Quick Kitchen Counter Photo Trick

Sample pieces of paper-infused porcelain clay

I took that fairly impressive photo, above, on my kitchen counter this morning with my iPhone.

Want to see how you can get the same photo-studio effect? All you need is some Scotch tape and  large piece of drawing paper. It helps if you have a light under your kitchen cabinet that shines on the counter.

So here’s my lighted kitchen counter with the little clay pieces sitting on it. I taped an 18″ x 24″ piece of newsprint against the back wall of the counter and let it curve loosely down on the counter surface.

Then I arranged the three small pieces in the center of the paper so it looked as if they were “floating.” I snapped three or four photos with my iPhone and chose the best one.

Later, I needed a good photo of a project I just finished for my Wax & Words eBook. It’s a little standing screen made with encaustic panels covered with marks and letters. Waxed surfaces are hard to reproduce in photos. This is what it looked like when I took the photo on the table in my studio. Kinda blah.

So I brought the little project home and tried my kitchen counter photo studio technique. I added an interesting rock and arranged the everything on the taped-up sheet of drawing paper.  Check it out!

Here’s how the pros do it – no cheap drawing paper or scotch tape for them.

But isn’t it amazing what a seamless background can do for a photo, even an iPhone photo? And nobody has to know that you took it on your kitchen counter.

 

 

 

W&W2 Workshop report

Give a bunch of cool poets some hot beeswax and whaddya get? A very nice collection of encaustic collages!

I taught another Wax & Words workshop at my studio yesterday at the request of Pamela Ferguson, who wanted to share the beeswax collage techniques with some of her writer friends.

I was curious to see if their work emphasized words more than images and how well they would do with asemic writing – after all, they are in the creative vocabulary business. As usual, there was a eclectic mix based on each participant’s perception and focus.

The trick to doing best-practices encaustic college is to use adhesives that don’t block the absorption of the beeswax. Acrylic medium won’t let wax penetrate, so that’s out. I often use glue sticks to attach paper to the substrate before waxing, and asked the participants to try a relative new product called  Elmer’s Re-Stick Glue Sticks.

The results were just so-so. Edges kept peeling up before we applied the beeswax and needed more glue, but the glue stick did allow us to shift things around a bit before permanently attaching them. I think I’ll stick to my tried and true favorite, Scotch Permanent Glue Sticks.

We also made sure that all of the paper we used was absorbent so the beeswax would not just sit on the surface of the collage elements. All of this info will be in the video Wax & Words eBook, which should be available in a couple of weeks on my website..

When you watch the workshop video, below, you’ll see the richness the writers brought to their Wax & Words collages. And you’ll also see the completely individual approaches to the task. Always amazing – – –  !

Wax & Words Workshop, Take Two from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Marfa – and wax on black exploration

In the 1970s, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas, where he created giant works of art beneath vast desert skies

I’m back from a week in West Texas and the beautiful Davis Mountains. One of the best parts of the trip was visiting Marfa and connecting with minimalist artist Donald Judd’s vision. There’s a great NPR article about this – click here. I love the quote by sculptor Campbell Bosworth“You just come out here and you feel like, I want to make something; I want to do something!”

Maybe it’s the minimalist influence, but it must be true. The Marfa getaway ignited my creative curiosity, and as soon as I got back, I went into the studio and started working in black and white on an experiment with black substrates and beeswax.

I wondered what would happen to the translucent layers of beeswax when they were applied over a dark background.

I used an absorbent black paper and added some white markings with different kinds of media – crayon, stamps, paint:

I added a layer of beeswax – it made it kind of glossy, and did penetrate into the paper, which had been a concern. You don’t want it to just sit on the surface of the substrate:

More experiments – black and white (and a bit of walnut ink):

Like all experiments, some of the techniques worked well, and some were definitely “learning opportunities.” But there is a certain potential for interesting effects that are both chalk-like and smokey. I am going to push these ideas a little further and see what develops (like old black and white film).

Now that I’ve been “Marfa-ized” and infected with some new ideas, it looks like I may be spending more time at the studio, perhaps even developing a wax on black workshop!

