Bill Bristow – artist, mentor, friend – visits the Art League

Art Professor Bill Bristow with his 1961 painting, Cherry Tree in Snow,

Former Trinity University Art Professor Bill Bristow with his 1961 painting, Cherry Tree in Snow, at the opening of the “Visions of Summer” exhibit on June 18th, 2017

The year was 1961, and a young professor, new to Trinity University, won the prestigious Onderdonk Purchase Prize at the San Antonio Art League and Museum. And this past Sunday, that remarkable fellow – Bill Bristow – came back to the Art League for an exhibit called “Visions of Summer,” which featured his painting. It was a thrill to see him there. He was my art professor at Trinity and influenced me more than any other teacher.

One of the advantages of getting to curate a show from the SAALM Permanent Collection is choosing paintings by my favorite artists! And many people who were at the opening we just as delighted to see him as I was.

I’m definitely not the only one who loves Bill Bristow – there are legions of successful artists and other creative Trinity grads who love this man. John Hartwell of Hartwell Studio Works in Atlanta who graduated in ’91 says:

“Bill Bristow, department of art, was a phenomenal mentor at Trinity – encouraging and generous with his time. Much of what I teach is based on Bill’s teaching talent. It’s how I learned to teach creative arts.”

Bristow and I have kept in touch since my undergrad days, and he came out of retirement a couple of years ago to teach several workshops at my old studio.

Bill’s paintings are included in the private collections of the late John Connally and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Longview Art Museum. A veteran of sixteen major exhibits from Texas to New York, Bristow has been a prolific painter whose artistic observations appeal to a wide variety of viewers and collectors.

Can you tell I like this man? I’m sure you all have had a special teacher in your life, too.

I invite you to come to the San Antonio Art League and Museum between now and July 30th to see the entire exhibit, “Visions of Summer.” There are two upstairs galleries filled with images of trees, but Bill Bristow’s is the one dearest to my heart.

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. . .that’s when I knew her name

One of my favorite poets and people, Pamela Ferguson, contacted me recently to see if I’d teach a Wax and Talisman workshop for her small group, and I said “Of course!”. Pamela had taken the Small Worlds workshop last March and I wrote about her work here in an earlier post.

Teaching this talisman workshop is so rewarding – it’s the subject of my latest ebook, and one of the most personal workshops that I offer. So I was excited to be teaching it “live,” especially when I found out that Pamela’s granddaughter Caitlyn would be in the group. It’s fun to see how different generations respond to an art challenge.

Pamela’s group came to the studio yesterday and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The workshop has three components:

  • Personalizing the earthenware face piece and painting melted beeswax wax on the surface
  • Making rolled paper “blessing beads” and adding texture, beeswax, and metallic enhancements
  • Tying symbolic ribbons and cord to the focal piece and stringing the beads

Every step has meaning and intention. I asked the students to let their intuition lead them and to see what would happen. I also asked them to name their pieces when we finished.

This is Caitlyn’s piece – she is a senior in high school and very perceptive about herself and others. She adores her grandmother, Pamela.

Her blessing beads are beautiful, and I like the way she has grouped them at the bottom edge of the face. During discussion time, I asked Caitlyn what she had named her talisman. She said the name kept shifting as she got deeper and deeper into the process, but it had ended up as “Venus” – not what she’d expected. We all understood what she meant !

This morning, I got an email from Pamela saying how much they had enjoyed the workshop. Then she told me that Caitlyn had started talking about her talisman as they were driving home. Her words were almost an impromptu poem, which Pamela wrote down.

Read Caitlyn’s poem and look at the talisman she created which inspired it – lovely.

Talisman
by Caitlyn
Venus is her name –
    the two sides of her face
    the two sides of love
 
The light side has golden glow
The ribbons are bright, peachy,
      lots of strands, beads, charms.
 
The other side is dark –
the walnut stain soaked deeply.
The copper tear by her eye was accidental
      but love can cause pain.
That’s when I knew her name –
      the tear, the dark side.
And those ribbons are thin, stringy –
black, gray – sadder somehow.
 
I didn’t mean for her to be Venus
      the goddess of love
but that’s how she came out.

