Plein Aire isn’t as simple as it sounds!

I have always loved Vikki Fields’ work. She is perhaps the only painter I know who works exclusively from life, never from photographs, and her En Plein Aire landscapes are stunning. She sometimes spends hours in the outdoors at the same time every day capturing the light on a particular tree or mountain.

I own this small painting that she did of Arroyo Seco near Taos – it’s a treasure.

Taos by Vikki fields

So when the Witte Museum asked the Art League to partner with them in teaching a Plein Aire painting class to celebrate to opening of their new exhibition, Vikki was the first person I asked to teach it. She agreed!

Fifteen of us signed up and met at the Witte last Sunday afternoon (hot, hot!) as Vikki guided us through the plein aire preparation process.

Vikki Fields discusses choices and vistas

Most of us painted from the shady balcony overlooking the San Antonio River.

The view was beautiful — but, where do you start?? It’s sort of a green blur to me.

Some people used watercolors, some painted with oils, others, like me, started with a pencil sketch.

I hadn’t painted from life in about 20 years, so I had to try and remember how to “look” at the subject in a different way. For me, it works if I can flatten it out in my imagination, like an illustration. For a painter like Vikki and some of the others, it’s a process of starting with values and underpainting.

Three hours went by remarkably quickly. If it hadn’t been so hot, we probably would have stayed on, but we went inside the (air-conditioned!) museum to look at our work and discuss it.

The differences in approach were fascinating – take a look at some of the paintings. We weren’t expected to finish, nor to create a masterpiece since we were just working on studies, but I loved seeing the results.

So here’s mine – remember when I said I thought like an illustrator rather than a painter? Good thing we weren’t supposed to paint a masterpiece!

The huge lessons I learned were PATIENCE and OBSERVATION. It was really hard for me to slow down and truly look at what was going on with the rocks and the water since I don’t have a painter’s eye for suggesting many details with one brush stroke. It was also a relief to know that I could still draw – whew! But painting? Not so much.

Here’s my friend Lara Hye Coh – now this girl can paint!

A million thanks to Vikki for her encouragement and teaching skills. And many thanks to Mary Margret McAllen, Director of Special Projects at the Witte Museum, who cooked up this great collaborative workshop!

This Plein Aire Workshop was designed to compliment the wonderful exhibit now at the Witte called James Ferdinand McCan: A Texas Artist Rediscovered. It features more than fifty of McCan’s paintings—most of which are rarely displayed to the public. And we in the class got to see them even before the exhibit opened.

McCan was a plein aire painter, friends with Julian Onderdonk, and he captured the incredible change in animals and landscapes that occurred in the 30 short years (between 1895-1925) he was painting in Texas. Please go see the exhibit! It’s open until October 2nd at the Witte.

Here’s an example of one of McCan’s remarkable paintings.

Mossy Oak and Bluebonnets, James Ferdinand McCan

Want to give plein aire painting a try? One of the things I did before the workshop was to set up a suggested materials list for those who signed up. For those of you who would like some guidance with materials, here is a link to a list of suggested supplies to purchase online. They are portable and not very expensive. Go for it!

I am so glad I had this learning experience!! It was humbling and exhilarating, all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Painting with Fire (by request)

Thanks for the great response to the Painting with Fire announcement, and thanks for all your questions. It occurred to me that I have been teaching this program for a year, and so was just assuming that everyone knew how it worked.  Not true – yikes. So here is some more info, by request –

This is a year log program with 52+ workshops of which mine, The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax, is just one little part of many really amazing classes. At the end of this post, I’ll show you who all the other teachers are and you can see the names of the classes that they are teaching. And all of these are included in the $249 Early Bird price.

pro

A lot of the questions I got about this year-long program were about experience level and also how to access the classes. So I went to Lora Murphy, the genius artist behind PWF, and got a few of her answers for you:

All the lessons are independent projects from start to finish and it is up to you which order to take them in or how many lessons to complete. You can work at your own pace it is up to you.

