Leavin’ on a jet plane

I get to go on vacation!! Ten days of sightseeing on the Rhine River with friends and family. Gosh, I’ll probably come back with all kinds of ideas about castle-and-cuckoo-clock building workshops . . . and it really is going to be nice to get new creative inspiration in a completely different environment.

I’m taking my sketchbook and a little set of watercolors. Wonder if I can still remember how to draw? Wonder how fast we pass those castles? Better draw quick.

Pocket watercolor set – cute – wonder if you use an eyedropper for water?

Project on hold till I get back – the Talisman eBook. It’s finished, but I have asked pals Joanna Powell Colbert and Michelle Belto to review it for me while I’m gone. And since I have to close my Etsy shop while I’m away (and nobody can order talisman faces), it’s a good time to let it rest until I’m back at the end of April and can show it to you guys. You will love it, I’m hoping.

Some of the pages from the new eBook, which also has instructional videos – available May 1

Other projects on hold – summer workshops at little Studio Cinco. I’ll be listing those soon, but am still working on ways to let more more people to be able to sign up before all the spaces are gone. It’s a good, but worrisome, dilemma. Meanwhile, Lesta Frank and Michelle Belto are offering some great workshops – check ’em out.

I just bought a book at The Twig called “How to Pack” because most of the time when I travel, I’m schlepping around art supplies and have room for maybe an extra pair of jeans and t shirt. But this book came to the rescue and gave me all kinds of tips for being a well-dressed tourist:

Tips, pp 38-39

If the equation says I can wear only one pair of shoes at a time, it sure isn’t gonna be that pair at the top left. Can you imagine how your dogs would be barkin’ after a day walking along the cobblestones of Cologne in those?? I kinda like that hat and the sunglasses, though. Do you squash the hat up in your carry-on? Or just put it on your head and wear it on the plane? Hmmmm. . .

My number one travel tip is to look for a nice tall person to help me put the carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

Hopefully, I can send a signal from abroad – but if not, see you when I get back. Have fun at Fiesta, all you fellow San Antonions!

PS.  A shout-out to travel doc Mark Thornton for helping me get over the Dreaded Cough of 2017 and be ready for the trip – whew! That one had me worried.

 

 

 

 

 

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Back from a week in the wilds of Washington

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I woke up Sunday morning to a temperature of 38F and a herd of elk lurking around the cluster of farm building where I was staying. It was the last day of the Spring 2017 Gaian Soul retreat, held this time at Cedar Springs Lodge and Farm, Skagit County, Washington, just south of the Canadian border.

The theme of the retreat was Tarot and Talismans. I taught talisman-making techniques, including beeswax applications on clay and fiber, and rolled paper/fiber/wax bead techniques. My dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, infused these techniques with mystery, magic and spiritual intent through her teaching of the Tarot. It was a perfect fit. We were all thrilled with the results.

I kept wanting to post pictures to SHARDS all of last week, but the internet connection was slow out there, so I just put a bunch of them into this video to share with you:

Tarot and Talismans from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I also put up a page on my website for the retreat participants with links to the supplies that we used in the workshop, and you are welcome to take a look, too!

Click this Tarot and Talisman link.

Making the beads was such a success that I want to offer it as a separate workshop at my studio later this summer. The talismans took quite a while to complete – three days of fairly steady work, but you can make several dozen spectacular beeswax, fiber and paper beads in an afternoon. Stay tuned.

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I hitched a ride with my friend Lisa Sanger Blinn from SeaTac airport to the Cedar Springs Farm, which is about a two hour drive. We visited the town of LaConner both coming and going. It has great galleries, restaurants and shops. The Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery is fantastic. And all around La Conner, we saw acres of daffodils that are being harvested for commercial florists. Most were not in bloom yet, but some were – spectacular!

And, yes, they grow in boggy soil. There were also fields of swans and snow geese.

Thanks to Lisa for showing me the sights – for a Houston girl who works at Rice University, she sure knows her way around the Pacific Northwest!

