I'm ruminating on a trip I took to New York three years ago today. It was three days on my own, an "intense art immersion to help get my painting mojo back." I wrote in my blog about the painting slump I was having, and my goals for the trip (here, here, and here).
At the time I was working on a series of oil paintings about places and memory that I called The Memory Disease. The trip helped it along - I made small black and white paintings when I returned. But at the time I didn't know that within two months we would be initiating the process to sell our house and buy another, disrupting my art-making for months. I also didn't know that a year later I would make the decision to take a break from oil painting and abandon that series altogether.
But now, after a year and a half of working on small ink, watercolor, and gouache paintings (Story of Travel and Small Worlds), and creating a story told in images and rendered in ink (Story of a Girl), I am back at oils working on a new series I'm calling Place Shapes (for now).
I decided to look back at my sketchbook from August 2015 to see my notes about the art I was seeing. What I thought might help me in the studio then could also be helpful to me now.
,But when I looked at it I realized how much of what I saw and experienced there lives with me still, even after abandoning the series that was giving me problems, even going through different ways of working in the studio.
Jacob Lawrences' Migration Series is still a narrative without text and slightly abstracted, flattened out, graphic, with a focus on shapes, and all of that lives in the place where I keep my art knowledge. The thing I bring to the studio other than the intrinsic drive - the thinking and looking and talking and writing - has been been a focus since my dinner and talk with Paul Behnke and Robin Stout (predates that - they got me refocused). The Moroccans by Matisse is still a justification and a goal for every new thing I want to try. Sargent's balance of loose and tight, detailed and not lives in my veins. And the 8th floor terrace at the Whitney is my happy place.
A few sketches of the Clark Tower from this year. I have several more, but I need to do a lot of scanning!
My husband returned to school this summer and he's just about finished with this semester. It's been a big change around our house - more talk about papers and quizzes than we've had since 1998 when I graduated from University of Memphis. I accompanied Toby to U of M before the semester started so that he could take a CLEP test and I could sketch.
Later that day I sat with him while he got another tattoo, and for the first time I sketched his other tattoos.
Today someone reminded me that Sketchwork is about sketching! So here are some sketches.
These are from April when I lead the Saturday Sketching at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. It was a little cold and a little rainy, but very crowded because there was a flower show going on. Which was lucky for us because we still got to sketch green stuff while staying inside!
I'm leading another Sketching Saturday next week, August 11, at 10:00 AM (here's more info). I hope you'll join me!
And here's a sketch from June - one day when I wandered over to the gardens for lunch.
I'm getting ready to do a lot of travel sketching - going to Portland, ME, for a quick weekend with a high school BFF for The Most Amazing Weekend Ever. Her daughters and husband are out of town so we are planning on bookstores, pretty scenery, and Melissa McCarthy movies. And for me, sketching!
After that, heading to Porto, Portugal for the 2018 Urban Sketchers Symposium! I plan to post about the sketching supplies I'm taking before I go, so keep a lookout for that.
All of this summer travel has me thinking about last summer when my sister and I went to New York together for the second time - our first time to go together was 2012.
We stayed in Lower Manhattan and got to have a very late lunch at Les Halles. Thankfully, since apparently it's closed now.
I made Katherine go shopping at Uniqlo, then took her to Boqueria to make up for it.
Katherine and I sketched together on the High Line. It was SO MUCH FUN.
I really like going to museums with my sister. She pays close attention but is always ready to be silly.
Always tough to say goodbye after a fun trip, but we plan to go back to NYC together in a few years.
I hadn't gotten around to posting my sketches from the March for Our Lives on March 24. I went with a group of friends and we all marched and we all cried as kids at the rally after the march talked about their experiences with gun violence.
'This was mostly the same group of people I attended the Women's March with in January of 2017. Since November of 2016 I've attended more marches, signed more petitions, made more calls to elected officials, and given more money to political causes than I ever thought I would.
