Shards and Tesserae

Christa Lamb is a mosaic artist from Cottonwood HeightsUtah, who has ordered small shard faces from my Etsy shop several times. She sent me a message last week saying, “I thought you might be interested in seeing how I use your beautiful faces in my work,” and she attached some photos.

 I was amazed at her work. I often wonder how artists use these faces, but never expected to see them incorporated into such fantastic mosaics!

I asked her if I could share them with SHARDS readers, and she agreed – thanks, Christa!

She sent several more examples, all of which use mixed media materials to create rich panoramas in tiles, glass and found objects. I love these fabulous “storyboards.”

Here are some more of Christa’s mosaics:

The details are endlessly intriguing.

Look at this mysterious mixture, below!

I found more of her work on Flickr – along with some gorgeous photos of Utah.
Thanks, Christa – so grateful for your work and your email ! Do you show your work in a gallery? We’d love to see more!
Keep in touch,
Lyn

 

 

 

Abstraction/Non-Objective: the emancipation of the mind ?

I had the great pleasure of working with five friends, all whom create artwork that I admire, in an abstract painting workshop at my Studio last Friday.

From left: Pamela Ferguson, Bibi Saidi, Carolyn Royall, Robin Gara – not pictured: Nancy Vandenburg

Part of the fun was sharing thoughts about abstraction and non-objective painting. Here’s one of my favorite quotes written by Arshile Gorky:

“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind
what he cannot physically see with his eyes…
Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible,
to extract the infinite out of the finite.
It is the emancipation of the mind.
It is an explosion into unknown areas.” 

Emancipating one’s mind is a tough assignment. It’s human nature to try to direct the outcome of our work, and it’s difficult to let go of that control. We followed a “map” of steps to an unknown outcome. You can download the workshop outline here to see how we painted our abstract studies.

I try to develop a slightly different plan of attack for each painting workshop. Individual students react in different ways to techniques that get them to break the ice on a blank canvas. But we almost always start with mark-making, usually asemic writing.

It’s super-important to agree at the beginning that we will not create a masterpiece in three hours, but we might learn some new approaches to making meaningful paintings. Here are some of the first stages or our warmup:

And here are some in the second stage:

When you watch the video, you can see what some of our results were – all interesting! Several of the artists said that they were out of their comfort zone, but pleased with the final outcome, which may be the whole point!

Video Link

For further study, you can read a good explanation of Abstraction in Art from the Tate Museum.

Thanks for reading SHARDS – and remember, if you and a group of four or five friends  would like to organize a workshop at my studio, just send me an email!

“Where can I get . . . ? (my top five sources – non-Amazon!)

The New Year is a great time to identify the creative materials you use the most .  These are your signature media, your “desert island” necessities. This list can help you in your resolution to streamline and simplify your studio space once you know what you will really use.

I know what MY own signature media are. Here are the Top Five that I use extensively in my own work and in almost all of my workshops (Raise your hand if you’ve used walnut ink because you learned about it in one of our workshops!)

  1. Tsukineko Walnut Ink
  2. Beeswax
  3. Book Foil
  4. Sari Silk
  5. Artificial Sinew

I get a lot of questions about where to find these materials since they are not really mainstream art/craft materials. I prefer to buy from places other than Amazon (although the Big A is certainly fast and convenient).

But when I can obtain my signature materials from other artists or independent retailers, I try to share those sources.

Here they are – enjoy looking! :

Tsukineko Walnut Ink:

https://www.imaginecrafts.com/walnut-ink/view-grid/1351

I have always ordered my walnut ink spray from Imagine Crafts. They have friendly customer service and ship quickly.  It’s often hard to find walnut ink at places like Michael’s or JoAnns (a lot of people have never heard of it) but it’s always in stock at Imagine.

If you browse around the Tsukineko inks, you’ll see that there is a pastel set (Cherry Blossom, Cornflower, Willow, Lilac) as well as an earth-tone set (Java, Eucalyptus, Walnut, Terra Cotta). Either set of four bottles retails for $23. Any color can also be purchase singly for $5.70.

