Rowan Oak again
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.
Saturday was our first Saturday of the month meeting of Memphis Urban Sketchers. I love having an artist meetup on my calendar, making art, talking art, and connecting in person with friends. We met at the pyramid yesterday. I wandered around the inside of the Bass Pro shop for a bit, but the fake cypress swamp, weird lighting, and all the dead, stuff animals just weren't doing it for me. Outside with the viaducts was equally visually overwhelming, but more what I wanted to sketch. I got lost toward the right hand side, not paying attention to which columns were in front of or behind which bits of road, but then it drizzled for a few minutes, and my ink ran a bit, and it all softened up. You can see some of the raindrops if you look. I reacted to the crazy complex scene by keeping my palette very limited. I love the blue green of the overpasses, so I concentrated on that, with a bit of blue gray to go along with it. It was fun.
I'm trying to draw more as I'm at the dog park, and I'm recognizing that for me, that urge is weather dependent. When the sun is out, I'm all excited about it. When it's gray and chilly, I stand around with my hands in my pockets and just laugh at the dogs. Both are good for getting me out to notice nature and stop looking at screens for a while. So here's the one recent sketch I've done, celebrating a sunny morning we had recently.
I went searching this blog for tree prints and realized that while I had scanned in this small trio of new prints, I hadn't yet posted them here. I've been working on a HUGE companion to these three (18x24", which is at least huge for me, and which took me multiple days to carve), but I had wanted to start small to make sure things worked visually before I invested that amount of time into a large print.
I went to Faulker's home Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, earlier this year for the first time since my teens. It's a fantastic house, full of his personality and creative spirit, but what grabbed me most (as always) was the trees. They are as full of character as Faulkner was himself. I sketched a whole series of them and have been back to sketch several more time over the last few months. The same first trip, I stopped at Eudora Welty's house in Jackson, and I was surprised and delighted to find a series of five Barry Moser carved prints of her at various stages of her life. I think those two experiences fused, and when I worked on this trio of prints, I was very much thinking about how Moser handles his backgrounds. These are portraits of trees instead of faces, but the prints felt similar to me in style and intention.
These small three are all 9" high and various widths, to suit the individual trees. I've got finished prints of them (even though my holiday show plans went off the rails this month). They're $60 each or $150 for the trio. I plan to do some color prints from Rowan Oak next, but I've been easing in with the black and white ones.
Here's the first proof of the 18x24" one. I'll have a black and white edition for sure, once I smooth out some edges and balance a few of the limbs for width. I'm also going to test it with a couple of different color backgrounds and see what I think about them.
Once again I'm doing mostly commission work that I can't show here, but I have been doing some Henry sketches in the evenings just for me, and last night, after a week of rain, we had an actual sunset. I celebrated by sketching it quickly from both memory and a phone photo when I got back in from a short pre-dinner walk. It felt like a moment I wanted to mark.
More Rowan Oak
I'm still finding myself completely obsessed with the trees at Faulkner's home Rowan Oak. I took a last minute trip down there recently to sketch before more rain moved into the area and knocked down what was left of the trees. I poked around Square Books, had a quick picnic on the grounds, and roamed around with both my camera and sketchbook for several hours. I'm deeply grateful I did, because Covid finally caught up with me, and I'll be holed up solo here for a good while before it's safe for me to be around other people again. So I'm watching a bunch of guilt free BBC television and drawing out new prints in my lap. It's so good to have an absorbing project and a pile of good books.
Happy daily life
I'm not managing to sketch every day with a house full of guests lately, but I do enjoy the reminder by inktober to pull out my pen and brush pen during my daily rounds. So here are two Overton Park sketches and one Henry sketch. Both a dog and a dog walk are part of my ongoing daily happiness and well worth celebrating in my sketchbook.
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.
Celebrating endings too
Then I went to the museum and sketched some more. They'd put a beautiful wooden chair in the gallery, and I've always liked my work combined with wooden furniture or sculpture, and I wanted to mark its being there one more time. Drawing for me is a way to savor things.
I stayed at a small cabin right on the bayou with a wonderful breeze off the water. I sat out both evenings and watched the crescent moon set over the live oak trees. The second evening I had just one more page left in my sketchbook, and it seemed to be a perfect way to end the exhibition and the summer both by finishing the book right on the cusp of Labor Day weekend. I drew the moon in the half dark and didn't get all the colors quite right since I'm using a new palette I'm still learning my way around, but that also adds some energy and life to a sketch that might otherwise have been too one tone.
Friday Mattie wrapped the work as I packed the car, and I drove it back to Memphis. I'm sad for the show to be down but so grateful I had it, and so grateful also for the friendships I made at WAMA. They're going to keep having my prints and books in the museum store, which is wonderful, and it will also give me an excellent excuse to pop down to the coast fairly regularly. I'm still feeling the afterglow of this whole wonderful experience.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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