I’ve done a lot of carving over the last year, and I’ve done some printing too, but I haven’t at all kept up with the volume of blocks. So now is the time. I’m settling into printing at least the first batch of each edition for the WAMA show next year. Nicely I still have some months, so I can do it in stages and keep going on some more creative work as well. Friday, after my Thursday sabbath (see my last post), I printed the first 10 of this Skagit river print. It’s really detailed and delicate, and my regular, somewhat heavy paper was moving too much on the block as the press went across it, so I was getting blurry prints. I ended up choosing a lighter paper that will stick better to the wet ink and not smudge. I got 10 of 30, and that was plenty of work by the time I had puzzled through the earlier issues. Now I know, though, and the next batch will go faster.
Then yesterday I cut a blank block the same size as my show poster, a carved poster print to celebrate the fact of a museum show. I did one for Dixon and am now doing one for Walter Anderson. When you get to put your name and a museum name together, it’s worth doing a print to celebrate. As I did with Dixon, I’m doing a bunch of different color tests. It’s fun to have some rainbow options. So yesterday I cut the background block, figured out the paper size, cut a stack of paper, and then made a diagram to keep the block carefully centered on the paper so I can layer two blocks and not have them weirdly offset. Then I stopped and played with my new dog a while. Today I did a whole series of different colored backgrounds (each one requiring multiple color mixing and blending the colors on the block itself with rollers). They’ll dry for a day or two, and then I’ll print the intricate block with all the lettering on top.
I’m finding myself still in slow motion as I try to get back into my work groove. I think it’s been hard for everyone to stay sharp and focused through this whole pandemic period. So I’m giving myself some grace, taking more time off than usual, but getting one good printing session done each work day. I’ve got time, and that feels like a manageable approach for now, and I’m grateful to be able to do this.
Last year felt very slow as well, but I ended up with a stack of museum prints and also a book I wasn’t expecting to do, so sometimes I’m doing better than I think I am on the productivity front. Anyway, for now printing, plus dog time and some pleasure reading breaks plus extra trips to Dixon during the Thiebaud show (which feeds my work in a roundabout way). Solidarity to everyone doing a little slogging at this point in the world. And gratitude to everyone managing to make a little beauty along the way.
When I am feeling a little lost, I often buy new art supplies to play with. So I've done a lot of that this last year and a half. One of those has been a bottle of walnut ink from the Art Center in Memphis. I love having a really good, locally owned art store that will not only stock my specific needs for me (18x24" linoleum blocks instead of just 12x12" ones) but that also has a wide array of alluring things to browse and try and play with. If you are lucky enough to have such a store, please support it. Online ordering just isn't the same.
So I came on this summer trip with a bottle of walnut ink and a very old dip pen that had been handed down to be and that has been sitting in a cup ever since, lonely and untried. I'm having a ball. The walnut ink nicely has a tight fitting top, and it rides around safely in the daypack with my art things, so I've been using it on site a lot lately.
I'm slow getting these scanned in (it's been a somewhat eventful summer), so here is a report on one lovely day taking the ferry out to Friday Harbor in the San Juan islands back in the middle of July. Jude's cousin Liz, an artist and photographer and all around delightful person, was visiting, so it was the three of us. I sketched on the ferry the way I did several years ago. I've been doing passenger seat sketches this summer, and the ferry is about the best version of that -- not as fast flashing past everything, but a kaleidoscope of a changing view. Such fun.
There were many more people in the way of the view in July than there had been in September, but it was still fun. I think my favorite ferry sketch was this simple one done only with green ink in a brush pen.
My last post was about Feature Show Falls, which was indeed a stunning feature (even if the name vaulted me back in time to my Rocky Horror Picture Show days). Almost as stunning, though, were the trees on the trail to get there. Especially this one, growing over a rock. After lunch at the falls, I left the others to explore a little further and came back early to sketch this one. Along the way I did a few other, much quicker sketches, of other gorgeous trees. Sometimes it's fun to just do line gestures and leave the paints in the box.
That original tree was so stunning, and my sketch of it so inadequate to convey its magnificence, that I'm adding a couple of photos from that day as well. The second one is for scale. It was just remarkable.
We've been driving around a lot to various appointments, and I've used some of that time to sketch and keep loose from the passenger seat. These sketches are a great test of memory, and they make a day of errands go faster. I'm still using the little Sennelier kit for ease and smallness and to keep testing it out.
I've been taking the new small set of Sennelier watercolors out to keep testing them. I miss some of my regular colors, but as I've said, I love the sap green that is a little cooler and darker than the Windsor and Newton one I generally use. The lighter green is fun, but it skews a little acid, and I try to tamp it down a bit instead of using it straight. I ended up loving those top two that I did, but the second time out for bigger pieces (instead of the tiny, quick passenger seat sketches I've been doing), I couldn't get the colors right, and everything felt overcooked. I'm pretty much at a loss to explain why I had such disappointing results the second time after feeling pretty good about the first outing, but there you are. I miss the transparency of my normal W&N set, and on the forest piece, I really missed the burnt Sienna that I depend on a good bit. I think the cobalt blue is also a little edgier than I'm used to, and that didn't come into play much until the tree trunk study. Overall, it's fun to switch things up sometimes, and I enjoy having this kit that's the right size for a purse or tiny project, but W&N still has my heart.
I've been doing more landscapes than anything else lately (which are always the primary draw for me), but I've done a handful of smaller scale, daily life sketches lately, and I really enjoy them as well. Here's a round up from the last month, since they haven't been fitting thematically into the posts I've made lately. I always enjoy opening sketchbooks back up later and remembering a favorite luncheon, a date at an ice cream parlor, or an especially yummy dessert.
Or even a medical check up...
And my very favorite -- Belgian torte from a dessert shop I had tried two years ago up in Bellingham on a day out up there. I was delighted that the place had made it through the pandemic. The torte was at least as good as I had remembered.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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