Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, January 26, 2015

Where Do Artists Show Paintings if They Write Novels?

Waterlily paintings at Claris Financial ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Master's in Painting, I was off to the races finding galleries and looking for available sites to show my work. Many were available, and I was excited. I was thrilled to get representation by one of Richmond's most respected private galleries. At the time, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts had a sales gallery, and I became one of their artists. I also gained representation by galleries in the DC area, in Williamsburg and in Hilton Head SC. It was an exciting time.

When the private Richmond gallery suddenly went bankrupt, I was shocked. They had sold several paintings for which I was never paid. The power company comes first, someone told me. Then, the museum closed its sales gallery so as not to compete with the private ones. I especially loved the museum sales gallery because it rented paintings and the renters almost always became buyers. I did well there and was sorry to see it go. The Hilton Head galleries did well for me. This was the 1980s, and art sold well then, I realize now.

As all of this was going on in the art world, I became enamored with writing a romance novel. From newspaper stories it looked like a simple thing to do, so I decided to become a romance novelist. I joined Romance Writers of America and started going to all the national conferences. Instead of painting, I wrote and submitted, then wrote and submitted some more. I learned a lot, especially that getting published in romance was not so simple after all. In the meantime, I wasn't painting. We were traveling, and I was writing travel articles and taking lots of photographs. My travel stories and pictures were getting published in newspapers and magazines. I loved seeing the full-page articles along with my byline.

Eventually I got back to painting and using my own photos as resource material for my artwork. By then, many of the galleries that represented me had gone out of business or were struggling and doing little for their artists. Also, a new concept was developing for artists. They were renting spaces in big old renovated buildings. One of them was Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond. A friend who had a space there invited me to share it for a few months, and I did. Having this gallery inspired me to paint and to have new work up periodically. When the owners sold the building, I followed them to another big old building. This one was in Petersburg, Petersburg Regional Art Center, where I stayed, showed my work, and entered monthly juried shows. Ten years later, that building was sold. After a seven million dollar renovation, the Ward Center for Contemporary Art will be part of the new project, set to open later this year.

"Lime Tree" at Claris ©Mary Montague Sikes
Now it's a back and forth situation for me between art and writing. Before Christmas, a friend of mine had a showing of some of my work in her Richmond home. Claris Financial at Innsbrook in Richmond has an art gallery and held an open house for the artists last week. I have a space at Crossroads Art Center, and I show work at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg. I have a big show of large paintings hanging at the Ward Center awaiting the Grand Opening there. I am happy for these spaces.

Wall of Work - Private Home

But I have a new book out now, so I have a question: Where do artists show paintings if they write novels as well? Showing and selling art work suffers when the artist is writing. Promoting and selling books suffer when the artist is painting. Somewhere there's an answer to that question. Where?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cover Reveal - Painting First, Then the Book

"Evening of the Dragonfly" watercolor ©MMSikes
A couple of years ago when I completed a mixed water media painting, I thought it would someday become the cover of a book. As I studied the painting more closely, I discovered the image of a dragonfly emerging in the green and yellow mist, formed by spraying the surface of Yupo with beautiful paints created by Robert Doak in his Brooklyn studio. Because I had developed a special love of Dragonflies as I wrote my novel, Night Watch, I knew at that moment the painting would have special significance.

You can imagine how excited I was when dragonflies became a part of the story in my new novel, Evening of the Dragonfly. Like the dragonfly in the painting, these dragonflies emerged spontaneously and flew into my writing. I now had a book to go with my dragonfly painting.

What is it about dragonflies? I've read that they are filled with magic and spiritual energy. They have the ability to travel into another dimension, then re-emerge. They relate to water and are able to move across it. They symbolize deeper meaning and growth beyond the limitations of the physical. The life of a dragonfly can be two to three years or more with most of that time spent in the aquatic phase.

Here is the final cover of the just-released book. I do not yet have a copy to hold in my hands. In the months to come, I hope that my readers will enjoy and understand the symbolism of the dragonflies in my story. I would love to hear thoughts on my book and, also, on the ways authors use symbolism in their own writing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hotels Book - Only a "Snapshot in Time"

Earlier this century, when I wrote my classic hotels book, Hotels to Remember, I never once realized how quickly the old edifices transform. Not only are the buildings renovated, expanded, and redecorated, they also change ownership.

When I read today about the sale by DuPont of their 130-year-old theater located with the 12-story Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, I was especially saddened. I included a side segment about that theater in my book which devotes a large section to the beautiful old hotel that is filled with numerous art treasures.

