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.

 

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!!

It looks like writing, but we can’t quite read it – – –

What does it say in the background??!!

I’m baaaaa-aack.

The last two weeks have been filled with family visitors, young and old, hailing from near and far. In the course of hosting, we got to play tourist, and have – over the last ten days – visited the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, The Witte Museum, the Briscoe Museum of Western Art (fantastic exhibit of Warhol and Schenk), the San Antonio Art League and Museum (yay!), the downtown Public Library and its BookCellar, the Twig Bookshop and the Pearl, and the Nimitz/Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.

We stopped for Fredericksburg peaches during our Hill Country excursion – yum.

Lucky us to have families that love art and books!I Oh, yeah, and food – here’s a shout-out to Twin Sisters where we ate breakfast every morning this past week!

And now it’s time for a new art diversion.

This afternoon I got back to the studio, and in preparation for my Wax & Words workshop this Sunday and Monday, I did a little video tutorial on Asemic Writing that I thought you might enjoy. It’s a fun exercise in line and design and even though I’m a lefty, I think you can get the idea…

Asemic writing for collage and design from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I plan to do my next eBook on calligraphic markmaking and stamped and stenciled lettering in combination with beeswax layers – stay tuned. And thanks for reading SHARDS.

Working (and RE-working) in a series – five tips!

I lied.

The last time I posted, I said that the Artful Gathering “Southwest Stripe” project using the four elements as inspiration was “totally foolproof”. Actually, nothing is. In this little clip from one of the workshop videos, you can see that sometimes you have to rethink and redo.

Sneak Preview from the Four-Hour Class, Southwestern Stripes: Serapes & Sunsets from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The point here is that you start to think outside the box about what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about context. Everything you create has merit, truly. You may not think it is successful because it doesn’t do what you wanted it to, but remember to trust the process. Every one of your creations is worthy in itself, even if’s not right for the moment. Perhaps it works as a learning experiment, or perhaps it’s a step to something even better that you intended.

In the video above, you saw that piece that was a “failure” as part of the Four Elements  series, but look what happened later in the video when I took the scissors to it, boldly sliced it into three strips, then collaged the strips over another background that I had put in the “to-be-reworked” pile:

Lyn Belisle, “Three Sisters” 5×7″ Mixed Media Collage

“Three Sisters” (detail)

I titled it “Three Sisters” and I love it as a stand-alone mixed media collage! I turned the strips upside down and changed the order – voila!

SO . . . . . .Here are FIVE TIPS that might help you re-imagine something you’re working on that just isn’t working:

1. Hold the work up to a mirror. This give you a whole new perspective on the composition and may suggest a clue for a new direction.

2. Take a photo of the work with your phone. This visual reduction minimizes the details you’ve been fussing over. Email the photo to yourself and play with it online with PicMonkey or another free photo-editing site.

3.  Take a mat that is smaller than your artwork and move it around on the surface until you find a great spot that really works – crop that section out. Save the rest for your “to be reworked” pile.

4. Put a piece of tissue paper or tracing paper over your work. Does it look better? If so, figure out why and what to do about it. You may want to just collage the tracing paper over the whole thing to soften it, or you may want to paint a translucent glaze on top.

5. Get out the scissors! Don’t be afraid to cut up the work into sections like I did with “Three Sisters”. But fold it first to see if you’re really going to like the sections before you actually do the deed.

Remember, everything you do is worthy because YOU created it and it brought it into existence. You certainly don’t have to save everything, but give “pieces” a chance!

Oh, yeah – and the Southwestern Stripes class is open if you want to join us in the workshop 🙂

 

 

Holiday freebie for you – faux turquoise technique tutorial!

I may not have time to give workshops right now (the next one will be in January), but I can still teach you a few things! Here’s a lesson freebie – a cool Faux-Turquoise technique.

While working on a commissioned assemblage, I realized how often I use the painted faux-turquoise finish that I developed several years ago. It works on almost all my mixed-media surfaces – clay, paper, cradle board, canvas.

Here’s your step-by-step tutorial on how I do this finish. Feel free to change it up and experiment with your own variations. There’s no secret here, just simple materials and techniques that give good results in an uncomplicated way. It’s super fun, too.

Step One: Assemble Materials

Rarely do I specify specific brands, but in this case, these three acrylic paints work best in combination of all the ones I’ve tried for this particular technique.

You will also need a wide-ish flat brush (about 1″), a graphite pencil, a terrycloth washrag or studio rag, a white colored pencil (optional), and something to paint on. For this demonstration, I chose  4×6″ piece of archival mat board. You’ll need a water container to clean your brush, too.

