Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, August 1, 2022

What About Mark-making?

"Wetlands" (detail) ©MMSikes

 When I was spending two years at Virginia Commonwealth University, earning my Master's Degree in Painting, we had a different artist each semester who came and worked with us in a big former public school building near the college. This visiting artist, also, had a large studio classroom in which to work. There were 12 of us, each with our own studio room, so we had an ideal working situation. While I was there, three of our visiting artists were from New York City; the fourth came from California.


One of the New York artists talked at length about the artist's mark. 

Mark-making was especially important for her, and her remarks make an impression on me to this day. At the time I was working a lot with pastels, and painting with pastels is mostly mark-making for me. The three large acrylic paintings  that I am currently working on in my studio all are filled with my marks. (See the detail from "Wetlands", above.) The visiting artist insisted that an observer can tell who the artist is by the marks they make.


Today, so many artists use a variety of tools for their mark-making--found objects, wooden skewers, credit cards, etc. That's especially true when working with oil and cold wax, one of my favorite mediums. Now, I'm not sure the artist marks are as distinctive as before. Next time I'm in an art gallery, I'm going to look around with mark-making in mind. 

What do you think about mark-making in a piece of art?

Mary Montague Sikes 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Who is Monti?

"Monti Just for Fun" ©Monti Sikes

Who is Monti?

As I struggle with branding, I find myself asking that question more and more often.

 Mary Montague Sikes, sometimes Mary Montague Hudson, is the name I sign on my paintings and have listed on the covers of my books. However, most of my friends call me “Monti”.

 Often, that name is used for groups and events. But it interferes with branding my legal name.

 The first day of college, my three roommates decided that Mary Montague was too much of a name for them to say. (Yes, Mary Washington College was overcrowded at the time and had four girls crammed into a room together. They were in the process of building a new dorm complex where we would live for our sophomore year, so we had to make do as freshmen.)

When I went off to elementary school, my mother told me, “Never let anyone call you, “Mary”. I didn’t, and to this day, I tense up when someone addresses me that way. I couldn’t be “Mary”.

One of my college roommates came up with the nickname, “Monti”, and it stuck. More and more people started to use it.

Now I am asking myself what to do. Should I brand two names?

Should I have two websites—one for Mary Montague, the other for Monti?

Is Monti the Passenger to Paradise in my books, set mostly in the Caribbean?

Is she the one who painted the “Monti Just for Fun” series of paintings? If you look at my work, she is indeed the more fun-loving artist.

What do you think? Should I sometimes be Monti? Does that hurt the branding for my real name? Will people know we are the same person?

Who is Monti?   

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day Starts the Tennis Season

"Tennis Gang" ©Mary Montague Sikes

For many years, I looked forward to Memorial Day and the beginning of the summer tennis season. We usually had tennis tournaments over the weekend, and I played singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. It was so much fun.

Over the years, it became impossible to find others to play singles, so I joined women's doubles groups, and my husband and I drove long distances to play mixed doubles. I never liked doubles as much as singles, and I watch only singles matches in events like the French Open, Wimbledon, etc. 

We've taken tennis lessons and played in tournaments in lots of places, including the Dennis Van Der Meer Center in Hilton Head, South Carolina, at Saddlebrook in Florida, in Palm Springs, California, and many other locations.

When I wasn't on the tennis court, I sometimes painted about my favorite past-time. To the left is one of those 54" x 42" acrylic paintings I created of a group of us. I'm glad I made that painting because now it is a wonderful reminder of all those tennis court days that began on Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day. 

Memories. I can almost feel the hot air and the Virginia humidity.  

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.)