Thanks, Jude Hill

With so many artists teaching online these days (including me) and so many techniques to learn, it’s inevitable that a student’s work is influenced by an instructor’s.

That’s kinds of the point – if you admire someone’s work, you want to know how it’s done. But the rest of the story is about what happens when you know how it’s done and what you do with the information.

In the last newsletter from the GAGA group of women artists, this question was posed:

I have spent the last two years working hard on my painting style so that I can become as recognized as other artist of note in this community. I have paid a lot of money to teachers for classes and workshops, incorporating their techniques to help me improve and sell my art. Now that I am getting ready to enter a national juried exhibition (with substantial prize money), this pops up in the Prospectus: “Works that have been completed under instruction or in direct association with a class or workshop are not eligible.”  So why have I spent so much of my money on these classes and workshops if I can’t use the art techniques from my teachers? 

See what you think about the answer:

Most worthwhile juried shows include this phrase to protect both professional artists who teach and students who so admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy an instructor’s style and end up looking rather foolish and unoriginal. Good exhibition guidelines discourage direct copying of another artist’s style, which can be like trying to find a lazy shortcut to success without all the work it took the original artist to get organically to that point. It can also be illegal – an artist has the right to prohibit others from making truly derivative works.

Technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. And a lot of work done under instruction has both the professor’s hand as well as intellectual creative “solve” in it! So, student work is not artist work. It’s a stepping-stone to one’s finally developed voice!! You can and should learn technique, but after that it is your creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves. Technique is not art, lessons are training wheels, copying is not creating, paintings are not recipes and sales are not always the goal.

If you do not yet recognize this and are upset by this very common phrase in a Call for Entries, perhaps you should spend a bit more time on your journey of development. When you learn how to experiment and play in your own way with what you learn, you will develop your own voice. Quit imitating and honor the techniques you learn from your teachers by translating them into your own language. Being slavishly derivative does not become any of us and does not earn us recognition in exhibitions.

“Influence” and “emulation” and “incorporation” are all words we use that describe our use of the signature techniques that other artists share with us. “Copying” has a different connotation altogether.

And you certainly don’t have to be a teacher to experience the realization that another artist is “heavily influenced” by your work. It’s a complicated subject.

Jude Hill is a beloved fiber artist whose blog and practice are followed by thousands of people. She is sensitive, low-key, and very authentic. She addresses this complicated issue in a video – it’s really brilliant. It’s so relaxing to watch her stitch and listen to her soothing voice.

Video Link

So what do you think? It’s certainly not a black-and-white situation, and there is, as I always say, “more than one right answer.”

To help give you some perspective, read Inspiration vs. Imitation by Christine Nishiyama, illustrator, author, and artist. You’ll enjoy it.

Lyn

The early bird trickles like sand through the hourglass —

I just finished filming my first lesson for the extraordinary “everything you never knew you wanted to learn about encaustic” course called Painting With Fire:Essence of Mulranny. I am one of 26 international teachers invited to teach at Painting With Fire. The scope and content of the lessons is amazing – yes, even if you are a beginner.

Conceived by Ireland-based artist Lora Murphy, the year-long program’s early bird cost of $199 is the bargain of the century for anyone who wants to learn more about painting with wax or using it as a stellar component in mixed media work. Seriously. The sands are trickling through the hourglass, though – early bird tuition ends on Thursday. After that, the price goes to $249 (which is still a bargain, but $50 can buy a lot of encaustic supplies).

So this is a preview of what I am doing for my first Painting With Fire lesson – it will be released really soon, on Wednesday, May 26th. It’s called Surface Sampler, and it’s super-fun, if I do say so myself. Just click on the image or the link below:

Link to Preview

Here are some FAQs about Painting With Fire

  • Class starts on Friday, April 30th
  • Every class after this is on Wednesday (from May 5th onwards).
  • There are 52 weeks of lessons, often several in one week. All you need is an internet connection to view them. You can go back to previous lessons during the year.
  • All classes are prerecorded (with one exception) and will be available from approximately 12 noon EST each Wednesday.
  • Lifetime access to the videos.
  • There is a Facebook group which is private for PWF students.

