This hand painted thistle stoneware was our everyday set when I was a kid. My mom graduated from the University of Edinburgh and loved all things Scotland, especially if they had thistles. My dad has some of it out at the family farm, but I haven't had any pieces. My favorite antique store here is run by an Englishwoman who also likes tea properly presented (teapot, cup and saucer, pretty small spoon). She had this cream and sugar set in her shop, and I was delighted. We always just had mugs growing up, never tea cups. I asked if there were any teacups also, and she kindly rummaged around at home and found a couple on a shelf she wasn't using and let me have my pick. It's been so special to use these this summer and think of Mom and flash back to really happy childhood times before she got sick. Such a gift. I did a sketch page to remember. I also found this teapot in Eastern Washington as I was driving across. It perfectly takes my new tea infuser, so I've used it a lot this summer.
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.
I've been doing more landscapes than anything else lately (which are always the primary draw for me), but I've done a handful of smaller scale, daily life sketches lately, and I really enjoy them as well. Here's a round up from the last month, since they haven't been fitting thematically into the posts I've made lately. I always enjoy opening sketchbooks back up later and remembering a favorite luncheon, a date at an ice cream parlor, or an especially yummy dessert.
Or even a medical check up...
And my very favorite -- Belgian torte from a dessert shop I had tried two years ago up in Bellingham on a day out up there. I was delighted that the place had made it through the pandemic. The torte was at least as good as I had remembered.
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've been doing some print work here, but it took me a while to get sketching again much because I was under the weather for a while. One of the early outings was a drive up most of the way on Sauk Mountain, stopping at a small avalanche fall and walking and sketching. I'd missed the trillium here down on the valley floor, but (unlike the flatlands of the Delta landscape) you can change seasons by driving a few miles straight up. So we drove back into trillium for me to enjoy them and have a gentle walk. It was glorious.
The trillium are very different from the wake robin kind we have in west Tennessee. They're huge for one thing, but they change colors as they age. They progress from white when they're new blossoms into a pink a bit later, and in old age they go a dark orchid color. It's a spectacular transition to watch, and it makes for a fun range of drawing too.
As always, I was also drawn to the trees and did this sketch of the alders hugging the edge of an embankment with their roots.
It felt grand to be sketching again, so I have more to scan and post in the coming days when I can manage a little computer time on a borrowed machine.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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