Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Artist Workshops, What Value Are They?


"Traveling with Monet" ©MMSikes demo piece

It was the late 1990s when I received a phone call from Jan Ledbetter, an artist friend I met as a member of Richmond Pen Women. She invited me to attend a workshop being taught in Williamsburg by Florida artist Mary Alice Braukman. I was uncertain what to say. Since I had earned my MFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University, I hadn't really thought about taking, or needing to take, a workshop. How wrong I was about that.

I owe Jan Ledbetter a debt of gratitude for calling me that day. The week-long (I think) workshop was wonderful. This was where I first used Yupo, a painting surface I love to this day. Mary Alice was a marvelous, caring instructor, and I met so many other artists.

In 2003, I discovered the amazing workshop program at Cheap Joe's in Boone, NC. Until the pandemic, they had workshops every week from April through October. I tried to take one workshop there each year. It was where I discovered Mary Ann Beckwith and her use of the intense Robert Doak watercolors on Yupo. I met Robert Burridge there, Pat Dews, Kathleen Conover, Janet Rogers, and so many other exciting instructors.

In Sedona AZ, I found the Sedona Art Center and more outstanding workshops. There, I had the opportunity to meet and take workshops with Jan Sitts and Claudia Hartley.

Back in Virginia, I discovered cold wax and oil in workshops with Lisa Boardwine. That material and process of painting has greatly influenced my work.

Besides taking workshops, I enjoy teaching them. Not long ago, I taught a cold wax and oil workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main. The materials in this workshop can transform the way you paint and how you approach each new work you make.

Next spring, March 22, 23, 24, 1 to 4 p.m., I will be teaching another oil/cold wax workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main. It's called "Bringing in the Magic", and it is surely a class filled with joy and magic.

After the holidays, on January 7, I'll be teaching my "Paint Like Georgia (O'Keeffe)" acrylics class for Arts Alive at West Point United Methodist Church.

It has been a long and fruitful journey through many workshops since that very first one years ago. I hope future months and years will bring as much joy as I have already found meeting many talented artists and teachers along the way.        

Friday, August 20, 2021

Painting and Sculpture, Loving Both to Make Art


Vermont Marble ©MMSikes

While studying in the Studio Art Department at the College of William & Mary, I fell in love with both sculpture and painting with acrylics. Back then, I met Thomas Thorne who was a proud graduate of Yale University and talked often of his days there. “Dr.” Thorne was especially enamored with thick, juicy acrylic paints that were fairly new at the time. The results when working on stretched canvas were somewhat similar to using oil paints. Dr. Thorne was excited and encouraged me to learn as much about them as I could. Although he was brusque, he took an interest in me and suggested books that I bought and that remain in my art library today.

"Mother and Child"
 I was enrolled in the college and, instead of signing up for regularly scheduled art classes, I took studio art each semester. My class could be studio painting, studio sculpture, studio printmaking, etc. It was art heaven for me, so I took two studio classes each semester, painting and sculpture.

I’m not sure what drew me to sculpture at W&M except I enjoyed ceramics classes and working in three-dimension. I was happy to get to know Carl Roseburg who was an amazing instructor. In his classes, I learned to create busts using plaster casts over the Plasticine clay that I had sculpted. I also learned how to weld metal support systems to use for building up cement sculptures. The sculpture, "Mother and Child", is 5 1/2 feet tall and is among my most prized art collection.

While at William & Mary, I worked with Vermont marble for many months, sculpting an abstract piece, using the subtraction process. I discovered how to work with chisels and files. During my research, I was especially influenced by British sculptor Henry Moore which is especially noticeable in the blocky forms I created with Keene's cement.

Eventually, I realized the difficulties that came with making sculpture. Most of it, I could not move by myself. It was awkward to keep and store. Although I have sometimes carved Montana talc and worked with Celuclay, I decided that painting is the medium for me. When you love color, that's the place to be.

Mary Montague Sikes


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Power of Art for Healing

Conference meditation paintings ©Sikes

Art, Healing, and Meditation--I believe in the power of all three, especially when they are used together. 

A few years ago, I presented a workshop in San Diego, California, for which I demonstrated the process of intuitively creating art and poetry for meditation and healing. This was at a World Healers Conference, sponsored by the Institute of Thought. Dr. Joseph Costa and his staff were in charge of the weekend event. (Sadly, Joe left the earthly plane earlier this year, so there will probably be no more conferences like that one. I always learned a great deal from him and from all those attending.)

During this event, I demonstrated my creation of meditation paintings, and I developed unique pieces of healing art, for several people, including Joe. I , also, wrote intuitive poetry for each painting. The work I made was with Robert Doak intense watercolors on Yupo, a favorite painting surface of mine.

