Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Baseball Spring Training - a Wonderful Time of the Year

Cardinal coaches watch first practice game at Jupiter FL
Allen Craig and Matt Holliday at Spring Training

"Don't get hurt," I heard St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Mattheny call out. He was concerned when pitcher Jason Motte and catcher Yadi Molina both raced on a collision course to retrieve a bat during a practice game between players on the team.

This was all fun to watch standing close enough to touch the coaches and players who sat on a bench or leaned against the wire link fence. Spring training has to be one of the most exciting times of the year. Fans get to interact with players, and everyone is excited about the possibilities for the season to come.

The father of Jordan Swagerty was in the practice field stands along with a friend. His son, a right-handed pitcher, is a non-roster invitee who has lost two years of play because of Tommy John surgery. Jordan had great promise and is yet another excellent prospect in the Cardinals farm system. His father glows with excitement at the potential for his son.

There are fences on the practice fields that weren't there a few years ago, a fan points out. When Mark McGwire joined the team as a player, the fences were erected for crowd control, she explains.

So many stars to watch. Is there a Hall of Famer among them?

I marvel at all the possibilities, at all the young talent that fills the warm, grassy Florida practice fields. As a writer, I think of the many stories that abound there. Only my imagination limits the potential for writing fact or fiction about baseball.

Is there a book hidden somewhere?

Perhaps there is.

I love spring training.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Inspiration or Plain Hard Work - What's Your Choice?

"Airview" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Years ago, I decided to create a series of paintings of air views. My reference material came from my own photographs taken on commercial flights and pictures from a private plane, snapped by a pilot friend. Once I decided on the theme for my paintings, I suppose my inspiration was already there.

But people, whether artists or writers, do not always come to work inspired. Some days, inspiration seems far away. Thoughts are elsewhere; nothing is quite right even if you are painting work in a series.

What to do? Get to work anyway.

I admire this quote from the exceptional artist, Chuck Close, "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work."

That is so true. If you consider yourself a professional and wish to earn a living with or just feel good about your craft, you need to show up for work. You cannot afford to wait around for inspiration that is not always going to be there.

"Heading into Glacier National Park" ©Mary Montague Sikes
What about you? Do you wait around for inspiration to strike or do you, as the Nike ads say, "just do it"?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Painting the National Parks - Mudpots at Yellowstone

"Mudpots by the Sea" Original Pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes
When we visited Yellowstone National Park, and I first saw the mudpots, I was astounded. I had no idea that such gorgeous phenomena existed in nature. The first mudpots we visited were located on a lake edge. As I took photographs, I felt as if I were taking the picture of a painting. It was so beautiful. In my excitement, I did not take note of the actual location of this scene.

At the time, I was so captivated by the beauty of the setting that I also gave little thought to the definition of mudpots. When I looked it up on Wikipedia, I found that they are actually "acidic hot springs."  Microorganisms are using the hydrogen sulfide from deep in the earth as a source of energy. The microorganisms convert the gas into sulfuric acid which in turn converts the rock into clay.

Although the mudpots are awesome in their beauty, they are also dangerous because of the heat coming up from deep in the earth. Tourists are cautioned to take care around them because of this deadly danger.

"Mudpots by the Sea" in the third in my series of paintings from the National Parks.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hearts Are Not Just for Valentine's Day

"Whose Heart Is This?" framed acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
Heart art captivates my imagination. I love seeing it year round. I learned long ago that hearts are not just for Valentine's Day.

Anyone familiar with children's art work knows that they adore heart images. They often sign their names accompanied by little hearts.

The possibilities are endless. On line you can find art work titles such as "One Hundred and One Hearts." Then you will see all those different little heart images strewn across the canvas. Only the imagination can limit the creation of inventive heart paintings. That could even be a title, "The Inventive Heart."

I want to try a heart painting using some of those Robert Doak intense pigment watercolors that I love. When I create that painting, I will post it here.

For today, please make your own special heart drawing. Then, remember that hearts are not just for one day a year. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Does the Endless Winter Harm an Author's Creativity?

©Mary Montague Sikes
This is an endless winter. I don't ever recall a winter as continuously bitter cold. I don't remember week after week of snow or the possibility of snow. So far, we have been fortunate in my little Virginia town. Not much in the way of deep snow, and we've been able to get around in it.

Still the dreary, sunless days have taken a toll on the writer in me. I can understand why people sometimes complain about life in states where drizzle lingers day after day and where the sun seldom shines.

I love sunsets on warm, sandy beaches, and heat rising from the waters of the Caribbean. Those scenes inspire me. Photographs bring back memories I cherish long after the scenes vanish from sight.

