I've been running a little crazy since I got home, dealing with mail and other things that had been piling up, seeing people I've been missing, and trying hard to get the book published in time for the holidays. I had a whole plan that failed on me, and I'm regrouping. So I haven't sketched much, but I have done a couple. Above is the Shelby Farms dog park, at the east end of the park. I hadn't been there before (further into the park than I've ventured on my bike, and my dog isn't a dog park kind of guy). But it was just around the corner from the vet where I had to leave him several hours, so I took a walk with my sketchbook and did a bit of exploring. If I had a more social dog, it would be a wonderful resource to have available. I see why people drive out from midtown.
I'm also back at my local farmers market with joy. It was lively to have tomatoes, broccoli, fresh flowers, and bread (though that didn't make it in the sketch). I really like the rhythms of Saturday mornings at home, though there certainly things I'm missing about out west as well.
I feel like most of us are having these most weeks. This week has been especially so for me. I had a lovely mother's day visit on the patio with my folks, from a safe distance. Then the baby Cardinals finally hatched. And then they died overnight in the nest, I think from cold. It affected me in an outsized way, although I imagine some of that is just the grief and stress of these times also showing up, and it's not bad to push a little of that out occasionally. Plus Mr. Darcy came over and gave me big sloppy kisses to make me feel better.
I found that I needed to physically turn the page on this page of my sketchbook, so I drew my dinner last night. I've never cooked beets before. Thanks to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (which I think is going to be key for my CSA journey), it was super easy, and I've had a couple of truly lovely beet salads with goat cheese and slightly candied walnuts.
Then today was lovely again. I met Dad and Pat at his grandparent's house, my great grandparents, about half a mile from their daughter's (my grandmother's) house where I live now. I never knew my great grandparents, or the house, and it's recently been bought by a lovely woman who is lovingly restoring it and who wants to know the history of the house and of our family as she moves in. It's beyond special to have someone there who wants to know and carry forward those family stories. We've had such a great series of emails over the last week, and it means a tremendous amount. I sat afterwards and sketched the house to have more happiness in my journal from this time. My favorite thing, aside from getting to see the place, was finding out that the sunroom off the main bedroom was called "The Joint" because it was jointly owned by my dad (with his bed there for weekend visits) and his grandfather, who kept his desk in there.
I'm still doing commissions (and thank you, good people, who want to celebrate your special days with original art!) along with a little slow carving, so nothing except journal to show just now. It's fun to have something quick to do when other projects take longer.
The international Urban Sketchers group has had a challenge going lately to bake something and then sketch it. That got me craving cookies. My baked goods are usually utilitarian -- good but not so pretty. I decided it would be fun to draw the ingredients before starting though, so that's what I did. And I added in the super simple recipe. Since it's got oatmeal as the biggest ingredient, it's got to be almost healthy, right?
I also sketched the book I just finished and really enjoyed. I'm finding that good fiction is what I want just now. City of Girls was great, and I also loved The Other Bennet Sister. I rarely read the Austen fan fiction follow ups, but I heard the author talking on npr and was impressed with her. I also fell in love with a play about Mary that Tennessee Shakespeare did this past Christmas, so I was primed for another investigation of her. The first part ran parallel to Pride and Prejudice, which I didn't like as much, but I felt it got better after it took Mary on her own journey. It definitely took some liberties with several of the characters, and some of the themes felt very 2020 (the research into personal happiness), but the writing was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was quite sorry to see it end and will now have to come up with another book I look forward to reading as much as this one.
It was a cold, gray morning today, and I decided to extend my holiday a bit more. I've been needing to mark this moment, since I usually spend it with family and also with a very dear second "Easter family." So I played a lot of music last night, had a little champagne with my farmers market dinner, and today I got out my great grandmother's violets and daisies china that I love and lingered. It felt nice to draw through breakfast, read the paper, and spend some time on the sofa with a new book that came in the mail today from my sister.
Now the sun is out, which helps amazingly, and I'm going to lock into a little more work and a walk this afternoon. But I figure we all need to give ourselves a little self grace these days to be less productive than we might otherwise be. I'm grateful my WAMA show is a good ways off. I'll have plenty of time to do it well and still give myself some half days when I need them.
I got really deep into print work for several days and didn't take time from that to do any Quarantine Journal, but last night I was missing it. I also got my first ever groceries delivery, and that seemed worth celebrating. I'd gotten some lettuce from the open air farmers market, but it had been just on a month since getting any other groceries. My milk lasted amazingly, but it was finally time to get fresh. So morning tea today was a treat as well.
