Wednesday Workshop

    Lyn’s demo piece, composition and collage workshop on Wednesday, September 18th

I love it when a group of friends organizes an afternoon workshop at my studio, especially if I have not worked with them before.

Yesterday, five such friends met for an afternoon of exploring composition, collage and beeswax – one of my favorite topics. It has something for everyone, no matter how experienced or brand new someone is to making art. Here’s the class outline:

  • Exploring Encaustic Collage is an all-level workshop designed to introduce you to simple encaustic techniques and layering.This popular workshop allows you to use your own images or studio images to layer stories through translucent beeswax and mixed media.

    The Project – create a narrative encaustic collage that tells a compelling story using photos and textures.

    The Process – create encaustic collages on substrates. Explore effective story-telling composition. Enhance the wax and images with mixed-media techniques.

    The Goal – enjoy learning about the beauty of beeswax as a mixed-media tool while developing your skills in collage composition.

We emphasized the practice of veining images with white tempera paint (which is beeswax friendly) to conceal, reveal and connect images and design elements. I promised one participant, who said she didn’t like any of her main images, that if she started working with the one she disliked the least, she would learn to love it. She did!

Mary Francine, collage detail

Here are some of the materials we worked with:

  • Images from copyright-free web sources, old catalogs, magazines, personal digital photos printed on plain paper, ephemeral scraps and partial images
  • Assorted collage paper, fiber, tissue
  • Substrate – 5×7”-8×10” archival mat board, 140-300# watercolor paper, Bristol board, heavy drawing paper
  • Glue sticks –Scotch permanent glue sticks if possible
  • White Tempera Paint – (note: this does not seal the substrate)
  • Dick Blick Matte White Acrylic
  • Graphite pencils
  • Flat paint brushes, 1”
  • Tsukineko Walnut ink
  • PrismaColor pencils
  • Small stencils
  • Rubber stamps, natural stamps (like bottle tops)
  • Stamping ink, black and/or brown
  • Mats for isolating compositional elements
  • White (clear) beeswax
  • Metal leaf
  • Book foil
  • Pigment sticks, wax metallic finish
  • Needle pottery tool or other incising tool
  • Scissors
  • Equipment for melting beeswax
  • Hake brushes

In the video below you can see the process and the results.

I wish you could have been with us during the final discussion and critique to hear the words of the artists as they explained how their stories developed while they worked on their collages.

This is an amazing exercise. You never know why you choose certain images intuitively until the whole narrative starts coming together and making sense. It’s kind of like choosing Tarot cards to find a message for yourself. Trust the process!

Pieces of possibility, found and handmade

Did you look for found objects today? Lots of people have been doing it, and they’re sending me photos of their great compositions. This one is by Marilyn Jones:

Marilyn Jones, found object composition

If you haven’t checked out our online Found Object gallery in a while, see what’s new HERE.

So what’s the next step? Sometimes it’s just enough to photograph them for the record, but you also might want to save them for a more fixed form as assemblage components.

I regularly combine found objects with small earthenware pieces (which were made for no particular purpose) to create assemblages. You can do the same thing with air-dry clay if you don’t have a kiln (see a couple of possibilities at the end of this post).

Here’s an assemblage example that I finished yesterday:

Some of the pieces are found, some made of clay, and some repurposed, like the old paintbrush.

I keep a couple of trays of unfinished clay shards handy so I can try various combinations, just like we’ve been doing with the found objects

Some are more complete than others, but they are all still just possible components.

Here’s a possible work in progress – it’s not even a “work” yet, just a “play.”

If you make these kinds of clay components, be sure to punch holes in strategic areas in case you want to attach them to other objects. I use various sizes of paper straws.

As I said, it’s easy to do this with air-dry clay, especially since these are small textured “shards.” It’s also a good way to test different kinds of air-dry clay and try out interesting textures.

This is one of my favorite air-dry clays. It’s inexpensive, and dries quickly, especially if you put your pieces on a paper plate out in the Texas sun to dry, That’s the only time I’m grateful for 100F heat! This paper clay takes paint and walnut ink very nicely.

And here’s something new that I’m just getting ready to tryMichael Tarricone wrote me about it:

Hi, Lyn –

I was wondering if you have seen the new Quick Cure Clay from Ranger Ink. I’ve been using it from a few weeks now and it’s really fantastic. It only dries when you apply heat with a heat gun. It dries rock hard in just a couple of minutes. It work beautifully in silicone molds, in face you can cure it in the mold.