For many years, we've had brief spells of lingering cold, snow storms that leave their mark for a day or two, then melt from sight. We were spoiled. We forgot about the darkness of winter.

For now, I plan to retreat to my painting studio and create my own patches of sunshine on canvas and paper. It's easier for me to find beauty and solace with paint than to find them through words. Even paintings of the Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona can brighten the dark winter days.

Does dreary weather harm your writing inspiration?
Bell Rock Sedona - Mixed Media ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Can Success in the Arts Harm the Creative Spirit?

As I wandered through the aisles of art at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, Virginia yesterday, I was struck by the gigantic reaches from the heart I saw everywhere. While the artwork ranged from realistic to abstract, most all of it displayed the light and life of creativity. Looking at it made me wonder if there is a loss of creative force for artist and writers whose work grows in popularity, and they gain fame and fortune. Are these artists drawn to continue to create the same work over and over that made them financially successful? Will these creative people become less likely to take chances? Will they become static with their books and art? Will they lose the joy?

I wonder if the joy is in the journey. Along the way in life, we see lost souls who found success but lost the joy.

Success for the writer and for the artist might not be monetary at all. It might instead be found in watching a sunset and discovering new life in the colors there. It might be the discovery of an inspirational design among the spokes of an ordinary wheel. It might be words written while gazing into a star-lit night.

Earlier today, I saw this quote in another artist's blog. I believe strongly in the truth of it:

“The world will never be happy until all men have the souls of artists.”                                                                -  Auguste Rodin

We must strive as artists and as writers to never lose that soul. The world needs happiness. It needs creative spirit.

Thanks to The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by  Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosts  Sheena-kay Graham, Julie Musil, Jamie Ayres, and Mike Swift . Thank all of you for your hard work making this monthly event possible.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge Brings Another Show

"Animal Show at Crossroads" Lorelle Rau photo
The Blogging A to Z Challenge 2013 has become yet another art show. Artist and designer Lorelle Rau arranged and hung the show for me in my new gallery space at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, Virginia. She is the talented young woman who hung my large scale Maya Ruins exhibition that was on view at Crossroads in summer 2012.

Those of you who follow my blog will remember that I decided to create an animal painting a day for the blog challenge and that I succeeded in the projects using as resource material mostly my own photographs and some by my daughter, Amy, who took pictures of many animals while in Tasmania. It was a fun challenge, and I was thrilled to finish the month of April with 26 new paintings that I loved. (The large painting in the middle of the back wall is not part of the project, but it inspired it.) For this show, I also have archival prints of some of the paintings available for sale.

I haven't decided yet whether or not to participate in the A to Z 2014 Blog Challenge. After all, the 2013 blog entries will be a very hard act to follow!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Inn at Old Faithful - A Journey to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National ParkWhen we visited Yellowstone National Park in 2006, our daughter arranged for us to stay at the Inn at Old Faithful. What a marvelous experience! We had a room located directly across from the famous geyser and could check the schedule of expected eruption times so we didn't miss seeing it.

The rustic Inn was built in 1903-04 when Theodore Roosevelt was president. Yellowstone, located on a plateau in midst of 10,000 foot mountain ranges, was established as a park 31 years earlier, and at the time we did not yet have the wonderful National Park Service that is so helpful to visitors today. In those days, travelers to the park had few accommodations for the brave guests who journeyed by horse or by stagecoach along rough and muddy roads where robbery was a definite threat.

Robert C. Reamer was the young architect for the difficult project of building the Inn at Old Faithful. From the local setting, he chose logs, stone, and twisted beams for the project. With his crew, they worked through the winter to meet a goal to open the Inn for the summer 1904 tourist season. It's amazing to realize they did this work despite the fact the park is snow-covered seven or eight months of the year and the snow can drift as high as 20 feet. So even though the men were dealing with brutal winter weather in 1903-04, they used the snow to their advantage by skidding logs and stones over it to the construction site. Stones for the foundation and the massive fireplace at the inn came from quarries at the Black Sand Basin five miles away.

Staying in the Inn at Old Faithful is a special treat for visitors to Yellowstone. Sadly, most of the photographs I took on that part of our trip are lost somewhere in my computer files. Hopefully, they will resurface eventually. I did find photos of some of nearby mudpots which create a beautiful and unforgettable terrain. Between the geysers and the mudpots, no wonder early 19th century visitors were willing to face the dangers to reach Yellowstone and the exotic Inn at Old Faithful. Anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone would be wise to make reservations far ahead of time at the Inn and to request a room overlooking Old Faithful.

"Blue and Ochre at Yellowstone" photo ©Mary Montague Sikes