Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Your Health is the Most Important Thing

Get Healthy Blog Hop

Get Healthy Blog HopMy mother used to tell me that if you don't have your health, you don't have anything. She was so right! I know that if for some reason I don't feel well, I'm not inspired to write and I have no desire to head into the studio to paint. That's why I've developed a plan for Writing Health.


Fitness Classes are good for your health.
Writers spend way too much time seated in front of a computer. To maintain good health, we need to develop an exercise program from the very beginning. Years ago, I began taking aerobics classes. I went from floor aerobics to step aerobics. At first, I worried that the step would injure my knees but found instead that it strengthened them. Over the years, I've taken a variety of classes but have kept a schedule of doing at least 3 hour-long or longer classes each week. Right now, I take a Tabata class (an interval training class using the 20/10 rule of 20 seconds of workout then 10 seconds of rest with 8 repetitions per cycle and 8 to 12 cycles per class), Zumba (an intense class with Latin and other dance routines), and Hatha Yoga. The Tabata class includes use of Power Ropes for strength training. With these classes and playing tennis when possible, my weight is basically what it was when I was in high school (including a little additional weight for the muscles I have now I didn't have then).

I am fortunate that my Fitness Center offers a wide variety of classes for all levels of ability. If you don't have the opportunity to go to a Wellness Center, you can set up a schedule of walking a mile or two three or four times a week. Also, get a set of hand weights and keep them by your computer desk. Do a set of biceps lifts and a set of triceps lifts several times during the day at least three days a week. While lifting weights, strengthen your eyesight from focusing on distant objects through your office window.

Healthy Diet

Meat and cheese from this tray would be good choices.
Everyone needs a healthy diet. I am not a cook and cannot offer recipe advice. However, I do believe in eating balanced meals including fresh vegetables and salads with lunch and dinner. We have chicken and fish most often and pork or beef on occasion. I seldom eat hamburger because I've found it leaves me sluggish. For the past few months, we have not eaten bread because of concerns that the genetically engineered grains are not good for our health. Although I'm not following it completely, I am interested in the Paleo diet.

I believe in common sense when it comes to eating. No fad diets. Stay away from snack food. Take vitamin supplements. We've found that Chondroitin/Glucosamine is an excellent supplement to prevent leg cramps and arthritic problems--three a day.

Get healthy. Stay healthy. Make that your plan for life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tides Inn in Virginia - A Special Destination

Dining on the patio at Tides Inn - ©Mary Montague Sikes
This weekend we spent two days at the Art Market in Tides Inn at Irvington, Virginia. This is a beautiful setting that has become a summer destination for many, especially people who live in the metropolitan Washington DC and the Baltimore areas.

After several years with economy-related decline in guests, it was delightful to see renewed vitality and excitement at the resort that was built on an historic farm site in 1946. Located on Carters Creek in sight of the Rappahannock River, the inn quickly became an important destination not only for vacationers but also for area residents wanting a memorable dining experience on special occasions.

For years, going to Tides Inn for Memorial Day weekend has signaled the beginning of summer. However, on Saturday, the cold, windy weather felt more like late fall. I felt sorry for those heading out with tennis racquets to the courts.

For lunch on Saturday, we drove over to the famous Golden Eagle Golf Course. The dining room there features pulley-driven fans that were bought from a New Orleans restaurant and, according to our waitress, are much older than the golf course building where the restaurant facility is located.

Sunday, the weather was beautiful--perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities at the resort. As we sat on a deck overlooking the chilly water, we watched two swimmers cross the long distance to the opposite shore and back. Others were out enjoying their various types of boats. It was a lovely beginning for summer.

Sailing at Tides Inn ©Mary Montague Sikes

For the Art Marketplace, I made a few archival cards of the animals I created for the A to Z Challenge A Painting a Day. Following the show, I left a variety of those cards in the gift shop at Tides Inn.

After many years of ownership by the Stephens family, Tides Inn is now a "preferred boutique" in the Enchantment Group. They also own and operate the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona--one of my favorite places in all the world.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Living in the Moment

When bad things happen like the tornadoes in Oklahoma with lives lost suddenly, you start to think about living in the moment. After all that moment might be all you have, and you should appreciate it to the fullest.

My mother used to tell me to "wake up and smell the roses". She worried that I "burned the candle at both ends". Mother was right about that, and I still do. However, I am thinking more about living in the present and enjoying the flowers in bloom and the beautiful sunsets which I have always appreciated but perhaps never quite enough.

"Portal to Forever" acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
Sometimes I create paintings that make me think. "Portal to Forever" is one of those. A few years ago, I stood inside one of the smaller buildings excavated from the jungles at Palenque in Southern Mexico. It was part of the Maya Ruins from long ago. I started to think of the people who stood in that place before me. I stared through the portal, across the massive foliage that led to Guatemala, and wondered about the past. I took 35mm color slides of the scene that would later serve as reference photos for my paintings.

