One of my big projects this year was the Oxford American graphic essay Memoir of a House. It's still on the new stands in the Summer issue, but once the Fall issue comes out, I'll be free to publish it as well. I'm expanding it just a little and making it into a book, which I plan to have out before Christmas. I'm adding in maybe a dozen more watercolors to go with the 30 that were in OA, with a few more tidbits about the history. One bit I'm adding is more of how I use my front room. It's always a gallery, but it has been known to double as a dance hall or a space for house concerts. The inimitable Joe Newberry played his songs and told his stories with Mr. Darcy lying at his feet, and I wanted a sketch of that moment for the book. I've also been known to have swing parties with a live band, as part of the local contra dance weekend we used to put on in town. It's been fun to revisit and expand this project a bit.
I'm so excited to be having a show with Melissa Bridgman again, our first since the pandemic started. Notice the new venue, at Melissa's studio, for those of you who have come to mine over the years.
First, though, this coming Saturday is the Tsunami Artist Market. A quick pop-up on Saturday morning, July 29 from 9-12. Come by the farmers market a couple of blocks away, the chef's market in front of Tsunami, and us in the side lot. A fun Saturday morning!
I've been working the last couple of months on a memoir about a life changing trip to Greece that followed my divorce in 2003. I wrote the first draft while I was out west, knowing I would need to come home to my journals for more detail, but wanting to get an overall framework in place. I dug out various journals from that year and was delighted to discover more sketches and photos from my trip than I had remembered doing. Sometimes your past self leaves a surprise present for the future. Today after doing some prose work I scanned in the drawings and some of my photos as well. This book, if it ever gets that far, won't be a graphic book with every sentence corresponding to a drawing or two, but it will be illustrated. It's fun to play with a whole new kind of project for me, but I'm also enjoying revisiting these super quick pencil sketches I did on the fly around Athens. Mostly ruins (Parthenon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus) but also a quick one of my neighborhood market in the Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi.
I wrote in my last post that I like the shape and impact of my bigger summer sketchbook, but I also find it deters me from picking it up sometimes, just because it feels like a big commitment to cover that larger real estate. So I started a new smaller 5.5" sketchbook too. It's by Handbook, and I really like the size, the landscape shape when it's opened out, and the pocket at the back for tickets and other ephemera.
A facebook memory came up of one of my tiny oils on this plate by Melissa Bridgman. It had a dark background and a different feel, but it made me think about cherries and her pottery and what a satisfying combination that is. So a good first sketch for a new sketchbook. Below is the oil that made me want to revisit the subject. Beautifully it now hangs in Melissa's kitchen.
It was a perfect summer morning yesterday. I know the news has been all about how summer is now apocalyptic and not a happy season, which made it feel all the more necessary to get out and enjoy it. I dropped Henry at daycare for the day to be able to go to the sale at the Woodruff Fontaine House museum, and I sketched early, waiting for them to open. In the best possible scenario, I came away with a sketch but no more stuff for my house.
I decided to treat myself to an art day, so I headed on to the Metal Museum from there, since I was already downtown. They have a brand new show up I wanted to see, and I saw an artist friend working in the gift shop and had a wonderful natter about shows, framing, and all the nitty gritty. I sat out in the wrought iron pavilion and sketched the bridge and river. By then I was hungry, and I drove to South Main. The Arcade had tables outside (I'm still not eating indoors with a ton of strangers), so I got some sweet potato pancakes and did one more sketch of their nifty, old school sign.
This summer sketchbook is much bigger than I'm used to, and it takes more time and paint to cover. It's fun, and I'm enjoying the shape more than I thought I would, but I also find myself less excited about picking it up because of the investment once I get going. I'll probably move back to my normal one after, but it's fun to do different things for a season and challenge myself.
Henry wore himself out at daycare as much as I wore myself out running around, so we had a heavy nap on the couch in the later afternoon before dinner and baseball. A pretty perfect summer day.
My sister was in town all week, which is always both a delight and a whirlwind, so I just blocked off the week for family stuff. We had a ball. And she came through with her movie quote oracle cards she's been making off and on since her teens. A friend has opened a store that leans heavily into both oracle and tarot cards, and I'm always intrigued by the artistry. All of this reminded me of my "full deck year" project of my own set of cards, personal motifs and nudges, that I had started last summer. I always do one off the wall project over the summer just for me. It's my slow period, and it's good to play. And then I allow myself to fizzle on it when it is no longer serving me. So I managed eight last year and shelved things. This week I did a 9th. We'll see if I pick up any steam again or just enjoy the reminder and memories invoked by this one of the two of us with Dad. Below is the batch from last year.
Memphis Urban Sketchers met inside at Crosstown Concourse to beat the heat on Saturday. It was great to see friends and hang out sketching, and Henry behaved himself beautifully. I did the big overview first and then realized we had another 45 minutes or so and did a quicker sketch of French Truck Coffee toward the end. I get overwhelmed with all the angles and levels every time, and all the planes don't quite match up right, but I was pleased with the overall impression.
I stopped in St. Louis on my way home and spent a couple of days seeing friends, resting up, and doing a little sketching. I started the morning in Tower Grove Park with a field of small sunflowers, painted daisies and a strawberry rhubarb tart, and (of course) Ted Drewes. My favorite stop and such a funky, old time place to draw.
I've been working on two different book projects during my time out west and barely even sketching. Today I went for a walk in my favorite state park out here and took my sketchbook along and enjoyed doing a couple of quirkish sketches. Dip pen with a light green ink and watercolor on top. The line almost disappeared in the paint, but I'm reasonably pleased with both of them, and they were fun to do on a gorgeous day. It's been raining and freezing for a week, so the book projects were perfect for that stretch. Today called for sketching.
The second page is two restaurant patio sketches. The top is in one of my new favorite inks. It's a waterproof fog grey from DeAtramentis. I've had the best time using it for simple sketches with a watercolor marker for some fast tone. I've found that it's dark line that doesn't move at all, though, makes me feel like I'm using a coloring book when I put full paint on top of it. A ton of sketchers do waterproof ink and paint, but I find that I still like an ink that will melt a little and swirl with the paint. The second sketch (as well as the top one) is Diamine's warm, springlike green (either Leaf green or Spring green, I can't remember which), and I'm much happier with that effect.
Vacation is definitely for trying new things, though, so mission accomplished on all fronts!
Heres a small video of that beach and river confluence, just to share the beauty.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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