Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, May 30, 2014

How You Made Them Feel - People Will Never Forget

"Reflections from the Past" ©Mary Montague Sikes
There's a song I like from Zumba class that says, "I'm the one you won't forget." That's about feelings, I suppose.

When I saw the Maya Angelou quote, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel," I started thinking even more about the importance of spreading positive energy--of creating positive memories. How tragic if the only memory someone has of you is the negative way you made her/him feel.

As an artist, I strive to create memorable paintings. These paintings all hold a message of some kind. The message can be as simple as, "I love this scene from nature." Or, perhaps it's, "Do you see something more here?" "Is there a symbol?" Whatever the painting is, I want the viewer to feel something they will remember when they see it.

As a writer, I want to put words on the paper that have meaning. I want to leave a positive message in the end, and, as a writer of romance, I want the reader to close my book with a good feeling.

The writer of poetry, as Angelou was, has an even more memorable way of conveying thoughts. I will never forget the words of Edgar Allen Poe in the poem Annabel Lee:

"I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee--
With a love that the wing├Ęd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me."

Those words made me feel Poe's passion. They made me want to know more about Annabel Lee and why Poe cared so deeply. They are words and feelings I will never forget.

As a teacher, I want my students to remember not my words so much as the positive feelings and inspiration I hope they gain from them. Students from long ago have come back to tell me of accomplishments I inspired; they have good feelings, positive memories from the past.

What a profound statement Maya Angelou made with her words, her poems. She was an amazing woman and poet who knew how to use her words wisely. She knew how to create strong feelings. Angelou is like the words from the Zumba song, "I'm the one you won't forget."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Checking Your Name in Google

How often do you check your name in Google to see what comes up? I try to do it from time to time just to find out what is registering there and what is listed at the top. Today, when I searched "Mary Montague Sikes," I got 367,000 results with Notes Along the Way on the top, followed by my website, then my Amazon page. Nothing unusual there, so, just for fun, I decided to search "Monti Sikes," my nickname that I have been trying to avoid for the last year or so in order not to brand two names. Much to my surprise, that name got almost one million results.

I was amazed.

What was especially amazing to me is that under Monti Sikes, I pulled up a whole long list of various references to Arch Adamson, the New Age novelist character I created in my book Eagle Rising. It appears that Arch Adamson has taken on a life beyond what I ever imagined.

"Buy Eagle Rising in India. Price:Rs.595 Discount:18% + Free Shipping on ... series presented by enigmatic New Age novelist and lecturer, Arch Adamson. ... www.flipkart.com" This is a place I know nothing about.

It was rather disconcerting and surprising to find my character's name on a page with background checks and vital records. Then, beneath all of that, this long list describing Arch Adamson as the "popular novelist" and "New Age lecturer." Of course, all of this is completely fictitious, but it looks a little real when you see it all listed in black and white. I know characters often take over from me as I'm writing the story, but taking on a life of their own is a new one for me.

What about you? Have you found your characters making an impression beyond expectations?

Do you Google your name periodically?









Friday, May 23, 2014

Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases Images Online

It was exciting to learn that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has released about 400,000 high resolution images of its art into the public domain. This is for non-commercial purposes, of course, but it is delightful news for bloggers who enjoy including photographs with their post. Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard are two of the painters who have influenced my artwork over the years. Many photographs are among these images.

If you love art and like to include images in your posts, please check out The Collection on Line.

Happy Memorial Day!
Still Life with Vegetables
Henri Matisse - Metropolitan Museum
The Terrace at Vernonnet
Pierre Bonnard  - Metropolitan Museum

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Loving Pastels and Art at Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center

"Roses at the Cultural Arts Center" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Seen in Virginia," an exhibition of pastel paintings by members of The Pastel Society of Virginia. is on view until July 13 at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. The opening reception, May 18, was well-attended. 

It's exciting to see the renewed interest in pastel art in Virginia. It has long been one of my favorite art mediums.

Pastels became especially popular in the late 19th century when Mary Cassatt created her charming Mother and Child paintings. Other French Impressionists, including Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet used this exciting and luminous medium  for their work as well.

