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.

Enacustic! Wax and creativity in Santa Fe . . . .

We just got back from a long weekend in Santa Fe, and one of my must-visit places is the Museum of Encaustic Art on Agua Fria Street near the Railyard Arts District. The museum and gallery was founded by Douglas Mehrens in 2005 and is a great place to learn more about the ancient/contemporary medium of wax as a medium in all art forms.

Doug was there when we arrived at the museum, and I was really happy to see that he had one of my photoencaustic pieces, El Paso 1910, by the front entry. That piece is part of the museum’s permanent collection, which contains and preserves over a hundred works of encaustic art.

Lyn Belisle, El Paso 1910, Encaustic and Mixed Media, 2016

Much like the San Antonio Art League & Museum, the MEA contains both a museum and a gallery space for current exhibitions. On view in the gallery is a show called “NO CREATIVE BOUNDARIES: ANYTHING GOES.”

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the exhibit – there were lots of ideas to steal! (Steal Like an Artist!)

There were so many inspiring pieces in the exhibit and in the permanent collection that I decided to put together a slideshow of about 25 of them, which you can see on my website by clicking on the image below.

Even if you are not an encaustic artist, or an artist of any kind, you will undoubtedly enjoy the images as creative statements made with wax. CLICK BELOW.

Images from the Museum of Encaustic Art

I hope you’ll visit the MEA when you’re in Santa Fe – there’s so much art to see there, but this is a special place with an unusual focus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax and Clay Talisman mini-workshop

Last week my friend, fiber artist Mary Ann Johnson, arranged a workshop for a small group of four, including her sister Rosalie who was visiting from out of town. The other two participants were artists whose work I have long admired – so it was a very creative afternoon!

This is a workshop that I’ve taught before, but always love, because of the variety of techniques. We worked with clay, paper, wax and fiber to make personal talismans. One of the most amazing parts of the process is rolling paper into beads, then (optionally) adding fiber for texture before painting them with beeswax.

Jean Dahlgren, one of the participants, brought some of her fabric beads (top right in the photo above), and they also took the beeswax beautifully.

One of the nice things about these beads is that you can write a secret message along the inside of the paper before tightly rolling the strip. Rosalie chose to make her beads very simple, without fiber embellishment, so she can see the structure better.

When we started working on the clay faces, some of us chose to add only walnut ink to emphasize the contours, and others added beeswax and metallic finished – bling. The formula for a raku-like effect is a bottom coat of silver, another of blue metallic, then red metallic, then gold metallic to blend all of the layers together randomly.

The handmade beads were strung on strands of Sari silk and sinew.

As an added attraction, we made simple paper origami boxes to hold our beads and our clay faces.

Besides making wax and paper beads for their talismans, workshoppers brought meaningful objects to tie into the silk and sinew strands. Rosalie added charms symbolizing each of her children and family members.

See how her Family Blessing Talisman turned out, filled with magic!

Speaking of blessings, there’s nothing more wonderful than creating meaningful work with a group of like-minded friends. Thanks, Mary Ann, for requesting this workshop!

Email me if you’d like to suggest a small-group workshop at my studio, and if you’d like to play with your own clay talisman faces, you know where to find them! Yep, my Etsy shop, Earthshards.

Stay cool and creative!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me the Jury – not an easy task

It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.

One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:

  1. Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
  1. Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
  1. Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
     
  2. Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.   

 3-Dimensional:

  1. Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
  1. Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
  1. Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media

The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill.  Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??

The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.

The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!

The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.

The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.

So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.

First Place

This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.

There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!

The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?

Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?

First Place

Second Place

There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories

Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:

Best of Show

It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”

It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.

One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!

I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:

“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”

Amen!

 

 

 

Photoshop Elements Texture Quickie

This morning I started putting together a post about jurying art competitions, coming soon. Yesterday I was the Juror for the Canyon Lake Art Guild‘s new exhibition. It’s always an honor – and a learning experience! Stay tuned to see the winners – and see if you agree with me!

In the meantime, I got distracted by a topic on Pinterest that’s worth sharing (I have the attention span of a gnat).  Even if you’ve used Photoshop Elements, you may not know how easy it is to work with textures and overlays using your own photos.It’s also very addictive.

This very short video (you can skip the ad in 5 seconds) by Nicole Young is one of the best I’ve seen. (She uses a Mac, so if you’re using a PC, just replace the “Command” with “Control.”)

So here’s my masterpiece to use as an example. I call it “Morning Desk with Almost-Empty Diet Dr Pepper.” This is the original photo, taken just minutes ago:

Here is is with a texture overlay that I snagged from Free Stock Textures:

You can even use your own photos as textures. Here’s a photo I took when I was dyeing fabric for my Boro Horse:

And here’s what it looks like combined with the amazing Diet Dr Pepper masterpiece:

As I said, working with textures and blending modes is addictive – you have been warned!

A last word – last night I had an email conversation with my Austin-based designer friend Monika Astara about digital art as ART. (She’s doing some wonderful digital collage work and incorporating it into a new line of one-of-a-kind T-Shirts, soon to be available!)

