The stone carving is done, and we're having a party at Elmwood this Sunday to celebrate my first public art ever. It's free and open to the public, and we'd love for everyone to come. If you know you can make it, Elmwood would love to get you in their headcount for food (you can sign up here), but all last minute comers are welcome for sure.
I did a set of 9x12" prints based on the columbaria designs, and you can see the trio below. I'll have those out there as well as a selection of my other prints, but mostly it's just a fun party with a fun band.
Here is what they look like in five foot granite. They came out even better than I had dreamed, and when does that happen??
I've got three small prints of Henry (there will likely be more to come) ready to go for this weekend's Dog Days Open Studio Sale. Friday 4-8 for cocktail hour shopping and Saturday 12-5. This year we're at 719 Dickinson, a change of venue from years past, but still in the same neighborhood.
These prints are all on 8x10" paper and are $65 each. It's hard for me to be regimented enough to work on standard sized paper. My old press was 14x22, so I ended up with a lot of prints that size. And I'm always drawn to different shapes. But I know it's simple for people to frame if things are standard, so I'm trying to plan at least some of my smaller pieces to be more regular. My new coastal scene is 11x14", so I've managed it four times this summer. Definitely a record!
This last piece is Shoreline II, a smaller, one block version of print that was in my WAMA show last year. It's actually done from a more recent sketch and is a different shape, but it's the same view looking out from the beach at Ocean Springs, and the color scheme is similar. Instead of using different blocks for different colors, though, I wanted to keep it super simple. Repetitive printing is my least favorite part of the whole process. This block uses four colors and five small rollers to blend the colors on the block. The sky goes from pink at the horizon through grey up into the blue. There's enough space between the pink and the black to use a very small roller for the shoreline itself, and then I can put some gentler strokes into the water with that same roller to get the reflections. It's finicky to print but takes only one session instead of three. It's on 11x14" paper and is $150. I'll have these in the museum shop at WAMA once I get down there in September to deliver them and have a visit, but I'll also have some for the Dog Days sale.
My museum lecture at Dixon Gallery and Gardens is today, and I'll be talking about my art heroes and all the things I've learned along the way about making an art centered life. They're between exhibits, so they didn't need me to tie into any particular show, as I did when I talked about the history of plein air painting to go with their Barbizon exhibition some years ago. So I'm going to be self indulgent and talk about all my favorite artists and what I've learned from them in a slight gallop through art history.
I'm also going to talk about taking the time to do small projects for yourself, just because you want to. This was one of mine a couple of summers ago -- a series of tiny prints (I think they're 3x5") of my most formative artists. Constable, of COURSE, on the top left, for painting outdoors and non stop and in his own home places. Walter Anderson underneath him for pretty much all the same reasons plus printmaking. Georgia O'Keeffe for charting her own path and claiming the right to live where and how her muse dictated. And Berthe Morisot for just GOING for it, in an age where women didn't much. And also making her own career against the advice of older, established male artists who leaned heavily on her not to exhibit with those ragtag Impressionists. She was remarkable.
The project fizzled there, and I hadn't even gotten a finished print of Constable until this week, but that also is good. Things you do because you want to but don't have to finish if you don't. The Anderson print made it into my show at WAMA, but the others were just because they sounded like fun.
I've cut way back on the commissions I take lately after a year of serious deadlines, but I did do this one for a cool young couple who want a portrait of them each year from an artist to reflect the year they've had. I loved the idea of this, and they let me play and try something new. Since it's an annual thing, I didn't feel like I needed to try to do a traditional portrait (not my strong suit anyway). I've never really mixed print and sketching, even though they feed each other all the time, sketches moving into prints, and prints pushing me to sketch specific topics. I felt that this idea could either be really good or go very badly indeed. I was pleased with the final outcome. I printed in sienna since black felt like it would overwhelm the painting underneath of one of the special places they went to this past year. I also printed out just the figures for them to have as well. The whole project is making me think more about combining blocks and other media in new ways.
I went searching this blog for tree prints and realized that while I had scanned in this small trio of new prints, I hadn't yet posted them here. I've been working on a HUGE companion to these three (18x24", which is at least huge for me, and which took me multiple days to carve), but I had wanted to start small to make sure things worked visually before I invested that amount of time into a large print.
