Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Visiting the Artist Studio of Dorothy Fagan

"Talking about  journaling" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last Saturday, members of the Chesapeake Bay Branch, National League of American Pen Women had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist Dorothy Fagan. What a special treat that was, not only for artists in the group but for the writers as well.

Over the years I have found that people who paint often also write, and Dorothy did not disappoint me. She talked about journaling as well as painting. She told about keeping a journal since the mid-1990s. To me, the journal is like my "gathering books" that I have all over our house, so I was especially delighted to hear about her experiences. Dorothy has "lucid dreams" and chronicles them in her journal.

Sitting in her studio, hidden in the trees, felt especially comfortable to me because my own writing studio overlooks white oak tree branches similar to hers, and the light that glistens on the trunks and leaves is the same. I found joy in the "feel" of the space and especially gloried in the splendor of sitting amidst creative women who experience the same delight I find in writing and in making art.

I can only wish now and dream of more time spent with those who love to turn words around and change the world with color. These are the people I long to know better.
"In the Fagan Studio" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Looking for Consistency in Art and in Writing

"Circles and Butterflies" acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
Earlier this year, I was pleased to be a semi-finalist in the Xanadu Gallery's Mentorship program. I've long been a fan of Jason Horejs, owner of the gallery located in Scottsdale, Arizona who offers helpful blog advice to artists all over the world. "Circles and Butterflies," a 48" x 46" acrylic painting on canvas, was one of the pieces I submitted in my application.

As part of the program, I now have the opportunity to follow the progress of the two final artists through 15 bi-weekly podcasts that will document their journeys to an exhibition of their work in Xanadu Gallery during April. This is the first time that Jason has selected two artists for the program. Sculptor Phyllis Mantik deQuevedo and painter Kimberly Ferrell will compliment each other in an exhibition of their figurative work.

This week Jason discussed the importance of having consistency in the art an artist puts out for public display. I take notes throughout the podcasts and was pleased that he listed his six criteria for consistency. They are: subject matter, theme, style, palette, medium, and presentation. I thought about how authors also can benefit from using those same criteria for consistency in their books and their covers.

Jason says that artists should discover their own mix in the six criteria as they seek to find their individual brands. This reminded me of the time a few years ago when I met with the cover designer of my first novel, Hearts Across Forever.  She told me about branding, a subject I had not considered much before that day. Although she did not give me the criteria for consistency, she made me understand the importance of developing a "look" for not only the books, but the author as well. The art on the cover of Hearts Across Forever is my pastel painting of falls that are part of the story. It is interesting to note the similarities of the color palettes of my painting and those of my book. I had not thought about that common element until I put photos of both of them in my blog today.

From now on, I will give special attention to the six criteria for consistency as I develop my art work. I will also consider it in my book writing and in the art for my covers. Thank you, Jason Horejs, for your thoughtful suggestions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Encaustics Versus Cold Wax

"Turbulent Universe" Encaustic Painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
When Karen Eide introduced me to encaustics a few years ago, I was immediately hooked. I enjoyed manipulating the hot wax and pigment with a heat gun. I loved the way everything moved around on the surface, creating mysterious images that resembled other world and new universes.

Karen explained the dangers of allowing the wax to get too hot and creating toxic smoke that when breathed in could cause permanent lung damage. Because of those warnings, I hesitated bringing encaustic materials into my home studio. Instead, I took more of Karen's classes, including one she teaches in Virginia Beach that enabled me to work on larger pieces. Eventually, I bought a large flat grill, a heat gun, wax medium, and encaustic paints, expecting to battle the insects and work outdoors. I still haven't used them.

Karen Eide demonstrating encaustics techniques. ©Mary Montague Sikes
Now, I am wondering about painting with cold wax. I have tubes of oil paint from years ago that I might revive to mix with the cold wax medium. I've watched several YouTube videos about cold wax painting and am ready to try it. Some of the cold wax paintings I've seen closely resemble those created with the hot wax process I find so appealing.