Gift Shop, Red Poppies, top right
Besides hosting the exhibition of work by The Pastel Society of Virginia, the Cultural Arts Center is an exciting place to visit any time. It's the site of numerous theatrical productions, a wide variety of art and writing workshops, and much more. The expansive gift shop features work by Virginia artists and craftsmen. Many of my encaustic paintings and other art pieces are for sale there. My favorite painting (of those I have in the gift shop) is "Red Poppies, Like Georgia," an encaustic. (The horse on the left in the Seen in Virginia show is mine.)

The Cultural Arts Center, 2880 Mountain Road in Glen Allen VA, is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's also open for theatrical presentations and other events that often take place on weekends.
"Grazing Near Colonial Downs" pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Seen in Virginia Opening Reception" ©Mary Montague Sikes





Friday, May 16, 2014

We've Got Wine; We've Got Scenery

Winery Sign ©MMSikes
Our little Virginia town is right across the Pamunkey River from New Kent County which is now booming with wineries. The newest one, Gauthier Vineyard, is located off the Farmer's Road which winds through farmland along a trail once foraged by wild animals. I've never thought of this narrow road as particularly scenic. It is mostly used as a cut-through road from Rt. 33 to Barhamsville, an annoyance, I suspect, for the farmers along the way.

"Pond View" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The winery is a little hidden treasure. With blue Adirondack chairs dotting the verandah, the facility offers an opportunity for parties and club events. The view from the windows features a scenic pond that I did not realize existed there.  The vineyard is located on a farm that once served as encampments for both Confederate and Union soldiers.

As I watch New Kent grow and develop, I think about our little town that is naturally scenic with three rivers forming most of its boundaries. At the turn of the 20th Century, it was a thriving recreational destination with the Terminal Hotel, located on the York River peninsula point, attracting numerous tourists. Many came from Richmond by train and some eventually boarded a steamer en route to Baltimore. It is a magical history that can easily become a writer's delight. When the hotel burned, the waterfront magic stopped and has never been restored.

In 1914, a paper mill was built on the edge of the Pamunkey River and became a part of the scenery there. The mill, mostly the Chesapeake Corporation through the years but now RockTenn, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend. It is not so scenic, except when viewed at night, but it has brought money into the town. That money has paid for an excellent school system that is one of the best in the state of Virginia.

Still, when I look at the scenic developments in New Kent County, I wonder, why not our little town as well? After all, we've got scenery. Perhaps we need a winery here, too.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Painting En Plein Air - A First Excursion with a French Easel

Rosewell Plantation ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last Saturday, for Historic Garden Week in Virginia, I painted en plein air at the Rosewell Plantation ruins in Gloucester. Construction on the magnificent brick house began in 1725. Eventually, it was described as the largest and finest colonial home in America. Thomas Jefferson did some of his first writing at Rosewell. Sadly, the old mansion burned in 1916. The remains are iconic and a little bit eerie.

For many years, I have toyed with the idea of purchasing a French Easel to set up for outdoor painting. Although I looked at art stores and online, I never found one that appeared sturdy and attractive for a price I was willing to pay. After all, with all the insects we have in Tidewater Virginia, I'm not sure how often I will use it. Last week (Sunday of the week I was scheduled to paint on Saturday), I looked once again at the Cheap Joe's American Journey French easel and decided it was the one for me. With the specials and other items I ordered, I was able to get free shipping which always attracts me. Since it didn't ship until Thursday, I was worried I wouldn't get it in time for Saturday. However, we seem to have a direct route (with regular shipping) from Boone NC to my home. The two boxes arrived on my doorstep by noon last Friday.
"Painting at Rosewell" ©Olen Sikes

The French easel is even nicer than I expected. I love the convenience of the drawers and compartments. Using Rembrandt soft pastels and a few Senneliers, I completed a pastel painting on the grounds of Rosewell. In my studio, I added a few color highlights to the painting. I still have not tried the Sennelier oil pastels I ordered, but that's a project for a different day.

