Animals, animals . . . . what a spirited workshop!

We finished the second part of the “spirit critter” workshop today at the Art League – beautifying our creations.

Leslie Newton did a very skillful job of loading and firing the kiln between last week’s session and this one. Not one ear or tail was lost.

Pan of fired nekkid critters

Today I got to teach some cold finish techniques for the workshoppers to experiment with on the test pieces and the animals. Cold finishes (or post-fire finishes) are amazingly versatile as long as the piece is not going to be used as a functional item – like a mug.

Potters are discovering things like walnut ink (yeah, my old favorite) and wax embedded with metallic particles. Here are some sample pieces that I used today to demo and test various combinations of walnut ink and metallic wax..

And here are some that were made by Jill Wilson, one of our participants, that show lots of possibilities.

When it came time to put finishes on the animals, a lot of participants liked the idea of the simplicity of just using walnut ink to bring out the texture. Here’s an example – this little guy is almost Pre-Colombian looking – very minimalist and whimsical.

By contrast, this piece has layer upon layer of metallic wax and walnut ink which gives it the look of cast bronze.

This is an example of a cold finish formula that I demonstrated today – there are a thousand variations:

  • Spray the bisque-fired clay liberally with Java walnut ink and let it sit for five or ten seconds.
  • Blot the ink with a shop cloth, then dip one corner of the cloth in water and wipe away the color on the surface, leaving the ink in the contours.
  • With your finger, add a layer of silver Inka Gold metallic finish.
  • When that is even, burnish it with a cloth, then add another partial layer of blue Inka Gold, being random and leaving spots uncovered.
  • Add another random layer, this one gold, and blend in with the blue as you go.
  • Rub on a bit of Jacquard powder in Interference Blue. This will give you a raku-like finish.

If you want to see the whole process, click on the links below to see how the animals were created, start to finish:

DAY ONE – BUILDING THE ANIMALS

DAY TWO- COLD FINISHES AND COMPLETION

Many thanks to the participants – Jill Wilson, Lisa Stamper Meyer, Vera Smith, Becky Hadley, Kimberly Anderson – and especially to my co-teacher, Leslie Newton!

Let’s do it again next year!

 

 

 

 

 

S____T Animals?*

 

My friend Leslie Newton and I are teaching a Spirit Animal workshop at the San Antonio Art League tomorrow, and I’ve been practicing!
I chose to experiment with the “slab method” of construction. It’s just what it sounds like. You roll out a slab of clay and cut out a shape. I made a paper pattern of a generic beastie with a neck and four legs, rolled out the slab, then textured it with a cool spiral wooden pattern tool.
The clay was all floppy, so I invented the  Belisle Toilet Paper Roll Animal Hanger/Dryer Box and draped him over it to shape him up. Necessity is the mother of invention, and he was too wet to stand up on his own.
Here are two of his cousins in the dryer box:
I used different methods of texturing the slabs – here is a rubber mat made for that purpose:
I cut out ears and tails to be attached later.
Everything was fired, and then assembled. I put walnut ink on this first fellow, and here is the result.
He’s whimsical and aardvark-like, and although don’t know what “spiritual characteristics” he might symbolize, he’s pretty cool. Now, onto the big question . . . . . .
*Why did I call this post “S____T Animals?”
Because that term is apparently very controversial. Here is a message I received from someone about the title and subject of this workshop shortly after I announced it:
Hi Lyn.  I just wanted to share this article with you, explaining why “spirit animal” is a harmful term. https://www.spiralnature.com/spirituality/spirit-animal-cultural-appropriation/
It was kind of a shock to realize that I was unintentionally indulging in serious cultural appropriation by using the term “spirit animal” which is all over pop culture. Living in San Antonio, we have such a blend of peacefully co-existing cultures here that I have truly not though enough about this.
What are your thoughts? It’s not a debate, just an enlightening discussion about how we can be more culturally sensitive in our art.

Table for Six at my studio – come join us!

Once a month or so, I’m starting to offer small mixed-media workshops at my Olmos Park studio. They are held on Wednesday afternoons from 1-4. I call this informal series “Table for Six.”

There is a limit of six participants and registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’re invited to sign up – you’ll learn something new and take home something interesting!

Here’s the upcoming lineup. Click on a title to read more and register.

