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.

Reindeer really know how to fly . . .

Rare Reindeer Feather ornament

Of course, reindeer have feathers – how else could they fly? Occasionally, you will find a few of these feathers stuck in trees or in a corner by your back door after Christmas. Collect them, and save them in a lucky ornament for your tree.

OK, well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m always thinking up artistic projects to share with you (and any assorted kids). Here’s one that just (*eureka*) came to me when I saw some clear plastic ornament with removable tops that were on sale yesterday at Michaels. Get a few of these:

Top is removable, globe is unbreakable

The only other thing you will need is a feather duster (with reindeer feathers, of course – ahem), and a pair of small, sharp scissors. Dusters are available at most home stores.

Carefully take the top off the ornament. With small scissors, snip a 2-3″ feather tip.

Insert it into the top of the ornament. The natural curve of the feather will help it conform to the side of the ornament.

Keep adding feathers, turning the ornament so all sides have a bit of feather showing. You can use a toothpick to help poke them down if you need to.

Don’t overfill – there should be some clear airy space between the feathers.

This is such a pretty object – you don’t have to make these just for a Christmas tree. They would look lovely hanging in a window all year around.

During the holiday season, however,  they prove that “reindeer really know how to fly.” Right? <wink>

 

 

 

November? Vanished!

Eek! How the heck did it get to be December? I don’t think I posted one thing to SHARDS in November. Sure, there is always a lot going on at the San Antonio Art League where I work these days, and we did take a quick trip to Charleston, where I got to research South Carolina Indigo plantations, but still . . . shame on me for slacking.

The problem is that I always want to wait to post until something is finished, or new, or spectacular, but most of us just don’t produce like that. We squeeze in time for our art when we can, and most of it is simply ongoing work in progress, either for an event or for our own exploration.

Work in progress – this one has been around a couple of months!

Have you ever read Jude Hill’s blog, Sprint Cloth? She posts almost every day, even if it’s just a photo of a small patch of fabric she’s working on, or a picture of her cat. She doesn’t wait till something is finished – she posts her daily practice. Kinda brave, since who knows how things will turn out. I’ve had plenty of good ideas crash and burn while trying to create them.

Jude Hill – Spirit Cloth

So, just to check back in with you, with nothing finished or spectacular, here’s what I’m working on right now even though it’s still in baby steps. It’s a project for an exhibit at St. Mary’s University coming in February, “Naturally Inspired: Works by Sabra Booth, Lyn Belisle, Jesus Toro Martinez, and Tim McMeans.” The other three artists are amazing – I’m grateful to be in their company.

Curator Brian St. John has tasked me with making 3D work for the exhibit, and I am building three or four free-standing screens with twig supports and panels of 300# watercolor paper. Some of the images will be photos of my clay work, enhanced with natural beeswax and walnut ink.

Initial planning layout – 24″ x 50″

Single panel prototype

Double panel

The panels are coming along well – just gotta figure out how they are going to go together, and whether to use two or four panels in each screen. I like the idea that they can be configured in different ways with different sides showing. And the engineering is challenging, but fun. Hopefully, I’ll have a final product to who you soon.

I did finish this piece (below) recently and may use the idea of a free-standing clay structure with branches similar to this one in the St, Mary’s show – we will see.

“Grace and Deliverance” Clay, Wax, Silk

One of the reasons I miss teaching workshops so much is that in a three-hour block of time, projects were finished, and results were ready to show-and-tell. But with my volunteer day job at the Art League, it’s just not possible right now. Sigh.

Coincidentally, Laura George, a business consultant for artists, just posted an article called “Productivity hacks for artists with day jobs.” Here’s the link – definitely worth a read.

I hope all is well with all of you, and that you are happy and busy. Thanks for reading SHARDS. Let me know what you’re working on!

 

Ancient indigo, heroic weeds, and instant rust

But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last. ~Robert M. Pyle

“Indigo Weeds: Elegant”
6×6″
Lyn Belisle 2018

Weeds are my heroes. They are tenacious, enduring, simple, and elegant. “Indigo Weeds” is my new series of small works celebrating these wild, determined plants that are the ultimate survivors.

Here is the series of four finished pieces:

Process: I made enhanced photographs of weeds, then phototransferred them onto sections of torn canvas dropcloth from my studio.They were designed to be stitched into place on a cloth-covered stretched canvas.

It seemed appropriate to build these little fiber works on canvases covered with fabric that was hand-dyed with indigo (a plant related to beans) and then rusted with common metal objects. I liked the nature-inspired symbolism.

Hand-dyed indigo cloth for the covering was no problem – I had plenty left from teaching previous workshops on dyeing with indigo. Remember this one?

