After my Thanksgiving post, I went back to the forest to paint for the afternoon. It was an utterly gorgeous day, so I took my sit-on-the-ground camp chair and my journal as well as a couple of sketchbooks and spent the whole afternoon in the forest. It's been raining ever since, so I've been doing the non-photogenic indoor work of pulling prints and cleaning the house for my Open Studio Sale (Dec. 12-13, 12-5 both days).
It was largely a lovely afternoon, but there were a few bad minutes in the middle of it. I have known for years that going out into the world and settling on the ground with your things spread around you opens you up to whatever the universe chooses to send you that day. 99% of the time, it's wonderful. I've been brought cushions, invited in for tea, given a lap-full of tangerines, given art made my other people who loved to see what I was doing too, and I've met marvelous people on three continents. Occasionally it's a little dicey. You can't just walk away quickly from someone who's harassing a woman alone, as happens occasionally, when you've got your easel set up.
On Thanksgiving it was a dog issue. Mr. Darcy and I were well off the pedestrian road through the forest, painting out of the way, and he was settled at my side. A woman walking three large dogs drifted too close to us. Mr. D is more protective when I'm sitting and was growling, but I had him sitting right beside me. Then the three dogs swarmed him, towing their owner along with them, and I basically had a dog fight going on in my lap. I couldn't get Mr. D away because I was pinned on the ground (if I'd been up and walking it would have been ok), and it took the woman at least five tries to pull them off of us. Mr. D got a number of scratches, none bad, and I have a huge bruise turning purple on my shin, but we were very lucky. It could have been much uglier.
It was definitely a day I was grateful for the mentally balancing act of sketching. I had a half finished sketch (on now-bent paper, but still) to finish, and I'd gotten myself back to a better place by the time I was done. I stayed out, went deeper into the woods to get away from the holiday/Saturday dog owners who tend to be more incompetent handling their dogs than the daily park users, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. But it was one of those occasional reminders that making art can be a dicey enterprise.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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