Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saving the Alligators at the Jefferson Hotel

Alligator Photo in Jefferson History Museum ©MM Sikes
Over the years, one of the most fascinating stories I have encountered is that of the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia where alligators once roamed in the lobby. According to hotel history, following a fire, renovations were made to the hotel soon after the turn of the 20th Century. Soon, live alligators were placed in the marble pools that were located next to the statue of Thomas Jefferson in the rotunda.

Over the years, people who had brought alligators home from Florida to keep as pets found that they were taking up too much space in their bathtubs, so they would bring the reptiles to join those already at the hotel. Some were left in containers on counters; others were deposited at doors. 

Stories have it that bellmen would sweep alligators from the furniture upon their arrival in early morning. The exotic creatures became part of the hotel lore. One tale has it that an alligator once wandered into the hotel library and was mistaken for a footstool by a guest.

Old Pompey, the last of the resident alligators, died in 1948. Today, a bronze statue by an entrance
"Old Pompey" at the Jefferson ©Mary Montague Sikes
door pays homage to him.

Anyone who wants more alligators can also visit the Gators Gift Shop on the lower level of the hotel. You won't find live alligators there, but the stuffed toy variety might be more appealing anyway.

In my new book, An Artful Animal Alphabet, Old Pompey is part of the story that I think children will enjoy. My fascination with the Jefferson alligators continues.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Enjoying a Kathleen Conover Workshop

Kathleen Conover Demonstration ©Mary Montague Sikes
Every year, I enjoy taking one artist workshop. Somehow, this year I went a little crazy and took three. Last week, we traveled to Boone, North Carolina and Cheap Joe's magnificent workshop facility for Kathleen Conover's outstanding class.

Because I don't usually like working on Arches watercolor paper which headed the supply list, I doubted I would get very much from this workshop. However, because Mary Ann Beckwick often spoke of Kathleen during her classes and because it was at Cheap Joe's, I wanted to take the workshop.

I was not disappointed. "Chaos to Order" was one of the best workshops I have ever taken. Kathleen is thorough and provides a detailed outline for her instruction at the very beginning.

The first day we made 12 starts, creating "chaos" by "playing" with texture, repetition, variety, and much more as we worked with her patented "gesso juice". By 5 p.m., I was exhausted and ready for dinner. We had the beginning of paintings, using plastic wrap, wax paper, stencils, stamps, sponges, and much more.

The week continued at the same fast pace. I didn't create any masterpieces, but I learned a lot about composition and using design. Of course, I already knew a great deal, but sometimes reinforcement is something everyone needs. The small works (1/4 watercolor sheet) can be planning art for larger paintings or they can be finished pieces in themselves.

It was inspiring to be in the midst of a classroom full of dedicated artists. We each had two tables on which to work. We all did value studies and spent time editing our work. I loved being with them and with Kathleen for the week. Now I need to read over and study the class outline once more and use it to make order out of the original "chaos" pieces I didn't complete in class.
In the midst of chaos.