But rusting the cloth afterwards can be tedious. It has to be done after the indigo dyeing so it won’t corrupt the indigo vat. I first tried my usual method – wrapping rusted objects in the vinegar-soaked indigo cloth after sprinkling a layer of salt on everything, then leaving it overnight sealed in a plastic bag. Time-consuming . . . .

As always, the results are unpredictable, but that’s part of the appeal of the process.

However, I had a real AHA! moment in the middle of all this – wouldn’t terra cotta walnut ink mimic the rust effect? And it might be an even more appropriate material to use because it is plant-based!

Here are photos of the walnut ink being sprayed onto the indigo cloth – I used rust objects and found objects to create patterns.

TIP: If you scrunch up the walnut-ink-sprayed fabric while it is still damp, it will soften the pattern edges and give a more natural result.

Side by side, fabric rusted with oxidized iron objects (left) and fabric “rusted” with plant-based walnut ink (right):

The walnut ink finish is not a washable process for garments and will fade (as will “real” rust) but I love it because it is fast, engaging, slightly more controllable, and – plant-based!

For my purpose – celebrating the tenacious, adaptable, unbeatable weeds of the world  – it’s perfect!

The Indigo Weeds series will be available at the Pop-Up Gallery at SAY Si during the 44th Juried Fiber Arts Exhibit at Say Si Art Gallery, located at 1518 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78204. Art will hang December 7, 2018 to January 25, 2019.

Oh, and guess who got into the show?? Yep, Boro Horse! You can see him, too, when you come to the FASA exhibit! 

Happy trails!

Lyn Belisle
“Boro Horse” 2018

 

 

 

 

20-minute tune-up kit for busy artists

Have you ever felt guilty about not doing any art for a while? Do you buy cool art materials and never seen to have time to actually open and use them? Do you get all sorts of ideas from Pinterest, then think about all the stuff it would take, so you just forget it?

Auntie Lyn has a solution!  Put together a little creativity tune-up kit with simple materials and pre-cut 5×7″ substrates for mixed-media collages to kick-start your ideas and quell the non-productive guilt – you’ll have some finished artwork in 20 minutes.

There’s something magic about a 5×7″ blank surface – not too big to be intimidating, not too small to be insignificant. And you can do so much with work this size (see the journal cover video, below). Plus, you can put together a pretty cool collage in about 20 minutes, including getting out the stuff out and putting it back.

Here’s what’s in your 20- Minute Tune-up kit (and it fits in one box):

IMPORTANT – SET A TIMER FOR 20 MINUTES

You don’t have to limit yourself to 20 minutes (or force yourself to work for 20 minutes if you want to stop before that), but you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you set  a 20-minute deadline and go for it.

My process:

I keep a stack of 5×7″ archival mat board handy for my own personal kick-start “meditations.”  I grab one, find a central image from a magazine that I like, tear or cut it out, see what it tells me to add, then just build quickly and intuitively using glue stick to adhere.

I sometimes add white paint to veil and coalesce the images, and sometimes add matte medium to seal the surface. I scribble with graphite, make lines with Sharpie, and often add a bit of color with the water-soluble oil pastels. DING!! (that’s the timer going off).

Example of 20-minute 5×7″ collage

So now I’ll share a personal story about how I know this works. When I started teaching in the Computer Science Department at Trinity University fifteen years ago, it was an impossibly steep learning curve for me and I had no time for anything, much less art. After three or four years, I started making “therapeutic” 5×7″ collages in a very limited time just to save my sanity.

These morphed into journal covers, which morphed into my first Etsy shop. I sold over 200 hand-made journals in that shop, some with rather weird custom requests! Making those small collages turned things around for me as an artist and gave me a much-needed tune-up and kick start.

Here is a video of 200 of those 5×7″ covers from that first Etsy shop. From that small-format beginning, I learned about composition, about marketing, and about how much you can get done in 20-minute segments, even if you have a challenging life. Click on the image below to see the video.

Now gather your 20-Minute Tune Up kit together and get busy – a cold front is coming and you can certainly find 20 minutes to hunker down and create!

Thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

 

Nine Antlers

“Nine Antlers” (detail)
Lyn Belisle 2018
Clay, plaster, gauze, fiber, found objects
14×28″

This mixed media work on canvas, titled “Nine Antlers” is my second entry for the Fiber Artists juried show. It has a compelling back story…….

In 1988, a team of archaeologists from the University of Texas in San Antonio excavated a burial site less than half a mile from where I live now. This is from the abstract of the study:

“The burials, identified as a Late Archaic component, were associated with two radiocarbon dates of 1920 B.P. and 2200 B.P. The burial practices of this time period as documented at this site include flexed burials of adults and children interred with a variety of grave offerings, including deer antlers, deer skull fragments, marine and freshwater shell ornaments, worked bone, ocher, a ground stone slab, and unaltered cobbles.”

