The heart of friendship


Carol Mylar and me in Colorado Springs

When I had a studio on Queen Anne Street back in the 90s, Carol Mylar was my studio partner. We have been the best of friends ever since, and when she moved back home to Colorado Springs fifteen years ago, part of my heart went with her. But we stay in close touch, visit in person as often as we can, and enjoy that special ESP that good friends develop. However, she was able to fool me recently in the nicest way!

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, original version

She had sent good luck wishes to me when my work was shown at Marta Stafford’s gallery last month. Little did I know that she and Marta had been in secret negotiation about one of the pieces called “Tiny Dancer”. Carol purchased it without telling me because she wanted to surprise me by sending me a picture of it on the wall in her Colorado Springs home.

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, heartless version

The sale was arranged, but when “Tiny Dancer” arrived in Colorado, she had no heart – it had fallen off and gotten lost somewhere. Carol emailed Marta at the gallery, and Marta then casually asked me if I had another little heart  –  the buyer, “Sue Smith,” said it had been lost and wanted a replacement. Fortunately, I had one heart left from in my collection of very old Mexican clay beads.

I thought it was weird that Marta asked me to send it to her rather than the buyer, but I sent the little heart to Marta in Marble Falls, and she secretly send it along to Carol.

The next week, I had a text from Carol with a photo of “Tiny Dancer” taken on the wall at her house – boy, was I surprised – I had no idea how it got there, especially since I thought somebody named “Sue Smith” from Albuquerque bought it.  When I read Carol’s message, I finally got it  – she wrote, “She lost her heart, but now it’s found. Every detail has a story. She’s beautiful!” I was so thrilled to see my work on my dear friend’s wall.

“Tiny Dancer,” happily living with Carol in Colorado

There’s a metaphor here about friends, about love and distance, about losing and finding one’s heartanyway, the story made me smile – thanks, Marta, for your part in the caper, and thanks, Carol for giving a good home to this little assemblage with the paint-brush leg and newly recovered heart! ♥♥♥

 

 

Five things that make a really great workshop

All five things were in place yesterday at the San Antonio Art League Studio where seven of us gathered to construct little folding candle screens.

On the practical side, these make wonderful adornments for a table or mantle, and they are perfect gifts.

On the creative side, the process allowed us to experiment with many different techniques. And we got to practice our measuring skills!

Here’s the list of elements that made the workshop great:

  1. Focus and limits – we focused on mixed media collage strips that were 4″x12″ to construct small folding three-dimensional screen for electronic votive lights
  2.  An engaging process with an end in mind – we worked toward the specific construction of an object while paying attention to the process of surface alteration
  3. Limited materials, unlimited possibilities – we began with two methods – one included altered magazine paper with metal leaf, and the other included torn paper images. Each method has hundreds of possibilities and combinations
  4. Generous participants – everyone was willing to share both ideas and materials. When something wasn’t working (e.g., the paper was too wet to cut) we helped each other solve the problem
  5. Reflection and practical anticipation – we celebrated when we saw our candles lighted. Each one was different. We talked about how the process could be improved, expanded, and altered, but agreed that what we had done was absolutely perfect!

When you look at the video, try to see how each of the participants found different solutions to the concept of constructing these folding collage cards. It was indeed a great workshop!

Lyn Belisle Workshop at the San Antonio Art League: Votive Candle Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the materials we used – very simple (I don’t believe in requiring expensive specialty craft products):

  • 9×12″ construction paper or other medium weight paper
  • Two 4×12″ pieces of decorative paper
  • 4 2.5” square pieces of translucent vellum or translucent rice paper
  • Two ½” bands of contrasting paper for side trim
  • Compass or large round hole punch
  • Craft glue or double-sided tape
  • Stamps, stickers, metallic pens – whatever “de-lights” your heart
  • Small twigs, reeds or sticks (optional)
  • A battery votive tea light
  • and – voila!!

Mary Ann Johnson’s work in progress

I’ll be scheduling more workshops soon, both at the Art League Studio and at my own studio! Stay tuned, and happy fall weather in San Antonio – at last.

