Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Introvert vs. Extrovert

Over the years, I've always considered myself an introvert. Writing and painting are mostly solitary occupations--the activities of introverts. Or so I thought.

With the isolation of the past two weeks, I've decided that perhaps I'm more of an extrovert than I
"In my gallery at Crossroads" ©Mary Montague Sikes
thought. Two Art Gallery Open House events last week were cancelled. One became a three-hour long virtual event which was good, but I still missed actually being there. I had planned to do a painting demo at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond during the Open House. I also wanted to change some of the artwork in my gallery there. Those things didn't happen.

I also miss going to the gym three times a week. Not only does my body feel the lack of group exercise, but I really miss seeing my friends there. Maybe a little bit extroverted?

Although writers might claim to be introverts, a lot of them thrive on watching others. After all, one learns a lot out in public, viewing interaction between people. That's where we discover our "what ifs?"and more.

The new norm of isolation has made me more appreciative of the beginning of this year. In January, I enjoyed chatting with visitors and other artists at the opening of the "Winter Blues" show at Gloucester Arts on Main. I smile when remembering I was accused of being an extrovert while there. During January, I attended meetings and enjoyed the people around me without truly understanding what a wonderful opportunity it is to be with others. I also taught an oil and cold wax workshop that I appreciate even more now.

In February, we went to Florida for the St. Louis Cardinals spring training games. What a joy the beginning of baseball season was. I enjoyed every moment of it. And we got to see some of our favorite people at the Islander Grill & Tiki Bar where we dined every morning for breakfast. I didn't take any of that for granted.

Now, January, February, and even the beginning of March seem years ago. I would like to slip back in time or, perhaps, go a couple of months ahead. I can be an introvert in my studio for a while, but those days of the extrovert beckon me. I will forever appreciate art openings, book signings, workshops, and meetings far more than in the past.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

How Quickly Things Can Change

"In the Dugout with the St. Louis Cardinals 2020" ©Mary Montague Sikes
We went to Baseball Spring Training a little early this year. It's my favorite time of year, and I look forward to next year the moment we return home.

This year was a little different. Near the end of our two weeks in Florida, the players grew more hesitant to sign autographs. Then, just a little over a week after we got home, Major League Baseball shut down Spring Training. I felt a little sad for those who planned trips to Florida or Arizona for the final two weeks. However, I was glad we chose to go early.
"Watching Jack Flaherty Warm Up" ©Mary Montague Sikes



We enjoy sitting in the section behind the bullpen because we get a perfect view of each pitcher as they warm up. What a joy it was to watch our ace, Jack Flaherty, as he got ready to pitch. And we always like to see our long-time ace, Adam Wainwright, closeup. All the other pitchers--lots of them at the beginning of Spring Training--gather to watch the game's starter get ready. This is really a fun time.
"Kim Throwing Warm Up 2020" ©Mary Montague Sikes

The new Korean pitcher Kim was impressive to watch from the sixth row of our favorite section. We also saw Andrew Miller throw so many wild pitches that the coaches decided to shut him down instead of sending him out to pitch an inning in the game. This reminded us of a time, years ago, when we were watching Rick Ankiel on the back fields. He threw so wildly that day that he decided to quit pitching. (He worked hard on his game and came back as a good outfielder instead.)

Now, we can only wait to see what happens with baseball and with everything else as time stands still. Perhaps the virus will teach us patience.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Destination Jamaica--A Great Gift No Matter the Season

"I Saw and Angel Standing in the Trees" ©MMSikes
Years ago, my husband gave me the gift of a trip to the luscious island nation of Jamaica. I don't recall if the gift was for Valentine's, but it could have been.

That first visit was amazing, exciting, and transforming. For an artist, the scenery could not have been more lovely. In those days, I always carried my 35mm camera with me no matter where I went, so I took dozens of photographs every day we were there. When I got home, I went into my downstairs studio and stretched new canvases. Some were 4 by 6 feet. Others were 3 1/2 by 4 1/2. I tightened each canvas on the stretcher bars, then carried them to the upstairs studio to gesso the foundations for my new series of work.

Using my Jamaica photos as reference materials, I first created a pastel working drawing for each image. Then, I pulled out my tubes and bottles of acrylic paints and began painting my new canvases that now hung on the studio wall. An entire series of "Tropical Fantasy" paintings grew in the studio as my visions became realities. (One of those paintings was later enhanced with my angel vision.)

"Red Bud" ©MMSikes
During that trip I had my first glimpse of Rose Hall Great House rising above the landscape overlooking the sea along the coast of Jamaica. It was an eerie sight; it was a beautiful sight. I was drawn to visit the old building that once belonged to Annie Palmer, often called the "white witch" because of her treatment of the slaves that worked her sugar plantation and because of her ties to the strange Obeah rituals that came with her from stays in Haiti.

