Altered paper, enduring magic

Ahhh – the smell of Citrasolv was in the air yesterday afternoon. Brushed onto the pages of National Geographic magazine, it never fails to turn photographs into otherworldly abstract patterns. When strips and scraps of this paper are combined, magic happens!

No matter how many times I teach this workshop, the results are fabulous – fresh, original and intriguing. Here’s a short video of the workshop participants creating their outstanding work in yesterday’s Small Worlds: Abstract Landscapes and Altered Paper gathering (If you can’t see the video, click here):

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Altered Paper Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Each person chose one of his or her works to mat, and here are their favorites:

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Wally

Mackenzie

Mackenzie

Claire

Claire

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Jan

Pamela

Pamela

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Linda

I taught a comprehensive version of this class at Artful Gathering several summers ago, and the DVD is available here.

There are also a number of free, online resources on this technique, including this really good one from Cathy Taylor.

This is one of those simple processes that rarely fails and is a lot of fun to put together! Happy Citrasolv sniffing!

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Trusting the process is HARD

My last post was about William Eiland, the juror for the upcoming exhibit at the San Antonio Art League. When I wrote it, I had no idea whether any of my three submitted pieces would be selected, but was delighted when I just learned by postcard that one, “Homage to Ellen,” was chosen.

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So here’s the story on the piece that was selected. It started out as a semi-figurative piece on a very dark background – I posted it on Facebook because I liked the way it was going.

Off to a pretty good start — but wait . . .

Then I started to fuss with it, playing with the faces, drawing little hands, and generally getting “precious” and looking at details and not the whole painting. I started getting frustrated and fiddley. Ever been there? The whole thing started collapsing. HELP!

So in desperation, I remembered what my friend Ellen Rolli, the Boston abstract expressionist, told me when we painted together at her studio – if you get too attached to it, paint it out. Trust the process. Argh!!

It was scary, but I started paining over parts of it. Then more, then more – it took on a new life, but with the black figures still underneath as part of the history.

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“Homage to Ellen,” almost completed

Can you believe it? It wanted to be an entirely different painting, and I can always go back to painting figures if I want to. But this was the one the juror chose. He saw something in it that he liked.

It’s titled “Homage to Ellen” because I listened to Ellen Rolli‘s advice and painted over a preliminary work I sorta loved for one that was more authentic and energetic, one that wanted to be selected. And you and I know what’s underneath those layers!

 Trust the process . . .Ain’t art fun??

PS Congrats to my other friends whose work was also chosen for the show which will open on April 9th, and if yours wasn’t, neither were two of mine!

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I would SO fail . . . . . .

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One of the things that I’ve had time to do this month is poke around in thrift shops. I found this totally creepy set of stamps from the 50’s called “Grading Aids.” The idea is that you evaluate some poor kid’s work by stamping a scary clown face on their paper or drawing. No words, no comments, just a clown face. Ewww. That is wrong in so many ways.

Let’s apply these standards to the new abstract diptych that I just finished. It’s layered with symbol and calligraphy and paint and prayer and a mystical snake and all kinds of radical, goofy non-representational stuff.

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Well, first of all, it’s not neat. Damn, I hate it when that happens. The Clown is not pleased either. Look at those random spatters.

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It’s also obviously careless work – you can’t even read what it says – very poor penmanship (no matter that penmanship isn’t even taught anymore). The Clown disapproves.

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In fact, this painting is so unacceptable I might have to do it over – right, Clowny?

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Actually, I think I’ll do it over a bunch of times – I’ll do a whole SERIES of careless, messy joyful abstract paintings – take THAT, you stupid clown and all the rest of the inside-the-box thinkers that try to rubber stamp individual creativity. Hooray, back to the Studio – what an EXCELLENT idea!!

Happy creating, Everybody!

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Pamela Taylor and the issue of incarceration

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I took a quick break last evening to visit with friend and art activist Pamela Taylor, whose exhibit of paintings opened at IAMA Coffee House just outside the Pearl on Broadway.

Called “Confinement (In)Justice: A Dichotomy” it aims to call attention to the unparalleled rate of incarceration in the United States.

Here is a bit more about Pamela – I cherish her friendship and encourage you to get by IAMA this month to see her work.

Pamela Taylor, M.S., a San Antonio native, is an abstract expressionist painter whose work is intense and chaotic, symbolizing her personal pain and concern about society”s increasing tolerance of inequality, harassment, and intimidation, which has created an environment of incivility in schools, workplaces, and politics. She is the Co-Founder of Dress for Success San Antonio and Founder of Career Gear San Antonio, workforce development non-profit organizations serving the disenfranchised; Taylor served as CEO for nearly 14 years. While there, she worked directly with inmates of Bexar County Jail for 2 years. Taylor has been featured in the San Antonio Express News and local media on numerous occasions and is a survivor of domestic violence. In 2011, Taylor spoke about her ordeal in a TED Talk at Trinity University.

Confinement (In)Justice: A Dichotomy will be on display at The IAMA Coffee House from June 28-July 26, 2016.

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Summer Solstice Studio Party with Pablo Solomon

This is our fourth year together! The annual Solstice Party with Pablo and Beverly Solomon is always delightful. This year, Pablo premiered his new paintings, which are filled with color, energy, and his iconic female figures.

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In his artist talk, Pablo discussed how the act of painting can represent a cathartic release of emotions that speak to certain people on many levels – almost like a secret code. The multi-talented artist also described his love for ecological stewardship and recycling old materials into re-invented art.