Was I living in the moment that day in Palenque? Or was I living in the past? I remember that I looked across into forever. Are forever and the present one and the same?

I don't know. Do you?

Tides Inn Art Show

Memorial Day Weekend, May 25 and 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., I'll have books to sign and will paint at the Art Market, Tides Inn in Irvington VA. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Using Animal Paintings to Create a Card

©Mary Montague Sikes
Since I very much enjoyed creating the animal paintings for the A to Z Challenge, I decided to design an oversize card with some of creatures to use as a handout in my studio and for art shows. Here is the first one I planned and ordered Monday from Vista Print.

My husband bought a Groupon promotion offer from Vista for me that I needed to use by this week in order to get the full value. The card on the left is one of two projects I created. I'm looking forward to receiving the actual products to see how they turned out.

©Mary Montague Sikes
This was so much fun that I designed another card (on the right) that I might order later. What do you think? Which card design do you prefer? Did any of you have favorites from the 26 creatures?

The Painting a Day exercise brought out some colorful results. Now back to the studio...

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Makes You Happy?

"Peony" -photograph ©Mary Montague Sikes
Yesterday, when I looked out our kitchen window, I saw two peonies in full bloom nearby in our yard. I was happy because these lavender peonies have not done well and almost never bloomed in all the years since we first planted them.

The peonies actually came from my parents' garden behind the house they built in a field of peonies. An abundance of plants in many colors flourished there, but not here.

Seeing these flowers actually blooming is like a sign of good fortune to me. Of course, we've had lots of rain this year which has helped the plants thrive. I wonder why seeing a peony blooming at last can raise spirits and create a feeling of happiness. Whatever the reason, I am glad.

What makes you happy?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cancelled TV Shows - I Wonder Why Golden Boy Is Gone

Except for baseball games, I don't watch a lot of television. But in the off-season, I can get hooked on certain programs.

That's what happened this year with "Golden Boy". The first time I watched it, I didn't really care for the cast of characters. Theo James in the lead role was completely arrogant. His partner, Chi McBride, big and black, seemed like a misfit with James. However, after viewing the show a few more times, I loved the way McBride handled his part. I completely cared for these characters. Once baseball season began, I started recording the show to watch later. Each week, I looked forward to the latest episode of the story about a detective who seven years from now is destined to become the youngest police commissioner in the history of the department. I especially looked forward to seeing the interaction between James and McBride who with his patience was making the young detective grow into a more likable character. I wondered what would happen to James in the years before he became police commissioner. I worried that McBride's character would die and wouldn't be there when James reached the top.

Earlier this week, I was shocked to learn that this show has been cancelled by CBS. "Vegas", another of my favorite TV programs, was also cancelled. In "Vegas", it was fascinating to see what Las Vegas was like in the 1950s with casinos dominated by the Mafia. Each week was filled with glamorous outfits to make the viewer grow nostalgic for an earlier time. It was a great show!

Now, I wonder why I love the television shows that get cancelled. Hopefully, "Person of Interest", "NCIS", and "NCIS Los Angeles" will remain. I also like "Blue Bloods" and am still missing "Friday Night Lights".

Do any of you have favorite shows that got cancelled for next season? Is there any hope for CBS to have a change of heart ? I'll keep wondering why "Golden Boy" is gone.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Too Much of Anything is Too Much in Art or in Writing - Or Is It?

During the month of April, in midst of the A to Z Challenge, I took a week-long workshop with the talented artist Pat Dews. After hearing many accolades in praise of her paintings and her teaching, I longed to experience a workshop with her.
Pat Dews giving a demo talk in Boone NC

At the beginning of her first demonstration, Pat talked about the importance of having quiet areas within a painting. I jotted down her words, "Too much of anything is too much." Sounds simple but it is so true of anything we do, especially in creative work that includes writing as well as art.

Pat Dews' workshop was full of energy and imagination. Throughout each day of painting, she showed us many different techniques she uses to give texture in her experimental water media works. All the students in her class were experienced artists. For five days, I marveled at the talent I saw all around me. I also was impressed by the strength of the design elements in everyone's work.

Creating abstract from realism and realism from abstract was a theme I observed in many of the paintings. I love working with the abstract and with color and texture in experimental art. Pat's paint palette is much different from mine, but I still love the more muted colors she uses.
One of Pat Dews' textured demo paintings in progress

Each day, after class, I went back to my project of creating a Painting a Day for the A to Z Challenge. It was amazingly difficult for me to "shift gears" to paint with acrylics on my little stretched canvas (11" x 14" or smaller) primed with bright orange after my day working experimentally with inks, dyes and other painting media on full sheets of watercolor paper (30" x 22").

