I've been trying to relax in my life lately and be a little bit less of a workaholic. I also think it's good for me to go through periods where I work quickly and loosely. Printmaking is so exacting that I can carry that tightnessback into my painting as well. I find that there’s a sweet spot at the center of the spectrum between too tight and being too sloppy, and what I tend to do is swing back and forth across that line, over correcting one way or the other in almost every piece. It’s the classic Goldilocks search for “just right.”
When I started watercolors, I was afraid of doing “little old lady” watercolors, and I felt that the presence of a strong line made them more sketchy and vibrant and energetic, as well as giving them a different feel from the old fashioned, very precise watercolors. I have mostly stayed with that style, though my lines have often gone from black pen to lighter inks to pencil. But O’Keefe’s simple and vibrant watercolors use no lines at all and simply sing. So after looking up that work of hers, I decided to try a few of my own. I can’t ever get as ascetic and spare and reduced as her gorgeous work. I’m simply too much of a detail painter. But it’s been freeing to use to lines and all and just play with paint. Here are the first four. It’s raining today, as it has been for most of my visit, this being Washington in the late fall. So I’m working from some photos I took on the one beautiful day I got to go out and take a gentle walk (while still fighting a cold). Perhaps if the weather breaks again and I feel better, I can do some on site painting as well.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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