Beeswax:

There are many different forms of beeswax and thousands of ways to use it.  I use beeswax for encaustic collage and for assemblage. I use it on clay and on fiber. My preferred beeswax is all natural White Beeswax pellets, refined in the USA without any chemical bleaching aids. My favorite source for this is Swans Candles in Tenino, WA.

Swans has a fine selection of beeswax and other encaustic supplies (including Damar Varnish if you want to make your own encaustic medium). Their prices are excellent. You can buy a pound of Natural White Beeswax pellets for $9.95.

Most retail art stores now sell beeswax and other encaustic supplies, but you can expect to pay almost twice as much per pound. Even on Amazon, a pound of R&F Encaustic White Beeswax lists at $18.86.

Book Foil:

This foil, also known as Deco Foil, is generally used for transferring metallic finishes to craft projects using an adhesive. Here’s a link to a video that shows demos about that. However, if you’ve taken an encaustic workshop with me, you know that we also use it to create fine gold marks onto a waxed surface.

One of the best places to order this foil is Dharma Trading Company. They are generally known for their fiber art supplies, but you will love their site for lots of other reasons! For Deco Foil, for example, they have the best selection and lowest price of anyone, including Amazon. Currently, they sell a cylinder of five sheets, 6×10″, for just $3.89.

Sari Silk:

I discovered my source, Felt Better, on Etsy several years ago, and I have ordered from them many times.

This is what the owner, Michelle, says about her sari silk: “The beautiful, exotic sari ribbon I carry is all the best things about recycling that I love. First and foremost, it helps our fragile planet by making use of material that would end up in landfills. Did you know that it helps women too? It’s a fair trade product that works close with women co-op groups, insures they get a fair wage, that helps them support their families….and most importantly, no child labor is involved.”

I use sari silk for so many things – for journals, assemblage, spirit dolls, and just to hang in my studio for pure enjoyment of its colors, history, and textures. A 100 gram skein (about 45 yards) costs $12.50 at Felt Better.

Artificial Sinew:

Do the words “cat gut” make you shudder? What about “sheep sinew?” Those were traditional material used for lacing and tying leather and gourds. Fortunately, artificial sinew is now available because I use a lot of it! It’s a material I use for clay assemblage, bead stringing, fiber art, and almost anything else that requires tying one thing to another thing.

I used to buy it at Tandy’s Leather Store, but have discover a new online treasure trove. The Thread Exchange specializes in the kinds of thread that are not sold in stores, including a huge selection of artificial sinew. The company is based in North Carolina and its website is user-friendly.

They have almost twenty colors of sinew, although I am partial to the Natural and the other earth colors like Terra Cotta. A 17-yard roll is about $5.00 and a 265-yard roll is only about $15.00.

For 2020, I would like to make a commitment to bring into my workspace only those materials that I really need, use and love. Hmmmm… it’s not always easy, because experimenting with new things is part of the game.

So here I go, tempting you with great sources for wonderful materials that may be new to  — I hope some of these will inspire your work for the new year. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

Me the Jury – not an easy task

It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.

One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:

  1. Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
  1. Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
  1. Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
     
  2. Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.   

 3-Dimensional:

  1. Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
  1. Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
  1. Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media

The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill.  Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??

The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.

The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!

The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.

The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.

So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.

First Place

This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.

There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!

The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?

Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?

First Place

Second Place

There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories

Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:

Best of Show

It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”

It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.

One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!

I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:

“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”

Amen!

 

 

 

A studio visit with Jane Dunnewold – SAALM Artist of the Year 2019

If you haven’t heard of Jane Dunnewold, then Fiber Art hasn’t been on your radar in the last decade. And it should be – it’s hot and it’s trending!

A nationally-renowned fiber artist, Jane teaches and lectures internationally, and has mounted numerous solo exhibitions. Her pioneering book on the practice of art, Creative Strength Training, is hugely popular with artists in all media who want to develop their unique voice and make creating art a regular habit.