 

 

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Critters for Marta

Marta Stafford

One of the nicest surprises of the summer came from the amazing Marta Stafford, who invited me to be a part of her hugely popular gallery, Marta Stafford Fine Art, in Marble Falls.

This is a dream come true – I loved Marta’s gallery from the first moment I saw it six or seven years ago.She has the absolute best in mixed media, sculpture, contemporary and traditional painting, and more. Marta will represent me and my work (woohoo), and I’ll be featured in the exhibit that opens Friday, October 6th.

I need to create some nifty new work for this show, especially imaginative assemblages, so I started digging around for earthenware body parts! Heh, heh.

It’s so much fun putting my clay shards together with found objects and watching new critters emerge. Here’s the progress so far – some are not finished, as you can see – perhaps you can see where they are going? One never knows, do one?

This is a details of a piece I really like

There is actually another face underneath the one you see. Her arm moves in a sweet, spooky way – she’s about 12″ tall.

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The one below is just started, but I like the simple elegance so far.

When finished, this piece will be about 18-20″ tall

Shades of spirit dolls! This construction, below, has some hand-dyed and rusted mulberry paper.

And while I was looking for clay body parts, I found this cat head! It’s now a new Cat Shaman.

Finally, here’s one I started a couple of weeks ago and it’s finally starting to come together. It looks like some sort of ancient goddess staff.

So far, every piece is different from every other one interesting.

I plan to have a number of these assemblages as well as some paintings and collages for Marta’s opening on Friday, October 6th at the Marta Stafford Fine Arts in Marble Falls.

Thanks, Marta, for the invitation – prepare for a critter invasion! ♥

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Wednesday all-day workshop with NEISD art teachers

The workshop schedule/format at my studio has changed for a number of reasons – smaller space, my increased responsibility as president of the San Antonio Art League, and just general life changes – but I’m always happy to accommodate special groups like yesterday’s art teachers from North East ISD.

They had requested an all-day session that would give them six hours of CEU credit and jump start their school year with some new ideas for themselves and their students. We decided on a workshop that was similar to the one I taught in Provincetown. It has a little bit of everything – composition, storytelling, photo manipulation, mark-making, encaustic and collage.

We worked hard from 10-4 in the studio, and each participant created a beautiful portfolio of four five mixed media works, one of which was chosen to be matted. Want to see photos from the day’s workshop? Start scrollin’ down and see it step-by-step!

Mixed media stash ready!

We prepare the substrate by taping the edges with blue painters’ tape for a clean border

Once the composition is in place, we veil with white paint

. . .and then use an old credit card to scrape off and reveal chosen sections

Notice how the placement of the objects makes a unified composition

Some quiet work time —

First works are pinned up to the wall for discussion – lookin’ good!

Suggestions are marked up on one of the example handouts

Melissa adds her work to the critique wall

There’s a lot of good image alteration in this one

One of my favorites – subtle and painterly

Although these pieces are studies rather than finished works, they are quite lovely

After lunch, we start working with beeswax, incorporating some simple encaustic techniques

Book foil is a bright addition to the wax layer

Remember this piece from the morning session? It’s layered with beeswax.

This mixed-media collage uses family photos and letters enhanced by beeswax

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you can make art without messing up a studio!

Each person chose one piece to may and display at the end-of-class critique

This is Melissa’s strong work that you saw earlier, this time with beeswax added – notice the vertical blue line and the fantastic marks

Grizelda pulled together a lovely collage of vintage family photos and memories

S’lena’s work is perfectly balanced between image and pattern – the faint writing in the background is a secret layer of history that only she knows

Susan’s work evokes Renaissance themes . . . it’s horizontal rather than vertical

This piece is mine, and is the demo piece I did as I worked along with the others

Happy art teachers, beautiful work, and proud teacher –

I think this workshop format is perfect, at least it was for us. It worked because:

  • We had all day to really explore and immerse ourselves – we even ate lunch at the work table and discussed the process
  • Four to five people is the right number for this space – good dynamics, intimate atmosphere
  • The workshop topic had lots of structure, but also lots of room for exploration with many techniques that could be extended into individual work

This may be the new workshop model at Lyn Belisle Studio. Let me know if you have a small group who might like to spend a day with me making art.