And more special thanks to Joanna Colbert Powell and the Gaian Soul circle of women for inviting me back to teach the talisman workshop – it was a wonderful week!

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In praise of nature

I’m lucky enough to live across the street from a woodland area, and when I go walking in the morning, my pockets are often filled with rocks or sticks or even little critter bones that I’ve picked up along the way.

These natural objects are like mysterious sentences in a story or lines in a poem without words. You do that, too – right?

Sometimes, these things end up in a big jar on my bookshelf, looking kinda creepy cool:

Jars of found nature objects on my bookshelves

Jars of found nature objects on my bookshelves – ok, so the face didn’t actually appear like that in nature 🙂

And sometimes, they end up in assemblages and little shrines.

Lyn Belisle: Nature Shrine

Lyn Belisle: Nature Shrine

So when Zinnia at Artful Gathering told our faculty that we would be teaching nature-themed classes this summer, I was ecstatic!! Artful Gathering is my favorite “summer camp” and online creative community. Here’s the description of my Nature Shrine class:

Session Two: July 16 – August 26

Lyn Belisle will show you how to make small shrine-like assemblages created from serendipitous finds in natural settings. Through the power of storytelling with symbols, Lyn will show you how to construct natural elements enhanced with her iconic air-dry faces. You’ll combine rocks and shards, twigs, leaves to create a meaningful non-verbal story.Then, using unconventional construction methods such as knotting, wiring and wrapping, you will create diverse surfaces on little 6 x 6 canvases that can be displayed in a variety of ways.

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As part of the Artful Gathering fun, we’re having a Blog Hop. That means that somewhere on my blog page, there’s a secret word for you to collect. It’s not too far, and when you collect all of the words, you can win truly nifty prizes. The secret word is right around here, AND it’s easy ( wink). Click here for more about the Blog Hop.

But wait, there’s more! In the first AG session, I’m teaching an encaustic portrait class called Natural Expressions – here’s the info:

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Session One: June 6 – July 17
Lyn Belisle guides you through the steps for creating mixed media portraits with natural materials, including layered beeswax. You’ll learn how to enhance digital images, tinting, preparing small stretched canvas substrates for layered collage, assembling a wrapped mat around a canvas substrate as well as attaching natural objects to a mat and integrating them into the mixed media composition.

Obviously, I’d love to work with you in one or the other of these classes. We have an online classroom for questions and critiques and extra resources.

So here’s your homework:

1. See if you can find the “cleverly hidden” secret word to collect for the Blog Hop

2. Check out the Artful Gathering catalog to see the class offerings. Besides mine, there are some great classes by pals Debby Anderson, Michelle Belto, Monika Astara and Luthien Tye, among others.

3. Get out there in nature and collect a little object that calls to you and write a one-line poem about it!


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The pleasures and possibilities of paper

My artist friend Mary Ann Johnson came by yesterday and, among other things, we talked about our mutual love for beautiful paper. Mary Ann has been making books for a long time and has a fabulous collection of artisan papers which she shared with us at the Lotus Book workshop. Here are some of the books she’s made.

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Coptic bound book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

We both agreed that one of the best online shops to find great paper is Hollanders. It’s a bookbinding store that offers over 2000 kinds of decorative paper – check out these beauties:

papers

I showed Mary Ann an experiment I’ve been doing with paper beads as part of my planning for an upcoming Wax and Fiber Talisman workshop at the Gaian Soul retreat. After I’ve rolled the beads, I coat them with beeswax. It gives a wonderful luster and smoothness and makes them look almost like ancient cocoons.

Rolled paper bead

Rolled paper bead

Coating with beeswax

Coating with beeswax

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Playing with paper has infinite possibilities – go to Hollanders website and get inspired. Another great site is Mulberry Papers and More. And if you’re in San Antonio, Herweck’s has a good selection, as well.

