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.

A weekend with the art and the Juror

Friday and Saturday were super-busy days at the San Antonio Art League – there were a total of 351 entries submitted for the 88th Annual Artists Exhibition. From those, 65 will be accepted and 24 awards will be given.

My pal Michelle Belto fills out her paperwork at the Art League for her submissions

It was a huge workload for Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe, who spent Sunday (yesterday) making his decisions. Three members of the exhibition committee were there to help (and so was I, a presidential perk!), but the process was closed to everyone else.

Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe evaluates the artwork

I got to be a fly on the wall as I watched and listened to Michael. He was amazing – fair and meticulous in his selections. I talked to him at our lunch break and found out that he has been involved in art since he was 16 – starting out as an intern at a museum in Dearborn, MI, and pursuing a career as a gallery manager, a museum curator and director, and a successful art appraiser. Wow.

He made at least five rounds of selection, narrowing by about a third each time. Every piece received close scrutiny and constructive comments. He did take a break to take a walk around the King William neighborhood, but worked steadily through the day.

Once the final selections were made, he was left by himself to award the monetary prizes. And nobody knows who got those – not me, not the committee chair – just Michael! And he ain’t tellin’ 🙂

Last night, Bill and I hosted an informal dinner for Michael and the committee and Art League board. Michael explained his criteria for selection. Basically, he looks for an original idea that is carried out with confidence – concept and skill were the keywords.

Michael Ettema is not the kind of juror who picks landscapes or portraits or abstracts or any other specific genre. He based his selections on what he observes regarding the artist’s purpose and how successfully that was conveyed.

Acceptance notices are going out today. Awards will not be revealed until the opening on April 15th. I will say this – if you were one of the selected artist, congratulations. It was a very competitive field. If you were not selected, know that your piece was expertly and respectfully considered by a truly knowledgeable juror and a nice guy, to boot!

Special thanks to all the artists who submitted. Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.”It’s a risk to put your work out there for a juror. And special thanks to Francis Huang, committee chair (and wonderful artist himself) who found Michael Ettema for us. We know Michael has good taste, because he fell in love with San Antonio! I hope he’ll be back soon.

The amazing Shannon Weber: an authentic life in art

Shannon Weber

When I met Shannon Weber in Santa Fe last fall, I gushed shamelessly,proclaiming that I was her biggest fan and that images of her work had been on my computer desktop for a decade. I said that her three-dimensional assemblages resonated so deeply within my artistic soul that it was almost scary. Poor Shannon, she probably thought I was slightly nuts.

After spending five days with her, I am even more in awe of her work and her process. Shannon was invited by the Fiber Artists of San Antonio to come to San Antonio for a workshop and a presentation. And she stayed with me for the five-day visit! We had a really good time taking about art and creativity. Here’s a wonderful quote about her relationship with her materials:

“Intellectually, humans own this genetic history, “we are makers”, and are known to use what we have.  My choice in materials would be Pacific sea kelps, and coastal debris of which I have a long lasting affair and bring their own mythologies of place. The benefits of working with raw organic materials, is that they provide a rich dialog to every design.”

Shannon Weber

For our two-day workshop, Shannon shipped three huge boxes of found materials and dried sea kelp to San Antonio for us to experience in our pieces. She is a tireless teacher, and we all worked without downtime for two days.

I was so frustrated at first because I could not random-weave a long piece of reed into a structure that would hold together. Shannon patiently went over the process again and again until I finally got it.

This was one of my structures – actually, both of the main ones I completed looked remarkably like teapots!

Please watch the workshop video, below – it is an amazing thing to see the variety of structures that emerged from essentially the same materials over a two-day period. Shannon encouraged us to go our own way.

SHANNON WEBER Workshop for the Fiber Artists of San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Shannon lives in an isolated region near the coast of Oregon without television or technology. She and her husband ran a fishing lodge for many years when she was first beginning to make things for found materials. Her stories are priceless. She is astonishingly down-to-earth for an artist whose works are found in museums and galleries from California to New York and beyond.

The last afternoon that she stayed with me, she went for a walk in the woods near my house and came back with a gift – three beautifully arranged found objects – twine and rusty bits, just what I love – I now have my very own Shannon Weber work!

