and look at paintings I might otherwise have passed by, and I was so glad she could join me on the spur of the moment. I stayed behind to sketch a Grant Wood still life that I've fallen in love with. So unexpected from an artist I mostly know as the American Gothic dude. I love the curve and rich shadows behind the arrangement and the way the flowers reach right out of the frame. I could only use dry media (pencils and watercolor crayons without the water), but I had fun looking at it deeply enough to draw it even if I didn't quite match the lovely colors. (The photo also fails to do them justice.) I want to go back and sketch several more in this show as well.
Henry came home exhausted, as did I, so we snuggled into a fuzzy blanket and watched British tv and chatted with friends on the phone and knitted. A lovely birthday.
I love drawing tea things, and I'm still having a ball using the watercolor crayons as a drawing base under paint. My go to is ink, but the crayons have a fun texture. We had a rainy morning a few days ago, so instead of rushing out to get Henry to his playgroup at the dog park, I sat and enjoyed my tea and did a sketch afterwards. This is my newest teapot, from Potsalot Pottery in New Orleans (though Alex comes up to do the craft fair in Memphis every fall and is one of my closest booth buddies). I love all of his work, but this piece particularly sang to me. He told me he'd studied Japanese potters to get the spout right, and it's a beautifully precise spout (hard to find in handmade pottery). It's paired with a tiny cream pitcher I found in a brocante in Paris and a midcentury Frankoma cup and saucer.
The hyacinth really reached up and bloomed out today, so I decided to sketch it again. It really is fun in the new crayons (with a little paint on top).
Then (of course) I also sketched Henry. No water or paint, just black and light gray crayons.
Art supplies are my very favorite form of retail therapy because then they get me sketching again, which is always a shot of happiness. One of my favorite sketching artists, Suhita Shirodkar, has posted about using watercolor crayons, and I spotted them yesterday at our fantastic Memphis art supply store, the Art Center. They're called Caron D'Ache Neocolor II, and I picked up about five assorted colors to test out. I did a quick sketch with the green and the periwinkle ones and added a little more dark purple and gray in watercolor over the top. I really love the texture and the ease, and I think I'll pick up a few more colors. They'd be great to have for quick sketches at the dog park or other out in the world places where I don't want to get my whole watercolor kit out.
A friend gave me an amaryllis before Christmas, and the last bloom only just faded. I loved having steady blooms on the side table by the sofa where I'm spending so much time right now. I was in Fresh Market pondering some cut flowers as a treat to myself and then spotted this tiny pot of hyacinths with buds only just beginning to bloom. I'm not sure how long it will last, but it felt like a perfect way to usher in early spring.
There's been very little going on around here lately besides a little necessary cooking, a little sketching or carving in my lap on the couch, and trips to the dog park. I'm grateful for Henry to be able to get the exercise he needs when I'm still not up to much walking. As the weather gets nicer again, I want to do more sketching at the dog park (see below for this morning's sketch), and anyone who reads this blog at all knows I really love to sketch cake.
This cake is one a friend's mother used to make for me when I went to visit during my college days. No one had baked a cake specifically for me since my own mother died, so it always meant a lot. It's a sour cream/chocolate chip coffee cake that was my Christmas morning staple for the years I used to host a family breakfast here. I still like to revisit it periodically, and this week was one of those times.
Covid still lifes
I've been slowly recuperating, drinking a TON of water but also a lot of tea, and eating all the beautiful things people have been kind enough to bring me. I couldn't be more grateful for the folks around me. I'm doing very little work, and most of what I'm doing is a commission I have going, so I haven't had a ton to show. But I'm happiest when I'm drawing, so I've done a small series of still lifes, mostly of teapots, sitting on my coffee table while I watch some fun British mysteries on tv.
People have been wonderful. One sister brought me a tiny personal pie for Thanksgiving (in the little enamel dish in the first still life). My other sister mailed me a tea Advent calendar! A different teabag for every day in December, so I'm getting to try lots of new ones. Friends have brought food. I haven't had to cook a dinner in a week and a half. One dear sketching friend came to buy a book and brought me my VERY favorite Muddy's cupcakes. It's the season for Santa Baby ones, chocolate cake with peppermint icing. Another friend bought a different book tonight and brought me chicken soup.
It felt a little scary to be sick and living by myself right at first. Fortunately I wasn't very sick, and the outpouring of people taking the trouble to do kind things for me has truly meant the world.