All the courses on Painting with Fire have a lifetime access and all classes will stay on the course page.

All our courses are for individuals of all skill levels, including beginners. Don’t be intimidated by comparing your work to other students who have more experience in art. We are all in different phases of our creative journey and we all once were beginners. The best thing – is to compare your own work from before to what you do now, and how it changes and improves as you practice. I would recommend to post your work so you can get feedback from the teachers and support from fellow students. Be kind to yourself and others!

As Lora alludes to, we have a great Painting with Fire Facebook group that’s active and helpful – I’m on there all the time getting ideas and giving advice.

So here’s the best part – look at this list (below) of the 26 teachers and the topics of their classes – you really do get all of this for one price for the whole year! You can watch them as they come out every week, and you can save them for when you have time – you can even pick and choose from the classes that have been released.

And if you have more questions – send them along – as you can tell, I am such a fan of Painting with Fire and feel so privileged to teach with all of these great instructors. Here’s the info/registration link.

 

Grateful Spirit

Ah, Spirit Dolls – they were the inspiration for my shard faces which solidified my return to earthenware in 2008 as my personal healing medium.

When winter days approach, there’s nothing more comforting than to settle down at my workbench and get my hands into some clay. After the clay has dried, I watch the earthenware pieces come out of the kiln, vitrified and transformed at 1900F, and marvel at the miracle of earth and fire. It never gets old.

Part of what keeps this exciting is connecting with the diverse world-wide circle of Spirit Doll makers and their creations. As you probably know, I have an Etsy shop called Earthshards, which is visited by doll makers, assemblage artists, fiber artists, and mixed media artists for the small Shard Faces that I make. Sometimes in their Etsy reviews they send photos of how they use the faces – what a delight!

Here are some inspiring pictures from the last eight month. I’ve credited them using just their buyer names for privacy, but I wanted you to see what I get to see as feedback!

Jan


Bada


Beloved Lake


Brita


Cristel


Cynthia


Elizabeth


Holle

Judie

Kelly


Metis


Rachel


Tess


Torpor


Viki


Wally


Wendy

______________________________

Thanks to all of these creative makers for sharing their work.

If you want to make your own spirit doll after seeing these and need a little inspiration, here is my free Spirit Doll instruction booklet.

Now go cultivate your grateful spirit!! Give a little spirit doll to a friend as a thank-you. It will warm your heart – and theirs – this winter!

Pleeeeeze buy my art??? (whimper)

When I was a Girl Scout, we were supposed to go door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies as part of our merit badge activities.

I was painfully shy, and had to force myself to slink up someone’s front steps and ring the doorbell. When it was answered, I’d hang my head and mumble “You wouldn’t want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, would you?” People felt so sorry for me that I actually sold a few packages.

Fast forward about six decades to the Uptown Art Stroll which took place last weekend. It had been years since I had sold art in person at a large art fair like that, and I had forgotten how weird it can be.

First of all, when I got my art together the night before the Stroll to tag it and such, it looked like a whole lot of exciting stuff.

But by the time I got the table set up the next day at the sale, it looked pretty puny. Yikes!

You have to remember that there are about twenty square blocks of art tents in this event with eleventy-thousand artists packed on every corner, so there is a whole bunch of competition! Gulp. No wonder it looked puny.

And it’s called a “Stroll” because people walk around at the event, look at your stuff, pick it up, ask questions, and then stroll away. Actually, that’s a fib. They often purchase art, and I made a respectable number of sales. But it did bring back memories of Girl Scout cookie days.

When people came close to the booth, I tried to balance my expression somewhere between desperation (“pleeeeze by my art”)…..

. . . .and sophisticated coolness (“if you knew good art, you’d definitely buy one of these assemblages, dude”).

I want to give a high five to my fellow artists who do this kind of event with such ease and grace. And I want to thank the buyers who actually purchased my art – you will never know how much it meant to me! Want some cookies to go with that art??

And finally, thanks, Marta Stafford – you do a much better job selling my art than I do!

 

 

 

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. 🙂