And here’s my invitational link to join – please make sure that if you want to take part, join today or tomorrow before the Early Bird tuition goes away.

You’ll be joining a wonderful community of talented teachers and students!

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Nature Spirits

A weather note : I started this post on Monday morning. The post (and normal life) has been interrupted by two days of power outages and snow here in South Texas, and there may be more to come! Yikes!

So, before the power goes out again, I want to warm your heart (and mine) by telling you about Wendy Larsen of Nevada.

Normally, I’m shy about writing my buyers to ask how they are using the faces the purchase from my Etsy shop, Earthshards, but Wendy had ordered quite a few of the Celtic Forge faces and I was curious. I emailed her, and she graciously told me about her Nature Spirits.

Celtic Forge faces from my Etsy Shop, Earthshards

Wendy wrote:

“I use all natural materials, and your faces are beautiful addition to my art. I was going to create my own Etsy shop one but the works weigh a lot as I use petrified wood and agate rose quartz . So that makes them quite heavy to ship, but I do have some in a crystal shop in Lehi Utah that carries my art, and I’ve done quite well there over the past few months. I’m currently doing a few commissioned pieces.

It started when I was at a cactus nursery and saw some Choya wood and decided to use it to create a beautiful piece of art. Little did I know they would be such a success! They are inspired by nature. Everything used on them is natural except for what I used to keep them in place. They they all have an energy that lives within each piece. I use a lot of raw crystals, pine cones, living moss, and natural stones as well as the Choya wood and your beautiful clay faces. I’m typically inspired to do a piece by what the face tells me.

Here is a picture of the first piece I ever did — and it’s history from there – LOL.”

Wendy’s Nature Spirits are packed with intricate detail and precious objects – tiny silver lizards, clusters of crystal. Here are some others. You can see the care and love that she adds to each one.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing your wonderful Nature Spirits with us!

Before I close (and before the power goes off again!), I want to remind you that the Early Bird pricing for Painting with Fire is still open if you want to explore a year of Encaustic techniques and processes by 26 teachers (including me!) for less than $10 a workshop — pretty cool. Or hot.

Click here to visit Essence of Mulranny .

Please stay safe and warm – and take good care,

Lyn

The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

Cats and Possibilities

When times are turbulent, I keep telling myself, “Trust the Process.” This doesn’t mean doing nothing and just watching it all happen, but rather doing what we do best – creating with compassion and imagination in the certainly that adding beauty to the world fuels thoughtfulness and optimism.

Seeing what others are doing in this turbulent time brings me that sense of optimism – particularly when their art stems from our Teachable workshop community. And particularly when the subject is cats!

Willma Sliger’s Cat Shaman pieces are a perfect example of taking a basic idea (from my Cat Shaman online workshop) and just flying with it.

Wilma writes, As promised here are the Cat Shamans I have joyfully created. . . .Some have very old ticking . An evil eye brought back from Turkey by a friend. A replica of a coin given to men in old time saloons/bawdy houses. And lots more.
You are my antidote for covid. Seriously. Stay safe and well.
Love, Wilma the Desert Dweller

Wilma lives in Moab, Utah where she creates fabric & mixed media collages, incorporating photos and found objects with fabric to produce unique wall hangings. I told her I was stealing her idea of using a mesh screen on the Heart Box of her Shaman – it’s symbolic and mysterious.

Here is another one of those great Heart Boxes filled with charms and found objects. I like the tied desert wood pieces as well.

This Evil Eye fellow may be my favorite, all twisty and dance-y, with the lion-like head and butterfly wings.

I am so grateful to Wilma for sending these pictures – her work is artfully folk-like but complex, with a real sense of purpose in every assemblage.