I invite you to share their Solstice celebration in the video, below – thanks, as always, to Pablo and Beverly! And today, as is our tradition, we get to go junk shopping with them for new art fodder!! Hooray, YeYa’s, here we come!

 

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Textured white collage – new workshop exploration

whiteOffering a new workshop is a risk, both for the teacher and the students who are the first  “test drivers.” That was the case with the Wednesday Exploring Textures in Collage. I knew that I wanted to offer a workshop that pared down collage to very simple textural elements layered with white paint and touches of walnut ink tints, but would the lack of color bore students? Would the project take too long to dry? Would it be deceptively complicated or not make sense or . . .? But once again, my amazing students pulled off a spectacular triumph of artistic exploration.

white2I started the session by demonstrating how to draw a visual classic cruciform framework with pencil lines on a 9×12″ canvas. Then we built thin layers of torn paper across that flat framework. I showed several techniques using both created and found textures, and combined these with mark-making through wet paint.

After that, they were on their own to select textures using their own intuition and style. The hard part was layering white over everything, like watching a blanket of snow fall on carefully arranged objects.

I mentored and suggested, but let them work independently for the most part, and their finished works were professional and evocative – yay!! You should see the work they produced in just three hours! Actually, you can if you take a look at the video, below. Stunning results, be sure to watch until the end to see them.

Jane Davies workshop, Day Three

Driving to Gloucester from Salem on Sunday morning

Driving to Gloucester from Salem on Sunday morning

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow could stop these two intrepid artists from heading off to the final day of Jane’s workshop. It really was something of a shock to be in the middle of a snowstorm in April!

Our assignment for the day was to incorporate the techniques we had learned into new layers on previous work and to begin a new piece (or two) from scratch.

It still amazes me that all of us were able to complete at least six or seven paintings during Jane’s workshop. Of course, the goal was not to produce finished works, but to explore the process-directed techniques. To quote Jane. “You can’t like it all the way through the piece,” and “You can’t plan more than one step ahead.” Sorta like driving through the snow and fog.

Here are some of the photos from our last day – you can see how pieces have changed and evolved. (By the way, if you are reading this as an email and can’t see the images, just click on the title of this post to take you to the blog site.)

Thanks beyond words to Jane Davies for a wonderful workshop – if you ever have the chance to work with her, do it. Thanks to my co-pilot, Gloria Hill, for her intrepid navigation along the Massachusetts roads.. We’ll be home soon to Texas!

Jane Davies workshop, Day Two

Today’s workshop was as intense and enjoyable as yesterday’s, and we all worked just as hard. Jane had us build on yesterday’s foundation paintings, adding more shapes, lines, veils and pattern. She focused on contrasts of scale, value and hue. It was tough to paint over our previous hard work, but it resulted in growth and options – and a bit of good-natured grumbling.

Jane strongly suggests beginning with a list of elements to explore and use that to get into the piece until the process itself takes over. She has many techniques to help move the painting forward, and a lot of those can be found right here on her website, but working with her in person is amazing. She also plays a mean ukulele – we painted to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Take a look at some of today’s photos to see how we are progressing. As to where we’ll end up . . .it’s a mystery – but tomorrow is our last day! Stay tuned, y’all.

 

Jane Davies workshop, Day One

Jane Davies

Gloria Hill and i are on an art adventure north of Boston taking a three day painting workshop with Jane Davies, whose work we both admire. She’s a fine teacher, sensible, inspiring, funny and approachable. She also works us like you wouldn’t believe!

The workshop studio is as big as a basketball court. There are fifteen of us from all over the place, including Ireland. It’s a great group. I’ll try to share some of the photos as we go along – we started with black and white line and “visual weight” studies this morning,  then moved on the color and layers in the afternoon. We did one-minute paintings that were a huge challenge, and experimented with shapes and process this afternoon as we added veils of color.  It’s back to the workshop early tomorrow – I’ll keep you posted!

If you’d like to know more about Jane’s work and her teaching, just Google Jane Davies and then take a look at her You Tube channel. Shes incredibly generous with her techniques and very encouraging to everyone in this weekend’s workshop. More tomorrow if my painting hand isn’t too tired to type – this is intense!

 

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Artful Gathering, Artful Abstraction

180 wingsAs you might guess, I’m excited to be teaching at Artful Gathering Online Art Retreats 2016, June 6 – July 17 and July 16 – August 26. The preseason kick-off includes the Artful Gathering annual Hop Contest.  I’m one of the featured  instructors this week! Just follow this link

These are the two uber-nifty classes I’m teaching for Artful Gathering – both designed by yours truly
A Story Within a Story: Narrative Collage Covers for your Personal Technology & Journals and The Mystical Cat Shaman. Be very afraid of that cat one – Meow!

What’s in it for you, you ask?  When you join the class for just $85 each session, you get almost three hours of video instruction right from my studio, plus “live” feedback in our online classroom. And these workshops are never “sold out.”

This is my third year with Artful Gathering, and I wasn’t sure how it all worked when I first started. But it’s very cool! And you can come to class in your PJs! Registration opens on May 1st. Hope to see you at Artful Gathering!

smNow – –  on to ARTFUL ABSTRACTION.

Wednesday’s workshop, Abstract Acrylic Exploration, was hard work – just ask any of the participants! Painting from an abstract perspective is like walking a tightrope without a net – there are no representational objects to look at. You are on your own, trusting the process and making decisions every moment while trying not to over-think. It’s tough.

I am so proud of their results! Each of the students had the same guidelines (layers, textures, limited palette with just two colors on a 12×12″ canvas) but individuality ruled! Take a look at these amazing abstracts – intricate, passionate, personal – nice work, everyone!

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