It’s all about trusting the process – letting go of what we expect and letting the intuitive take over. I’m very glad that Caitlyn’s work and poetry expresses this so perfectly – she didn’t mean for her to be Venus, the goddess of love, but that’s how she came out!

But wait, there’s more! Pamela, a published poet, had her own insight about the process. She sent me her poem this morning, as well – it’s titled “Paper Bead,” but it’s about much, much more.

Paper Bead

     by Pamela Ferguson

 

Cut a strip of paper,

long

narrow

Write a secret word,

a power word

a sacred one –

a promise – a passion –

a vision word.

 

Glue the strip

almost end to end

side to side.

Coat your word

with protection.

 

Lay a skewer on the almost end –

roll the strip onto the tiny dowel

until your word is cocooned within –

held by the power of your hands

the dowel

the glue.

 

Bedeck the roll with ribbon

or string or yarn-

chain or silk or sinew.

 

Seal in place with that most

basic of adherents –

pure, warm beeswax.

Coat the cocoon.

Seal your word

in the unique world you make

and remake each day.

Add its shape and your word

to your memory’s bliss.

 

Then do another.

 

Don’t you love the way the creative process works with work and words? I especially like Pamela’s last line, “Then do another.” It means that we can do this any time, this expressing our best thoughts through our art and our poetry. It’s so comforting and liberating.
Thanks, Pamela and Caitlyn, grandmother and granddaughter, for sharing your artwork and your poetry.
PS I’m always happy to arrange a small group workshop for you – you don’t even have to be an artist or a poet!

 

 

 

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Collage, Composition and old Cape Cod

Home at last from a couple of weeks on the East Coast, mostly Boston, but one of my other favorite stops was the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Thats where I taught Friday’s workshop on Collage and Composition. Almost all of the participants had been at the 11th International Encaustic Conference the previous weekend, so they knew their way around hot wax. But many of them had not worked much with collage, which surprised me.

We had a great time working with my “AB3” system of composition arrangement. I’ve included a cheat sheet about what that means at the bottom of this post.

When I submitted the proposal to Cherie Mittenthal, artist and director of the encaustic conference, I told her the title was “Composition Boot Camp and Kick-Butt Collage.” She liked the proposal but suggested I tame the name a bit. I did, but everybody still made awesome kick-butt collages, as you can see in the video, below.

Lyn Belisle: Collage and Composition Workshop at the Truro Center for the Arts from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The AB3 System gets you started by using Alignment, Breathing Room, and Thirds to plan your initial arrangement. Here’s what the Cheat Sheet says:

A=ALIGNMENT – The direction a picture, element, or shape “points” – the best alignment directs the viewer’s eye into engagement with the message or focus of the work.

B=BREATHING ROOM – Allow your elements to establish a dialogue with each other. Leave enough space that there is a contrast between “quiet” and “busy.”

3’s=THIRDS AND THREES – Use the nine-space grid that photographers use to establish good “bones” for your piece, and think in odds rather than evens.

One of my students, Mary, lived in Wellfleet, very close to the Arts Center. Bill and I told her that we had tried to find the Wellfleet Harbor and ended up on this weird one-lane road that took us to an even stranger dead-end island. Mary said that we had obviously gotten lost and ended up on isolated Lieutenant Island – check out the road through the marsh and the creaky wooden bridge we drove across. EEK!

Special thanks to Bill for all of the great photos that I used in the workshop video. Most of the time I take all of the photos myself while I’m teaching and I never get to see myself! And thanks to the super-nice kick-butt workshop participants.

 

Sous Vide, Scott Bradshaw, and Seven Ravens Bake House

Scott Bradshaw’s Rum Cake (via Instagram)

The 11th International Encaustic Conference sessions in Provincetown are over, and we have had several free days before I teach my post-conference workshop tomorrow at the Center for the Arts at Castle Hills in Truro. So yesterday, Bill and I took a road trip to Plainville MA to visit his nephew, Scott Bradshaw.

What surprising and delightful experience! I knew that Scott was an expert and innovative baker who lived in a restored 18th century house, but WOW. I’ll show you some photos of his extraordinary house first, then talk about Scott’s culinary creations.

