In the 1970s, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas, where he created giant works of art beneath vast desert skies
I’m back from a week in West Texas and the beautiful Davis Mountains. One of the best parts of the trip was visiting Marfa and connecting with minimalist artist Donald Judd’s vision. There’s a great NPR article about this – click here. I love the quote by sculptor Campbell Bosworth – “You just come out here and you feel like, I want to make something; I want to do something!”
Maybe it’s the minimalist influence, but it must be true. The Marfa getaway ignited my creative curiosity, and as soon as I got back, I went into the studio and started working in black and white on an experiment with black substrates and beeswax.
I wondered what would happen to the translucent layers of beeswax when they were applied over a dark background.
I used an absorbent black paper and added some white markings with different kinds of media – crayon, stamps, paint:
I added a layer of beeswax – it made it kind of glossy, and did penetrate into the paper, which had been a concern. You don’t want it to just sit on the surface of the substrate:
More experiments – black and white (and a bit of walnut ink):
Like all experiments, some of the techniques worked well, and some were definitely “learning opportunities.” But there is a certain potential for interesting effects that are both chalk-like and smokey. I am going to push these ideas a little further and see what develops (like old black and white film).
Now that I’ve been “Marfa-ized” and infected with some new ideas, it looks like I may be spending more time at the studio, perhaps even developing a wax on black workshop!
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 & Wordsworkshop 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…
I’ve added a second section of Wax & Words on Monday, June 25th from 1-4 at the Semmes Studio,San Antonio Art League, for those of you who couldn’t get in the first one. Thank you all for your quick response.
The second session will have the same agenda as the first – if you would like to register, please go to this link and scroll to the bottom of the page. There is a limit of eight participants. We will have fun!
This three-hour workshop taught by Lyn Belisle introduces you to the concept of asemic writing as a component of evocative encaustic collage. Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret.
We will explore mark-making with all kinds of tools, including sticks, stamps, and sprayed walnut ink over stencils. Areas of the artwork will be isolated, then covered with thin layers of beeswax to add translucency to the mystery of the marks. The resulting work, elegant and timeless, will be matted for display and discussion.
A quick note . . Just wanted to let SHARDS readers know that I’m offering a workshop on Sunday, June 24th at the newly refurbished Semmes Studio on the grounds of the San Antonio Art League & Museum. I’m so excited to be teaching again, especially since this will be the first workshop since the new studio has been upgraded with a skylight and bathroom!
You can read about the workshop, WAX & WORDS, by clicking on the image, below. It’s a great way for beginners to learn about mark-making and encaustic techniques.
I got to teach not one, but TWO workshops-by-request this week! The little studio was a busy place.
The first workshop was on Sunday, and it was a family affair. My friend Marilyn had gifted her son and daughter and their spouses with an encaustic collage workshop. They all brought photos that were near and dear to their hearts to incorporate into their compositions.
We did a practice collage first in which we discussed basic composition and safe beeswax techniques. In their second collage, the made personal statements with their artwork. My favorite was a photo of their Grandmother Winnie standing in the snow in her bathing suit! (If you can’t see the images below, click here)
I loved working with this family. The men seemed especially adept at expressing their feelings through their art. Marilyn’s husband created a beautiful collage of his mother and her sister. We all got a bit teary as he talked about them during our critique time.
Thursday’s workshop was quite different. Another talented friend arranged it for her writing group. We made talismans with paper blessing beads – the secret notes the writers wrote on the inside of their beads must have been glorious! But the words were rolled, waxed, and gilded, never to be revealed!
Making these beads is everyone’s favorite part. It’s meditative and relaxing, surprisingly easy, and unexpectedly beautiful.
Here’s the video (If you can’t see it below, click here):
I’m going to make a list of available workshops-by-request on my website, and if you want to get a group of four to six together, I think you’ll enjoy it.Special thanks to Marilyn and Pamela for arranging for these enjoyable and creative afternoon workshops!
I donate a dollar from each sale to the Rodale Institute’s Honeybee Conservancy. Besides the fact that bees are vital to the environment in so many ways, they also give us sweet-smelling beeswax, which is vital to encaustic artists!
These bee dishes are made from irregular small slabs of clay, stamped and patterned, and then draped over “something” so they will dry in a slightly concave shape. I had never been able to find a suitable round object to drape them over.
I tried half of a plastic Easter egg, wads of tinfoil, cotton balls – nothing really worked.
The “something” had to be round on top, flat on the bottom, and relative smooth so the design would not be messed up when it was laid over the mold.
It also had to be heat-proof so that I could dry them in the oven and sand the bottoms before they went into the kiln.
Slab form in progress
I finally had an “Aha!” moment about the forms for draping the clay – I am a potter, after all, so could make the“something”myself!
