A few random things

RANDOM THING ONE: Monika is coming to San Antonio. Yep, the internationally know and loved Austin designer, Monika Astara, will be at my house on Saturday from 11-3.  If you’d like details, send me an email – the flyer is below.

I love Monika’s clothes – me and about a jillion other people. The make everyone look good, plus they are comfortable and washable and iconic.


RANDOM THING TWO: Remember the piece I showed in my last post on knowing when something needs more work? I did several more pieces based on what I learned while I was putting that one together. You can see them here on my website (click below) – they look like sisters from the same tribe.

All these pieces are going to Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas today, but I have clay in reserve to continue the series. Doing the beading is a lot more fun than I thought it would be, kind of meditative. The artificial sinew I use makes its own “needle” because it’s heavily waxed.


RANDOM THING THREE: This involves both earthenware and clothing – it’s a Waxed Linen Thread kit that came today – ordered on Amazon – (is there no odd craft supply that you can’t find there??). As I said, I used sinew to put those new clay pieces together, but wanted to try this waxed thread as a substitute. I’ve been playing around with it and am really happy with the way it feels. It’s very strong and would be useful for jewelers and fiber artists. And look at these cool colors!

There are 33 yards of each color on each spool, and the whole kit of eight spools cost just $9.99. That’s your Tip o’ the Day.


RANDOM THING FOUR:

If you go to Marble Falls, Texas, first visit Marta Stafford’s Gallery, then go up the hill to the Blue Bonnet Cafe, est. 1929. The menu will tell you it’s the real deal.Where else can you get a cup of gravy as a side order? But it’s the pies that bring people back. Just suspend thoughts of diet and order a slice. They even have a Pie Happy Hour from 3-5.

Those are all the Random Things on MY menu today – I hope you have a great week. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

 

 

 

 

Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.

Working (and RE-working) in a series – five tips!

I lied.

The last time I posted, I said that the Artful Gathering “Southwest Stripe” project using the four elements as inspiration was “totally foolproof”. Actually, nothing is. In this little clip from one of the workshop videos, you can see that sometimes you have to rethink and redo.

Sneak Preview from the Four-Hour Class, Southwestern Stripes: Serapes & Sunsets from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The point here is that you start to think outside the box about what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about context. Everything you create has merit, truly. You may not think it is successful because it doesn’t do what you wanted it to, but remember to trust the process. Every one of your creations is worthy in itself, even if’s not right for the moment. Perhaps it works as a learning experiment, or perhaps it’s a step to something even better that you intended.

In the video above, you saw that piece that was a “failure” as part of the Four Elements  series, but look what happened later in the video when I took the scissors to it, boldly sliced it into three strips, then collaged the strips over another background that I had put in the “to-be-reworked” pile:

Lyn Belisle, “Three Sisters” 5×7″ Mixed Media Collage

“Three Sisters” (detail)

I titled it “Three Sisters” and I love it as a stand-alone mixed media collage! I turned the strips upside down and changed the order – voila!

SO . . . . . .Here are FIVE TIPS that might help you re-imagine something you’re working on that just isn’t working:

1. Hold the work up to a mirror. This give you a whole new perspective on the composition and may suggest a clue for a new direction.

2. Take a photo of the work with your phone. This visual reduction minimizes the details you’ve been fussing over. Email the photo to yourself and play with it online with PicMonkey or another free photo-editing site.

3.  Take a mat that is smaller than your artwork and move it around on the surface until you find a great spot that really works – crop that section out. Save the rest for your “to be reworked” pile.

4. Put a piece of tissue paper or tracing paper over your work. Does it look better? If so, figure out why and what to do about it. You may want to just collage the tracing paper over the whole thing to soften it, or you may want to paint a translucent glaze on top.

5. Get out the scissors! Don’t be afraid to cut up the work into sections like I did with “Three Sisters”. But fold it first to see if you’re really going to like the sections before you actually do the deed.

