My friend Melanie was visiting from France, and a huge part of Memphis history is the civil rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum is a powerful and beautifully designed trip through that period. Last time I went through it had been redone, and I just digested it. This time I found myself wanting to sketch and bear a little witness to the brave people it celebrates. I worked in fountain pen with a brush pen that had a very light gray wash in it.
I think I need to go back again. I was still pretty overwhelmed at the whole experience and didn’t manage to sketch in the old Lorraine Motel section, the last part of the museum. I’d like to go on a quiet day when I wouldn’t be in the way and focus on that sometime.
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 made it through the Pink Palace Crafts Fair week, which is always a crazy ride but a really fun time. I so appreciated everyone who came out in the rain to support all of us local and not-so-local artists. It was fun to catch up with a whole group of different friends, and I'm always touched when people come to see my art year after year, tell me what piece they have (and sometimes show me a photo of how they got it framed), and maybe even take home a new piece to keep the old one company. I missed a couple of days of Inktober sketching in the hooplah, but I managed most days, so here are a few that I did but hadn't scanned in yet.
This last one served as a model for a demo linocut I started carving during the demonstrations at the crafts fair. I have more work to do once I pull a print and see what it looks like. I love coming home with a sketch I want to spend more time with and make more art from.
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.
I also kept playing with my new green ink and the watercolor as well.
There's an Urban Sketchers challenge to draw 100 people in one week this week. In a stroke of good luck, it is also my week to sit for extended periods in waiting rooms twice this week. I'm delighted to have a challenge to make the time pass and feel productive. I've been wanting to practice people more for my illustration work anyway, so I went for it this morning. I managed to make it to 54 in one day. I asked Elizabeth Alley if that was cheating, and she said, no, it's winning! So yay.
I did all of these with my latest favorite pen for sketching (except for my lovely Pelican I'm using for the Mr. Darcy book, which lives on my desk now) -- a Lamy safari pen with smokey gray ink inside. The darker, wider bits are a brush pen with some diluted Sumi ink inside.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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