 

SAY Si students shine at Art League’s Semmes Studio workshop

One of the joys of being part of the San Antonio Art League is planning community outreach programs that share our resources with young artists, and our recent youth workshop was a real joy. Our current exhibit is a collection of 27 paintings from the Edgar B. Davis Wildflower Competitions  in the 1920’s. We wanted to share this work and the historic story with creative kids, so we turned to our friends at SAY Si Youth Art Program.

Long story made short, Edgar Davis was an eccentric wildcatter who made a fortune in oil and offered huge cash prizes to artists to paint Texas wildflowers (supposedly, his first well was struck in a patch of bluebonnets). The San Antonio Art League, which was founded in 1912, agreed to host the competition, and many of the paintings ended up in our permanent collection. When these amazing paintings are exhibited, which is all too rarely, scholars of early Texas art flock to see them.

In a collaboration with SAY Si youth art program, seven eight-grade students visited us last Saturday to explore the collection. Each student chose a painting from the collection that resonated with them for aesthetic and personal reasons.

Then they joined my co-teacher, Stefani Job Spears and me in the Semmes Studio for a workshop called Contemporary Collage Inspirations from SAALM’s Edgar B. Davis Collection.

The young artists used their cell phones to take references photos of the pieces they had selected. Then they tore paper and used paint and pencils and markers to interpret the paintings in a personal, contemporary way.

They worked with absolute concentration and focus, each listening to her own music and thinking her own thoughts. At lunchtime, when they took a break to eat in the King William park across the street, Stefani and I could hear them laughing and chattering a block away, but when they were engaged in their artwork, there was a silence that was almost meditative.

When we discussed the finished work, there were lots of insightful comments about the subjects of the early Texas paintings and the old stories the girls had heard from their grandparents about how life had been for them.

The collages were totally original interpretations, filled with imaginative treatments of traditional subject matter.  I was in awe!

I hope you’ll take a minute to look at the video of the workshop (below) and watch the interaction between these young artists and the iconic Texas paintings in the Davis collection. I learned so many lessons from watching these creative girls. Many thanks to Stephen Guzman and Ashley Perez of SAY Si for bringing us together.

SAY Si Students visit the San Antonio Art League’s Semmes Studio for a workshop about the Davis Collection from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Come see the exhibit that inspired these students’ work!

A WILDCATTER’S DREAM: ART, OIL AND WILDFLOWERS
Open to the public from June 10th, 2018 to July 27th, 2018 – EXTENDED UNTIL AUGUST 10! Free and open to the public.

 

 

 

Creative collaborations

Earlier this month I got several emails from mixed-medial artist and tarot maker Dawn Zichko, whose work I’ve known and liked for quite some time. I wrote another SHARDS post about her about five years ago.

Dawn has a great blog called Mental Mohair which often features a daily card from her Everyday Tarot deck, which you can find in her Etsy Shop.

Four cards from Dawn Zichko’s Everyday Tarot deck

In her first email, Dawn sent a photo with a short note that said,

“Lyn, I thought you might enjoy seeing progress on a collaborative piece.”

Here was the photo (below) – very intriguing – and some of my faces were part of the collaborative design. I asked her if I could share the photo, and she requested that I wait until they had worked a bit more on it.

I’m including that unfinished version so you can see the structure of the body.

The following week she sent photos of the completed collaborative piece along with this description of the process:

Lyn, we created the Earth Protectress in ritual space. In brainstorming at earlier gatherings, the creation of a goddess was included in the list. So we all thought of creating her. In the sacred space we chose the parts we wanted to work on by chakra.

Essie (not her real name as she would like to remain anonymous) created the head/Third Eye/Crown, Patricia created the torso/Heart/Solar Plexus, and I created the base/Root and neck/Throat (this is the part that needed reconstruction — oh, the analogies!).”

The other women let me take her home and run with the additions. The clay faces, hair, pouch, and skirt were all done by me, but the additions were discussed with Essie and Patricia before working on them. I am blessed they trusted my creative ramblings. It was truly a touching experience to create this being in togetherness and sacred space.”

