For Love of Leonardo – a fiberart sculpture

That’s the title of a new fiber art sculpture I (almost) just finished. Where these ideas come from, I’m not sure, but I was looking at some of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings and thinking about insides and outsides and metaphors, so I photocopied some of his drawings and notes onto linen fabric.

Then I started building a form with no real plan . . . I use sticks and sinew and gauze and all kinds of things to engineer the armature.

At this point, I just go happily along with no idea of where this figure might be going, but trusting the process. It’s like reading a book that you can’t skip to the end of to find out what happens, but I knew it would have something to do with the Da Vinci notes on linen.

The big step is finding the face that helps tell the story.

Now the “it” has become a “her,” and I look at her in different light and different places to get to know her better.

The linen layers are in progress, and I’m refining some of the details, like skewering her headpiece to add sinew. I got so engrossed at this point that I forgot to take process photos!

Her linen-wrapped legs are anchored into a wood block covered with faded Turkish carpet scraps.

The plot thickens – there are pieces of stitched linen with hearts and babies and love letters . . . it’s complex, and a bit disturbing, but terribly intriguing!

She has an ivory silk braid hanging down her back.

Here is the (almost) completed piece – she’s 20″ high.

For Love of Leonardo, Lyn Belisle, 2019, Fiber sculpture with mixed media

I borrowed a lot of techniques I developed for last year’s “Boro Horse,” (below) which I love, but the Leonardo piece feels more personal somehow.

Next up – a wall piece that celebrates the complexity old fiber rugs and weavings.  I plan to incorporate some of the found objects I’ve collected in the last couple of weeks for the Collage Challenge.

This piece is just barely started, but we shall see what we shall see –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRY IT! 7-Day Found Object Challenge for Composition Competence

Say THAT three times fast – anyway, this is fun! And it takes practically no time at all each day. It will sharpen your observation skills and boost your composition fluency.

HOW THIS STARTED (you probably do the same sort of thing):

So, I take walks every morning and most afternoons and often find a small object along the way  – like a rock or dried leaf –  that intrigues me. Sometime I put it in my pocket, sometimes I just look at it and leave it.

Last week, I challenged myself to choose one found object a day, bring it home, and see how the daily objects might fit together at the end of the week.

There’s a table inside my front door where I often drop stuff, and here was where I put the first object. (You’ll need a designated spot, too, for your daily objects.)

Monday’s object was a piece of thick layered cardboard, which I first thought was a little book. I found it in the street by my sidewalk and it had been run over a few times and flattened nicely.

Monday – flattened cardboard fragment

Tuesday’s object was a dried leaf that had the most gorgeous rust-patina colors and was curved like an umbrella.

Tuesday – interesting dried leaf

On Wednesday, I thought I had found a bird’s egg by the driveway of a neighbor’s house, but it turned out to be a seed pod of some kind. I brought it home to add to the collection.

Thursday’s find was a slightly grubby bird feather, which is always a nice touch.

Thursday – bird feather, probably a dove?

On Friday, I brought home another seed pod thingy – this one look kind of like a bird.

Seed pod, probably Magnolia

Saturday’s and Sunday’s finds were rather similar for no particular reason – a rolled leaf, and a stick with no bark on either end.

Then came Sunday, which was Composition Practice Day – I  started arranging the seven objects in different configurations on a black piece of paper, then photographing the experimental arrangements with my phone camera.

Important point – there is more than one right answer! This is the great fun of solving art problems versus math problems!

This one may have been my favorite, but that could change depending on how the composition was going to be used:

I also tried the objects on a white background.

It’s instructive to note what works for you balance? Scale? Horizontal versus vertical? symmetrical versus asymmetrical? Stacked versus separate?

You can save your favorite photographs and use them as inspiration for paintings (you already know that the composition works!) or as backgrounds for digital art – here’s one example that I did from the photo on the right, above.

I would love to see examples from all of you who want to play with this idea.

You don’t have to wait until a Monday to start! You just need to choose one object a day without thinking about how it will go with anything else. Choose it just because you like it. When you start your arrangements, document them with photos, and send your favorites to me.

Go to my website (CLICK BELOW) to submit photos of your own 7-Day Found Object Challenge for Composition Competence. I’ll put together an online gallery on September 1st.

FOUND OBJECTS CHALLENGE LINK

I can’t wait to see what you find!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Screens and shelters as art

archaeological excavation shelter

screen panels of heavy paper and sticks

As part of my work with the “Unearthed” series, I’ve been working with panels of paper, wax, sticks and silk to construct three-dimensional sculptural objects that can be configured in different ways.

