A visit with Gwen Fox in Taos

Gwen Fox is an extraordinary woman whose abstract paintings glow with inner light and compelling composition. I first fell in love with her work about ten years ago in a gallery in Colorado Springs and knew I had to meet her. So I signed up several years later for Gwen’s week-long painting workshop in Taos and loved every moment. Here’s a post from that 2012 workshop.

Gwen and I and have kept in touch since then, sharing ideas and conversations online. Yesterday, while I was in Taos, NM for the day, I got to visit her in person again.

Lyn and Gwen Fox in her Taos studio in front of a current painting that Gwen has done in oils on canvas.

I was so excited to see the new studio that she built herself – it’s completely inspiring and spiritually satisfying – a perfect space in a perfect place. It’s adjacent to her adobe house.

Everything on the inside and the outside has its place.

The view from her serene bedroom window is as layered as her paintings.

The bathroom sink in the studio is made from a rectangular piece of agate that glows with a translucent abstract landscape when you’re there and, er, sitting down.

And against the walls, Gwen’s painting glow with a resonant energy —

She has a video setup in her studio that I covet.

And here is the most exciting news that I learned from Gwen – she is filming and producing an extensive online class about painting and creativity that sounds amazing.It should be ready this fall and it is the first time her techniques and teaching/coaching expertise will be available online.

Be sure and get on her mailing list to hear more about it and gt updates – I honestly can’t wait for it.

I could go on and on about how much Gwen has influenced my work and my outlook, but I’ll let the video of her home and studio, below, reflect her amazing spirit.

Look for all the little touches she pulls together like grace notes in this home and studio space – like an antique Chinese chest in the pantry because she wants to look at something beautiful when she’s in the kitchen.

Lyn Belisle visits Gwen Fox in her Taos home and studio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I’m headed back to Texas tomorrow but I always feel inspired when I spend time with Gwen. Do subscribe to her list and follow her wise advice for every artist.

There’s something else that inspired me while I was here – fly fishing! I‘ll tell you about that in an upcoming post. It was a total surprise.

Abstract acrylic painting workshop

Excuses, excuses. I’ve been laid low with an awful cold since last weekend and have slothed around for a few days trying to get better. The Talisman e-Book is almost ready for test driving, and I’ll be asking three SHARDS readers to do that for me as a favor and give feed back. Hopefully, that will happen in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, a bright spot in the last few days was the Abstract Acrylic Painting workshop on Saturday. Here’s the outline of some of the techniques we explored:

When you have just three hours to get into a process, it’s best to limit yourself by size, structure, and color palette. We did a warmup painting on 9×12 watercolor paper, then moved to a 12×12″ stretched canvas.

Some of the painters reflected the same style with both pieces and some branched out. We had one of the best discussion on composition and color than I can remember having lately. It was a great group. Some had never painted before and others had much experience. That diversity is so helpful in designing effective workshops.

We started with layers of scribbling and stenciling just to “get the door open” and went from there – fun.

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Abstract Acrylic Workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

 Excuse any typos in the video – I’m overdosed on cough medicine!

Miro at the McNay – prepare to be astonished

The Miro exhibit, currently on view at the McNay Art Museum until January 10, 2016, is full of surprises. We went yesterday with our friends, artist Pablo Solomon and his wife, Beverly (their cat is named Miro, so you know they are huge fans of the Spanish painter).

The first surprise was the astonishing scale of the paintings. These things are huge! Pablo and I both said that we expected “normal sized” painting from the photos we had seen in catalogs, but these works were six, eight, ten feet tall, some in gigantic frames with glass as big as skyscraper windows. Miro’s colorful shape-figures of birds and women dance around within these huge canvases like playful giants. It’s so much fun!

The second surprise, at least for me, were the delightful sculptures, each with a rich industrial-like patina on bronze, and all constructed from sand-cast assortments of goofy objects that worked to form creatures with vast appeal. I felt like applauding!