So what do YOU do when you know you should be creating something for the good of you heart and soul, but you can’t get started because you don’t have an idea??

That’s an easy one – just get started, Grasshopper, and the Idea will come. Here’s an example.

Two days ago, I desperately needed to make some art so I could (at least briefly) focus on the creative rather than the political. Nothing inspiring struck. That’s rare. But I know if I did SOMETHING, I’d feel better, more optimistic.

So . . . I found a block of wood, and marked some holes. Two holes seemed like a good number. Maybe.

I got out my trusty cordless drill (every artist should have one of these) and drilled two holes.

Then I cut some super-strong but slender bamboo sticks to about 18″ tall and stuck them in the holes.

Voila! It ain’t much yet, but it will be SOMETHING! Who knows what?? When I posted it to Instagram, my friends suggested it could be a two-legged table or a REALLY tall spirit doll.

I’m thinking it might be a sculpture with a body that’s shaped like a kimono with beeswax-coated pages that open and close. Maybe so, maybe not . . .but the whole process got me thinking in a new creative direction –

So the point is, you can’t “Trust the Process” if there isn’t a process to trust yet. Start something. Wrap some string around a stick. Pour the last of your morning coffee on a piece of watercolor paper. Unravel a worn-out sweater.

In the background, I can hear Wilma’s Cat Shamans saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, Grasshopper.” Pounce. Munch.

 

A Walk-in-the-Woods Workshop?

2020 was surely The Plague Year (and we’re still being extra-cautious), but it did get a lot of us outside, walking and exploring nature. That’s a good thing. Decades ago I discovered that walking worked well for me as meditative thinking time – plus I find lots of cool stuff along the way. And sometimes it seemed that the cool stuff was left there especially for me to find.

You may remember the wonderful photo collection of composed found objects that artist friends contributed to my website in 2019. Here’s that link, and here’s one of my favorite compositions (this one is by Marilyn Jones)

Marilyn Jones, Found Objects

This kind of collecting is nothing new for me. One of my signature techniques is embedding sticks and other natural objects into my assemblages – there’s just something mythical about material found outdoors “by accident”.

Sometimes, I even construct pieces almost totally from found objects and natural material, such as this piece called Bone Tea.

Lyn Belisle, “Bone Tea”

It was influenced by my friend Shannon Weber, whose work with natural materials makes me swoon.

Shannon Weber

So all of this leads up to a new workshop that I’ve just posted on my Teachable Studio site. It’s called Sacred Serendipity:Nature Shrines and Assemblages.

Collecting things from nature and assembling them as art is a long and honorable practice.

If you’ve ever read Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, you know how she describes different seashells as stages in a woman’s life – the oyster shell, covered bumps and lumps but still smooth and beautiful on the inside.

This is a workshop for anyone who has ever found a pine cone, a smooth rock, or a red and gold leaf and brought it home in gratitude and wonder.

There are several free preview videos, including one of me being very goofy in the woods across the street from my house, pretending to “find” objects. But I think the real beauty of this workshop lies in the techniques about arranging and attaching natural objects to a small canvas. This gives you so much leeway to create your own small Shrine to Nature.

I also show you step-by-step how to make a mold from a natural object and then cast it with paper clay – you can do faces this way, as well. The class fee is a mere $29, and you can start and stop whenever you like. The lessons are yours forever – or at least as long as the Internet lasts. Think of this as the cost of a bag of groceries but with more lasting results!

Workshop Preview Link

So here’s to a walk on the wild side – and the natural treasures that we “accidentally” find there. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Blanket People

Yesterday I took six orders for earthenware faces from my Etsy shop to the Post Office. They were going out to six different states – Washington, Kansas, Maryland, Illinois, New York, and Texas. As always, I wondered how the faces would be used and whether they would inspire the people who ordered them.

Every so often, I get an answer to that question from someone whose work really lifts my spirit. I wanted to share this one with you.