Found object altar – Shannon Weber

Shannon says, “It’s all the in magic and mystery of talking to rocks, rusty bits, and piles of gathered sticks that keeps me inspired.” And the magic and mystery in her work keeps us ALL inspired.

My rusty weathered heart I give to you

You know how one thing leads to another – I was sanding a cedar block this morning when I remembered a technique I developed for a faux rust finish a couple of years ago.

Sanding this block gave me an idea . . . .

Aha! I though. That is perfect for Valentine’s day gift for SHARDS readers!!

Here’s a great quote to go with it, from poet John Mark Green. “Beneath the rust and grime which dulls the shine of our weathered hearts, joy patiently waits to be rediscovered” You can write that on the tag you attach to the heart.

So here are the materials and steps – you should have most of this stuff, especially if you tried the faux turquoise finish I posted several weeks ago.

What you will need:

  • A scrap of coarse-grit sandpaper – used is fine
  • A scrap of 300# watercolor paper or card stock
  • Acrylic paint – Quinacridone gold, Aqua Green
  • Tsukineko Walnut Ink – Java
  • Twig
  • Ribbon scrap
  • Heavy-duty hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Tag (optional)

Steps:

Get some coarse-grit sandpaper and some scissors

Fold the sandpaper in half, and draw half a heart on the fold – this one was about four inches wide

Unfold the sandpaper heart

With a glue stick, adhere the sandpaper heart to a piece of watercolor paper to reinforce it

Cut out around the reinforced sandpaper heart

Paint a coat of Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the surface of the heart

Spray randomly and lightly with Java walnut ink

With your fingertip, brush on a teensy accent of aqua green acrylic for a dash of patina

With a heavy-duty hole punch, make two small holes on the edges of the heart

Poke a twig through the holes, letting it stick out on either side

Add some ribbon (you could also use wire) and a note tag if you like

Optional – hang it on the nearest bird beak

Honestly, this is such a fun little diversion – and you can make several of these in less that an hour. Get a small tree limb and stick it in a flower pot and hang these guys from the branches. How totally Martha Stewart!

Sometimes we just need an artsy-craftsy break from our serious artwork, plus this is a technique that you might find useful in your mixed-media work. Happy early Valentine’s day, my weathered, rusty-hearted friends!

New critters on the block . .

Oh, boy – the First Friday Art Walk in Marble Falls is this week (February 2nd, 5-8 pm), and as part of it Marta Stafford’s gallery is having a bee-youtiful celebration featuring jazz, honey wine, valentine-inspired jewelry, and my beeswax photocollages and B Beautiful dishes.

I wanted to do something extra and different for this show, something that uses beeswax in a new way for me, and I came up with these five fun wall sculptures using earthenware, gauze, sticks, wire and beeswax and Secret Sauce (aka walnut ink).

Here’s the first one, called “Sacred Sentry”.

I’m calling this series “Earthen Wax & Wings,” and I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more of these. This one’s called “Cloudhopper” – a very happy creature.

Each piece has a tag with its name – and each one has a story that you can read in the faces if you use your imagination. Here’s “Icebound Angel” – so what’s HER story? You might not want to mess with her.

And here’s the “Messenger” – kind of androgynous? I guess they all are. Wings are non-gender specific!

Finally, here’s my fave – “Peacemaker.” Simple and serene – I may keep this one.

It’s funny how things work – I made the little earthenware “blanket” faces weeks ago  without knowing exactly what I was going to do with them. Then I got an idea from Linda Rael that turned out to be the perfect extension for the earthenware.

And when Marta announced her “bee and honey” theme, I tried beeswax and walnut ink on the exterior and it all works together beautifully. Trust the process!

PS – the cataract surgery went very very well! Thanks for the good wishes – I practically have X-ray vision now!

 

 

Artists and vision – the “eye” kind

Do my eyes look a little fearful? Today I’m going under the knife – well, under the laser, for cataract surgery and a lens implant. Actually, if you’ve had this done, it’s not a huge deal and the results are amazing. This will be my second time – the right eye, which I had done a couple of years ago, turned out great.

