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.

 

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.

 

Boro-Horse – meant to be!

Boro Horse
Lyn Belisle 2018
24″ high with stand
Mixed media fiber, clay and paper

This magical horse insisted on being created while I was in the middle of getting another piece ready for the Fiber Artists juried show. I had some scraps of indigo linen on the table when I spied a beat-up papier-mache horse figure that had come from my old studio and was much the worse for wear, with one leg broken.

On impulse, I wrapped the strip of indigo linen around his broken leghe liked it! So I kept going, patching in the tradition of the Boro textiles of old Japan.

Example of patched indigo Boro cloth

Boro textiles are usually sewn from nineteenth and early twentieth century rags and patches of indigo dyed cotton.  The diversity of patches on any given piece is a veritable encyclopedia of hand loomed cotton indigo from historic Japan.

Once he was covered with indigo scraps, Boro-style, I began adding strips of sari ribbon. I sewed a saddle-blanket for him and added sticks and beads and fund objects.

Detail of saddle blanket on Boro-Hourse

This weekend, I decided that Boro-Horse needed a stand to elevate him to his proper status as a very cool animal.

I used more scraps from old indigo and rust projects to cover his platform, the sealed it all with acrylic matte medium.

Boro-Horse will have little Velcro dots on the bottom of his hooves and matching ones on the stand so he will be able to be secured but still be removable. With his stand, he’s about 24″ high.

He’ll be one of my entries in the San Antonio Fiber Arts Juried Show. I encourage all of you to enter as well. If you work in fiber of any kind (including paper, which is a fiber), you are eligible to enter your artwork in the upcoming 44th Annual Juried Fiber Art Exhibit!!

When and Where: Say Si Art Gallery, located at 1518 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78204. Art will hang December 7, 2018 to January 25, 2019.

You might just see Boro-Horse there!!

 

 

The hermit returns with an eBook

I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I posted on this blog – that may be the longest dry spell ever. But I have an excuse, honest. I’ve been finishing up work on the Wax & Words eBook, and it’s done!!

It’s not quite ready to put up on my website shop page (I want a couple of people to look at it for me as reviewers) but it will be available by Sept 1st.

I’m so proud of this new eBook! It’s 70 pages of pictures, inspiration, and examples along with nine videos that add up to over an hour of close-up instruction. It will cost a mere $18 (same as my Talisman eBook) and it’s in an interactive PDF format, which anyone, Mac or PC person, can download. You can read it, watch the videos, take whatever time you need, and print out whatever you like. Here’s the Table of Contents:

It’s weird – when you do a project like this, you can’t do the Introduction until the whole thing is finished because you gotta have examples to show in the introduction. Anyway, here’s that introduction, just as a sample. Sneak preview? Whatever! The videos will be password protected once the book comes out, but for now, this one is available.

Introduction and Welcome to Wax & Words from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a photo of just a few of the dozens of collage papers I had fun making for the Wax & Words eBook.

And here is a photo of some of the projects that are FINALLY finished!

I’ll send out a post in the next few days when the book is available on my website. Yay!!! Thanks for reading, thanks for following, thanks for creating!!

Serapes, Sunsets – and Schenck

In a earlier SHARDS post I introduced one of my new summer online workshops for Artful Gathering ( an art “camp” for artists, teachers and students) called Southwestern Stripes: Serapes and Sunsets.

In the workshop, I teach the AG students how to use classic stripes and geometrics inspired by Navajo weavings and Pendleton blankets as inspiration in their paintings and mixed-media art.

This is a 90 second outtake showing one of the things we talk about in the four-hour class. (If you can’t see the video screen, click the “Outtake 2” link)

Outtake 2 – Southwest Stripes for Artful Gathering from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

As usual, the students are exceeding my expectations. The class still has almost three weeks to go, and they are already producing some impressive work.

Here are three pieces by workshop participant Christine Luchini showing several ways she uses these techniques:

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Lee Ann Lilly did these three, including the collage spirit doll and two beautiful small card paintings:

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Here are three more student works, two by Ronda Miller and one by Paulanne Sorenson:

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Just day before yesterday, Ronda wrote in our discussion forum, “I live in the Phoenix area so I see A LOT of serape art and Native American art. My awareness has been lifted to new heights since I have taken this workshop…kind of like you buy a blue VW because you didn’t see many of them – until AFTER you buy one, then, WHAM, they are everywhere! haha.” Ronda also said “I am an abstract artist so I want to find a way to add a tad bit of serape design to my art and still have people know it is still my work.” 

Boy, is that true about seeing serape patterns everywhere – I am paying a lot more attention to serape designs since I started teaching this class. Wouldn’t you know it, the new Warhol/Schenck Exhibit at the Briscoe Museum here in San Antonio has a ton of them!

I was there last week, and fell in love with Billy Schenck’s use of serape patterns:

Bill Schenck

Bill Schenck, 2014

Bill Schenck, oil on canvas

Here’s the info about the exhibit if you’re in San Antonio and want to see this and some fine Warhol prints as well.

And to add more stripes to the serape story, I just found this beautiful book for $1.00 at the Central Library BookCellar used book store.

Here’s a selection from the book’s introduction that talks about the Spirit Line in weaving – I love it! It goes right along with, “I meant to do that!”

