail account junk folder. Whew. I haven't felt like I needed a site specific email before, but now it seems I do. I will enjoy sending out emails more if they actually get to where they're going. It has felt recently like an exercise in frustration, unlike this blog which I really enjoy. So here's to a new year and sending out occasional fun emails that (may) actually make it through! If you're not on the list and would like to be, you can sign up for the studio updates right here:
I’ve been enjoying doing some small oil paintings lately, mostly 9x12”, of my morning walk, my recent trip to Ocean Springs, a lovely moonrise. They’re quick and achievable and images that are hanging with me from my daily life. Except for a couple of final print versions still needed, I’ve got my show set for WAMA and my Christmas commissions finished, and it’s fun to just paint for joy a little bit. An added bonus is that they are small and impulse purchase sized, so I’ve sent several off to happy homes, which also feels good. I’d like to keep doing these this coming year as my time allows, maybe have a show of small paintings toward the end of the year.
I just made out my list of goals for myself for the new year. Getting the WAMA show up and framed and hopefully properly celebrated (pandemic allowing) is the biggest thing, but I’m pondering putting together another book, trying to keep sending a monthly email (blog posts are more immediate and fun, but email reaches a different set of folks), I’m working on streamlining my website, and I’ve been asked to do my first public art commission, which I’m very excited about and will be able to share more on later once the ideas get approved and it’s moving forward. I feel so grateful to be making a life doing what I love and surrounded by a host of supportive and kind people who follow along and occasionally buy a painting or book or print. Thank you all of you, and happy new year!
Full show online
I've got the full Water's Edge show (up through January in Memphis at Eclectic Eye) up with sizes and prices in case you're not local to go see it in person. It feels so good to have several years' worth of oils that I've been working on in a series out in public and hanging up for folks to see. It's been a long period of making art at home with no one to see, though I'm so grateful to everyone who follows along here or on social media. There's just something about having your art "all dressed up" and out on the town that is deeply satisfying. I've got a good range of sizes, including some pretty small, holiday-present sized ones, and they can come down before Christmas if needed. I've been working a lot and have more I can plug in.
If you scroll down from the show, there are some other small, recent oils that are also available. I'm in the midst of a series of deadlines at the moment, but I'm looking forward to doing more small, immediate gratification oils soon. I've got both sketchbook pages and some images from recent morning walks that are calling my name.
I've been working flat out on several corporate commissions this week, so I haven't had time to make any art for public consumption here (though that's a lovely problem to have). Here instead are a couple of small oils from the show at Eclectic Eye that's up in Memphis through January. These two are both 9x12" and $275. I have several small, Christmas present (for someone you really like) sized pieces in the show as well as some of the largest oils I've done in years. It felt good to stretch out to that size again (36x48"), but I've also deeply enjoyed doing the tiny, fast ones either from my sketchbook pages or from my recent morning walks while the memory is fresh. These two are from my summer out west.
My show at Eclectic Eye in midtown Memphis is up. I’ve been working on this series of water centric oil paintings for several years now, and the pandemic interrupted my search for a place to put them out in public. I’m grateful to Eclectic Eye for their beautiful space and the generosity with which they treat their artists. It’s a real treat to see these on the walls, and as a bonus, the green color scheme of the building is absolutely perfect for this body of work. The work will hang through January, so there’s lots of time to pop in and see it if you’re local. They’re used to folks coming through just to see the art, since they’ve become a really lovely art center for the community. A couple have sold in the first day, but most are still available. I also have a few pieces I can swap out (and some smaller canvases in the for-people-you-really-like Christmas present range) if you need one off the walls in time for the holidays.
Morning walk painting
I am working to get two shows ready to hang, one this week but also some key information to WAMA about after Christmas. So it’s a business kind of week instead of a creative one and will only get more busy from here. I’d been carrying this painting around in my head for several days after seeing this image on a morning walk (and taking a photo to lock some of it in). My treat to myself this morning was to take time away from the necessary stuff to paint just for myself a little. It felt great. This piece is 8x10”, so a very achievable size in a crazy week. I’m really enjoying this small series of morning walk images. Gideon and I go out early, before I bring in the paper, and go around a few blocks. The world is magical at that time of day (well, really always) and I’m enjoying his getting me out to remember and enjoy it instead of me just sitting at the counter in a daze reading the paper. That comes later.