Brita Rekve

Hi Lyn,

I’ve been thinking about you and how your faces have prompted an whole new direction for me in my work. I have enjoyed the ride and hope it continues. It seems I started with stick figures that came with stories then there was a slight morphing into heads on a stick, very nature based and now I’m creating what I refer to as blanket people…I am so in the groove when this is happening it’s a holy experience. ~~ Brita

Brita sent some pictures with her note, pictures showing wonderful textures and colors:

Brita Rekve

Brita Rekve

I asked her if she would send the Blanket People story that accompanies her soft-sculpture. Here it is:

Blanket People
She lived with sheep and would sit for hours in the field watching them. Named them after cowboys and mountain men. Doc and Wyatt, two of her favorites came to her for chin rubs and endearments and she marveled at the way the sunlight caught in their eyes and offered a glimpse of something ancient. She wove blankets from their fleece. It was such a comfort to bring the blanket to her nose and breath in the spun sunshine and sweet grass, feel the softness of the wool, the gentleness of the animal. Wrapping herself up she felt safe and protected as if all her grandmothers had circled round. She yearned to give this very same feeling to anyone with a sad and weary heart or the suffering of broken dreams. A wrap in the offering of the animals, a circle of grandmother arms, the  comfort and peace of safety and love.
The Blanket People story makes me feel all warm and comforted, even more so when she added:
There is a backstory I will share with you. Prior to the plague I was teaching process painting in my studio.  That’s what the studio was set up for. When we needed to shut down in the spring I started playing with sticks and fiber. It was around the time of a granddaughters high school graduation and I thought I’d make her a Spirit doll to hang on her wall. One thing led to another. Someone told me about your faces. My studio is a birthing room. I’m blissed out on the people who come to me, some with stories, some without. They come alive and I feel them…  This is a spiritual walk.
PS – Doc and Wyatt moved on to the great pasture in the sky. I’ll always miss them.
Brita is from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and if you’d like to know more about her Blanket People you can contact at Facebook her under her own name, Brita Rekve, or email her at  fourwingsstudio@gmail.com.
There are some amazing connections going on – right after Brita wrote, I heard from another artist, Barbie Koncher, who lives in Hawaii and does beautiful work using non-traditional methods and indigenous materials. I’ll write about Barbie next.
Stay warm, stay connected, and take good care.
♥Lyn

Blessings from Bri – prayer flag inspirations

I just finished the last video for my new workshop called Strands of Light: A Prayer Flag Sampler. Now comes the editing, the writing, and the uploading to my online classroom – and it WILL be done by October first. Yikes, that’s just a week from now!

The person I called on for advice when I got the idea for this prayer flag workshop was my friend Briana Saussey, writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor. Bri holds a B.A. and M.A. in Eastern and Western classics, philosophy, mathematics and science from St. John’s College (Annapolis and Santa Fe), and is a student of Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.

While I can (joyfully) teach the techniques for making prayer flags, it’s Bri who is the expert on the heart of the matter – creating and offering prayers and blessings. She graciously agreed to partner with me as my “expert witness” to the power of spirituality  in our art making. Without that component, a prayer flag is simply a piece of decorated cloth.

Bri has agreed to share her Daily Blessings with the workshops participants as well as her thoughts on the subject. Here is an excerpt from an interview we did earlier in September. I asked her about the nature of prayer and blessings.

Excerpt from an interview with Briana Saussey for the Strands of Light Prayer Flag workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I am so grateful to Briana for her help. Incidentally, she has a new book out called Making Magic. I love my copy of this book – it’s very surprising in many ways, and very practical.

Here are two of the prayer flag/blessing banners that I made for the upcoming Strands of Light workshop. Both use Bri’s Daily Blessings as inspiration.

So when the workshop opens on October 1st, you’ve got all kinds of resources, both artistic and spiritual, to make a fine flock of prayer flags and blessing banners! Hope to see you then. I’m off to the studio make a little prayer flag to honor RBG.