Remember, everything you do is worthy because YOU created it and it brought it into existence. You certainly don’t have to save everything, but give “pieces” a chance!

Oh, yeah – and the Southwestern Stripes class is open if you want to join us in the workshop 🙂

 

 

Open for Artful Business!

Registration for Artful Gathering opened yesterday – yay! That means I can finally tell you about my two new workshops, never taught before on this planet! (They are supposed to be secret until registration opens).

This year’s theme for the Artful Gathering online “summer camp” is celebrating the Southwest, so the first workshop I designed is actually about painting. Even if you don’t consider yourself a painter, this one is super-fun and easy. Called “Southwestern Stripes: Serapes and Sunsets,” it explores how simple stripe techniques in several media can come together to make spectacular artwork. There are over four hours of videos in this class with a ton of projects, including this mixed-media shrine painting on stretched canvas.

Serape Shrine

We start out with a very simple series of color studies in watercolor or gouache to portray the four Sacred Elements of Earth, Sky, Water and fire. Here’s “Sky.” These little paintings are totally fail-proof, honest.

For more about this class, you can take this link.

The second class is perhaps my most favorite of all my Artful Gathering workshops. It’s called Neo-Santos: Creating Personal Spirit Guardians.

It’s kinda like a spirit doll class, but with very different techniques. These small sculptures are created from found objects and collages papers, along with all kinds of charms and construction details.

Here’s an example of the first variation on the Neo-Santo theme:

Santa Colores

I also show you how to construct another variation I call Santa Blanca:

 

Neo-Santos is another 4+ hour class with a ton of ideas, inspirations and techniques.

Once the classes are actually open, you’ll download the videos and then work with me and the other students in the online classroom. If you haven’t done this kind of thing before it’s remarkably easy, plus you get the benefit of seeing everyone else’s work and getting specific feedback from me whenever you need it.

Click here to find out how to register for these classes, and for a bunch of other wonderful classes on Artful Gathering. Hope to see you in class – and if you have questions for me, just send me an email!

Thank goodness it’s over – NOW what??

I have been working on writing a major grant request for the San Antonio Art League for two weeks – and that means no art for TOO LONG! But it’s finished and submitted and fingers are crossed. Hopefully, this will all be worth it, but I’m feeling rusty and stale and need some inspiration, a kick in the creative backside.

Coincidentally, an email just came in from Stampington publications about their upcoming challenges. My friends Lesta Frank and Lisa Stamper Meyer are often published in those magazines, and I am so proud of them! But I don’t want to jump back in to work too fast by trying to come up with an article. This challenge, however, caught my eye:

  • Miscellany
    Sometimes, an image of something lovely is all we need to feel inspired. Have you taken a photo of something that makes you feel inspired? Perhaps it is a photo of your collection of vintage handkerchiefs. Or an old stack of books. Or your treasured stash of ribbons. Please submit your favorite digital images (5″ x 7″ @ 300 dpi) to be considered for Somerset Life’s special Miscellany department to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

So this morning on my first day of freedom from grant writing, I took my phone and went around the house finding little shards of collections, tools, ideas – well, “miscellany.” Not sure whether I’ll submit any of these photos to Somerset, but it sure was fun reaffirming the things that make me feel creative. Here’s a photocollage of nine of the pictures I took while wandering around my spaces.

Little shards of stuff around my house and studio

I found this to be a really good exercise for several reasons:

  • It makes you really look at stuff you walk by every day and take for granted
  • It makes you think about what you like – and why
  • It helps you revisit old ideas that have new potential
  • You don’t actually have to make something – you’re curating what you have with a fresh eye.
  • You can think of it as homework, and you feel like you’re accomplishing something –  plus, it’s fun

I encourage you (especially if something has kept you away from your creative self for a while) to try this. Heck, go ahead and submit those photos to Somerset – what’s to lose?! A kick in the creative backside is a good thing.

