Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Searching for Happiness

"Happiness with Art" ©Olen Sikes
The search for happiness. Is happiness a goal everyone seeks to achieve?

There are ads everywhere for travel to beautiful and exotic destinations. Will travel take us to the happiness we want in life?

I find happiness in art, especially paintings created with bright happy colors. It is a blessing to escape into my studio, surrounded by acrylics, oils, watercolors, pastels, and more. If you are searching for happiness, you might find it by taking an art class.

For many years, I wrote profiles of people who did good works in some of Virginia's smaller communities, including Williamsburg and Gloucester. These stories were published in the Newport News Daily Press. It was inspiring to interview these people who were mostly unselfish volunteers. Many of them had moved to rural areas after retiring from important jobs in northern cities. As I think about it now, I realize these kind volunteers were giving back to their communities in ways that brought happiness to their own lives.

  • Happiness is bringing joy to others.

  • Happiness is finding color and brightness in your life.

  • Happiness is having a fulfilling plan for each day.

What else would you add to this list? What makes you smile?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Trees - "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely ..."

"Woods and Creek" ©Mary Montague Sikes

I love them.

They inspire me.

"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree."

Those words are from the poem by Joyce Kilmer that our seventh grade teacher had us memorize all those many years ago. I loved trees then and I find them even more special now.

A few years ago, we went on a trip to Haiti, and the thing that struck me most there was the lack of beautiful, lush trees despite the tropical climate. The landscape was devastated by the loss of trees because desperate people had ravished their graceful presence to make charcoal. How sad for the environment and for the beauty that might have been.

As I write, I look out from my office into our woods. It is a place where I often imagine Pocahontas once played. After all, these woods overlook West Point Creek. In 1608, John Smith explored the York River by barge or canoe--I've read both. Our little town is on the peninsula where the York divides into the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi Rivers. West Point Creek which comes off of the Mattaponi was probably part of the exploration. It is clearly shown on the French army map from 1781.

The trees that surround us have been photographed often by me. I have painted them multiple times in many colors and styles. All the while, I have wondered what the old trees have seen. Do they judge the people who study and paint them? What is the conversation in the wind?

I think that I shall never see a painting or a poem as lovely as a tree.

How they spark the imagination.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day - Remembering the Fallen, Beginning of Summer

©Mary Montague Sikes
Memorial Day, 2018.

This is a day to remember the fallen heroes who fought to save the freedom Americans enjoy every day. For many years, I took Memorial Day for granted. It was a time of disruption from our daily schedule in elementary school and high school. The children usually were transported somewhere to hear speeches that meant little to them or to me at the time. It was a holiday less celebrated then than now. We didn't have the day off from school.

A few years later, Memorial Day became the start of summer for me. I fell in love with tennis, and it was the beginning of tennis season at the club where I played. I was one of the most fanatical players, running on the courts all morning while our children swam in the pool, going home to fix lunch, and returning with my husband in the evening for more matches. It was a crazy time when I spent more hours mopping rain water from the courts than sweeping dirt from our steps at home. Tennis was really popular then, so there was usually a wait time to get on the courts.

Time moves on.

Listening to the sermon in church yesterday, I realized more than ever before the importance of our fallen heroes, especially the young sailor who died on a ship off the Philippine Islands during World War II. He was the patriotic serviceman for whom Kirby Street in our little town of West Point, Virginia is named. His sacrifice made me understand more than ever why we used to salute the flags in our school classrooms and why we stand today, hand over our hearts, for the National Anthem.

I don't have time now to practice long hours to play competitive tennis. I miss it and remember the fun we had every year on Memorial Day. I look at the photograph on Facebook of the two children hugging the tombstone of their fallen soldier hero father. And I remember the true meaning of this day. I'm proud to be an American, and I am happy to be free thanks to our fallen heroes.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Learning More About Yupo - A Different Painting Process

"Tangled on Xanadu" (right) ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I work on Yupo, I get lots of questions about the process. After all, Yupo has a slick synthetic surface completely different from the usual look and feel of watercolor papers such as Arches.

The painting on the right in the photo, taken of one of my gallery walls in Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, Virginia, features Yupo attached with matte acrylic medium to a gallery-wrapped canvas. It is an experimental painting in many ways because of my methods of applying intense Robert Doak watercolors to the Yupo and because it is on canvas and not under glass.

I discovered Yupo in the mid-1990s while taking a workshop with Mary Alice Braukman in Williamsburg. At the time, we experimented briefly with alcohol inks dripped on the surface and moved around with alcohol sprays. The color shifted and moved as it dried, making it fun to watch. I was hooked on the paper that wasn't. I did some research and found that Yupo, used for printing, was manufactured in Chesapeake, Virginia. Since it was not far away, I went to the plant and was given a variety of samples of some very large sheets of Yupo in all the different weights they made at the time. I was thrilled. The experimentation continued.

It was not until I discovered Mary Ann Beckwith in 2004 that I uncovered the most exciting aspects of working with Yupo. She introduced me to the amazing and intense Robert Doak paints that he created in his Brooklyn, New York studio. Playing and spraying paint on heavyweight sheets of Yupo produced art pieces like nothing I had ever seen before. I loved it. Mary Ann used her background in chemistry, inspired by her chemist father, to lead her students to the discovery of exciting creative results using a variety of materials.

Thanks to the wonderful teachers I have encountered along the way and the growth of the Yupo market, my journey in experimental work has grown and expanded. The more I learn about working on Yupo, the more my joy increases.

"I Love Yupo" is the title of the demonstration I plan to give at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond during the Open House on May 18.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Zest is Our Life Blood - A to Z Blogging Challenge

"Zest is Life Blood" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Zest is Our Life Blood" is my phrase for today's A to Z Blogging Challenge. Zest is the perfect word to close out my posts. After all, enthusiasm and passion are synonyms for zest, and I have great passion for art and for the response it inspires.

Today's painting is experimental. I love to experiment with art. Years ago, I created work using scraps of colored Plexiglas embedded in Celluclay (instant papier mache). It was fun and created dialog. I enjoyed the sculptural quality of the work.

"Zest is Life Blood" is cold wax and oil on two-inch thick Styrofoam that is 18" x 18". (I couldn't resist using this material when it was given to me.) Once again, I see a lot in this piece of art. It overflows with zest, enthusiasm, and passion. Life blood is the basis for this painting. Images lurk throughout.

What are your feelings? Should last be first?

Which pieces of my art do you like best? Which materials?