Fat fiber and skinny holes – Carolyn to the rescue!

Just because I call myself a “mixed-media artist” doesn’t mean I am good at everything. On the contrary.

When I took a seed-beading workshop a few years ago, I got so frustrated trying to threading those microscopic devil-beads onto a hair-thin sewing needle to attach them to a piece of felt, my table-mate finally said, “Honey, why don’t just just try hot glue?”‘

Threading stuff is not my strength. If you’ve watched my workshop videos, you may have noticed that I often have to change course after try to force a piece of fuzzy thread through a little hole in a clay face.

Fortunately, one of my online workshop participants, artist Carolyn Congrove from Tucson, took pity on me and just sent me this great video that she made to help me out! This is very cool.

She shows three easy approaches to threading wiggly big thread and ribbon though little holes without causing the threadee to have a nervous breakdown. I asked her if I could share it with you guys, and she said I could.

Her daughter April shot the helpful video. The floss-threader tip, as she says, is a game-changer.

 

This isn’t the first time Carolyn has helped me out – she sent some great photos of her lotus books that I used in one of my recent posts about giving gifts of art from your heart during this pandamic.

Carolyn Congrove

I have met so many nice (and helpful) people like Carolyn through the online workshops on my Teachable site. Don’t forget there are free workshops for you there, including the Lotus Book.

And if you want to trim your Lotus Book with some little-bitty beads on some wiggly fuzzy thread, Carolyn has come to our rescue.

Take care – stay cool!

Lyn

 

 

Pretty Paper Pendant Pockets

In the spirit of keeping calm, carrying on, and surviving all this together, I’ve created a new online workshop for you. It’s called Pretty Paper Pendant Pockets, and if you enjoyed the Lotus Book class, you’ll love this one.

And, yes, it’s free. This is another mixed-media/paper project from me to you that makes a beautiful gift for friends.

PS – there’s a bonus lesson on aromatherapy and creativity!

Here’s where to enroll

And here are more pictures –

Please be safe, and have a happy, creative weekend!

♥Lyn

 

Lifting spirits with little gifts of art

Have you noticed that little gifts mean even more in tough times? I’m not sure I ever realized that before the “Age of COVID” smacked us all around and left everybody’s crystal balls all fogged up. But some things never change, like creative thoughtfulness.
When I published my new eBook, Postcards to Myself, I wrote it primarily for individual artists (beginners and seasoned) who needed an engaging method to discover, curate, and record their best techniques.

But those artists have taken the “postcard” idea and run with it.
I just got this note from one of them:
Just wanted to let you know that I really got caught up in your class “Postcards to Myself”.  I never really understood how to do collage until I took this class.  I was gathering quite the stack of them and finally decided to share them. 
I wrote words of inspiration on the Mat board before I started the collage.  I put them in envelopes and sent them out to friends and those who might be needing a little bit of encouragement during this pandemic. 
Creating the art helped me immensely!  I probably send out between 75 and 100 of them.  What fun I’ve had! Thanks for teaching the class!
Niki W.
Here’s Niki’s work table with postcards in progress:
This email was totally unexpected – and frankly, pretty exciting! Who wouldn’t want an actual piece of art in the mail? Niki, you are the best!
Another “giving” idea (from me to you) is my free workshop called The Lotus Book. Currently, there are 111 artists enrolled in that class, watching the instructional videos, and creating these art books. In the Lotus Book workshop, I encourage you to make these little journals a gifts for others.
Here are some emails and examples that artists have sent to show me what they’re doing:
Hi, Lyn,
I just finished my first lotus book! Thank you so much for a wonderful time, for sharing your creativity with all of us. Here are the pics.  Not the greatest, had to use a cat snoozie for a background and the light wasn’t quite right, but you’ll get the idea.Seems like a win-win during this Pandemic time. Stay safe! ~ Kate 
This book, from Anna, has such great pattern coordination – lucky someone, whoever gets this one!
And this note, from Carolyn, combines the Postcard book techniques with the Lotus Book! Brilliant!

 

Hi Lyn,
I’m having so much fun watching your classes and then working on the projects.  The first two photos are of the Lotus book.  I had cut out some 4×4 pieces from some scrap from the Postcards to Myself class and decided they would look great applied to a Lotus book.  The third photo is from the Postcards to Myself class but without the wax. They’re just the inspiration and distraction l needed. ~ Carolyn

 

My job in all of this is to encourage you to create with a purpose – creative thoughtfulness is a win-win.

 

Here’s the ink to the free Lotus Book workshop.

And here’s the link to the Postcard book – it’s not free but it’s  very affordable and will reward you will much gratitude fro your friends who are graced with your mail art!

 

Trust yourself, trust the process, and take good care this week –

 

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!

Here’s to YOU, Old Chap . . .