Almost before my book was off the presses, one of the hotels had added a new section that transformed its size and guest perception. I hadn't anticipated a change so quickly. I also had not expected sales to new ownerships that gave different faces and names to the structures. One of the hotels I selected because I found its relationship with the community so special was closed several years ago with the anticipation of renovation and reopening. That project for Hilltop House in Harper's Ferry WV was put on hold in 2010. The St. Louis hotels I included have been renamed or are gone. Only the ancient and truly historic places like the Hotel Del Coronado in California, the El Tovar on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the Homestead in Hot Springs VA have remained the same. And these special destinations have undergone a few renovations.

Someone mentioned to me several years ago that a book like mine is truly a "Snapshot in Time." I understand that now. In fact, my publisher has taken out sections from my book, and we have created little "Snapshot in Time" books.

While I was writing my coffee table book, I wish I had understood how quickly things can change. Even so, I would still be distressed by the sale of the DuPont Theater that will be renamed The Playhouse on Rodney Square. Sadly, hotel books can only be "A Snapshot in Time."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wanting to Hold a Book in my Hands

While I was reading the e-book version of Charlotte Wharton's The Language of Energy in Art: Finding Your Vision, I realized how much I wanted to have her book in my hands. I longed to thumb back through the pages, revisit the photograph of a painting, study the diagram of the Munsell Color System, and more. Reading an e-book has its limits.

Product DetailsWhile I enjoy the convenience of Kindle on my iPad, there's a feel of a lost dimension sometimes, especially for non-fiction books. Today, I look around in my writing office at the four tall, five-shelf bookcases lined along nearby walls. Some of the shelves have rows of books two-deep, front and back.

Many of the books are art or art-related. I have one, Celebrate Your Creative Self  by Mary Todd Beam, that I pulled out last night. Since I will be taking a week-long workshop from her in the near-future, I was excited to discover this book among the ones on my shelves. When I took a class last year from Pat Dews, I found two of her books stashed in the midst of the art volumes I own. Sadly, I often purchase books with titles that intrigue me at the time, then fail to actually read them until I take a class that relates.

I have several books about Georgia O'Keeffe's art hidden in various bookcases around our house, and I use them frequently when I teach art workshops. I will be teaching one of those workshops, "Painting Like Georgia", March 28 at Gloucester Arts on the Main and soon will be looking for my O'Keeffe books to share with the class.

How many books do I own? I have no idea. They are scattered in bookcases on three floors. Many, including at least 100 or more additional art books are in book cases in the den. Others are in bedroom bookcases on the main floor. I have ghost, travel, angel, writing how-to, marketing, photography, baseball, and much more residing on my shelves. The books are a story of a lifetime of varying interests.

Product Details
Product DetailsI wish these books were cataloged and placed together in the proper locations. But they aren't. Many of them, like the how-to books would be better served as Kindle or pdf. books disappearing into my iPad. That would free up some of the office shelf space.

The O'Keeffe books could never be the same on an iPad. I love to thumb through the pages and enjoy revisiting some of my favorite paintings. I can show them to students on the iPad, but there's something special about actually viewing them on slick paper with bright ink.

My bookcases are cumbersome, but I need to have books that are handy to the touch. I want to hold it in my hands!

What about you? Do you still need books that you can touch?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Acrylics Workshop for the New Year

Thank you Kay van Dyke for sending out this flyer about the January workshop I'm teaching at Gloucester Arts on the Main in Gloucester VA. Any questions?

Fun with Acrylics!
Mary Montegue Sikes will be here Saturday Jan 17th, 10am to 4pm, to share her acrylic techniques with us! 
A full day of wonderful instruction with an experienced artist with lots of tricks to improve our paintings!  All levels welcome - $45 

Monti will share her acrylic techniques with us - We rarely have this chance to improve our skills with such a great teacher.

Mary Montague Sikes is an award-winning Virginia artist. After studying painting and sculpture at the College of William and Mary, she earned a MFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University.
She has studied painting and experimental mixed media with Robert Burridge, Mary Ann Beckwith, Janet Rogers, Mary Alice Braukman, Pat Dews, Karen Aide and other well-known workshop instructors.

 Her paintings are in public and private collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

She maintains studios at Crossroads Art Center on Staples Mill Rd. in Richmond and in West Point. Her work is represented by Prince George Art and Frame in Williamsburg.
She also writes & illustrates books!!

call or email!

Gloucester Arts on Main
6580 B Main Street
Gloucester VA 23061

FAX 804-824-9469