Some other challenges from Somerset:

Somerset Life aims to demonstrate how easy it is to add a touch of beauty to our daily lives, whether it is through a simple craft project, or an inspiring essay that shares how to find the beauty that already exists. Our mission is simple: make the ordinary extraordinary. For those looking to be a part of this bestselling publication, we have a number of ways to do so. We are currently looking for artwork submissions in the following categories:

  • Life Creative Spaces
    Where do you create? Whether it’s a small table or breakfast nook, cleared-out closet, or an actual room dedicated as your creative studio, we want to peek inside. If you think your creative space is something that Somerset Life readers would like to learn more about, please submit digital images of your space with a brief written query to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com. If the submission is accepted, you will be asked to furnish professional hi-resolution images (300 dpi at 8″ x 10″).
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Artful Kits
    We all love to collect papers, ribbons, embellishments, and other bits and bobs. More fun than collecting specific elements is finding creative ways to juxtapose the pieces together to create unique kits. Whether you create them to give away or to sell or offer to students in a workshop setting, we’d like to see your favorite kits. Please send in kit samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Creative Living Ideas
    In each issue of Somerset Life we share 10 Creative Living Ideas, and we show quick and easy ways to add a touch of beauty or creativity to your life, or perhaps someone else’s. Maybe you have a clever way of packing a sack lunch, or you have a developed a creative way of saying “Thank You” to a friend. Please send in samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

Click here to download our guide for submitting photographs. It will also show you how to convert images to the correct size and resolution for this publication.

 

 

What is good art? Lots of answers at SAALM!

Onderdonk purchase prize 2018 – Brian Row, House Divided

For many months, the committee for the  San Antonio Art League’s 88th Juried Art Exhibition has been working toward yesterday’s event – the opening reception and award presentations. As President of the 106-year-old group (but truly unbiased) I gotta say that this show is a solid winner. Most of the 200 guests at the opening agreed. What an amazing, eclectic display of artwork in every media!

Sylvia Benitez, Texas Norwegian, Keller Memorial Award

As I watched juror Michael Ettema, Santa Fe art appraiser and gallerist, select each piece back in February, I was very curious about his criteria. He said he looks for a strong concept and a strong execution of the idea. There didn’t seem to be a lot of connection between the works he was choosing, but when I saw the show in its entirety yesterday, I got it!  This is from his juror’s statement – it’s well worth reading and remembering:

The quality of art must be measured by how well it performs its intended function.  Making that judgment requires an understanding of the relationship between what I believe are the two fundamental components of art: vision and skill.  Vision is the ability to imagine an aesthetic object that serves an expressive purpose, while skill is the technical ability to make that object effective in its purpose.  Both are worthy and enjoyable by themselves, but in the most effective art they depend on each other and reinforce each other.  Unskilled execution always distracts from and eventually discredits even the most profoundly creative vision.  A display of technical virtuosity alone can be very exciting, but ultimately we lose interest because it lacks any insight that would nourish us emotionally or intellectually.

So, it has to start with an idea – and you have to be skilled enough to share that idea effectively. It’s not enough to look at a flower and paint a picture of it that resembles a photo – there has to be a “why” behind the effort.

Take a look at this video showing examples from the just-opened exhibit and see if you can see both the “why” and the “how” of the works.

San Antonio Art League 88th Juried Exhibition from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I invite you to see the show in person. It’s a learning experience for sure. The San Antonio Art League is located at 130 King William Street (MAP) – free parking across the street (and a great lunch spot, The Station Cafe, just down the block). Admission is always free to SAALM, so bring some friends, see the exhibit, and get some lively conversation going about “What IS art, anyway?”.. You won’t be sorry!

 

 

 

 

Inside an Etsy shop

No matter what else is going on in my life, my Etsy shop is open for business and humming along in the background, taking online orders from people all over the world. I opened Earthshards in 2012. Actually, it was the my second shop – anybody remember those kindle covers that I used to make? Boy, were those suckers labor-intensive.

