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.

The heart of friendship


Carol Mylar and me in Colorado Springs

When I had a studio on Queen Anne Street back in the 90s, Carol Mylar was my studio partner. We have been the best of friends ever since, and when she moved back home to Colorado Springs fifteen years ago, part of my heart went with her. But we stay in close touch, visit in person as often as we can, and enjoy that special ESP that good friends develop. However, she was able to fool me recently in the nicest way!

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, original version

She had sent good luck wishes to me when my work was shown at Marta Stafford’s gallery last month. Little did I know that she and Marta had been in secret negotiation about one of the pieces called “Tiny Dancer”. Carol purchased it without telling me because she wanted to surprise me by sending me a picture of it on the wall in her Colorado Springs home.

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, heartless version

The sale was arranged, but when “Tiny Dancer” arrived in Colorado, she had no heart – it had fallen off and gotten lost somewhere. Carol emailed Marta at the gallery, and Marta then casually asked me if I had another little heart  –  the buyer, “Sue Smith,” said it had been lost and wanted a replacement. Fortunately, I had one heart left from in my collection of very old Mexican clay beads.

I thought it was weird that Marta asked me to send it to her rather than the buyer, but I sent the little heart to Marta in Marble Falls, and she secretly send it along to Carol.

The next week, I had a text from Carol with a photo of “Tiny Dancer” taken on the wall at her house – boy, was I surprised – I had no idea how it got there, especially since I thought somebody named “Sue Smith” from Albuquerque bought it.  When I read Carol’s message, I finally got it  – she wrote, “She lost her heart, but now it’s found. Every detail has a story. She’s beautiful!” I was so thrilled to see my work on my dear friend’s wall.

“Tiny Dancer,” happily living with Carol in Colorado

There’s a metaphor here about friends, about love and distance, about losing and finding one’s heartanyway, the story made me smile – thanks, Marta, for your part in the caper, and thanks, Carol for giving a good home to this little assemblage with the paint-brush leg and newly recovered heart! ♥♥♥

 

 

Exquisite ephemera

My friend Lisa Stamper Meyer had a great studio show and sale yesterday that showcased her recent painting trip to France. She (lucky woman) enjoyed a time of deep artistic exploration during a month-long residency at the Chateau Orquevaux.

Here’s a piece that I purchased from her yesterday. It reflects some of her signature materials and themes, which came into sharp focus during her journey – and everyone loves her ravens:

Mixed media collage, Lisa Stamper Meyer

Lisa is a master in both collecting and using “ephemera,” those wonderful scraps of vintage paper that add intrigue to artwork. Fortunately for her friends, she brought back packages of French papers, letters, and book pages to share with us. Look at some of the cool stuff I got!

There is something about using authentic letters and book pages that somehow makes one’s artwork more precious than using reproductions.

When you are working with ephemera and printed pages, remember that the same guidelines of composition apply – Alignment, Breathing Space, and Thirds.

Here’s a preliminary collage arrangement of some of the pieces that I got from Lisa:

collage composition practice

And here are a couple of tips for YOU that will help when you use ephemera or printed media.

ephemera composition tips

  • If there is a border on the torn paper strip, use it to good advantage by reinforcing the visual border of your work (see on left edge how the black border stops the eye from going off the page).
  • If you have one torn edge and one straight edge, the torn edge should face into the work (see the top edge) – again, this focuses the viewer toward the interior of the composition.
  • When you use a section of text, align it into the center. If it’s aligned away from the center, the viewer will be inclined to turn the composition outward to try and read it, and that will redirect the eye off the page.

Next time Lisa goes to France, I am going too, with four empty suitcases to fill with nifty French ephemera! (I wish) What is it about printed materials foreign languages that is so intriguing?

If you’re interested in materials like this and can’t get to Chateau Orquevaux, there are good sources on Pinterest for vintage French correspondence like this one

There are also design sites like this one that sell more vintage collage and decoupage ephemera that you can shake a glue stick at -:Southern Blackberry Designs

Somehow, though, going to France on a residency program to collect ephemera sounds a little more appealing. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your experience, your work (and your fantastic ephemera) with us!

Holiday freebie for you – faux turquoise technique tutorial!

I may not have time to give workshops right now (the next one will be in January), but I can still teach you a few things! Here’s a lesson freebie – a cool Faux-Turquoise technique.