This has become a very exciting project for me, informed and inspired by shelters and screens for archaeological excavations as well as the idea of versatile art panels that can be viewed from many perspectives to conceal and reveal.

Here’s one that is almost finished. It is large, about four feet long and two feet high.

Lyn Belisle, Shelter Screen #1, 48″ x 36″ Paper, wax, silk, pigment, and sticks

This is a close-up of the surface of one of the panels – torn silk is adhered with beeswax to squares of archeological symbols printed on paper. It’s multilayered and complex. The surface is meant to suggest ancient shards and scraps that have been collected and stuck to experimental surfaces for further study.

Detail, “Shelter Screen #2”

Another great thing about working with these kinds of panels is that each panel has two sides. Here is the reverse side of that piece.

“Shelter Screen #2”, reverse side

The artwork can be displayed on a wall as a four-panel work, or it can be configured on a pedestal or table as a three-dimensional object.

Here is another Shelter Screen in the series that also has two different-sided surfaces. This one is slightly smaller, about 3.5′ long.

Lyn Belisle, “Shelter Screen #3”, Paper, wax, sticks, acrylic, pigment

The back of this screen features photos of one of my earthenware face shards in a series of altered photographs.

“Shelter Screen #3”, reverse side

And it can be hung, or folded or tied into a square with either side out!

Because I have very limited studio time these days with all of the Art League duties, I find that working with these shelter panels is like meditation. Each one that I construct is slightly different, and when they are stitched or hinged together, their possibilities are endless.

I love the way this process grounds me back to the basics of building. And the fact that they are inspired by archeological screen and shelters gives them a deeper meaning.

Here is my second “Unearthed” sculpture displayed in front of a Shelter Screen – they were obviously meant to be together!

It’s as if the past is reaching out into the present, giving me guidance. Maybe “Nine Antlers” has a hand in all of this!

“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” ~ Mary Oliver

RIP

 

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!

 

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!!

 

 

Creative collaborations

Earlier this month I got several emails from mixed-medial artist and tarot maker Dawn Zichko, whose work I’ve known and liked for quite some time. I wrote another SHARDS post about her about five years ago.

Dawn has a great blog called Mental Mohair which often features a daily card from her Everyday Tarot deck, which you can find in her Etsy Shop.

Four cards from Dawn Zichko’s Everyday Tarot deck

In her first email, Dawn sent a photo with a short note that said,

“Lyn, I thought you might enjoy seeing progress on a collaborative piece.”

Here was the photo (below) – very intriguing – and some of my faces were part of the collaborative design. I asked her if I could share the photo, and she requested that I wait until they had worked a bit more on it.

I’m including that unfinished version so you can see the structure of the body.

The following week she sent photos of the completed collaborative piece along with this description of the process:

Lyn, we created the Earth Protectress in ritual space. In brainstorming at earlier gatherings, the creation of a goddess was included in the list. So we all thought of creating her. In the sacred space we chose the parts we wanted to work on by chakra.

Essie (not her real name as she would like to remain anonymous) created the head/Third Eye/Crown, Patricia created the torso/Heart/Solar Plexus, and I created the base/Root and neck/Throat (this is the part that needed reconstruction — oh, the analogies!).”

The other women let me take her home and run with the additions. The clay faces, hair, pouch, and skirt were all done by me, but the additions were discussed with Essie and Patricia before working on them. I am blessed they trusted my creative ramblings. It was truly a touching experience to create this being in togetherness and sacred space.”

I think it’s just glorious – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and yet each part is amazing.

Artist collaborations can be tricky – sometimes it’s obvious which person did what part, but in this case, there is a seamless sense of sacred purpose. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing this work!
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Have you ever gotten involved with a collaborative project? How’d it work for you?

I have to admit, it’s something I’ve rarely tried, certainly not recently. But a lot of my artist friends, particularly fiber artists, love the collaborative process.

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot written about collaborative visual artwork, but I did find this thoughtful post called Cloth, Creativity & Collaborating with fiber artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly.

And I also found an engaging article about a mother’s painting with her five-year-old daughter called Making a Masterpiece Together.  Here were their guidelines:

1. We would each add one color to the canvas everyday.

2. We would do our painting while the other one was out of the room, so they would be surprised.

3. We would try not to paint completely over the other persons art work.

Those are great rules! They would work for any kind of collaboration, whether the artwork is done for a sacred and serious purpose like Dawn’s was with her friends, or with an informal group and just for fun.

The trick is always going to be keeping an open mind. No fair thinking “You messed up the part I did!”  Instead, you gotta think “Look how you enhanced my work.” Right??

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

 

Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.

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.