Y'all, I'm so excited. I've been head down working on this for six weeks or so. And it was amazing to be asked to do this. I had sent them my Greensward essay a couple of years ago, which found a quick home at Memphis Magazine, bless them. Then in late January, one of their newer editors was going back through old submissions, said she loved my style, and asked if I had any more stories to tell.
I've done over 30 sketches since we got a general direction in mid-February, and it's just about to go off to the copy editor and layout folks for approval. The last step will be for me to hand letter all the text to fit into the correct spaces, but I'm ahead of a pretty tight deadline. It's so good to know I can work this quickly when I need to. I'm still struggling with long Covid fatigue, and this has been the just the right project for this spring. It's all small enough to do sitting down and even in my lap on the sofa, but it's new and exciting and something to look forward to. So perfect.
...But this one a good friend's. My friend Melissa Bridgman, potter extraordinaire, and I share a birthday week. Last year she came down to my WAMA opening and celebrated with me there. So perfect. This year she brought me a beautiful plate. She has made urns for my two most recent dogs, which means so much. She lost a dog recently and has a new puppy, and after all her kindness when I lose dogs, I decided to do three small sketches of Ajax (now gone), Buddy, and the new puppy Sissy. It was such fun to go through her facebook dog photos and do these small, quick sketches.
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.
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