The other provisions I got were books from Burke's Books here in Memphis. Their website is open for orders, they have free local delivery, and there is also curbside pickup. I took a break from work the other day and got on my bike for some loops through midtown and new books. Milk, avocados, blueberries, and books make for a good home life.
As I approached my fiftieth birthday, a lovely minister friend of mine reminded me that Biblically every 50 years, fields lie fallow, debts are forgiven, and there are parties all year. I loved that. I had already set a goal for myself at age 49 to get my family house in the shape I would like to live with for the next 25 years of my living here, and not wait till I was ready to move out to do nice things. It was helpful to have time to think ahead, and I did do a good amount of cleaning up, repainting, fixing things, and buying a few new things (stained glass lamps, a comfy loveseat, etc.). I had planned to have the house ready for a Jubilee on my birthday, a party with music and dancing and all my favorite people. But the world had other plans.
My birthday was right as the ground shifted underneath everyone (except for Washington State, who had already gotten the preview). So no party. But I could not have done better work to make my home, if not magazine ready, a place I am very happy to be in. I think of myself as someone who does appreciate the small beauties of daily life. My show last year was Daily Pleasures, a still life show of tea things and farmers market bounty. But I also know that I have a tendency to be rushing out of town on a regular and frequent basis. It seems that this year I am getting a master class in the Jubilee of daily life.
Instead of the dance weekends, adventures, and new places I had planned, I am walking every day in the forest. I am home to see the bulbs give way to the wildflowers and the wildflowers give way to the blooming trees. I am sitting nightly with my dog. I am chatting with neighbors (from a good distance away), tracking the sunbeams' journey through my house, reveling in my newly blue-green bedroom, knitting, reading books, and drinking tea. I know there will be hard times to come, but there is great beauty to be found in the every day. So instead of thinking of my jubilee as being postponed, I am thinking of it as unexpected but still beautiful.
I was late doing a journal entry last night because I'd dived back into a new print, and that felt great. I had two really happy days in a row and then made the mistake of reading the NYT over dinner which brought down a bit. So I got out the sketchbook and sat by the fire, and all of that was good. I'm grateful for this cheerful project, and I'm grateful for my cosy space. That stained glass lamp is one I found last year at a local antique mall, and I had a sudden realization of how happy stained glass makes me. I've been buying lamps and one panel for my landing window ever since. I'm looking forward to getting out again someday and seeing if I can find any more pieces of stained glass happiness. It's a fun treasure hunt.
I'm still really enjoying doing some colorful, quick sketches as I adjust to the new world normal. I also turned off the news today and caught up on my favorite writers podcast #AmWriting. It's three friends talking about the self directed creative life (including lots of nuts and bolts advice that transfers over to lots of creatives, not just writers), and it's warm, funny, and super informative. I've learned a ton over the last few years. Last week's episode was on websites, and it made me consider how mine looks on a mobile phone. Fortunately my Weebly platform converts itself to mobile. I love having a site I can control, update, and expand without knowing coding. But I hadn't considered the question of which information rises to the top as my two columns on the main site merge into one. Now I've got that fixed for better information sooner.
In the process, I scanned in my recent sketches. I've been mostly just snapping iphone photos and throwing them up lately, but boy howdy, are they nicer when I take the time to scan them in. So here are the next installments of the Quarantine Journal, and I decided to give it its own page as well. They'll pop up here first, but there will be an in order narrative on the QJ page.
I enjoyed yesterday’s dawn sketch so much that painted my new-to-me Frankoma teapot over breakfast today. I’d been collecting the teacups and other bits at antique malls. They feel so good cupped in your hands. But I hadn’t found a teapot (these pieces were made mid century at a factory in Oklahoma), so I treated myself and ordered a small one, just right for one person, online. It’s fun to sketch new tea things, and I love the colors and lines of these.
This was extra important today because I’m in day two of painting my bedroom, so very long overdue, and it’s a big project solo. I knew I’d be working on that with all the rest of the daylight and wanted to make a little art first. The #AmWriting podcast and Facebook community is big on “morning pages” for writers — something that’s purely yours, to loosen up for the day. I don’t mind having the energy to dive straight into good work, the way I did right after breakfast on that print yesterday (before starting the painting marathon), but I do really enjoy the looseness of an early sketch. I love that podcast for how they think about living a creative life but also handling all the business and marketing necessities that go with that. I’ve learned a lot from them and enjoyed their company in the process.
Ok, back to work. Here’s where I slept last night. The gray is primer. Color today and trim tomorrow is the plan. I hope to be done for the weekend and back to painting I enjoy more, but it’s also satisfying to be making my space somewhere I’ll really enjoy being. And doing it myself.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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