Michael’s not associated with Ranger, he just liked the way the clay worked. I ordered some and will give you a report once I try it out this weekend:

If there’s a point to today’s rambling, it’s “don’t be afraid to mix the found with the handmade” – that synergy will often enrich both kinds of components, bringing order to the found and natural richness to the handmade.

Mixing found objects with the handmade components

TGIF! Hove a lovely weekend, and stay cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add your work to Found Objects Online Gallery – free and fun!

I’m collecting some great photos of found object compositions from people who took the Seven-Day Challenge to sharpen their observational and composition skills. And our online gallery is up and running, ready for you to submit your own arrangement photos. Click on the cover, below, for the catalog in progress.

This is the latest composition. It’s from Virginia Bally – she found and collected the objects while working in her beautiful Hill Country garden.

You can read the guidelines hereand you can even bend them a bit if you just can’t wait seven days to collect your stuff :).

When you submit your photos, I’ll make a section for you (up to two photos each time) and will link to your website – all free. This is the best kind of sharing – inspiring each other with our own aesthetic choices and styles.

Found Objects Challenge Guidelines

Found Objects Composition Online Gallery

For Love of Leonardo – a fiberart sculpture

That’s the title of a new fiber art sculpture I (almost) just finished. Where these ideas come from, I’m not sure, but I was looking at some of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings and thinking about insides and outsides and metaphors, so I photocopied some of his drawings and notes onto linen fabric.

Then I started building a form with no real plan . . . I use sticks and sinew and gauze and all kinds of things to engineer the armature.

At this point, I just go happily along with no idea of where this figure might be going, but trusting the process. It’s like reading a book that you can’t skip to the end of to find out what happens, but I knew it would have something to do with the Da Vinci notes on linen.

The big step is finding the face that helps tell the story.

Now the “it” has become a “her,” and I look at her in different light and different places to get to know her better.

The linen layers are in progress, and I’m refining some of the details, like skewering her headpiece to add sinew. I got so engrossed at this point that I forgot to take process photos!

Her linen-wrapped legs are anchored into a wood block covered with faded Turkish carpet scraps.

The plot thickens – there are pieces of stitched linen with hearts and babies and love letters . . . it’s complex, and a bit disturbing, but terribly intriguing!

She has an ivory silk braid hanging down her back.

Here is the (almost) completed piece – she’s 20″ high.

For Love of Leonardo, Lyn Belisle, 2019, Fiber sculpture with mixed media

I borrowed a lot of techniques I developed for last year’s “Boro Horse,” (below) which I love, but the Leonardo piece feels more personal somehow.

Next up – a wall piece that celebrates the complexity old fiber rugs and weavings.  I plan to incorporate some of the found objects I’ve collected in the last couple of weeks for the Collage Challenge.

This piece is just barely started, but we shall see what we shall see –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRY IT! 7-Day Found Object Challenge for Composition Competence

Say THAT three times fast – anyway, this is fun! And it takes practically no time at all each day. It will sharpen your observation skills and boost your composition fluency.

HOW THIS STARTED (you probably do the same sort of thing):

So, I take walks every morning and most afternoons and often find a small object along the way  – like a rock or dried leaf –  that intrigues me. Sometime I put it in my pocket, sometimes I just look at it and leave it.

Last week, I challenged myself to choose one found object a day, bring it home, and see how the daily objects might fit together at the end of the week.

There’s a table inside my front door where I often drop stuff, and here was where I put the first object. (You’ll need a designated spot, too, for your daily objects.)

Monday’s object was a piece of thick layered cardboard, which I first thought was a little book. I found it in the street by my sidewalk and it had been run over a few times and flattened nicely.

Monday – flattened cardboard fragment

Tuesday’s object was a dried leaf that had the most gorgeous rust-patina colors and was curved like an umbrella.

Tuesday – interesting dried leaf

On Wednesday, I thought I had found a bird’s egg by the driveway of a neighbor’s house, but it turned out to be a seed pod of some kind. I brought it home to add to the collection.

Thursday’s find was a slightly grubby bird feather, which is always a nice touch.

Thursday – bird feather, probably a dove?

On Friday, I brought home another seed pod thingy – this one look kind of like a bird.

Seed pod, probably Magnolia

Saturday’s and Sunday’s finds were rather similar for no particular reason – a rolled leaf, and a stick with no bark on either end.

