About lynbelisle

Lyn Belisle Artist’s Statement: Shards and Veils As an artist, my personal obligations and passions are pulling individual connections from the circular nature of time, fashioning shards of recognition from the well of collective unconscious, exploring the idea of the “secret handshake” in symbol and archetype, celebrating the frozen moment between what was and what is to come. I work in four main media to explore these ideas: • In collage, often using beeswax and altered papers to celebrate anonymous faces and otherworldly places • In unglazed earthenware clay and found objects, often to create spiritual and symbolic “neo-santo” assemblage • In fiber and paper, often to create wall pieces with natural colors, wax, felt, cheesecloth and digital photo images • In acrylic paint, often as pure, non-referenced exploration of form and veiling I take inspiration and comfort from the knowledge that we are all connected on a deep cross-cultural level with shared collective memories that each of us can glimpse through art without the need for words.

Grateful Spirit

Ah, Spirit Dolls – they were the inspiration for my shard faces which solidified my return to earthenware in 2008 as my personal healing medium.

When winter days approach, there’s nothing more comforting than to settle down at my workbench and get my hands into some clay. After the clay has dried, I watch the earthenware pieces come out of the kiln, vitrified and transformed at 1900F, and marvel at the miracle of earth and fire. It never gets old.

Part of what keeps this exciting is connecting with the diverse world-wide circle of Spirit Doll makers and their creations. As you probably know, I have an Etsy shop called Earthshards, which is visited by doll makers, assemblage artists, fiber artists, and mixed media artists for the small Shard Faces that I make. Sometimes in their Etsy reviews they send photos of how they use the faces – what a delight!

Here are some inspiring pictures from the last eight month. I’ve credited them using just their buyer names for privacy, but I wanted you to see what I get to see as feedback!

Jan


Bada


Beloved Lake


Brita


Cristel


Cynthia


Elizabeth


Holle

Judie

Kelly


Metis


Rachel


Tess


Torpor


Viki


Wally


Wendy

______________________________

Thanks to all of these creative makers for sharing their work.

If you want to make your own spirit doll after seeing these and need a little inspiration, here is my free Spirit Doll instruction booklet.

Now go cultivate your grateful spirit!! Give a little spirit doll to a friend as a thank-you. It will warm your heart – and theirs – this winter!

It’s the little things . . .

This wasn’t the post I intended to write this week. Instead, it’s just a short “thank-you” note – to myself!!

Take a look at this photo. It won’t mean much to anybody but me.

This is the work table in my small studio area off the kitchen. Yesterday evening it looked like this . . . . . .

It had been a loooo-oong day. I finished filming two hours of workshop videos for Painting With Fire, editing and uploading them. I also did some assemblage work in the middle of this mess that was left over from Art Stroll projects.

I wanted to go to bed!! But the Good Angel in my tired old brain said, “clean it up – you won’t be sorry.”  Sigh.

It took about ten sleepy minutes to put stuff away – not a great job, but enough to make me smile when I walked in this morning, coffee in hand, ready to work on a big clay commission. I could actually see the surface of the table!

If there is any message to this, it’s be kind to yourself! Even if you are feeling tired and grumpy, straighten up your mess just as if you were working in somebody else’s studio so you can be ready for the morning.  Put things back where you will find them the next time you look for them. You will thank yourself later.

Oh, and speaking of Painting with Fire, next Wednesday my lesson called Myth and Mist airs. If you are a member of PWF, look for it. I talk about telling stories that are veiled in beeswax and other media using this layered collage encaustic painting as one of the examples. It recounts a myth about crows and dragonflies:

And if you’re not aware of Painting With Fire, it’s never to late to join this amazing year-long encaustic extravaganza! You will even learn how to master encaustic without messing up your studio.

Well. . . . .maybe not that last part . . .

 

 

Pleeeeeze buy my art??? (whimper)

When I was a Girl Scout, we were supposed to go door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies as part of our merit badge activities.

