It's been a tough week with various large griefs around here and among people I care about. I've been carving on my new block, the 18x24" one, while watching some escapist BBC mysteries, but it's big enough to be going very slowly, so there's nothing really to share yet. I'm grateful for that meditative work, and I'm grateful for sketching, where I can turn bits of daily life into color and pattern and be-here-nowness. I'm also grateful that this was the week when strawberry rhubarb pie showed up at the local grocery. Rhubarb doesn't grow in Memphis, and that's a treat I really look forward to coming out here. It hasn't been available, and then yesterday it was. Baked goods, stones with strong life lines, walks in great beauty, and tea have all been balms this week. So there they are for my journal this weekend.
I had a lovely day going from Montana to Idaho. I had less mileage to go than any other day, so I decided to take a lovely looking two lane highway that followed the Clark Fork river a good way. It took a lot longer, and I was tired when I got there, but it was a truly lovely day. I sketched once along the way (top left, next to Mr. Darcy), and here are a couple of photos as well.
I pulled a first proof of this one today. Almost always I get a block pretty fully done, then comes the proof, and then I tweak it. But sometimes, when I’m in uncharted waters, I want to do a test of a small area with a pattern and see how that is reading before doing the entire surface. So that’s what this is. There’s a lot of that dark area still to carve. You can see my original sketch next to it, though in that particular one, I didn’t fill in all the dark middle. Just enough to give me clarity on the tree trunk placement. So I’m carrying a lot of this one in my head and winging it at the moment. Watch this space for updates. I’m overall pleased with how it’s going, though the trees at the top are a little too defined at the moment. I’ll have to dull them down a bit if I can.
I’m also including a couple of close ups. Because it wasn’t a serious proof, it’s on newsprint, and I didn’t work hard to get that rich, velvety coverage that I prefer for finished pieces. It will be a lot darker as I get further into it. This is a super behind the scenes peek.
Update on this one. I’m still tweaking it, but it’s getting really close. I’ve been working on it most of today. I will admit to taking yesterday’s sunny, 63 degree day and cycling through the park a long time with an enormous grin on my face. In January sometimes you just have to seize those days as they’re handed to you and put work aside for a few hours. Today’s windy cold found me back at my work table.
Also here is last night’s sketch of Mr. Darcy. I’m still enjoying having this toned paper sketch book right on the coffee table where I can grab it easily when I’m reading or watching tv.
This past weekend was the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, a longtime fair in Memphis, and I was the demonstrator for printmaking. It’s special for me to be out there. I started going to the fair with my parents as a kid, I remember getting to choose my special Christmas present just as I got old enough to fall in love with the silver handmade jewelry, and now I get to be a part of it. I don’t generally do outdoor fairs, and I don’t own a 10x10 tent, nor do I want to, but this fair puts me safely inside an enormous tent (which was key this past weekend) and lets me sit out and see all my friends and neighbors passing through the show.
It’s fun to sit and carve in my lap and let people see the laborious process (though deeply satisfying) that goes into each carved print. I like talking to the kids who love art, the teens who have done a block or two in school art class, and adults of all stripes who make art or appreciate it. I even get a little work done! This past weekend I worked on five different blocks. I had one large one going already and did a bit more on it, though you hit a point where damage can happen to something intricate if you’re in and out of concentration all day. I started a new large block for most of Saturday, but again, I felt like I needed more concentration to finish that one out. So later in the weekend I jumped to a smaller block based on a recent gouache painting of cherries. That gouache and all its friends are still up in my still life show Daily Pleasures at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis through November 3rd. I’d been thinking for a while of trying this one in a print as well, and I grabbed a scrap piece of Lino and drew it out Sunday morning to give me something new to work on. Above are yesterday’s color tests. I’m hand rolling several colors at once and printing it all in one go, a simpler form of color work than carving an individual block for each separate color.
One last tiny block I did was a snail, based on a sketch I did out west this summer. I had my sketchbook out with me, as I always do, and happened across that sketch. I always need new note card designs, so I’ll get this one printed for the later fall shows.
Here is one of the larger blocks I was also working on. The other hasn’t progressed far enough to really show yet. I’ve only got a small percentage done, even though it took a while to get there. Both are continuing my series about water that is mostly oils, but I’m working on getting some prints to go with the larger paintings. This one still needs a bit of work in the water, where light meets dark, but it’s mostly done now.
Alongside the gouache studies, I’ve been doing some more standard (for me) journal sketches along the way. Here are some from the last several days. Two of them were bicycle trips to the bakery to have a treat. I’m a late bloomer on a number of fronts, and I got my first bike out here. I never learned to cycle as a kid, and Concrete is a perfect place to catch up. There is almost no traffic in town along with quite wide streets, and best of all, there’s a green line that runs through the center of town (to within a couple of blocks of anywhere I want to go) and also goes out of town and as far as I could care to go. I can pack up art gear and take off on my new bike, a second hand cruiser. The next image has my bike in the background and bakery tea in the foreground. I wanted to record this moment in my journal.
Here is the view a few miles out the trail from town. It’s been my regular walk here, but I can go a bit further on the bike and paint new places.
Plus another blueberry pancake sketch from Perks diner here. A totally awesome place. Flower at the grill collects heart shaped rocks like I do and has begun to make me heart shaped pancakes when I come in. <3
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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