I’ve done a little bit of evening sketching lately. I had so much fun drawing in this outdoor diner. You place your order at a window and eat out under the trees. I’m in love with their chicken pesto sandwich, which is generous with the basil and comes with a side salad. So good. They also had blackberry hard cider. I sketched with my new Diamine Ancient Copper ink. I’m really enjoying it. It’s highly saturated, and could easily be too much, but it really worked for this one. I love the rich warm lines peeking through the watercolor.
Then last night I sketched the new tea set I found. Small with violets, made my Spode. I’ve gotten rid of my own former wedding china and found a very happy recipient for my grandmother’s enormous set, but I kept the very incomplete set of my great grandmother’s that has violets and daisies and matching violet silver. But no teapot. This small one is just right for me to use for breakfast when I want to enjoy all the lovely things instead of just having them in my cabinet. I’m really happy. And then since I was having such fun with stripes, I kept on sketching during the (wildly unfortunate) baseball game. It’s been a tough year to be a Cardinals fan, but sketching makes it better. This ink is also Diamine, and it’s two different shades of purple. The darker shade, Eclipse, is my new favorite writing ink as well.
I got tired of the bad air in Memphis, and I had a couple of really good weekend sales (thank you, friends!), so I decided to take a spur of the moment trip back out west. I’m still making up time a bit from being sick so long over the last year. I spent the first two nights of the trip, one day, in St. Louis and flew from there, bypassing all the connection dangers I’ve seen friends struggle with this summer. I love StL, so it wasn’t a hardship. I sketched in my B&B in the morning, went to the art museum in the afternoon, and saw a few friends. Such a lovely time.
The museum had a mid century Native American art exhibition that really grabbed me. A lot of art from teachers and students at the IAIA school out west. The exquisite small woodcut is by Edna Massey, and the three abstract landscapes are views of New Mexico by Fritz Scholder.
I wrote in my last post that I like the shape and impact of my bigger summer sketchbook, but I also find it deters me from picking it up sometimes, just because it feels like a big commitment to cover that larger real estate. So I started a new smaller 5.5" sketchbook too. It's by Handbook, and I really like the size, the landscape shape when it's opened out, and the pocket at the back for tickets and other ephemera.
A facebook memory came up of one of my tiny oils on this plate by Melissa Bridgman. It had a dark background and a different feel, but it made me think about cherries and her pottery and what a satisfying combination that is. So a good first sketch for a new sketchbook. Below is the oil that made me want to revisit the subject. Beautifully it now hangs in Melissa's kitchen.
I’m in Washington State for a few weeks and away from my scanner. I’m mostly giving myself vacation time, but I’ll post snapshots of my sketches here instead of the cleaner scans I do at home.
First up were the welcome flowers, including some amazing stargazer lilies. (I love that name!) A couple of days later we went to the youth symphony to see Jude’s granddaughter play violin. I always love the juxtaposition of bodies with instruments, so I had fun sketching through the concert. I used my big, fat, water-soluble graphite crayon with a water brush over the top of it for quick, dense shadows. Loose and fun.
The talk at Dixon was amazing. I was honored and thrilled that 70 fantastic people showed up, midweek at lunchtime, to hear me talk about my creative life and influences. I make art on my own in my house most of the time, so getting to go out in public and share the things I love and things I've learned was exciting and greatly fun. I had another hour's worth of conversations on my way out, and I loved hearing people's own experiences or what book or artist they might want to look into after hearing my favorites.
After working hard to put that together and spending the entire next day doing checkup and regular screening tests, I was ready for a couple of slow days. Henry and I took walks, went to the farmers market, had second tea, and spent a lot of time quilting or mending on the sofa and watching some British tv. It was lovely. I'm grateful for the pace of my life that lets me push when I have deadlines but also take time off afterwards. Here are a few sketches I did just to get back into art for pure enjoyment.
The top one is neocolor crayon with watercolor, and the bottom tested two new samples of De Atramentis document ink (waterproof and silky) and the four leaf clover in my classic Diamine water soluble ink that moves and melds with my watercolors. The watersoluble comes in a nice range of colors, but it stays really firm and almost harsh when I paint -- kind of like making your own coloring book. I'll try some more sketches with it, but I think I still love the soluble ink best. I've had fun with the crayons too, and I like the added texture, but I miss line in that top one. It's good to branch out and experiment but sometimes it ends up reinforcing your already favorite things.
Henry and I went to the farm over the weekend to join my folks for a visit and pick the last of the spring bulbs. A friend calls these "twin sister" narcissi, which I just love. We have a beautiful ton of them, so I picked enough to scatter around in several vases, and last night I was watching a little British tv and decided to sketch them at the same time. I did the green background first, and then the light changed to really pick up a lovely purple on the window glass behind. I had some free standing paper I wanted to test for an upcoming project, so I did a second version. Both a just free painting with watercolor, no drawing first. I don't often work that way, but I was really interested in the shape of the flowers as a mass and just started drawing around them with the brush. It's good to get out of my comfort zone and play with new ways to work.
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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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