There have been some awesome printmaking exhibits around recently. Brooks in Memphis put out their full complement of Durer's Small Passion, which is detailed and delightful. They can only show it every so often since it is fragile and on paper. I think the equation is something like "for every three months it's on show, it has to rest three years" or something like that. I didn't get over as often as I had optimistically planned to, but I did make it several times and spent some quality time sketching in the end. His use of line, like with all wood engraving, is what makes the print. But I was also fascinated by the details -- crucifixion tools lying at the foot of the cross, his signature not flat with the picture plane but in perspective (though he did get his D backwards a couple of times, which thrilled me to see --- even the top drawer printmakers can screw up the backwards bit sometimes!)
I loved the trees and the animals. Several pieces had small dogs in the foreground. I did notice it was the villains of the piece who mostly had dogs (Pilate, Herod, Caiaphus), but I wonder if they simply need the ministrations of dog angels more than the rest of the cast did. I also loved Jesus in his floppy gardening hat with a spade over his shoulder (but the stigmata noticeable). Most of all I loved the Adam and Eve in the garden underneath trees that have a through line down to E.H. Shepherd and with a badger (!) among the animals gathered around. I drew the tree carefully and the figures a bit less so, but I loved spending deep time looking at this one. Walking home, a tree reached out to me and called to be drawn, so I worked on using the character of Durer's lines to describe it (even if far less small and precise).
A second remarkable show is a set of Piranesi etchings at the University of Mississippi art museum. These are in their collection as well. None of the fantasy dungeons, sadly, but still some pretty delightful and whimsical details, like the figures up on the top of this dome with letters floating beside it. The letters, I realized later, corresponded to a list of building parts at the bottom of the print, but even so, their slightly wonky air felt whimsical as well. I also sketched a few decidedly whimsical (that was the word of the day) Mycenean pottery figures. I loved their stripes and happy expressions. I wish local museums would let us work in more than graphite, but the pencil did suit the engravings I was working from, and it felt good to do master copies again, even if only bits and pieces that appealed to me.
I took a bunch of intentional time off in April, but I've been having trouble reconnecting with my work. So Saturday I happily went along to Memphis Urban Sketchers at Crosstown Concourse, our remodeled old Sears tower. Nicely it was one of the places we meet that I can walk to, which is always a pleasure. Seeing friends was primary, and I had a lovely time sitting on the upstairs terrace and sketching the reflections in the door and chatting with my friend Christina. It felt good to draw with no agenda, and I ended up happy with what I had done.
Afterwards we moved out to the front plaza to watch the fanfare of Puppy Palooza. It was delightful to watch all the dogs go past and sketch the ones that caught my eye. Sketching dogs is sheer joy, and I stayed for lunch and an extended visit at Global Cafe afterwards.
I was on such a roll, and it was such a beautiful day, that I kept my sketching bag with me as I walked Gideon over to the park after I got home. We went around the lake but then found an open picnic table under my favorite tree. Gideon spotted a stick he liked, so I settled in to sketch and enjoy the afternoon. The good feeling and good sketching has extended into my week, I'm happy to say, and I made good progress on my current commission today. I'm grateful for such a wonderful group of artist friends to meet up with regularly. It's always good for my work to get out and sketch with other people.
I haven't sketched outside the last week since Memphis has been living through an ice storm and some pretty cold weather, but here are the last couple of park sketches I did last week before the weather moved in. Hopefully we'll have some nice sketching weather again soon. I know others are more hardcore than I am about sketching outdoors in the cold, but I love summer and the South and have been enjoying my indoor work on my upcoming show while it's been frigid out. Plus we had limbs falling for a couple of days followed by ice raining down from the trees once it started to melt. I'm ok giving myself a pass on all of that.
The weather has been glorious this week -- 60's and sunny in midwinter. I'm framing each morning, as the sun hits my east facing work table. With full sunlight I can see each small speck and dog hair (!) trying to sneak into the frame. It's time consuming and exacting work, and I'm doing two or three a day. But then I'm doing my best to get outside, revel in the sunshine with my joyful dog, and get my hand back in at sketching from life. It feels great. Gideon and I are walking over to the park (four blocks away) several times each day, and I'm taking the sketching bag on most of those trips just now. He's still a puppy and swarms me if I sit on the ground to sketch, but if I can snag a picnic table to tether his leash to, I can paint on top out of his reach. He can then poke around and amuse himself for a while. It's not ideal, but it's a workable compromise, and we've both really enjoyed our park time this week.
