Daddy's Christmas Angel

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Loving Animals, Books, and Children


 An Artful Animal Alphabet, my first published children's book, has been released. What a thrill it is to hold this bright hardcover edition in my hands.

Because I've worked for many years teaching children to love art as much as I do, I suspect this book is greatly inspired by their work and their excited enthusiasm. It is also inspired by the love of animals I have witnessed in my own three daughters who grew up rescuing and protecting them.

We once had a baby blue jay sheltered in our garage for a while. We've had multiple stray feral cats. One daughter had a special little dog that she loved dearly for many years. Some of the animals in my book were inspired by photos taken of the unusual creatures two of them saw and photographed on visits to Tasmania and Australia several years ago.

Each animal has a little story to go with it. My hope is that someone will expand my stories or make up their own tales to go with each of the 26 paintings in my book.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Returning to Mary Washington College

Brompton ©Mary Montague Sikes
So many memories followed me as I returned to Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) for homecoming. We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, location of the college, when I was growing up. Our home was on the other side of the block from Sunken Road where so many died during the Civil War. As you drive along it, that road still feels sad today.

Brompton, home of the president of the university, was known as Marye House during the Civil War and served as headquarters for Confederate General James Longstreet. It later was used by the Union Army as a hospital.

For the reunion, Brompton was a happier place. It was the lovely site of  the president's welcome reception on the lawn.

Willard Hall ©Mary Montague Sikes
Later that evening, I made a little talk to one of the reunion groups and reminiscenced about my first college room in Willard Hall. I had three roommates and all of them were horseback riders who took advantage of the riding program offered by the college. I wasn't a rider, but I loved listening to all their stories when they returned, dust-covered, to our room, Willard 313. This year, I longed to go inside the dormitory and check out our old room, but, sadly, it wasn't open to the public.

My talk was at Kenmore Inn, a location where my boyfriend (now husband) and I sometimes dined when he visited me at the college. The Inn is located not far from historic Kenmore, a place, as a child, I hurried past on the way to and from school. I feared the ghost of Fielding Lewis would suddenly appear, riding his white horse.

Kenmore Inn Entrance ©Mary Montague Sikes


Pathway to Brompton ©Mary Montague Sikes
Fredericksburg is a beautiful city, so full of history. The campus grounds of the University of Mary Washington are still beautiful. Those grounds attracted me to attend the college all those many years ago. Now, I love seeing them when I return.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Light, Love, and Sculpture in Key West

Seward Johnson sculpture in Key West ©MM Sikes
When we landed in Key West, Florida last week, the first thing I noticed was the difference in the light there. The water, foliage, and even the animals have a very Caribbean appearance. The water and clouds reminded me of my Media General painting that sold at auction earlier this month. That painting was based on photographs I took while visiting islands in the lower Caribbean.

Seward Johnson sculpture ©MM Sikes
I also was amazed once again by the life-size pieces of sculpture on the roof that greet arriving visitors to the Conch Republic. I wonder, but didn't ask, if they, too, are by the prolific artist, Seward Johnson, who entertains tourists with his delightful creations on view outside the Art Museum by the docks. He has changed the one in front of the building and now has the sailor kissing the nurse after the WWII popular photograph. An earlier one at that location was of dancers from a different period of history.

Johnson sculptures on the airport roof ©Mary Montague Sikes
Seeing the Johnson sculptural renderings makes a visit the Key West worthwhile. I didn't go inside the Art Museum this time. However, I will never forget "The Boating Party" that Johnson fashioned after the famous Renoir painting.
His fantastic sculpture was on view at the museum several years ago. It was a perfect example of light, love, and sculpture.

Monday, May 15, 2017

When Collections Are Auctioned

3059.1.jpg  A few days ago, I learned that the Media General Art Collection was being auctioned off. That fact denotes another sad "changing of the times".

I was proud to have one of my pastel paintings, "Blue Seas", in their collection. According to the auction house documentation, Media General purchased my painting in 2001. I don't recall from what gallery they got it. It was one of 369 pieces of art in the auction that ended this morning.

Media General owned the Richmond Times-Dispatch that operated out of a building in downtown Richmond, Virginia for years. That same building was once also the home of the Richmond News Leader, the afternoon newspaper for which I served as a correspondent and wrote many feature articles and news stories for nine years.

We were in competition with the Times-Dispatch, so I spent many hours on deadline, on the telephone, and learning lots about being a good news reporter. I worked with John Gunn, an outstanding and very professional editor who made certain that every fact was checked for accuracy. That was a wonderful and valuable experience that helped develop my writing career.

When Media General purchased my painting for their newspaper building, it was especially meaningful to me. The printing presses were long-gone, but the reporters were still there.

Things change. Newspapers vanish. Art moves on. Because it is an auction, the new owner is only a number.

Times change.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prompting the Writer and Artist - #Blogging A to Z Challenge 2017

Often the writer needs prompts to get started. So does the artist. That's why I appreciate the A to Z Challenge. This year was no different because the Challenge got me to create poems for 26, mostly small, watercolor paintings. The poetry made me think, and for that I am always grateful.

Past Challenges have sparked new projects, especially the one several years ago when I painted animal images with acrylics on canvas each day. Thanks to Mike Orenduff, my new publisher, for making my new book possible. An Artful Animal Alphabet is a children's book, but it's really for people of all ages. Except for one, the animal images were all created in my Challenge project.

Because of prompting and promotion by people I have never met in person, my latest book will soon become a reality. The Challenge has sparked other ideas, so new projects might await in the future.

I appreciate all the wonderful creative people I have met because of the Internet and also because of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Thanks to all who have made the Challenge and creative connection possible.