Henry and I have been wandering around and doing some sketches and enjoying Inktober. Last night was an outdoor performance of Macbeth by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. I mostly just enjoyed and watched, but I did do one early sketch as they were getting going. I'm also just sketching Henry a ton. A black and white dog is MADE for Inktober.
Urban Sketchers at the market
Memphis Urban Sketchers had our monthly meeting at the downtown farmers market. My regular one is in midtown, but it worked great to be at this one with the big metal canopy on a rainy day. There's a lot of architectural intricacy to that canopy, and I had only moderate energy for that, so I did quick sketches and just an impression of the building. It was perfect, though, to settle in with a couple of good art friends, catch up, and have a chocolate croissant (thank you, Christina!). I'm not much for meetings, but going out and actually drawing with people is so fun. Christina brought me a new green watercolor, and she tried one of my Lamy foutain pens. It was a great morning.
I got lucky enough to see another owl up close. I'd been out early one morning and gone to the forest to see if I could spot one without any luck. When I got almost back to my house, though, I heard a whole group of birds kicking up a ruckus. One of the best pieces of life advice I've gotten is to listen for the birds going ballistic somewhere and then try to spot the owl they're fussing at. This time, unlike often when they're super high, she was sitting on a decently low branch in the alley just across from my house. Sometimes what you're looking for is at home all along.
She sat and watched Gideon and me for 7 or 8 minutes. Just watched, occasionally twisting her head in odd but lovely ways to watch other things and then looking back at us. I took a chance, put Gideon in the house, grabbed my sketchbook, and she was still there when I got back. So I spent another 10 minutes sketching her. The first two are a water soluble graphite crayon, and the second two are a fat felt tip pen and some lighter ink wash. I'm getting really close on my finishing my big commission, and I may have to do a print of this owl afterwards. I enjoyed doing the series of birds for my show at WAMA, and as much as I love owls, I think an addition to that series is needed.
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.
Painting and Drawing
National Civil Rights Museum
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.
Night on Beale
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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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