I was painfully shy, and had to force myself to slink up someone’s front steps and ring the doorbell. When it was answered, I’d hang my head and mumble “You wouldn’t want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, would you?” People felt so sorry for me that I actually sold a few packages.

Fast forward about six decades to the Uptown Art Stroll which took place last weekend. It had been years since I had sold art in person at a large art fair like that, and I had forgotten how weird it can be.

First of all, when I got my art together the night before the Stroll to tag it and such, it looked like a whole lot of exciting stuff.

But by the time I got the table set up the next day at the sale, it looked pretty puny. Yikes!

You have to remember that there are about twenty square blocks of art tents in this event with eleventy-thousand artists packed on every corner, so there is a whole bunch of competition! Gulp. No wonder it looked puny.

And it’s called a “Stroll” because people walk around at the event, look at your stuff, pick it up, ask questions, and then stroll away. Actually, that’s a fib. They often purchase art, and I made a respectable number of sales. But it did bring back memories of Girl Scout cookie days.

When people came close to the booth, I tried to balance my expression somewhere between desperation (“pleeeeze by my art”)…..

. . . .and sophisticated coolness (“if you knew good art, you’d definitely buy one of these assemblages, dude”).

I want to give a high five to my fellow artists who do this kind of event with such ease and grace. And I want to thank the buyers who actually purchased my art – you will never know how much it meant to me! Want some cookies to go with that art??

And finally, thanks, Marta Stafford – you do a much better job selling my art than I do!

 

 

 

Five Easy Questions

Do you “journal”? To me, a “journal” is still a noun – I am just not disciplined enough to write down my thoughts everyday in a meaningful, artful journal-ese way. That doesn’t mean I don’t take notes and write out ideas and make outlines for classes and write/sketch constantly on scraps of paper or in my Lefty Date Book.

See? Look at these notes – clear, organized, legible. . . . not.

Seriously, though, since Michele Belto and I have started working with The Enso Circle group, I am learning the value of keeping track of my time just so I can see were it goes. I devised five questions for the group to fill out at the end every week for that very purpose.  I’ve started answering these questions for myself every Friday, and it’s helping me keep track of my projects and my processes.

Here are the five questions, below. They are specifically designed for our Enso art group, but anyone can use them by changing a couple of words. If you want to use them, feel free.

I suggest you print them out and put them somewhere, then answer them once a week on the same day. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this but do it every week. And save your answers in a file or folder so you can track them after a few weeks.

What took up most of your headspace this week?

What was your proudest art-related accomplishment this week?

What one specific step did you take toward your goals?

What was your biggest obstacle this week in moving toward your

goals?

If someone gave you a present to help motivate you next week,

what would it be?

_________________________________________________________________

So, one of the things that I have learned from answering these for the last couple of weeks is that “Life happens.” My headspace gets filled with unexpected family distractions, or appliance breakdowns, or an email that needs immediate attention, or an offer that is too good to pass up. We just have to balance our time in the best way we can.

The “biggest obstacle” question is related to this. Often the obstacle is something unexpected and un-preventable. I just got my flu shot today, and it may lay me low tomorrow just when I need to be working. Oh, well. It’s important to get the flu shot. Balance it.

It’s super-important to concentrate on the proud moments and those small accomplishments that nobody but you might understand. Today I taped the sides of six 24x24x2” cradle board panels with masking tape  – it was incredibly boring, but I did it! This kind of achievement is like prepping to paint a room – you gotta do it if you want the job done right, but it is spectacularly tedious.

The last question about a “present” is fun. It could be something silly, like having somebody show up at your door who loves to put masking tape on panels, or it could be something serious like a call from a gallery offering you a solo show. But by answering this question, you are allowed to wish (and therefore define) any short-term assistance that might move you forward. And by defining it, you might even figure out a way to get it, or something reasonably close.