You don’t need a lot of complicated materials for this

Step Two: Make you mark

I often have my workshop participants open up to their work by doing some scribbling on the substrate – you can always gesso over it, but it keeps them from being intimidated by a white surface. If they don’t know what to scribble, I ask them to scribble what they had for breakfast! In the demo below, I just did some random markmaking with a graphite pencil. It added a bit of subtle texture to the surface, too.

Make the space yours by claiming it with markmaking

Step Three: Slap on the base coat

Paint right over those marks you made with a coat of Aqua Green acrylic, being generous. Use random strokes, x-strokes in every direction. You don’t want to leave thick texture, but yo do want some slightly raised areas.

A nice coat of aqua green painted randomly on the matboard

Step Four: More marks

Let this coat sit until it is sticky but not dry, then go back in with your graphite pencil and make more light marks on the surface.

Step Five: Lighten it up

Add some of the Matte White acrylic to the Aqua Green to make a paler tint of turquoise. Brush it randomly over about one-third of the surface. Play with the proportions.

Matte White with a bit of Aqua Green

Step Six: Press and Lift

While the lighter tint is still wet, Press your terrycloth rag straight down onto the surface to lift some of the lighter tint in areas. This leaves very stone-like patches of light and dark.

Press the cloth straight down, then lift.

Step Seven: Adding the Azo Gold

Take your bottle of Quinacridone Nickle Azo Gold and drop several blobs of paint on the surface. It will look very dark and slightly gross, but don’t worry – Quin Gold is extremely transparent and will make a lovely glaze in the next step.

Blobs of Quin Gold dropped on the surface

Step Eight: Blob-dabbing

Using the same terrycloth rag (which will never be the same again), dab the blobs firmly to spread them and create texture.

Dabbed-out blobs of Quin Gold

Step Nine: Light blending and marking

Continue to add light marks, and do a bit of blending with the rag, but use a light touch.

More scratches and marks

Step Ten: Finish with dry-brushing

To veil and push back all of the color variations and textures, dry-brush a final coat of aqua green over the surface. You can see here that the right half has been dry-brushed and the left half has not yet been brushed. If you build up this layer slowly, you can control what is revealed and what is concealed. “Dry-brushing” means just that – adding a little bit of paint to a dry brush and stroke it lightly over the surface. After this step, let the whole thing dry. And go wash your brush!

Final dry-brush coat

Step Eleven: Tah-Dah!

You can see in the close-up how the painted finished mimics the real stuff in texture and color. As I said, this surface is archival mat board, but you can try this technique on anything acrylic paint works with.

I can see it on a mirror frame, for example, with copper nailheads all around it, or perhaps covering the top of a wooden box. Or how about a turquoise ornament for a Christmas tree, Southwestern style?

Here are a couple more photos of the faux-turquoise mat board cut up into smaller sections, and also a small adornment with copper tape for a collage or pin.

collage adornment

Cut sections of faux-turquoise matboard for mixed media

I hope you enjoy this technique. If you try it, let me know how you use it!

And thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS!

 

 

 

Free-for-all encaustic inspirations by Nancy Crawford

 What artist doesn’t get frustrated when other obligations keep you out of the studio?? Argh. Lately, I’ve been living vicariously, stealing a few minutes on Pinterest or You Tube to take mental notes on what I’ll do when I have time to get back to serious art-making.

One of my “band-aids” for frustration is Nancy Crawford and her wonderful short YouTube videos on encaustic techniques. She is as generous with her methods as Jane Davies is with her painting videos.

Take a look at Nancy’s work. I absolutely love her style and the way she layers the wax. Of course, anything that involves collage and beeswax is manna to my soul!

Nancy Crawford

Nancy Crawford

Here’s a link to her You Tube Channel

Nancy’s work inspired me to teach a workshop last year called Wax and Words. I modified her techniques a bit with stencils, stamps and scribbles – the results were super! I need to revive that workshop this winter at the new Little Studio. All I need is more time to do it!

If you just want a sample of Nancy’s great tips and have two minutes, here are three quickies to get you inspired when you don’t have time to do the work yourself.

Encaustic Technique 13 Transparentizing Paper

Encaustic Technique 12 Hot Wax Stylus

Encaustic Technique 7 Metallic Powder

Hope you’re enjoying this cooler weather in South Texas – it’s almost beginning to feel like Thanksgiving!

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Indigo paper kimonos: a tribute to Boro

A Vintage indigo-dyed Boro fabric kimono from 20th Century Japan, lovingly patched and preserved

I’ve just finished the three pieces that were inspired by the indigo dyed mulberry paper described in my last post. I had wanted to return to a kimono-like construction, and about halfway through the process of piecing the papers together, I realized that this was much like constructing a vintage indigo Boro kimono.