The final surprise was realizing that all of the 50+ works in the show were created in Miro’s later years, the last 20 years of his life. It seems to be a journey back to the celebration and simplicity of a personal artistic language. The catalog says, “In his quest to transcend the idea of easel painting, the pictorial space is enlarged across expanded canvas fields, on which calligraphic signs reach maximum intensity through minimum resources, reflecting the artist’s attempt to reach a square one of painting. . .” I dare you not to get a little teary when you walk into the room with the last three paintings, huge white canvases with a very few spots of color, a star, a dotted line – all seeming to be exiting the playing field. Beautiful.

Good friends Beverly and Pablo Solomon pay homage to the mater, Miro - what an exhibit!

Good friends Beverly and Pablo Solomon pay homage to the master, Miro – what an exhibit!

So do what I tell ya – go have a nice lunch at Twin Sisters with some good friends, and then get yourself over to the McNay just down the block. Pay the special exhibit ticket price – it’s worth every dollar – and prepare to be astonished.

PS The whole city is celebrating Miro – here’s a list of special Miro-inspired treats, from jewelry to decadent chocolate cake that will be on hand during the run of the exhibit.

Small worlds, big talent

I had a blast at summer Art Camp – I taught an online class at Artful Gathering called Small Worlds: Creating Fantastic Landscapes with Altered Pages. The session just ended today and the student work (many are practicing artists) was phenomenal. Some of you have taken this workshop with me at the Studio, and you will especially appreciate these collages. Wowzers!

The majority of these altered papers were created with Citra-Solv cleaner, which I’ve mentioned often. If the idea intrigues you, you can get a good introduction to the process at this link on the Citra-Solv artists’ page. Heck, after seeing all of this good work, I need to schedule another workshop! I’m inspired – and I’m grateful to these fantastic workshop participants who allowed me to share their work.

Hey, look – this might turn out OK after all . . . dang!

I love teaching art. Actually, you can’t really teach art, but you can be an art coach and encourage the art that’s already inside someone to come out and play!

This afternoon, my friend Mary worked with me at the Studio on abstract painting. We started with a mj1hard task – saving some unsave-able paintings. In this example, we began with a background that had been painted in the last class but didn’t have much direction. First step was to make some random scribble marks right on top of the painting (left). Eek! 

But that gave us permission to really get into revising it, layering paint, scraping back into it, adding texture. There were a number of times when neither of of thought we were going anywhere, but we kept trusting the process. Mary was fearless in following my suggestions – brave woman. She added many of her own good ideas as we worked back and forth. Here are some pictures – the last photo is the finished piece. I love what she did!

Ya just have to Trust the Process (and read the book by that name). Which means – keep trying, add paint, subtract paint, keep listening to what the painting is telling you. Making art is HARD, but so rewarding! Great work, Mary – high fives!

Painting with friends, part two

sherryTwo of the best art teachers I’ve ever worked with are Sherry Christensen (left) and Linda McLaughlin. For several decades, we taught art in North East ISD and saw each other often at meetings and student art shows. Now retired, they are joining me at the Studio on Thursday afternoons to explore some of the new media that’s available, and to paint together for a couple of hours.

I had great plans for doing some mid-tone painting on canvas this past Thursday, but we started playing with some scribble crayon drawings on Bristol board while we waited for our canvases to dry. Then we painted over everything with white, like artist Jane Davies often does. We lifted some paint with paper, then added a wash of Quinacridone gold. But wait, there was more! I had the beeswax out from a previous workshop, so on went a layer of beeswax, which we incised. Then came walnut ink (of course) and Shiva oil paint sticks. Then some gold foil and stamping. Man, did we have fun! The canvases will have to wait until next time – this kind of  spontaneous exploration is good for an artist’s soul 🙂

Painting with Gloria

gloI love painting with Gloria Hill – we’ve been doing it long enough (on Wednesdays for several years) that we’re comfortable with critiquing each other’s work and giving suggestions without judgment.