♥Lyn

A cat gallery and a surprise workshop

(The Surprise Workshop is at the bottom of this post – but first, check out the cats)

 

What is it about cats? One of my online workshops is calledThe Mystical Cat Shaman,” and the photos I’m getting from students of their magical critters are just brilliant. I thought you’d like to see a few of them.

This one is by JoliBlanch, who writes, “I wanted to do a 2020 healing shaman. So in that spirit, since cats and birds don’t usually socialize,  the birds are there symbolic of The wish for unity among all peoples. The heart is the love energy needed, the blue crystal is healing energy, and the gold bead represents the God energy. The milagros on either side represent the magic we all need now. So – angel wings, dragons, unicorn and faerie energy.”

Next, we have two Cat Shamans by Barbara Linderman. She says, “I took your online Cat Shaman class this summer.  Attached are pics of my two creations.  It had been a while since I had done any kind of mixed media work and your class has inspired me to do more.”

Meet “The Collector” and “The Fortune Teller.”

Finally, here are some figures that go in their own fabulous direction by doll-maker Kathryn Hall. She notes. “I really enjoyed your video class Lyn, so thought I’d show you my take on it.  I made two cats and two crows.  I make my own faces from polymer clay.” 

Look at these faces! And the bodies!

All of these pieces are so creative. When I teach a workshop, i hope for exactly this – original artwork inspired by my lessons but not copied from my work! Yay!

I’m so grateful to all the makers in the Cat Circle – I’ll share more soon. The workshop is still available if you are ready to make you own Cat (or crow – or dog?) Shaman. Just click here to checkout the free preview lessons.

_______________________________________________________________________

And now — the SURPRISE WORKSHOP!!!

In one of our first collaborations, Michelle Belto and I did a class called Mask, Robe, and Rune.

Michelle just made this workshop available on her Teachable site. It’s a wonderful project that combines faces, waxed collage papers, free-standing sculptures, and spooky runes and writings. Because it’s been previous published, you can sign up for just $29 for the entire course with both of us team teaching.

Here’s an example of the Mask, Robe and Rune mixed-media assemblage – you will learn to make those great papers to use as the “robes” on the figures – and much more. Thanks, Michelle!! Here’s that link.

Remember what our ancestors told us“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” You don’t want any devils in your workshop. Check out the Cat Shaman and Mask, Robe and Rune and keep your hands out of trouble!

 

 

The pie is out of the oven

Just this afternoon, Michelle Belto and I finished our first collaborative workshop on Teachable. I say “collaborative,” but it has been the weirdest collaboration I ever was a part of!

Apparently, we were both insane from quarantine, because we agreed to do an experiment in which each of us made a serious artwork based on the theme of “Apple Pie.” The catch was that neither of us would share what we were doing until the bitter end. We would never see each each other in person, and we would film the whole thing in lesson format for a workshop.

Here’s my studio where I filmed the Apple Pie collaboration – notice the real apple for inspiration . . .

It was an amazing experience. We had our final Zoom call this afternoon, and both of us commented that it felt like we were working blind, filming alone in our studios, trying to figure out our next moves and having to talk about it to our invisible audience. There are many funny, teachable moments.

Here’s part of a lesson that I did, not having any idea how this apple print would turn out. It was, indeed, “less than thrilling,” but it gave me a great new idea that you’ll see in the next lesson if you take the workshop.

We ended up with a total of six hours of video lessons between us – not just the “technique” kinds of lessons, but lessons in what it’s like to truly “trust the process” and hope the right decision comes along fast.

I invite you to look at the free lessons on the Cooking Up a Collaboration workshop page. While I’d love for you to sign up, you’ll get to see the final results in the lessons called “The Goddess of Apple Pie” and “Family Recipe” from the free previews. Here’s the link.

I’ll be sending out a newsletter in the next day or so with more workshop and studio news, and a give-away, but in the meantime, I’m gonna go have a piece of apple pie.

Take good care,

Lyn