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Re-use, re-read, re-ward

I have emerged from an intensive week of making videos for my two Artful Gathering workshops, which will be announced in February. They are cool, if I do say so myself. More soon about those classes.

Anyway, one of the ways I like to reward myself after a long project is to head to Half-Price Books – the one by Brackenridge Park is the only one that will do. I love the way the place smells of old books, and the way the stairs creak when you climb up to the Art Book room. It’s browsing therapy at its best.

Here’s what I scored yesterday –

A hardcover accordion-folded portfolio called A Shoal of Fishes by the Japanese Artist Hiroshige. It’s from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it’s gorgeous. It was hidden away on the bargain shelf for $3. What a find!

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Also, a book about books – this is a good one. It has references, projects, and inspiration – I can’t believe I didn’t already have this one. It was also my most expensive purchase at six bucks. Worth it.

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Finally – tah dah – a reproduction of the 1902 Sear and Roebuck catalog. This will be collage fodder and good reading for a long time!

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There’s nothing like rewarding yourself with a browse in a used bookstore. And it’s the best kind of recycling!

While you’re in the area, get over to the Twig Bookshop in the Pearl – my all-time favorite independent book seller. Happy creative browsing!

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New year collaboration with Lesta Frank: Whiter Shades of Pale

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Lesta and I had such a great time teaching this workshop last September. We’ve decided to repeat it, this time at Lesta’s studio. The date is Saturday, January 21st and it’s an all-day workshop from 10-4. Click this registration link for more information.

If you’d like to take a look at the last Whiter Shades workshop at my old studio, here’s the video. Notice how mellowed out Mary Beth is – this workshop will totally calm you!

Remember that the best way to know when a new workshop is announced is right here on my SHARDS blog. Thanks for reading – and happy new year!

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Hebe Garcia, and “The Mirror’s Entrance” at the Carver

Hebe Garcia, La Novica

Hebe Garcia, La Novica

I met Hebe (pronounced (A-bay) Garcia for the first time on Tuesday while we were bringing our work to the Carver Cultural Center for the  La Estrada del Espejo ( The Mirror’s Entrance) exhibit, which opened last night. It’s a stunning show.

Hebe’s painted ceramic work work was lying on a table, and it drew me like a magnet. I asked Sylvia Benitez, our curator, whose work it was, and she introduced me to Hebe. We immediately hit it off, and launched into a great conversation about ceramic glazes and underglazes and such. I am fascinated with the painterly way she enhances her surfaces.

Hebe was raised in Puerto Rico, and her work reminds me of the kind of magical realism that I find in Isabel Allende’s books. She’s now living and working in Abiquiu, New Mexico where renown artist Georgia O’Keeffe once painted her iconic desert landscapes. Here are some more pieces from Hebe’s website (which includes her acrylic work). Lucky me to get to meet her in person!

“Lilith” Hebe Garcia, “Lilith” Acrylic on cradled gessobord, 8″ x 8″ x 2″

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Hebe Garcia, Moonlight That Reaches from Within

The whole exhibit at the Carver resonates with this kind of magical realism. Here are some photos that Sylvia sent to our group of exhibiting artists after the show was hung. Thanks to everyone who came to last night’s opening! If you weren’t there, I do encourage you to go see it before it closes on January 13th..

 

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Friday resources, mostly free, all fabulous

But first, before we get to those resources, wanna hear a story? OK, so I needed to find a home for a wonderful easel that Nancy Powlas had given me several years ago. It had belonged to her late sister, and I loved it, but didn’t have room for it in my new studio space. When I got it, it was bent at the back, so I took a rubber mallet and whacked it straight.

Some arty intuition told me to call Lesta Frank to see if she would like it. She came to look at it and said, “Hey, I used to have an easel just like that that I gave away 17 years because it was bent, but I always regretted giving it up.”

And of course, as all good stories go, it turned out to be the very same easel that Lesta had given up and was now returned to her from the Mysterious Art Universe.

