I took a cool day trip from Memphis down to the blues town of Clarksdale yesterday. It's very sketchable, and I could definitely spend more time there. I did my Inktober sketch at the edge of a cotton field on the way down and just one sketch of the Greyhound station there, but it would be fun to go back and do more for sure. Scroll down for some photos of the town.
I've been visiting some of my very favorite spots lately, and Inktober has given me an added nudge to sketch while I was making the rounds. I took some art to the Dixon sale (it's ALWAYS an honor to get to hang work on their walls), and I sketched both the Rodin out front and my favorite statue Circe. The next day I was having chai at Cafe Eclectic on the deck on a lovely day and took time to do a quick sketch there too.
Finally I did a flying trip to St. Louis and Tower Grove Park. I'd hoped to go for the whole weekend, but the wheels fell off the bus last week, so I ended up driving up Sunday morning, walking through the lovely Shaw Art Fair, and that evening doing a small book/music/art event with my friend Amanda Doyle, who has just written a huge, gorgeous book about the history of Tower Grove.
Monday I drove home, but I took a walk and did a couple of quick sketches in the park before I left. I'm dying to get back up there and do more work in the park, but my month of October is pretty spoken for, so we'll have to see how the later fall goes weather-wise.
Tower Grove Park is always one of my most inspiring places. It's one of a handful of places that has called to me immediately as an artist and keeps calling me back. I walked and sketched and picnicked and dreamed there last week. I've been on a huge work streak since I got home. I'm working on two new books now, with a third I'm dreaming on about Tower Grove itself, but it makes sense for me to do a Memphis one first. I've had requests for it and know the bookstores here. But sometime I may do a TGP one as well.
In the meantime, here are some of the sketches I did while both enjoying the park and mentally exploring the possibilities.
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.
The skies were amazing at the beach, and I so enjoyed sitting out under the sky and seeing the whole dome of sky there. I love our huge, hardwood forest in my neighborhood, but it does mean that I only see bits of sky at a time.
I had my big, fat, water soluble, graphite crayon with me, and it was pretty perfect for working after dark with just it and a water brush. No colors to try to decipher in the dark. It was fun to just put down a few impressions of the sky and the full moon.
My favorite place on Dauphin Island, along with my upstairs balcony for the evenings under the sky, was the Bird Sanctuary. My sister and I cycled down to see it, and I took my sketching things along. It was gorgeous. A lovely variety of landscapes, from a lake with water lilies and a resident alligator to beach to pine forest. I had a ball sketching, though it was slightly disconcerting at first to sketch with an alligator gliding directly underneath the dock I was sitting on.
The pine trees above were at the fringe of the beach. I always love a beach that has trees as well as sand. A perfect combination. Below are two different takes on the lily pond lake. I did the one with more sky first and then circled around at the end to do a second one with more emphasis on the water. It got a little overworked and lost the looseness of the first one, but there are things I really like about both of them. I'm in the middle of Mad Enchantment by Ross King, a book about Monet's creation of his late, huge waterlily paintings, and it was fun to get to paint my own thinking of his.
I also did a little bit of dip pen drawing. I'd used the pen for the green ink on the other sketches, but for these I just left them at the line stage. The pine trees reminded me of Walter Anderson, so I was surrounded by art heroes as I worked.
I took a week last week to go to Dauphin Island with my sisters and their families. We rented a house just off the beach and hung out and read and took naps and walked and rode our bikes. It was marvelous. One of the best things for me was the upstairs balcony in the evenings. It was too sunny during the day, but I sat up there for a while most evenings and watched the sky. Memphis is into the season of largely flat skies for summer, but at the coast, the air is so variable that the clouds are spectacular. It was super windy, and there were only three days of the week I could really paint outside at all, but I enjoyed them. And I loved watching the pelicans fly past me up on that high balcony.
I also took my sketchbook down, one of the still(ish) days to the beach at the western end of the island, where there was just sand and dunes instead of houses built out blocking the beach every so often on piers. It was unaccountably soft for walking -- there seemed to be no packed down part at the water's edge. But the views were lovely to sketch.
This place --- these trees --- keep calling me. I'm not making any progress on the prints I have in my head yet, but I'm letting them roll around and seeing what develops while I work on several commissions and one "shiny object" (the term for a new project that draws your attention) that has spoken to me since the trees have. Just after a big show goes up is exactly the time to chase shiny objects and see which ones have long term projects. It's exactly the time to be a little ADD in your work, to play, to see what rises to the surface. So here are sketches of trees, and we'll see if the next shiny object even survives long enough to make the blog...
A lot of my sketches over Memorial Day weekend were at Anderson's cottage, with so many thanks to Tony DiFatta of WAMA getting permission for me to go there and spend deep time. I did a smattering of other, quicker sketches. I cycled over to the national seashore several times, which was delightful. It's just a few miles down the coast road (so fun in itself), and there's a great mix of swamp/trees/water. I did the top one in the marsh land as I cycled through. The nifty, bent-double tree caught my eye, and the breeze was stiff enough to keep the no-see-ums away from me, so I seized my opportunity. Next is one from a picnic table right down on the waterfront. Nicely the table is shaded by pine trees that grow right to the water, which is not the kind of shelter you end up getting at a more traditional beach.
One of the mornings I had slept really well and got myself up and out and down to the waterfront for the sunrise. I watched the pelicans and the morning light and did some super quick sketching with an ink brush pen.
Last I sketched my glass of wine from my crab cakes dinner at Maison de Lu, easily my favorite restaurant down there. I treated myself to one lovely dinner out for my weekend of workshop teaching. Several days after returning home, I dug out my coronation teacup (and George VI coronation spoon) to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee, and I've been using them all weekend. I think my mom would approve. We were raised on BBC and British history.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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