My friends Carol and and Pat sneaked a very cool good luck surprise into my mailbox this morning – it’s an “eye” milagro card from Nepal.

Here’s the back – you all probably know about milagros, but it was interesting to see it on a card from Nepal.

I will take my milagro card with me to the surgery center!

Thanks to another friend, Joyce, I read a fascinating article about the impact of cataracts and visual degeneration in general on the works of Monet and Degas, Ophthalmology and Art: Simulation of Monet’s Cataracts and Degas’ Retinal Disease.

Claude Monet

Monet was more affected than Degas because he painted variations of light, and his cataracts drastically altered his perception. Degas vision was blurry, but “the striking finding is that Degas’ blurred vision smoothed out much of the graphic coarseness of his shading and outlines. One might even say that the works appear ‘better’ through his abnormal vision than through our normal vision.”

Degas’ last painting, with his vision almost gone

Monet wasn’t as lucky. After 1915, his paintings became much more abstract, with an even more pronounced color shift from blue-green to red-yellow. He complained of perceiving reds as muddy, dull pinks, and other objects as yellow. These changes are consistent with the visual effects of cataracts. Nuclear cataracts absorb light, desaturate colors, and make the world appear more yellow.

One of Monet’s last paintings

It seems that Monet was not a good cataract patient  – Mary Cassat had warned him about the procedure after she had it, but he was desperate and gave it a try at age 82. . Immediately after the surgery he did not want to rest his eyes, that doing so interfered with his work. Depressed, he tried to rip off the bandages.Yikes! You can read the whole story here.

Finally, when you have this surgery, you see all kinds of weird shapes during the process. Check out this painting that a 62-year-old man did to express what he saw during the surgery. Trippy!

Anyway, I’ll report back – maybe I can paint like Degas after this? Nah, but I might see colors differently!

Two delightful workshops by requests

I got to teach not one, but TWO workshops-by-request this week! The little studio was a busy place.

The first workshop was on Sunday, and it was a family affair. My friend Marilyn had gifted her son and daughter and their spouses with an encaustic collage workshop. They all brought photos that were near and dear to their hearts to incorporate into their compositions.

We did a practice collage first in which we discussed basic composition and safe beeswax techniques. In their second collage, the made personal statements with their artwork. My favorite was a photo of their Grandmother Winnie standing in the snow in her bathing suit! (If you can’t see the images below, click here)

 

I loved working with this family. The men seemed especially adept at expressing their feelings through their art. Marilyn’s husband created a beautiful collage of his mother and her sister. We all got a bit teary as he talked about them during our critique time.

Thursday’s workshop was quite different. Another talented friend arranged it for her writing group. We made talismans with paper blessing beads – the secret notes the writers wrote on the inside of their beads must have been glorious! But the words were rolled, waxed, and gilded, never to be revealed!

Making these beads is everyone’s favorite part. It’s meditative and relaxing, surprisingly easy, and unexpectedly beautiful.

Here’s the video (If you can’t see it below, click here):

Wax and Clay Talisman Workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I’m going to make a list of available workshops-by-request on my website, and if you want to get a group of four to six together, I think you’ll enjoy it.  Special thanks to Marilyn and Pamela for arranging for these enjoyable and creative afternoon workshops!

 

Studio visit: Linda Rael

If I had to name an artist friend whose artistic sensibilities most closely match mine, it would be Linda Rael. In fact, this is what I wrote in this blog in 2016:

I know of no other artist whose works resonate in my heart as much as those of dear friend Linda Rael. Everything she creates makes me think, “Dang, I wish I had done that.” She incorporates animal bones and porcupine quills and rust and earth and tattered linen and other stuff that myths and magic are made of. I purely love her art!

She Cat by Linda Rael – owned and cherished by Lyn Belisle

Yesterday, I finally got to visit her “new” studio near Boerne in the Texas Hill Country. Some of us from the Fiber Arts group toured her studio, and it’s a wonder any of us ever left – what a great place!