This last still life is more real life. Instead of just drawing the tea tray, I took on the whole jumble of clutter that is my coffee table. I'd like to say it's because I'm sick and spending most of my time on the sofa, but truthfully the coffee table is usually a jumble of sketching things, books I'm reading, and sewing notions. I added in the new Gingerbread tea tin from Harney and Sons. I finally did a few errands yesterday (I've been driving mostly to the dog park to let Henry run up till now), and I fell for the seasonal display at Fresh Market. It's a quite good tea, and I love a pretty tea tin, so I added it in for one more small happiness to record for the week. This sketch felt a lot like the artist version of a gratitude journal. I've also restarted my practice of a daily gratitude list through this time to help me get out of the doldrums of feeling so exhausted. It's really helped. I haven't done a lot of sketching, but all of it helps. I think I'll try to do more as I go along. It's neat to document whatever is happening in your life, good or bad.
I took a mini break (as the Brits say) to St. Louis this past week. Tower Grove Park has been one of my very favorite places to sketch for years now, and I found a beguiling Airbnb right on the park. It was perfect. A small converted 1920's garage with bead board everywhere, the original doors sliding open and shut to reveal a small private patio, welcoming touches everywhere, and some really nice art. It's called the Rabbit Hole (and I've got a thing about rabbits anyway, location aside), and I will totally be going back.
My first stop, as always, was Ted Drewes frozen custard for my favorite Cindermint with hot fudge on top (not mixed in). I've had a ton of deadlines and commissions lately, and I let myself just do whatever felt good in the moment without scheduling anything. The only thing I was sure about (aside from spending a ton of time in the park as I felt like it) was visiting the St. Louis Art Museum for a contemporary print show. The collection was owned by Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and his artist wife Maryanne Simmons, and it was marvelous. Modern and edgy in places, with a huge variety of both styles and print media. So good to see a huge works on paper show.
I sketched not only in the park (the cypress tree in walnut ink below), but I did two sketches in the Rabbit Hole since I was enjoying the space so much. And, of course, a celebratory one at Ted Drewes.
Ocean Springs workshop
I went down over the weekend to Ocean Springs to take a painting workshop from the talented and delightful Ellen Langford and also to see my show at WAMA actually on the walls one more time before I go pick up work at the end of the month. It's been such a thrill and a joy to see my work in that space that I've visited and loved for years.
It was a last minute trip, and I couldn't find a reasonable place to stay in town, so I ended up in a tiny cabin about 20 minutes away from the museum with a meadow of pines at my front door. I love being able to just walk around town, but this was a lovely and peaceful spot, and I did a couple of sketches Saturday morning, drinking my tea on the porch and warming up for the workshop to come.
I ended the day at Tom's Extreme Pizzeria, which has an excellent seafood pizza and which also has roosters roaming around the property. Since I'm still only eating outdoors, Ricky was my dinner companion for the evening. He hung out on the back of the bench next to me for most of my meal, crowing at intervals and watching the world. He was a great model. Near the end of the meal, a girl across from me coaxed him down to take some food, and I sketched the two of them together very quickly. I need to get back out in public and draw more figures again. I've gotten very rusty through the pandemic.
I have a new studio dog. I've been wanting a black and white dog for a while, just for the graphic deliciousness, and I found a dog in foster care for Memphis Animal Services who is snuggly and loves people and walks well and hangs out next to me while I work. We're having a ball. I'm really grateful. He's nervous being left by his own, which I hope we can lessen over time, but he's a fantastic companion.
Henry has also been encouraging me to get back into more steady sketching, so here are a few scenes of daily life along with Henry.
More Ocean Springs
I celebrated delivering my new show by sketching lots and also buying a new "I HAD A SHOW AT WAMA" tea set that will forever hold these happy memories for me. I had gone to Shearwater Pottery just looking for a cream pitcher, since I'd recently broken one of my favorites. But of course I ended up with a teapot too. Actually not "of course" -- teapots are hard to make, and they don't always have them in stock. This blue/green/grey glaze was so gorgeous I couldn't resist. In an added bonus, when I got it home, I found that my new favorite tea infuser fits EXACTLY into the hole with the lid going just inside it, so it's my easiest to use teapot of all the ones I now have. (Lots of them, sadly, are too narrow for my infuser, so I use them less than I used to, but I do still rotate through them for joy.).
Speaking of joy, they got my show up on the walls before I left, so I sat in the gallery and did a celebratory sketch of it. So much joy.
I also sketched this tall tree that I've been wanting to do a print of. It's good to have sketches as well as just photos to work from, though both are helpful in different ways, especially for more detailed subjects. And I'm adding in a second vertical that I did at my opening weekend to balance it out. My mom's three best friends have shown up for me at all the truly important passages of my life, acting as her proxies. They couldn't be at the museum in person, but they sent these gorgeous flowers to mark the occasion, and I couldn't be more grateful.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Gideon and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: