Daddy's Christmas Angel

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
them?

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


Monday, August 11, 2014

Where Is Your Happy Place?

"Sunset Over Sugar Mountain, Banner Elk NC" ©Mary Montague Sikes
One of my favorite songs in Zumba class is "Happy." The vivacious lyrics and rhythm make me smile. The song reminds me of the wonderful week I just spent in my "happy" place with 14 other artists making art all week long.

I love going to Cheap Joe's in Boone NC where I paint and learn something new in a workshop every year. I especially enjoy the workshops that Mary Ann Beckwith teaches. This year was special. Many of the class participants are also workshop presenters, so the expansive classroom at Cheap Joe's was alive with creativity and energy.

One important thing I got from the workshop this year was Mary Ann's suggestion to take a piece of art you're working on around the house with you. Yesterday I took two paintings with me and placed them on a tabletop by the television where I added details while I watched my St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. It was amazing how different the paintings looked outside my studio where I work beneath three large skylights.

"Workshop at Cheap Joe's" ©Mary Montague Sikes
 From April through October, Cheap Joe's offers a different workshop every week. Some people take several classes throughout the summer. An artist can present a workshop no more than once every two years. (The exception is Joe Miller - Cheap Joe who does his extremely popular workshop once or twice each year.) Mary Ann Beckwith will return in the summer of 2016.

I realized as we unpacked the car in Boone that I had failed to bring any books with me. In the past, I have scheduled book signings to coincide with my workshops. One year I signed books at Waldenbooks which has long since closed. While I was at that signing, Leonard Cosmo who owned Highland Newstand invited me for an event at his store. I signed there for several years, but it is gone now as well. There are no Barnes and Noble stores in the vicinity, so scheduling book signings now is difficult.

While I still enjoy writing and will never give that up, my happy place is wherever I can make art. Where is yours?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Transforming an Art Center in Historic Petersburg, Virginia

"Old Towne Petersburg" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last week, my husband and I visited the construction site of the Ward Center for Contemporary Art in Petersburg VA. We were there the same day the filming of "Ithaca" began nearby in Old Towne. False store fronts were installed to create the set of the movie that is based on the novel, The Human Comedy, published in 1943 by William Saroyan. Meg Ryan is directing the film, scheduled for release in 2015. It was Ryan's performance in the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" that inspired me to write my novel Daddy's Christmas Angel.

Old Towne Petersburg is now a popular setting for movies. During the filming of "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg, the director, was often seen in the downtown just as Ryan is now.

Mary Montague Sikes' Basement Studio at PRAC
All the production activity in the historic district of the old city, reminds me of why I liked Petersburg so much when the Petersburg Regional Art Center first opened 11 years ago. I had a studio gallery in the basement of PRAC for all of the 10 years it was open. That space in the renovation is now the center of a new configuration of studios. The day we visited, dust was flying as dry walls were hammered in place. The same old pressed metal ceilings remained overhead, and I wondered if the new paint would flake from them as it did when my studio was there. I loved the space that we painted white with black walls in the back. I chose a glass door that gave a more open look to the display.

Over the years, I discovered that visitors seldom made their way down to the basement. Perhaps new signage and offices in the front of the big open main gallery will encourage traffic flow to the lower level in the Ward Center.

For many years, the Butterworth building, constructed in 1848, was home to a large furniture business. Furniture store remnants remained long after it opened as PRAC in 2003. The old wooden floor will be refinished as part of the renovation of the large gallery space. New lights will hang from the ceiling and more studio spaces will flank the back of the first floor. In all, there will be 57 artist studios. Above it all, the Butterworth Flats will provide one and two-bedroom modern living spaces.

Jessie Boyland is the director of  the Ward Center for Contemporary Art that is set to open in Fall 2014. She is now
Jessie Boyland ©Mary Montague Sikes
accepting reservations for the new artist studios and wall spaces. Her temporary office is located at 133 B North Sycamore St. across from the Butterworth building.

The opening of a new Art Center in Petersburg with improved studio and gallery facilities is an exciting time for artists. In 2003, PRAC offered promise and hope for a village of artists. Perhaps in 2014, those hopes and dreams will be fulfilled.