Provenance

I’ve been negligent about posting to SHARDS for several reasons. I wanted to change the look of the blog, and work on some website redesign as well.  So I’ve been busy, yes, but that’s no excuse.

Have you ever felt that the longer you go without doing something you should do, the harder it gets to do it? My brothers and I are of the generation that got swats on the bottom from our dad when we were little and did something REALLY bad. Daddy would let us choose the time for our swat, but would tell us that “the longer you wait, the harder it gets.” Sigh. The anticipation was worse than the swat, of course. Sometimes you just have to get it done and move on 🙂

But I digress – today I want to discuss “provenance,” a word that refers to the historical origin of a piece of art, or really any object. As an assemblage artist, provenance is hugely important to me. I believe that an object’s history can be sensed in some weird way, kind of like a shard of clay gives a clue to its history.

I’ve been working lately on a series of wrapped and bundles figures inspired by the Peruvian Chancay Burial dolls. Here’s the Chancay doll on the right and my interpretation is on the left.

Part of my process involves selecting specially-curated objects to wrap into the form. Here is another example:

Below are several little objects I want to wrap into the next figure – two seed pods and a feather.

No one who sees the finished doll will know about the provenance of these objects – they could be just some stuff I picked up anyplace. But the seed pods came from my Pride of Barbados tree which seemed completely dead after the snow disaster this year, but manages to come back gloriously despite the trauma. The feather came from the construction yard at SAY Si where they are building a wonderful new place to share art with the youth in San Antonio who really need it. So all three of these objects have a special “provenance,” a story of rebuilding and renewal.

As I said, no one but me knows about the provenance of these objects, but somehow they carry an aura of their story with them, and that infuses the finished piece with a sense of inexpiable mystery and meaning. You can do this with objects, with paper, with fiber.

When you have a choice in your own work of using something that has a special provenance even though it may not look quite as bright and shiny as something you bought at a craft store, consider the source, and go with what your heart says.

If you look up “provenance” as it relates to collecting art, you’ll find that it refers to the trail of ownership of an art object, or the history that got it from there to here. But every object has a history and a story based on where it is found. As an artist, you can incorporate those stories to give richness to your work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting with Fire

The title sounds like something my mother would have warned me against, but it’s actually one of the best things that could happened to an artist/teacher!

I’ve been invited to join a group of the Best Encaustic Teachers in the World (yes, they let me in!!) to participate in a year-long learning experience called Painting with Fire.

Click here to visit Painting with Fire Essence of Mulranny .

Would you like to meet these artists and see what their work looks like? It’s pretty awesome – check out the video.

Painting with Fire Online Workshop A Year of Encaustic from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The program was founded by Lora Murphy, an encaustic artist who was born in Ireland and has a school there in County Mayo called Essence of Mulranny. Lora sent out an invitation to us, scattered all over the world, and brought us together to teach this Masterclass. And it’s for beginners, too!

My pals Michelle Belto and Clare O’Neill are teaching in Painting with Fire, as well. I’ve learned so much from both of them. And when you sign up, you can take every single class offered by every single teacher over the course of a year, including mine and Michelle’s and Clare’s. Oooh, and Crystal Neubauer and Trish Seggebruch and Shary Bartlett and so many more of my favorite encaustic aritsts are in this, too!

The class that I am teaching is called MYTH AND MIST: Fusing Image and Imagination in Wax. It’s a combination of all the things I love about encaustic – pale translucent layers, mysterious photos and objects, fragrant beeswax – well, take a look for yourself. Here are some details from one of the first pieces I’ve been working on::

I honestly can’t wait to participate in Painting with Fire. Maybe Lora will invite me to Ireland to teach in person next year!!

I almost hesitate to say this, because I feel like I might jinx it, but there’s this new stirring amongst us creative creatures – a cautious optimism that’s reminding us that spring is coming and we can start reaching out again rather than just hanging on in survival mode.

By the way, The Enso Circle is certainly stirring! Michelle Belto and I have had a number of incredible applicants who want to join us in virtual residency. If you didn’t get a chance to read about it, here’s my last post that will explain it. It’s a program for the long-term, and when you are ready to consider it, we will be around! Applications are still open until February 21st, which is a week from this Sunday. Applicants will be notified of acceptance on February 23rd.