There’s always stock on hand for the Earthshards shop, small earthenware faces that I make in the evenings when I’m not busy. I usually make about 80 each time, which takes two hours or so. They take a day to dry. After they are fired, they are sorted by clay type.

White and terra cotta unfinished clay faces

When I get an order, I select the faces according to the quantity and finish requested. Buyers can order three different finishes, Rune and Relic (walnut ink), Celtic Forge (metallic layers), or Mesa Verde (faux turquoise). I can’t do the finishes in advance because I never know who will want what, so they are finished at the time the orders are received.

From top left clockwise: Celtic Forge, Mesa Verde, and Rune and Relic finishes

Yesterday’s orders set a record – ten! Three were from other countries – Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia.

Etsy orders printed and in progress

After the orders are sorted and laid out, each face is finished with walnut ink, wiped with a studio cloth, and signed on the back.

Then other finishes are applied.Here are some faces getting the Celtic Forge treatment. This takes about four separate layers of various metallics.

The Mesa Verde finish is done with hand-applied acrylics. It’s much like the faux-turquoise finish I wrote about in a recent post.

Once all of the faces are completed, each one is individually wrapped in bubble wrap.

The orders are then wrapped in tissue with ribbon with a packing slip, a skeleton leaf for decoration, one of my business cards, and, of course, a thank-you note..

The wrapped package goes into a padded envelope and weighed for postage. Most postage is $3-$4, but it cost about $24 to send that little package to the Netherlands!

Etsy makes it easy to calculate postage and print labels. You can print them out on your own printer and stick them on. I use spray adhesive. Here are the packages waiting for their labels – then off they will go to the Post Office this morning!

It’s fun to have an Etsy shop. The best part is knowing that your work is going out all over the world to inspire other artists. The extra income is nice, too, but rarely do you get rich with your shop! And it’s definitely a bit of work, as you can see, but you can usually pace yourself.

If you’re thinking about opening your own Etsy shop, here’s a good article on what sells best on Etsy – the trick is to have a niche, I think.

And here’s an example of a creative idea that makes a ton of money on Etsy:

Confetti Momma is a popular party supply shop with more than 75,000 sales, thanks to vibrant colors, unicorn cake toppers, and endless boutique confetti. Confetti Momma found an engaged demographic on Etsy by offering trendy, handmade party supplies at an affordable price.

“My advice is to just get started,” Orillion said. “Let your customers tell you what they like or don’t like and then adjust. Today’s social selling platforms, such as Etsy, make it easy for your products to go viral, especially if you focus on delivering great customer service and a quality product.”

So there you have it – what goes on inside an Etsy shop! If you need advice, just send me an email. And if you know how to take digital photos of your work, you can be in business!

 

Rivers and remembrance –

We returned to San Antonio yesterday after a road trip to the past. My husband’s family is from East Texas and mine is from Louisiana and Mississippi. We visited family (and family cemeteries) in all three states, and reconnected with our roots. On the trip, I came to realize how rivers connect all my memories of childhood.

The Ouachita River near flood stage, March 11, 2018

In Louisiana, we walked along the Ouachita River which flowed near my maternal  grandparents’ farm near West Monroe. That river provided energy and materials for the paper mill, which is still in production. The distinct stinky odor of paper production took me right back to nostalgia-land! Anyone ever smelled a paper mill? You don’t forget it!

My father’s family roots run deep in the Mississippi Delta on the Yazoo River. He and his brother were raised in the town of Itta Bena near Greenwood. On Tuesday, we visited the family cemetery there, which is filled with Haleys and Reeses and Lees, all family names (my middle name is Rees and my maiden name is Haley).

Family graves near the Yazoo River

My cousin, Jesse Lee (“Skip”) Haley, came with us to tell us about the “Who’s-Who” in the Itta Bena Cemetery. One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of Ransom Reese, who was in the Infantry in the Civil War. I love his name.

The cemetery is bordered by the Yazoo River, which runs along the edge of Itta Bena. Incidentally, the crossroad near Itta Bena is supposedly where famed blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.

