Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Artist Workshops Inspire You?

"Fitness Machine" acrylic/mixed ©Mary Montague Sikes
I love artist workshops. I love to take them; I love to teach them.

One of my favorites to teach is "Creating with Texture and Design". The painting to the left,"Fitness Machine," is one of my works of art that has texture built up with acrylic mediums beneath the paint surface. I love the study the way the light reflects on the luscious images that glow in this abstract painting on canvas.

The textured work of Jan Sitts first inspired me. I have followed her painting career for a number of years and finally went to Sedona, Arizona to take a workshop with her there. It did not disappoint. However, I discovered taking a workshop when you are flying into the city is far different from taking one, or teaching it, when driving. I use a lot of different mediums in my work, including thick white gesso, regular gel medium, heavy gel medium, gel with beads, and more. Since I spread these materials on my canvas with a painting knife, it takes a while for them to dry. When I can pack up my work in a car, there's no problem with the still soft surfaces. However, when flying, you need to pack up the work and ship it on the last day. That creates lots of problems and extra expense.
"Bell Rock" ©Mary Montague Sikes

My acrylic/mixed media painting, "Bell Rock," was inspired by the Jan Sitts workshop. So was "Pthalo Mountains."
"Pthalo Mountains ©Mary Montague Sikes

Mary Ann Beckwith taught me to love Yupo as a painting surface. A workshop with Carrie Brown led to broken barriers and greater love of texture. She taught me to use thick gesso in ways I had never before tried. She taught me to adore the square format.

My next workshops will be in Hilton Head, South Carolina and in Gloucester, Virginia. Please contact me at monti7olen@verizon.net for more information about registering.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Tapestry for Peace

"Angel of the Earth and Sky" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"There's a place in space for peace."

That's what the late Eve Mackintosh learned from her vision of an angel almost 20 years ago. I met Eve not long before she died in 2005 and am so glad to have had the experience of knowing her. She inspired me to create an angel panel for the Tapestry for Peace project. Please read all about the project at Notes Along the Way.

Before I shipped my watercolor on linen panel called "Angel of the Earth and Sky" off to Denver CO, I brought it to Petersburg Regional Arts Center to hang for a short while. I couldn't help but be fascinated when I found this photograph from the old days at PRAC because I am standing by the same staircase that now has been so elegantly restored at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art. (See the second photo.) Notice that the floors have been beautifully redone as well.

The Tapestry for Peace project brought together art work from around the United States and elsewhere with the concept of peace. Sadly, Eve's vision of the project traveling around the world, inspiring children with dreams of peace, has not yet come to fruition. Perhaps it will one day. After all, "There's a place in space for peace." Hopefully if will be on planet earth.

Restored staircase at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art ©MMSikes

Monday, July 11, 2016

Visit The Ward Center for Contemporary Art for a Journey Through Time

With Noelle Ward and "Dunn's River Falls II"
When Petersburg Regional Art Center was purchased in 2013 and closed for renovations, I was saddened. After all, the historic old building with all its flaws and woes had been a part of my life for ten years. Before that, I spent a few years as a resident artist in Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond which was the predecessor to PRAC. When SBAC was forced to close and move, I decided to follow Rusty Davis and Deanna Thomas, the founders, to Petersburg, a community like my native Fredericksburg where memories of the Civil War still lingered.

It was a fascinating time. I watched Old Towne go down following a damaging tornado, then rise up again. I saw original artists disappear from their gallery spaces, and new ones come in to replace them. Soon after Rusty carried a large painting up to the third floor for me (since it was too long for the elevator), he vanished due to illness. His mother was gone soon after, leaving only his sister Donna to carry on. She worked with enthusiasm, but there was a severe sense of loss because hopes and dreams were left in the lurch.

"Monet's Pond" and "Budding Falls" in the Underground
Now the Ward Center for Contemporary Art has opened with a richness of bright, well-lit gallery walls and spaces. I was honored to have a one-person exhibition, "Passenger to Paradise" hanging on the walls of the Grand Gallery for the opening events last summer. The original wooden floors remain in the Grand Gallery as does the historic staircase. The Ward Center has begun its own journey through time with new art and massive possibilities. Hopes and dreams are alive once again. Perhaps the best is yet to come.
"Rose Hall Great House"

Friday, June 24, 2016

Using a French Easel to Paint En Plein Air and Indoors As Well

A couple of years ago, I painted en plein air at the Rosewell Plantation ruins in Gloucester. Construction on the magnificent brick house began in 1725. Eventually, it was described as the largest and finest colonial home in America. Thomas Jefferson did some of his first writing at Rosewell. Sadly, the old mansion burned in 1916. The remains are iconic and a little bit eerie.

