I'm still working pretty hard on the graphic essay, but I did a few sketches while waiting for the copy edits to come back. One of my favorite treats is a chocolate croissant from Lucy J's, so I drew out the enjoyment by sketching it. I also took a little time with the wildflowers in the Old Forest. The watercolor crayons overall were a little too candy bright for them, but it was fun to sit and sketch in the woods.
I put Henry in daycare today and did a twofer on local museums. I needed one really quiet day after getting in my final draft for the graphic essay, but then I was wanting to get out and see some great art, and we have wonderful shows up in Memphis right now.
The first was Harmonia Rosales at Brooks. Her show plays off of a lot of "Old Master" paintings and reimagines them to include heroines and mythologies rooted in West Africa. It is magic. I love painters with a strong sense of art history, and her cracking open those tropes to make room for the rest of the world is infectious and beautiful. She uses the gold of the Medieval icons and pairs it with the exuberant abundance of the Baroque, and she has a strong series of visual motifs that are meaningful and personal to her as a painter. It's a remarkable show.
I ran to the grocery and home for a sit down/have tea kind of lunch, and a bit after I went to Dixon. I love their show of American paintings. I've been three times now and have more pieces I want to go sketch, but today I worked from a huge landscape by Thomas Hill. I used watercolor crayons and inktense pencils since it's only dry media in the local museums. (I added paint to the Rosales copy when I got home while it was fresh -- I wanted that real golden feel to it.). That's limiting on colors and especially on skies, but it's so instructive to look at a painting long enough to replicate it and figure out how the artist made certain effects work.
The rain was holding off, and my favorite statue Ceres was surrounded by yellow daffodils and red tulips, so I did one more quick sketch before leaving. I love the graphic essay project, and it's wonderful to have someone want to publish you, but it's also fun to go make art purely for the joy of it on a day off. A perfect break.
and look at paintings I might otherwise have passed by, and I was so glad she could join me on the spur of the moment. I stayed behind to sketch a Grant Wood still life that I've fallen in love with. So unexpected from an artist I mostly know as the American Gothic dude. I love the curve and rich shadows behind the arrangement and the way the flowers reach right out of the frame. I could only use dry media (pencils and watercolor crayons without the water), but I had fun looking at it deeply enough to draw it even if I didn't quite match the lovely colors. (The photo also fails to do them justice.) I want to go back and sketch several more in this show as well.
Henry came home exhausted, as did I, so we snuggled into a fuzzy blanket and watched British tv and chatted with friends on the phone and knitted. A lovely birthday.
Memphis Urban Sketchers went to Overton Square this past Saturday. The sky was glorious, and a bunch of my favorite folks showed up. I love having community art making on my calendar on a regular basis.
I love drawing tea things, and I'm still having a ball using the watercolor crayons as a drawing base under paint. My go to is ink, but the crayons have a fun texture. We had a rainy morning a few days ago, so instead of rushing out to get Henry to his playgroup at the dog park, I sat and enjoyed my tea and did a sketch afterwards. This is my newest teapot, from Potsalot Pottery in New Orleans (though Alex comes up to do the craft fair in Memphis every fall and is one of my closest booth buddies). I love all of his work, but this piece particularly sang to me. He told me he'd studied Japanese potters to get the spout right, and it's a beautifully precise spout (hard to find in handmade pottery). It's paired with a tiny cream pitcher I found in a brocante in Paris and a midcentury Frankoma cup and saucer.
Quick downtown sketching trip
I was picking up a friend's kid at a downtown school yesterday and decided to go early and sketch the bridge. There's a pretty understated welcome center tucked at the bottom of the bluff with good parking and picnic tables for easy sketching. It was a fun stop on a gorgeous day. I did this big one in my larger sketchbook with watercolor crayons after doing a smaller, free standing version based in ink with paint on top.
Here was my superfast, interrupted sketch from the carpool line. It was fun to catch something quickly, and it was a good reminder that sketching instead of just sitting and looking at my phone is way happier.
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.
Dog park clouds
Now that it's warmer again, I'm trying to carry my sketchbook to the dog park more often. I found a new small bag with several zippered pockets at a thrift store recently, so I can store drawing things in there in a secure manner for the occasionally boisterous milieu of the dog park. It's nice to have something that can grab and go easily. This is done with the watercolor crayons again and some paint on top.
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.
The hyacinth really reached up and bloomed out today, so I decided to sketch it again. It really is fun in the new crayons (with a little paint on top).
Then (of course) I also sketched Henry. No water or paint, just black and light gray crayons.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Gideon and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: