Painting with friends, part two

sherryTwo of the best art teachers I’ve ever worked with are Sherry Christensen (left) and Linda McLaughlin. For several decades, we taught art in North East ISD and saw each other often at meetings and student art shows. Now retired, they are joining me at the Studio on Thursday afternoons to explore some of the new media that’s available, and to paint together for a couple of hours.

I had great plans for doing some mid-tone painting on canvas this past Thursday, but we started playing with some scribble crayon drawings on Bristol board while we waited for our canvases to dry. Then we painted over everything with white, like artist Jane Davies often does. We lifted some paint with paper, then added a wash of Quinacridone gold. But wait, there was more! I had the beeswax out from a previous workshop, so on went a layer of beeswax, which we incised. Then came walnut ink (of course) and Shiva oil paint sticks. Then some gold foil and stamping. Man, did we have fun! The canvases will have to wait until next time – this kind of  spontaneous exploration is good for an artist’s soul 🙂

Painting with Gloria

gloI love painting with Gloria Hill – we’ve been doing it long enough (on Wednesdays for several years) that we’re comfortable with critiquing each other’s work and giving suggestions without judgment.

Pretty cool – and what’s also cool is that we learned today that both of us had our paintings accepted into the juried San Antonio Art League Annual Exhibit. It’s notoriously competitive, but I had two of my three pieces accepted and Gloria – tah dah – had all three of her paintings accepted! That’s rare. I am so proud of her! You just never know with jurors, but we couldn’t be happier with this one (Michael David Leslie, who is the Curator of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma). The opening reception is on April 12th, so come see the Lyn and Glo show 🙂

So besides congratulating ourselves until we got silly, we had a great painting session this afternoon. For once, I remembered to take photos, and I put them together in a little video. It’s always interesting to me to see how paintings develop – here’s how our work went this afternoon. Both Gloria and I were pretty pleased with the end results (although they may not be totally finished – ya never know).

Beeswax + Imagery = Fusion Collage


Workshop prototype – Lyn Belisle

Sometimes you commit to an idea but you have no clue about how (or even IF) it will work. That was the case when I scheduled a “Beeswax Collage” workshop as part of my 2015 calendar, . But two serendipitous things came together to help me. The first was the online workshop that  Michelle Belto and I designed and filmed called Wax and Tissue (available at Roses on my Table website) The second was the PhotoEncaustic class I just finished with Clare O’Neill – both were invaluable learning experiences.

The premise for yesterday’s hugely successful workshop (whew!) was to combine collage elements, rigorous composition guidelines (my AB3 System), inkjet printed tissue, and elementary encaustic techniques to produce a fusion piece that was more than the sum of the parts. To develop the prototype (above), I started with gesso and walnut ink on board, adhered paper and photos, layered inkjet-printed tissue, painted beeswax over everything, scraped and distressed the surface, added more walnut ink and wax – well, it was just plain fun – I’ll play and refine, but it has lots of possibilities.

The participants thought so too, and produced an amazing assortment of beeswax collages, two pieces each, in just over two hours. I always tell my students that there is more than one right answer to a art assignment, and every one of these was a winner – take a look!

PS – Congrats to Rhonda Austin, winner of the little steel Asian chop that represents “understanding.” Rhonda, if you’ll send me a mailing address, I’ll get this to you right away.

Have a good week, everyone!

Understanding – the Friday Freebie

  und3Today’s Friday Freebie is a wonderful little metal “chop” – a steel stamp of the Chinese ideogram for the word “understanding.” When I ordered several of these little chops because I liked the design, I took the concept for granted, figuring I totally understood what understanding means. But it got me to thinking – what is “understanding,” anyway?

The first definition of understanding is “a mental grasp, a comprehension.” Easy. But, whoa, read on – understanding is also defined as, “a willingness to understand people’s behavior and forgive them.” That’s HUGE. First you have to be willing to “understand” a person’s behavior (which sometimes seems quite impossible), and then you have to be able to empathize enough to forgive them. Yikes.

I always equated understanding with comprehension – like, “I understand some Spanish but I can’t speak it”. Understanding someone’s actions and why they do what they do is a lot more complicated. From now on, when I use this little “understanding” chop on a clay piece or in an encaustic collage, it will remind me of that deeper, more compassionate meaning of the word. And I’ll try to be more understanding.

If you are a SHARDS subscriber by midnight on Sunday, you will have a chance to win this little chop – and if all this rambling seems a little too philosophical, I hope you will understand and forgive me. 🙂 TGIF, Y’all.


Curious evolution of a work on canvas

dissofmem2Where do art ideas come from? Darned if I know – Here’s a piece that invented itself from 12 clay face slabs I made last week just because I didn’t want to throw away too-dry clay. The piece is called “Dissolution of Remembrance” because forgetting the names of objects and misplacing small items worries me, and I know I’m not alone in that.

I used these unplanned clay pieces to address this worry through an art piece. I arranged the fired earthenware slabs in an almost irregular pattern on a 24×30″ canvas, then sewed and adhered them in place. First came a wash of walnut ink (of course). Then I added some red oxide acrylic paint – here’s what it looked like at that stage – kinda disjointed.


I tried to make it more cohesive with various colors of paint, attempting to suggest a progression of memory loss, and finally got the idea of putting rusted wire inside each head – it didn’t really work. Suddenly, I remembered talking about cheesecloth in my last post, and added a layer of cheesecloth over the whole composition to unite the elements. That was a good decision.

After that, there was lots of action going on with matte medium and fabric stiffener. Next came a thin coat of encaustic wax. Finally I added branches to allude to the branching dendrites in the brain. Science occasionally comes in handy 🙂


The last element, silk cocoons, was another accident – the plastic bag of cocoons was open on the table nearby and the silk kept catching on the branches – well, duh – how obvious was that? So, on they went. Symbols of hatching new thoughts?

I’m not sure “The Dissolution of Remembrance” is completely finished, but it’s been amazing to watch the process as both the maker and the observer. Now if I could just remember where I put it –  – – only kidding. I think.  dissofmem1

Drawing nuts – and feathers and roses

nutpist copyI had the loveliest Valentine’s Day – two sisters asked if I would give a private drawing workshop at the Studio for their mother as a birthday gift for her. We had a great time! In two hours, we covered several drawing media from Prismacolor to pencil to vine charcoal, and we drew lots of small objects from observation, paying careful attention to detail. The idea of Contour Drawing (which is still one of the best drawing disciplines ever) is to look at the object as you draw rather than the paper itself.  You  pretend that your pencil is touching its actual contours, as if it were an ant crawling around the edges, recording every bump and irregularity.


Workshop participants drawing studies of feathers, roses and pistachio nuts for practice and discipline

Our favorite subject of the afternoon lesson was a pistachio nut. We got to know our own nut intimately as we drew its every detail – it’s a challenge, for sure. But the drawings turned out beautifully – and at the end of the lesson, we mixed the pistachios up and had to pick out our own from the pile – everyone recognized their nut! Then we ate our models.

Note to self – do more drawing! It’s a wonderful way to observe, to meditate – and to snack.

Susie Monday at UPC

My friend Susie Monday is an amazing artist. She inspires me, and so many other people, in our work and in our lives. Here is part of her Artists Statement – see if it doesn’t resonate with you, as well:

“My textile paintings tell the spiritual and metaphysical stories that  unfold in my life and in the lives I observe of women around me. My goddesses, saints and angels are less about religion than they are about everyday occurrences: our hopes, dreams, frustrations, foundations and the resources we call upon in the secret spaces of the heart.”

Yesterday, I stopped by the University Presbyterian Church near Trinity University where Susie’s  textile collages grace the gallery in the Education Center. It is a visual treat to see so much of her richly symbolic color-splashed work in one place – here are some photos from the exhibition. I hope you get by to see it this month. The show will be up until the first of March. Thanks, Susie, for the joy your bring to our lives!

Cheesecloth – to dye for

cheesecloth1I love this stuff! I hand-dyed a bunch of it for Sunday’s Spirit Doll workshop and made some cool discoveries. One – it’s cheap – and available in a ton of places, like hardware stores in the paint department and supermarkets in the kitchen gadgets department for about $1.00 a yard or less.

Two – you can dye it super-fast with Rit dye, procion dyes, or just plain old diluted acrylic paint – and it stretches and tears and look very artistic either as a collage addition or as Spirit Doll swooshy capes and wraps.

Here’s some of the dyed cheesecloth that I put together with other supplies for the Spirit Doll workshop – earthy and rich:


And here’s a bunch of it drying on the bench outside the Studio – kinda like exotic rags;


If you want to dye it yourself, this is a fast and easy way – put a squirt of fluid acrylic paint and about 1/2 cup of water in a little plastic container, add the cheesecloth and squish it down and saturate it, let it sit for about ten minutes, then squeeze it out, and dry it by spreading it out or putting it in the dryer for a few minutes (if you put it in the dryer, it will crinkle up, which you might like)

Note: I tried a gold metallic acrylic, but it didn’t retain the metallic look – I added a little orange and a little walnut ink (of course) and got a nice mottled peach color. It’s impossible to mess up – any color seems to work.

This was one of my favorite Spirit Dolls from the workshop – Pat Konstam used a rock that she had found in Israel for the face (it looks as if it’s smiling) – and she used red and brown cheesecloth for her Red Sea Spirit Doll:


Spirit of the Red Sea – Pat Konstam

And finally, check out the video from the workshop – I hope you enjoy seeing it, and I hope you’ll go play with cheesecloth!

PS –  As I was doing a little research on dyed cheesecloth, I discovered that it’s the newest thing to wrap a newborn baby in – who knew?? Ain’t been no newborn babies in my neck of the woods for a loooong time!



PhotoEncaustic – what I’m learning in school

To get prepared for my Beeswax Collage workshops, I’m taking a fairly intensive online course with PhotoEncaustic artist Clare O’Neill. There are about 24 people in the class, and we meet both on Facebook and in the online classroom to watch Clare’s videos and to question and critique our work. I love the flexibility of the class. We’re in our third week right now. Here’s a video of Clare’s work – you can see why I was attracted to it. She’s passionate about what she does and she’s a good teacher, too.

Here are three practice pieces that I’ve competed so far. The first and second ones are my own still-life photos and the third one is a vintage photo from Flickr Commons. I have a long way to go, but have already learned soooooo much from Clare and the other people in the class. (There are still some spaces in the second Beexwax Collage workshop on May 17th at my Studio if you want to sign up and see what I’ve learned) –

PhotoEncaustic 1 - Lyn Belisle - mounted on wood

PhotoEncaustic 1 – Lyn Belisle – mounted on wood

Tissue and wax PhotoEncaustic





Encaustic and vintage photo - Lyn Belisle

Encaustic and vintage photo – Lyn Belisle

NOTE: A great source for all things encaustic is my friend Michelle Belto’s book, Wax and Paper Workshop. All of her techniques and tips can be used with PhotoEncaustic, and it’s a perfect book for beginners who want to explore the possibilities of working with wax as an art form.

If you’d like a gentle introduction to the technique, Michelle and I have collaborated in an online class about Wax and Tissue if you’d like to check it out. Here’s the link – it’s at Roses on my Table art community. Online classes are really fun, particularly since you can learn at your own pace.

Back to the Wax!!

Goodbyes, hellos, and how to start a blog

The Medina Mud Band in the early days

The Medina Mud Band in the early days

The Medina Mud Band said goodbye to the Quihi Dance Hall Saturday night, and to the many benefit gigs we’ve played there for Inner City Development. So many friends turned out despite the stormy weather – and the biggest surprise came from Patti and Rod Radle, Inner City’s founders and executive directors, who announced that they had established the Medina Mud Band Cultural Arts Fund for the children at their West Side community center. So the band lives on in a fine legacy – what an honor!

Cousins Pegeen, Jesse, (me), Grace, and Skip

Cousins Pegeen, Jesse, (me), Grace, and Skip

One of the coolest things about the event was meeting my cousins from Louisiana, who drove to Texas for the gig. My cousin Skip has been here before, but I got to meet his daughter and her children in person! We had the best time. The girls wanted to go to the Wax Museum on Alamo Plaza. I have to say that it is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited. Many of the life-sized statues were creepily real, while others looked kind of goofy. Here’s a gen-yoo-wine photo of me and Barack Obama – which is wax and which is real??


President Barack Obama gives a high five to Lyn Belisle just before he melts into a puddle of wax

OK, now I’ll bet you are saying, “Gee, I wish I knew how to make a blog so I could put up pictures of touristy wax figures on the Internet.” Help is here – actually, I just remembered that I made some tutorials for my Trinity students on how to make a blog using Blogger. It’s free (all you need is a Google account), and it’s fun. These tutorials should be fairly easy to follow if you want to try it – nobody says you have to keep it.

The only thing you’ll have to remember is that in the first video, I tell the students how to access Blogger through their university account. You’ll just go directly to and take it from there. There are also lots of helpful videos on You Tube as well, and a good help menu on the Blogger site. On your mark, get set – BLOG!