I've got a call with the curator at WAMA tomorrow to have a look at where I am for my 2022 show there, so I've been trying to finish or at least proof all the prints I've had sitting around in various stages of completion. I had printed all the backgrounds for this set back in the fall, and I had all the birds carved, but I hadn't finished the printing until today. It's fun to see them all together. I'm mostly doing landscapes for WAMA, so we'll see if these make the cut or not, but I really like them as a set. I'll try to get better photos of them with good light. I haven't been charging over to Kinko's to scan the bigger things in with the pandemic raging.
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.
One of the crazy fun things about having artwork at Dixon Gallery and Gardens is being able to go out and do a tour on various afternoons. For me, as an artist who works mostly at home in solitude, it’s great fun to get to dress up, go out in public, and talk about art, ideas, and where my work comes from. I love getting to answer questions and see folks interacting with my work. This year, of course, things are different, but Linley Schmidt taped me (outdoors in the cold, bless her, because I didn’t want to take off my mask indoors, and I’m terribly muffled talking with it on) in the gardens and shared this video for a virtual “tour.” It’s a little harder to just wind up and go without questions or feedback, but fortunately talking is one of my comfortable places. And I do really love the chance to have to put into words the less formed ideas floating around in my brain while I’m working. It pushes me and clarifies my own thinking. Being in this show is a huge honor, and I enjoyed getting to draw the through lines from the St. John’s gospel back through the history of marrying art and text.
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'm really taking advantage of being home with the printing press, and I'm also trying to get some proofs pushed toward final prints ahead of the holiday season. So I did more color proofs of the line of trees, as well as doing a batch of green under blocks. I'll do more colors and add the top layer in the next week or so. I also reprinted an old favorite. I hadn't printed many of these to begin with. It's part of my art deco travel series, but it's in North Carolina, so my Memphis audience doesn't have as many connections to this place. I've always really liked it, though, and a friend requested I do more. It's a grand idea. This one is four colors and three printings (the two greens are blended on the block), and it takes a bit, but I did a stack of them this week, so I'll have some available.
I also ordered a second proof of P is for Possum in the premium color. I wasn't happy with the standard one I got, but the cover had fantastic color, so I'm hoping that will be what comes in the interior as well with the premium printing. I'm excited about the book, but I want to get it right before I send it out into the world. Soon though!
This last print I left finished but hadn't actually printed. I'm trying it on different colored paper this week, and I've got a range from white to fawn, light blue, warm gray, and brown. I quite like all of them for different reasons, and I figure others might too. This one is available now. $90, and the paper is 13.25x14". Holler if you'd like one for a holiday present. I'll get it up in my store soon.
I printed in the morning, sketched in the afternoon, and ordered a hard copy proof of P is for Possum just before dinner, for a rare art trifecta today. I’d been waiting for the chance to order a proof since I uploaded my files on Saturday. I’m using Ingram Spark to self publish. Ingram is a wide reaching company that supplies books to libraries and book stores, and I wanted to support them instead of Amazon for self publishing. They also offer a hardback option, which Amazon doesn’t, but I’d heard nightmare stories about getting the formatting right for them. I did a bunch of research last week, and I was thrilled to get the email today that everything checked out. First try. It’s the small things.
Now that the book is turned in, I’ve been working on printing the blocks I carved this summer while I was away. Today’s theme was green (sounds like Sesame Street!), so I proofed two different blocks and also did layer two of the French Broad River print from several years ago. I’d printed the blue layer before my trip and then gotten sidetracked. Today, since I had green ink mixed and going, I picked the thread back up. Tomorrow I’ll get to proof on top of these gradated color layers with the much more intricately carved key blocks and see what things look like. Seeing it all together for the first time always feels like Christmas.
This afternoon I took my walk with the sketching backpack along and stopped in the Old Forest to sketch. I’ve been pondering more forest prints, and sketching helps me look deeply and think more clearly. We’ll see if anything comes of this, but it felt lovely to take the time to do it.
I’m doing some proofing today, away from my regular set up. I wanted to see how the rv and lettering were going on the Explore print, so I just proofed the bottom half or so. It’s a tall skinny print, and I haven’t gotten to the top part yet. There will also be a color block behind it, but my lining-things-up-and-keeping-them-straight stuff (“registration” is the technical printmaking term) is all back in Memphis, so I may just wait on that part till I get home. This one is also quite tall, 24”, so the press would be helpful as well.
I did try a double layer for this second print, much smaller, so it felt less hard to manage, but the make-shift set up I tried moved on me. You can see that the one on the left especially moved as I printed. It gave me some helpful information anyway, but I may wait till home to do much more work on this one. I’m trying to decide if I need two blocks for the two blues (and you can see that if I do, they need to be curved a bit at the join), or if one block rolled carefully will be just as easy. I want the round light to be larger in the final version, but it’s always easy to take more away, and you can’t put it back, so I started conservatively. It’s the dock light across the lake from me at my first camping stop in Missouri. It’s nice to take your muse on the road once in a while and get some new views. The RV print is our campsite in Idaho a few days later.
I spent a wonderful night at Long Branch State Park in Missouri on my way out west, and I have two, maybe three, prints dancing in my head from that one evening sitting on a tiny private beach with a Great Blue Heron for company. This is the smaller of the two that I’ve started. Brown ink is the only ink I have out here, so it’s what I’m using to proof, but this won’t be the final color. I just wanted to see how the carving is going before doing any more. I sat and watched this one single light out across the water, and it reminded me of Gatsby watching the light from Daisy’s dock. I’m not sure if I’ll try for green or just leave it white, but I’ve got a little way to go before making that decision.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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