While working on a commissioned assemblage, I realized how often I use the painted faux-turquoise finish that I developed several years ago. It works on almost all my mixed-media surfaces – clay, paper, cradle board, canvas.

Here’s your step-by-step tutorial on how I do this finish. Feel free to change it up and experiment with your own variations. There’s no secret here, just simple materials and techniques that give good results in an uncomplicated way. It’s super fun, too.

Step One: Assemble Materials

Rarely do I specify specific brands, but in this case, these three acrylic paints work best in combination of all the ones I’ve tried for this particular technique.

You will also need a wide-ish flat brush (about 1″), a graphite pencil, a terrycloth washrag or studio rag, a white colored pencil (optional), and something to paint on. For this demonstration, I chose  4×6″ piece of archival mat board. You’ll need a water container to clean your brush, too.

You don’t need a lot of complicated materials for this

Step Two: Make you mark

I often have my workshop participants open up to their work by doing some scribbling on the substrate – you can always gesso over it, but it keeps them from being intimidated by a white surface. If they don’t know what to scribble, I ask them to scribble what they had for breakfast! In the demo below, I just did some random markmaking with a graphite pencil. It added a bit of subtle texture to the surface, too.

Make the space yours by claiming it with markmaking

Step Three: Slap on the base coat

Paint right over those marks you made with a coat of Aqua Green acrylic, being generous. Use random strokes, x-strokes in every direction. You don’t want to leave thick texture, but yo do want some slightly raised areas.

A nice coat of aqua green painted randomly on the matboard

Step Four: More marks

Let this coat sit until it is sticky but not dry, then go back in with your graphite pencil and make more light marks on the surface.

Step Five: Lighten it up

Add some of the Matte White acrylic to the Aqua Green to make a paler tint of turquoise. Brush it randomly over about one-third of the surface. Play with the proportions.

Matte White with a bit of Aqua Green

Step Six: Press and Lift

While the lighter tint is still wet, Press your terrycloth rag straight down onto the surface to lift some of the lighter tint in areas. This leaves very stone-like patches of light and dark.

Press the cloth straight down, then lift.

Step Seven: Adding the Azo Gold

Take your bottle of Quinacridone Nickle Azo Gold and drop several blobs of paint on the surface. It will look very dark and slightly gross, but don’t worry – Quin Gold is extremely transparent and will make a lovely glaze in the next step.

Blobs of Quin Gold dropped on the surface

Step Eight: Blob-dabbing

Using the same terrycloth rag (which will never be the same again), dab the blobs firmly to spread them and create texture.

Dabbed-out blobs of Quin Gold

Step Nine: Light blending and marking

Continue to add light marks, and do a bit of blending with the rag, but use a light touch.

More scratches and marks

Step Ten: Finish with dry-brushing

To veil and push back all of the color variations and textures, dry-brush a final coat of aqua green over the surface. You can see here that the right half has been dry-brushed and the left half has not yet been brushed. If you build up this layer slowly, you can control what is revealed and what is concealed. “Dry-brushing” means just that – adding a little bit of paint to a dry brush and stroke it lightly over the surface. After this step, let the whole thing dry. And go wash your brush!

Final dry-brush coat

Step Eleven: Tah-Dah!

You can see in the close-up how the painted finished mimics the real stuff in texture and color. As I said, this surface is archival mat board, but you can try this technique on anything acrylic paint works with.

I can see it on a mirror frame, for example, with copper nailheads all around it, or perhaps covering the top of a wooden box. Or how about a turquoise ornament for a Christmas tree, Southwestern style?

Here are a couple more photos of the faux-turquoise mat board cut up into smaller sections, and also a small adornment with copper tape for a collage or pin.

collage adornment

Cut sections of faux-turquoise matboard for mixed media

I hope you enjoy this technique. If you try it, let me know how you use it!

And thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS!

 

 

 

Nectar and Ambrosia

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is remembering all the food that we liked as kids, the stuff that came out only at holidays. I loved to watch my mother make “Ambrosia,” which is a Southern tradition. According to Alabama Chanin, “Ambrosia began appearing in cookbooks in the late 1800s when citrus fruit became more prevalent in markets across the country. These early recipes were very simple, usually including only orange slices, coconut, and sugar layered in a glass dish.”

