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.
One of my very favorite places out here is Rasar State Park. It's small, but it has a huge variety of landscapes, from forest to beach to stone beach to meadow. It's right along the Skagit river, and it was a natural place for me to go to try to jump start my sketching a bit. I cleaned and refilled several fountain pens, and these are both done with my favorite green ink, a bamboo color that is warmer and more natural than a lot of acid greens you find. The first is a wooded walk along the side of the river, looking down to this spreading tree that hangs over the water. The second piece was sitting out on the beach proper with a view down the Skagit and off into the distance. I've drawn and painted versions of this view (from a few different angles) over the last several years, and it continues to sing to me.
I've been doing some print work here, but it took me a while to get sketching again much because I was under the weather for a while. One of the early outings was a drive up most of the way on Sauk Mountain, stopping at a small avalanche fall and walking and sketching. I'd missed the trillium here down on the valley floor, but (unlike the flatlands of the Delta landscape) you can change seasons by driving a few miles straight up. So we drove back into trillium for me to enjoy them and have a gentle walk. It was glorious.
The trillium are very different from the wake robin kind we have in west Tennessee. They're huge for one thing, but they change colors as they age. They progress from white when they're new blossoms into a pink a bit later, and in old age they go a dark orchid color. It's a spectacular transition to watch, and it makes for a fun range of drawing too.
As always, I was also drawn to the trees and did this sketch of the alders hugging the edge of an embankment with their roots.
It felt grand to be sketching again, so I have more to scan and post in the coming days when I can manage a little computer time on a borrowed machine.
I drove 2600 miles across the country since I last posted. I've been working hard on my WAMA show to give myself some space to take time off this summer. My beau lives in Washington State, so I left my house in capable hands for the summer and have come to see him and enjoy the mountain landscape for a while. I'm not ready to get on an airplane yet, so trips are harder and also longer to make the driving worthwhile.
It was a long but beautiful drive, and I'll get going scanning in my trip sketches soon, but I've been giving myself some time to sleep and recover and enjoy. Here's the first sketch I did after getting here. Jude had some flowers waiting for me, and I always love sketching flower gifts to make them last longer.
I did one quick green ink sketch at Rockport State Park as well. I love the Vanilla leaf wildflowers that are sculptural on the forest floor the way the mayapples are sculptural in the forests at home. I"m heading out to one of my favorite sketching sites today, so I figure I'll get back in the groove of things soon, but for now I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful month as much as I am.
I’m excited to be refocusing on my prints in January after the bustle of holiday commissions. My show at WAMA will hang one year from now, and I’m glad to have something happy and positive to work towards through this dark winter. I’m hoping there can be a party to celebrate by then, since it will be a huge moment in my career. This one is moving slowly. I’d set it aside back in the summer, unsure how I felt about it. I’ve been thinning it out and balancing it while working SLOWLY on the trees, and today I wanted to see where I was with it, even though there are still trees to go. I have sunshine on my east facing work table in the mornings to help me see the delicate edges and bits of cutting. In the afternoons (for winter warmth, anyway), I take a walk. I took a couple of days of pure vacation, then I started easing back into sorting through prints and getting my head back in this work, but I’m still giving myself some time off in the afternoon to recover from December. Afternoons are also good for printing, since I don’t need the super bright light. So this is what January will look like for me, and I could do a lot worse.
I knew I would enjoy taking art trips in Alice (named after Alice Steinbach the author of Without Reservations: Travels of an Independent Woman), but I didn’t know how much I’d enjoy making art about Alice herself. I did a number of sketches of her over the summer and fall, and this is the print I came home to make. I’m excited about it. I’m going to print 40 of this daytime version, and then I want to cut away the curves in the sky an do a nighttime version with moon and stars up there instead. It’s fun to get two prints for the same complex block, even though I’ll carve a second but very simple background one.
The greens migrated some as I kept mixing and hand rolling each block. I like having some options, but I think I’ll push the second batch more towards the light one in the middle.
I’ve been updating my online store lately, and I just put this prints up. I’m shipping off prints to various kind folks this week, and P is for Possum will be coming in soon (fingers crossed!) It’s also there and available for preorder. https://martha-kelly-art.square.site/
I had a bit of a mad scramble my last week in Washington, and I got behind scanning and posting photos. I did manage to walk around to this apple tree I'd been eyeing and wanting to paint for several weeks, and I had a good time doing a paint first, lines later sketch. I also did a couple of early Inktober sketches, though I certainly haven't managed anything approaching every day this year. I haven't been drawing people much, and I was pretty happy with the one of Jude reading under the tree. He went down with me for Mr. Darcy's last vet appointment before leaving, and there's always a bit of sitting around. I just tonight scanned in the sketches from the actual trip home, and I'll get those up next. I'm deep in printmaking at the moment, now that I'm home with my press, so it felt nice to spend time with sketches today, even if it was just scanning instead of drawing.
My knitting group of four or five out here has been meeting outdoors, which has been a great joy. I love sitting with friends, even across a small distance. Last night we were at Sylvia's and Michelle's. They have an amazing garden (I'd been thinking about this bean trellis ever since we were there the first time) plus ducks, a horse, Angora goats, chickens, and dogs. I'd been wanting to sketch, and Michelle kindly invited any of us to show up early if we chose. I got an extra visit with her, did two full page spreads, and then settled down to the evening party. It was marvelous.
I've been trapped indoors for a solid week now, and we're hoping for relief tomorrow. I took a quick walk with a mask on and snapped a photo of the orange sun, but it was too awful to stay outside and sketch. The bottom smokey view is from my indoor work table window, though, and the blueberries are from life, done sitting at the kitchen table. I really love the berry stands out here. Such joy.
I've mostly been ignoring my smaller sketchbook lately and working in the "Quarantine Journal" sized one instead, but here are a couple of recent(ish) sketches from my daily walking path. I'm catching up on my scanning this week as I also finish the images for the book.
In big news yesterday, I bought a batch of ISBN numbers and registered the first one for P is for Possum. When I was working on the Mr. Darcy book(s), I really wanted the legitimacy and reach of a professional publisher, but my writing chops weren't strong enough, and that's a hard world to break into. For this book, which is so very local in scope, very specific to Memphis's Old Forest, it made sense to me to do this like my calendar and have it printed to sell locally. I also have no shows at all this year (though some lovely folks have sent commissions my way), thanks to the pandemic, and I really wanted something ready for the holiday season.
The other upside is being able to control the printings as I need or want, instead of that decision being in the hands of someone else. It's a lot like the legitimacy of a gallery giving you extra exposure, but you also lose control and autonomy by buying into that system. I may try for both publishing and commercial galleries again at some point when they make sense for my career, but I have to say that registering my own book yesterday felt both exciting and powerful. It's fun to give birth to something you've created purely on your own terms. I'll be registering with the Library of Congress as well, which will allow it to be bought by libraries, and I'm considering other platforms after the print version comes out in November. There's a big learning curve, but it's also exciting for a lifelong book nerd like me to be a small part of all this.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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