Daddy's Christmas Angel

Saturday, October 20, 2018

We - Artists and Writers - Need Each Other

"Pathway to Tomorrow" watecolor/canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes
As both a writer and an artist, I spend a lot of my time alone. Mostly, I am standing in front of my computer. (Thank you, VariDesk, for the sturdy, adjustable computer desk that has never been moved down to the sitting position.) I write, and I comment on social media. That way, although alone, I am connecting with others, often those people I have never met in person.

When I write, it is important to me that I create meaningful words--words that can provide hope and inspiration for others. That is why I have painted images and written the words for a new book, intended to inspire.  

Spirit Visions and Soul Songs is composed of paintings and poems that came to me intuitively. Both the images and the words inspire me, and I hope they will inspire others as well. These are meditation paintings that can bring focus.

My artist friend, James Warwick Jones, shared a quote today from Edgar Degas, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

Those words explain my book. I would add that the written word inspires visions as well. Visions come from the spirit as do the songs of the universe.

My painting, "Pathway to Tomorrow", is the cover art for the book. I believe this piece is perfect to indicate what the reader will discover between the covers.

We need each other. All of us do. We need to inspire one another.

Friday, September 28, 2018

There's Something About Cold Wax Painting

"On the Crowded Streets" - Oil, Cold Wax - ©Mary Montague Sikes
There's something about Cold Wax Painting that intrigues me. I started out long ago, first working in pastels and then oils. The buttery quality of the oil paints was nice. I liked that they didn't dry right away, so changes could be made later on with the paint still wet. That it didn't dry right away was also a quality that I disliked because the paints easily got muddy.

In those days, I was mostly doing portraits and figurative art. Because I used turpentine to thin the paint and to clean brushes, an annoying dullness became part of the images. I also disliked the odor of turpentine that permeated our house when I painted. It was with great excitement that I discovered acrylic paints. I eventually gave up oils completely and never looked back until recently.

After reading a lot about the cold wax medium, I decided to try it. When I took a workshop at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond with Lisa Boardwine, I was completely hooked. I loved building up layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax--Lisa calls it creating history, then using a variety of tools to remove portions of the surface. More layers of paint add to the history, and then begins the mystery of discovering the imagery that lies hidden beneath the colors.

Mixing cold wax and oil is really a fun way to paint. Best of all, cleanup is with odorless mineral spirits. I can incorporate my love of making a textured surface by using the cold wax over the heavy professional grade gesso I can still get from Utrecht. Experimenting with Cold Wax Painting is truly intriguing. I'm excited about my new work that includes "On the Crowded Streets" above.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Loving Artist Workshops - Taking and Teaching Them

"Gloucester Arts on Main 2018" ©Mary Montague Sikes
More than two decades ago, I took my first artist workshop. Mary Alice Braukmann was the instructor. Traveling from Florida to Williamsburg, Virginia, she brought with her a wealth of knowledge and a lifetime of enthusiasm. Besides the excitement of painting in a week-long workshop, she opened a new world for me for interacting with other artists.

After I earned my MFA in painting and printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, I retreated to my home studio and painted alone. Developing my ideas on canvas was rewarding, but something was missing. I needed to be around other artists. At VCU, I had my own large studio room in a big, deserted school building near the campus. There were 11 other artists, all MFA candidates, painting inside that massive structure. During those two years of intensive learning, visiting artists from New York and California also used the studio space there. We spent time together. I missed that.

The artist workshops filled the interaction void. I found more and more of them. Some, such as a watercolor workshop with Patricia Tobacco Forrester in the Washington DC area. I loved her large expressive paintings and was sad to see that she died in 2011. Creatives are especially missed when they are gone.

I've taken many workshops at Cheap Joe's in Boone NC. That's where I found my hero artist, Mary Ann Beckwith who brought Robert Doak watercolors and Yupo into my life. Janet Rogers is another exceptional watercolor artist I found there. And I will never forget the Robert Burridge workshops where I fell in love with using orange under-paintings on my acrylic canvasses.

Sedona AZ is filled with seduction and energy. Each year, Jan Sitts teaches her workshops there that are filled with color and texture.