I took advantage of another medium nice day and sketched again in the forest. Just a quick one with walnut ink and the dip pen plus watercolor. I enjoyed the dancing shape of this log. Mostly I'm framing just now, but I'm trying to seize the decent days in the cold part of winter to draw a little outside on my walk.
I have been mostly down a rabbit hole all week working on the museum catalog for my show at WAMA, but I did take breaks to go to the park (a dog is excellent for reminding you), and I took my sketchbook over several times as well when the sun was out. It's good to sit outside and sketch in the middle of winter when the weather allows. I've been using the Inktense pencils again lately and really enjoying the texture. The skies are all pure paint.
I picked up frames and the first round of glass. I'm going to frame along the way and try to do it in stages, letting me do a little creative work as I go too. It's good to keep the juices flowing. If I spend several weeks doing only show prep, I really miss drawing or painting by the time I'm done. I'm starting a little earlier and trying to pace myself. The last minute catalog was an unexpected time drain, but I'm really excited about how it's coming out, and I'll love having one to mark this show.
I’ve been working on the show this past week instead of making a lot of art from scratch (getting final copies of prints, putting together a catalog, gathering framing supplies), but I took a day off yesterday. It was chilly in the morning, so I cooked up a farmers market stew for the week, but the sun came out after lunch. I decided to head to the park and enjoy the nice weather. I took my Inktense pencils along with my paint set. I’ve been forgetting to use them lately, and it was fun to get them back out. I did one piece in the heart of the forest and another of the sky over the Greensward as I headed home. It felt so good to sit in the sun and sketch for a little while.
I also scanned in a couple of others from New Years Eve. It was another glorious day that day, so I took Gideon out to the farm and then had dinner on my screened in porch that evening. I had fun sketching both occasions to celebrate the end of one year and usher in a new one right.
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 am continuing to enjoy sketching my tea things and Gideon. These were done outside with much more moving around and stick chasing. He's excellent entertainment if a somewhat wiggly muse. I'm still doing as much on the back porch as I can while the weather is good. I spent one whole day out there mailing out calendars, and on the days when I have indoor work, meals on the porch give Gideon time to poke around and have a good time at intervals.
Today was gorgeous, and I noticed while walking Gideon that there were pumpkins decorating the Higbee memorial at the park. I took a longer walk for myself (he can only go so far at a time, or at least, is only allowed to with his heart condition), and I took my sketching things over with me. In keeping with Inktober, I used walnut ink and Inktense pencils with only a bit of watercolor on top. At dinner I sketched a tiny flower in one of my smallest cream pitchers, found at a street market in Paris years ago. That kept me outside a little longer for Gideon to play. Now, however, I've painted and mailed calendars and sketched and done some business and scanned these in, so I'm going to collapse into the sofa with my book for the rest of the evening.
I had a ton of printing and scanning to do to turn preliminary images into WAMA for the show next year. I took a few days off Inktober, but mostly I have really enjoyed the reminder to sketch regularly and play with my dip pen and walnut ink (and a red marker for the pot). I'm also getting into a rhythm of having my materials next to my place at the island where I can sketch Gideon. I always used to draw Mr. Darcy on the couch, where he would settle in with me, but Gideon isn't as snuggly and prefers to be on his own on the floor. So this is where I get a good view of him when he's calm and sketchable.
I also sketched my new enamel pot yesterday. After the deadline I've really enjoyed a few quiet days -- doing a little painting for my own pleasure, visits with friends, and cooking a pot of spaghetti gravy yesterday. My old soup pot was aluminum, and I've been looking at a replacement. This isn't one of the fancy brand name enamel ones, but it's a gorgeous cherry red and gets the job done. I was delighted to find it at Target last week.
Below is a sketch from a meeting about saving the Greensward. Again. I can't believe we're in round 43 of this. We met outside at the gorgeous old Memphis Heritage building, and I sketched it waiting for everyone to show up. I'd biked over and left extra time, not knowing exactly how long that would take. A sketchbook is always a good companion.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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