Sorry about the corny title, but I wanted to share a little tutorial with you about how to make a chapbook journal.

Chapbooks by Lyn

I made the video for my friend Alexandria van de Kamp, Executive Director of Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s Literary Arts Center. She loved it and thought it might be a fun project for poets and writers. I thought that most artists could always use another small journal, too.

This one requires nothing more than 20 minutes and uses materials that you have already: paper, string, scissors, a glue stick, magazines or other collage stuff.

Here’s how to do it, Old Chap:

Video Link

And if you missed it on Facebook, here’s another helpful video (OK, so it’s a commercial for my eBook, Wax & Words) that will give you some composition tips that you can use on the cover of your chapbook.

Video Link

As I say in the chapbook tutorial, these little journals are so easy to make for yourself and for friends. Make several and record your cheery thoughts about quarantine, plague. . . . .oh, wait, never mind. We are artists! We create joy!

HERE ARE SOME QUOTES TO INSPIRE YOUR CHAPBOOK MUSINGS:

  • “Because most artists are ‘sensitive’ in every sense of the word, if you don’t take charge, negative emotion can ruin you.” (Gaye Adams)
  • “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” (Winston Churchill)
  • “When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.” (Sam Lefkowitz)

Stay safe, everyone – hope to see you soon! And dare I say, “May the Fourth be with you” ? ♥♥♥

Another gift of artistic diversion for you – Collage on Canvas

There’s a helplessness in knowing this situation going to get worse before it gets better. My thoughts are with all of you as we circle the wagons and wait.

Just for inspiration, I’m giving you another little downloadable book about one of my most popular workshops called Creating a Dimensional Collage on Canvas.  It’s an illustrated step-by-step guide to composing a personal art collage that includes three-dimensional objects as well as images and textures.

It’s available for purchase as a Kindle book, but I’m giving you the PDF version which you can easily download and explore for free. You’ll find the access link a bit further down.

Here’s a full version of the collage example on the cover, along with another example using the one of the same faces with a different approach and emphasis.

You can see that there are all kinds of little items connected to the canvas that add symbolic and textural complexity to the compositions.

I hope you try it – it’s really fun, especially if you have some meaningful photos that you can print out.

CLICK BELOW ON THE DOWNLOAD LINK FOR THE BOOK (the file is compressed so it won’t be too big for you to get it to your computer)

Collage on Canvas – Lyn Belisle_compressed

NOTE: This project was especially designed for the wonderful women of the Gaian Soul Retreat at Aldermarsh on Whidbey Island led by my beloved friend Joanna Colbert Powell in 2015. “Creating a Dimensional Collage on Canvas” unites the visual, the spiritual, and the joyful aspects of the creative process. You may substitute your own “ingredients” from the Materials List on page three in the book.

Even if you don’t decide to do the project itself, it may give you some ideas for digging through family photos in this unexpectedly quiet time. You can also take inventory of your own collage materials. Inevitably, this always leads me to new ideas and happy distractions.

If you want to see the project in action, this video shows one of my first Collage on Canvas workshops, which was held in 2012 at my kitchen table even before I had my big studio on Nacogdoches Road.

I think you’ll especially like the personal photographs that the participants used with many different materials and techniques.

 

Know that I miss seeing you all, but one of the lessons we are learning through all of this is that it is a luxury to be with friends in person at a gathering of like minds – I hope I never take it for granted again! Stay safe in your creative confinement 🙂

 

Photoshop Elements Texture Quickie

This morning I started putting together a post about jurying art competitions, coming soon. Yesterday I was the Juror for the Canyon Lake Art Guild‘s new exhibition. It’s always an honor – and a learning experience! Stay tuned to see the winners – and see if you agree with me!

In the meantime, I got distracted by a topic on Pinterest that’s worth sharing (I have the attention span of a gnat).  Even if you’ve used Photoshop Elements, you may not know how easy it is to work with textures and overlays using your own photos.It’s also very addictive.

This very short video (you can skip the ad in 5 seconds) by Nicole Young is one of the best I’ve seen. (She uses a Mac, so if you’re using a PC, just replace the “Command” with “Control.”)

So here’s my masterpiece to use as an example. I call it “Morning Desk with Almost-Empty Diet Dr Pepper.” This is the original photo, taken just minutes ago:

Here is is with a texture overlay that I snagged from Free Stock Textures:

You can even use your own photos as textures. Here’s a photo I took when I was dyeing fabric for my Boro Horse:

And here’s what it looks like combined with the amazing Diet Dr Pepper masterpiece:

As I said, working with textures and blending modes is addictive – you have been warned!

A last word – last night I had an email conversation with my Austin-based designer friend Monika Astara about digital art as ART. (She’s doing some wonderful digital collage work and incorporating it into a new line of one-of-a-kind T-Shirts, soon to be available!)

