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 🙂

 

Shards and Tesserae

Christa Lamb is a mosaic artist from Cottonwood HeightsUtah, who has ordered small shard faces from my Etsy shop several times. She sent me a message last week saying, “I thought you might be interested in seeing how I use your beautiful faces in my work,” and she attached some photos.

 I was amazed at her work. I often wonder how artists use these faces, but never expected to see them incorporated into such fantastic mosaics!

I asked her if I could share them with SHARDS readers, and she agreed – thanks, Christa!

She sent several more examples, all of which use mixed media materials to create rich panoramas in tiles, glass and found objects. I love these fabulous “storyboards.”

Here are some more of Christa’s mosaics:

The details are endlessly intriguing.

Look at this mysterious mixture, below!

I found more of her work on Flickr – along with some gorgeous photos of Utah.
Thanks, Christa – so grateful for your work and your email ! Do you show your work in a gallery? We’d love to see more!
Keep in touch,
Lyn

 

 

 

“Where can I get . . . ? (my top five sources – non-Amazon!)

The New Year is a great time to identify the creative materials you use the most .  These are your signature media, your “desert island” necessities. This list can help you in your resolution to streamline and simplify your studio space once you know what you will really use.

I know what MY own signature media are. Here are the Top Five that I use extensively in my own work and in almost all of my workshops (Raise your hand if you’ve used walnut ink because you learned about it in one of our workshops!)

  1. Tsukineko Walnut Ink
  2. Beeswax
  3. Book Foil
  4. Sari Silk
  5. Artificial Sinew

I get a lot of questions about where to find these materials since they are not really mainstream art/craft materials. I prefer to buy from places other than Amazon (although the Big A is certainly fast and convenient).

But when I can obtain my signature materials from other artists or independent retailers, I try to share those sources.

Here they are – enjoy looking! :

Tsukineko Walnut Ink:

https://www.imaginecrafts.com/walnut-ink/view-grid/1351

I have always ordered my walnut ink spray from Imagine Crafts. They have friendly customer service and ship quickly.  It’s often hard to find walnut ink at places like Michael’s or JoAnns (a lot of people have never heard of it) but it’s always in stock at Imagine.

If you browse around the Tsukineko inks, you’ll see that there is a pastel set (Cherry Blossom, Cornflower, Willow, Lilac) as well as an earth-tone set (Java, Eucalyptus, Walnut, Terra Cotta). Either set of four bottles retails for $23. Any color can also be purchase singly for $5.70.

Beeswax:

There are many different forms of beeswax and thousands of ways to use it.  I use beeswax for encaustic collage and for assemblage. I use it on clay and on fiber. My preferred beeswax is all natural White Beeswax pellets, refined in the USA without any chemical bleaching aids. My favorite source for this is Swans Candles in Tenino, WA.

Swans has a fine selection of beeswax and other encaustic supplies (including Damar Varnish if you want to make your own encaustic medium). Their prices are excellent. You can buy a pound of Natural White Beeswax pellets for $9.95.

Most retail art stores now sell beeswax and other encaustic supplies, but you can expect to pay almost twice as much per pound. Even on Amazon, a pound of R&F Encaustic White Beeswax lists at $18.86.

Book Foil:

This foil, also known as Deco Foil, is generally used for transferring metallic finishes to craft projects using an adhesive. Here’s a link to a video that shows demos about that. However, if you’ve taken an encaustic workshop with me, you know that we also use it to create fine gold marks onto a waxed surface.

One of the best places to order this foil is Dharma Trading Company. They are generally known for their fiber art supplies, but you will love their site for lots of other reasons! For Deco Foil, for example, they have the best selection and lowest price of anyone, including Amazon. Currently, they sell a cylinder of five sheets, 6×10″, for just $3.89.

Sari Silk:

I discovered my source, Felt Better, on Etsy several years ago, and I have ordered from them many times.

This is what the owner, Michelle, says about her sari silk: “The beautiful, exotic sari ribbon I carry is all the best things about recycling that I love. First and foremost, it helps our fragile planet by making use of material that would end up in landfills. Did you know that it helps women too? It’s a fair trade product that works close with women co-op groups, insures they get a fair wage, that helps them support their families….and most importantly, no child labor is involved.”

