Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Key West - A Return Journey to Tropical Places

"Tropical Palm" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Years ago, my husband and I first glimpsed the tropical beauty of the island of Jamaica. We have always loved to travel, so, after that initial journey into the tropics, we could not get enough of the exotic beauty that inspired me to take thousands of slides and photographs. Eventually, I created many large acrylic paintings documenting those trips. I wrote travel articles for magazines and newspapers and even created and published a few novels set in Jamaica, Antigua, and other tropical places.

Lobster Fest on Duval Street ©Mary Montague Sikes
More recently, we returned to Key West, Florida, a destination we first discovered years ago during an automobile trip that covered the entire length of the state, including the Keys. Even though it was already a lingering point for artists and writers, Key West was a lesser-known vacation spot then.

Now, things have changed a lot. On our recent trip there, Duval Street was blocked off for the carnival array of tents dedicated to Lobster Fest. The street looked much like Main Street of our little town of West Point, Virginia when we have our annual Crab Carnival. For me, it was a little sad because I wanted Key West to remain different and undiscovered, full of unique locals and not so many tourists. I'm still looking for a tropical paradise.

Key West is not the same place it once was. I was glad to see that the 2017 hurricane damage there was not so severe. We visited in May of last year before the hurricane struck. We didn't see much that was different except the gigantic Seward Johnson sculpture of the dancing couple was missing from in front of the museum on the waterfront.

Happily, one thing that has not changed over the years is the glorious sunset over the Key West waters. People still gather at Mallory Square and cheer as the sun goes down. We went there twice and waited and were not disappointed. The sun still sets. ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Key West Sunset" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, August 6, 2018

Experiment in Cold Wax

Studio Experiments ©Mary Montague Sikes

“Give an artist the tools and she will thrive.”

That is so true, especially if those tools are used for building texture and developing new enthusiasm for creativity. 

A few years ago, I took a day-long encaustic painting workshop with accomplished artist, Karen Eide. I loved working with the hot wax, enjoyed the movement and subtle effects of the colors and much more. However, when the door was propped open to avoid danger from hot wax fumes, I got a little concerned. I realized that to work in encaustics, I would need to set up a studio outdoors where toxic fumes would not pose an immediate health hazard.

Although I now have a drawer full of encaustic painting supplies, I have never used the bee’s wax and oil colors in an outdoor studio annex situation. I also purchased a really nice hot plate and a heat gun. Neither one has ever been used. The encaustics still continue to intrigue me, so whenever possible, I take Karen’s encaustic workshops, sponsored by West Point Arts Alive. Once, I even followed her to Virginia Beach for the opportunity to work in hot wax in a museum workshop that she taught there.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered Lisa Boardwine and her vivacious cold wax workshops. I had been reading about cold wax and watching videos about the process. In Lisa’s classes, I found ways to use a less toxic cold wax process and still produce results that relate to the hot wax that so intrigues me. Lisa shared a wide array of different tools that are so much fun to try. I even realized new ways to use the sculpture and ceramics equipment already in my studio.

For many years, I have also experimented with texture in acrylic painting. Several years ago, I enjoyed a week-long workshop in Sedona, Arizona, taught by Jan Sitts. Jan demonstrated a wide variety of techniques using acrylic liquid paints on surfaces built with thick gesso and a variety of painting mediums. I loved the opportunity to try out different methods for creating new work.

Recently, I ordered a book, Acrylic Painting for Encaustic Effects by Sandra Duran Wilson. I could spend months trying the many ideas described in this beautiful book of wax free methods.

For those who love to create in exciting new ways with paint, tools, panels, and canvas, cold wax might be the perfect medium for you. Come and learn more as we experiment together in a three-day afternoon workshop at Gloucester Arts on Main in Gloucester, Virginia. The dates are: August 28, 29, and 30.

                                                                                    Mary Montague Sikes