Bee drape molds made of white clay
I rolled some white clay into balls, and formed two dozen small pinch pots to function as little individual drape molds. I fired them, and just tried them out yesterday. Voila! Perfect!
White clay formed into small pinch pots to be used as drape molds
a Bee dish draped over the white clay form
So the white clay mold worked great – it kept the dish from flattening out, and heated it from the inside while it was drying in the oven before sanding.
Bee dish with bottom sanded to flatten it slightly
When I unloaded the kiln, all the little dishes were nicely concave and were ready to be finished with walnut ink and metallic wax – the small hand-formed clay drape molds worked!
Bee dishes fresh from the kiln without their walnut ink enhancement
Bee dish as a ring holder
A lot of making art is about engineering and problem-solving, whether you’re painting or doing assemblage, fiber art or photography. Construction and composition are vitally important, and figuring it out is fun.
Here is the new crop of Bee dishes – Marta sells them for $12 and part of the money goes to a very bee-you-tiful cause. Hooray for artistic problem-solving!
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’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.
Working on an encaustic collage in my small studio space
You all know how much I enjoy teaching workshops with beeswax and collage, and some of you have my eBook about this, called Behind the Veil.One of the main points in my book is the fact that you don’t have to spend big bucks and have a giant studio to work with wax as an art medium.
I am happy to report that there are lots of other people who are using a simple setup for exploring this fun technique. One of the best I have come across recently is artist Laly Mille. She is incredibly generous in sharing her techniques, so rather than re-inventing the wheel, I want to pass along her information to you. Click on the image below –
Laly gives you a one-page overview with two excellent videos, including this one:
Honestly, you can almost smell the beeswax when you watch this! She also has a simple but complete list of materials as well as sources on finding them.
I am so grateful to artists like Laly who share their experiences and knowledge freely so that we can all create together. I’m headed back to the studio to heat up my griddle and do some beeswax layering – Laly has inspired me 🙂
A year ago – almost to the day – I said goodbye to my studio in Carousel Court. It was a hard goodbye. The space had been a gathering place for workshops, art shows, Show-and-Tell Saturdays, poetry readings – many things to remember and cherish. I truly miss that place, but it had become a huge responsibility, too big (and expensive) for one person to keep up forever.
Here’s a look at one of the early workshops there with beloved guest artist Sherrill Kahn. It was so much fun!
A month after I closed the doors forever, I found a smaller place just down the street from my new house. It has four rooms, lots of storage space, and reasonable rent.
Some of you have been there – thanks! Because of downsizing, and new responsibilities at the Art League, my workshop schedule had to be adjusted downward. Arg!
But ironically, on this anniversary weekend, I had twoworkshops at the new little studio, both of which were delightful (and neither of which was on my website calendar).
The first one on Friday the 13th was organized by six friends who wanted to learn some encaustic basics. They contacted me, and we scheduled it at their convenience. We did a variation of the “Behind the Veil” vintage photocollage workshop. We worked with layered beeswax, oil paint, book foil, walnut ink – all the fun media that gets good results. Here’s a video of that “workshop-by-request” gathering:
The second workshop on Sunday was my old favorite, Creating Spirit Dolls. I have a group of friends who went with me three years ago to Whidbey Island when I taught with Joanna Powell Colbert. They had been wanting to learn to make spirit dolls, and so we did it! Here’s that video – it’s so interesting to see how different everyone’s turned out.
I love teaching workshops! And as I look back on this year, I’m feeling the loss of those gatherings at the old studio. In the new place, we are limited to six people in a workshop, but that’s actually a good number. If you have a group of four to six people who’d like to learn mixed-media together, let’s talk. Workshop-by-request is a great concept.
I’m also going to expand online workshop offerings through some new ebooks with videos, starting with the popular “Postcards to Myself”. I got the nicest letter from an Etsy buyer yesterday, which gave me some encouragement:
Please continue making the e-books for people like me who live in another state and want to learn and experiment…am so excited…youre such an inspiration…thanks for sharing…and with your open heart all that you share and give will come back 10 fold to fill your heart and spirit as you have done for myself and others.”
Jacque in Washington State.
Finally, I have high hopes for the studio space at the Art League on King William Street. With good luck and some anticipated financial support, that studio may become the kind of gathering place that the old Carousel Court studio was. We’re having a workshop there on the 29th, and there are still two spaces left. Join us and give us your ideas and feedback
Workshop at the Art League Studio on King William Street
Looking back, it’s been a crazy, exciting, challenging year and one that has confirmed how much I love teaching and learning with all of you, no matter when, where or what! I hope to see you soon. Thanks for your support and friendship 🙂
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”