If you are  journaler (and I admire your dedication) you can include these in your journal every week. If like me, you are more of a random note collector, you can answer these every Friday on your computer, or jot them down on a sticky note, or whatever you choose. But the point is to give yourself a consistent creative check-up. You’ll make better progress when you can reflect a bit on how far you’ve come that week. And no matter what your answers are, I’ll bet you’ll enjoy the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provenance

I’ve been negligent about posting to SHARDS for several reasons. I wanted to change the look of the blog, and work on some website redesign as well.  So I’ve been busy, yes, but that’s no excuse.

Have you ever felt that the longer you go without doing something you should do, the harder it gets to do it? My brothers and I are of the generation that got swats on the bottom from our dad when we were little and did something REALLY bad. Daddy would let us choose the time for our swat, but would tell us that “the longer you wait, the harder it gets.” Sigh. The anticipation was worse than the swat, of course. Sometimes you just have to get it done and move on 🙂

But I digress – today I want to discuss “provenance,” a word that refers to the historical origin of a piece of art, or really any object. As an assemblage artist, provenance is hugely important to me. I believe that an object’s history can be sensed in some weird way, kind of like a shard of clay gives a clue to its history.

I’ve been working lately on a series of wrapped and bundles figures inspired by the Peruvian Chancay Burial dolls. Here’s the Chancay doll on the right and my interpretation is on the left.

Part of my process involves selecting specially-curated objects to wrap into the form. Here is another example:

Below are several little objects I want to wrap into the next figure – two seed pods and a feather.

No one who sees the finished doll will know about the provenance of these objects – they could be just some stuff I picked up anyplace. But the seed pods came from my Pride of Barbados tree which seemed completely dead after the snow disaster this year, but manages to come back gloriously despite the trauma. The feather came from the construction yard at SAY Si where they are building a wonderful new place to share art with the youth in San Antonio who really need it. So all three of these objects have a special “provenance,” a story of rebuilding and renewal.

As I said, no one but me knows about the provenance of these objects, but somehow they carry an aura of their story with them, and that infuses the finished piece with a sense of inexpiable mystery and meaning. You can do this with objects, with paper, with fiber.

When you have a choice in your own work of using something that has a special provenance even though it may not look quite as bright and shiny as something you bought at a craft store, consider the source, and go with what your heart says.

If you look up “provenance” as it relates to collecting art, you’ll find that it refers to the trail of ownership of an art object, or the history that got it from there to here. But every object has a history and a story based on where it is found. As an artist, you can incorporate those stories to give richness to your work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Jude Hill

With so many artists teaching online these days (including me) and so many techniques to learn, it’s inevitable that a student’s work is influenced by an instructor’s.

That’s kinds of the point – if you admire someone’s work, you want to know how it’s done. But the rest of the story is about what happens when you know how it’s done and what you do with the information.

In the last newsletter from the GAGA group of women artists, this question was posed:

I have spent the last two years working hard on my painting style so that I can become as recognized as other artist of note in this community. I have paid a lot of money to teachers for classes and workshops, incorporating their techniques to help me improve and sell my art. Now that I am getting ready to enter a national juried exhibition (with substantial prize money), this pops up in the Prospectus: “Works that have been completed under instruction or in direct association with a class or workshop are not eligible.”  So why have I spent so much of my money on these classes and workshops if I can’t use the art techniques from my teachers? 

See what you think about the answer:

Most worthwhile juried shows include this phrase to protect both professional artists who teach and students who so admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy an instructor’s style and end up looking rather foolish and unoriginal. Good exhibition guidelines discourage direct copying of another artist’s style, which can be like trying to find a lazy shortcut to success without all the work it took the original artist to get organically to that point. It can also be illegal – an artist has the right to prohibit others from making truly derivative works.

Technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. And a lot of work done under instruction has both the professor’s hand as well as intellectual creative “solve” in it! So, student work is not artist work. It’s a stepping-stone to one’s finally developed voice!! You can and should learn technique, but after that it is your creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves. Technique is not art, lessons are training wheels, copying is not creating, paintings are not recipes and sales are not always the goal.

