Daddy's Christmas Angel

Sunday, June 19, 2016

There's Something About Being with "Creatives"

Mary Ann Beckwith talks about art ©Mary Montague Sikes
I just returned from a week-long visit to Boone NC where I spent five days with nine other "creatives" in Mary Ann Beckwith's experimental painting class. Since I first met Mary Ann in 2005, I have loved her. The atmosphere around her overflows with excitement and positive energy. I listened to her and watched her painting demos, and I just wanted to paint, paint, paint. Sadly, Beckwith plans to retire from teaching workshops and concentrate on her own work. This was her next to last workshop. The last one will be in October 2017 in Austin TX.

Being with other "creatives" in this class was special. I didn't feel the jealousy or competition that sometimes develops in art workshop classes. Instead, there was high energy focus that led me to new ideas and thoughts about making and finishing art. Much of Mary Ann's direction is toward developing design in paintings.

I remembered my early painting classes with Thomas Thorne at the College of William and Mary. He talked about design in artwork then, but it didn't make the impression on me that it should have. I was too enthralled by the intense color of my newly-discovered tubes of acrylic paint to care about anything else. I wanted to be a colorist. I had started out with oil paints that dulled with my overuse of turpentine. I didn't like the smell or the slow drying of the oil materials. Acrylics cleaned with soap and water. I loved them.

Now Mary Ann has taught me to like watercolor paints, especially those manufactured by Robert Doak in his studio in Brooklyn NY. I first painted with those intense watercolors 11 years ago and have been excited by them every since. Because both watercolors and acrylics are water media, I can mix them.

I hated to come home and leave the wonderful intense atmosphere of Mary Ann's workshop at Cheap Joe's in Boone. But I am inspired and thankful for the opportunity to have been with other "creatives". There is just something about them...
Workshop Class at Cheap Joe's ©Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Don't Hide Away in that Artist or Writer Studio

So often I am tempted to hide out beneath the skylights inside my bright and happy artist studio. Even more often, I want to stay to read and write in my writer's studio that overlooks our woods and West Point Creek.

That's a good thing, but as creatives, we can't hide out forever. It is important, perhaps essential, to get out and mingle with the world.

This past weekend, I visited Fredericksburg, Virginia where I grew up. It was satisfying to recognize Cornell Hill and remember how hard that street was to climb with short little legs en route to Lafayette Elementary School all those many years ago. It was poignant to drive along Sunken Road where I once found tennis balls lost over the fences from the college tennis courts. We lived for several years on the next street below the college, and I made lots of friends with children of the professors. Many tears were shed when we moved away to a little town so very different from that city. Years later, I returned to attend Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) and felt very much at home on those city streets where I played as a child.

"Alumni Weekend with Lee Hall (UMW)" ©Mary Montague Sikes

I enjoyed driving through the campus and then getting to meet folks I knew mostly through e-mails exchanged over the past few years. The college bookstore carries my novels, so I've gotten to know Margaret Mock because of them. It was good to meet Mark Thaden in person for the first time. Mark is Executive Director of Alumni Relations at UMW, so I've had contact with him from time to time. A book signing was part of the Alumni events, and I was delighted to meet Kristen Green, author of Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, a book I had to buy because of parallels in my own area of Virginia.

"Margaret Mock and Kristen Green at book signing" ©Mary Montague Sikes

After the book signing, we drove for over two hours to reach my next destination for the day, the Mathews Bay School in Mathews. That was the location of a fun event by the artist and writer members of Chesapeake Bay Pen Women. These imaginative women chose paintings, sculpture, prose, and poems to serve as "seed" works to which other writers and artists would create response pieces. The result was a gallery devoted to writing and artful beauty.

"Looking at the Pen Women Collaboration Show" ©MMSikes

With my sculpture seed project.

Even though there was extra travel involved, the Saturday events emphasized to me once again the importance of leaving the studio sometimes. Hide out there when you can, but enjoy the company of others occasionally as well.