I use sari silk for so many things – for journals, assemblage, spirit dolls, and just to hang in my studio for pure enjoyment of its colors, history, and textures. A 100 gram skein (about 45 yards) costs $12.50 at Felt Better.

Artificial Sinew:

Do the words “cat gut” make you shudder? What about “sheep sinew?” Those were traditional material used for lacing and tying leather and gourds. Fortunately, artificial sinew is now available because I use a lot of it! It’s a material I use for clay assemblage, bead stringing, fiber art, and almost anything else that requires tying one thing to another thing.

I used to buy it at Tandy’s Leather Store, but have discover a new online treasure trove. The Thread Exchange specializes in the kinds of thread that are not sold in stores, including a huge selection of artificial sinew. The company is based in North Carolina and its website is user-friendly.

They have almost twenty colors of sinew, although I am partial to the Natural and the other earth colors like Terra Cotta. A 17-yard roll is about $5.00 and a 265-yard roll is only about $15.00.

For 2020, I would like to make a commitment to bring into my workspace only those materials that I really need, use and love. Hmmmm… it’s not always easy, because experimenting with new things is part of the game.

So here I go, tempting you with great sources for wonderful materials that may be new to  — I hope some of these will inspire your work for the new year. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

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 –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Spark to Finish

Finding time to work on pieces to submit for juried shows is definitely a luxury these days, but I’m always looking for the spark of an idea that might work for an interesting “Call for Entry.”

So I got an idea last week for  the upcoming Fiber Artists of San Antonio show based on a piece I did for a show at St. Mary’s University in February. It was a standing screen sculpture with silk ribbon pieces on the surface. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

I made a very rough drawing in my sketchbook with tag-shaped objects that might have faces on them to be printed on linen and then attached to a new screen structure.

You can see the word “beeswax” under the sketch – honest, that’s what it says. But I wasn’t thinking about encaustic at this point, focusing on fiber instead.

I decided to use the faces in this 1936 photo of children in the Netherlands who were living in poverty – isn’t it haunting?

I adhered a piece of linen to some freezer paper that was cut to 8.5 x 11″ and then opened the photo in Photoshop, edited it for a sepia tone, and ran it through my printer. Once the freezer paper was peeled off, I tore two of the photos apart and adhered those to some rice paper. Here they are:

They looked good – and then I got stuck. They really weren’t right for the screen idea – too strong, too something. Days passed. Then I remembered the piece I had just written about, the one at the Museum of Encaustic Art with the faces of young girls working in poor conditions but looking both brave and resigned.

I hadn’t planned on making an encaustic piece from these faces, but coincidentally, the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe has a current call for entry called Global Warming is Real. All of a sudden, I could visualize these children’s faces looking through a window  onto a world where crops fail, oceans rise, and humans suffer devastation.

In the studio, I built a panel frame and added layers of wax and tissue with words of warning about climate change collaged around the edges. I waxed the linen and rice paper images. When the children’s faces were added, the piece worked as an expression of the theme. I call it “The Last Window.”

You can see in these details how well the linen works with the beeswax:

My beloved professor, the late sculptor Phil Evett, once told me that if an idea isn’t working, it’s not about the idea, it’s about where it belongs. In his case, he was talking about a carved head that had sat in his studio for 20 years until he finally found the right piece to attach it to.

In my case, these compelling children’s faces belonged in a mixed media encaustic and fiber collage about a critical environmental concern. It just took me a while to figure it out.

So let’s keep making those sketches and creating small shards of ideas – they will let you know where they belong! Oh, yeah, and I’ll let you know if “The Last Window” is accepted for the exhibit! (The deadline for submitting is tomorrow).

Thanks for reading SHARDS today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuban love song

I loved exploring the joy of Cuban artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster‘s mosaic-covered “Fusterlandia”, a home, studio, and community in Havana

Cuba is a land of creativity, contradictions, and complexity. After eight days there, I’m still processing the experience, and probably will for a very long time. (Cuba is a photographer’s dream. To go directly to the photos in my Cuba Journal, take this link.)

Our small group tour included “people to people” interaction with many local artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, ecologists, schoolchildren and more during our travels four areas across the island.