If you do not yet recognize this and are upset by this very common phrase in a Call for Entries, perhaps you should spend a bit more time on your journey of development. When you learn how to experiment and play in your own way with what you learn, you will develop your own voice. Quit imitating and honor the techniques you learn from your teachers by translating them into your own language. Being slavishly derivative does not become any of us and does not earn us recognition in exhibitions.

“Influence” and “emulation” and “incorporation” are all words we use that describe our use of the signature techniques that other artists share with us. “Copying” has a different connotation altogether.

And you certainly don’t have to be a teacher to experience the realization that another artist is “heavily influenced” by your work. It’s a complicated subject.

Jude Hill is a beloved fiber artist whose blog and practice are followed by thousands of people. She is sensitive, low-key, and very authentic. She addresses this complicated issue in a video – it’s really brilliant. It’s so relaxing to watch her stitch and listen to her soothing voice.

Video Link

So what do you think? It’s certainly not a black-and-white situation, and there is, as I always say, “more than one right answer.”

To help give you some perspective, read Inspiration vs. Imitation by Christine Nishiyama, illustrator, author, and artist. You’ll enjoy it.

Lyn

Creative Circle Power – want to join?

I’ve just returned from Taos, New Mexico and a wonderful teaching experience at the Taos Ceramics Center. For two Saturdays, I worked with eight students who inspired each other with their generosity, support, and insights. It reminded me strongly that the power of a group of artists is almost infinite.

Sharing and discussing one’s art is a slippery subject, kind of like trying to nail Jello to a wall. But we know what we love when we see it, even if we can’t describe in words our instant connection to a painting, a sculpture, or, in the case of our workshop, an earthenware Santo.

But when an artist creates within in a group environment, a certain magic happens – conversation flows, ideas emerge, support abounds. This is what Michelle Belto and I have experienced during the first two twelve-week terms of our virtual artist’s residency program called The Enso Circle. 

If you apply to The Enso Circle and are accepted, you will have access to workshop sessions, a private online library of resources, regular Zoom critiques and group discussions, and presentations with guest artists. During the three months there will be opportunities to share your work in process, troubleshoot stuck points, get positive and supportive feedback, and meet one on one with Lyn and/or Michelle. The residency will culminate in a shared online exhibition and catalogue.

Here is a link to the exhibition catalog from the Spring Residency. You can see the amazing variety of media and creative levels. One thing these residents had in common was a commitment to twelve weeks of guided support  toward a self-described goal.

We are now in the tenth week of the second residency with twelve new artists, all of whom are successfully completing their goals and ready to show their work in a new Summer Exhibition Catalog.

Michelle and I would like you to consider joining us in The Enso Circle for the fall term. There is a limit of twelve residents and each person must apply for admission. If you think this might be right for you, please go to our Enso Circle Website and read more about it. You can apply right from our webpage.

And if you’re not sure, we will happily put you in touch with a current or past Enso Circle Resident Artist who can tell you more about it from their standpoint. Remember, applications are coming in and we are closing that window on October 8th. You are invited to join us.

Now, I can’t wait to tell you more about my great experience in Taos, and a follow-up workshop I’m planning called Shards and Santos — with Paper Clay.

Thanks for being in MY creative circle. When creative people support each other, magic happens. Here’s a photo of my friend, artist Linda Rael, and me after productive a day in the Taos workshop. See those smiles? Happiness is the power of the circle!

♥Lyn, glad to be back home

 

 

 

 

Shards and Santos, Clay and Collage

Happiness is teaching in Taos!

A week from tomorrow, I’ll be at the Taos Ceramics Center working with students in my Shards and Santos Workshop. The class takes place on two consecutive Saturdays – here’s a description.

In this workshop, we will create personal assemblages inspired by these iconic figures of Santos. In the first class, we will construct handmade textured slab-based clay components such as heads, bodies, and enhancements. We will also learn to make hand-crafted clay press molds. These components will be fired once.