I hope to see you at Painting with Fire — it opens today!! Warm your hands with us at the encaustic griddle!

Click here to visit Painting with Fire Essence of Mulranny .

Take good care, trust the process – ♥

Lyn

 

 

The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

Susie King Taylor – Inspiring Discovery, Remarkable Woman

Upcoming Black History Month is the perfect time to share what I have learned about a remarkable woman named Susie King Taylor.

Several months ago, I was looking thrugh old photos in the archives of the Library of Congress and saw this one. Sometimes, images reach out like a compelling force, and this was one of them. What a presence!

After I learned that her name was Susie King Taylor, I started researching her remarkable life, then used her image to inspire an artwork.

Born into slavery in Georgia in 1848, Susie King Taylor (born Susan Baker) lived on a plantation for the first seven years of her life. In 1855, Susie was allowed to go live with her free grandmother in Savannah. Despite Georgia’s harsh laws prohibiting formal education for African Americans, Susie attended two secret schools taught by black women and was tutored by two white youths.

In April 1862, Susie was able to escape slavery with her uncle and other African Americans who fled to a federal gunboat near Confederate-held Fort Pulaski. She went to live on Union-occupied St. Simons Island off the southern Georgia coast along with hundreds of other formerly enslaved refugees. There, at only 14 years old, Susie became the first black teacher to openly educate African Americans in Georgia.

That same year Susie married Edward King, a black officer in the 33rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment, and began serving as a nurse and laundress for his regiment. Off hours she taught the soldiers reading and writing and, according to her memoirs, “…learned to handle a musket very well…and could shoot straight and often hit the target.”

Susie served as a nurse at a hospital for African American soldiers in Beaumont, South Carolina, where she met and worked with Clara Barton. For four years and three months, she served the Union military without pay. Susie and Edward remained with the 33rd Regiment until they were mustered out at the end of the war. (Source)

Susie King Taylor’s autobiographic book, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, was written in 1906 and is still in publication. I ordered her book and  was transported by her wisdom and graciousness. She is a skilled and objective writer.

I was compelled to use her striking mage in an encaustic mixed-media collage, which was recently included in an article in the Winter 2020 issue of Encaustic Arts magazine.

In the article, I wrote, “In one of my latest pieces, the subject is a striking African American woman. As usual, I knew nothing about her until her photograph almost leaped out at me from the screen as I was looking through Library of Congress for inspiration.  She was identified in the photograph as Susie King Taylor, and through research I learned that she was the first Black Army nurse. During the Civil War, she tended to the all-Black 33rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment. In my encaustic collage titled Susie, I included gauze and horsehair as material symbols of her life in the regiment.”

You can see the gauze and horsehair embedded in the beeswax layers in this detail. I used colors of indigo and sepia as the primary palette:

As always, photos and stories from the past continue to inspire and fascinate me as inspirations for my work. Susie’s story was one of the best discoveries I’ve made.

If you’d like to learn more about her, please watch this brief video about the life of Susie King Taylor, produced by the Georgia Women of Achievement when she was inducted in 2018. You’ll be glad you did.

See you next time, and take good care,

Lyn

Blessings from Bri – prayer flag inspirations

I just finished the last video for my new workshop called Strands of Light: A Prayer Flag Sampler. Now comes the editing, the writing, and the uploading to my online classroom – and it WILL be done by October first. Yikes, that’s just a week from now!

The person I called on for advice when I got the idea for this prayer flag workshop was my friend Briana Saussey, writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor. Bri holds a B.A. and M.A. in Eastern and Western classics, philosophy, mathematics and science from St. John’s College (Annapolis and Santa Fe), and is a student of Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.

While I can (joyfully) teach the techniques for making prayer flags, it’s Bri who is the expert on the heart of the matter – creating and offering prayers and blessings. She graciously agreed to partner with me as my “expert witness” to the power of spirituality  in our art making. Without that component, a prayer flag is simply a piece of decorated cloth.

Bri has agreed to share her Daily Blessings with the workshops participants as well as her thoughts on the subject. Here is an excerpt from an interview we did earlier in September. I asked her about the nature of prayer and blessings.

Excerpt from an interview with Briana Saussey for the Strands of Light Prayer Flag workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I am so grateful to Briana for her help. Incidentally, she has a new book out called Making Magic. I love my copy of this book – it’s very surprising in many ways, and very practical.