Pretty cool – and what’s also cool is that we learned today that both of us had our paintings accepted into the juried San Antonio Art League Annual Exhibit. It’s notoriously competitive, but I had two of my three pieces accepted and Gloria – tah dah – had all three of her paintings accepted! That’s rare. I am so proud of her! You just never know with jurors, but we couldn’t be happier with this one (Michael David Leslie, who is the Curator of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma). The opening reception is on April 12th, so come see the Lyn and Glo show 🙂

So besides congratulating ourselves until we got silly, we had a great painting session this afternoon. For once, I remembered to take photos, and I put them together in a little video. It’s always interesting to me to see how paintings develop – here’s how our work went this afternoon. Both Gloria and I were pretty pleased with the end results (although they may not be totally finished – ya never know).

Painting with Ellen Rolli – unchain my art

I spent three hours yesterday talking and painting with abstract artist Ellen Rolli at her SoWa studio in Boston. It was a pretty transformative experience – Ellen has a fearless relationship with her work that is contagious (see her website). I am so grateful for a chance to work with her, and am still processing a lot of what I learned, but thought I’d share a few photos and a book recommendation from Ellen. Yesterday’s objective was not to produce a finished painting, but to work in a more intuitive and liberating process with the paint. It was cool.


I learned to trust the painting process a lot more. That is the title of a book that Ellen recommended for me which I’ve already ordered:

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And I’ll leave ya with a quote from Hans Hoffman that I found on Ellen’s website –
“Every successful canvas has been painted from the point of view of a student, for a great painter is always a student.”
Thank you, Ellen! Hope to see you on my next visit.

Citra-solv for artsy effects

I had so many comments on the painting I did that incorporated papers treated with Citra-solv that I thought I’d share the process with you if you didn’t already know about it (I didn’t until I saw Bonnie and Rosemary’s Show and Tell at the Studio). Here’s the painting – it’s a mixed media piece with altered paper, acrylic, and encaustic on a 16×20′ stretched canvas. Do you see the door in the middle? That’s a weird Citra-solv effect, very strange:

fieldofcitrasolv

I used torn strips of paper created by slathering Citra-solv cleaning solution all over the pages of an old National Geographic magazine. The results can be fascinating. I’m especially interested in how you can sort of control the dissolution of the images by the amount of the solution you put on the pages. Here you can see that portions of the original image show through the distortion.

Citra-solv effects and result

Citra-solv effects and result

Page with small amount of Citra-solv

Page with small amount of Citra-solv

Here’s a page done by artist Eva Macie that uses a lot of Citra-solv.

Christopher Staples has a great tutorial on his blog! Finally, here’s a link to a tutorial on the Cirta-Solv website – they are now selling their product at art stores like Jerry’s Artarama. It’s a fun process to play around with if you are into unpredictable results and eerie effects!

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Copying Gwen Fox with unpredictable results

Gloria Hill and I have been painting together on Wednesdays at the Studio for a year and a half, and we always like to find inspiration from interesting sources. Today I said, “Let’s try to paint like Gwen and see what happens.” Gwen Fox is our beloved Taos-based painting teacher – she’s awesome. So I picked out one of her abstracts for us to copy, and off we went. Here’s the painting that we were attempting to forge (all in the spirit of artful emulation, of course). Scroll down for our results.

gwen

We got as far as the layout and background before we realized that copying wasn’t working for us. So Gloria went her way and I went mine – how can two artists who start with exactly the same idea and example end up with such different results?? Take a look (and rest easy, dear Gwen – you are an original, and while we have learned so much from you, we won’t be competition for your glowing abstract style!) Here’s Gloria’s:

glogwen2
And here’s mine – not only do they look like they came from two different artists, they look like they came from two different planets! Go figure –  but it was fun and very insight-full.

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