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Lesta and easel, reunited at last

So now on to these free resources, most of which are image goldmines for mixed-media artists and designers.

The first one is Pixabay, which has a searchable index of thousands of copyright-free photos and illustrations. I did a search for “rust” and found this beauty – look at the colors and textures! Thanks to Leannah Kurtin Fulmer for reminding me of Pixabay.

rust

The second resource, Unsplash, came to me via Ivy Newport, an imaginative, inspiring and successful artist and teacher – she has curated a collection of portrait photos at Unsplash that are gorgeous. The photos at Unspalsh are offered without restriction – their motto is “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” Wow. Here’s one from Ivy’s collection – just think of all the ways you could use this evocative face.

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Another photo resource, also free, is Noah Bradley’s Free Photo Reference Megapack. Noah Bradley is an artist and fantasy author who is building an amazing illustrated world called The Sin of Man. He has photos from all over the world to download and use as backgrounds and reference. I downloaded his American Southwest collection and his France and England collection – they are huge albums.

Here are two examples from those collections.

england southwest

The last resource was suggested to me by my friend Linda Krantz. a wonderfully perceptive artist from Houston who was in my class at Vivi Magoo a couple of weeks ago. It’s called MadRat Rubbergreat name. While they don’t have free images, they have the most original and amazing stamps and other cool stuff for mixed-media artists.madrat

Here’s onenot your everyday stamp design, right? And their prices are very competitive, plus you can get them mounted or unmounted.

So now you have lots of places to get inspiration. Print out the photos, tear them up and collage them, stamp into them, veil them with paint and scribble over the paint. That’s going to be the first workshop at the new studio – Intuitive Photocollage!

And if you know a bit of digital imagery manipulation, you can work on you computer to combine these resources into something totally new – like this!

memory

Happy weekend –  if you’re in San Antonio, bundle up – it’s finally gonna feel like Thanksgiving weather. Thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

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Secret spaces and free stuff from the Graphics Fairy

What do you think? Actually, this is not really the new studio space, but it has possibilities . . .

So I found a studio space. I can tell you just a few things about it at this point . . .

  • It’s very close to my new home – yay!
  • It’s cozy, smaller than the old studio, but still roomy
  • You’d never know it was there – it’s very hidden
  • The number five (my lucky number) played an important part in finding it

I’m in the process of moving this week and will keep in touch. With luck (and the creek don’t rise), I’ll offer a December workshop there. You SHARDS readers will be the first to know, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a little creative inspiration from The Graphics Fairy. If you don’t know about this site, you should, especially if you work with collage and mixed-media. Here’s an example:

I’ve downloaded three more vintage scripts and graphics for you to print out (below), but you can search the Fairy’s site yourself to find many more. Just right-click on the images to copy them. They look especially cool printed out on tan parchment paper. Print ’em out, then rip ’em up and play with the pieces!

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 OK, back to moving – stay tuned!

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Whiter Shades of Pale – playing in the no-color zone

Lesta Frank has a ray gun – she brought it to our all-day Whiter Shades of Pale workshop yesterday, and when anyone “called color” on another person (like, they were reaching for some red paint), they got blasted with flashing lights and wild beeps. It was pretty funny!

The whole day was a delight, as a matter of fact. In the morning, we made beautiful pale papers under Lesta’s expert tutelage – ecru, ivory, palest gold and silver – all breathtaking. A favorite was the string-embedded paper.

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In the afternoon, we used those papers to create stunning assemblage/collages with the hand-embellished paper and found objects tied into our canvases.

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Lesta’s collage

The video from the workshop is just pure eye-candy. It’s astonishing how much richness and variety can come from such a a limited color palette. Limiting the color choices allows you to concentrate on texture and composition.

Pale colors and textures are so wonderfully nostalgic that I thought I’d treat you to the original inspiration, the song called “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which won a Grammy for Procol Harum in (gulp) 1967. The video looks so sweet and goofy – very non-MTV. But boy, does it bring back memories!

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