There is a special element that develops in my work that I make in this manner. I believe there are important messages to be found  in both the painted image and the words that come as part of the process. There is power in the discovery, and meditation can bring healing for mind, body, and spirit.

Sometimes I use the Robert Doak intense watercolors on canvas and am amazed at what develops on that surface. These are two of the canvas paintings I created about the time of the conference.

"Optimism" ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Love" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Sometimes I believe everything I paint is done intuitively. The words on these paintings can offer healing. I believe in the meditative power of art for healing.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Hiking Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

"On the trail to Angel's Landing" ©O Sikes

 It was a hot July day, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Our daughter, Allison, planned an amazing trip for us to visit some of the beautiful National Parks in Utah. Zion was the first, and someone suggested the hike to Angel's Landing as an activity. 

I loved the name, Angel's Landing, so I said, "Let do it."

It was already early afternoon when we began our trek. The climb was scorching and dusty. Since I couldn't keep up, our daughters went on ahead. I was thankful for the trekking stick that gave me more confidence for the hike.

Many people passed me along the way--young couples, families, rugged-looking hikers going it alone. They all headed with confidence toward Angel's Landing. But then there were others, coming back from the direction of our destination. Some dragged along, disappointment evident from their gait. Others appeared happier, more upbeat. Someone stopped to tell me about the chains needed for the final, most dangerous sections of the climb. 

With my fear of heights and lack of hiking boots, could I make it to the top, I wondered.

"Angel's Landing Sign" ©Mary Montague Sikes
 It began to feel unlikely, especially after I saw a sign, warning of dangers I had not expected. It was hazardous during thunderstorms and darkness. Of course, and it was also dangerous for those who got dizzy because of heights. There were lots more reasons for turning back. People died hiking this trail.

Naively, I originally thought I might actually make it to the top. I went as far as I felt safe walking and climbing. My expectations were too high. 

I marveled at those who crossed our country by covered wagon and survived. It took tremendous courage to battle the elements and the rugged landscape.

On the return hike back to the luxury of the lodge, I heard a flop, flop sound. When I looked down, I discovered that the soles of my tennis shoes had disintegrated along the way. Thankfully, I was not higher up toward Angel's Landing when that happened.

During our trip, we found easier hiking trails, all with glorious scenery. We enjoyed Bryce Canyon National Park, and much more. I never reached the top of Angel's Landing and neither did our daughters, but they made it much farther than I did.

"Angel's Landing Trail ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Angel's Landing" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Creating a Painting with Light and Love

 I am often asked how long it took to create the painting the viewer is studying on my gallery wall. If I think about it for a while, I might be able to tell him how many hours of work it took to put paint on the canvas, layer by layer. But that's not the whole story because each of my paintings has a lifetime of experience behind its creation. That is difficult to measure. That experience is Timeless.

  "Understanding Light" is one of the newest paintings in my gallery at Crossroads Art Center. It developed as I studied the woods behind our home. From morning to night, the light constantly changes. Light plays in different ways on the leaves on the dozens of tree that rise tall outside our windows. All day, I watch the images and shadows that grow among the trees. 

As I worked on my painting in the studio, I turned it 90 degrees daily and added paint from a new direction. I studied the work of abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell from during the early stages of her career in the 1950s and 60s. I was enthralled to learn that instead of red, she used a salmon color in her paintings. Since the early 2000s, I have used Vermilion, a more salmon orange-red as the under painting for my works on canvas. As I turned and painted, I became aware of new elements to add. Meandering pathways through the sometimes glowing trees grew in importance. It was winter when I created this work of art and no leaves were visible on my trees, but little circles of light shone there. Splashes of gold appeared. Lines in light and shadow came to be. Each day, something new hid in the shadows of my creation.

"Understanding Light" ©Mary Montague Sikes


Then, one day, a poem came to me for my new painting. Here is the beginning of that poetry which will go with the painting to an owner who finds delight in its growth from blank 40" x 40" canvas into a new creation:


I walked into the valley, and, there, I saw the snow fly.

My heart gathered forth the energy lost when I watched

A bird perched high on the limb of a white oak tree.

Wings furled, it called out to me to visit the leaf-covered ground.


This is a new journey, I said, clutching my paint brush close.

I must visit the far marsh and see the snow settle over the waters.

Brown and serene, they play magenta and purple, rushing always.

Colors plan my journey and dance among glimmering shadows.

©Mary Montague Sikes

The painting is hanging now in my Richmond, Virginia gallery, awaiting an excited new owner who will experience a special journey in color and light that will forever change his/her perception of life.