Wendy’s Nature Spirits

A weather note : I started this post on Monday morning. The post (and normal life) has been interrupted by two days of power outages and snow here in South Texas, and there may be more to come! Yikes!

So, before the power goes out again, I want to warm your heart (and mine) by telling you about Wendy Larsen of Nevada.

Normally, I’m shy about writing my buyers to ask how they are using the faces the purchase from my Etsy shop, Earthshards, but Wendy had ordered quite a few of the Celtic Forge faces and I was curious. I emailed her, and she graciously told me about her Nature Spirits.

Celtic Forge faces from my Etsy Shop, Earthshards

Wendy wrote:

“I use all natural materials, and your faces are beautiful addition to my art. I was going to create my own Etsy shop one but the works weigh a lot as I use petrified wood and agate rose quartz . So that makes them quite heavy to ship, but I do have some in a crystal shop in Lehi Utah that carries my art, and I’ve done quite well there over the past few months. I’m currently doing a few commissioned pieces.

It started when I was at a cactus nursery and saw some Choya wood and decided to use it to create a beautiful piece of art. Little did I know they would be such a success! They are inspired by nature. Everything used on them is natural except for what I used to keep them in place. They they all have an energy that lives within each piece. I use a lot of raw crystals, pine cones, living moss, and natural stones as well as the Choya wood and your beautiful clay faces. I’m typically inspired to do a piece by what the face tells me.

Here is a picture of the first piece I ever did — and it’s history from there – LOL.”

Wendy’s Nature Spirits are packed with intricate detail and precious objects – tiny silver lizards, clusters of crystal. Here are some others. You can see the care and love that she adds to each one.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing your wonderful Nature Spirits with us!

Before I close (and before the power goes off again!), I want to remind you that the Early Bird pricing for Painting with Fire is still open if you want to explore a year of Encaustic techniques and processes by 26 teachers (including me!) for less than $10 a workshop — pretty cool. Or hot.

Click here to visit Essence of Mulranny .

Please stay safe and warm – and take good care,

Lyn

Painting with Fire

The title sounds like something my mother would have warned me against, but it’s actually one of the best things that could happened to an artist/teacher!

I’ve been invited to join a group of the Best Encaustic Teachers in the World (yes, they let me in!!) to participate in a year-long learning experience called Painting with Fire.

Click here to visit Painting with Fire Essence of Mulranny .

Would you like to meet these artists and see what their work looks like? It’s pretty awesome – check out the video.

Painting with Fire Online Workshop A Year of Encaustic from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The program was founded by Lora Murphy, an encaustic artist who was born in Ireland and has a school there in County Mayo called Essence of Mulranny. Lora sent out an invitation to us, scattered all over the world, and brought us together to teach this Masterclass. And it’s for beginners, too!

My pals Michelle Belto and Clare O’Neill are teaching in Painting with Fire, as well. I’ve learned so much from both of them. And when you sign up, you can take every single class offered by every single teacher over the course of a year, including mine and Michelle’s and Clare’s. Oooh, and Crystal Neubauer and Trish Seggebruch and Shary Bartlett and so many more of my favorite encaustic aritsts are in this, too!

The class that I am teaching is called MYTH AND MIST: Fusing Image and Imagination in Wax. It’s a combination of all the things I love about encaustic – pale translucent layers, mysterious photos and objects, fragrant beeswax – well, take a look for yourself. Here are some details from one of the first pieces I’ve been working on::

I honestly can’t wait to participate in Painting with Fire. Maybe Lora will invite me to Ireland to teach in person next year!!

I almost hesitate to say this, because I feel like I might jinx it, but there’s this new stirring amongst us creative creatures – a cautious optimism that’s reminding us that spring is coming and we can start reaching out again rather than just hanging on in survival mode.

By the way, The Enso Circle is certainly stirring! Michelle Belto and I have had a number of incredible applicants who want to join us in virtual residency. If you didn’t get a chance to read about it, here’s my last post that will explain it. It’s a program for the long-term, and when you are ready to consider it, we will be around! Applications are still open until February 21st, which is a week from this Sunday. Applicants will be notified of acceptance on February 23rd.

I hope to see you at Painting with Fire — it opens today!! Warm your hands with us at the encaustic griddle!