We talked about digital art vs traditional studio-based art. If you ever thought that digital art is not “real” art, read this article for a different perspective.

Facts and Myths about Digital Art

And if you want to see more digital art tutorials by Nicole Young, check out her website!

A studio visit with Jane Dunnewold – SAALM Artist of the Year 2019

If you haven’t heard of Jane Dunnewold, then Fiber Art hasn’t been on your radar in the last decade. And it should be – it’s hot and it’s trending!

A nationally-renowned fiber artist, Jane teaches and lectures internationally, and has mounted numerous solo exhibitions. Her pioneering book on the practice of art, Creative Strength Training, is hugely popular with artists in all media who want to develop their unique voice and make creating art a regular habit.

Jane just made history by being the first fiber artist to have been chosen as Artist of the Year by the San Antonio Art League & Museum. It’s a decisive moment for the 107-year-old Art League, which has traditionally selected painters for this honor. Jane’s portfolio of work wowed the three well-known out-of-state jurors with its depth of content and maturity of style. She was chosen from a field of ten nominees and three finalists.

I visited Jane’s spacious studio last week with Steve Smith, last year’s SAALM Artist of the Year and this year’s committee chair, to talk about her upcoming 2019 Artist of the Year exhibition. Her work on the studio walls was dazzling!

Jane at her work table in front of large panels of innovative surface design on fabric and fiber

Natural light from a narrow window enhances surface textures

I fell in love with several of her long panels characterized by calligraphic marks and lines resembling music staffs. In the first photo, below, Jane used a flour paste resist to create the fine crackles, and in the second photo, you can see that she incorporated strands of rice paper.

Jane is a generous master teacher whose video lessons can be found on her You Tube channel. One of my favorites is Mastering Thermofax Printing: Gold Leaf. She does a step-by-step explanation of the process that is engaging and easy to follow.

Her books are just as straightforward. Jane is one of those artists who shares her processes and inspirations freely with the kind of openness that one finds in a confident master art professional with an impressive body of work.

In my own library, I have Jane’s 15 Beads: A Guide to Creating One-of-a-kind Beads, Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design for Fabric, and Creative Strength Training. Each one is a treasury of inspiration and innovative process.

Below are just a few of the images that Jane included in her portfolio for the Juror Panel’s consideration. When you see the range of color, theme, and confident composition, you’ll see why Jane was chosen. Outstanding art has no material limitation – it speaks to humanity in every medium.

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As SAALM Artist of the Year, Jane will be honored with a retrospective exhibition and an accompanying catalogue. Dates for the exhibition are September 8th – October 27th, 2019 at the San Antonio Art League & Museum, 130 King William Street.

Mark your calendars now – everyone at the Art League is so excited about this show! I am a huge fan of Jane’s work, and you will be, too, after you see this gorgeous array of artwork.

 

Wax and Clay play – plus a cool lightbox!

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Lyn Belisle, 2018

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Clay and Encaustic, Lyn Belisle, 2018

I’ve been working with earthenware clay and encaustic medium for a few years now, and really enjoying the combination.

But it occurred to me that not all encaustic artists have a chance to try this combination since they don’t have unlimited access to fired clay like I do.

Then it occurred to me that I have an Etsy shop that sells unglazed clay shards to artists. Hmmmmm. Then it occurred to me that I  just got a notice about a discount deal for advertising in Encaustic Arts Magazine.

Aha – the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” was born!

I find that when you get an idea, just go ahead with it as if it were already real! Don’t worry about how it’s all going to work. So I put together an ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine that looks like this using photos that I took especially for this purpose:

To make the pieces look good for the ad, good lighting was necessary for the photographs of the clay pieces. So I’m sharing with you a link to a photo light box that I have found to be extremely useful for all kinds of objects – and it’s cheap (about $40) and has its own light source.

It folds up into a flat package, and it comes with different colored backgrounds. As always, you get what you pay for – it’s not what you’d find in a professional photo studio for sure – but it does give good lighting for items up to about 12″.

This is what an art object looks like inside the light box:

Of course, you crop the photos so the edges of the photo box don’t show!

Here are some of the Encaustic Shard photos taken in the new light box – good detail! By the way, I use my iPhone for taking the photos 99% of the time. You don’t need a fancy camera.

To create the ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine, I wrote a simple description of how an encaustic artist might want to experiment with clay on a small scale. The I added the photos. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to put something like this together. True! Here’s a link to how to make an ad using Microsoft Word.

Anyway, if there is a point to this post, it is to follow up on an idea that you think might work as if it were already a success, using tools that facilitate the process.

It’s important to start with the conviction that the idea it WILL work – and in fleshing out the idea, you learn a lot along the way. If it doesn’t work, the journey itself is worth the price of admission!