When I returned from Jamaica, the story of the"white witch" haunted me. I wrote about her in travel articles that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram (Cleveland, Ohio) and other newspapers and magazines. When we went on another trip to the island, we stayed at the nearby Wyndham Rose Hall.

Everything I saw and learned led me to include Rose Hall Plantation in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Annie Palmer was an unforgettable character. She kept returning to my thoughts, and, although I never painted her, I was compelled to write about her. She had to be a character in my novel, Hearts Across Forever.

The paintings in my studio continued to evolve. So did the writing of my novel. Jamaica mesmerized me and persisted to invade my thoughts, so we returned again and again for more than a dozen visits.

My book still enthralls me. It is filled with "what if's" that might be "could be's". The paintings illustrate the visual power of Jamaica. The writing explains the magic.

Jamaica still beckons me. I long to return and to take with me copies of Hearts Across Forever.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hart of Dixie - What a Colorful Netflix series


"Southern Shores" ©Mary Montague Sikes
I don't consider myself a television addict, and I don't often "binge watch" a network series. However, recently I've become hooked on "Hart of Dixie", a series from a few years back that is showing on Netflix. At the moment, my viewing is nearing the end of Season 3 with the short, 10-episode Season 4 ahead. So far, I've watched well over 50 programs. It will be a sad time when I reach the final episode.

Blue Bell is a mostly sunny place to live. Located in southern Alabama, near Mobile, the town celebrates any and everything. Extravagant costumes show up right away when a new, unusual event is conceived. Beautiful, lavish cakes and pies adorn the streets for these celebrations. The bar, Rammer Jammer, is filled with people at all times of the day. When and where do these people work?

Lavon Hayes, the mayor of Blue Bell, is a retired NFL player who lives a life of drama, along with most everyone else in the town. One of stars of the series is named Lemon, often called Lemonade by her father who is the town doctor. George is a lawyer who doesn't have much to do, apparently. He and Lemon were together for 15 years, starting in high school when they were 15 years old until he left her at the altar in a much-touted wedding.

Dr. Zoe Hart, the protagonist, came to Blue Bell from New York City when she inherited a practice from a newly-discovered father. Her short, short skirts and outlandish outfits add to the color of the town and the series. Her love affair with Wade was a highlight of the show for me. The town bad boy, with a drunken father only he can rescue from the roof of the local church, Wade sometimes appears to be the most adult person in the show.

With so many violent programs on television, "Hart of Dixie" is refreshing and bright. With all its craziness, the show reminds me of Xanadu, the place of happiness and peace in the universe that my art series is seeking to discover.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Not As Simple As I Hoped

Well, I started off the year 2020 with the plan to set up my Goodreads account properly and to write a blog each week. So far, I have found that because I neglected Goodreads for many years, getting it in proper shape is taking longer than I thought. Also, I am behind already with my blog a week, but I plan to catch up.

I blame part of my tardiness on my art activities. Last week, I taught an oil/cold wax workshop which required a lot of time for preparation. Sometimes art sabotages writing, but it is a part of my life that I wouldn't change.

"Hearts on the Line" ©Mary Montague Sikes
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post about my writing marketing campaign this year, I will be using art more vigorously in my plan. On January 25, I have a book signing scheduled at the William & Mary Barnes & Noble in Williamsburg, VA. I plan to use a Valentine's promotion for my book and will give a blank greeting card with envelope to the first 10 people buying my book, Hearts Across Forever. This book is a romantic tale set on the beautiful island of Jamaica. People who travel on cruise ships in the Caribbean or who love to vacation on tropical islands will especially enjoy my book. I'm making a list now of the many ways Hearts Across Forever can be promoted. Books are written and never found. The right promotion is the key. This is a romance for all seasons, but it will make a special Valentine's Day gift. Perhaps, it will be given with the promise of a special all-inclusive trip to Jamaica.

In addition to promoting Hearts Across Forever,
the next part of my plan is to update my Amazon Author Central page. When my original publisher passed away, everything on my page was thrown off. Now I need to replace or change the information that is no longer valid. However, some of my books might never get re-released, so I want them to remain visible in some way. Ideas abound in my head, and I look forward to creating new books for them.

Right now, for the remainder of January, my promotion plans are:

1. Good Reads - Complete the update
2. Amazon - Tackle the Author Central page
3. Book Signings - Use art to devise promotional plans for book sales

Promotion is not as simple as I hoped, but deep down I never expected it to be.