Click here to visit Painting with Fire Essence of Mulranny .

Take good care, trust the process – ♥

Lyn

 

 

The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

Susie King Taylor – Inspiring Discovery, Remarkable Woman

Upcoming Black History Month is the perfect time to share what I have learned about a remarkable woman named Susie King Taylor.

Several months ago, I was looking thrugh old photos in the archives of the Library of Congress and saw this one. Sometimes, images reach out like a compelling force, and this was one of them. What a presence!

After I learned that her name was Susie King Taylor, I started researching her remarkable life, then used her image to inspire an artwork.

Born into slavery in Georgia in 1848, Susie King Taylor (born Susan Baker) lived on a plantation for the first seven years of her life. In 1855, Susie was allowed to go live with her free grandmother in Savannah. Despite Georgia’s harsh laws prohibiting formal education for African Americans, Susie attended two secret schools taught by black women and was tutored by two white youths.

In April 1862, Susie was able to escape slavery with her uncle and other African Americans who fled to a federal gunboat near Confederate-held Fort Pulaski. She went to live on Union-occupied St. Simons Island off the southern Georgia coast along with hundreds of other formerly enslaved refugees. There, at only 14 years old, Susie became the first black teacher to openly educate African Americans in Georgia.

That same year Susie married Edward King, a black officer in the 33rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment, and began serving as a nurse and laundress for his regiment. Off hours she taught the soldiers reading and writing and, according to her memoirs, “…learned to handle a musket very well…and could shoot straight and often hit the target.”

Susie served as a nurse at a hospital for African American soldiers in Beaumont, South Carolina, where she met and worked with Clara Barton. For four years and three months, she served the Union military without pay. Susie and Edward remained with the 33rd Regiment until they were mustered out at the end of the war. (Source)

Susie King Taylor’s autobiographic book, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, was written in 1906 and is still in publication. I ordered her book and  was transported by her wisdom and graciousness. She is a skilled and objective writer.

I was compelled to use her striking mage in an encaustic mixed-media collage, which was recently included in an article in the Winter 2020 issue of Encaustic Arts magazine.

In the article, I wrote, “In one of my latest pieces, the subject is a striking African American woman. As usual, I knew nothing about her until her photograph almost leaped out at me from the screen as I was looking through Library of Congress for inspiration.  She was identified in the photograph as Susie King Taylor, and through research I learned that she was the first Black Army nurse. During the Civil War, she tended to the all-Black 33rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment. In my encaustic collage titled Susie, I included gauze and horsehair as material symbols of her life in the regiment.”

You can see the gauze and horsehair embedded in the beeswax layers in this detail. I used colors of indigo and sepia as the primary palette:

As always, photos and stories from the past continue to inspire and fascinate me as inspirations for my work. Susie’s story was one of the best discoveries I’ve made.

If you’d like to learn more about her, please watch this brief video about the life of Susie King Taylor, produced by the Georgia Women of Achievement when she was inducted in 2018. You’ll be glad you did.

See you next time, and take good care,

Lyn

Cats and Possibilities

When times are turbulent, I keep telling myself, “Trust the Process.” This doesn’t mean doing nothing and just watching it all happen, but rather doing what we do best – creating with compassion and imagination in the certainly that adding beauty to the world fuels thoughtfulness and optimism.

Seeing what others are doing in this turbulent time brings me that sense of optimism – particularly when their art stems from our Teachable workshop community. And particularly when the subject is cats!

Willma Sliger’s Cat Shaman pieces are a perfect example of taking a basic idea (from my Cat Shaman online workshop) and just flying with it.

Wilma writes, As promised here are the Cat Shamans I have joyfully created. . . .Some have very old ticking . An evil eye brought back from Turkey by a friend. A replica of a coin given to men in old time saloons/bawdy houses. And lots more.
You are my antidote for covid. Seriously. Stay safe and well.
Love, Wilma the Desert Dweller

Wilma lives in Moab, Utah where she creates fabric & mixed media collages, incorporating photos and found objects with fabric to produce unique wall hangings. I told her I was stealing her idea of using a mesh screen on the Heart Box of her Shaman – it’s symbolic and mysterious.