Take a look at the video, hot off the camera:

Linda creates figurative pieces. Soft sculpture and clay are the basic ingredients. They are highly embellished with embroidery, beads and found objects, including natural elements found on walks in the woods.I learned a new technique from her involving wax and fiber yesterday – it’s exciting! Seems like I’m always learning something from Linda.

She’s been published in all the best places:

  • Belle Armoire
    Somerset Studio
    Art Doll Quarterly
    Cloth, Paper, Scissors
    Quilting Arts
    Haute Handbags magazine

A lot of SHARDS readers know and love Linda as well. She creates quietly, constantly, and with cause, always with a nod to her native New Mexico. This quote by Milton Avery always reminds me of Linda: “Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms.” 

I took pictures of her inspiration boards while we were there – maybe some of it will rub off on me.

 Visiting other artists’ studios is such a great way to get an insight into their work and mindset. Linda Rael‘s studio is a remarkable place. Thanks, Linda, for your generosity and your spirit!

Linda Rael

“Although the relationship between humans and our environment is a serious subject, I attempt to approach it with humor and whimsy through my figurative work.”    ~~~~~~Linda Rael

Little spirits everywhere – and a little freebie, too

Spirit Doll by Zippy Smith

This spirit doll, above, was a present from my friend Zippy. The doll’s head is made from a burr acorn. She’s winking at me. I keep her on my desk to remind me to lighten up when I start taking myself too seriously!

Which leads me to the joy of Spirit Dolls in general, and how other artists use the spirit doll faces I make for my Etsy shop. I love getting photos of their work, and just received some new ones from Gainesville, Florida artist Regina Roper. Look at her fantastic creations!

Regina Roper

Regina Roper

Regina Roper

I asked Regina if she’d share her thoughts with us on SHARDS. She writes,

“I make 3D bead sculptures, vessels that I make the fabric for myself from loose fiber, boxes, just about anything that strikes me. My work is based in themes of goddess, myth, and legend.

The first photo is a piece called ‘Come the Spring, I am Reborn’. This is a small faery doll set into an alabaster base, she is reborn every Spring as the Crone turning to the Maiden and gets younger and more beautiful as the seasons turn until again in winter she must spin a cocoon and hibernate until Spring.

Her sister doll is called ‘The Bright Arc of an Afternoon’ and is a small faery with a goddess arc. The free sitting cloth doll is called ‘Caipora’. She is the Brazilian goddess of the wilds. She is a protecting force, she looks over the animals of the rainforest. In this version, she sits in the branch of a tree and guards a nest containing a single amethyst egg that represents the egg of an endangered Hyacinth macaw.”

These are so evocative of the changing seasons and are filled with personal meaning. Wow. Thanks, Regina!

Mt dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, has made a book about spirit dolls that she invites everyone to share. She is incredibly generous. I’ve posted the link before, but here it is again if the spirit starts to move you! How to Make a Spirit Doll.

And if you really want to get deeply into this fascinating craft, my DVD on the subject is not a bad investment! The Magic of Spirit Dolls is available from Artful Gathering.

If you’ve read this far, here is a little freebie for you – a digital collage I made this morning while I was playing with Photoshop. I think I was inspired by Laura Robert’s work at the Art League yesterday!

Click on the image to go to the download link. You can download this, play with it, put it on the front of a card – whatever! I’ll be making more of these to share in the near future. I hope it lifts your spirits!

 

Art, alignment and your New Year’s Resolution explained – maybe

I was working in the studio yesterday on a striped background for a painting workshop, and when it was finished, I assumed it was going to be a horizontal composition. Then I wondered. . . why had I assumed that? Why was horizontal my default?

So I asked my Facebook friends what they thought. I wanted to see how weird was I compared to them. I posted the painting in three separate pics (combined, below) and asked if they like it better horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. (Remember, this isn’t a finished painting, just a striped canvas, so content isn’t really an issue).

When the FB comments started, they were all over the wall, so to speak. Some people gave reasons, others just stated a preference. Some changed their minds, some had some cool out-of-the-box replies.