The house is at least two-and-a-half centuries old and has been lovingly restored and remodeled over the years. The previous owner was a chef who taught cooking classes in her kitchen, so the kitchen was ready and waiting for Scott when he bought the house four years ago. Scott has also expanded the herb garden and done some major structural reinforcement.

When Bill and I arrived, Scott was experimenting with caramelizing milk and dark chocolate using the Sous Vide technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.

Bill and Scott discuss the chemistry of cooking – Dingo is Scott’s helper

The Sous Vide setup

Scott’s kitchen – swoon . . .

Scott gave us a sample of some caramelized white chocolate that he had just done, and then we tried some of the ganache that he had made from it. Good heavens! It tasted like the essence of Tres Leches cake – delicious and addictive. I learned so much about the art of baking in our short visit – and you can learn from Scott, too!

He has a fantastic new blog called Seven Ravens Bake House.

Here you will find all kinds of recipes and techniques that are generally know only to the experts – of which Scott is definitely one!

He’s also a very entertaining writer who will make you laugh out loud with his dry humor. I definitely encourage you to subscribe to his blog for the writing, if nothing else. Although the latest post on making Cola Ganache is pretty interesting – cola ganache??

A special thanks to Dingo for being a fine co-host on this memorable visit – thanks, Scott and Dingo – we’ll be back!!

Woof!

Report from Provincetown

Michelle Belto and I are in Boston and Provincetown for the 11th International Encaustic Conference – Michelle led a presentation on Friday afternoon, and I will be teaching an all-day post-conference workshop this coming Friday.

Part of the fun of the conference was attending a zillion First Friday gallery openings along Commercial Street in P’Town. There was an emphasis on encaustic, but there was a ton of fantastic and inspirational art in all media. My “Steal Like an Artist” radar was set to maximum power.

Here are some images of a few pieces that I liked for one reason or another. When you Steal Like an Artist, you don’t really copy – you just notice which part of a work happens to resonate strongly with you, and later you figure out why it did and what to do about it.

Wax image on metal plate

Wood, Wax, Crystals

wrapped wax objects

Love that Prussian Blue

Layered encaustic construction

wax and paper garment

Woman with her monkey

All-white collage collection

Provincetown itself is a visual work of art, particularly the beautifully-constructed front gardens in front of the Cape Cod houses.

Typical Provincetown house and garden

Back in Boston yesterday, Michelle and I shared a space at the Beacon Hill Art Walk and had a wicked good time talking with people and (hooray) selling some art. It’s such a great event – and we didn’t even get rained out! 

I’ll send a workshop report later in the week – meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy the 55F Boston weather 🙂

The San Antonio Art League & Museum – new adventures!

Yesterday, I became the new President of the venerable San Antonio Art League and Museum. It’s a huge honor and a huge challenge.

I’m so lucky to have the help of a fantastic board, including Stefani Job Spears, who will serve as 1st VP. She’s an amazing artist and one of the most generous friends I’ve ever known. (Plus, she was my grandson’s teacher at St. Mary’s Hall – yay!) Thanks, Stef!

Stefani Job Spears, watercolor

And we are all lucky to have the support of of 2017 Art Patrons, Cappy and Suzy Lawton. They have some wonderful ideas about promoting membership and preserving the amazing Permanent Collection at SAAL&M.

In SAAL&M’s Permanent Collection you’ll find works by such luminaries as the Onderdonks and Jose Arpa, and by all of the finest legacy artists from San Antonio like Amy Freeman Lee, Bill Bristow, E. Gordon West,  Cecil Casbier, and many many more. It’s a unique and priceless collection.

But right now, I’d like to acknowledge Helen and Clarence Fey who have led the Art League for the past fifteen years, keeping the exhibits going, keeping the historic King William building which is home to the Art League in good condition and open to the public. They are remarkable.

Yesterday at our General Membership Meeting, we honored this dedicated couple with many well-deserved tributes, including a  Life Membership in the San Antonio Art League and Museum. Here is an excerpt from the letter that accompanied the award:

“To thank you adequately is impossible. You have spent many long hours at the San Antonio Art League and Museum, sacrificing your personal time for the greater good of this organization. You took great care to see that protocol was followed in each situation involving the priceless permanent collection. We appreciate your invaluable business expertise and personal communication skills that has kept SAAL&M an integral part of the arts community. Your stewardship and care of the building itself is well-known and deeply appreciated.”

