Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Creating a Painting with Light and Love

 I am often asked how long it took to create the painting the viewer is studying on my gallery wall. If I think about it for a while, I might be able to tell him how many hours of work it took to put paint on the canvas, layer by layer. But that's not the whole story because each of my paintings has a lifetime of experience behind its creation. That is difficult to measure. That experience is Timeless.

  "Understanding Light" is one of the newest paintings in my gallery at Crossroads Art Center. It developed as I studied the woods behind our home. From morning to night, the light constantly changes. Light plays in different ways on the leaves on the dozens of tree that rise tall outside our windows. All day, I watch the images and shadows that grow among the trees. 

As I worked on my painting in the studio, I turned it 90 degrees daily and added paint from a new direction. I studied the work of abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell from during the early stages of her career in the 1950s and 60s. I was enthralled to learn that instead of red, she used a salmon color in her paintings. Since the early 2000s, I have used Vermilion, a more salmon orange-red as the under painting for my works on canvas. As I turned and painted, I became aware of new elements to add. Meandering pathways through the sometimes glowing trees grew in importance. It was winter when I created this work of art and no leaves were visible on my trees, but little circles of light shone there. Splashes of gold appeared. Lines in light and shadow came to be. Each day, something new hid in the shadows of my creation.

"Understanding Light" ©Mary Montague Sikes


Then, one day, a poem came to me for my new painting. Here is the beginning of that poetry which will go with the painting to an owner who finds delight in its growth from blank 40" x 40" canvas into a new creation:


I walked into the valley, and, there, I saw the snow fly.

My heart gathered forth the energy lost when I watched

A bird perched high on the limb of a white oak tree.

Wings furled, it called out to me to visit the leaf-covered ground.


This is a new journey, I said, clutching my paint brush close.

I must visit the far marsh and see the snow settle over the waters.

Brown and serene, they play magenta and purple, rushing always.

Colors plan my journey and dance among glimmering shadows.

©Mary Montague Sikes

The painting is hanging now in my Richmond, Virginia gallery, awaiting an excited new owner who will experience a special journey in color and light that will forever change his/her perception of life.