One of the bodies was a young woman – here is her description:

It’s impossible not to wonder what kind of life this young woman had in prehistoric Texas, just north of the Olmos Dam. I wanted to honor her by putting together clay shards with pieces of fiber and found objects that represented both her burial and her discovery. I named her “Nine Antlers” because of this description:

“Nine antler racks (18 bases and associated deer skull fragments) were covering Burial 10. All are identified as from white-tailed deer. These were carefully placed atop one another with the base or cap of the skull placed towards or near the chest area.”

Someone must have loved her a great deal to adorn her body with these ritually placed antlers.

I stared by looking through my clay components for a good match – not too pretty or defined. And actual antlers would be out-of-scale, so I did not choose them.

These terra cotta pieces, below, almost worked, but they were not “deconstructed” enough to fit the concept.

I settled on white clay for the head and body and added bone-white branches. I wrapped them together with plaster and gauze, rather like a bindings of a mummy.

This is the first stage, below, with wire, wax and walnut ink added to the mix.

I covered a stretched canvas with linen drop-cloth strips, laid the figure on it, then partially covered the side with the fabric.

I kept adding linen strips and gauze, wire and plaster, wanting to both conceal and reveal the figure. The mixture of clay and sticks and fiber worked well.

Here is the finished piece:

“Nine Antlers” Lyn Belisle 2018 Clay, plaster, gauze, fiber, found objects 14×28″

“Nine Antlers” may be finished, but I want to continue working with this scientific narrative and perhaps do a series honoring the thirteen people who were buried and discovered here so close to my home. The materials I love – clay, fiber, bone, wax and pigment – lend themselves to this exploration.

I invite you to read this archaeological study, especially the details about adornments, traces of ochre pigments, and all of the other small gestures that connect us as humans across time. You can read the entire 1988 report about Nine Antlers and her people here.

 

Boro-Horse – meant to be!

Boro Horse
Lyn Belisle 2018
24″ high with stand
Mixed media fiber, clay and paper

This magical horse insisted on being created while I was in the middle of getting another piece ready for the Fiber Artists juried show. I had some scraps of indigo linen on the table when I spied a beat-up papier-mache horse figure that had come from my old studio and was much the worse for wear, with one leg broken.

On impulse, I wrapped the strip of indigo linen around his broken leghe liked it! So I kept going, patching in the tradition of the Boro textiles of old Japan.

Example of patched indigo Boro cloth

Boro textiles are usually sewn from nineteenth and early twentieth century rags and patches of indigo dyed cotton.  The diversity of patches on any given piece is a veritable encyclopedia of hand loomed cotton indigo from historic Japan.

Once he was covered with indigo scraps, Boro-style, I began adding strips of sari ribbon. I sewed a saddle-blanket for him and added sticks and beads and fund objects.

Detail of saddle blanket on Boro-Hourse

This weekend, I decided that Boro-Horse needed a stand to elevate him to his proper status as a very cool animal.

I used more scraps from old indigo and rust projects to cover his platform, the sealed it all with acrylic matte medium.

Boro-Horse will have little Velcro dots on the bottom of his hooves and matching ones on the stand so he will be able to be secured but still be removable. With his stand, he’s about 24″ high.

He’ll be one of my entries in the San Antonio Fiber Arts Juried Show. I encourage all of you to enter as well. If you work in fiber of any kind (including paper, which is a fiber), you are eligible to enter your artwork in the upcoming 44th Annual Juried Fiber Art Exhibit!!

When and Where: Say Si Art Gallery, located at 1518 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78204. Art will hang December 7, 2018 to January 25, 2019.

You might just see Boro-Horse there!!

 

 

Wax and Words, Paper and Clay, Danielle and the Magic Bus

The Wax & Words Workshop interactive video eBook is live and available on my website! Since I’ve talked about it so much, that’s all ya need to know! Thanks to those of you who have reviewed and purchased it 🙂

Click on the image above to find out more – and thanks to Dani for her review:

“Hi Lyn, I really enjoyed your Artful Gathering workshops this summer and ordered the DVDs. I’m looking forward the Wax and Words workshop ebook next. Thank you for making these workshops available to those of us unable to attend your classes in San Antonio.”

And now, ONWARD! About paper clay — Leslie Newton (of the San Antonio Potters Guild) and I are teaching a workshop this Saturday at the San Antonio Art League on paper-infused clay. This is a new clay product for me. It’s not the same stuff as Creative Paper Clay. This is porcelain or earthenware clay body combined with paper fibers, and needs to be kiln-fired. Leslie mixes her own and fires it to about 2200F.

Graham Hay is one of the foremost potters currently working with paper clay

I used Leslie’s clay mixture to make some small ornamental examples for our workshop. I fired mine to 1900F and got some nice porcelain-like results.