Dance students in training at a no-cost government-supported arts school

We spent several days in Havana, which is celebrating its 500th birthday this spring. The city is a time capsule of transportation and architecture. Cuba is a country still deeply entrenched in a complex political situation. Nevertheless, innovation and invention are everywhere and the spirit of the Cuban people is inspiring.

On the street near Ernest Hemingway’s house

There are many helpful guides for Americans who want to travel to Cuba, and it’s important to read them before you plan a visit there. For over 50 years Cuba was essentially off limits to Americans thanks to a 1962 trade embargo that made spending money on the island tantamount to treason.

This all changed in 2014, when the Obama administration announced a reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, to quote travel guide Andrew Scott, “This opportunity will not last forever. The influx of foreigners is rapidly transforming Cuba’s economic and social realities. Meanwhile, political uncertainties in the U.S. make it impossible to know if the borders will remain open.”

I am so grateful that I visited Cuba when I did. For artists, it is rich with visual imagery – and Cuban artists are prolific and skilled, particularly in printmaking. I spoke to several of them about their processes and vision.

Two artist/educators discuss their work as professional artists

One thing we didn’t talk about was Decreto 349, a new decree by the Cuban government that criminalizes independent artists and places severe restrictions on cultural activity not authorized by the Ministry of Culture. You can read more about that here.

The Internet just become available in Cuba two months ago, and vendors were selling WiFi cards everywhere we went. It is going to be extremely interesting to see what effect that kind of global access produces.

I have a lot more reading to do about Cuba, but in the meantime, the photos from the trip continue to inspire me. Here are some of my favorites, presented in a photojournal on my website. I hope these digital snapshots express all the reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with Cuba and its people.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Nine Antlers

“Nine Antlers” (detail)
Lyn Belisle 2018
Clay, plaster, gauze, fiber, found objects
14×28″

This mixed media work on canvas, titled “Nine Antlers” is my second entry for the Fiber Artists juried show. It has a compelling back story…….

In 1988, a team of archaeologists from the University of Texas in San Antonio excavated a burial site less than half a mile from where I live now. This is from the abstract of the study:

“The burials, identified as a Late Archaic component, were associated with two radiocarbon dates of 1920 B.P. and 2200 B.P. The burial practices of this time period as documented at this site include flexed burials of adults and children interred with a variety of grave offerings, including deer antlers, deer skull fragments, marine and freshwater shell ornaments, worked bone, ocher, a ground stone slab, and unaltered cobbles.”

One of the bodies was a young woman – here is her description:

It’s impossible not to wonder what kind of life this young woman had in prehistoric Texas, just north of the Olmos Dam. I wanted to honor her by putting together clay shards with pieces of fiber and found objects that represented both her burial and her discovery. I named her “Nine Antlers” because of this description:

“Nine antler racks (18 bases and associated deer skull fragments) were covering Burial 10. All are identified as from white-tailed deer. These were carefully placed atop one another with the base or cap of the skull placed towards or near the chest area.”

Someone must have loved her a great deal to adorn her body with these ritually placed antlers.

I stared by looking through my clay components for a good match – not too pretty or defined. And actual antlers would be out-of-scale, so I did not choose them.

These terra cotta pieces, below, almost worked, but they were not “deconstructed” enough to fit the concept.

I settled on white clay for the head and body and added bone-white branches. I wrapped them together with plaster and gauze, rather like a bindings of a mummy.

This is the first stage, below, with wire, wax and walnut ink added to the mix.

I covered a stretched canvas with linen drop-cloth strips, laid the figure on it, then partially covered the side with the fabric.

I kept adding linen strips and gauze, wire and plaster, wanting to both conceal and reveal the figure. The mixture of clay and sticks and fiber worked well.

Here is the finished piece:

“Nine Antlers” Lyn Belisle 2018 Clay, plaster, gauze, fiber, found objects 14×28″

“Nine Antlers” may be finished, but I want to continue working with this scientific narrative and perhaps do a series honoring the thirteen people who were buried and discovered here so close to my home. The materials I love – clay, fiber, bone, wax and pigment – lend themselves to this exploration.

I invite you to read this archaeological study, especially the details about adornments, traces of ochre pigments, and all of the other small gestures that connect us as humans across time. You can read the entire 1988 report about Nine Antlers and her people here.

 

Marfa – and wax on black exploration

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!