Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, July 27, 2015

Zion National Park Features Overwhelming Beauty

"Journey to Zion" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Zion National Park is every bit as majestic, rugged, poetic, artistic, and overwhelming as I had expected. No wonder one of the first Mormon settlers stood in awe and gave the canyon, the name of Zion, a place of peace from the Bible. The massive faces of red rock rise high in spectacular formations that bring forth feelings of wonder and reverence in those who plod and climb the trails. The Virgin River over a few million years has carved out and sculpted the magnificent canyon that we see today.

How brave and daring the first settlers were to trudge into this terrain and become farmers of fruit trees, corn, and tobacco. What a magical place it must have been some 9,000 years ago when the first humans are said to have occupied the region.

"Virgin River View" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The altitude was a bit of a problem for us when it came to hiking the trails at Zion. Since we live near to coast of Virginia, basically at sea level, it takes a few days to acclimate to the higher altitudes, around 4,000 feet at the Zion Lodge which was one of the lowest elevations we encountered. That meant hikes were more tiring.

We enjoyed using the shuttle system which is free and operates from mid-March to late October. It runs along a six-mile scenic drive inside the park. Guests with overnight room reservations at Zion Lodge are permitted to drive inside the park, but no further than the Lodge during the months the shuttle is operating.

During our time there, we did the Riverside Walk which was easy, very hot, and scenic. We also took the hike to the Lower Emerald Pools which ends at the lower pool and three waterfalls. The trail was busy with crowds of visitors, most of whom were conversing in foreign languages (Russian, French, Dutch, and more).

Our last day at Zion, we took the Angels Landing trail which was hot but not too hard until the point where chains are built into the rocks to aid climbers to the top. I had read a lot about this trail which is paved part of the way and longed to journey there to take photographs.

"Along the Trail to Angels Landing" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Angels Landing" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Our visit to Zion was hot, exciting, tiring, invigorating, and memorable. Now I long to go back and photograph the things we missed. I can hardly wait to get back my art studio to start painting from my new reference photographs.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do UFOs Really Hide in the Clouds?

The moment I discovered the television program on H2, "Hangar 1: The UFO Files," I was hooked. I've always been fascinated by newspaper and magazine articles about unidentified flying objects, so a TV program with documentation is extremely appealing. According to this American television series that premiered in 2014 , a large storage place exists where MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) keeps records of UFO happenings.

"UFO Cloud"©Mary Montague Sikes
During one of the programs, an expert on the subject stated that UFOs sometimes create clouds in which they hide. While en route to our recent National Parks visit to Utah, I saw a cloud that stood out as a possibility for a UFO disguise. We were flying on a United Airlines jet from Chicago to Denver when I took this photograph from the airplane window. It looked pretty spectacular to me at 37,000 feet.

Today, as we watched one of the recorded "Hangar 1"  programs, I learned that many of the sightings over the years have been in the Arizona and Utah deserts and mountains. So many canyons and remote hiding places exist in those beautiful and exotic settings.

Do UFOs really hide among the clouds? Is one hidden inside a lone cloud against a clear blue sky? What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Who is the Passenger to Paradise? Another Book, Another Thought

Who is the Passenger to Paradise? I still contemplate that question. She is the little girl with giant dreams that continue to haunt the now grown up woman. She is the child of adventure, the woman with her bag already packed and ready to go at a moment's notice.

Years ago, when we traveled to Trinidad, I was filled with excitement to undertake such an amazing journey. From the moment we landed at the Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain, we were in the midst of intrigue that continued for the entire week of our planned vacation. The expedition took us into so many unusual places and circumstances that what we did became part of the fourth Passenger to Paradise book, Night Watch.

"What has Lily "walked" into...? From the moment Lily's plane lands in tropical Trinidad, things go awry. She planned for rest, relaxation and photography, but instead faces mistaken identity, a gun running operation and danger. Her transportation to her lodging does a no show, and she is mistaken for someone named Katherine by Kyle Warren. Putting the unsettling feelings of her trip and recent deaths of her parents behind her, Lily enjoys the ocean view from her room only to see the familiar figure of the man from the airport who is watching men stealthily unloading cargo from a small boat. Over the next few days, Lily's resemblance to another puts her in danger and Kyle's attempts to protect her further complicate the uncanny memories and feelings that she may indeed know him from the past. With her life in peril, Lily discovers a deep kinship with her doppelganger and a growing attachment to Kyle."

Writing Night Watch made me long to return to Trinidad to discover more adventure. For now, it is a memory and a dream to follow the Passenger to Paradise on yet another exotic journey.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Is Marketing for Artists and Writers More Important than the Creative Process?

When I began painting works of art on canvas and, later, started to write books, I truly believed that the creative process was the end goal. When the book was finished or the paint was dry, my part was over.

Not so if business success is the goal.

Once the art or writing is completed, the creative person soon learns that the real work is in the marketing of the finished product. Like it or not, artists and writers need to develop marketing skills. A writer once told me that she spends two days marketing her books for every day she is writing. Without marketing skills, she would be in big trouble.

Some people will decide to develop a marketing budget and hire others to do the work for them. Depending on your choices, that might or might not work well for you. What you can afford might buy less promotion than you need or expect. Much of the marketing still might fall back on you, and it is likely you will have missed the opportunity to get  reviews before the release of your book.
"Map your plan for the road" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Do it yourself:

1. At least six months prior to the book release or the opening of a one-person art show, make a marketing plan. One of the first items in that plan should be the creation of a good press release. Be sure you have one or two good quality photos to accompany that release.

2. If you don't already have a newsletter, start working on one to send out to announce your upcoming release or show. Don't struggle with this. Make it simple and offer information and tips that are helpful to others along with your news. Photos are always helpful.

3. Develop a mailing list. As you work on your plans, add people who are interested in you and in your work to the list you are developing. Collect email addresses at meetings, in your art gallery spaces, on line, on trips, etc.

4. Write articles about your areas of expertise and have them ready to send out to appropriate sites. If your book is about horses, use your research and knowledge to create an article that enhances your reputation in that field. Develop a list of ideas for articles that might include ones highlighting the setting of your book or the location of your paintings (if your work is realistic).

To Be Continued...

For professional artists and writers, marketing is essential, but your must first have a good product to begin your journey into the world of promotion. Go ahead now and map your plan for the road.