Then came Sunday, which was Composition Practice Day – I  started arranging the seven objects in different configurations on a black piece of paper, then photographing the experimental arrangements with my phone camera.

Important point – there is more than one right answer! This is the great fun of solving art problems versus math problems!

This one may have been my favorite, but that could change depending on how the composition was going to be used:

I also tried the objects on a white background.

It’s instructive to note what works for you balance? Scale? Horizontal versus vertical? symmetrical versus asymmetrical? Stacked versus separate?

You can save your favorite photographs and use them as inspiration for paintings (you already know that the composition works!) or as backgrounds for digital art – here’s one example that I did from the photo on the right, above.

I would love to see examples from all of you who want to play with this idea.

You don’t have to wait until a Monday to start! You just need to choose one object a day without thinking about how it will go with anything else. Choose it just because you like it. When you start your arrangements, document them with photos, and send your favorites to me.

Go to my website (CLICK BELOW) to submit photos of your own 7-Day Found Object Challenge for Composition Competence. I’ll put together an online gallery on September 1st.

FOUND OBJECTS CHALLENGE LINK

I can’t wait to see what you find!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Spark to Finish

Finding time to work on pieces to submit for juried shows is definitely a luxury these days, but I’m always looking for the spark of an idea that might work for an interesting “Call for Entry.”

So I got an idea last week for  the upcoming Fiber Artists of San Antonio show based on a piece I did for a show at St. Mary’s University in February. It was a standing screen sculpture with silk ribbon pieces on the surface. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

I made a very rough drawing in my sketchbook with tag-shaped objects that might have faces on them to be printed on linen and then attached to a new screen structure.

You can see the word “beeswax” under the sketch – honest, that’s what it says. But I wasn’t thinking about encaustic at this point, focusing on fiber instead.

I decided to use the faces in this 1936 photo of children in the Netherlands who were living in poverty – isn’t it haunting?

I adhered a piece of linen to some freezer paper that was cut to 8.5 x 11″ and then opened the photo in Photoshop, edited it for a sepia tone, and ran it through my printer. Once the freezer paper was peeled off, I tore two of the photos apart and adhered those to some rice paper. Here they are:

They looked good – and then I got stuck. They really weren’t right for the screen idea – too strong, too something. Days passed. Then I remembered the piece I had just written about, the one at the Museum of Encaustic Art with the faces of young girls working in poor conditions but looking both brave and resigned.

I hadn’t planned on making an encaustic piece from these faces, but coincidentally, the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe has a current call for entry called Global Warming is Real. All of a sudden, I could visualize these children’s faces looking through a window  onto a world where crops fail, oceans rise, and humans suffer devastation.

In the studio, I built a panel frame and added layers of wax and tissue with words of warning about climate change collaged around the edges. I waxed the linen and rice paper images. When the children’s faces were added, the piece worked as an expression of the theme. I call it “The Last Window.”

You can see in these details how well the linen works with the beeswax:

My beloved professor, the late sculptor Phil Evett, once told me that if an idea isn’t working, it’s not about the idea, it’s about where it belongs. In his case, he was talking about a carved head that had sat in his studio for 20 years until he finally found the right piece to attach it to.

In my case, these compelling children’s faces belonged in a mixed media encaustic and fiber collage about a critical environmental concern. It just took me a while to figure it out.

So let’s keep making those sketches and creating small shards of ideas – they will let you know where they belong! Oh, yeah, and I’ll let you know if “The Last Window” is accepted for the exhibit! (The deadline for submitting is tomorrow).

Thanks for reading SHARDS today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two cool things – take a look

Hi, Everyone . . .I have two cool things for you today!

Thing One is a link to the most comprehensive catalog of encaustic artwork available, and it’s free to peruse online. It’s published by the Museum of Encaustic Art, which I described in my last post. The catalog is for the encaustic exhibition called 50 States/200 Artists.

Here’s the link – you will need Adobe Flash to be able to flip the pages.

Catalog Cover

Sample page with encaustic artists from New Mexico

Sample page with encaustic artists from Texas

My pal Michelle Belto and I are both in the section representing Texas – yay!!

If you can’t find something to love about encasutic art within this catalog of almost 200 pages, then exploring that medium just isn’t your thing.

So what if your thing is fiber art and stitchery? — well, hold onto your needles and watch this.