Mother would spend a long time peeling, de-seeding, and sectioning orange segments, which made the kitchen smell wonderful. It was labor-intensive, for sure. She added coconut and pecans and Maraschino cherries. A bonus for me was getting to sip the juice from the Maraschino cherries after she had drained them – turns your tongue red and gives you a major sugar rush.

I’m making a shortcut version of Ambrosia this year, and so far, it looks pretty good. I have all of the fruit ready and will add the rest of the ingredients, including the coconut,  tomorrow morning. It’s pretty already!

Shortcut Ambrosia in progress – trust the process!

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try – and if you can get to the grocery store today without losing your sanity.

Ingredients:

1 (8 oz.) tub of whipped topping, thawed
1 cup sour cream
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained well
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin orange segments, drained well
1 cup red or green seedless grapes, sliced in half
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (10 oz.) jar of maraschino cherry halves, drained very well (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Then you just mix the whipped topping (think Cool Whip), the coconut, sour cream and marshmallows together and fold it in with the fruit. It’s neither huate cuisine or health food, but hey – it’s a Thanksgiving tradition!

The “nectar” part of this post is Almond Tea, which showed up at a lot of Southern holiday parties. It’s a gusssied-up version of Sweet Tea, and it’s non-alcoholic so kids can have some.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons instant iced tea powder
1 cup white sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract

Directions
In a 1 gallon container, mix together the instant tea powder and sugar. Pour in the boiling water and lemonade concentrate, and mix well. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Fill container the rest of the way with cold water. Stir and serve over ice, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Actually, you can just add a little almond extract to regular iced tea and it tastes great, different and kind of exotic.

I mentioned the Alabama Chanin Journal earlier – if you want an imaginative, feel-good source of information and inspiration, check out Alabama’s site and read about her beautiful and sustainable food, clothing and other makings. Slow Cloth founder Elaine Lipson introduced me to this journal. It’s a favorite.

Finally, if you’re still in an “easy recipe” mood, take this link to my favorite Cranberry Jalapeno Relish that I published here in 2014.

I am so grateful to all of you for being SHARDS readers – Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The gift of Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

You’ve probably been told by lots of your friends, just back from vacation, about some place or other that you absolutely HAVE to visit, right? Well, add my name to that list. You absolutely HAVE to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. No kidding. It will blow you away.

Trinity University alumna Alice Walton of the Walmart fortune founded Crystal Bridges as a gift to the American people, and she did a spectacular job. The museum opened on 11/11/2011, and was celebrating its 6th birthday the weekend we visited. Bentonville is located in Northwest Arkansas, and you can fly in to their new airport from almost anywhere (Ms. Walton was instrumental in that airport, as well).

The art collection itself is spectacular, extensive and priceless. We asked out guide, Deputy Director Sandy Edwards, how much it cost, and she said “Alice doesn’t discuss the cost of a gift.” Chronologically arranged, the works span five centuries in three buildings constructed across a spring-deepened ravine.

Here are a few pictures I took that show the diversity of the collection – you can find many more online. Take this link to explore the collection.

Sculpture by Marisol

George Segal’s Men in Bread Line – he is the second figure

Children learning about early American landscape

The Indian and the Lily, George de Forest Brush

Evan Penny sculpture – “Old Self” – this self-portrait includes the artist’s whiskers embedded in the sculptural material

My friend Victoria photographs a huge fiber art piece by Ghada Amar

Hidden in Amar’s work are embroidered faces of women in distress

The architecture itself is nothing short of miraculous. The site is a difficult one, to say the least, and we loved the story of how Israeli architect Moshe Safdie partnered with Alice Walton to make this project a reality. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. You’ll get a feel for the personalities of both Walton and Safdie.

 

Here are a few more photos that show the architectural features.

Inside connects to outside visually – almost all of the outside walls are glass

The view across the lagoon

Art at Crystal Bridges does not stop at the walls. All along the trails are sculptures and structures. This is a photo James Turrell’s Skyspace installation.

Here is is from the inside – Bill and our friend Peter Jennings enjoyed the headed seats on a cold Arkansas morning. The circular opening in the top allows for contemplation, and at dawn and sunset, there is a light show along the walls that transforms the space.

Bill and Peter meditate about the Astros’ win at the World Series

Skyspace opening from inside

 

Obviously, I could go on and on about how impressed and delighted we all were with Crystal Bridges. There’s the Great Hall, the cool Gift Shop, the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Chihuly in the Forest exhibit. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped at a friend’s house, watching an interminable slide show of their vacation.

