Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Week of Painting at Springmaid Watermedia Workshops

Being able to paint to your heart's content for an entire week is an artist's dream. It certainly is mine.

I just returned from fulfilling that dream at the Springmaid Watermedia Workshops in Myrtle Beach SC. Out of eight available workshops, I chose the one taught by Carrie Brown. I was not disappointed. Although I've painted for years, taught everyone from kindergarten to adult ages, have my own workshops I instruct, I have learned that you can always learn something new. From Carrie, I learned a lot.

It has always bothered me when my expensive - mostly Golden brand - acrylics dry up on my palette and I have to throw away the beautiful but dried-up paint. Sometimes I have managed to peel off the bits and pieces of color to save. Once I even created a bouquet of colorful paint remnants that became a small piece of sculpture for my studio. I've used lots of items for my palette, from actual palettes made for that purpose to plastic covers and plates. I've also tried Reynolds freezer paper but didn't especially like it.

"Sea of Red" ©Mary Montague Sikes
With Carrie's instruction on taping the freezer paper to a backing--I chose lightweight foam core--I've found a palette I love. It is also a palette that is useful for saving and re-purposing my leftover acrylic paints. Once you've used this palette enough, you have an acrylic skin that can be peeled away and later adhered to a piece of canvas as part of a new painting. I love this process as a method to save paint and to also be creative at the same time. Another advantage to this process is that the palette is then reusable.

Here's an example of a skin painting. I probably will add more paint to the empty white canvas or perhaps I will leave it as it is now. I haven't decided. The paint skin is beautiful, and it gives an artist so many exciting possibilities.

What a fun week. We painted in a classroom with a wall of windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. What could be more perfect?

"Springmaid Dock" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Showing Art in a Different Place

Autumn is a busy time for artists. New shows open. The Metropolitan Richmond Artists Association, of which I am a member, has its annual judged exhibition. Prince George Art & Frame has its Holiday Open House. There are lots of workshops and many fundraising events. And there are new opportunities. One of those opportunities for me is showing some of my paintings in the Conference Room of the West Point Business Center, owned by Jeff Bateman, president of Integrity Food Group.

We hung a selection of floral paintings there last week, and I am pleased with the resulting show. I hope it brightens the space. Here are some photos from it.
©Mary Montague Sikes
©Mary Montague Sikes
©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Ithaca" Is a Movie That Features Petersburg

Meg Ryan is one of my favorite actresses. Because of her part in "Sleepless in Seattle", I modeled the heroine of my novel, Daddy's Christmas Angel, after her. Now I am excited to know that "Ithaca", the movie she directed and plays the lead in, will soon be released.

Filmed in Petersburg during the summer of 2014, places like the Globe Department Store and Brickhouse Run Restaurant, as well as Sycamore Street are recognizable in the film, according to reports. After being connected to Petersburg for many years through Petersburg Regional Arts Center, and now The Ward Center for Contemporary Art, it will be exciting to see our street and a restaurant that we really like as part of the movie.

"Courthouse in Old Towne Petersburg" ©Mary Montague Sikes
An article by Shelby Mertens of the Petersburg Progress-Index describes Ryan's feelings as a mother that influenced the telling of this story that is set in the 1940s. Ryan found Petersburg to be an ideal setting for the story. The film crew praised the city for embracing them and allowing streets to be blocked off during the production.

Because of the historic ambiance of Old Towne Petersburg, the area is poised to become the setting of more movies in the future. Like other Virginia towns and cities, memories of the past still hang in the air and that is a factor to attract the motion picture companies.

***Please visit my new art blog, "The Artful Way".

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Brain Fitness and Nutrition

How important is your diet when it comes to brain health? According to a great deal of research, it means a lot.

As I read about so many diets and plans, the thing that stands out most to me is that certain foods are almost always there. One of those is broccoli. I see it over and over as almost a miracle vegetable. In the article, "Eat Your Way to Brain Health", Amy Paturel cites a study from Martha Clare Morris, professor of nutritional epidemiology at Rush University, "people who ate one to two servings of green leafy vegetables a day were cognitively 11 years younger than those who ate fewer greens." (Leafy greens include broccoli, spinach, and kale, according to this article.)

Crab Cake Dinner ©Mary Montague Sikes
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet "emphasizes fish, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and a daily glass of wine." It also stresses berries and leafy greens. This diet claims to cut the risk of Alzheimer's by as much as a whopping 53%.

Over and over, I read about the benefits of eating blueberries to achieve "the best cognitive perks". Other important items to improve brain health are olive oil, avocados,tomatoes, walnuts, grapes, coffee, and dark chocolate. Writers especially appreciate the addition of dark chocolate to their brain fitness diets.

I hope that crab cakes fit under the fish category to provide a boost in brain health. Every night, I try to have a green leafy salad with arugula, tomatoes, and avocados as part of our dinner.

Here is a broccoli salad recipe I often use. Perhaps the addition of blueberries would make it even more brain healthy. The bacon might need to be deleted, but perhaps we can have one vice.

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Florets
6 to 8 slices of bacon crumbled
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 package of craisins-5 oz. size
8 ounces cheese, cheddar or whatever, cut into very small pieces
1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise (or whatever amount seems good)
Cherry tomatoes halved or grape tomatoes
Seasoned salt and pepper to taste

Cut up broccoli to manageable size pieces. Place in large bowl. Add bacon, onion, craisins, and cheese. Mix. Add tomatoes and mayonnaise. Add seasonings and toss gently. Place in serving bowl and garnish with tomato halves and arugula. 

Do you have a brain fitness plan?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Your Studio is Wherever You Paint (or Write)

The artist Robert Burridge always seems to inspire me in some way. I look forward to his "Bob Blast" each week.
Artists in a Magic Studio (GAMi) ©Mary Montague Sikes
Yesterday I watched his short video and found him urging artists to "own" their studios no matter where they might be located. He pointed out that some might be a small section of a room, others could be on the kitchen table. One woman in assisted living claims a portion of her bed as her studio, he said.

"Wherever you paint is your studio." That's the Burridge message.

"Wherever you write is also your studio." That's my thought.

Burridge says he always writes down his goals before he starts a painting project. Then he chooses the brushes and the paint colors he intends to use, and, because he is right-handed, he puts them to the right of his paper or canvas.

I like the idea of writing down the goals for an art project. It's a little like making a synopsis for a book or  writing down the ideas for your day's project as an author.

Organizing your writing space before you begin the day is a great idea. I don't, but it would solve a lot of problems for me if I did. Although I am right-handed, I have items I use to the right and left of my computer space and also behind me.

Robert Burridge calls his painting space his "Magic Studio". What he creates from nothing is like magic. What writers develop from nothing is magic as well.

He has three important rules he follows in his life as an artist:

1. Paint what you know.
2. Teach what you've learned.
3. Love what you do.

The same rules can apply for a writer. Perhaps that's why memoirs have become so popular. Write what you know. In the end, if you love what you do, you are on the road to happiness.