Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Witness Trees Stand Tall in the Forest

"Magical Forest" acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
"What stories could the trees tell?" is a question I have often pondered.

In our own yard, I suspect the many tall oaks and even some of the maples would have amazing stories to tell. Sadly, one giant oak fell during Hurricane Isabel about 15 years ago. Today, the massive trunk lies sprawling across the back of our woods. Is it a lost witness?

Earlier this month, the CBS Sunday Morning show had a segment about "witness trees".  They showed photographs of "witness trees" at Gettysburg, PA. Those trees are said to have given comfort to those brave men, many with only hours to live. The trees witnessed tragedy, horrendous death, and scarring of the landscape.

The "Grand Old Oak" saw bloody Civil War battles at Fredericksburg, VA. It provided shelter for Union soldiers who gathered under it. That tree still stands on the grounds of Brompton, home of the president of the University of Mary Washington, my first college and alma mater from which I received a B. A. degree in psychology. For that reason, the school is near and dear to my heart and so is the witness tree.

Yesterday, in looking through the matted pieces in my art bin at Crossroads Art Center, I found this little painting called "Crowd by the Tree". Now I plan to change the name to "Crowd by the Witness Tree". What do you think? This painting is watercolor on heavyweight Yupo.
"Crowd by the Witness Tree" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Organization Is Not My Strong Suit

"Studio Cart" ©Mary Montague Sikes
I have been blessed to have both a nice painting studio with a drawing room annex and a large writing office with numerous bookcases. Perfect for the artist/writer? Yes.

No. They should be, but they aren't because this artist/writer has never been organized. I have the perfect setups that any creative would adore. But when I think of organization, my mind races away to some far-away "neverland".

When I write, I organize thoughts inside my head, and an article usually materializes. Generally, a painting evolves on the blank canvas that I create on studio table or wall.

Years ago, a friend urged me to set up a filing system for my paintings. I started it with index cards inside a small filing box, even placing like color families together. There were not so many paintings then, so I got a reasonable start on the project. But then life got in the way, and my filing efforts failed.

Recently, I ordered a studio cart that has helped a lot with the organization of paints--watercolors and acrylics, texture-making objects, small papers, tapes, and much more. That's a huge help.

My paintings long ago outgrew the wooden slots created by the talented carpenter who built the studio addition to our house. All the slots are full and paintings are everywhere in our house.

I love making large paintings, but I have not painted a 4 x 6-foot canvas in quite a while. They are hard to transport and to store.

My website features many of my paintings, but not nearly all of them. My metal file of large storage drawers holds dozens of watercolor and pastel paintings. None of those have ever been photographed, so they cannot be on the website. I could use a full-time assistant.

Right now, I am wondering about resigning from some of the organizations to which I belong and withdrawing to my studios to create organization. If I spent part of each day with organizing projects, I might get somewhere.

What do you think? What is your plan for the organization of your work? Do you have hundreds of paintings in your studio closets and other places? I would like to know how you manage your art. Is there a secret?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You Can Never Go Back

"You can never go back," I heard them say.

At first I didn't believe those words.

"Of course, you can," I thought.

But over the years, I've proven myself wrong again and again. Several times, I've gone back to my childhood neighborhood in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Those yards and streets that once were filled with my young friends, most of whom were the children of professors at then Mary Washington College, were different from almost the moment we left. The city grew and sprawled out into malls and suburbia that overtook the farmland. My uncle's horse stable is gone, replaced by highways and businesses I never imagined would one day exist there.

"Hotel Del Cornado" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Even the places I've only visited change ever so quickly. A couple of years ago, I returned to the Hotel Del Coronado, a favorite destination from my book, Hotels to Remember. To my surprise and disappointment, the beaches looked different there. The sands were far more crowded than I remembered. But the sturdy old building was the same in many ways. For that, I was thankful.

Many of the hotels from my book are different now. Some changed their outside appearances before the ink was dry. One of my favorites, the Adams Mark St. Louis, was soon gone. I enjoyed looking from my hotel window, down on the outdoor art gallery below, so I was especially sad. Hilltop House in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia has been closed for several years, but a movement is underway to reopen it.

The children are gone; the landscape, changed; the hotels, different.

"You can never go back," they said.

"You can never go back," I agree.