Ornament assortment made by moi with paper-infused clay (and finished with walnut ink, of course)

Apparently, there are a lot of different formulas for paper-infused clay. Last week I went to Roadrunner Ceramics and bought a 25-pound bag of their “bone paper clay.” It’s weird stuff, more fiber-y than Leslie’s mix. It’s quite squishy and pulls apart in ragged layers.

Here are some pictures of the good and bad things I found out as I worked with the clay – because it has paper fibers, it can get stinky black mold in the clay body (which you can spray with Clorox to kill). However, because of those fibers, you can work with very thin slabs of clay!

And here’s my first experimental piece with that paper clay formula from Roadrunner:

Experimental piece made with bone paper clay

Some of the edges look as delicate as paper, but they are sharp because they’re fired clay! I believe the fiber burns away in the kiln leaving just the clay-coated texture.

In a SHARDS post last year called “Lotus and Clay”, I mention that Leslie and I love Roadrunner Ceramics as our go-to clay store now that Clay World has closed.

Even if you’re not a potter or ceramicist, they are super nice to their customers and encourage questions from everybody.

OK, I’ve saved the best for last. When I was looking around for materials about using paper-infused clay, I came across potter Danielle Bluestone of Magic Bus Studio – you gotta watch this – she is my new hero.

There is no way to follow Danielle’s act, so I’ll just say, “Bye for now.”

The hermit returns with an eBook

I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I posted on this blog – that may be the longest dry spell ever. But I have an excuse, honest. I’ve been finishing up work on the Wax & Words eBook, and it’s done!!

It’s not quite ready to put up on my website shop page (I want a couple of people to look at it for me as reviewers) but it will be available by Sept 1st.

I’m so proud of this new eBook! It’s 70 pages of pictures, inspiration, and examples along with nine videos that add up to over an hour of close-up instruction. It will cost a mere $18 (same as my Talisman eBook) and it’s in an interactive PDF format, which anyone, Mac or PC person, can download. You can read it, watch the videos, take whatever time you need, and print out whatever you like. Here’s the Table of Contents:

It’s weird – when you do a project like this, you can’t do the Introduction until the whole thing is finished because you gotta have examples to show in the introduction. Anyway, here’s that introduction, just as a sample. Sneak preview? Whatever! The videos will be password protected once the book comes out, but for now, this one is available.

Introduction and Welcome to Wax & Words from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a photo of just a few of the dozens of collage papers I had fun making for the Wax & Words eBook.

And here is a photo of some of the projects that are FINALLY finished!

I’ll send out a post in the next few days when the book is available on my website. Yay!!! Thanks for reading, thanks for following, thanks for creating!!

Metaphor and Nostalgia at the Carver

Congratulations to Michelle Belto and her seven fellow artists for a visually diverse, culturally rich exhibit called Exchange Project now showing at the Carver Community Cultural Center until September 14th. I strongly urge you to make time to see it.

The premise is fun – what was your childhood San Antonio telephone exchange name? Taylor? Pershing? You could tell where your friends lived by their phone number prefix. Exchanges defined both the geographic and demographic qualities of those San Antonio neighborhood.

Each artist in the exhibit expresses an authentic sense of childhood and local  neighborhood, and each one is different in both media and metaphor.

Some of my favorites:

Bernice Appelin-Williams addresses directly the advertising of the 50’s which often used African-American stereotypes in soap ads, wanting to “wash themselves white.” One of her most compelling pieces is titled “Seeds.” In her statement, she says, “Seeds are a sacred metaphor for life and renewal, it is the gift of life for those seeking/wanting; plant the seed of distrust, of sub-human, and one is denied the kind of life that is full of energy, full of hope.”

Laura Mijangos provides a visual contrast with her paintings, which are mysterious and misty, much like childhood memories. Again, the metaphor – an infinity sign floating like a jump-rope above the paint-veiled child.

Viewers could spend forever exploring Diane Mazur’s large mixed-media collage which is filled with symbols and memories of her childhood house at 400 Mandalay Drive. I loved its complexity and composition, its constructed levels.

And it’s no secret how much I love Michelle Belto’s work. She chose to construct a “neighborhood” of three-dimensional houses with wax and mixed media, each with its own clues about the inhabitants. Michelle is a marvelous artist and creative craftsman.

Other artists have equally compelling work in The Exchange Project – RitaMarie Contreras, Thelma Muraida, Patricia Ortiz, Sandy Whitby. This exhibition is delightful, thoughtful, and diverse.

Please go see it, especially if you grew up in a San Antonio in the 50’s and 60’s – but the work truly speaks to everyone on every level. There’s plenty of parking around the Carver, and it’s easy to get to.

EXCHANGE PROJECT

Now through Sept 14th

Carver Community Cultural Center
MAP Directions
226 N Hackberry
San Antonio, TX 78202. San Antonio

(210) 207-7211.