And that all means that I am the problem. I should have been doing all of that all along. I should have paid attention. But I had the privilege not to.
I'm certainly paying attention now. Baby jails and racist policies and all of the other insanity makes it hard not to.
Monday I attended the Border Action Meeting to Support Asylum Seekers organized by Indivisible Memphis and hosted at Shady Grove Presbyterian.
The event was pretty amazing because it was organized by regular people. Indivisible Memphis is (to my understanding) a loose affiliation of people with similar goals for our community. Official organizations such as Latino Memphis and the Community Legal Center were there giving us real information - and asking for donations, which I encourage, too. But the people who attended were young and old people, black and white and Jewish and Christian and Muslim - who are all fed up and want to do something.
We talked about raising funds for commissary accounts for detainees, helping the families left behind when people are detained, helping local family sponsors. Some people volunteered to sponsor families seeking asylum. Some people started planning trips to the border and to detention facilities.
One of the things that a lot of us did was attend the Families Belong Together Memphis Action Rally today at Gaisman Park. There were hundreds of people there - fitting the description of the previous crowd - all there in support of our neighbors who are getting hauled off by ICE, separated from their families, terrorized.
There is so much more to be done so let's keep this momentum going.
Lately I've been thinking that I need more greens in my sketch kit to handle the crazy amount of green we have in this city, and eventually settled on mixing a few. Then the next time I sketched a tree I just used pen.
About once a week I make beans in the slow cooker. It's so easy, and they are so delicious. We like to eat them for breakfast with fried eggs on top and a dash of hot sauce.
Here's how to make them - but don't do what I did last night and reach for the oregano to add a couple of shakes only to accidentally grab and pour in some basil. They were still good, though. This is a hard recipe to mess up.
(Ink and watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series.)
6/30/18 Edit: Hopefully made it clearer that you can add one or two chipotle in adobo PEPPERS - I'm afraid it looked like you were supposed to add one or two cans.
My May was taken up with classes. I took a studio practice/critique class from Hamlett Dobbins at Flicker Street Studio for five weeks, and taught Painterly Sketching there for two weeks, then in June taught a workshop, Sketching Outside In.
I signed up for Hamlett's class because I felt like my studio practice needed a jump start or a reboot or something. After taking a break from oil paint and focusing on watercolor and ink last year, I'm ready to work with oils again but didn't want to fall into the same rut with it. And I needed to figure out how to focus on a new artwork story - what narrative will I be following to create new paintings?
So I took this class hoping for some real answers about how to figure out what to do and how to do it.
But of course no one can tell me that but myself.
But Hamlett showed us work by other artists and talked about how they work and why, and the other students in the class talked about why and how they were making their work (Mary K VanGieson's crocheted saw, below), and it got me set on some heavy thinking about what I want to work on and why I want to work on it.
Fortunately I did find answers for both of those and I completed some tasks to help me start to work on some new paintings, such as rearranging my studio so that my easel has its own spot, cleaning off my table, and making sure my paints are within easy reach. I also established "studio colors" - the colors that I have become accustomed to working with in watercolor. I shored up my oil paint supply and my gouache supply so that I don't have to change my paint-mixing routines when I'm working in a different medium. I made a chart of the studio colors with oil paints - each color mixed with each other color (below). I decided to break my own rule about mixing all of my colors from warm and cool reds, yellows, and blues.
So I was all set to go, then I had my own class to teach - Sketching Outside In - missing a couple more studio nights. But that’s okay, because I was able to do several sketches for demos. It was also a very small class, which gave me time to do some sketching while the class sketched.
These are demos that I sketched in pen at the Botanic Gardens, and painted with watercolor in class.
And these are sketches I made in class, when we went outside to sketch, then came inside to add color and to sketch food. It is a very practical approach for sketching in the Memphis summer heat!
Scenes from a sketching dinner with fellow sketchers Martha Kelly and Christina Huntington. These sketches got wet and smudged a few days later when I was sketching in the rain - it happens!