Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Creativity and Fitness Can Improve Your Brain

Over the years, I have taught art to students at every age level from pre-school to older adults. I love witnessing their creativity and excitement over their accomplishments. I especially like seeing the joy that art brings into their lives.

For older people, creativity provides a goal, a reason to get up in the morning and go out to an art class or head to an easel or art wall inside their own homes. The creative activity can take the form of painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and more. Crocheting and knitting are art-crafting endeavors enjoyed by people of all ages, especially older ones. Some studies show that crafting provides a large benefit but not quite as much as painting.

My mother loved to crochet. She would sit for hours crocheting colorful pieces that she later put together in afghans to give as gifts. Although she did not grow up in a time when physical fitness was stressed as it now is, she kept her brain healthy with the bright strands of yarn dancing on her needle.

A recent syndicated article by Leslie Mann, Tribune Newspapers, describes studies that show the value of doing artwork for people in "their middle and old ages". One Mayo Clinic study found that those who created art during those later years were "73 percent less likely to develop MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment)". (MCI is a problem that can lead to dementia.)

Because people are living longer, the 85-plus age is a fast-growing population segment. It's a group of people who can be inspired because of creative potential or they can be led into depression by those who do not understand their needs for purpose in life.

Recently, I was with a group of older people and found their main topics of conversation were about the drugs they take to control their physical ailments. My doctor wants to prescribe more drugs and is disgruntled because I believe our nation is over-medicated in many instances.

If people are encouraged to take more art classes and more art workshops, I believe they will be happier. They will have less reason for depression. They will need fewer drugs.

Artist Kendra Wadsworth inspires creativity with her abstract mixed media
Coloring books for adults and zentangles (drawing structured patterns) are new interests in our society. These are different forms of art that I suspect can help improve our brain health.

I enjoyed Mann's article which was about a study published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Along with physical fitness, creativity can help us grow happier. We should promote that path.

Friday, October 2, 2015

It's a Cold and Rainy Day

"It's a cold and rainy day."
Crab Carnival 2008

Is that a good sentence to start a book? Probably not.

But it really is a cold and rainy day in Virginia, and the next day or so promise to bring even more of the same kind of inclement weather. For one of only two or three times in its long history, the West Point Crab Carnival has been cancelled. The Occasion for the Arts in Williamsburg has also been cancelled. The Williamsburg Book Festival at nearby Bruton Parish Church will go on as planned but with definitely less potential to draw big crowds.

In past years, I've participated in all three events. Once, long ago, at the Occasion for the Arts, I crouched for many hours beneath a sheet of plastic, protecting a selection of tug boat paintings, both under glass and on canvas.

Three years ago, I was one of the authors seated behind a mound of books at the first Williamsburg Book Festival. Because the event was in a location not close to the main activities that day, authors made very few sales. It was a discouraging day for profits, yet it was fun to be with other authors.

I'm sorry about the craftspeople who have worked so hard over the past months to create all sorts of items for sale. Many crafts are crab items which are a main stay for the Crab Carnival but more difficult to sell elsewhere.

If we avoid the dangers of a major hurricane, that is a good thing. We'll recall the sunny days and beautiful weather from past Carnivals and book signing events. Perhaps Christmas on the Town activities in our communities will help make up for the October losses. A cold and rainy day is actually a very good time to paint, craft, or write.

Perhaps that is a very good line to start a book.

"It's a cold and rainy day."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Painting Show for Farrah Brings Life to a Book Signing

Evening of the Dragonfly Book Signing and Art Show
Having a book signing to go with my painting show for Farrah Ferand, the artist heroine of Evening of the Dragonfly, creates lots of possibilities for talking with readers. Book signings are all too often awkward affairs. The art show is fun and came about as an idea for the A to Z Blog Challenge. The paintings helped me, as the author, get to know Farrah much better than I did while writing her story.

The art show for my character makes me wonder about other unique ways to promote books. What is the profession of the hero or heroine? Or what hobby is important to a character to the book?

Thinking outside the box can produce a flurry of ideas for authors who struggle with book signings. Being your character and dressing the part is still one of the most fun things I've seen authors do.
"Looking at Farrah's Art Show" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Thanks to Arts Alive in West Point for the opportunity for Farrah's Art Show which will hang in the Art Center until October 13.

Fractal Art

For the past few weeks, my life has been consumed with art. At the Crossroads Art Center Open House last week, I was delighted to discover an artist showing across from me who is using fractal art in his creations. I have long loved fractals and used many of those images to inspire my elementary school art students. Mike Turner is putting his fractal images on metal which gives them a beautiful shiny look and depth. He also has printed some of his work on fabric, and his sister has created an array of beautiful neckties from the material. What a great idea!
"Lines in the Desert" Encaustic ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Lines in the Desert", my small encaustic painting, was inspired by a petite section of a fractal image. Other pieces of my art work are related to some of the fractals I've seen. 

I'm delighted to have discovered Mike Turner's work. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Painting Like Georgia at Hilton Head and More

"Painting Like Georgia, the Last Day" - some participants with work they produced ©MMSikes
"Cookout at Island Club" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Even without ideal weather, a week on Hilton Head Island can be special. The rain wiped out the tennis welcome event as well as the pro exhibition. But my "Painting Like Georgia" workshop at the Art Academy went well, and I loved being with the artists there. Our daughter flew her Mooney into the Hilton Head Airport; my sister and brother-in-law visited; and I discovered the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. It was a fun week.

"Getting Ready for Flight" ©Mary Montague Sikes
 Have you ever returned home from a trip and wished you could have spent more time with each of the activities?

That's how I feel. I wish the artist workshop I taught had gone on for longer than three days.

"Art Gallery at Coastal Discovery Museum" ©MMSikes

"Spanish Moss at the Coastal Discovery Museum" ©Mary Montague Sikes



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Finishing Up August and Needing to Travel

Sunrise Clouds over Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last week, we spent a few days in Key West FL which seemed a fitting way to finish up the month of August and bring about the end of summer. There is something poetic about traveling by air along the coast of Florida and then over water along the Keys. So much is visible from the skies, and, of course, I have long been fascinated by the magnificent views of clouds from the window of a plane.

Several years ago, we flew into Miami, then rented a car to drive along the Overseas Highway to Key West. What a fabulous journey that was. Along the way, we enjoyed a magical, tropical passage. The flight from Miami to Key West is much faster--only a few minutes.

Both the highway and the air provide unforgettable memories for reaching the southernmost point of the continental USA. For the traveler with only a few days, air travel is best. But for those with time to spare, the
Key West near Sunset Point ©Mary Montague Sikes
Overseas Highway is an unique experience.
Leaving Miami ©Mary Montague Sikes
Approaching Key West ©Mary Montague Sikes