Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cold Wax Medium - A Great Choice for Mixed Media Artists


"Love and Light: Rising from the Ashes" ©MM Sikes
Are you familiar with cold wax medium? I wasn't until last year when I started to notice the work of several artists using this material. I liked what I saw and wanted to learn more.

In galleries and museums, mixed media work has always spoken to me and lured me to study it more closely. That's what most of cold wax paintings I saw seemed to be.

Some of my earliest paintings featured plaster on canvas. I suppose that was an early version of mixed media. Later, I worked with a product called Celluclay Instant Papier Mache and created both paintings and sculpture using this 3-dimensional medium. Several years ago, I discovered encaustic (hot wax) painting in workshops with Karen Eide. More recently, I have used a variety of acrylic materials, including very thick Utrecht Professional Gesso, to build depth in my mixed media paintings.

Throughout it all, I have stayed away from oil paints because I never liked the smell of turpentine and oil in my upstairs studio. When I work with oil paint and encaustics, I take the materials outdoors to heat.

Then I found a new world of painting with cold wax medium. In April, I took a three-day workshop with Lisa Boardwine, and immediately I was hooked. Using a Gamblin solvent with odorless mineral spirits, I lost my fear of bringing oil paints back to my studio. Cold wax appears to be the medium for which I've been searching. I can experiment in many directions, even using some of the techniques I've learned over my acrylic mixed media pieces to soften harsh flatness where it bothers me.

Because, using a soft cloth, encaustics can be polished to a dazzling sheen, I still love them and
"Starry Nebula" Encaustics ©MM Sikes
want to continue experimentation with that medium. The cold wax has a matte finish and can be incorporated into work with the encaustics. The possibilities are endless. I can scrape, incise, scribble, print, and much more. It's exciting to consider the new opportunities cold wax offers.

Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin have published a comprehensive book about the cold wax process. Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts and Conversations is probably the best art book I have ever purchased. I will keep it nearby and take it into my studio when I go there to work in cold wax.

Serena Barton has published another excellent book, Wabi-Sabi Painting with Cold Wax. "Wabi-sabi is a philosophy and aesthetic that honors the imperfect, the transitory, the humble, and the handmade," she explains. Creating work intuitively, the Oregon-based artist considers making her cold wax art like "taking a journey...without a map."

With my own many years of art experience, I can testify that cold wax medium is a wonderful choice for artists who want to experiment. It is a perfect medium for intuitive artists. I will continue to explore and enjoy Yupo synthetic paper and the Robert Doak watercolors, but now I have a new medium for sculptural painting.

Thank you, Lisa Boardwine, for introducing me. Thank you, Karen Eide, for bringing me back to oil and much more.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Transportation Museum in Bangor, Maine Draws Interest

"Transportation Museum in Bangor" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It seems like it's located in the middle of nowhere, but the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor, Maine is amazing. Housed in a building large enough for railroad cars, snowplows, tractor trailers and much more, the museum features over 200 Maine-connected vehicles, fascinating old photographs, and other artifacts. Visitors there should come prepared to spend a long morning or afternoon studying vintage cars and tractors, climbing into train cars, watching videos, and much more.

"The only meaningful legacy we will leave this world will be the difference we make in others especially in the life of a child." That slogan from the outside of the building says it all. What a lovely gift and interesting destination for school field trips.
"Military Exhibit" ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Farmall Tractor" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Acadia--the National Parks Adventure Continues

"Lake and Mountain" ©Mary Montague Sikes
A visit to Acadia National Park in  Maine was this year's adventure for our family. The park is lovely with nice lake views for the photographers. The Carriage Roads, built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. years ago, are in excellent condition and great for bikers, hikers, and horseback riders (some places).  There were so many bicyclists the days we visited that hikers had to maintain constant vigilance  for their own safety.

"Pond Pathe" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Eagle Lake, Aunt Betty's Pond, Jordon Pond are among the scenic waters that the Carriage Roads encircle. How very special that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. recognized so early the importance of maintaining the rustic beauty of the area.

Following his death in 1960, the roads went downhill for lack of maintenance for which he paid over many years. By the 1980s, much of the 51-mile carriage-road system was overgrown and in disrepair. Friends of Acadia and Rockefeller's son, David, started an endowment project to reconstruct the roads. Today, the Carriage Roads are in excellent condition, easy for children and the elderly to navigate as well as for the sturdy joggers, bikers, and hikers to enjoy.

L.L. Bean Shuttle Bus ©Mary Montague Sikes
The Island Explorer free bus service, sponsored by L.L. Bean, is a remarkable help for tourists. The buses which serve Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park allow visitors to park their vehicles and travel by bus to the Bar Harbor Village Green. From there, they can board other buses to explore the park, Bar Harbor, and other area sites. It saves wear on cars and frustration over a search for the limited parking spaces.

Acadia National Park and Maine are fun places to visit. One week is not nearly enough to see everything.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. Route 1, the End and the Beginning


US 1, the Beginning ©Allison Sikes



Within the last two months, we have visited the end of US Route 1, mile 0, in Key West, Florida and the very beginning of it in Fort Kent, Maine where the bridge crosses the St. John River into Canada. There is something special about seeing both ends of an historic passageway north and south in our country. Sometimes, despite its many traffic lights, we use US 1 for an alternate highway as it parallels I-95 in Virginia.

The highway is truly historic with a beginning in the 1920s, nearly 100 years ago. It is the longest north-south highway in the United States. The sign at Fort Kent indicates it has 2446 "original miles". Wikipedia says it runs 2369 miles. Much of it was built along the fall line, and it connects many of the major east coast cites, including Richmond, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Miami.

US 1, the End ©Mary Montague Sikes


The End sign in Key West is far less dramatic than the beginning in Ft. Kent. However, there are other signs in Key West with significance, including Cuba being only 90 miles away. It is also the southernmost point in the U.S. Ft. Kent is close to being the northernmost point in the continental United States.

Interesting to have visited both during the past few weeks. Wonder how long it would take to drive the route from beginning to end?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Living in the Present, Still Cherishing Our Past

"Sunset over the Water" ©Mary Montague Sikes
For many years, people have come to our little town looking for old houses, buying and renovating them. They love the history attached to the buildings that trace back to the turn of the 20th Century, and earlier, and want to be part of it. Some of them enjoy sharing that history with the community and are willing to showcase their homes when various opportunities arise. That scenario is true in many little towns across our country.

Looking at the old homes started me thinking about the people who once lived in them and the ones who live there now. Those people were and are special. They possess memories we need to cherish. Years ago, people honored the elderly in our societies. The young looked up to them and valued their ideas and wishes.

The old will die out and their thoughts and memories will be lost. A few years ago, a friend of mine made a project of going to the homes of some of the elderly and recording her interviews with them. They were World War ll veterans, an early female pilot, fishermen from the rivers and bay, and many more. What a thoughtful and beautiful project.

Long ago, my mother's neighbor pointed out to me that the area would soon change, that most were elderly and soon would be gone. I was in disbelief at what she said. Of course, she was right. In the next several years, all the homes in the neighborhood were filled with young families, and the old had vanished.

As I look at the historical houses, I think of the need to live in the present and value everyone--young, old, and in-between. I remember to take a deep breath and enjoy every sunset. I remember we should live in the moment and strive to enjoy it.