Jane just made history by being the first fiber artist to have been chosen as Artist of the Year by the San Antonio Art League & Museum. It’s a decisive moment for the 107-year-old Art League, which has traditionally selected painters for this honor. Jane’s portfolio of work wowed the three well-known out-of-state jurors with its depth of content and maturity of style. She was chosen from a field of ten nominees and three finalists.

I visited Jane’s spacious studio last week with Steve Smith, last year’s SAALM Artist of the Year and this year’s committee chair, to talk about her upcoming 2019 Artist of the Year exhibition. Her work on the studio walls was dazzling!

Jane at her work table in front of large panels of innovative surface design on fabric and fiber

Natural light from a narrow window enhances surface textures

I fell in love with several of her long panels characterized by calligraphic marks and lines resembling music staffs. In the first photo, below, Jane used a flour paste resist to create the fine crackles, and in the second photo, you can see that she incorporated strands of rice paper.

Jane is a generous master teacher whose video lessons can be found on her You Tube channel. One of my favorites is Mastering Thermofax Printing: Gold Leaf. She does a step-by-step explanation of the process that is engaging and easy to follow.

Her books are just as straightforward. Jane is one of those artists who shares her processes and inspirations freely with the kind of openness that one finds in a confident master art professional with an impressive body of work.

In my own library, I have Jane’s 15 Beads: A Guide to Creating One-of-a-kind Beads, Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design for Fabric, and Creative Strength Training. Each one is a treasury of inspiration and innovative process.

Below are just a few of the images that Jane included in her portfolio for the Juror Panel’s consideration. When you see the range of color, theme, and confident composition, you’ll see why Jane was chosen. Outstanding art has no material limitation – it speaks to humanity in every medium.

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As SAALM Artist of the Year, Jane will be honored with a retrospective exhibition and an accompanying catalogue. Dates for the exhibition are September 8th – October 27th, 2019 at the San Antonio Art League & Museum, 130 King William Street.

Mark your calendars now – everyone at the Art League is so excited about this show! I am a huge fan of Jane’s work, and you will be, too, after you see this gorgeous array of artwork.

 

Marfa – and wax on black exploration

In the 1970s, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas, where he created giant works of art beneath vast desert skies

I’m back from a week in West Texas and the beautiful Davis Mountains. One of the best parts of the trip was visiting Marfa and connecting with minimalist artist Donald Judd’s vision. There’s a great NPR article about this – click here. I love the quote by sculptor Campbell Bosworth“You just come out here and you feel like, I want to make something; I want to do something!”

Maybe it’s the minimalist influence, but it must be true. The Marfa getaway ignited my creative curiosity, and as soon as I got back, I went into the studio and started working in black and white on an experiment with black substrates and beeswax.

I wondered what would happen to the translucent layers of beeswax when they were applied over a dark background.

I used an absorbent black paper and added some white markings with different kinds of media – crayon, stamps, paint:

I added a layer of beeswax – it made it kind of glossy, and did penetrate into the paper, which had been a concern. You don’t want it to just sit on the surface of the substrate:

More experiments – black and white (and a bit of walnut ink):

Like all experiments, some of the techniques worked well, and some were definitely “learning opportunities.” But there is a certain potential for interesting effects that are both chalk-like and smokey. I am going to push these ideas a little further and see what develops (like old black and white film).

Now that I’ve been “Marfa-ized” and infected with some new ideas, it looks like I may be spending more time at the studio, perhaps even developing a wax on black workshop!

 

Creative collaborations

Earlier this month I got several emails from mixed-medial artist and tarot maker Dawn Zichko, whose work I’ve known and liked for quite some time. I wrote another SHARDS post about her about five years ago.

Dawn has a great blog called Mental Mohair which often features a daily card from her Everyday Tarot deck, which you can find in her Etsy Shop.

Four cards from Dawn Zichko’s Everyday Tarot deck

In her first email, Dawn sent a photo with a short note that said,

“Lyn, I thought you might enjoy seeing progress on a collaborative piece.”