I decided that different kinds of people like different linear arrangements – well, duh. But why? Here’s an article from Vanseo Designs that explains part of the reason:

The Meaning of Lines: Developing A Visual Grammar

 Horizontal lines are parallel to the horizon (hence the name). They look like they’re lying down, at rest, asleep. They suggest calm and quiet, a relaxed comfort.

Horizontal lines can’t fall over. They accentuate width. They’re stable and secure. The convey an absence of conflict, a restful peace. Horizontal lines by their connection to the horizon are associated with earth bound things and idea.

Vertical lines are perpendicular to the horizon. They are filled with potential energy that could be released if they were to fall over. Vertical lines are strong and rigid. They can suggest stability, especially when thicker. Vertical lines accentuate height and convey a lack of movement, which is usually seen as horizontal.

They stretch from the earth to the heavens and are often connected with religious feelings. Their tallness and formality may give the impression of dignity.

Diagonal lines are unbalanced. They are filled with restless and uncontrolled energy. They can appear to be either rising or falling and convey action and motion. Their kinetic energy and apparent movement create tension and excitement. Diagonal lines are more dramatic than either horizontal or vertical lines.

Diagonal lines can also appear solid and unmoving if they are holding something up or at rest against a vertical line or plane.

MY CONCLUSION, and how to decide on your New Year’s resolution:

After you have chosen your preference and know whether you are a Horizontal, Vertical, or Diagonal person, you can write a really cool New Year’s resolution. To wit:

  • Horizontal people should resolve to get out of their comfort zones. Take a chance. Eat a squid taco. Experiment with fluorescent paint on a burlap canvas. Paint it with your toes.
  • Vertical people should resolve to lighten up. Loose the formality. Eat a Cheesy Jane’s beanburger and don’t use a napkin. Toss the oil paint realism and go for a Jackson Polluck style with enamels. Get high on the fumes.
  • Diagonal people (oh, how I wish I were one) should resolve to channel their crazy energy. Eat tofu, drink green tea. Paint with only shades of gray on white paper. Yeah, that’ll last about ten seconds.

See what one little question on Facebook can lead to? OK, now that I’ve helped you with your self-analysis and your resolutions, I’m headed out for a squid taco. Ewwww.

Happy New Year! And thanks for reading SHARDS, no matter how weird it gets.

Bee beautiful – construction problem solved

These little “Bee dishes” that I make for Marta Stafford’s gallery have proven to be popular – yay!

I donate a dollar from each sale to the Rodale Institute’s  Honeybee Conservancy. Besides the fact that bees are vital to the environment in so many ways, they also give us sweet-smelling beeswax, which is vital to encaustic artists!

These bee dishes are made from irregular small slabs of clay, stamped and patterned, and then draped over something” so they will dry in a slightly concave shape. I had never been able to find a suitable round object to drape them over.

I tried half of a plastic Easter egg, wads of tinfoil, cotton balls – nothing really worked.

The “something” had to be round on top, flat on the bottom, and relative smooth so the design would not be messed up when it was laid over the mold.

It also had to be heat-proof so that I could dry them in the oven and sand the bottoms before they went into the kiln.

Slab form in progress

I finally had an “Aha!” moment about the forms for draping the clay – I am a potter, after all, so could make the “something” myself!

Bee drape molds made of white clay

I rolled some white clay into balls, and formed two dozen small pinch pots to function as little individual drape molds. I fired them, and just tried them out yesterday. Voila! Perfect!

White clay formed into small pinch pots to be used as drape molds

a Bee dish draped over the white clay form

So the white clay mold worked great – it kept the dish from flattening out, and heated it from the inside while it was drying in the oven before sanding.

Bee dish with bottom sanded to flatten it slightly

When I unloaded the kiln, all the little dishes were nicely concave and were ready to be finished with walnut ink and metallic wax – the small hand-formed clay drape molds worked!

Bee dishes fresh from the kiln without their walnut ink enhancement

Bee dish as a ring holder

A lot of making art is about engineering and problem-solving, whether you’re painting or doing assemblage, fiber art or photography. Construction and composition are vitally important, and figuring it out is fun.

Here is the new crop of Bee dishes – Marta sells them for $12 and part of the money goes to a very bee-you-tiful cause.  Hooray for artistic problem-solving!