The story of Emily Sutton was fascinating (and sad) to me. She owned a bordello, and her madam name was Fanny Walker. When the yellow fever epidemic hit Memphis like a brick in the 1870's, she turned her bordello into a hospital and nursed sick patients until she died, while many prosperous people fled the city instead. She was buried at Elmwood with a lovely marker, but the judgemental patriarchal society added not one, not two, but THREE large boundary stones with her madam name in large letters so no one would forget that she was "only" a prostitute. Jerks. You can see Gideon resting his chin on one of those while I sketched her.
My last sketch with the sketchers (Gideon was with me a different day for Emily) was a rapid walnut ink sketch with a dip pen back at the meet-up site waiting for everyone to gather. I'm really enjoying my dip pen lately. And the walnut ink.
Here is the final batch of sketches from my opening weekend at Walter Anderson Museum of Art. Beautifully my family stayed Wednesday to Monday, so I had some lovely long days to both visit and sketch. (My sister did say that if I'd had a show in, say, Omaha, they might not have stayed as long, but she was delighted to have most of a week at the coast.) Above is a quick post-sunset sketch done in the half dark that I'm not making a print from.
Next is the dinner I had with two artist friends. It was Melissa's actual birthday, but we pooled our celebrations and had a wonderful time catching up and talking about the business of having an art life, navigating self employment, keeping some time for yourself, taxes, and all the fun stuff... But I love talking to other creatives, and it was a wonderful evening that set the tone for the whole week. I also love being out with other people who pull their sketchbooks out with joy and abandon.
Next I noticed the moon walking home from dinner with the family a different evening. I was transfixed, grabbed my sketching stuff, and did this quick piece with a fat, water-soluble graphite crayon and some watercolor on top in near darkness. Hence the simple colors.
Finally the last day, my sister, her husband, and I cycled out the coast road to the Davis Natural Area. We took a breather at a picnic table right on the shore. I love that trees are right along the water line in so many places. Two of my favorite things. We poked around, did a shortish hike, and I made one more visit to the museum before heading home.
My deadline for the last two years happened yesterday when I dropped off art at WAMA. I was delighted to see this sign waiting by the gallery slated for my show. It was huge just to unload the car and see the work here.
I celebrated by going down to the water, wading and sketching on the beach, and having a little actual gulf coast king cake. I always try the Memphis versions and am always disappointed. Driving down here this time of year is a big treat. Here are a few images from yesterday.
I’m having a slow morning today and will go to the museum later to help lay out the graphic essay for the small secondary show.
I took a whole day off today and spent the whole day outside. It was glorious. Mid 50's, but sunny and calm, so it was really delightful to be outdoors. I walked Gideon, shopped at the farmers market, walked Gideon, went to Dixon, and walked Gideon again, taking a nice long, poking-around-in-the-forest kind of walk at the end of the day.
Dixon was great. I met up with two of my favorite sketcher friends. We drew for ages and talked in the sunshine, ran into the cafe to get lunch to go, and sat at an outside table, drinking in the sunshine, talking art, cats, dogs, more art, balancing jobs and life, travel, cats again, art again. It was so deeply good. I've really had my head down working to frame and get final prints for the show ever since new year's. It was wonderful to sit in the sun with friends for a long, unhurried time.
I've been enjoying warm days again lately. A couple of times I've worked in the morning (good light on my work table for framing) and then taken off for the afternoon to go to the farm. The daffodils have started blooming, and I love bringing home a big bunch of sunshine. It's a little bittersweet this year to be without Mr. Darcy. We came so much last year for his last season, taking the time to enjoy ourselves together in his favorite place. Gideon is a doll and hilarious, but he and I don't have the history and emotional depth that I had with Mr. Darcy.
On the up side, we're making progress at the farm growing Gideon into an art dog. He usually just swarms me if I sit on the ground, so I've had to tether him to a picnic table at the park and then sit on top of it to sketch. At the farm, there is SO MUCH to smell and explore and get into that he's managed to poke around and let me sit on the ground to draw two times now. Both times he's come eventually to lie beside me but has let me finish the sketch. I hope that familiarity with this routine will add up and eventually transfer into city drawing too. Although the other big wild card will be people and dogs. He gets frenetically excited to see anyone, which will be a challenge if I have all my drawing stuff out. But it's been a nice start.
I haven't sketched outside the last week since Memphis has been living through an ice storm and some pretty cold weather, but here are the last couple of park sketches I did last week before the weather moved in. Hopefully we'll have some nice sketching weather again soon. I know others are more hardcore than I am about sketching outdoors in the cold, but I love summer and the South and have been enjoying my indoor work on my upcoming show while it's been frigid out. Plus we had limbs falling for a couple of days followed by ice raining down from the trees once it started to melt. I'm ok giving myself a pass on all of that.
The weather has been glorious this week -- 60's and sunny in midwinter. I'm framing each morning, as the sun hits my east facing work table. With full sunlight I can see each small speck and dog hair (!) trying to sneak into the frame. It's time consuming and exacting work, and I'm doing two or three a day. But then I'm doing my best to get outside, revel in the sunshine with my joyful dog, and get my hand back in at sketching from life. It feels great. Gideon and I are walking over to the park (four blocks away) several times each day, and I'm taking the sketching bag on most of those trips just now. He's still a puppy and swarms me if I sit on the ground to sketch, but if I can snag a picnic table to tether his leash to, I can paint on top out of his reach. He can then poke around and amuse himself for a while. It's not ideal, but it's a workable compromise, and we've both really enjoyed our park time this week.
I took advantage of another medium nice day and sketched again in the forest. Just a quick one with walnut ink and the dip pen plus watercolor. I enjoyed the dancing shape of this log. Mostly I'm framing just now, but I'm trying to seize the decent days in the cold part of winter to draw a little outside on my walk.
I have been mostly down a rabbit hole all week working on the museum catalog for my show at WAMA, but I did take breaks to go to the park (a dog is excellent for reminding you), and I took my sketchbook over several times as well when the sun was out. It's good to sit outside and sketch in the middle of winter when the weather allows. I've been using the Inktense pencils again lately and really enjoying the texture. The skies are all pure paint.
I picked up frames and the first round of glass. I'm going to frame along the way and try to do it in stages, letting me do a little creative work as I go too. It's good to keep the juices flowing. If I spend several weeks doing only show prep, I really miss drawing or painting by the time I'm done. I'm starting a little earlier and trying to pace myself. The last minute catalog was an unexpected time drain, but I'm really excited about how it's coming out, and I'll love having one to mark this show.
I’ve been working on the show this past week instead of making a lot of art from scratch (getting final copies of prints, putting together a catalog, gathering framing supplies), but I took a day off yesterday. It was chilly in the morning, so I cooked up a farmers market stew for the week, but the sun came out after lunch. I decided to head to the park and enjoy the nice weather. I took my Inktense pencils along with my paint set. I’ve been forgetting to use them lately, and it was fun to get them back out. I did one piece in the heart of the forest and another of the sky over the Greensward as I headed home. It felt so good to sit in the sun and sketch for a little while.
I also scanned in a couple of others from New Years Eve. It was another glorious day that day, so I took Gideon out to the farm and then had dinner on my screened in porch that evening. I had fun sketching both occasions to celebrate the end of one year and usher in a new one right.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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