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.
I'd seen a local photographer post about low water at McKellar Lake. Memphis is in a historic drought, and it's visually interesting. We'd stopped at Tunica River Park to see the levels there on our way down to Clarksdale. Friday we went to Martin Luther King, Jr. riverside park and checked out the marina. Everything was crazy low. I hung out and sketched a while and let others climb around more. Always my go to.
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.
I got totally behind here doing my first in person fair in 2 1/2 years not long ago. It was the 50th anniversary of the Pink Palace Crafts Fair. I got to sit out in person, see friends, talk art, and see people interact with my book P is for Possum. It's been out in public for almost two years now, but except for a couple of times in the museum store down at WAMA, I haven't see folks looking at it or enjoying it. I loved getting to tell the story of making it (hiding in the forest for the early pandemic with bright colors and a big fat marker and coming out with enough sketches for a book). And I loved watching kids looking at it.
BUT I'm running off this week to a small in-person pop up in St. Louis this Sunday evening, so I'm not going to dig out photos from PP right now. Instead, here are sketches from Urban Earth this past Saturday with the Memphis Urban Sketchers. We had a ball, and it's a visually neat place to roam around. It was also the first day of Inktober, so after my first watercolor sketch, I did a couple of quick ink ones to get the month started off right. I'm sketching almost daily, so at some point I'll scan more in to show here. But I have a house guest for the month and am also taking some vacation time, so this month especially I'm going to give myself some grace.
I had a wonderful dinner last night with two favorite art friends, plus Henry. Casablanca beautifully welcomes dogs on their patio, and they're always one of my favorite restaurants. We caught up and talked art and supplies and midlife sleep and travel and shows. It still, after the last couple of years, feels extra special to sit with people and share food and relax in public. It was extra celebratory last night with a birthday party near us. They nicely followed the kindergarten maxim of "bring enough for everyone if you're going to bring it at all" and shared cupcakes with everyone on the deck. Such kindness.
Henry had a ball and made about 15 new friends, especially the waiter who asked me to bring him back soon. We lingered and sketched as the evening lengthened. I was super happy with the Zinnies sketch. I often get too tight with my architecture, and this one was so fun to do. Less successful was my warm up sketch. I'm so out of practice on people that I did NOT do Christina any favors, and I felt bad about that. It's also odd spatially because I wanted both Henry and my friends, but it's a fun record of the evening for me to have in my memories. And I wanted to celebrate their yummy tea as well.
Memphis Urban Sketchers had our monthly meeting at the downtown farmers market. My regular one is in midtown, but it worked great to be at this one with the big metal canopy on a rainy day. There's a lot of architectural intricacy to that canopy, and I had only moderate energy for that, so I did quick sketches and just an impression of the building. It was perfect, though, to settle in with a couple of good art friends, catch up, and have a chocolate croissant (thank you, Christina!). I'm not much for meetings, but going out and actually drawing with people is so fun. Christina brought me a new green watercolor, and she tried one of my Lamy foutain pens. It was a great morning.
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.
National Dog Day is the best holiday on social media -- tons of sketches of dogs. I celebrated by taking Henry to the park for a long dog park session and forest walk, and I've spent the rest of the day working on my book about Mr. Darcy. His Gotcha Day was a few days ago, and Gideon's is tomorrow, so it's a dog-themed kind of week. I'm enjoying, in a still bittersweet kind of way, revisiting Mr. Darcy's photos to add some extra sketches to the book, but I also drew Henry on the sofa last night and am greatly enjoying his company these days. Dogs with their necessarily short lives, will break your heart, but they are so, so worth it.
Tower Grove Park is always one of my most inspiring places. It's one of a handful of places that has called to me immediately as an artist and keeps calling me back. I walked and sketched and picnicked and dreamed there last week. I've been on a huge work streak since I got home. I'm working on two new books now, with a third I'm dreaming on about Tower Grove itself, but it makes sense for me to do a Memphis one first. I've had requests for it and know the bookstores here. But sometime I may do a TGP one as well.
In the meantime, here are some of the sketches I did while both enjoying the park and mentally exploring the possibilities.
I took a mini break (as the Brits say) to St. Louis this past week. Tower Grove Park has been one of my very favorite places to sketch for years now, and I found a beguiling Airbnb right on the park. It was perfect. A small converted 1920's garage with bead board everywhere, the original doors sliding open and shut to reveal a small private patio, welcoming touches everywhere, and some really nice art. It's called the Rabbit Hole (and I've got a thing about rabbits anyway, location aside), and I will totally be going back.
My first stop, as always, was Ted Drewes frozen custard for my favorite Cindermint with hot fudge on top (not mixed in). I've had a ton of deadlines and commissions lately, and I let myself just do whatever felt good in the moment without scheduling anything. The only thing I was sure about (aside from spending a ton of time in the park as I felt like it) was visiting the St. Louis Art Museum for a contemporary print show. The collection was owned by Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and his artist wife Maryanne Simmons, and it was marvelous. Modern and edgy in places, with a huge variety of both styles and print media. So good to see a huge works on paper show.
I sketched not only in the park (the cypress tree in walnut ink below), but I did two sketches in the Rabbit Hole since I was enjoying the space so much. And, of course, a celebratory one at Ted Drewes.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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