Beautifully, I snapped a couple of photos and posted it on fb to celebrate, and before I could get my brushes washed, I had heard from a friend. This one grabbed him, and it was sold on the spot. It’s always such a great feeling when people want to take my art home and live with it, and I’ve enjoyed making this impulse purchase size of paintings. The brushstrokes can’t get too picky, it’s harder for me to over do them (though not impossible), and it just feels nice to finish something with a bunch of larger projects waiting for me.
I did another tiny painting today, 8x8” and oil on canvas. I’m having so much fun painting from my sketchbook or my morning walks. I saw this owl not today but the last two before, and the image has kept calling me, so today I put it down on canvas. I love having the barred owls hanging out in the neighborhood. I tend to walk Gideon very first thing, pick up the paper on the way back in the house, and then make breakfast. He can’t go too far, so we do several short walks a day instead of one longer one. Getting out that early has been beautiful. We followed the moon this morning, and we’re often out for the sunrise colors. The owls like early morning as well, so I’m seeing different things than when I settle in for breakfast first and walk after. As it gets cold, I may revisit this plan, but for now its been lovely.
I actually remembered to take a couple of progress shots while I was painting today. Usually I’m too absorbed in what I’m doing, but here were a couple of stages along the way.
I have a time honored tradition of finishing up a deadline/show/business stuff push and wanting to treat myself by doing the creative work I can’t do while I’m doing the business-y stuff. So this week I’m doing small, immediate gratification paintings after doing all the rote printing/scanning/deadline stuff (one round, anyway) for my WAMA show. It feels great to do small pieces with fat paint and just play. I’ve been mining my sketchbooks for images I’d like to play with in a different medium. I love the bright washiness of the watercolors, but it’s been fun to translate them onto small canvases. I’ve had trouble with this in the past trying to make them too big. I often lose the energy of a piece trying to size it up too hard, but these are 8x8” or 9x12”, and I’ve been challenging myself to use brushes a little too big except for the details, and I’m having a really good time.
They’ll be a good fit for my November show of waterscapes at Eclectic Eye. I have a bunch of large paintings for that, and it’s always good to have some smaller sizes too, but mostly I’m doing these because it feels like joy. Which is why I do what I do in the first place. And I’m so grateful for all of that.
I’ll probably do a bit more work on both of these as the base layers dry, which allows me to glaze on top or scumble light colors without them getting dirty in the darker paint. But today I’m easing out early and looking forward to reconnecting with old friends for the first time since I was gone all summer. All of that feels good after the push of last week.
I’ve never known that much about abstract painting, and I’m generally drawn to more figurative work, but I’ve been looking forward to getting enough space from show season and crazy family stuff to get over to Dixon to see this exhibition. It’s a stunning one. I’ve been twice this week and could even be tempted to go back another time before it closes on Sunday. Rothko is my absolute favorite of the abstract painters, but I had fallen deeply for a Helen Frankenthaler painting in Omaha a few months ago, and there’s a less totally stunning but still lovely one in this show. There’s also a gorgeous de Kooning, and I loved the second show of just Dzubas paintings (an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with) collected by a local businessman. It was a stunning retrospective of four decades of his work, and a number of them sang to me. I loved seeing the progression too. My only quibble with the main abstract show was that it was only one painting per artist. I really like being able to see two or three of the same artist, compare them together, get more of a feel for the body of work. Their survey of women artists earlier this year (with many less famous names — I was already somewhat familiar with a number of the abstract painters) was even more disorienting that way. I wanted to see more than just one. It’s almost jarring to move artists with every painting and have no compare and contrast ability. But that’s a small complaint about a stellar show overall.
I went back the second time with every colored pencil I own to try to capture a little of the texture of the Rothko, and the Stamos had also been calling my name. I did one small sketch of each. The de Kooning was too intricate for me to take on that day, and I didn’t have any of the right colors for the Dzubas pieces I liked best. With watercolors I can mix anything, but pencils just are what you have. The last two pieces are both by Dzubas.
I just hung all these for this weekend’s Open Studio, but it occurs to me that some of you might be too far away (or too busy) to make it to midtown Memphis just now. Here is the batch of small edible still lifes that are available this holiday season. The two oils have deep gallery sides and are ready to hang, and all the watercolors and gouaches are framed and ready to go. The oils are 8” square, and the others are in the 10-12” range. $225 each. It’s fun to see them hanging up all in a group in my hallway, but I’d be happy for anyone who wants to give the present of an eternal eclair or perfect avocado to take one home.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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