We talked about digital art vs traditional studio-based art. If you ever thought that digital art is not “real” art, read this article for a different perspective.

Facts and Myths about Digital Art

And if you want to see more digital art tutorials by Nicole Young, check out her website!

Resolving to sell more of your art this year? How about Etsy?

“Earthshards,” my Etsy shop for small earthenware faces, reached a milestone in 2018.

I opened the shop in February of 2012 and made my first sale at 08:52 p.m. on Saturday, March 31st, 2012 to Andrea Veldhoff in Newark, Ohio – thanks, Andrea! (This is what she ordered – they are definitely “shards,” not complete faces.)

By December of 2012, I had sold 83 orders and earned $1500. That was so exciting!

Six years later, there’s even more exciting news – for the first time, in 2018, my annual Etsy revenue exceeded $10,000. Woohoo! Honestly, I didn’t set out with that goal in mind, but it’s a proud moment.

Last year I sold 466 orders to people all over the world and earned $10,239.74! That’s not exactly a living wage, but it’s a lot of little faces – and I am grateful to every buyer for finding me. I’m also grateful to Etsy for keeping all the stats on every order. They really make it easy and fun to track sales.

For example, here’s where some of those faces went:

Plus, I get fantastic pictures from buyers showing me how they use the faces – they inspire me!

Spirit doll photo from a creative buyer

Reaching this milestone just kind of crept up on me. Filling Etsy orders has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it much. I spend one or two days a month making a hundred or so faces and firing them, and then I custom-finish them as the orders come in.

I’ve learned what buyers like (full faces, open eyes, holes at the top) and I’ve learned to wrap the orders attractively and stamp the mailers with my logo. While I don’t really advertise, word of mouth and persistence has paid off.

So what?? This isn’t just patting myself on the back – it’s mostly to say that if your New Year’s Resolutions include getting your art out there in the new year, opening an Etsy shop is one way to do that.

Some tips:

Find a niche that relates to your own art style.

I was lucky. There were no other sellers making the small clay faces which I was also using in my own work. Now there are lots of small faces, but most of the sellers are using polymer or air dry clay and commercial molds.

Show how the buyer might use the artwork.

I was able to post photos of the faces being used in my Spirit Doll workshops so buyers could see how the faces might work for them. I also showed them as pendants and talismans.

Think about how you will ship your work

If you can come up with artworks that are variations of pieces that are all about the same size and weight, it’s a lot easier than trying to figure out how to wrap and ship a bunch of different sized pieces. For example, if you are making Day of the Dead milagro-embedded candles, keep them all the same size, but use different scents and colors. (Etsy creates downloadable shipping labels for you, so that part is easy).

Make sure you like doing it!

If you can’t stand scented oils that go into candles, don’t make those Day of the Dead candles even if you’re selling like crazy. You’ll start to hate it.

Be specific/original in your approach

Let’s say you’re a fiber artist who does needle felting – don’t open a needle-felted whatever shop. Narrow it down to small needle-felted pouches for your grandkids’ baby teeth. Well, maybe not THAT specific, but you get the idea.

Here are some good articles if you’re interested in thinking more about this . . .

The Most Successful Art-Related Etsy Shops – with advice

Tips from Three Successful Artists about Selling on Etsy

And finally, the Etsy site has great guides to opening your own shop!

The Etsy Seller’s Handbook

Thanks for reading SHARDS, and Happy (and prosperous) New Year!!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Quick Kitchen Counter Photo Trick

Sample pieces of paper-infused porcelain clay

I took that fairly impressive photo, above, on my kitchen counter this morning with my iPhone.

Want to see how you can get the same photo-studio effect? All you need is some Scotch tape and  large piece of drawing paper. It helps if you have a light under your kitchen cabinet that shines on the counter.

So here’s my lighted kitchen counter with the little clay pieces sitting on it. I taped an 18″ x 24″ piece of newsprint against the back wall of the counter and let it curve loosely down on the counter surface.

Then I arranged the three small pieces in the center of the paper so it looked as if they were “floating.” I snapped three or four photos with my iPhone and chose the best one.

Later, I needed a good photo of a project I just finished for my Wax & Words eBook. It’s a little standing screen made with encaustic panels covered with marks and letters. Waxed surfaces are hard to reproduce in photos. This is what it looked like when I took the photo on the table in my studio. Kinda blah.

So I brought the little project home and tried my kitchen counter photo studio technique. I added an interesting rock and arranged the everything on the taped-up sheet of drawing paper.  Check it out!

Here’s how the pros do it – no cheap drawing paper or scotch tape for them.

But isn’t it amazing what a seamless background can do for a photo, even an iPhone photo? And nobody has to know that you took it on your kitchen counter.