I got some sticks of water soluble graphite on the advice of Ruth, who works at our marvelous local art store the Art Center. I’ve loved my tin of it, which I use with a brush, but I hadn’t tried the sticks. I love having an art store with local artists working who know and use the stock. I especially love not having to order and wait for days if I get a new project in my head. I had woken up with several new prints dancing around in there and went to buy the blocks so I could start right away. I’m working on them now, but in the meantime, here are the graphite sketches I’ve been doing. After all the packaging and marketing and reprinting of the holiday season, it’s good to get to do spontaneous art again. I’m so grateful for everyone who buys real art for presents. I absolutely couldn’t do what I do without you. But I’m also grateful to be past the push and with a little winter time to play with new ideas.
Speaking of presents, I got an email from Antiques Warehouse (a big, neighborhood antique mall that I love) that they were open on Christmas Eve. I went over there just for fun on my quiet holiday and found the mirror above. I’d hoped for one on a stand that I could use for self portraits, but this one was $8, nice looking, big enough to really see, and lightweight to move around in my various work spaces. A total win. I got it and the Royal Doulton teacup (bottom right) for my gifts to myself, and I’m enjoying both of them. I feel some more self portraits coming. I’ve missed doing figures lately.
I was so inspired I did two pieces before I even got home. I started with one page in my smallest journal of the abstract sculpture by the Solferino metro station. This was what I had hoped. I kept the watercolor to a light wash and then mixed graphite and ink (the heavier tree branches) for the foreground. It was uncharacteristic restraint for me, and I was excited.
I do know that it’s a little odd to come to Paris and paint myself, but there’s a lovely huge bathroom counter and great directional light and a largish mirror (none of which I have in my midtown, old fashioned home), so it’s an inviting place for self portraits. It’s also my 6th year here, and I feel like I’ve kind of exhausted, for now, what I’d really like to say about this place in watercolor. I brought oil pastels to try, but as much as I want to like them, I’m really not enjoying working in them. Plus Paris is also my time for self examination, and that is always literal for me, going hand in hand with self portraits as I think and plan for the year ahead. All of which adds up to a number of self portraits.
One of the things I love about Paris is that it is created for beauty. The details on so many of the buildings are exquisite and fascinating. I began to have an idea about them and spent walk home from the Orsay sketching a good number of them (which tripled my time home, but it was so worth it.
One of the great things about Christmas being over is that now I once more have time to make art for myself. I love commissions, but I have a backlog of ideas that I am now champing at the bit to get to. Steady readers of this blog will remember this block from back in October. I had meant it to be a single, black and white (or brown and white) image, but I began to wonder about putting color behind it. I've carved a second block, and yesterday was its first test run. I have to fix places where the color drops down into the figure, and I'm doing a bit more refinement as I go, but it's close to what I want. The orange definitely amplifies the 70's vibe it already had, but I'm a child of the 70's, so that works for me. I'm hoping it conveys the joy I feel when I play music.
I always seems to do self portraits in Paris. I walk a lot on my own and think, and self portraits seem to be an instinctive part of my self examination process. I did several watercolor ones while I was there, but I had the idea for this one near the end of the trip and took a few photos to help me do it in oils when I got home. My November show is called "Skyward" (a collaboration with Melissa Bridgman), and I decided it would be neat to have a figural piece or two as well as just landscapes. I've been enjoying oils on paper tremendously since I got home.
I took some photos as I painted, as I have been remembering to do lately, so here's the behind the scenes peek.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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