If you want even more Southwestern inspiration, My second Artful Gathering class, Neo-Santos: Creating Personal Spirit Guardians, opens on July 16th.

What was that old commercial about “Yikes! Stripes!”? – there is, and always will be, something fascinating about woven striped serapes and the Southwest.

Happy summer, happy 4th!

It looks like writing, but we can’t quite read it – – –

What does it say in the background??!!

I’m baaaaa-aack.

The last two weeks have been filled with family visitors, young and old, hailing from near and far. In the course of hosting, we got to play tourist, and have – over the last ten days – visited the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, The Witte Museum, the Briscoe Museum of Western Art (fantastic exhibit of Warhol and Schenk), the San Antonio Art League and Museum (yay!), the downtown Public Library and its BookCellar, the Twig Bookshop and the Pearl, and the Nimitz/Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.

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 & Words workshop 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…

Asemic writing for collage and design from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I plan to do my next eBook on calligraphic markmaking and stamped and stenciled lettering in combination with beeswax layers – stay tuned. And thanks for reading SHARDS.

Second Session: WAX & WORDS on Monday, June 25

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!

Description:

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.

All materials are provided, including

  • Drawing paper
  • Sticks and ink
  • Letter Stamps
  • Walnut ink stencils
  • Graphite pencil
  • Encaustic wax and brushes
  • Gallery mats
  • Gold leaf . . .and more
Hope to see you there!

 

Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.

Road trip – and the fantastic Dallas fiber artists

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Come to the Texas Hill Country Saturday morning and learn to make a spirit doll with native materials and good intentions! There are three spots left! Click here!

(OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post.)

I’ve spent almost a week in Big D and lived to tell the tale! Last fall,  I was invited to do a presentation for DAFA, the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, and to teach workshops on mixed media to their group.

They decided that they want to learn more about Composition and Collage, so that’s what we did on Saturday. I taught two three-hour workshops, and it was really fun. Each participant was a skilled fiber artist and the way they arranged and embellished their images was fascinating.

Here are some examples:

Nice, right?

On Monday evening for the DAFA monthly meeting, I did a mini-workshop before the presentation. It was called “The Enduring Kimono” and I taught them how to fold small kimonos from paper just to learn how the folds work. These are similar to the large kimonos that I made in the 90’s, only a lot smaller!

If you’d like to give it a try, here are the directions that I gave to the DAFA members to follow along with as we learned to fold the kimono model.

Finally, I did a presentation for the DAFA members called “Shards and Mirrors: Life is just one big mixed media collage.” and I talked about how we can find a small shard of inspiration anywhere, and mirror it through our own creative intuitition into a new work of art.

Eggshells, for example, inspired my fiber art piece, below with the idea of eggs and cocoons. I used silk cocoons on the piece as symbolic elements.

It was a great trip – many thanks to everyone who welcomed me and learned with me. This is an extraordinary group of artists. To learn more about the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, visit their website, here.

 

The amazing Shannon Weber: an authentic life in art

Shannon Weber

When I met Shannon Weber in Santa Fe last fall, I gushed shamelessly,proclaiming that I was her biggest fan and that images of her work had been on my computer desktop for a decade. I said that her three-dimensional assemblages resonated so deeply within my artistic soul that it was almost scary. Poor Shannon, she probably thought I was slightly nuts.

After spending five days with her, I am even more in awe of her work and her process. Shannon was invited by the Fiber Artists of San Antonio to come to San Antonio for a workshop and a presentation. And she stayed with me for the five-day visit! We had a really good time taking about art and creativity. Here’s a wonderful quote about her relationship with her materials:

“Intellectually, humans own this genetic history, “we are makers”, and are known to use what we have.  My choice in materials would be Pacific sea kelps, and coastal debris of which I have a long lasting affair and bring their own mythologies of place. The benefits of working with raw organic materials, is that they provide a rich dialog to every design.”

Shannon Weber

For our two-day workshop, Shannon shipped three huge boxes of found materials and dried sea kelp to San Antonio for us to experience in our pieces. She is a tireless teacher, and we all worked without downtime for two days.

I was so frustrated at first because I could not random-weave a long piece of reed into a structure that would hold together. Shannon patiently went over the process again and again until I finally got it.

This was one of my structures – actually, both of the main ones I completed looked remarkably like teapots!

Please watch the workshop video, below – it is an amazing thing to see the variety of structures that emerged from essentially the same materials over a two-day period. Shannon encouraged us to go our own way.

SHANNON WEBER Workshop for the Fiber Artists of San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Shannon lives in an isolated region near the coast of Oregon without television or technology. She and her husband ran a fishing lodge for many years when she was first beginning to make things for found materials. Her stories are priceless. She is astonishingly down-to-earth for an artist whose works are found in museums and galleries from California to New York and beyond.

The last afternoon that she stayed with me, she went for a walk in the woods near my house and came back with a gift – three beautifully arranged found objects – twine and rusty bits, just what I love – I now have my very own Shannon Weber work!

Found object altar – Shannon Weber

Shannon says, “It’s all the in magic and mystery of talking to rocks, rusty bits, and piles of gathered sticks that keeps me inspired.” And the magic and mystery in her work keeps us ALL inspired.