Here is another one of those great Heart Boxes filled with charms and found objects. I like the tied desert wood pieces as well.

This Evil Eye fellow may be my favorite, all twisty and dance-y, with the lion-like head and butterfly wings.

I am so grateful to Wilma for sending these pictures – her work is artfully folk-like but complex, with a real sense of purpose in every assemblage.

So what do YOU do when you know you should be creating something for the good of you heart and soul, but you can’t get started because you don’t have an idea??

That’s an easy one – just get started, Grasshopper, and the Idea will come. Here’s an example.

Two days ago, I desperately needed to make some art so I could (at least briefly) focus on the creative rather than the political. Nothing inspiring struck. That’s rare. But I know if I did SOMETHING, I’d feel better, more optimistic.

So . . . I found a block of wood, and marked some holes. Two holes seemed like a good number. Maybe.

I got out my trusty cordless drill (every artist should have one of these) and drilled two holes.

Then I cut some super-strong but slender bamboo sticks to about 18″ tall and stuck them in the holes.

Voila! It ain’t much yet, but it will be SOMETHING! Who knows what?? When I posted it to Instagram, my friends suggested it could be a two-legged table or a REALLY tall spirit doll.

I’m thinking it might be a sculpture with a body that’s shaped like a kimono with beeswax-coated pages that open and close. Maybe so, maybe not . . .but the whole process got me thinking in a new creative direction –

So the point is, you can’t “Trust the Process” if there isn’t a process to trust yet. Start something. Wrap some string around a stick. Pour the last of your morning coffee on a piece of watercolor paper. Unravel a worn-out sweater.

In the background, I can hear Wilma’s Cat Shamans saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, Grasshopper.” Pounce. Munch.

 

A Walk-in-the-Woods Workshop?

2020 was surely The Plague Year (and we’re still being extra-cautious), but it did get a lot of us outside, walking and exploring nature. That’s a good thing. Decades ago I discovered that walking worked well for me as meditative thinking time – plus I find lots of cool stuff along the way. And sometimes it seemed that the cool stuff was left there especially for me to find.

You may remember the wonderful photo collection of composed found objects that artist friends contributed to my website in 2019. Here’s that link, and here’s one of my favorite compositions (this one is by Marilyn Jones)

Marilyn Jones, Found Objects

This kind of collecting is nothing new for me. One of my signature techniques is embedding sticks and other natural objects into my assemblages – there’s just something mythical about material found outdoors “by accident”.

Sometimes, I even construct pieces almost totally from found objects and natural material, such as this piece called Bone Tea.

Lyn Belisle, “Bone Tea”

It was influenced by my friend Shannon Weber, whose work with natural materials makes me swoon.

Shannon Weber

So all of this leads up to a new workshop that I’ve just posted on my Teachable Studio site. It’s called Sacred Serendipity:Nature Shrines and Assemblages.

Collecting things from nature and assembling them as art is a long and honorable practice.

If you’ve ever read Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, you know how she describes different seashells as stages in a woman’s life – the oyster shell, covered bumps and lumps but still smooth and beautiful on the inside.

This is a workshop for anyone who has ever found a pine cone, a smooth rock, or a red and gold leaf and brought it home in gratitude and wonder.

There are several free preview videos, including one of me being very goofy in the woods across the street from my house, pretending to “find” objects. But I think the real beauty of this workshop lies in the techniques about arranging and attaching natural objects to a small canvas. This gives you so much leeway to create your own small Shrine to Nature.

I also show you step-by-step how to make a mold from a natural object and then cast it with paper clay – you can do faces this way, as well. The class fee is a mere $29, and you can start and stop whenever you like. The lessons are yours forever – or at least as long as the Internet lasts. Think of this as the cost of a bag of groceries but with more lasting results!

Workshop Preview Link

So here’s to a walk on the wild side – and the natural treasures that we “accidentally” find there. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Shards, Scrolls, and Synchronicity

The concept of “Shards” is a foundational inspiration in all my artwork – an idea that helps me trust the creative process and follow where it leads me.

To me, Shards are synchronistic fragments that hint at a story, make a collective connection, or suggest a direction. Shards can be objects, or an intangible occurrences. A Shard can be a brief glimpse of something, as well, something that helps you find a direction.

