Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Lost Along the Way

"TWA" ©MaryMontagueSikes

Somehow, this year, I have become lost along the way in my life and I haven't posted on my blog. The words have not come. I have not been inspired to share my thoughts, although there are many.

In the past, we have been devoted travelers. All my adult life, I have traveled and have often lived looking forward to the next travel adventure. In the past several decades, we usually have had at least four trips a year. The Covid-19 pandemic changed all of that.

Little did we know in early March 2020, when we returned from our annual baseball spring training trip to Jupiter, Florida, that we would not get on an airplane again for another two years.

When we boarded our flight on February 28, 2022, it felt strange to walk up the Jetway. Wearing our masks on two flights seemed strange as well, but we did it. On one of our flights when we landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, I looked out the window and thought we might have gone back in time because a plane was parked at one of the gates with TWA on its tail. That was our favorite airline until it disappeared years ago!

Last October, I spent many hours on the phone and on the computer purchasing and printing tickets for seven St. Louis Cardinals baseball games and for parking for each one. As we traveled, we were excited and hopeful for seeing all of them. But then the lockout continued, and with each passing day, hope dwindled. However, we went to Roger Dean Stadium most days for two weeks. 

We watched John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, as he watched the minor leaguers practice. I saw him get the call probably telling him the major league lockout was over. We were excited to see Jordan Walker, a promising young prospect, hit. We watched other prospects, like Luken Baker and Nolan Gorman, practice. We loved being on the back fields again, being let in without having to get checked as we were in 2020. It was refreshing and exciting. 

My husband chatted with players in the outfield and was tossed a practice ball while waiting by our rental car. Our daughter, Allison, took photos on each of the four fenced fields where the minor league practiced each day. Both of them prefer the back fields to the actual spring training games.

It was not until our final day in Jupiter that the major league players returned. We are home now and watching the games at Roger Dean Stadium from the convenience and comfort of our own TV room.

Perhaps I am no longer lost.

"John Mozeliak Watching" ©MMSikes

"Pitchers Wear White" ©MMSikes

"Nolan Gorman Interview" ©MMSikes

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Invictus, My Thoughts for the New Year

©Mary Montague Sikes

 Last week, when I unsealed a lovely card from a friend, a special little paper fell out. On it was printed the words of the poem, "Invictus", written in 1849 by William Ernest Henley. Receiving this small treasure was like opening a door to another dimension and retrieving a message.

The poem was from the papers of the late Dr. Joseph Costa, our friend and my mentor in the field of spirituality. We met Joe many years ago after we heard a radio announcement about a program he was presenting in San Diego. That day we were on vacation, driving from an airport to Palm Springs, California, and somehow that message reached us and drew us into Joe's world.

Connecting with Dr. Costa was a life-changing event. We learned so much and so did Joe when he visited us in our home all the way across the country. He presented programs here and explored the Edgar Cayce facilities in Virginia Beach. One day, he stood behind me at my computer and inspired me to get in touch with the angels.

Years later, we listened to Joe as he spoke to a group about his Alaska adventures when he visited there, many years alone, for a month each August. That remote landscape refurbished him. He was special, full of knowledge that he willingly shared, in person and in the many books that he wrote. 

Having the poem, "Invictus" from Joe's personal things means a great deal to me. Invictus is a Latin word, meaning unconquerable or undefeated. The poem is about facing death with courage.

As I read the last two lines of "Invictus" I felt chills. "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." 

How many times did I listen to my mother reciting those lines? It was as though she, too, was reaching out to me.

For several weeks, I have been pondering words for the New Year.

"I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul."

Those are the words.

Happy New Year!

(Take a look at the painting. It is the detail of a small oil/cold wax that I created intuitively. It seems appropriate to accompany this blog.)    


Friday, December 17, 2021

Magical Enchanted Cards

 About six years ago, I created a series of long narrow paintings, using intense Robert Doak watercolors on heavy weight Yupo. I then cut the paintings into 4" x 6" cards and put them in a plastic envelope. 

That summer, our annual national parks trip was a week-long excursion to Shenandoah National Park. Since the destination was only a few hours away, we drove our car and I had plenty of space to carry what I wanted which included my new cards.

At night, I would spread my little paintings on a sofa in the spacious Massanutten condo we were renting. The images on the cards "spoke" to me in magical ways. I made up names for many of them, and poetry came for each image I named. The graceful swirls of paint revealed hidden secrets and angelic hideaways.

These cards had potential. The touch of them led me into a world of dreams and idealistic thoughts.

This is one of the starlit verses that came to me as I listened to the sounds and the memories of the mountains in old Shenandoah.