Below is a photo of my father and mother in 1943, fishing just across the street from my paternal grandfather’s house on the riverbank near the cemetery. It was easy to imagine them there. There is a strange nostalgic peace in the Delta that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

My parents fishing on the riverbank in Itta Bena

This beautiful, sorrowful angel was on the back side of the cemetery close to the river.

Angel in Itta Bena Cemetery, Mississippi

After all the rivers and memories, we went down to the biggest river of all, the Mississippi, to spend a couple of days in New Orleans. As usual, I visited galleries to see what local artists were up too.

They, too, seemed influenced by the rivers of the South. There was a wonderful show at the Degas Gallery on Julia Street by Lafayette artist Kelli Kaufman. She works in oil and cold wax.

Kelli Kaufman, To the Wetlands, 60×40″

I also found some great clay assemblages at the Ariodante Fine Crafts Gallery on Julia Street created by Nancy Susanek. This is called a Story Box – I brought it home with me to remind me of the trip and all the river stories that I learned along the way.

It’s good to be back home again to my favorite river – the one that runs through beautiful San Antonio.  I hope you get the chance to visit your own past – it’s an important journey. Thanks for letting me share!

Happy International Women’s (art) Day

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

I’ll admit that I was curious about the origins of International Women’s Day – after all, shouldn’t every day be a day to honor women? And aren’t people always making up things like “National Milk Chocolate Day”?

But I  found out that this celebration is rooted in a long and honorable history of social activism. The first national Woman’s Day was held across the United States on February 28, 1909. Here is an excellent article from the University of Chicago on the origins and growth of IWD. It’s impressive.

Women in the arts have long known that there is a history of gender disparity in our cultural field. I’m old enough to remember the “Artist and Models Balls” where the guys were the artists and the women were their models. And the term “woman artist” (like, what – as opposed to a “real” artist?) is still common – but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Any race or gender qualifier that precedes the word “artist” can be both problematic and definitive.

Women have historically faced challenges due to gender biases, finding difficulty selling their work and gaining recognition. I love this Guerrilla Girls poster:

Times really are changing, though. I am so lucky to know scores of powerful women in the arts who are expressing themselves in diverse media with diverse voices. They are leading by example in the arts and in society. Check out this list on the GAGA website, for example!

Leading by example and possessing a gender parity mindset drive positive action and change. When diversity and inclusion are celebrated, equality thrives. Championing women’s equality across all spheres is very important.

Because the arts are close to my heart, I applaud my female friends who are making a difference through their unique creativity in every medium. Happy International Women’s Day!

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Another road trip – Hill Country spirit dolls with orchid-cousin hair

The Hill country Arts Foundation in Ingram, Texas is a magical place. Located at the  crossroads where Johnson Creek merges with the Guadalupe River, it’s a venue for the education of the arts, visual art exhibitions and  theatrical performances.

On Saturday, I went to HCAF to teach a Spirit Doll workshop. My friend Lynn Luukinen who lives in nearby Kerrville, helped me set up by gathering sticks and twigs from the riverbank – and also ball moss (which almost became the star of the show).

Choosing and assembling spirit doll body parts 🙂

Ball moss has a bad rep, but in fact, it’s not a parasite. It’s an an epiphyte (non-parasitic plant living on other plants) and is a cousin to bromeliads and orchids.

A spirit doll in her underwear with a ball moss hairdo

Besides using the native branches and moss, participating artists brought their own stash of great materials to add to their mystical spirit dolls, and they wrote a purposeful intention to wrap inside each one.

Here are some of our spirit dolls – we had a whole day to play and create at HCAF!

Some people call ball moss, which is rampant everywhere in South Texas, a &%$$%##!! nuisance and pay a fortune to get rid of it. We call it “Spirit Doll Hair” 🙂

If you want to create your own Hill Country spirit doll, here’s a link to the materials list we used. Don’t forget the ball moss!