I’ve done a lot of carving over the last year, and I’ve done some printing too, but I haven’t at all kept up with the volume of blocks. So now is the time. I’m settling into printing at least the first batch of each edition for the WAMA show next year. Nicely I still have some months, so I can do it in stages and keep going on some more creative work as well. Friday, after my Thursday sabbath (see my last post), I printed the first 10 of this Skagit river print. It’s really detailed and delicate, and my regular, somewhat heavy paper was moving too much on the block as the press went across it, so I was getting blurry prints. I ended up choosing a lighter paper that will stick better to the wet ink and not smudge. I got 10 of 30, and that was plenty of work by the time I had puzzled through the earlier issues. Now I know, though, and the next batch will go faster.
Then yesterday I cut a blank block the same size as my show poster, a carved poster print to celebrate the fact of a museum show. I did one for Dixon and am now doing one for Walter Anderson. When you get to put your name and a museum name together, it’s worth doing a print to celebrate. As I did with Dixon, I’m doing a bunch of different color tests. It’s fun to have some rainbow options. So yesterday I cut the background block, figured out the paper size, cut a stack of paper, and then made a diagram to keep the block carefully centered on the paper so I can layer two blocks and not have them weirdly offset. Then I stopped and played with my new dog a while. Today I did a whole series of different colored backgrounds (each one requiring multiple color mixing and blending the colors on the block itself with rollers). They’ll dry for a day or two, and then I’ll print the intricate block with all the lettering on top.
I’m finding myself still in slow motion as I try to get back into my work groove. I think it’s been hard for everyone to stay sharp and focused through this whole pandemic period. So I’m giving myself some grace, taking more time off than usual, but getting one good printing session done each work day. I’ve got time, and that feels like a manageable approach for now, and I’m grateful to be able to do this.
Last year felt very slow as well, but I ended up with a stack of museum prints and also a book I wasn’t expecting to do, so sometimes I’m doing better than I think I am on the productivity front. Anyway, for now printing, plus dog time and some pleasure reading breaks plus extra trips to Dixon during the Thiebaud show (which feeds my work in a roundabout way). Solidarity to everyone doing a little slogging at this point in the world. And gratitude to everyone managing to make a little beauty along the way.
I got to Devils Tower, finally busted out of the smoke, and sat outside with a baseball game on the (streamed) radio to keep me company and PAINTED. The previous post was the first batch of these, and here are the rest. They're a mix of my smaller and larger sketchbooks, both of which are square and open out into a landscape format if you go across the page or give you two side by side squares. All of these went across the center crease to be landscape format. The sky was changeable and gorgeous. I also really liked the moment where the golden light raked across the side of the tower (top image).
The final Devils Tower sketch was from inside the camper the next morning in a light rain. I painted it just in time to get half the monument, and it completely disappeared except for the very bottom of the base almost immediately afterwards.
The pink moon rising is the one small sketch I did the next night at Lake Vermillion in South Dakota. It was a long driving day, so I took a walk, talked a while to a lovely solo camper who lives nearby and was giving herself a quiet weekend, and only did this small sketch of a gorgeous moon rising about the treeline behind my camper and away from the lake. It's neat to be able to sit on my sofa, turn on the small reading light, and draw the almost darkness out the window while still seeing what I'm doing on the page.
I take generally the same route home from Washington State -- there are well spaced state parks to stay at, and it's both the shortest and easiest to drive (I-90 across Montana and South Dakota is blissfully traffic free). But it is fun to vary things a little. This year the Keyhole Lake state park in Wyoming was full when I wanted to travel, but I could venture a bit further off I-90 and stay at the Devils Tower KOA instead. It was fantastic. I got a campsite with an unobstructed view, and I sat out at my picnic table and sketched a ton in the evening and a bit more in the morning fog. In fact, I sketched so much that I'll split the sketches into two different posts so things will load more easily.
The first couple of days driving were hard. Lots of smoke and a closed interstate in Montana due to one fire. I generally like to sketch at least a little bit each day of the trip as a mental break from driving, but the air quality was awful, so I just hunkered down in my camper the first night with my air purifier running, and then in a gorgeous guest room of a friend in Bozeman. Julie kindly gave me sanctuary from the heat and terrible air, so I spent an extra day to let a cool front pass across. Then I headed to Devils Tower and had lovely weather to sketch. I was so grateful for that kindness. It made all the difference to the trip. Otherwise I would have been moving across the country at the same rate as the heat and smoke.
These sketches are all in my larger, watercolor specific Handbook journal (an 8" square that opens up to 16" across the fold). The next entry will have sketches from my smaller 5.5" journal. It was my go-to for some years, but I've enjoyed being able to switch back and forth from the larger to smaller size lately.
It’s been quiet around here as I made my way home across the country (2600 miles solo in the camper van), tried to wade through three and a half months’ worth of mail and necessaries, and FOUND A NEW DOG. This is Gideon. He’s an 8 month old Golden retriever , 62 pounds (so far — I’m hoping for a decent bit bigger), and one congenital heart condition discouraging folks from adopting him. He’s a sunny, sweet, attentive, smart love, though, and we’ll see what the vets say. We’re going to have us a good time for whatever time we get, though. That unscarred, love-the-world disposition can be hard to find in rescue dogs, who have tended to live through some tough stuff, and I just couldn’t leave him in a kennel. I still miss Mr. Darcy, but Gideon is going to be a quality companion too.
He started work yesterday as my studio dog and did great. He laid around in the floor and kept me company while I printed. I found out how out of practice I am though! I printed 40 small Walter Andersons, from a block I carved over the summer, but I completely forgot to reverse the direction on the color roll. I was watching the prints closely for crispness, but I totally didn’t notice that the colors were backwards from what I wanted. Now I’m not sure what to do with this batch. But at least I got my printmaking area cleaned up and going again. I’ll get locked in here soon I’m sure. You can see the proof in the top left, with the color the way I want it, and the others that just don’t match. (Feels like a Sesame Street exercise, doesn’t it?) Sigh.
I'm slow getting these scanned in (it's been a somewhat eventful summer), so here is a report on one lovely day taking the ferry out to Friday Harbor in the San Juan islands back in the middle of July. Jude's cousin Liz, an artist and photographer and all around delightful person, was visiting, so it was the three of us. I sketched on the ferry the way I did several years ago. I've been doing passenger seat sketches this summer, and the ferry is about the best version of that -- not as fast flashing past everything, but a kaleidoscope of a changing view. Such fun.
There were many more people in the way of the view in July than there had been in September, but it was still fun. I think my favorite ferry sketch was this simple one done only with green ink in a brush pen.
My last post was about Feature Show Falls, which was indeed a stunning feature (even if the name vaulted me back in time to my Rocky Horror Picture Show days). Almost as stunning, though, were the trees on the trail to get there. Especially this one, growing over a rock. After lunch at the falls, I left the others to explore a little further and came back early to sketch this one. Along the way I did a few other, much quicker sketches, of other gorgeous trees. Sometimes it's fun to just do line gestures and leave the paints in the box.
That original tree was so stunning, and my sketch of it so inadequate to convey its magnificence, that I'm adding a couple of photos from that day as well. The second one is for scale. It was just remarkable.
We've been driving around a lot to various appointments, and I've used some of that time to sketch and keep loose from the passenger seat. These sketches are a great test of memory, and they make a day of errands go faster. I'm still using the little Sennelier kit for ease and smallness and to keep testing it out.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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