I think it’s just glorious – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and yet each part is amazing.

Artist collaborations can be tricky – sometimes it’s obvious which person did what part, but in this case, there is a seamless sense of sacred purpose. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing this work!
_________________________________________________________________________

Have you ever gotten involved with a collaborative project? How’d it work for you?

I have to admit, it’s something I’ve rarely tried, certainly not recently. But a lot of my artist friends, particularly fiber artists, love the collaborative process.

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot written about collaborative visual artwork, but I did find this thoughtful post called Cloth, Creativity & Collaborating with fiber artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly.

And I also found an engaging article about a mother’s painting with her five-year-old daughter called Making a Masterpiece Together.  Here were their guidelines:

1. We would each add one color to the canvas everyday.

2. We would do our painting while the other one was out of the room, so they would be surprised.

3. We would try not to paint completely over the other persons art work.

Those are great rules! They would work for any kind of collaboration, whether the artwork is done for a sacred and serious purpose like Dawn’s was with her friends, or with an informal group and just for fun.

The trick is always going to be keeping an open mind. No fair thinking “You messed up the part I did!”  Instead, you gotta think “Look how you enhanced my work.” Right??

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

 

Serapes, Sunsets – and Schenck

In a earlier SHARDS post I introduced one of my new summer online workshops for Artful Gathering ( an art “camp” for artists, teachers and students) called Southwestern Stripes: Serapes and Sunsets.

In the workshop, I teach the AG students how to use classic stripes and geometrics inspired by Navajo weavings and Pendleton blankets as inspiration in their paintings and mixed-media art.

This is a 90 second outtake showing one of the things we talk about in the four-hour class. (If you can’t see the video screen, click the “Outtake 2” link)

Outtake 2 – Southwest Stripes for Artful Gathering from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

As usual, the students are exceeding my expectations. The class still has almost three weeks to go, and they are already producing some impressive work.

Here are three pieces by workshop participant Christine Luchini showing several ways she uses these techniques:

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Lee Ann Lilly did these three, including the collage spirit doll and two beautiful small card paintings:

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Here are three more student works, two by Ronda Miller and one by Paulanne Sorenson:

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Just day before yesterday, Ronda wrote in our discussion forum, “I live in the Phoenix area so I see A LOT of serape art and Native American art. My awareness has been lifted to new heights since I have taken this workshop…kind of like you buy a blue VW because you didn’t see many of them – until AFTER you buy one, then, WHAM, they are everywhere! haha.” Ronda also said “I am an abstract artist so I want to find a way to add a tad bit of serape design to my art and still have people know it is still my work.” 

Boy, is that true about seeing serape patterns everywhere – I am paying a lot more attention to serape designs since I started teaching this class. Wouldn’t you know it, the new Warhol/Schenck Exhibit at the Briscoe Museum here in San Antonio has a ton of them!

I was there last week, and fell in love with Billy Schenck’s use of serape patterns:

Bill Schenck

Bill Schenck, 2014

Bill Schenck, oil on canvas

Here’s the info about the exhibit if you’re in San Antonio and want to see this and some fine Warhol prints as well.

And to add more stripes to the serape story, I just found this beautiful book for $1.00 at the Central Library BookCellar used book store.

Here’s a selection from the book’s introduction that talks about the Spirit Line in weaving – I love it! It goes right along with, “I meant to do that!”

If you want even more Southwestern inspiration, My second Artful Gathering class, Neo-Santos: Creating Personal Spirit Guardians, opens on July 16th.

What was that old commercial about “Yikes! Stripes!”? – there is, and always will be, something fascinating about woven striped serapes and the Southwest.

Happy summer, happy 4th!

Wax & Words workshop worked wonders :)

The Wax & Words Workshop was a winner. We all had a great time, and the new Semmes Studio at the Art League worked well as a venue.

As usual, the participants were the stars, pulling out creativity and originality and taking the process their own way with grace and wonder – thanks, y’all!

I’ll let the video speak for itself – if you can’t see the video window, click on the Vimeo link below.

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Wax & Words from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

There will be lots more in the Wax & Words eBook – hopefully by the end of July. What fun!