The forever stars gleam down on us

And I see a magic rug appear.

Tiny images sail like moonbeams

And messages flash in starlight. 

When we left the park, I zipped the colorful little images up in their bag and put them away until April of this year when I pulled them out to show my publisher. The cards are enchanted, I thought, but I didn't tell her that. Perhaps she discovered their magic for herself when she created a captivating design for many of them

We have a group of 10 cards now that are formatted as special cards for meditation or affirmation. Some of them are available at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, at A Touch of Earth in Williamsburg, and at Gloucester Arts on Main in Gloucester.

Who knows where these cards will show up next? Perhaps in a box for meditation. They have taken on a life of their own, seeking their own place in the sun.

Mary Montague Sikes

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Artist Workshops, What Value Are They?


"Traveling with Monet" ©MMSikes demo piece

It was the late 1990s when I received a phone call from Jan Ledbetter, an artist friend I met as a member of Richmond Pen Women. She invited me to attend a workshop being taught in Williamsburg by Florida artist Mary Alice Braukman. I was uncertain what to say. Since I had earned my MFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University, I hadn't really thought about taking, or needing to take, a workshop. How wrong I was about that.

I owe Jan Ledbetter a debt of gratitude for calling me that day. The week-long (I think) workshop was wonderful. This was where I first used Yupo, a painting surface I love to this day. Mary Alice was a marvelous, caring instructor, and I met so many other artists.

In 2003, I discovered the amazing workshop program at Cheap Joe's in Boone, NC. Until the pandemic, they had workshops every week from April through October. I tried to take one workshop there each year. It was where I discovered Mary Ann Beckwith and her use of the intense Robert Doak watercolors on Yupo. I met Robert Burridge there, Pat Dews, Kathleen Conover, Janet Rogers, and so many other exciting instructors.

In Sedona AZ, I found the Sedona Art Center and more outstanding workshops. There, I had the opportunity to meet and take workshops with Jan Sitts and Claudia Hartley.

Back in Virginia, I discovered cold wax and oil in workshops with Lisa Boardwine. That material and process of painting has greatly influenced my work.

Besides taking workshops, I enjoy teaching them. Not long ago, I taught a cold wax and oil workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main. The materials in this workshop can transform the way you paint and how you approach each new work you make.

Next spring, March 22, 23, 24, 1 to 4 p.m., I will be teaching another oil/cold wax workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main. It's called "Bringing in the Magic", and it is surely a class filled with joy and magic.

After the holidays, on January 7, I'll be teaching my "Paint Like Georgia (O'Keeffe)" acrylics class for Arts Alive at West Point United Methodist Church.

It has been a long and fruitful journey through many workshops since that very first one years ago. I hope future months and years will bring as much joy as I have already found meeting many talented artists and teachers along the way.        

Friday, August 20, 2021

Painting and Sculpture, Loving Both to Make Art


Vermont Marble ©MMSikes

While studying in the Studio Art Department at the College of William & Mary, I fell in love with both sculpture and painting with acrylics. Back then, I met Thomas Thorne who was a proud graduate of Yale University and talked often of his days there. “Dr.” Thorne was especially enamored with thick, juicy acrylic paints that were fairly new at the time. The results when working on stretched canvas were somewhat similar to using oil paints. Dr. Thorne was excited and encouraged me to learn as much about them as I could. Although he was brusque, he took an interest in me and suggested books that I bought and that remain in my art library today.

"Mother and Child"
 I was enrolled in the college and, instead of signing up for regularly scheduled art classes, I took studio art each semester. My class could be studio painting, studio sculpture, studio printmaking, etc. It was art heaven for me, so I took two studio classes each semester, painting and sculpture.

I’m not sure what drew me to sculpture at W&M except I enjoyed ceramics classes and working in three-dimension. I was happy to get to know Carl Roseburg who was an amazing instructor. In his classes, I learned to create busts using plaster casts over the Plasticine clay that I had sculpted. I also learned how to weld metal support systems to use for building up cement sculptures. The sculpture, "Mother and Child", is 5 1/2 feet tall and is among my most prized art collection.

While at William & Mary, I worked with Vermont marble for many months, sculpting an abstract piece, using the subtraction process. I discovered how to work with chisels and files. During my research, I was especially influenced by British sculptor Henry Moore which is especially noticeable in the blocky forms I created with Keene's cement.

Eventually, I realized the difficulties that came with making sculpture. Most of it, I could not move by myself. It was awkward to keep and store. Although I have sometimes carved Montana talc and worked with Celuclay, I decided that painting is the medium for me. When you love color, that's the place to be.

Mary Montague Sikes