Daddy's Christmas Angel

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Longing for a Tropical Beach


February 2015 Snow ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I look out my writing studio window at all the snow covering the hillsides of our woods, I cannot help but long for the warmth of tropical beaches. After all, the temperature last night hovered around zero. The creek is frozen over, and the three rivers that surround our little town are icy as well.
"Snow and Frozen Creek" ©Mary Montague Sikes






















"Mattaponi River Bridge and Marshland" ©Mary Montague Sikes









Resort at Los Cabos
A tropical retreat would look good right now. Perhaps a return trip to Los Cabos in Mexico. We love to travel. A beach is much nicer than the snow. However, both tropical destinations and the snow and ice in our own backyard make great subjects for reference photographs to use in future artist workshops.

Still, I'm longing for a tropical beach!


Beach at Los Cabos

























(All photos are Copyright Mary Montague Sikes.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Combining Art and Writing - Another Approach

Book de Tour When I find a kindred spirit who combines art with writing to create a book, I am happily drawn to their work. On February 14, artist Greig Leach captivated members of Metropolitan Richmond Artists Association with the story of his journey to document cycling events and share them through a 240-page book made possible by funding from kickstarter.com. Leach raised over $20,000 for his book project through the program. Much of the promotion for his books and his art is done through Twitter.

Leach paints large scale work on 140# cold pressed watercolor paper using Shiva oil sticks. His paintings are full of life and movement. Viewing his work made me want to pull out my decades old Shiva sticks and start painting. Members of the group actually got to try out the medium during the program, using paint sticks he brought to share.
Greig Leach and Paintings ©Mary Montague Sikes

Discovering the funding opportunity available through Kick Starter was intriguing and exciting. It's a great idea for artists to try if they are struggling to get a book published about a subject they are as passionate about as Leach is cycling.

Combining art and writing, Greig Leach has discovered a different approach. How exciting to document favorite events and gain international recognition along the way. That's what this artist has done.




Greig Leach with Book and Paintings ©Mary Montague Sikes















Another art event this week in West Point was the Arts Alive paper jewelry-making class taught by Leslie Babbitt. Even for those not fans of paper jewelry, the Babbitt workshop was a fun event, sparkling with her vitality and enthusiasm.
Paper Jewelry-Making Students

Babbitt demonstrates ©Mary Montague Sikes
Whatever the art event is, I'm always interested. Thank you, Greig Leach. Thank you, Babbitt. You made dreary February days much brighter!




Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Creatives - Viewing the World in a Different Way

"Calla, Like Georgia" ©Mary Montague Sikes

The Creatives are a different brand of people. The ones I've known view the world in their own unique ways. They are interesting and amazing folks. They look around them and see things others do not. They are often people who bring vision and change to a community.

I suspect the Creatives throughout history have always been a little different. They "think outside the box" to develop artwork, architecture, writing, and more. They are not your ordinary artists. I have always admired the work of artist Georgia O'Keeffe because she was brave and daring, living mostly in a world of art dominated by men. She looked at a flower and saw more than petals. She lived the life of a Creative.
"Hibiscus" ©MM Sikes










Who are the Creatives among the writers we know? Perhaps they are the ones who have stood the test of time. Shakespeare? Whitman? Thoreau ?

The Creatives "march to the beat of a different drummer," like the words of Henry David Thoreau. Do you know a Creative?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

One Decision Changes Everything - Is It Serendipity?

"Wings and Clouds" ©Mary Montague Sikes
As I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, amazed as almost certain victory shifted to defeat in the blink of an eye, I thought about how one simple event can loom gigantic in the course of a lifetime. At the time, it might not appear so life-changing as it later turns out to be. I'm not talking about tragedies, but just something as mundane as turning down a job offer and accepting something else instead.

I remember a time years ago when I taught third grade in the place of a public school teacher who was on a leave of absence for a year. Since the teacher was returning the next year, the superintendent offered me a position as the high school French teacher. I wonder what would have happened had I accepted that job. Instead, I took a job offer at a private school that was just getting started. The job was available on the condition that I add art to my professional teaching license. That meant I had to earn 12 hours in art classes during summer school to go along with the art credits I already had. It also meant the college had to agree for me to take more hours than they normally permitted in the summer sessions.

That decision sent me on an unplanned path. (Ironically, I also taught French in both the high school and elementary school along with art that first year.) Spending my summer in the art department at the College of William and Mary was life-changing. Later, the school where I taught even allowed me to leave early several days a week so that I could continue taking studio art in both sculpture and painting. I loved every moment of that special opportunity.

Now I look back at that decision as a turning point. It was certainly life-changing. Suppose the teacher on leave had decided not to return. Would my life still have shifted in the direction of art? Probably not.

Can you see an event or decision as a major turning point in your life? Is that serendipity--"phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought"? Or is it something else?


Monday, January 26, 2015

Where Do Artists Show Paintings if They Write Novels?

Waterlily paintings at Claris Financial ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Master's in Painting, I was off to the races finding galleries and looking for available sites to show my work. Many were available, and I was excited. I was thrilled to get representation by one of Richmond's most respected private galleries. At the time, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts had a sales gallery, and I became one of their artists. I also gained representation by galleries in the DC area, in Williamsburg and in Hilton Head SC. It was an exciting time.

When the private Richmond gallery suddenly went bankrupt, I was shocked. They had sold several paintings for which I was never paid. The power company comes first, someone told me. Then, the museum closed its sales gallery so as not to compete with the private ones. I especially loved the museum sales gallery because it rented paintings and the renters almost always became buyers. I did well there and was sorry to see it go. The Hilton Head galleries did well for me. This was the 1980s, and art sold well then, I realize now.

As all of this was going on in the art world, I became enamored with writing a romance novel. From newspaper stories it looked like a simple thing to do, so I decided to become a romance novelist. I joined Romance Writers of America and started going to all the national conferences. Instead of painting, I wrote and submitted, then wrote and submitted some more. I learned a lot, especially that getting published in romance was not so simple after all. In the meantime, I wasn't painting. We were traveling, and I was writing travel articles and taking lots of photographs. My travel stories and pictures were getting published in newspapers and magazines. I loved seeing the full-page articles along with my byline.

Eventually I got back to painting and using my own photos as resource material for my artwork. By then, many of the galleries that represented me had gone out of business or were struggling and doing little for their artists. Also, a new concept was developing for artists. They were renting spaces in big old renovated buildings. One of them was Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond. A friend who had a space there invited me to share it for a few months, and I did. Having this gallery inspired me to paint and to have new work up periodically. When the owners sold the building, I followed them to another big old building. This one was in Petersburg, Petersburg Regional Art Center, where I stayed, showed my work, and entered monthly juried shows. Ten years later, that building was sold. After a seven million dollar renovation, the Ward Center for Contemporary Art will be part of the new project, set to open later this year.

"Lime Tree" at Claris ©Mary Montague Sikes
Now it's a back and forth situation for me between art and writing. Before Christmas, a friend of mine had a showing of some of my work in her Richmond home. Claris Financial at Innsbrook in Richmond has an art gallery and held an open house for the artists last week. I have a space at Crossroads Art Center, and I show work at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg. I have a big show of large paintings hanging at the Ward Center awaiting the Grand Opening there. I am happy for these spaces.

Wall of Work - Private Home











But I have a new book out now, so I have a question: Where do artists show paintings if they write novels as well? Showing and selling art work suffers when the artist is writing. Promoting and selling books suffer when the artist is painting. Somewhere there's an answer to that question. Where?