Just know that I loved this place for its art and architecture, and its special connection to the land. You will, too. Crystal Bridges really is a gift.

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture – I love this place!!

 

 

 

 

Free-for-all encaustic inspirations by Nancy Crawford

 What artist doesn’t get frustrated when other obligations keep you out of the studio?? Argh. Lately, I’ve been living vicariously, stealing a few minutes on Pinterest or You Tube to take mental notes on what I’ll do when I have time to get back to serious art-making.

One of my “band-aids” for frustration is Nancy Crawford and her wonderful short YouTube videos on encaustic techniques. She is as generous with her methods as Jane Davies is with her painting videos.

Take a look at Nancy’s work. I absolutely love her style and the way she layers the wax. Of course, anything that involves collage and beeswax is manna to my soul!

Nancy Crawford

Nancy Crawford

Here’s a link to her You Tube Channel

Nancy’s work inspired me to teach a workshop last year called Wax and Words. I modified her techniques a bit with stencils, stamps and scribbles – the results were super! I need to revive that workshop this winter at the new Little Studio. All I need is more time to do it!

If you just want a sample of Nancy’s great tips and have two minutes, here are three quickies to get you inspired when you don’t have time to do the work yourself.

Encaustic Technique 13 Transparentizing Paper

Encaustic Technique 12 Hot Wax Stylus

Encaustic Technique 7 Metallic Powder

Hope you’re enjoying this cooler weather in South Texas – it’s almost beginning to feel like Thanksgiving!

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Gratitude for art and community

Yesterday afternoon was tinged with disbelief as news of yet another incident of violence, this time very close to home, began to spread. We were at the San Antonio Art League & Museum welcoming people to  the annual Members Invitational in which four artists who were finalists for SAALM’s Artist of the Year were invited as a group to show their work. As I talked with people, I thought a lot about the power of art to communicate and heal.

Every artist in the exhibit had statements of joy or hope or peace, expressed in his or her own medium and voice. Heartfelt thanks to Rachel Edwards Ridder, whose fiber works of artists’ hands celebrate life-long creativity, to Dona LeCrone Walston with her serene, powerful rocks and river watercolors, to Lee Ricks (who continues to paint well into his 80’s) for his keen observations of our beautiful landscapes, and to Sallie Stanley Carter for the brightly colored portraits of people with stories to tell. Each of you gave us a sense of community and comfort yesterday afternoon.

As you look at the video of yesterday’s opening, I hope you can see the celebration of the arts that has always sustained us. Many thanks to the artists, to the great behind-the-scenes guys who installed the exhibit, and to the people who were there – if you haven’t seen the show, please do come by. It’s a wonderful look at artistic optimism just when we need it most.

Members Invitational Exhibit opens at the San Antonio Art League & Museum from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

San Antonio Art League & Museum
130 King William St
San Antonio, TX 78204

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five things that make a really great workshop

All five things were in place yesterday at the San Antonio Art League Studio where seven of us gathered to construct little folding candle screens.

On the practical side, these make wonderful adornments for a table or mantle, and they are perfect gifts.

On the creative side, the process allowed us to experiment with many different techniques. And we got to practice our measuring skills!

Here’s the list of elements that made the workshop great:

  1. Focus and limits – we focused on mixed media collage strips that were 4″x12″ to construct small folding three-dimensional screen for electronic votive lights
  2.  An engaging process with an end in mind – we worked toward the specific construction of an object while paying attention to the process of surface alteration
  3. Limited materials, unlimited possibilities – we began with two methods – one included altered magazine paper with metal leaf, and the other included torn paper images. Each method has hundreds of possibilities and combinations
  4. Generous participants – everyone was willing to share both ideas and materials. When something wasn’t working (e.g., the paper was too wet to cut) we helped each other solve the problem
  5. Reflection and practical anticipation – we celebrated when we saw our candles lighted. Each one was different. We talked about how the process could be improved, expanded, and altered, but agreed that what we had done was absolutely perfect!

When you look at the video, try to see how each of the participants found different solutions to the concept of constructing these folding collage cards. It was indeed a great workshop!

