Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, September 18, 2017

We Can't Control the Weather

Island Club 2016 ©Mary Montague Sikes
A few weeks ago, I thought I had everything figured out--book events and art happenings. We would drive down to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, enjoy the beach and favorite restaurants for a few days, then I would teach two three-day workshops at the Art Academy. It would be fun. I looked forward to expanding my wings with cold wax as well as exploring more mixed media with students. During our time at Hilton Head, I hoped to learn to play pickle ball on the beautiful Island Club tennis courts.

At the end of the week, we planned to get on the road for four hours, heading down to Valdosta, Georgia for a book signing and children's program for An Artful Animal Alphabet. I would get to know my new publisher and visit an Art Center. What could be more perfect?!

Well, as you know, Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Irma had other plans. Our resort, Island Club, in Hilton Head was closed and the road entering the community, blocked. Although we hoped to get part of our week's vacation, we learned that the resort would remain closed for the rest of the week and some units for this week as well. In addition, the bookstore in Valdosta suffered some water damage, so that signing event was cancelled as well.
Hyatt Windward Point Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes

We are glad we chose Key West over Sedona for a vacation trip in May. Windward Point was beautiful then, and I suspect the lush palm trees and green grass are lush and green no more. And, too, I wonder about the fascinating pieces of sculpture that greet visitors as they land at the airport and later as they stroll the streets, drinks in hand. Could they have survived? I hope, but I doubt. Perhaps with damage.

We make plans. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. We can't control the weather.

Perhaps one day ...

Seward Johnson sculpture Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Scheduling Events for My New Book - An Artful Animal Alphabet

An Artful Animal Alphabet is my first book directed mostly to children. Because of the artwork,  it is an adult book as well that might even be fun to display on a coffee table.

I have just begun to schedule events for my new hardcover book. The paintings in the book are ones I created for the April Blog Challenge several years ago. At the time, I had no plans for a book. Then I grew fascinated with the results and decided the mostly small paintings deserved to be seen by more people. Now, I realize that means scheduling events in art galleries as well as in book stores and other shops.

My first art gallery signing is scheduled for Petersburg's Friday for the Arts on September 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Ward Gallery for Contemporary Art. This is a beautiful site for any event, so I expect it to be very special for a book signing. I plan to exhibit a few of the little paintings in addition to having my books there. My paintings from the first gallery show I had at the Ward Center are also there, so this will be a very special combination for me.

Some of the paintings in An Artful Animal Alphabet are based on photographs taken by my daughter, Amy Sikes, during trips to Australia and Tazmania. Amy is a true animal-lover who finds most fur creatures special. I chose one of her photos as my reference material for the possum which is a bit of a different animal down under than the American opossum.

Later this month, I have a signing scheduled in Valdosta, Georgia. On November 4, I'll participate in the Book Festival at the James City branch of Williamsburg Regional Library. At all the locations, I plan to have some of my original paintings that inspired the book. I also have a little art project to do with children that will relate to my book.
My paintings at The Ward Center ©Mary Montague Sikes

These are fun books. If you have suggestions for book signing locations, I would love to hear about them.

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.