I've been enjoying being back in my historic neighborhood of Evergreen lately. It's fun to have the mix of houses and buildings that an older neighborhood gets. I've also been taking more walks around blocks looking at houses since Gideon can't go as far, instead of just taking off for the forest and burying myself in it. I've been taking out my sketchbook occasionally to do some quick sketches on walks.
The other day I took my bike over to Victory for service (beautifully I can ride through the park to get there and not have to disassemble it to drive it somewhere in my tiny car). They were so fast that they were done before I even got my gear out and sorted to start sketching, but the day was so lovely I just stayed to sketch before riding home. That water tower is as iconic for Broad as the Sputnik sign at Joe's Wines is for Evergreen. We have such a funky mix of visual treats in Memphis.
These are the quicker, out-on-my-walk sketches with just a brush pen or two and my fat felt tip pen.
This last one is one of my favorite houses. I've done sketches and several prints of it over the years. The gables and arched windows along with that fantastic tree up front keep drawing me back.
When I am feeling a little lost, I often buy new art supplies to play with. So I've done a lot of that this last year and a half. One of those has been a bottle of walnut ink from the Art Center in Memphis. I love having a really good, locally owned art store that will not only stock my specific needs for me (18x24" linoleum blocks instead of just 12x12" ones) but that also has a wide array of alluring things to browse and try and play with. If you are lucky enough to have such a store, please support it. Online ordering just isn't the same.
So I came on this summer trip with a bottle of walnut ink and a very old dip pen that had been handed down to be and that has been sitting in a cup ever since, lonely and untried. I'm having a ball. The walnut ink nicely has a tight fitting top, and it rides around safely in the daypack with my art things, so I've been using it on site a lot lately.
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.
I've been taking the new small set of Sennelier watercolors out to keep testing them. I miss some of my regular colors, but as I've said, I love the sap green that is a little cooler and darker than the Windsor and Newton one I generally use. The lighter green is fun, but it skews a little acid, and I try to tamp it down a bit instead of using it straight. I ended up loving those top two that I did, but the second time out for bigger pieces (instead of the tiny, quick passenger seat sketches I've been doing), I couldn't get the colors right, and everything felt overcooked. I'm pretty much at a loss to explain why I had such disappointing results the second time after feeling pretty good about the first outing, but there you are. I miss the transparency of my normal W&N set, and on the forest piece, I really missed the burnt Sienna that I depend on a good bit. I think the cobalt blue is also a little edgier than I'm used to, and that didn't come into play much until the tree trunk study. Overall, it's fun to switch things up sometimes, and I enjoy having this kit that's the right size for a purse or tiny project, but W&N still has my heart.
One of my very favorite places out here is Rasar State Park. It's small, but it has a huge variety of landscapes, from forest to beach to stone beach to meadow. It's right along the Skagit river, and it was a natural place for me to go to try to jump start my sketching a bit. I cleaned and refilled several fountain pens, and these are both done with my favorite green ink, a bamboo color that is warmer and more natural than a lot of acid greens you find. The first is a wooded walk along the side of the river, looking down to this spreading tree that hangs over the water. The second piece was sitting out on the beach proper with a view down the Skagit and off into the distance. I've drawn and painted versions of this view (from a few different angles) over the last several years, and it continues to sing to me.
The Sennelier sap green is lush and gorgeous, a little cooler and more opaque than the Windsor and Newton sap green that I've been used to. In fact, all of the colors are more opaque. This set feels like a step towards gouache. I've had fun playing with it, and I've enjoyed having a Paynes grey, which is a color I keep hearing about but have never used. I'm having trouble getting the dark richness that I can with my W&N set, though, and the light green in this one is more acidic than the warm green gold I have in my regular set. It's always good to try new things, and after feeling under the weather for several weeks, I wanted a new toy to jump start my sketching practice. I had real trouble getting up the energy to draw much of anything for a while there. This will be a neat set for keeping in a purse and being ready for on-the-go. I may try to get a tube of the green I like to add to my regular set, but at this point, I'm still a total fan of the professional grade Windsor and Newton watercolors.
I did finally get some depth in this last one, and I like how the colors bleed into each other. I also like that they dry faster than my W&N ones. I always thought that was more paper than paint, but these seem to dry more quickly instead of my having to carry an open book around for the next several minutes. But I'm still sticking with my main set for more formal work.
I also met a fantastic dog and got to love on him a bit, thanks to his person and my friend Charley. I am still deeply missing Mr. Darcy, and it's going to be a very long summer travel season before I'm able to get another dog. The longest I've gone in my adult life without a dog companion. So some dog love along the way means a great deal.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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