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.
There was a huge stack of boxes as I stepped out to get my paper this morning. No warning, no email, but I’ll totally take it! I’m signing this morning and getting a batch of them off to Burkes. I’m also selling them on my website at https://martha-kelly-art.square.site/
The signing includes me doing a small sketch in the front of each book. I’m celebrating the fact that I have a book to sign, and I want to make it special for everyone. If you’re local, you can pick them up from me as well. Just holler. And thanks to everyone for their excitement and support about this. It’s been a great journey.
I've been working on P is for Possum non stop this week. My brain hurts from learning about Library of Congress numbers (mine came today!), ISBNs, bar codes, and hardest of all, the formatting needed to actually publish it. Yesterday I reworked every page to the specs at Ingram (margins, space left in the gutter, different color system, etc.) and reworked the cover.
Today I assembled the interior of the book into one file, lettered and did decorations for the spine, if it's big enough to take something (fingers crossed), and ordered the cover template. I've got to letter the LOC number and add it to my publishing info page, but I'm going to wait till tomorrow to assemble the cover (inside and out) into the template. Then hopefully I'll be able to upload it and order a hard copy to make sure all the margins and whatnot are right. When I get that in hand, I'll finalize pricing. I'm reluctant to do that before I see what it actually looks like, though I know I should be taking pre-orders by now. Next time around I'll know a lot more what I'm doing and what I'm getting. I'm a total newbie. My brain hurts, but it's also really exciting.
Burke's Books, Memphis's 145 year old bookstore, is going to carry P is for Possum, and I'm so excited. I know them well enough to ask in advance, and Cheryl, the co-owner, has been really helpful as I finalize the details. Once I have a hard copy in hand, I'll be asking around a at other places too. Burke's has carried my calendars, given me a signing/print sale night for them, and even got in my Book of Common Worship despite it's not being available through their regular suppliers. They are fantastic, and I'm delighted that my first original book will have a home with them. I'm hoping other places that feature Memphis made things will also want to carry it, but Burke's has my heart. I've been cycling down there all year for curbside pick up of books to tide me through this crazy year.
The book work has slowed down (and the journal work almost disappeared) as I've been trying to get the final layout/extra pages/last few letters done, and as I've started scanning in and cleaning up (mostly letters that got out of hand in thick fountain pen on bumpy watercolor paper). I'll have to do yet more digital work to put each on on exactly the right size file and make sure there's enough border and also make sure than ones like this with a little overlap will meet up in the right places. Definitely the less fun part to come. But I'm really excited and have drawn out all the pages now, with only three plus covers to color. It's coming. My printer is getting me proofs on the paper he intends to use, and then I'll just have to dive into the scanning more intensely.
I'm feeling a bit back to my workaholic, immersive self for the first time since March. I've been getting work done, but it hasn't been that really deep dive that I'm used to. Then I got this idea, which grew from a combination of my Quarantine Journal and walking almost every day with my sketchpad in the forest. I've really been enjoying working on a new book project, even if I'm not sure where to take it when I'm done.
Plus this is much more portable than my printing press work. The weather has been flat out gorgeous this week, so I've been carrying out a whole stack of sketchbooks with years' worth of forest sketches to the table on my back porch. I've been sitting out there enjoying the breeze and the birdsong and doing this project. It's been a joy.
A couple of years ago I "plotted out" a tree alphabet book. I love trees and nature and draw all the time in the Old Forest in Memphis's historic Overton Park. I even started a print (I was thinking linocut), but it felt a little forced, and I abandoned it. This year's Quarantine Journal, dog walk sketches, and new interest in birding all have me thinking back to that project. So over the last couple of days I have laid out an ABC of the Old Forest. Broader in species, but more specific in place. That feels like a good combination to me. I'll have to get a bit deeper into it to see how I really feel about it, but I'm having a good time so far.
There's a lovely article in the Presbyterian Mission about the upcoming Book of Common Worship that I spent a lot of last year doing illustrations for. It's coming out in May in three different editions, all with my Tree of Life linocut stamped into the cover. I am beyond excited and can't wait to hold it in my hands. I'm going to have to get the smaller personal prayer edition as well as the desktop one. The third is for pastoral use during hospital visits, weddings, etc. -- also smaller to carry around.
I have news! The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., is redoing its Book of Common Worship, which they do every 25 or 30 years, and they have asked me to illustrate it. I am beyond delighted. I've done some illustration work for a couple of different publications for them in the past, but it was always journals or a year long study guide (for the Book of Revelation -- my first ever illustration job, and I dived into the deep end). Nothing that would be in print for a long time. I've been hoping recently to get to do more illustrations, and I am so excited to be offered this opportunity to work with Westminster John Knox Press. I'll be creating about 15 two color block prints, a cover plus a frontpiece for each main section of the book. The work will be due in June, so along with my March show I'll be having a busy spring, but I love having meaningful work to do, so that will be just marvelous.
(The print at the top is an older one of a church in Athens, but it seemed appropriate for this post.)
I sketched the Hanrahan bridge from the Arkansas side for the Memphis Daily News this week. The new pedestrian crossing is a great addition to Memphis (though the trains come by so close to you that I don't think I can take my usual four-legged walking buddy, since he's still nervous around even skateboards). They're working on trails on the Arkansas side so people can extend their walks and bike rides a bit as well.
Above is the watercolor I did for the paper. I took a photo of it halfway through, with just the fountain pen line work and sky. If I'd been doing it for myself, I think I would have stopped there. I tried again, quickly, in my journal once I was done, but I think I got the sky too dark for it to balance well. I've been enjoying drawing with a fountain pen again, though. I'd kind of forgotten to for a while and have fallen in love with it again this fall.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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