In the meantime, I’ll be teaching a “Postcards to Myself” workshop at the San Antonio Art League on Sunday, August 29th as a fundraiser and introduction to the Art League. I’ll put the details up this weekend and post it on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the teachers who worked with me yesterday – art education is in good hands with you to guide and mentor creative kids!

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Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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Summer art camp registration is OPEN!

This summer, I’ll be teaching two workshops in a very special classroom at Artful Gathering, my fifth year there. Several of my friends have already registered – hi, Gaye, hi Joanna, hi Aileen!

Lots of people ask me about Artful Gathering – what exactly is it?? Well,  it’s an annual online art retreat that draws students from all over the world to virtual art studio classrooms where they interact with artists like Leslie Marsh, Debby Anderson, Keith Lo Bue – and me!

This year’s Artful Gathering theme is “Nature,” and I’m teaching two summer sessions this go-round. The first one, from June 6-July 17th is called Natural Expressions: Evocative Portraits using Nature’s Palette with Beeswax. It’s a comprehensive workshop that combines beeswax and rust with mixed media portraits. It also has two tech tutorials that show you where to find copyright-free images and then how to manipulate them with vintage effects – without Photoshop!

Here’s the description:

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.

And here’s a video clip that I lifted from the class introduction that shows you some of the things we will play with:

The tuition for this five-week class is $110, kinda like two regular workshops in my studio. If you’ve never participated in a virtual classroom before, it’s really fun. You can work at your own pace, but you can also have conversations with me and the other students at any time in our discussion forum during the five-week session. Here’s a link that will answer all of your questions about registration.

Click on the image below to go to the Directory of all the classes – heck, you might want to take somebody else’s class – my pal Michelle Belto is teaching one this summer, too!

I hope to see you at Artful Gathering – it’s a summer art camp without the mosquitoes.

 

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They found their wings. . .

. . . and, boy, did they soar! The women in yesterday’s class surpassed every expectation I had for our NeoSanto workshop, creating beautiful symbol-filled personal icons on canvas. And, as Robin said during our critique, “This is much more than just a canvas.”

I showed you the construction process in my last post, but what the students brought to it was the intangible sense of self. The idea of the NeoSanto is to interpret the traditional “santo” figure from the Southwest into a personal guardian. What resulted was one of the most meaningful art-making sessions and discussions that I can remember. I was honored to be there!

Take a look at their work in the video, below.

This may be the subject of the next workshop eBook! Many thanks to DeeDee, Pam, Robin, Marilyn and Lily for the amazing workshop synergy and generosity of spirit.

Up next – on to Artful Gathering! Meet me there in our virtual classroom – registration is open.

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Altered paper, enduring magic

Ahhh – the smell of Citrasolv was in the air yesterday afternoon. Brushed onto the pages of National Geographic magazine, it never fails to turn photographs into otherworldly abstract patterns. When strips and scraps of this paper are combined, magic happens!

No matter how many times I teach this workshop, the results are fabulous – fresh, original and intriguing. Here’s a short video of the workshop participants creating their outstanding work in yesterday’s Small Worlds: Abstract Landscapes and Altered Paper gathering (If you can’t see the video, click here):

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Altered Paper Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Each person chose one of his or her works to mat, and here are their favorites:

Wally

Wally

Mackenzie

Mackenzie

Claire

Claire

5

Jan

Pamela

Pamela

3 copy

Linda

I taught a comprehensive version of this class at Artful Gathering several summers ago, and the DVD is available here.

There are also a number of free, online resources on this technique, including this really good one from Cathy Taylor.

This is one of those simple processes that rarely fails and is a lot of fun to put together! Happy Citrasolv sniffing!

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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:

LYN BELISLE_edited-1

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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