Now I'm looking forward to another excursion en plein air. At my house, the gnats and mosquitoes are out full force. We were fortunate that insects were not a problem for painting at Rosewell Plantation ruins. Thank you Historic Garden Week and Gloucester Arts on the Main for inviting artists to paint on the grounds of the houses on tour. Thank you, Cheap Joe, for the quick delivery of my beautiful new French easel.

As for Rosewell Plantation, I wonder if someday a restoration will take place. So much history lies hidden among the ruins.
"Rosewell En Plein Air" ©Olen Sikes



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reflections on A to Z Blog Challenge 2014

By using the wonderful National Parks System as the subject of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge, I learned a lot writing each of 26 posts. For future reference, I discovered more parks to add to my bucket list. The five parks in Utah are especially intriguing for the photographer in me. Bryce Canyon National Park was my most popular post, and Zion was the second most popular. Both of these National Parks are in Utah.

I did not do as well as in the past with visiting blogs and making comments. Although I wanted to make new blog friends, I discovered that many of the ones below me on the participants lists were not actually involved in A to Z. Also, a number of the blogs I visited and liked did not have a link that I could find for comments. That was discouraging. However, I visited some incredible blogs I wouldn't have known about otherwise and have added some of them to my sidebar so I can see when they create a new post.

Thanks to the founders of the A to Z Blog Challenge which has gained in popularity each year. Thanks also to this year's hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Author Stephen Tremp http://authorstephentremp.blogspot.com/
Tina @ Life is Good http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/
Damyanti@Amlokiblogs http://amloki.blogspot.com/
Jeremy @ Being Retro http://www.beingretro.com/
Nicole Ayers - The Madlab Post www.madlabpost.com
M. J. Joachim's Writing Tips http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com
Heather M. Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/
AJ @ Naturally Sweet http://frodofrog.blogspot.com
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian http://unconventionallibrarian.com - See more at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html#sthash.jqJLl97o.dpuf

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Author Stephen Tremp http://authorstephentremp.blogspot.com/
Tina @ Life is Good http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/
Damyanti@Amlokiblogs http://amloki.blogspot.com/
Jeremy @ Being Retro http://www.beingretro.com/
Nicole Ayers - The Madlab Post www.madlabpost.com
M. J. Joachim's Writing Tips http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com
Heather M. Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/
AJ @ Naturally Sweet http://frodofrog.blogspot.com
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian http://unconventionallibrarian.com

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Author Stephen Tremp http://authorstephentremp.blogspot.com/
Tina @ Life is Good http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/
Damyanti@Amlokiblogs http://amloki.blogspot.com/
Jeremy @ Being Retro http://www.beingretro.com/
Nicole Ayers - The Madlab Post www.madlabpost.com
M. J. Joachim's Writing Tips http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com
Heather M. Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/
AJ @ Naturally Sweet http://frodofrog.blogspot.com
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian http://unconventionallibrarian.com - See more at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html#sthash.jqJLl97o.dpuf

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Author Stephen Tremp http://authorstephentremp.blogspot.com/
Tina @ Life is Good http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/
Damyanti@Amlokiblogs http://amloki.blogspot.com/
Jeremy @ Being Retro http://www.beingretro.com/
Nicole Ayers - The Madlab Post www.madlabpost.com
M. J. Joachim's Writing Tips http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com
Heather M. Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/
AJ @ Naturally Sweet http://frodofrog.blogspot.com
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian http://unconventionallibrarian.com - See more at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html#sthash.jqJLl97o.dpuf

Monday, May 5, 2014

STL Stained Glass Surprise

Last month, in the midst of the A to Z Challenge, I received a lovely surprise--a stained glass piece featuring the logo of the St. Louis Cardinals. In October, prior to the 2013 World Series, Ed Irish, who is as big a fan of the Boston Red Sox as I am a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, proposed a bet on the outcome of the Series. If the Red Sox won, I would create a painting for him; if the Cardinals won, he would make a stained glass piece for me. Of course, I lost the bet and in January I made a pastel painting of Fenway Park for Ed.

I am thrilled with this beautiful piece of art. Thank you, Ed Irish. What an amazing surprise!