COOL THING TWO: THE AMAZING PATTERN WIZARD

Let’s say you want to embroider a jacket with a portrait of Frida Kahlo on the back (crazy, I know, but play along). You have a photo that you want to use:

So how do you figure out a diagram showing you how to cross-stitch this complicated design?? Just go to the Stitchboard Pattern Wizard. Upload your photo, and voila!!

It even gives you the numbers of the colors of cotton thread you’ll need to buy.

So I realize not everyone is going to run out and embroider this, but think of the possibilities of simplifying a color photo – you could do a beaded portrait of your cat using this kind of diagram – or your could paint it with dots!

Again, here’s that link: Stitchboard Pattern Wizard

I hope you enjoy these two cool things – I’m going back to the studio to work on a new video workshop – stay tuned!

And thanks for reading SHARDS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enacustic! Wax and creativity in Santa Fe . . . .

We just got back from a long weekend in Santa Fe, and one of my must-visit places is the Museum of Encaustic Art on Agua Fria Street near the Railyard Arts District. The museum and gallery was founded by Douglas Mehrens in 2005 and is a great place to learn more about the ancient/contemporary medium of wax as a medium in all art forms.

Doug was there when we arrived at the museum, and I was really happy to see that he had one of my photoencaustic pieces, El Paso 1910, by the front entry. That piece is part of the museum’s permanent collection, which contains and preserves over a hundred works of encaustic art.

Lyn Belisle, El Paso 1910, Encaustic and Mixed Media, 2016

Much like the San Antonio Art League & Museum, the MEA contains both a museum and a gallery space for current exhibitions. On view in the gallery is a show called “NO CREATIVE BOUNDARIES: ANYTHING GOES.”

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the exhibit – there were lots of ideas to steal! (Steal Like an Artist!)

There were so many inspiring pieces in the exhibit and in the permanent collection that I decided to put together a slideshow of about 25 of them, which you can see on my website by clicking on the image below.

Even if you are not an encaustic artist, or an artist of any kind, you will undoubtedly enjoy the images as creative statements made with wax. CLICK BELOW.

Images from the Museum of Encaustic Art

I hope you’ll visit the MEA when you’re in Santa Fe – there’s so much art to see there, but this is a special place with an unusual focus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax and Clay Talisman mini-workshop

Last week my friend, fiber artist Mary Ann Johnson, arranged a workshop for a small group of four, including her sister Rosalie who was visiting from out of town. The other two participants were artists whose work I have long admired – so it was a very creative afternoon!

This is a workshop that I’ve taught before, but always love, because of the variety of techniques. We worked with clay, paper, wax and fiber to make personal talismans. One of the most amazing parts of the process is rolling paper into beads, then (optionally) adding fiber for texture before painting them with beeswax.

Jean Dahlgren, one of the participants, brought some of her fabric beads (top right in the photo above), and they also took the beeswax beautifully.

One of the nice things about these beads is that you can write a secret message along the inside of the paper before tightly rolling the strip. Rosalie chose to make her beads very simple, without fiber embellishment, so she can see the structure better.

When we started working on the clay faces, some of us chose to add only walnut ink to emphasize the contours, and others added beeswax and metallic finished – bling. The formula for a raku-like effect is a bottom coat of silver, another of blue metallic, then red metallic, then gold metallic to blend all of the layers together randomly.

The handmade beads were strung on strands of Sari silk and sinew.

As an added attraction, we made simple paper origami boxes to hold our beads and our clay faces.

Besides making wax and paper beads for their talismans, workshoppers brought meaningful objects to tie into the silk and sinew strands. Rosalie added charms symbolizing each of her children and family members.

See how her Family Blessing Talisman turned out, filled with magic!

Speaking of blessings, there’s nothing more wonderful than creating meaningful work with a group of like-minded friends. Thanks, Mary Ann, for requesting this workshop!

Email me if you’d like to suggest a small-group workshop at my studio, and if you’d like to play with your own clay talisman faces, you know where to find them! Yep, my Etsy shop, Earthshards.

Stay cool and creative!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me the Jury – not an easy task

It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.

One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:

  1. Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
  1. Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
  1. Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
     
  2. Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.   

 3-Dimensional:

  1. Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
  1. Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
  1. Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media

The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill.  Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??

The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.

The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!

The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.

The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.

So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.

First Place

This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.

There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!

The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?

Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?

First Place

Second Place

There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories

Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:

Best of Show

It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”

It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.

One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!

I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:

“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”

Amen!