I'm also working on three paintings now in which I plan to combine the Robert Doak watercolors with encaustics. I started the paintings with a 10" square center, using encaustic paints. One painting is on a wooden cradled panel. I have it ready to apply the Doak watercolors in my studio later this week.

I'm excited about the possibilities of using new methods in my paintings. Encaustics versus cold wax, does anyone have experiences to compare?

Starts with Encaustics ©Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, September 12, 2016

Teaching an Artists Workshop on Hilton Head Island Is Inspiring

Last week, I taught a three-day workshop at the Art Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and I found it inspiring. Hilton Head is special to me. We have owned timeshares there for years and travel to the island once or twice every year.

"Island Club Tennis Courts" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It's amazing how much Hilton Head has changed since we first visited in 1980. At that time, there was one grocery store and not much else. We fell in love with the tennis at Island Club and still believe it's the best place for playing with friends. There are many tennis activities, but fewer these days as interest in the sport has appeared to dwindle everywhere. We loved the Dennis Van Der Meer Tennis University from the first day we found out about it and took many workshops at the facility. We played with both Dennis and his wife Pat. It was part of the island adventure.

I also fell in love with the art galleries and found my first representation with Red Piano Gallery. The little house in the trees was enchanting, especially with the red piano displayed prominently in the windows of one large gallery room. After ownership there changed hands, I discovered Pink House Gallery which sold my pastel paintings. Later, Wexford Gallery came along and represented and sold my large acrylic works. I was thrilled and excited. Some of my work went into million dollar homes located on the island. Then, spaces and people moved, 9-11 happened, and everything changed in my art world. I also became an author, devoting more time to writing and promoting my books. Ironically, my first book signing for my first book was scheduled for 9/11/2001. Of course, that signing was cancelled. The timing for both my careers was wrong.

Perhaps that is why teaching artists' workshops on Hilton Head Island is so special to me. I feel a connection to the
"Giving a Demo at the Art Academy"
island and to the people who find it a special place to live or to visit. This year, my workshop was called, "Painting with Texture and Color". I've discovered that building texture with thick gesso works as well as using the heavy-bodied gel mediums. The students did a beautiful job creating with texture that way. We also worked with the glorious Robert Doak watercolors that become magic when used on Yupo.

It was a beautiful week with perfect weather. I wish we could have stayed longer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Our Star-Lit World Can Hurt, Gene Wilder Gone

Rest in peace, 2016 stars departed. ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last night right before my Circuit Training Class, I was touched by the pain of another class member when she learned of the death of Gene Wilder. He was part of my childhood, she pointed out, on the verge of tears. She remembered his part in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Sadness was evident on her face every time I looked at her.

This morning, I saw a Facebook post from one of our daughters who is very angry with 2016 and so many losses. When I asked her why she was so sad, she said, "Gene Wilder died."

There have been many celebrity losses this year. Prince and Muhammad Ali were bigger than life characters. Patty Duke, Harper Lee--the list goes on and on.

I thought about these children, now adults, who have lived all their lives in the midst of Hollywood, sports, and other glitz and glamour figures. These celebrity icons perhaps mean more to our children than celebrity meant to those children who grew up with men fighting terrible battles during World War II. Electronics helped change everything. The entire 20th Century was a time of change. Gene Wilder was part of that.

It was fascinating to read that it was after his discharge from the Army and his award with a spot at the Actor's Studio that he took the name Gene Wilder. Gene was from the protagonist of Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel, Eugene Gant; Wilder came from the playwright, Thornton Wilder.

He had several marriages, including one in 1984 to Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. In her memory, he helped found "Gilda's Club", a network of support centers for people with cancer.

The availability of so much celebrity information makes them live in our hearts. They become a part of our lives and live on forever in television reruns.

Our star-lit world can bring much hurt. Rest in peace, 2016 stars departed.