Here was the photo (below) – very intriguing – and some of my faces were part of the collaborative design. I asked her if I could share the photo, and she requested that I wait until they had worked a bit more on it.

I’m including that unfinished version so you can see the structure of the body.

The following week she sent photos of the completed collaborative piece along with this description of the process:

Lyn, we created the Earth Protectress in ritual space. In brainstorming at earlier gatherings, the creation of a goddess was included in the list. So we all thought of creating her. In the sacred space we chose the parts we wanted to work on by chakra.

Essie (not her real name as she would like to remain anonymous) created the head/Third Eye/Crown, Patricia created the torso/Heart/Solar Plexus, and I created the base/Root and neck/Throat (this is the part that needed reconstruction — oh, the analogies!).”

The other women let me take her home and run with the additions. The clay faces, hair, pouch, and skirt were all done by me, but the additions were discussed with Essie and Patricia before working on them. I am blessed they trusted my creative ramblings. It was truly a touching experience to create this being in togetherness and sacred space.”

I think it’s just glorious – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and yet each part is amazing.

Artist collaborations can be tricky – sometimes it’s obvious which person did what part, but in this case, there is a seamless sense of sacred purpose. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing this work!
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Have you ever gotten involved with a collaborative project? How’d it work for you?

I have to admit, it’s something I’ve rarely tried, certainly not recently. But a lot of my artist friends, particularly fiber artists, love the collaborative process.

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot written about collaborative visual artwork, but I did find this thoughtful post called Cloth, Creativity & Collaborating with fiber artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly.

And I also found an engaging article about a mother’s painting with her five-year-old daughter called Making a Masterpiece Together.  Here were their guidelines:

1. We would each add one color to the canvas everyday.

2. We would do our painting while the other one was out of the room, so they would be surprised.

3. We would try not to paint completely over the other persons art work.

Those are great rules! They would work for any kind of collaboration, whether the artwork is done for a sacred and serious purpose like Dawn’s was with her friends, or with an informal group and just for fun.

The trick is always going to be keeping an open mind. No fair thinking “You messed up the part I did!”  Instead, you gotta think “Look how you enhanced my work.” Right??

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

 

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!

A visit with artists Virginia and Andre Bally

Hedera helix, Andre and Virginia Bally

Andy and Virginia Bally are pretty amazing. I am a huge fan of their work. Their etched glass piece, above, was my birthday present from Bill this year and is one of my very favorite pieces of art.

I met this remarkable husband-and-wife team several years ago during a Potters Guild meeting at the old studio.We’ve stayed in touch, and today Bill and I drove out to their Hill Country studio near Canyon Lake. It was a perfect Summer Solstice day trip. Look what greeted us in the driveway (besides Andy and Virginia) as we arrived!

This mobile masterpiece is a work in progress that has been featured in the Houston Art Car parade. The Ballys just keep adding to it, detail after fantastic detail.

Their home is a masterpiece of design, as well. I love places that make you feel like you’re inside a collage, and this is one of those places. There are collections everywhere.

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The Ballys’ shared studio is where the magic happens in clay and glass and assemblage. I took a lot of photos there, and put them together in a video (below) to give you a feel for the scope of their collaborative work. They share the process, although Andy says that Virginia specializes in design concepts and he is often the engineering guy.

A visit to the Hill Country studio of Andre and Virginia Bally from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Andy and Virginia share a love of folk-art inspired constructions. Andy showed us some of their “pocket shrines” in progress.

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They also create contemporary versions of traditional painted tin retablos:

Can you tell why I love their work so much? Their use of faces, their sense of play – it’s very engaging!

You can read more about Andy and Virginia here, and while you are at it, check out the face casting slide show on their website. You can see their work at Texcetera in Johnson City, and in collections in Canada, Europe, Northern Africa and the United States. Oh, yeah – and at my house, too! Lucky me to have a Bally original.

Virginia Bally’s face cast in glass