Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, September 19, 2014

Living in the Moment, I Almost Never Do

Pamunkey River Bridge Opening ©Mary Montague Sikes
Living in the moment is a hard thing to do, especially for artists and writers. That's been especially true for me during the past few weeks. I've been involved in art openings, artist workshops, setting up space in a new gallery, working in that gallery, a trip to Hilton Head Island, and much more. All the while, I've followed my passion--watching the baseball games of the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps that is a time of living in the moment.

Coming home earlier this week, we encountered something we had not seen for a few years--a bridge opening. Once the new bridges across two of the three rivers that surround our little town were completed and opened, the worrisome long delays to allow boats to pass through became a thing of the past.

Usually, I would be unhappy to have to wait in the long line for the bridge to lock back in place and traffic to resume. This time I decided to live in the moment. I got out of our car with camera in hand and took photos of the river and of the dramatic sunset I was fortunate to see.

Down the Pamunkey River ©Mary Montague Sikes
It was fun to have a quiet minute and the chance to take photographs from atop the bridge. It was nice to enjoy being where I was and not dreaming of how I would spend my time in the next few minutes or hours. I couldn't quite calm some future planning, like writing this post, but for a little while I savored where I was at a small point in time.

Do you live in the moment? Do you dwell in the past? Do you dream of the future? Are you a ponderer? How can we learn to live in the moment?
Sunset Over the River Marsh ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Learning from an Encaustics Art Workshop

Karen Eide demonstrates encaustic techniques ©Mary Montague Sikes
Karen Eide first presented her encaustics art workshop in West Point about eight years ago. This is a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts sponsored program brought to town by the Arts Alive art group. We loved her program and have invited her back every year since then.

Encaustics which means "burn in" involves the use of oil paint and bees wax. It's a process of  fusing the wax between layers.

In Karen's class, we melted encaustic paints directly on griddles preheated to 180 to 200 degrees. To make colors more transparent, we dripped wax medium into the puddles of  paint. Every three or four layers, we used the heat gun to fuse the work.

In my home studio, Angelview Studio, I have all the materials needed to work with encaustics. However, because of the toxic fumes involved, I have not yet set it up. I am considering working instead on an outdoor patio.

The encaustics class kicked off the art workshop season for Arts Alive. It was the first event in a busy September for me. The opening of a Small Works show at For Art's Sake in Richmond, then the theatrical opening in conjunction with "Cat's" at New Town Art Gallery completed an exciting artful weekend.

Karen Eide ©Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, August 29, 2014

Simple Events Inspire the Writer and the Artist

"Dragonfly" (detail) - acrylic ©Mary Montague Sikes
Several years ago, when we arrived at the condo in Hilton Head, South Carolina where we spend a week each year, I heard sounds of bumping and buzzing coming from the deck outside. When I went to check on the commotion, I discovered a half-dozen or more dragonflies circling and colliding with the sliding glass door. I filed the happening away for future reference.

That's what writers and artists do. We see the world in a different way. Simple events that others fail to notice are important happenings for us. We start thinking, "what if," and the imagination begins an amazing journey. The sounds of the dragonflies became part of the book I am now writing. The dragonfly image is used in several paintings I have already completed.

Dragonflies are symbolic and hold special meaning for me. In the author's note at the beginning of my novel, Night Watch, I write that the dragonfly is a symbol of change and new beginnings. I also write that to some Native Americans, this beautiful insect of reflected and  refracted light  represents souls of the dead. In my latest work, which I am now calling Evening of the Dragonfly, I use this symbolism in an important scene derived from the little event in Hilton Head.

Since that first encounter with the dragonflies, I have become more aware of the beautiful creatures. I have purchased glittering ornaments, glass decorations, necklaces, pins, and more. The heroine in my book may in some way become a collector of dragonflies. I'm not sure yet, but you know how characters take over your book.
"Dragonfly" (detail) - pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes

What about you? Do real life scenes grab you and not let go until years down the road you have to write about

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Keeping An Organized Art Life

Hilton Head Lighthouse pastel ©Mary Montague Sikes
For the past several months, my husband has been working on creating a new website for my artwork. Because I have not been organized in the way I go about photographing and filing my work, this has become a daunting task for him and for me. Long ago, I was told I needed to create a filing system for my paintings. Perhaps I should even make a file of color schemes, I was advised.

