I haven’t been sketching this week, and I’m missing it, but I’ve been getting some good work done on a new print for my Rowan Oak show next year. This is an especially complex piece. I had a lot of colors I wanted to include, and I hate to carve and print more than three blocks per print. So laying it out got complex, and I’m mixing more than one color for each block, but I loved the sketch I did of this tree, and it’s worth the aggro. I’m doing a series of color proofs as I keep refining the carving as well. At top is the best one so far. The key block is usually all black for my prints, but that was too harsh in this case, so for the top layer I’ve added a brown tree trunk for the cedar and softened to more gray around the edges. You can see the all black version at the bottom of the three proofs together just below. On the middle one I went too grey away from the tree and lost definition on the building. this one I think is the closest to what I want, but I need to clean up some carving, especially in the tree and the building. I’ve also added a snapshot of the three blocks together. The orange green goes first, then the grey of the building, tree, and grass along with the green of the cedar. Finally the black of the tree, the cedar trunk, and the definition of the building go on top.
Here is the original sketch with the first layer of the print.
Later that afternoon, enjoying the beautiful weather, I picked up Henry at daycare, and we walked at the Greenbelt Park along the Mississippi. I love the cottonwood trees that line the river. It's the same black ink. I feel a bit like I'm making a coloring book for myself (and it would probably be a good exercise for me to do paint first and then line), but I also like that the line stays more prominent. It varies from sketch to sketch for me whether I like it or am annoyed. Anyway, it's all good practice, and I had a ball sketching outside this weekend.
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’ve been out in Washington State visiting my partner for a while, and I’m taking some vacation time, doing some book work, and doing a bit of sketching. We’ve had smoke off and on, but the Memphis air has been so steadily bad from different Canadian fires that I don’t feel like I’m missing much good air at home. Here it’s worse on bad days, but we also get break. It looks like the South has been pretty steadily blanketed with smoke pollution for the last month. For the first time in my life, which is deeply discouraging.
But I’m taking it one day at a time here, getting out to hike and sketch when I can, and doing a bunch of book work indoors when I can’t. Here’s a round up of some sketches around the Skagit valley.
I stopped in St. Louis on my way home and spent a couple of days seeing friends, resting up, and doing a little sketching. I started the morning in Tower Grove Park with a field of small sunflowers, painted daisies and a strawberry rhubarb tart, and (of course) Ted Drewes. My favorite stop and such a funky, old time place to draw.
I've been working on two different book projects during my time out west and barely even sketching. Today I went for a walk in my favorite state park out here and took my sketchbook along and enjoyed doing a couple of quirkish sketches. Dip pen with a light green ink and watercolor on top. The line almost disappeared in the paint, but I'm reasonably pleased with both of them, and they were fun to do on a gorgeous day. It's been raining and freezing for a week, so the book projects were perfect for that stretch. Today called for sketching.
The second page is two restaurant patio sketches. The top is in one of my new favorite inks. It's a waterproof fog grey from DeAtramentis. I've had the best time using it for simple sketches with a watercolor marker for some fast tone. I've found that it's dark line that doesn't move at all, though, makes me feel like I'm using a coloring book when I put full paint on top of it. A ton of sketchers do waterproof ink and paint, but I find that I still like an ink that will melt a little and swirl with the paint. The second sketch (as well as the top one) is Diamine's warm, springlike green (either Leaf green or Spring green, I can't remember which), and I'm much happier with that effect.
Vacation is definitely for trying new things, though, so mission accomplished on all fronts!
Heres a small video of that beach and river confluence, just to share the beauty.
I've been doing a little sketching alongside some work I can't show yet. It's been sunny the last few days, so Henry and I went to the park, walked a little in the forest, and snagged a picnic table for a quick sketch with clouds.
Melissa Bridgman brought me one of her gorgeous, tiny bud vases a few days ago with some gorgeous, tiny daffs in it. I did a still life this morning with my favorite farmers market chocolate croissant (from Lucy J's, for those of you in Memphis. So good) that is my favorite weekend treat. Celebrate the small things. And drawing it makes me slow down and savor it more.
I'm still struggling with my energy, so an invitation to sit in Overton Park in the sunshine and sketch a few blocks from my house is a wonderful thing. My friend Christina and I chose a picnic table and compared materials and caught up and enjoyed the afternoon. Henry did great tethered to the table and was rewarded with a trip to the dog park before we headed home. He might be growing up a bit. I'm grateful for art and for friends willing to meet me where I am (both physically and metaphorically) these days.
I've been playing with the neocolor II watercolor crayons at home in a limited way, but it was fun to spread out a full paint set and try them bigger (the top one) with more paint added. I did the drawings in crayon and painted on top. I like the thickness and texture they add.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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