LAYERED STORIES: ENCAUSTIC COLLAGE
(three spaces left at post time)
Wednesday, October 30th, 2019
1-4 pm

ABSTRACT ACRYLIC PAINTING
(four spaces left at post time)
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
1-4 pm

MIXED-MEDIA VOTIVE COLLAGE CARDS
(six spaces left at post time)
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
1-4 pm

All Table for Six workshops are $65 including materials, and, as mentioned, are held on Wednesday afternoons at my studio @ 515-5 E. Olmos Drive. As anyone who has been there can tell you, it’s a cozy, stress-free zone.

but wait, there’s more . . .

If you’d like a great intro to clay, Leslie Newton and I are teaching a ceramic  workshop called Spirit Animals at the San Antonio Art League on Saturday, October 26th and Saturday, OcNovember 2nd. Click on the image below for more about THAT one – it’ll be fun.  And who knows what will be revealed as YOUR Spirit Animal!

Workshops are about the power and comfort of the creative community, about making new personal statements and affirming individuality in a sharing, caring environment. Join in!

 

 

 

Want to explore encaustic portraits? Use your phone to email photos to yourself!

Another enthusiastic workshop group met at my studio on Wednesday afternoon to explore collage, composition, and beeswax. Thanks to Marcia Roberts for organizing this great gathering. They were fantastic.

It’s my custom at the beginning of the workshop to give everyone a large packet of images that have been printed on regular letter paper with an inkjet printer. This insures that the paper is absorbent and will be “beeswax friendly.” I ask everyone to choose only from these images for their first collage.

This gives everyone choices within the same range of images, and it’s amazing to see how different each resulting artwork is. Here are a few of the images being arranged and veiled with white paint and asemic writing.

Then I showed them a tip that I want to share with you as well – how to use your own photos in an encaustic collage. I took a photo of Veronica while she was working at the table, then emailed it to myself from my phone. Here she is – great smile, right?

I went right to my studio computer, opened the email and the attachment, and showed everyone how to print out the photo in sepia tone. Then I adhered it to my demo collage and added some graphic elements such as veiling, asemic writing and stamps.

I continued the demo and showed how to apply a layer of beeswax, to incise, and to add pan pastels and book foil to the composition. It was fun playing with a photo of someone who was actually in the workshop, and Veronica got a collage portrait to take home!

I encourage you to take photos with your phone and email them to yourselves to print out and use in your work. It doesn’t even have to be a person – think orchids, cats, and spider webs!

Everyone in Wednesday’s workshop was really inspired – here are some of their encaustic collages. They paid attention to the composition lesson, and even though some of the packet images were similar, the results are beautifully original.

Veronica Miller

Maggie Fitch

Maggi Peachy

Catherine Danner

Marcia Roberts

I think these encaustic collage workshop are so useful and popular because the lessons on composition and layering can be used in any medium, from acrylic painting to fiber to journaling. And using your own phone photos gives a personal touch that makes this kind of art practice a unique statement of who you are.

Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

Art Walk Alchemy 2020 and The Enduring Kimono

Teaching online workshops is a joy. But preparation is time-consuming. So when Anne Marie Fowler asked me to develop a lesson for Art Walk Alchemy 2020, I almost said that I was too over-scheduled with my work at the Art League.

But then I remembered a project that had been a signature of my work in the 80’s and 90’s – the Origami Kimono!

I had done a version of this for the Dallas Fiber Artists last year which was super fun. With some additional mixed media lessons and demos, like how to create your own scumble-painted paper, this could be a great online workshop lesson.

Here’s a “scumble sample” video from the lesson for painting a long paper strip that is then folded into a kimono:

There are a ton of other mixed-media techniques in this lesson, including new ways to use gold leaf, walnut ink, and stamps in your work.

I’d never done a lesson like this that is part of a year’s worth of workshops, but it’s neat because you get tons of other lessons from many other really excellent teachers from Art Walk Alchemy. Check out the project highlights!

Woodland Dreams-Art Walk Alchemy 2020 from Mystic Spring Studios on Vimeo.

Registration for Art Walk Alchemy is open right now – including a fantastic four-video lesson on The Enduring Kimono by you-know-who. Take a look at the offerings – 🙂

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!