For many years, I toyed with the idea of purchasing a French Easel to set up for outdoor painting. Although I looked at art stores and online, I never found one that appeared sturdy and attractive for a price I was willing to pay. After all, with all the insects we have in Tidewater Virginia, I'm not sure how often I will use it. Then I studied easels on line some more and looked once again at the Cheap Joe's American Journey French easel and decided it was the one for me. With the specials and other items I ordered, I was able to get free shipping which always attracts me. Since it didn't ship until Thursday, I was worried I wouldn't get it in time for my Saturday event. However, we seem to have a direct route (with regular shipping) from Boone NC to my home. The two boxes arrived on my doorstep by noon last Friday.
"Painting at Rosewell" ©Olen Sikes

The French easel is even nicer than I expected. I love the convenience of the drawers and compartments. Using Rembrandt soft pastels and a few Senneliers, I completed a pastel painting on the grounds of Rosewell. In my studio, I added a few color highlights to the painting. I still have not tried the Sennelier oil pastels I ordered, but that's a project for a different day.

Now I'm looking forward to another excursion en plein air. At my house, the gnats and mosquitoes are out full force. We were fortunate that insects were not a problem for painting at Rosewell Plantation ruins. 

As for Rosewell Plantation, I wonder if someday a restoration will take place. So much history lies hidden among the ruins.
"Rosewell En Plein Air" ©Olen Sikes
Since my first en plein air excursion at Rosewell, I have used my easel to paint outside New Town Gallery (now closed) and at Prince George Gallery on Jamestown Road in Williamsburg. I plan to paint with it once again this Saturday when we will have a floral still-life set up for the Italian Picnic and Open House at Prince George Gallery.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Anderson Gallery, 45 Years of Art on the Edge

"Desert Mountains" - Oil on Canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I received my VCU arts STUDIO alumni magazine, I was excited to read the article about the new book, The Anderson Gallery, 45 Years of Art on the Edge. From the moment I first set foot on the VCU campus in the late 1970s, the Anderson Gallery became one of my favorite places to visit. I was struck by the far out contemporary art always featured in the space. Later on, I was honored to be a part of some of the shows there.

When it was time for my graduate thesis exhibition, I was thrilled that it took place in Anderson Gallery. My large mountain paintings glowed in the perfect gallery lighting. "Desert Mountains" is a 48" x 84" oil painting that was part of that show. Along with 11 other students in my MFA painting class, I spent two years going full time to earn my master's degree. We had visiting artists from New York and California who taught us so much as we got the chance to watch them work in the old school turned studio building along with us. Anderson Gallery was the center for it all.

Bernard Martin is one of the authors of the book about the history of the gallery. I was a student in his painting classes for a couple of years before I was accepted into the master's program. He was an outstanding instructor who taught me so much about making art.

One of the pastel working drawings from my graduate thesis show is part of the permanent collection of the Anderson Gallery. A few months ago, I received a letter from the gallelry informing me that it would be moved to the new location.

The Anderson Gallery was an important part of my years at VCU. I cherish my memories from those days.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

April 1 is Sad Day for Art in Williamsburg

As April 1 approaches, I can't help but feel a little sad. Not only is New Town Art Gallery closing its doors, but the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Education Center will no longer be open.

The closure of the Art Education Center is disappointing for many area artists. When it opened in 2012 on Westover Avenue, there was a feeling of excitement. I was fortunate to to be one of the exhibiting artists in January and February 2013 and hung a show of the pastel paintings from my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Three other artists exhibited with me those two months, and we had a lovely opening reception on a Friday evening along with another event that Saturday featuring a band. It was a fun time. I've also taught several workshops, including "Painting Like Georgia", in the facility and had several more workshops scheduled for this spring.
"Hotel to Remember Show at the Art Education Center" ©MM Sikes

"Renee Kennedy resident artist New Town ©MMSikes
When I visited New Town Art Gallery last week, there was a feeling of sadness in the air. The gallery was beautiful, as always, and I once again admired the special lighting throughout the space. Everyone in the New Town area and beyond is going to miss the artistic atmosphere that surrounded the space. They will miss the unique attention to creative detail the artists brought. They will miss the opportunity to visit a very special location, if only to browse for a moment during a lunch break.

There are just a few days left. Please visit New Town Art Gallery.
"New Town Art Gallery interior" ©MM Sikes

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Town Art Gallery in Williamsburg Is Closing

"New Town Art  Gallery at Night" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It is sad to learn that New Town Art Gallery is closing on March 29. For almost six years, this lovely and spacious gallery has been open to the public and has served as a beautiful display and sales location for a number of visiting as well as resident artists.

From August to November 2014, I had the opportunity to be one of the visiting artists, and I loved it. When it was my turn to assist in the gallery, the resident artists were wonderful to me and very patient.The artists kept the space beautifully arranged and attractive for visitors. Often, a theatrical group would provide a "teaser" event at the gallery advertising a new production. The cast of "Cats" gave an exciting performance during my stay there.
"Cats" performance at New Town Art Gallery ©Mary Montague Sikes 

The gallery manger, Anne Kushnick, issued this statement regarding the closure, "With our lease ending, we hope to explore new opportunities to show our work and to support the arts in our area. We have been blessed to have had this great experience and share it with all of you."

The location at 5140 Main Street is within walking distance for New Town residents and is close to the Barnes and Noble store. The popular Opus Nine restaurant is across the street from the gallery's main entrance.

A special celebration is planned for March 11 at the gallery. This is "to thank their patrons and the community for their support over the years," Kushnick says.

New Town will surely miss the presence of this very special artist group. Hopefully, they will find a wonderful new space to continue the gallery elsewhere in the area.