Boro is a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags” and it’s the term frequently used to describe lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing, used much longer than the normal expected life cycle. The beauty of boro fabric is the highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques used by the women who made and mended it. The beautiful arrangement of patches and mending stitches was born of necessity and happenstance, and was not planned by the maker.

Boro fabric reminiscent of American patchwork quilting

Here’s the first of my three indigo-dyed mulberry paper “Boro” kimonos, below. Each scrap of hand-dyed paper, each beeswax-coated paper bead, played an integral part in the composition.

You can see some of the construction details in this close-up. There are sticks woven through dyed and waxed images and paper beads hanging down from waxed linen string.

The second kimono, below, is a bit more formal in composition, but is still constructed from tattered and torn indigo-dyed mulberry paper. I also used a bit of Korean print rice paper which I sprayed with walnut ink in order to give some color  contrast – very Boro-like.

In the detail, below, you can see how four of the waxed and gilded paper beads have been double-laced together and then tied into the focal ornament.

All of the pieces are displayed in 11×14″ shadow boxes. I took the glass off to photograph the works, but at the exhibit, they will be covered with glass to protect the collage elements. Everything is adhered, but there is still some movement of string and beads behind the glass when the work is tilted, which is fun

In this last detail, you can see a bit of the rust effect that terra cotta walnut ink made on waxed white mulberry paper. I love that!

In fact, I love each of these three pieces because they reflect the philosophy of Boro, which means “too good to waste.” If you are a collagist, you know what I mean. We hang on to the tiniest of paper scraps, knowing that they will find a place –  eventually –  that is just right.

If you’d like to know more about Boro, here is a very user-friendly article from the FurugiStar blog. There are some lovely pictures, as well, and an intriguing description of a bodoko, or “life cloth.”

I am so happy about the connection that my little indigo kimono pieces have to the Boro tradition, and I plan to continue to explore this connection in paper and in fiber. More soon!

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Collage, Composition and old Cape Cod

Home at last from a couple of weeks on the East Coast, mostly Boston, but one of my other favorite stops was the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Thats where I taught Friday’s workshop on Collage and Composition. Almost all of the participants had been at the 11th International Encaustic Conference the previous weekend, so they knew their way around hot wax. But many of them had not worked much with collage, which surprised me.

We had a great time working with my “AB3” system of composition arrangement. I’ve included a cheat sheet about what that means at the bottom of this post.

When I submitted the proposal to Cherie Mittenthal, artist and director of the encaustic conference, I told her the title was “Composition Boot Camp and Kick-Butt Collage.” She liked the proposal but suggested I tame the name a bit. I did, but everybody still made awesome kick-butt collages, as you can see in the video, below.

Lyn Belisle: Collage and Composition Workshop at the Truro Center for the Arts from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The AB3 System gets you started by using Alignment, Breathing Room, and Thirds to plan your initial arrangement. Here’s what the Cheat Sheet says:

A=ALIGNMENT – The direction a picture, element, or shape “points” – the best alignment directs the viewer’s eye into engagement with the message or focus of the work.

B=BREATHING ROOM – Allow your elements to establish a dialogue with each other. Leave enough space that there is a contrast between “quiet” and “busy.”

3’s=THIRDS AND THREES – Use the nine-space grid that photographers use to establish good “bones” for your piece, and think in odds rather than evens.

One of my students, Mary, lived in Wellfleet, very close to the Arts Center. Bill and I told her that we had tried to find the Wellfleet Harbor and ended up on this weird one-lane road that took us to an even stranger dead-end island. Mary said that we had obviously gotten lost and ended up on isolated Lieutenant Island – check out the road through the marsh and the creaky wooden bridge we drove across. EEK!

Special thanks to Bill for all of the great photos that I used in the workshop video. Most of the time I take all of the photos myself while I’m teaching and I never get to see myself! And thanks to the super-nice kick-butt workshop participants.

 

Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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They found their wings. . .

. . . and, boy, did they soar! The women in yesterday’s class surpassed every expectation I had for our NeoSanto workshop, creating beautiful symbol-filled personal icons on canvas. And, as Robin said during our critique, “This is much more than just a canvas.”

I showed you the construction process in my last post, but what the students brought to it was the intangible sense of self. The idea of the NeoSanto is to interpret the traditional “santo” figure from the Southwest into a personal guardian. What resulted was one of the most meaningful art-making sessions and discussions that I can remember. I was honored to be there!

Take a look at their work in the video, below.

This may be the subject of the next workshop eBook! Many thanks to DeeDee, Pam, Robin, Marilyn and Lily for the amazing workshop synergy and generosity of spirit.

Up next – on to Artful Gathering! Meet me there in our virtual classroom – registration is open.

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