Here are two of the prayer flag/blessing banners that I made for the upcoming Strands of Light workshop. Both use Bri’s Daily Blessings as inspiration.

So when the workshop opens on October 1st, you’ve got all kinds of resources, both artistic and spiritual, to make a fine flock of prayer flags and blessing banners! Hope to see you then. I’m off to the studio make a little prayer flag to honor RBG.

♥Lyn

From frustration to fruition, blobs and all

Do you have a “frustration pile”?  It’s a stack of artwork that isn’t bad enough to trash or paint over completely, but it isn’t going anywhere, and maybe never will.

While I was working on my Lotus Book workshop, I found several 11×14″ encaustic and mixed media collages in that pile that had never quite come together for me and were just sitting there. It occurred to me that I could make cover-sized (4.5″ x 4.5″) squares for Lotus Books from the work.

Here’s one of those collages. It’s not terrible, but it lacks focus and purpose. I remember that I was trying six or seven techniques, and I learned a lot, but the piece already looks as if it’s begging to be  cut into squares. Right?

I whacked it mercilessly (but carefully) with my trusty Ingento paper cutter. Here are the resulting six book covers.

If you’ve taken my free Lotus Book workshop, you know that the back side of a cover doesn’t have to be waxed because the pages stick directly to it.

But there is one more important step to make these more suitable for Lotus Book covers. Because the paper cutter leaves a clean, but unfinished edge, it’s best to dip each of the four edges into the wax medium to smooth and seal them.

You can see, below, that the wax-dip barely noticeable, but it makes a big difference in helping the newly-cut covers feel finished.

Here’s a tip – let the dipped edges cool a bit before you turn it to dip the next edge. Otherwise, you will end up with a blob.

Oops. The blob can be scraped off, but best to do it right and be patient (which is NOT one of my best virtues).

And, Voila! A new Lotus Book arises like the Phoenix from the Pile of Frustration!

Now, if you have sharp eyes, you’ll see that I left the Blob on that cover. Blobs add character, and don’t let anybody talk you out of your blobs, personal or artistic! Perfection is boring.

A couple of notes:

The free Lotus Book workshop is going strong, and I encourage you to check out my workshop studio on Teachable. You’ll be joining a group of almost 200 satisfied lotus-bookies. Here’s the link.

If you want to see a fun, short video on a related subject, check out my buddy Michelle Belto‘s take on reusing her encaustic collages – it will inspire you to start cutting! Here’s the link.

Be safe, trust the process, and celebrate your blobs today!

Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

What the heck IS an “Interactive eBook,” anyway ???

I’m happy-dancing about the reviews for my bestselling interactive eBook, Postcards to Myself.  It’s the perfect way to practice your art when in-person workshops aren’t possible.

But what the heck is an “Interactive eBook” and how does it work??

Basically, you purchase a PDF file of the book here, download it to your own computer, read it at your own pace, and follow the embedded links to see the workshop videos in whatever order and how ever many times that you want.. Watch this short explanation!

Video Link – What is an Interactive eBook?

Here’s how the online purchase process works. It’s super-safe and super-easy – watch this.

Video Link – Buying and Downloading an Interactive eBook

Now, let’s say that the worst happens – you pay for the book, but it somehow gets lost in the download or you can’t find the file. Just email me, and I will send you a new copy as an attachment. But I seriously doubt you’ll run into trouble with the download.

Click here for more about Postcards to Myself, including the purchase link

If you’ve never used an Interactive eBook, I’d love to have you start with Postcards to Myself, of course 🙂 Here are reviews from artists who are trying this “postcard” method of mixed-media compositions just so you’ll know it’s working for people who are downloading it:

  • Great idea, wonderful instructor. This is more than an eBook, it’s a class! (Eva Macie)
  • Lyn, you are an incredibly generous teacher! I felt like I was getting a front row seat as you shared your various processes and let me even watch how you fixed a piece that didn’t work out like you had planned. I just loved this class.  (Linda Harris)
  • If you enjoy making collages and if you have time to work on some collage projects, my friend Lyn Belisle is a wonderful artist who wrote an e-book on making collages. It is called “Postcards to Myself” — https://www.lynbelisle.com/ebooks.html I have gone through the first part of her e-book and here is a photo of my first collage. I used photos of my mother in the 1920’s. (Linda Moody)

Linda Moody, Tulsa, OK

As a life-long teacher, I think this “postcard method” is a fun way to discover your potential for doing your best work. You don’t need fancy materials, and you’ll find lots of “right answers” in your creative experimentation.