For example, last week I was taking my usual pre-dawn walk in our wooded neighborhood when I saw what I could have sworn was a Nativity creche scene in a distant yard. It was so clear that I could see the roof of the lean-to shelter.

As I got closer, I saw that it was just a string of Christmas lights around somebody’s front door, partially concealed by blowing branches. But the illusion of the creche-like shelter seemed so significant in its clarity. Why that illusion at that time?

I followed that thought-thread as I walked back towards home, considering the whole idea of shelter for travelers, of people who go on journeys to freedom and safety, of how fortunately I was to have a safe destination and a home to return to. I thought about pilgrims and wayfarers, about what it must be like to carry all your belongings with you.

Then came the memory jog. That whole pilgrimage concept reminded me of a series of clay assemblages I had done five or six years ago called “Peregrinos” (Spanish for Pilgrims). It was an age-old theme  that I had I wanted to go back to at the time, but had pushed it to the back of my mind.

Peregrino Series, Earthenware assemblage, Lyn Belisle 2015

Now, though, this Peregrino theme inspired by the mistaken illusion directed me straight to my studio to begin the mixed-media fiber piece I’m working on now. Its working title is The Pilgrim Scrolls. The form is a triptych of canvas scrolls that contain pictures and small relics and memories that represent things we take with us on our journey.

The triptych (so far) has photo transfers of my original Peregrino clay assemblages along with other images and components. It will have smaller scrolls, patches, stitches, and pockets. It speaks to homelessness, but not randomness.

Phototransfer on canvas in progress

Part of the techniques I’m employing, particularly the phototransfer on fabric, came from my recent Prayer Flag workshop, but I would not have been given the Peregrino/Pilgrim theme without the “synchronistic Shard sighting” that was not even what it seemed. I’m really looking forward to completing this work, to seeing where it takes me and what I learn.

During Covid-time, I’ve had more time to think about sources of artistic inspiration, and I want to explore more about my “shards” and other kinds of synchronistic fragments that seem like a secret handshake from a deeply collective and timeless source. There’s always something surprising to discover, and something to say about that discovery.

I’m re-reading a book that I keep coming back to over the years called The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self by Jean Shinoda Bolen.

She’s written many books, but this is one of her first, and my favorite. You’ll like the way she explains synchronicity and why sometimes it seems as if we are meant to be in a particular place at a particular time to come across a particular “Shard.” Here’s a link.

UPDATE!

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’d like to know that I finished Pilgrim Scroll last night – here’s how it turned out – I’m very happy with the way the shards led me!

A Holiday Card and a Little Gift Tutorial

We did it! 2020 is almost in the rear-view mirror.

We will have tales to tellhappy ones and scary ones, lonely ones and sad ones. And we will never forget this year.

I am so grateful for the collective art practice that keeps us creative, resilient, and inspired. Thanks to everyone who joined me in a workshop online, and to all the friends who Zoomed with me across time zones and borders. Lessons were learned!

Here is a little card for you based on an origami model called the Diamond fold. It’s actually part of a short video that includes a free little tutorial on how to create one of these cards for yourself.

Click on the image to open the card and the video.

If you don’t see the image, click here to access the video.

Please remember that even though the year is almost over, we must continue to take good care of ourselves and each other. We can do this.

Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

~Lyn

PS – If you need to make a last-minute gift, don’t forget about the free workshops at my Teachable Classroom, Lyn Belisle Studio. I’m sure someone you know would like a Lotus Book or a Votive Candle Card. And you can whip out one (or five) before Christmas – honest!

The Lotus Book

Glowing Paper Votive Screens

Barbie and The Spirit Women

Spirit Woman, Barbie Koncher

I get to meet the most amazing artists through my Etsy shop. In the last post, you read about Brita, and now – meet Barbie!

Barbie Koncher lives in Hawaii and uses banana fiber as an element in creating her Spirit Women. Indigenous materials add authentic magic to her creations. She sent me some photos of her work along with some great notes:

Hi Lyn,

I’m happy to share my techniques. I have always shared ideas with fellow artists. Inspiration and sharing is critical to artists. I am working on shaping some banana fiber for a Spirit Doll who will inhabit it. I am using this instead of a stick body, using your techniques in my own way. This banana fiber has been soaked overnight then cut to size and scrubbed clean. You can only cut and shape when wet. Then I’ll wax with encaustic before I begin to build my doll, Shaman or Spirit woman. You have shown me an entirely new path!