A visit with artists Virginia and Andre Bally

Hedera helix, Andre and Virginia Bally

Andy and Virginia Bally are pretty amazing. I am a huge fan of their work. Their etched glass piece, above, was my birthday present from Bill this year and is one of my very favorite pieces of art.

I met this remarkable husband-and-wife team several years ago during a Potters Guild meeting at the old studio.We’ve stayed in touch, and today Bill and I drove out to their Hill Country studio near Canyon Lake. It was a perfect Summer Solstice day trip. Look what greeted us in the driveway (besides Andy and Virginia) as we arrived!

This mobile masterpiece is a work in progress that has been featured in the Houston Art Car parade. The Ballys just keep adding to it, detail after fantastic detail.

Their home is a masterpiece of design, as well. I love places that make you feel like you’re inside a collage, and this is one of those places. There are collections everywhere.

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The Ballys’ shared studio is where the magic happens in clay and glass and assemblage. I took a lot of photos there, and put them together in a video (below) to give you a feel for the scope of their collaborative work. They share the process, although Andy says that Virginia specializes in design concepts and he is often the engineering guy.

A visit to the Hill Country studio of Andre and Virginia Bally from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Andy and Virginia share a love of folk-art inspired constructions. Andy showed us some of their “pocket shrines” in progress.

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They also create contemporary versions of traditional painted tin retablos:

Can you tell why I love their work so much? Their use of faces, their sense of play – it’s very engaging!

You can read more about Andy and Virginia here, and while you are at it, check out the face casting slide show on their website. You can see their work at Texcetera in Johnson City, and in collections in Canada, Europe, Northern Africa and the United States. Oh, yeah – and at my house, too! Lucky me to have a Bally original.

Virginia Bally’s face cast in glass

 

It looks like writing, but we can’t quite read it – – –

What does it say in the background??!!

I’m baaaaa-aack.

The last two weeks have been filled with family visitors, young and old, hailing from near and far. In the course of hosting, we got to play tourist, and have – over the last ten days – visited the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, The Witte Museum, the Briscoe Museum of Western Art (fantastic exhibit of Warhol and Schenk), the San Antonio Art League and Museum (yay!), the downtown Public Library and its BookCellar, the Twig Bookshop and the Pearl, and the Nimitz/Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.

We stopped for Fredericksburg peaches during our Hill Country excursion – yum.

Lucky us to have families that love art and books!I Oh, yeah, and food – here’s a shout-out to Twin Sisters where we ate breakfast every morning this past week!

And now it’s time for a new art diversion.

This afternoon I got back to the studio, and in preparation for my Wax & Words workshop this Sunday and Monday, I did a little video tutorial on Asemic Writing that I thought you might enjoy. It’s a fun exercise in line and design and even though I’m a lefty, I think you can get the idea…

Asemic writing for collage and design from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I plan to do my next eBook on calligraphic markmaking and stamped and stenciled lettering in combination with beeswax layers – stay tuned. And thanks for reading SHARDS.

Second Session: WAX & WORDS on Monday, June 25

I’ve added a second section of Wax & Words on Monday, June 25th from 1-4 at the Semmes Studio, San Antonio Art League, for those of you who couldn’t get in the first one. Thank you all for your quick response.

The second session will have the same agenda as the first – if you would like to register, please go to this link and scroll to the bottom of the page. There is a limit of eight participants. We will have fun!

Description:

This three-hour workshop taught by Lyn Belisle introduces you to the concept of asemic writing as a component of evocative encaustic collage. Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret.

We will explore mark-making with all kinds of tools, including sticks, stamps, and sprayed walnut ink over stencils. Areas of the artwork will be isolated, then covered with thin layers of beeswax to add translucency to the mystery of the marks.  The resulting work, elegant and timeless, will be matted for display and discussion.

All materials are provided, including

  • Drawing paper
  • Sticks and ink
  • Letter Stamps
  • Walnut ink stencils
  • Graphite pencil
  • Encaustic wax and brushes
  • Gallery mats
  • Gold leaf . . .and more
Hope to see you there!