Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, November 4, 2019

Art and Writing As Viable Businesses

What is it about artists and writers that makes them avoid business at all costs? At all costs can be a lot.

"We just want to paint. We just want to write," we say.

Is that really true? After all, it is nice to cash a big check sometimes. It's rewarding to feel the pride after the sale of a large favorite painting. What an amazing high comes to us when a nice royalty check rolls in.

Unless you are especially lucky or have the backing of a very talented entrepreneur, that is not going to happen without a lot of work on your part. You need to swallow your pride and step out into the world of business.

Do you have a web site? You need one with your name as the major focus. You need this as the place to send your clients whether you are an artist or a writer. Put your web site on business cards and send folks there. Long ago, I claimed the domain name Mary Montague Sikes. My web site is and I use it all the time when people ask.

Last week, I attended  a seminar, "Art as Business", presented in Gloucester by Marc Wilson, Virginia Small Business Development Center. He brought up many tools a small business owner (that's what creatives are) can use to develop their business.

Marc suggests making a 30-second video of your elevation speech. (We've heard that before, haven't we, writers?) That speech should explain why the person should care about your work and will their life be better because of it? I plan to do it.

High on Marc's list is developing a business plan. That's something I think I have, but I don't. That is something I intend to create in 2020.

Perhaps you would like to follow me, starting in December. Let's build a plan, piece by piece. Let's follow our plan and see what happens.

Art and writing can be viable businesses. Business can improve our lives, if we let it.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

What If You Could Find the Love of Your Life Once Again?

"Waterlilies" pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes
There she is standing in a lovely field of flowers, near a pond of waterlilies. Strangely, it all seems familiar to her. The sounds of birds chirping in the trees. Red blossoms blowing in a gentle breeze.

Kathryn takes a deep breath. The sweet scent surrounds her. She closes her eyes, and images drift through her mind like long lost children dancing from the past.

Her lips quiver. She is here on the tropical island of Jamaica with a special job assignment. Her thoughts confuse and disturb her. They are whimsical and so unlike the usual thoughts of the strong businesswoman she has become since moving to New York City.

But from the moment she met Flynt Kincaid, quite by accident, things have changed for her. And he keeps showing up, unexpectedly, to add to the utter confusion she feels.

Now, Kathryn opens her eyes and studies the field of blossoms she has discovered not far from the resort where she is working. She turns and stares at the waterlilies that appear so out of place here.

Real or unreal? She is not quite sure.

Love lost. The thought drifts into her mind. How can that be?

What if things are not always as they seem?

To learn more about Kathryn Calder and the experiences that threaten to change the course of her life, please read Hearts Across Forever. It's a story you won't soon forget.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

In Search of Xanadu

"Tangled on Xanadu" watercolor ©Mary Montague Sikes
The news is disturbing. I have to turn it off. I love baseball and will follow it closely until the St. Louis Cardinals' season is over.

With my art, I can hide from the craziness of the world. I can search for a simple place where beauty dwells and love and peace reign.

That place is Xanadu.

The name fascinates me. Images grow in my imagination. Colors glow and tremble on paper and canvas. Already I have an entire series of work developing with this amazing destination in mind. If it does not exist for us now, it will one day soon.

Somewhere, deep in the universe, a special planet glimmers in the darkness. Its light brightens every nearby star. Unknown colors gleam like gems of light. People smile. The color of their skin matters not. Only the touch of a warm hand, a sincere embrace create memories. Life is in the moment without treacherous thoughts to cloud the future.

In my paintings, I will continue to seek the secret, elusive planet of Xanadu. It lies hidden somewhere beyond the clouds. Just outside of our sight.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Joy of Artists Workshops, Painting with Robert Burridge

"Painting at Cheap Joe's" ©Olen Sikes
Every year I try to take an artist workshop away from home, often in another state. I have especially enjoyed those taught at Cheap Joe's in Boone NC. Not only are the workshops top notch, but being there is like having a child lost in a candy store. After all, the classroom door leads directly into the main Cheap Joe Art Store with almost every art supply imaginable  on display in a fascinating artful setting. It's like Christmas morning every time you push open the entryway.

Recently, the Robert Burridge Workshop I attended was completely full-25 students. Although the room was crowded with artists, we each had our own painting table and enough room to spread out work as we created it. Also, there was a seating area for everyone to gather at the front of the classroom for demonstrations and to watch Bob work via a large video monitor. At noon each day, lunch was served, and we could take it outside either to picnic tables or to the sprawling porch with its large, comfortable rocking chairs.

What could be more ideal? A week painting among other artists!

Robert Burridge is an amazing instructor. His demos are not only informative, but they are flavored with colorful stories that have happened to him along the way. A few years ago, he was the teacher in the first workshop I ever took at Cheap Joe's. I learned about creating an intense orange background over my gesso paint. I also discovered how to paint subjects more loosely. Eventually I created a popular series of work, "Monti, Just for Fun", using the techniques Bob taught.

"Classroom at Cheap Joe's" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last week, I didn't anticipate learning much that was new. But I did. I learned more about making texture and about painting "carrot" figures. What I found will surely wind up somewhere deep inside a mysterious cold wax painting or even on a sheet of Yupo in midst of Robert Doak watercolors.

Besides all that, things I knew from long ago were reinforced. Thank you, Robert Burridge, for what you brought to us. Traveling all over the country to teach is really hard. Thank you, too, for all the miles you travel from your great California studio.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Standing in the Studio I Study the Paintings on the Wall

Art Studio ©Mary Montague Sikes
Sometimes when I visit Crossroads Art Center in Richmond on a quiet summer's day, I enjoy the serene setting filled with more art than I can hope to take in during one visit. For a few minutes, I go to my studio space and study the paintings on the walls.

My work there is a bit of a cross-section of the many loves I have--color both subdued and bright. Work created on Yupo with all the aspects of color movement and appeal driven by experimentation. It is on the Yupo that I most enjoy using the Robert Doak watercolors filled with intensity and power. A work on canvas also features the Doak paints, but that gessoed surface dulls and softens the look of the work. I enjoy the softness that speaks to me in a spiritual way.

The acrylic painting at the top of the center wall both haunts and attracts me. The strength of the iris reaching toward the sky in "Upreach" depicts nature forever pulling and leading us to a better understanding of the world in which we live. Perhaps it represents the spirits we cannot see.

An acrylic painting on the right wall takes me back to Sedona, Arizona, one of my favorite destinations in all the world. "Rhapsody in Red" on the lower right, center wall conveys both the motion and the sound of music. It takes me to a happy place.

There are two encaustic oil paintings in my studio now. I want to touch and polish them. Occasionally, I do use a soft cotton cloth to brighten and shine the wax in these paintings.

Visiting the studio I have there and going into my studio at home bring me joy. I respond to the artwork I've done, and I hope others will find happiness visiting them as well.

What do you see and feel when you visit art galleries and museums? Do you understand what the artist is saying with their work?

Upcoming Workshops with Mary Montague Sikes

Gloucester VA Arts on Main
August 20 - 22, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Bringing in the Magic"

Hilton Head SC Art Academy
September 10 - 12, 1 to 4 p.m.
Oil/Cold Wax Painting