I did not follow that advice. Now I am paying for it.

As an artist, I have more than one aspect of my working life. I am a teacher, a workshop instructor (both as an artist and as a writer), a photographer, and a creator of art. To continue to grow as an artist, I also am a workshop participant. Right now, I am reflecting on what I should have, could have done to be in a better position for developing a suitable website.

Because of what I have learned along the way, here is my advice for other artists.

1. Photograph your work. Do it as soon as you complete it. Have a 300 dpi image as well as a lower 72 or 150 dpi image on file for each piece of artwork. Label each photo: Your Last Name - Title - Painting Dimensions  (dpi).
Example: Sikes - Orange Bouquet - 20 x 16 (150)

2. Decide a category for the work. Is it an acrylic, pastel, watercolor, mixed media, etc.? Is it abstract, landscape, still-life? Categories are important when laying out your website.

3. Size matters. If you have larger works, you might want to have a separate section for them, unless all of your work is large. Be sure to measure your work and keep that information on file with photographs of your pieces.

4. Keep an updated bio ready to send out at all times. Also have a press release about your work ready to go with only a few easy to make changes.

5. Make a Word file of places you have shown your work and keep it updated.

6. Make a Word file of juried shows and awards won. Perhaps add the names of jurors for those shows.

7. Important. Keep a list of buyers of your work along with their addresses and email addresses.

8. Send out a newsletter periodically. Keep your email addresses up to date for the newsletter.

9. Blog about your work. Not every time you write a blog, but sometimes show your work in progress and tell a little about it.

10. Paint, mat, frame. Keep a list of your suppliers and receive offers online. Take advantage of sales and free shipping.

Get organized and enjoy your life and your business as a painter.

Workshops and Art Shows upcoming:

New Town Art Gallery, Williamsburg VA, Visiting Artist - Sept. - Nov., Mon. - Sat. 11 - 5, Sun. 12 - 5

For Art's Sake, Richmond VA, Pastel Society of Virginia small works show - Sept. 2 - 27
                Opening, Friday, Sept. 5 - 5 to 8 p.m.

Crossroads Art Center, Richmond VA, Open House - Sept. 19, 6 to 9 p.m.

Upcoming Workshops:
"Painting with Texture and Color" - Art Academy, Hilton Head Island SC
"Beginning Drawing and Painting" - Arts on the Main, Gloucester VA

For workshop information, please contact Mary Montague Sikes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Visiting the Spruce Goose and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

Spruce Goose ©Mary Montague Sikes
It wasn't in the original plan, but during our visit to Crater Lake National Park in July, we took a side trip to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. That's where the famous Spruce Goose is housed. Howard Hughes' H-4 Hercules huge wooden airplane has the widest wingspan in the world--320 feet.

If you saw the movie "The Aviator," you know a little about the strange reclusive life that Howard Hughes led. The Spruce Goose, built at the end of World War II, was designed to carry over 700 troops. Hughes piloted the seaplane's only flight. That was in 1947 in Long Beach Harbor when it traveled a mile at about 70 feet in the air. The war had ended and the plane was never certified to fly. For a while it was housed in a dome at Long Beach near the luxury liner Queen Mary where it was a tourist attraction.

Spruce Goose interior © Mary Montague Sikes
In 1992, the Aero Club of Southern California which then owned the plane made a deal to sell it to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. A 138-day trip by barge along the West Coast followed. The Spruce Goose now resides in a specially designed Aviation Building at the museum. The other planes that surround it are dwarfed by the magnificent craft.

I could have spent a day in the Space Museum building. The history of space exploration is beautifully documented in numerous ways. I learned more about Russia's space endeavors than ever before.

The SR-71 Blackbird was another fascinating part of the displays.Video presentations were available for many of the planes in the museums, and we enjoyed the one for the Blackbird.

SR-71 Blackbird      ©Mary Montague Sikes
Our family enjoys everything related to aviation, so the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was a very special stop for our vacation. If air and space travel fascinate you, a visit to this museum is a must!

Boeing 747 greets visitors at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum - Mary Montague Sikes