Here are some examples of assorted assemblage components that I’m taking with me – honestly, working in assemblage is just like working in collage, only a bit more dimensional:

Continuing the workshop description —

The next week, we will build our figure, incorporating found objects such as bones and shells and bleached twigs into the final assemblage and perhaps include cherished objects and hidden words. We will explore the limitless possibilities of cold finishes, such as metallics and beeswax, to enhance the surfaces of the unglazed earthenware.

These santos, below, are in progress, and I’ll use them to show how the components are put together.

Since we will not be glazing and re-firing the shard components, I’ve been experimenting with cold finishes for fired clay for the last couple of weeks.

One of the most successful combinations I’ve discovered is Pearl Ex powder by Jacquard mixed with Gamblin Cold Wax Medium.  You can control the translucency and the color saturation, then buff the wax finish. It’s exciting to see how well it works on bisqueware.

 

Another technique I’m playing with is tube acrylic paint mixed with a bit of cornstarch to dull the finish.

In the sample below, the acrylic mixture mimics the look of Gilder’s Paste at about half the cost and with less potential toxicity.

This kind of experimentation is part of the fun of planning a workshop. And then I get to share with new people!

I’m grateful to the Taos Ceramics Center for inviting me – and at this writing, there’s just one spot left, so if you need a quick get-away, come on up to the mountains of New Mexico!

 

Going back to school — in a box

Today at noon I’m meeting my classmates (virtually) for a workshop called Hand Coloring on Encaustic Images | Workshop in a Box taught by Kevin Tully and Amanda Smith. Amanda owns the ASmith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas, and she specializes in photography and also teaches and works in encaustic. She’s a wonderful curator and artist.

Why “workshop in a box”? Amanda and Kevin ship you a box full of all the equipment, supplies and tools you will need to participate which will be returned at the end of the workshop.

This includes a griddle, the wax, egg tempera paint, your own photos on panels plus a demo work, and an amazing assortment of extras. I received mine two days ago. It is packed with goodies, including a postage-paid label to return the equipment when the workshop is over. You meet the other participants for a mega-Zoom session.

This is a five-hour workshop with three sections – here’s a brief description of the first section:

Starting with a desaturated image we will begin coloring on the print with colored pencil, pastel and water color. Then apply wax to the image. Followed by a demonstration of the application of water soluble wax crayon, egg tempera, pastel and cold wax.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I hardly ever get to take workshops these days, and this one, via Zoom with four other people from around the country, feels like a challenge.

Here are the two photos that I will be working with. I took the first one in Cuba, and the second one in my back garden:

I’ll report back on how the day goes! Off the the workshop 🙂

Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Work, Old Concept

Old retablo frame, late 1800’s

THE ENCANTO SERIES

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Companion, 2021

My work has always been strongly influenced by the idea of “shards” as a metaphor for human communication across time. A shard can be a found fragment of clay, a rusty nail, a scrap of handwriting – any little clue that becomes a “secret handshake” between the maker and the discoverer.

Shards, clues, and other stuff

As an assemblage artist, I collect bits of meaning from various cultures and times. This series, called Encantos (charms), respectfully combine contemporary historic images, then veil them with beeswax, a material which has been used in art-making for over 2000 years. This encaustic process seals and enhances the images. The metal adornments on these pieces honor the traditional centuries-old Retablos, painted tin icons that show the significant rust and fading consistent with their age.

Lyn Belisle, Spiral Crows, 2021

For decades I’ve worked with clay, fiber, and paper in assemblage and collage to express this non-verbal time-circle connection. When my friend Michelle Belto introduced me to the encaustic process in 2009, This new-to-me medium seemed a perfect companion for my most-loved materials.

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Talisman, 2021

I’d briefly tried encaustic medium on collage, but I began to understand that beeswax is a metaphoric material in itself, ancient as clay, versatile as paper, compelling as ivory and bone. Now beeswax and encaustic are integral parts of my process.

Lyn Belisle, Nest, 2021

This series feels just right, a synthesis of digital, ancient, and contemporary process and content. Work for this series is available at the Members Gallery (San Antonio Art League) and soon at Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas.

Take good care, hope to see you soon – Lyn