Daddy's Christmas Angel

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

Please, Don't Call Me "Mary".

When I was a six-year-old and heading off to school for the first time, my mother pulled me aside and cautioned, "Don't ever let anyone call you "Mary".

I had a double first name, "Mary Montague", named for my mother and for my father. It was a long name for me to say and to write. However, my mother was "Mary", and we couldn't have the same name.

All through elementary school and high school, Mother's words rang inside my head. No one called me "Mary". However, when I got to college, my three roommates were appalled at the long name. They decided the nickname "Monti" was a much better choice. My mother was not pleased, but I reminded her that no one called me "Mary".

Now, as an author and an artist, I am concerned with branding. Many of my friends call me "Monti", but that's not the name I want to use in branding me and my work.

I like the name "Mary", but that name belonged to my mother and also to my mother-in-law. It's not my name. Whenever anyone calls me "Mary", I remember my mother's words. It's funny how what someone said so long ago can have great impact now.

Words have meaning. Sometimes we don't realize how much.

Please, don't call me "Mary".

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Branding for Promotion

A few years ago, I met with a marketing specialist who filled me with many ideas for branding. My first book was out, but nothing I had done brought together a unified image that might help me promote myself and my future books.

"Wear a hat to all your book-related events," I urged myself.

I wore several different hats and the unique look made me stand out at signings. An Aussie-style hat worked especially well when my Indiana Jones-type book came out. It helped me sell books. Branding worked, but I wasn't doing a thorough job of creating an overall image. Just the hat was not enough. I needed then and need now to tie everything together.

Since I have always loved to travel, that seemed to be the link that could bring the branding to its full potential. As a child, my only travel consisted of visiting nearby relatives. Books carried me where I wanted to go, visiting the tombs of Egypt, unknown jungles, the highest mountains, the widest seas, and much more. In college, I had the opportunity to tour Europe and to stay for a summer in Linz, Austria with a United Methodist Church work camp group. What a thrill and learning experience.

Soon after our marriage, my husband and I crossed the country and returned on a Greyhound Bus special journey that took us to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and more. Thus the stories for Hotels to Remember and my travel writing career began. Later, we traveled many miles by air to the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, Hawaii, and many other places.

The "Passenger to Paradise" was born. She loves to travel just as I do. She loves the excitement of new destinations complete with exotic scenery. She is the brand I am looking to develop and expand now. She has led me to countless new places, including the island of Jamaica and Sedona, Arizona, locations of two extraordinary novels, Hearts Across Forever and Eagle Rising.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Changing Styles as an Artist

©Mary Montague Sikes
I've been an artist and a painter for almost all of my life. In my early years, when my children were young, I painted many portraits. My work often started with pastel working drawings, then shifted to either oil or acrylics on canvas. I was influenced by the beautiful Impressionist paintings of Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Rembrandt, and more.

As children, my daughters often suffered through sessions posing for me to paint portraits of them. The painting on the left of my mother with baby Amy was done from a photograph. It hung for many years in my parents' home. I never created a painting of my father, but I did one or more of just about everyone else in our family.

Over the years, I have experimented with numerous forms of art, including marble sculpture and ceramic pots. I even tried creating a bronze sculpture but did not make the lost wax process mold in the the correct proportions. Thus I literally lost months of work when the wax melted away, leaving no mold for the bronze pouring.

Right now, in my studio, I have several acrylic paintings in process, a few cold wax paintings at various stages, and Yupo papers awaiting my special application of Robert Doak watercolors. All of this work is or will be mostly abstract.

In many ways, I long to make large realistic paintings once again. I still like to watch scenic work grow from the big, blank canvasses hanging on specially designed walls. I love the scent of acrylic paint inside my studio.

Who knows? Perhaps portraits will blossom one more time on the walls of my studio.