There’s a lot more to know about this remarkable woman:

I have been creating jewelry for 35+ years and am best known for my large bead creations and fused glass jewelry (20 years). I designed for Saks Fifth Avenue, numerous cruise ships (traveled with them as a guest artist), and my glass was sold at the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

But wait, there’s even more!

I also had a 25 year career with the Department of Defense and capped that career working at the Pentagon and State Department.

I am a certified Art Clay instructor and am toying with the idea of making faces with bronze Art Clay, if I can keep it light enough. I also torch fire enamel on steel beads or copper screen. I am retired in Hawaii and 75 years old but I can’t stop creating. I am an active member of the Kona Palisades Artists and the Las Vegas Artisans Guild.

I just made some lovely cheese cloth painted fabric! I’m having so much fun with the Spirit Woman series.

In this last photo, Barbie accents the Spirit Woman with a cracked glass Christmas ornament and some sea glass. There’s something mythical about it all.

I love Barbie’s work. Many thank to her for permission to use her photos and her thoughts. If you’d like to get in touch with Barbie, you can email her here: koncher@msn.com

It’s such a pleasure to see how the Earthshard faces travel around and inspire so many fantastic artisans. So, now I have the words to “It’s a Small World After All” running through my head!

Happy Holidays – and dare it say it? Happy New Year – yay!!!!

The Blanket People

Yesterday I took six orders for earthenware faces from my Etsy shop to the Post Office. They were going out to six different states – Washington, Kansas, Maryland, Illinois, New York, and Texas. As always, I wondered how the faces would be used and whether they would inspire the people who ordered them.

Every so often, I get an answer to that question from someone whose work really lifts my spirit. I wanted to share this one with you.

Brita Rekve

Hi Lyn,

I’ve been thinking about you and how your faces have prompted an whole new direction for me in my work. I have enjoyed the ride and hope it continues. It seems I started with stick figures that came with stories then there was a slight morphing into heads on a stick, very nature based and now I’m creating what I refer to as blanket people…I am so in the groove when this is happening it’s a holy experience. ~~ Brita

Brita sent some pictures with her note, pictures showing wonderful textures and colors:

Brita Rekve

Brita Rekve

I asked her if she would send the Blanket People story that accompanies her soft-sculpture. Here it is:

Blanket People
She lived with sheep and would sit for hours in the field watching them. Named them after cowboys and mountain men. Doc and Wyatt, two of her favorites came to her for chin rubs and endearments and she marveled at the way the sunlight caught in their eyes and offered a glimpse of something ancient. She wove blankets from their fleece. It was such a comfort to bring the blanket to her nose and breath in the spun sunshine and sweet grass, feel the softness of the wool, the gentleness of the animal. Wrapping herself up she felt safe and protected as if all her grandmothers had circled round. She yearned to give this very same feeling to anyone with a sad and weary heart or the suffering of broken dreams. A wrap in the offering of the animals, a circle of grandmother arms, the  comfort and peace of safety and love.
The Blanket People story makes me feel all warm and comforted, even more so when she added:
There is a backstory I will share with you. Prior to the plague I was teaching process painting in my studio.  That’s what the studio was set up for. When we needed to shut down in the spring I started playing with sticks and fiber. It was around the time of a granddaughters high school graduation and I thought I’d make her a Spirit doll to hang on her wall. One thing led to another. Someone told me about your faces. My studio is a birthing room. I’m blissed out on the people who come to me, some with stories, some without. They come alive and I feel them…  This is a spiritual walk.
PS – Doc and Wyatt moved on to the great pasture in the sky. I’ll always miss them.
Brita is from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and if you’d like to know more about her Blanket People you can contact at Facebook her under her own name, Brita Rekve, or email her at  fourwingsstudio@gmail.com.
There are some amazing connections going on – right after Brita wrote, I heard from another artist, Barbie Koncher, who lives in Hawaii and does beautiful work using non-traditional methods and indigenous materials. I’ll write about Barbie next.
Stay warm, stay connected, and take good care.
♥Lyn