Lyn Belisle Workshop at the San Antonio Art League: Votive Candle Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the materials we used – very simple (I don’t believe in requiring expensive specialty craft products):

  • 9×12″ construction paper or other medium weight paper
  • Two 4×12″ pieces of decorative paper
  • 4 2.5” square pieces of translucent vellum or translucent rice paper
  • Two ½” bands of contrasting paper for side trim
  • Compass or large round hole punch
  • Craft glue or double-sided tape
  • Stamps, stickers, metallic pens – whatever “de-lights” your heart
  • Small twigs, reeds or sticks (optional)
  • A battery votive tea light
  • and – voila!!

Mary Ann Johnson’s work in progress

I’ll be scheduling more workshops soon, both at the Art League Studio and at my own studio! Stay tuned, and happy fall weather in San Antonio – at last.

 

 

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A great encaustic share

Working on an encaustic collage in my small studio space

You all know how much I enjoy teaching workshops with beeswax and collage, and some of you have my eBook about this, called Behind the Veil. One of the main points in my book is the fact that you don’t have to spend big bucks and have a giant studio to work with wax as an art medium.

I am happy to report that there are lots of other people who are using a simple setup for exploring this fun technique. One of the best I have come across recently is artist Laly Mille. She is incredibly generous in sharing her techniques, so rather than re-inventing the wheel, I want to pass along her information to you. Click on the image below –

Laly gives you a one-page overview with two excellent videos, including this one:

Honestly, you can almost smell the beeswax when you watch this! She also has a simple but complete list of materials as well as sources on finding them.

I am so grateful to artists like Laly who share their experiences and knowledge freely so that we can all create together. I’m headed back to the studio to heat up my griddle and do some beeswax layering – Laly has inspired me 🙂

 

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Thoughts on a studio anniversary.

A year ago – almost to the day – I said goodbye to my studio in Carousel Court. It was a hard goodbye. The space had been a gathering place for workshops, art shows, Show-and-Tell Saturdays, poetry readings – many things to remember and cherish. I truly miss that place, but it had become a huge responsibility, too big (and expensive) for one person to keep up forever.

Here’s a look at one of the early workshops there with beloved guest artist Sherrill Kahn. It was so much fun!

A month after I closed the doors forever, I found a smaller place just down the street from my new house. It has four rooms, lots of storage space, and reasonable rent.

Some of you have been there – thanks! Because of downsizing, and new responsibilities at the Art League, my workshop schedule had to be adjusted downward. Arg!

But ironically, on this anniversary weekend, I had two workshops at the new little studio, both of which were delightful (and neither of which was on my website calendar).

The first one on Friday the 13th was organized by six friends who wanted to learn some encaustic basics. They contacted me, and we scheduled it at their convenience.  We did a variation of the “Behind the Veil” vintage photocollage workshop. We worked with layered beeswax, oil paint, book foil, walnut ink – all the fun media that gets good results. Here’s a video of that “workshop-by-request” gathering:

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Encaustic Collage by request from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The second workshop on Sunday was my old favorite, Creating Spirit Dolls. I have a group of friends who went with me three years ago to Whidbey Island when I taught with Joanna Powell Colbert. They had been wanting to learn to make spirit dolls, and so we did it! Here’s that video – it’s so interesting to see how different everyone’s turned out.

Making Spirit Dolls at Lyn Belisle’s studio in San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I love teaching workshops! And as I look back on this year, I’m feeling the loss of those gatherings at the old studio. In the new place, we are limited to six people in a workshop, but that’s actually a good number. If you have a group of four to six people who’d like to learn mixed-media together, let’s talk. Workshop-by-request is a great concept.

I’m also going to expand online workshop offerings through some new ebooks with videos, starting with the popular “Postcards to Myself”. I got the nicest letter from an Etsy buyer yesterday, which gave me some encouragement:

“Dear Lyn,
Please continue making the e-books for people like me who live in another state and want to learn and experiment…am so excited…youre such an inspiration…thanks for sharing…and with your open heart all that you share and give will come back 10 fold to fill your heart and spirit as you have done for myself and others.”
  Jacque in Washington State.
Finally, I have high hopes for the studio space at the Art League on King William Street. With good luck and some anticipated financial support, that studio may become the kind of gathering place that the old Carousel Court studio was. We’re having a workshop there on the 29th, and there are still two spaces left. Join us and give us your ideas and feedback

Workshop at the Art League Studio on King William Street

Looking back, it’s been a crazy, exciting, challenging year and one that has confirmed how much I love teaching and learning with all of you, no matter when, where or what! I hope to see you soon. Thanks for your support and friendship 🙂

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”

― Socrates

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