A Trip to Memphis

I went to Memphis, my hometown, for the month September, 2016, with a sketchbook and a commitment to do a lot of drawings.  I’d hoped to draw all my friends, but instead drew whatever struck my fancy.

Keeping a visual journal isn’t always as accurate or even as chronological as taking photographs, but it’s more fun.  I used a Canson XL sketchbook, a set of watercolors, pencils, sharpie and various colored ink pens.  Several of the drawings became paintings and I had to finish them up when I returned to my home-base in Portland, Oregon.

I worked on the journal title page as the month went by:


I picked up a ginkgo leaf in the Cooper Young area of mid-town Memphis.  On that same day, writer Julius Lester posted a quote of the day on his facebook page that seemed appropriate.  I taped the ginkgo leaf in my journal and then painted it.


The first full day there, my Memphis sister-friend and host Judy took me to see the play The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, presented by the Hattiloo Theatre, staring Samantha Lynn Miller.  I was immediately submersed  in Delta music and culture in the best way possible.  I drew and painted this portrait of Bessie Smith from the photograph of her on the program:




I celebrated my birthday in September, and a dear friend got me a small box of truffles from the famed chocolatier Phillip Ashley, as well as macaroons — little tastes of heaven.


I got to Memphis in time for the Mid-South Festival of the Book.  It opened with a wonderful mixed art event, Words Matter, that combines, literature, dance, and visual art.  I saw a bass player in a red cape, I later learned he was the musician Juju Bushman.  In my imagination and in my journal I just painted him as the bringer of delight:


For the weekend, I was overwhelmed by how many great writers I needed to read.  My notes from one of the panels:





I got a special treat when Mary Jo Karimnia took me to see her show, Folds, at the Dixon Gallery in Memphis.  She’s a moving force in the Memphis art scene and is part of the exciting Crosstown Arts community that is developing creative programs, and breaking down barriers in the arts.  She was the one friend I got to draw — I got her permission to post my bad drawing of her — I hope I captured her color and energy and humor:


She let me go to her studio, and I was able to spend some time copying one of her designs for paintings that she’s doing that combine origami, painting and seed beads.


You can check out more of her art here.


I got to cat sit two lovely and formidable kitties while Judy traveled:



Judy has a great collection of art and African masks.  I got a chance to capture 3 of them:




I also painted this serene sculpture I’ve loved for years by Lester Jones, a Raku artist, from Bartlett, Tennessee:


My friend Judith brought me a bouquet of basil and zinnias.  She rode over on a bike, and used green tomatoes from the University of Memphis community garden to weigh down the bouquet in the vase:



Judy inherited a blue metal porch chair from a friend in New Orleans who was moving.  Her porch is a perfect place for it to land:


I decided to make porch a verb.  I spent a lot of time reading and porching:



It was a great trip.  One of the things I had to do while I was there, was sort out some emotions over my recent divorce.  Even when a divorce is the best thing, it changes your identity and you have to figure out who you are again.  I had a few days of depression and some cathartic crying.  After that, I was rewarded with a big sinus headache:


But then, with fresh eyes, I looked at all the wonder around me, all the good friends — all the art, color, and stories — and I felt better:


So now I’m back in Portland, the rainy and reading season is starting.  It’s time to start up my blog again.  Expect lots of book reviews, thoughts on art, and slices of life.

Thanks for reading!



15 thoughts on “A Trip to Memphis

  1. Joy, this was such a joy to read and a beautiful visual journey. Thank you for your sharing and I’m looking forward to more.

  2. Joy, this was a really lovely read, made all the more so by the fact we recently visited Memphis during our road trip on Route 66 (took a bit of a detour to take in Nashville and Memphis!) We both loved Memphis, it’s a beautiful city and it was lovely to read about your trip back tho your home town and the wonderful sketches of the things you saw and experienced.

    1. I’m so glad you got to visit Memphis! It’s rich in culture and oak trees. I got a little overwhelmed by things I could have drawn but my collection of sketches made me happy.

  3. Joy I really loved this blog, I have put your blog on my “favourites”, so I don’t miss any more. I love the way that you have chronicled your time in Memphis, you are such a talented writer and artist. Healing thoughts and love to you my friend, blessings and love Sue 💗xx

  4. So glad you worked through your transition and your journal is absolutely wonderful ~ I love all of your sketches ,sharings and thoughts ~ my favorite sketch I think is of the beautiful cat Desdemona ~ her face is divine ~ Divorce is a type of death and as you wrote ~ you had to find a new identity ~ change, transition is all painful and hope you are doing fine or at least on the mend further ~ Trip seemed to help ~ certainly brought out your wonderful creativity ~ thanks for sharing ~

    Wishing you a Happy Weekend ~ ^_^

    1. Thanks so much. I’m so glad sketching and art are in my life and help me process all these transitions. I had hoped I’d captured Desdemona’s divinity!

  5. Oh how amazing this is. I love how you were inspired by everything around you and made it a part of your art! I enjoyed seeing Memphis through your art.

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