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
I arrived out west on Tuesday evening, and I’ve done a few sketches, but largely I’ve been taking some time off work. I’ve been sleeping a lot, catching up with friends, and taking care of emotional business instead of career business. That’s always a bit hard for me, so I was happy to read this opinion article (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/opinion/summer-lying-fallow.html) in the New York Times on the importance of rest and renewal to the creative process, as well as life in general. So in that spirit, here are a few scenes from my usual daily walk out here in Concrete, Washington. The trail is an old railroad bed, up above the highway. It’s an easy way to walk out of town, wide and flat and almost unpopulated. I sometimes see another person or two, but not often.
I made it through three shows and two sets of houseguests (all delightful to see) in a week and a half period, and I was due for some serious vacation. I’m out in Washington state, sleeping late, reading lots of baseball news, hitting some truly great thrift stores, and revisiting some favorite places in an unexpected streak of sunshine. I’ve managed exactly one sketch so far, and I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. It’s sometimes good to take breaks.
I have been taking photos as I walk though. The frost is amazing, especially since I stay right along the Skagit River. I’d always heard the term “hoar frost” in the British novels I read, but I hadn’t been sure what exactly it was. It turns out that mist and fog rising off rivers in cold conditions can freeze in almost sculptural ways. I’ve had fun taking some photos.
The frost in the great meadow at Rasar State Park (one of my magic places) extends only into about a third of the meadow and burns off as it gets further away from the river. Part of that is the deep valley that keeps out most of the sun. The bottom right photo above is just about noon. I can see why fairy tales so often came from the northern regions. It’s not a little uncanny to walk out of strong sunshine and into blue dimness in the middle of the day. It feels like entering Narnia and the land of perpetual winter, where you walk over an invisble boundary into fairyland. My dad brought me a book of Scandinavian fairy tales when I was little that was one of my favorites for years. I’m feeling its echoes on this trip.
I also went down to the pebble beach at the end of the park, which is one of my favorite places. It’s stunning in winter in a completely different way. It was a gorgeous way to spend a morning, and then I headed back to the land of heating and good, local pizza after being out in the cold for a couple of hours.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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