I went to Faulker's home Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, earlier this year for the first time since my teens. It's a fantastic house, full of his personality and creative spirit, but what grabbed me most (as always) was the trees. They are as full of character as Faulkner was himself. I sketched a whole series of them and have been back to sketch several more time over the last few months. The same first trip, I stopped at Eudora Welty's house in Jackson, and I was surprised and delighted to find a series of five Barry Moser carved prints of her at various stages of her life. I think those two experiences fused, and when I worked on this trio of prints, I was very much thinking about how Moser handles his backgrounds. These are portraits of trees instead of faces, but the prints felt similar to me in style and intention.
These small three are all 9" high and various widths, to suit the individual trees. I've got finished prints of them (even though my holiday show plans went off the rails this month). They're $60 each or $150 for the trio. I plan to do some color prints from Rowan Oak next, but I've been easing in with the black and white ones.
Here's the first proof of the 18x24" one. I'll have a black and white edition for sure, once I smooth out some edges and balance a few of the limbs for width. I'm also going to test it with a couple of different color backgrounds and see what I think about them.
I'm still finding myself completely obsessed with the trees at Faulkner's home Rowan Oak. I took a last minute trip down there recently to sketch before more rain moved into the area and knocked down what was left of the trees. I poked around Square Books, had a quick picnic on the grounds, and roamed around with both my camera and sketchbook for several hours. I'm deeply grateful I did, because Covid finally caught up with me, and I'll be holed up solo here for a good while before it's safe for me to be around other people again. So I'm watching a bunch of guilt free BBC television and drawing out new prints in my lap. It's so good to have an absorbing project and a pile of good books.
I’ve been chasing so many deadlines this year that I told myself I would take it easy for the holiday season. I’ve only taken on a few commissions that are different and interesting to me. This couple really intrigued me though. They do some kind of portrait by a different artist each year that captures something special about the year they had. Because it’s yearly, they were happy for me to experiment a bit and not try for a traditional representation. So I decided it would be fun to cut a silhouette of them and then print onto a background painting of one of the places they went and loved. They approved the silhouette and know what’s coming, so I can show work in progress, which is also unusual for commissions, which are usually a secret present in the making. I’m under the weather this week but can carve smaller things in my lap as well as draw out some new, bigger prints. I’m excited to see how this prints when I get back to up and moving around work.
I have a bunch of proofs of prints that just didn’t print right — the paper moved on the block, making it fuzzy (the black and white one), or I didn’t get enough ink coverage (the base layer of the black under the blue). Usually I reuse those to test a block or do a first layer of ink on a throwaway sheet so I get good coverage on my better paper. Sometimes they get a number of layers of ink after sitting around the print shop for a while. I was printing my moon block in silver for the Black Feather Farm commission, and while I had the silver ink going, I wondered what would happen if I played with some of these sheets. I got out my pelican block and tried it on a couple of of proof sheets and then cut down to the part that worked. I’ll have to get creative about signing these, since there’s no white edge around them, but it was fun to move a little looser and seat-of-the-pants in my printmaking. These will be a 1/1 print, meaning it’s unique and unrepeatable, and I think I’ll take a few to the Pink Palace Crafts Fair later this month for fun.
Rodin used his small cast figures in different combinations and ways as he got older and had a whole range of sculptures already done and available. I’ve always planned one print from the beginning, done it the way it was in my head, and set the block aside. I’m realizing that I now have a good number of blocks that it might be fun to combine in different ways, so I’m starting to think about new ways to experiment with them.
Sarah Dutton does the marketing for Walter Anderson Museum of Art (she created the entire video about the show I shared earlier), and she kindly took some highly professional photos of my exhibition hanging in their beautiful space. I'm so grateful to have this record of the show, and she also, so generously, took a bunch of me as well. I have a new head shot I'm happy with, and some fun ones in the show itself (though honestly, I should learn to just look in the mirror first and check my shirt/hair/whatever else might be slightly askew -- maybe I'll learn eventually).
Anyway, aren't these lovely??
I’m giving myself some vacation time this month after all the craziness but am also working slowly on this new print. I sketched after sunset one evening during my opening week. The family all walked down to enjoy the beach, but I got there first with my sketchbook to wait for them. You can see from the sketch on top that I need to lighten the pink and purple both, by a lot, and I’m keeping on carving on the blue block. I’ll whittle down those large blue splotches to more pattern. But I’m pleased with where it’s (slowly) headed.
Here it is with the third block that has both black and blue on it.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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