I’ll let you know if the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” appeals to encaustic artists when the ad comes out in June, but even if it doesn’t, it’s always fun to put together an inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

Milagro moments

No matter how busy things get, I can always steal a few minutes to spend in my little in-house clay studio (usually in the very early morning when it’s still dark). There is such comfort and calmness in claywork, kinda like meditation.

The space is about 7×10′ – it’s very cozy. I can slip into my chair at the clay table and lose myself in the comfort of hand building earthenware when there’s an extra 30 minutes or so.

A couple of weeks ago I had a Milagro Momentaha! You know, or course, that milagros (miracles) are those little charms that adorn altars and artwork all over the Southwest and Mexico. What if I made a clay press mold from milagros just like I do from cemetery faces? I could fire it and use it for all kinds of milagro textures.

This is how it turned out.

Here is an unfired earthenware heart taken from the press mold – I sanded it to refine the shape.

Now that I have the press mold, I can use it for lots of handbuilding projects like the small heart-shaped shard pockets that I’m making because they take a comparatively short time to create – see the one on the right:

I can also incorporate the clay shape into other assemblages. This one, a personal altar adornment was finished last night.

The detail that clay can replicate is pretty amazing – I’m using Longhorn White with Grog to form the press mold and firing it to Cone 05.

Small Milagros-patterned ring dish

Making clay objects has been my go-to comfort practice since the late 70’s when I took handbuilding classes from Jerry Alexander at the old San Antonio Art Institute. Some of you remember that time!

So getting grounded by working with earthenware always helps me find those Milagro Moments – new ideas that keep the enthusiasm for the next creative experiment alive and well. So, what’s YOUR next Milagro Moment??

Milagro Heartshard with branches

 

 

 

 

Tech Report: CamFind

Y’all probably know that I taught in the Computer Science Department at Trinity University and have always been kind of a closet techie. So I was really excited to read about an app called CamFind, which searches for objects based on a photo. Kim Komando, self-described as America’s Digital Goddess, wrote about it on her site. I really like her tips (most of the time).

Anyway, Kim wrote: “CamFind uses the Cloudsight API (application program interface) to search the Internet for your image. If it’s a cup of coffee, it’ll recognize that image, translate it into an online search, and give the results. CamFind recognizes almost any image. Plus, it’s free to use. So, give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.

And this was a consumer review about CamFind: “This blew my mind, it even recognized a contemporary abstract painting by an unknown artist that hangs in our apartment as an abstract painting.”

So I downloaded CamFind (free for both iPhones and Android) because I wanted to find info about some art-related objects, and gave it a try!
First Object – the Diet Dr. Pepper that was sitting on my desk (as always):
CamFind swung into action and immediately identified it as:
RED AND WHITE COORS BEER STEIN
And then it helpfully gave me a link to where I could by some more red and white Coors beer steins.
Wow.
So then I tried a photo of an encaustic piece that I did several years ago:
CamFind took a look and told me that it was
BROWN AND BLACK WALL DECOR
Hmmm – that was a little better, but I was hoping for something more like. “Engaging ecaustic dimension art work by world famous artist Lyn Belisle. “ Didn’t happen. I am reduced to being a creator of brown and black wall decor. Sigh.
Finally, I tried the metal piece that I really wanted to identify – I have been using these in some of my Ex Voto constructions and wanted to know what it was and where it came from (a friend had given me several of these).
CamFind instantly identified it as – I kid you not
BLACK PEEP-TOED SANDAL
And it showed me several sites where I could buy another sandal just like this one.
So — to the reviewer who was astounded that CamFind could identify her abstract painting as an abstract painting, your point is??? I can look at it and see that much. Can’t CamFind give me a nice critique of the color, style, and hidden motivation? Guess not.
In summary, CamFind is free and often unintentionally hilarious; however, don’t count on it to actually identify stuff for you in detail. But as Kim Komando says, “Give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.”
And by the way, Kim has some interesting tips for artists who want to sell their work online through social media. If you’re interested, click here see what she tells an online caller from Alabama.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to take some more photos with my amazingly amusing CamFind app before heading out to the studio to paint.

Another opening, another show!

This is a follow-up to the Borderland post – the GAGA group show titled “A Certain Sense of Her” opened yesterday at the Coastal Bend College Gallery in Beeville, Texas.

In this photo, you are viewing the “quilt” sides of the paintings. Don’t they look amazing? Kudos to Sylvia Benitez and her GAGA installation crew for this great display.

You may remember that I was working on the reverse side of my “Borderland” painting in a recent post.

I decided to intersperse photocopied newspaper stories about the struggle on the border with canvas fragments from the palette I used while painting the front.

This is how it came out.

You can see it on the middle left in the installation photo at the top of this post. It makes a strong statement about the chaos on the border in a very different way that the painting itself does, like two sides of the same coin:

I wish I could have been in Beeville yesterday! But fortunately, Sylvia and the GAGAs posted a video of the installation. Just go the the GAGA homepage and scroll down to the video on the right. You’ll get a great inside view of the scope and drama of the installation.

I am so proud to be a part of this talented group of women!