Our trip to Boone NC where the Pat Dews' workshop was held is a six-hour drive from here. While in Boone, we like to stay at the Highlands on Sugar Mountain which is a 45-minute drive from Cheap Joe's Art Stuff (workshop location). With all the travel, the first couple of days back home are recovery time. I started to wonder, did I have "too much" art all at once.

It was a lot of art, but, today, after two weeks, I'm going to unpack my experimental painting starts from the workshop and see where I might go from there in developing them. I'm also heading back into my studio to paint another cat for my A to Z Challenge group of 26 paintings. (The original cat painting went to my daughter.) I have a 20" x 20" gallery stretched canvas primed with bright orange paint, and a photo ready for reference. Since my "D" painting is of a daffodil and a dragonfly and is my only pastel on paper in the series, I'm also considering creating a new painting in acrylic on canvas for that letter.

Maybe "too much" was just not enough! I really loved doing a Painting a Day, no matter what the circumstance...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reflecting on the A to Z Challenge - A Painting a Day

A to Z SurvivorThis year's A to Z Challenge was invigorating, exhausting, exhilarating, trying, fun, frustrating, and a little expensive. All of that's because I chose to make the Challenge the creation of a Painting a Day. I planned it all out ahead of time--most of it anyway. So I was armed with photographs to work from to paint the animals I chose for each letter.

The letter "C" was especially emotional because I painted our daughter Amy's beloved cat, Casey, that had just crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. While creating this painting I felt an immediate connection with her kitty. From the moment I painted the eyes, they followed me everywhere in my studio.

In the midst of April, I realized I wouldn't have enough small/medium-size canvases for the entire month. That meant placing an order for more of the 11" x 14" gallery wrap canvases from Utrecht Art Supplies. At the end of the month, I decided that the 6" x 6" canvas I had left for the X-Ray Tetra was too small, so I purchased a larger canvas and am glad I did.

The last full week of the Challenge proved more trying than I expected because I was in Boone, North Carolina taking a week-long mixed media workshop. When I first started the Challenge, I thought it might work out for me to use something created in class each day for my post. I realized immediately that would never work because I was so committed to my animal theme. That meant I had to create a painting every day that week after the class ended. When the class ran well beyond 4 p.m., I reached panic mode to complete a painting, photograph it, then re-size it for the Internet before the facility closed at 5:45 p.m. That meant some really rushed paintings--more of a challenge than I needed.

Although I wanted to make some of the paintings before I left on the workshop trip, I found that was an impossible task. Along the way I had to marvel at the wonders of digital photography. Probably 10 years ago, I couldn't have done this daily project because I was still dealing with film and waiting to get it developed. It's almost magic now!

I am delighted to have an array of new paintings that might create a lively and interesting art show, as some of you have suggested. I also am interested in the idea that they could be used for a book project, as others of you suggested.

Many of you followed my blog each day to see what the new art creation would be. Thank you. I gained new followers and am delighted to have crossed over the 200 follower threshold. Thank you for that.

In all, this was a good Challenge. I learned, grew, and was inspired. I hope everyone enjoyed this Challenge as much as I did. Thank you, All, for making it possible!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pastel Painting Workshop - What's Your Favorite Painting Medium?

"Blue Pond" - pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes
On Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., I'm teaching a pastel workshop at This Century Art Gallery Education Center. I would love to work with any of you in the Williamsburg, Virginia area who are interested in learning more about this wonderful and direct drawing/painting medium. For artists of all levels, this is an opportunity to develop your skills while meeting others with similar interests.

From the first moment I discovered pastels, I was hooked. I admired the works of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. Whenever I see a pastel painting in an art show, I am immediately drawn to it.

What is your favorite painting medium? Do you have more than one that you especially like?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group - Concerns of a Book Author

I just remembered it is the first Wednesday and time for the Insecure Writers Support Group. The A to Z Challenge just completed has made me rethink my writing and has definitely made me insecure about it. Creating a Painting a Day has turned me back in the direction of my art which I somewhat deserted when I started to write novels.

Here are the questions racing about in my head:

1. If a writer is unwilling or unable to work on developing a long "Great American Novel", is it worthwhile to continue to write shorter books to entertain but without a meaningful message?

2. If there is little monetary gain for the time devoted to novel-writing, is it worth continuing?

3. Should a writer consider giving even more time to marketing, promoting, presenting programs, doing book signings, etc. if the potential gain appears limited?

4. More people than ever appear to be self-publishing. Is this a better route for authors than continuing with a small publisher? I've read that mid-list and even some big mainstream authors are going this route.

The book publishing world is crazy and growing ever crazier. What do you think?

"Williamsburg Gardens" - pastel painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
On Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., I'm teaching a pastel workshop at This Century Art Gallery Education Center.

This is for artists of all levels from beginner to advanced. Pastels are one of my favorite art tools. If you are in this area, I would love to show you the joy of working with soft pastels!