Thanks, Helen and Clarence – and we will count on your expert guidance and advice as you continue as members of the SAAL&M.

Beacon Hill Art Walk

Now I’m off to Boston with Michelle Belto to show at the Beacon Hill Art Walk and to teach at the International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown. But when I get back, you’re going to hear a lot more about what’s going to be happening at the San Anton Art League – and how you can help. You have been warned :).

Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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Tissue fun – consider the candle possibilities!

So I was creating some designs on tissue paper to use for an encaustic collage when I came across a YouTube video about tissue and candles. Kinda cool!

Take a look at what I played with. And then you can search You Tube for tissue-candle video demos if you’re interested.

Ordinary plain white candle – cheap

Design printed out on regular tissue paper which has been taped to a carrier sheet

Tear or cut tissue to fit candle, wrap around

Wrap something around tissue and candle to hold in place – I used tulle, but parchment paper would probably be better

Hold tight to keep tissue flat

Use a hair dryer or hear gun to fuse tissue to candle – it gets hot so you might want to cover your hand with a towel –

Voila – a custom candle design!

Think of the possibilities – you could make a design of yourself as a saint and create a very original votive candle! You could write something personal on a friend’s photo and print it out on tissue to make a one-of-a-kind gift candle! Zowee.

I liked this crafty little project – it provided a nice distraction to what I’m supposed to be doing, which is getting ready for the Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston in just – GULP – two weeks! Yikes!! Back to the studio.

Summer art camp registration is OPEN!

This summer, I’ll be teaching two workshops in a very special classroom at Artful Gathering, my fifth year there. Several of my friends have already registered – hi, Gaye, hi Joanna, hi Aileen!

Lots of people ask me about Artful Gathering – what exactly is it?? Well,  it’s an annual online art retreat that draws students from all over the world to virtual art studio classrooms where they interact with artists like Leslie Marsh, Debby Anderson, Keith Lo Bue – and me!

This year’s Artful Gathering theme is “Nature,” and I’m teaching two summer sessions this go-round. The first one, from June 6-July 17th is called Natural Expressions: Evocative Portraits using Nature’s Palette with Beeswax. It’s a comprehensive workshop that combines beeswax and rust with mixed media portraits. It also has two tech tutorials that show you where to find copyright-free images and then how to manipulate them with vintage effects – without Photoshop!

Here’s the description:

Session One: June 6 – July 17
Lyn Belisle guides you through the steps for creating mixed media portraits with natural materials, including layered beeswax. You’ll learn how to enhance digital images, tinting, preparing small stretched canvas substrates for layered collage, assembling a wrapped mat around a canvas substrate as well as attaching natural objects to a mat and integrating them into the mixed media composition.

And here’s a video clip that I lifted from the class introduction that shows you some of the things we will play with:

The tuition for this five-week class is $110, kinda like two regular workshops in my studio. If you’ve never participated in a virtual classroom before, it’s really fun. You can work at your own pace, but you can also have conversations with me and the other students at any time in our discussion forum during the five-week session. Here’s a link that will answer all of your questions about registration.

Click on the image below to go to the Directory of all the classes – heck, you might want to take somebody else’s class – my pal Michelle Belto is teaching one this summer, too!

I hope to see you at Artful Gathering – it’s a summer art camp without the mosquitoes.

 

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They found their wings. . .

. . . and, boy, did they soar! The women in yesterday’s class surpassed every expectation I had for our NeoSanto workshop, creating beautiful symbol-filled personal icons on canvas. And, as Robin said during our critique, “This is much more than just a canvas.”

I showed you the construction process in my last post, but what the students brought to it was the intangible sense of self. The idea of the NeoSanto is to interpret the traditional “santo” figure from the Southwest into a personal guardian. What resulted was one of the most meaningful art-making sessions and discussions that I can remember. I was honored to be there!

Take a look at their work in the video, below.

This may be the subject of the next workshop eBook! Many thanks to DeeDee, Pam, Robin, Marilyn and Lily for the amazing workshop synergy and generosity of spirit.

Up next – on to Artful Gathering! Meet me there in our virtual classroom – registration is open.

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