Besides taking workshops, I enjoy teaching them. I've had the opportunity to give classes in San Diego CA, Denver CO, Hilton Head SC, Richmond VA, Williamsburg VA, Gloucester VA and more.
For me, art teaching is as much a learning experience for the instructor as it is for the student.

As artists we must continue to grow and make our lives meaningful. The "messy" minds of creatives are filled with all sorts of ideas that cry to evolve.

I love artist workshops. Thanks to all my teachers and to my students.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Key West - A Return Journey to Tropical Places

"Tropical Palm" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Years ago, my husband and I first glimpsed the tropical beauty of the island of Jamaica. We have always loved to travel, so, after that initial journey into the tropics, we could not get enough of the exotic beauty that inspired me to take thousands of slides and photographs. Eventually, I created many large acrylic paintings documenting those trips. I wrote travel articles for magazines and newspapers and even created and published a few novels set in Jamaica, Antigua, and other tropical places.

Lobster Fest on Duval Street ©Mary Montague Sikes
More recently, we returned to Key West, Florida, a destination we first discovered years ago during an automobile trip that covered the entire length of the state, including the Keys. Even though it was already a lingering point for artists and writers, Key West was a lesser-known vacation spot then.

Now, things have changed a lot. On our recent trip there, Duval Street was blocked off for the carnival array of tents dedicated to Lobster Fest. The street looked much like Main Street of our little town of West Point, Virginia when we have our annual Crab Carnival. For me, it was a little sad because I wanted Key West to remain different and undiscovered, full of unique locals and not so many tourists. I'm still looking for a tropical paradise.

Key West is not the same place it once was. I was glad to see that the 2017 hurricane damage there was not so severe. We visited in May of last year before the hurricane struck. We didn't see much that was different except the gigantic Seward Johnson sculpture of the dancing couple was missing from in front of the museum on the waterfront.

Happily, one thing that has not changed over the years is the glorious sunset over the Key West waters. People still gather at Mallory Square and cheer as the sun goes down. We went there twice and waited and were not disappointed. The sun still sets. ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Key West Sunset" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, August 6, 2018

Experiment in Cold Wax

Studio Experiments ©Mary Montague Sikes

“Give an artist the tools and she will thrive.”

That is so true, especially if those tools are used for building texture and developing new enthusiasm for creativity. 

A few years ago, I took a day-long encaustic painting workshop with accomplished artist, Karen Eide. I loved working with the hot wax, enjoyed the movement and subtle effects of the colors and much more. However, when the door was propped open to avoid danger from hot wax fumes, I got a little concerned. I realized that to work in encaustics, I would need to set up a studio outdoors where toxic fumes would not pose an immediate health hazard.

Although I now have a drawer full of encaustic painting supplies, I have never used the bee’s wax and oil colors in an outdoor studio annex situation. I also purchased a really nice hot plate and a heat gun. Neither one has ever been used. The encaustics still continue to intrigue me, so whenever possible, I take Karen’s encaustic workshops, sponsored by West Point Arts Alive. Once, I even followed her to Virginia Beach for the opportunity to work in hot wax in a museum workshop that she taught there.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered Lisa Boardwine and her vivacious cold wax workshops. I had been reading about cold wax and watching videos about the process. In Lisa’s classes, I found ways to use a less toxic cold wax process and still produce results that relate to the hot wax that so intrigues me. Lisa shared a wide array of different tools that are so much fun to try. I even realized new ways to use the sculpture and ceramics equipment already in my studio.

For many years, I have also experimented with texture in acrylic painting. Several years ago, I enjoyed a week-long workshop in Sedona, Arizona, taught by Jan Sitts. Jan demonstrated a wide variety of techniques using acrylic liquid paints on surfaces built with thick gesso and a variety of painting mediums. I loved the opportunity to try out different methods for creating new work.

Recently, I ordered a book, Acrylic Painting for Encaustic Effects by Sandra Duran Wilson. I could spend months trying the many ideas described in this beautiful book of wax free methods.

For those who love to create in exciting new ways with paint, tools, panels, and canvas, cold wax might be the perfect medium for you. Come and learn more as we experiment together in a three-day afternoon workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main in Gloucester, Virginia. The dates are: August 28, 29, and 30.

                                                                                    Mary Montague Sikes