So that’s how Interactive eBooks work. I think they are a great way to learn because they are a combination of words and videos that you can return to time and time again.

Thanks for making Postcards to Myself so successful. I’d love to hear from you! Stay safe, trust yourself, and trust the process.

♥Lyn

Workshop Update – Meow

THE MYSTICAL CAT SHAMAN IS BACK!

The Mystical Cat Shaman Workshop was first offered in 2016 as part of the Artful Gathering summer class program. When the Artful Gathering group scattered, I decided to bring this popular class back to a new audience.

The NEW Cat Shaman workshop will be available until August 1, 2020 for $39 tuition, which is about half of its previous cost. In this new version, I have updated the handouts and added to them. The videos, for the most part, are the original ones, almost three hours of detailed instruction.

You can read more about it on my website. There is a free lesson from the workshop available that might help you decide if you want to create some feline magic. Ask your cat if she wants to help. Yeah, right 🙂

Click here for the CAT SHAMAN WORKSHOP info.

And there are new Cat Face Shards in my Etsy Shop!

If you decide to take the workshop, I will show you how to make your own cat faces, step-by-step, using about four or five different techniques. That’s always the best way to do it, learning for yourself.

But if you want to purchase some Cat Shaman from my Etsy shop, great!

I’ve added some new cat faces using the mold I made in the the original workshop. They are kiln-fired earthenware and they come in three finishes. They’re $9 each and there is a limit of 2 (I have only 30 right now).

You may find that they are sold out when you go to the Etsy shop. I sent an advance notice to my private email list last night, and the cats are going like hotcakes. 🙂

However, I’m making more earthenware cat faces today and they should be fired and  ready to go by Saturday. I’ll re-list them ASAP. (And if you’d like to be on my email list for previews and updates, you’re welcome to sign up).

Last note – I’m finally internalizing the reality of these times. Sigh. It’s going to be a long summer and fall without in-person interaction.

As a social creature and an artist who cherishes the company of my circle of friends and co-creators, I miss the times we could really look at each other’s work, touch the textures, laugh and hug in person.

But if there was ever a time to count our blessings, this is it. Be safe, trust yourself and trust the process, and take good care!

Want to explore encaustic portraits? Use your phone to email photos to yourself!

Another enthusiastic workshop group met at my studio on Wednesday afternoon to explore collage, composition, and beeswax. Thanks to Marcia Roberts for organizing this great gathering. They were fantastic.

It’s my custom at the beginning of the workshop to give everyone a large packet of images that have been printed on regular letter paper with an inkjet printer. This insures that the paper is absorbent and will be “beeswax friendly.” I ask everyone to choose only from these images for their first collage.

This gives everyone choices within the same range of images, and it’s amazing to see how different each resulting artwork is. Here are a few of the images being arranged and veiled with white paint and asemic writing.

Then I showed them a tip that I want to share with you as well – how to use your own photos in an encaustic collage. I took a photo of Veronica while she was working at the table, then emailed it to myself from my phone. Here she is – great smile, right?

I went right to my studio computer, opened the email and the attachment, and showed everyone how to print out the photo in sepia tone. Then I adhered it to my demo collage and added some graphic elements such as veiling, asemic writing and stamps.

I continued the demo and showed how to apply a layer of beeswax, to incise, and to add pan pastels and book foil to the composition. It was fun playing with a photo of someone who was actually in the workshop, and Veronica got a collage portrait to take home!

I encourage you to take photos with your phone and email them to yourselves to print out and use in your work. It doesn’t even have to be a person – think orchids, cats, and spider webs!

Everyone in Wednesday’s workshop was really inspired – here are some of their encaustic collages. They paid attention to the composition lesson, and even though some of the packet images were similar, the results are beautifully original.

Veronica Miller

Maggie Fitch

Maggi Peachy

Catherine Danner

Marcia Roberts

I think these encaustic collage workshop are so useful and popular because the lessons on composition and layering can be used in any medium, from acrylic painting to fiber to journaling. And using your own phone photos gives a personal touch that makes this kind of art practice a unique statement of who you are.

Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

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!