Wax and Clay play – plus a cool lightbox!

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Lyn Belisle, 2018

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Clay and Encaustic, Lyn Belisle, 2018

I’ve been working with earthenware clay and encaustic medium for a few years now, and really enjoying the combination.

But it occurred to me that not all encaustic artists have a chance to try this combination since they don’t have unlimited access to fired clay like I do.

Then it occurred to me that I have an Etsy shop that sells unglazed clay shards to artists. Hmmmmm. Then it occurred to me that I  just got a notice about a discount deal for advertising in Encaustic Arts Magazine.

Aha – the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” was born!

I find that when you get an idea, just go ahead with it as if it were already real! Don’t worry about how it’s all going to work. So I put together an ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine that looks like this using photos that I took especially for this purpose:

To make the pieces look good for the ad, good lighting was necessary for the photographs of the clay pieces. So I’m sharing with you a link to a photo light box that I have found to be extremely useful for all kinds of objects – and it’s cheap (about $40) and has its own light source.

It folds up into a flat package, and it comes with different colored backgrounds. As always, you get what you pay for – it’s not what you’d find in a professional photo studio for sure – but it does give good lighting for items up to about 12″.

This is what an art object looks like inside the light box:

Of course, you crop the photos so the edges of the photo box don’t show!

Here are some of the Encaustic Shard photos taken in the new light box – good detail! By the way, I use my iPhone for taking the photos 99% of the time. You don’t need a fancy camera.

To create the ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine, I wrote a simple description of how an encaustic artist might want to experiment with clay on a small scale. The I added the photos. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to put something like this together. True! Here’s a link to how to make an ad using Microsoft Word.

Anyway, if there is a point to this post, it is to follow up on an idea that you think might work as if it were already a success, using tools that facilitate the process.

It’s important to start with the conviction that the idea it WILL work – and in fleshing out the idea, you learn a lot along the way. If it doesn’t work, the journey itself is worth the price of admission!

I’ll let you know if the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” appeals to encaustic artists when the ad comes out in June, but even if it doesn’t, it’s always fun to put together an inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

Cuban love song

I loved exploring the joy of Cuban artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster‘s mosaic-covered “Fusterlandia”, a home, studio, and community in Havana

Cuba is a land of creativity, contradictions, and complexity. After eight days there, I’m still processing the experience, and probably will for a very long time. (Cuba is a photographer’s dream. To go directly to the photos in my Cuba Journal, take this link.)

Our small group tour included “people to people” interaction with many local artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, ecologists, schoolchildren and more during our travels four areas across the island.

Dance students in training at a no-cost government-supported arts school

We spent several days in Havana, which is celebrating its 500th birthday this spring. The city is a time capsule of transportation and architecture. Cuba is a country still deeply entrenched in a complex political situation. Nevertheless, innovation and invention are everywhere and the spirit of the Cuban people is inspiring.

On the street near Ernest Hemingway’s house

There are many helpful guides for Americans who want to travel to Cuba, and it’s important to read them before you plan a visit there. For over 50 years Cuba was essentially off limits to Americans thanks to a 1962 trade embargo that made spending money on the island tantamount to treason.

This all changed in 2014, when the Obama administration announced a reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, to quote travel guide Andrew Scott, “This opportunity will not last forever. The influx of foreigners is rapidly transforming Cuba’s economic and social realities. Meanwhile, political uncertainties in the U.S. make it impossible to know if the borders will remain open.”

I am so grateful that I visited Cuba when I did. For artists, it is rich with visual imagery – and Cuban artists are prolific and skilled, particularly in printmaking. I spoke to several of them about their processes and vision.

Two artist/educators discuss their work as professional artists

One thing we didn’t talk about was Decreto 349, a new decree by the Cuban government that criminalizes independent artists and places severe restrictions on cultural activity not authorized by the Ministry of Culture. You can read more about that here.

The Internet just become available in Cuba two months ago, and vendors were selling WiFi cards everywhere we went. It is going to be extremely interesting to see what effect that kind of global access produces.

I have a lot more reading to do about Cuba, but in the meantime, the photos from the trip continue to inspire me. Here are some of my favorites, presented in a photojournal on my website. I hope these digital snapshots express all the reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with Cuba and its people.

 

 

 

 

Quick Kitchen Counter Photo Trick

Sample pieces of paper-infused porcelain clay

I took that fairly impressive photo, above, on my kitchen counter this morning with my iPhone.

Want to see how you can get the same photo-studio effect? All you need is some Scotch tape and  large piece of drawing paper. It helps if you have a light under your kitchen cabinet that shines on the counter.

So here’s my lighted kitchen counter with the little clay pieces sitting on it. I taped an 18″ x 24″ piece of newsprint against the back wall of the counter and let it curve loosely down on the counter surface.

Then I arranged the three small pieces in the center of the paper so it looked as if they were “floating.” I snapped three or four photos with my iPhone and chose the best one.

Later, I needed a good photo of a project I just finished for my Wax & Words eBook. It’s a little standing screen made with encaustic panels covered with marks and letters. Waxed surfaces are hard to reproduce in photos. This is what it looked like when I took the photo on the table in my studio. Kinda blah.

So I brought the little project home and tried my kitchen counter photo studio technique. I added an interesting rock and arranged the everything on the taped-up sheet of drawing paper.  Check it out!

Here’s how the pros do it – no cheap drawing paper or scotch tape for them.

But isn’t it amazing what a seamless background can do for a photo, even an iPhone photo? And nobody has to know that you took it on your kitchen counter.

 

 

 

Wax and trees and happy meetings

Opening night at ASmith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas

Opening night at ASmith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas

In an earlier post, I mentioned I was taking work to ASmith Gallery in Johnson City for an encaustic show. The show(s) opened this past Saturday, and the exhibited works are a wonderful combination of diverse photoencaustic and lyrical photographs of trees in every artful interpretation. And the gallery is gorgeous. Here’s a description:

Established in May, 2010, A Smith Gallery is located in Johnson City, Texas in the Nugent Avenue Arts District. The gallery exhibits the work of both amateur and professional photographers through juried and invitational exhibitions. Amanda Smith and Kevin Tully are the Gallery Directors.   Izzie, Be and WeeGee are the official gallery cats.

Amanda Smith is the director. She and co-director Kevin Tully also teach workshops in encaustic and photograpy. In addition, they provide printing, matting and framing services for photographers whose work is selected for juried show.

I love the layout of the exhibit space – there is a small “salon” area inside a larger gallery perimeter. Meeting Amanda was such a pleasure – I am adding her to my “steal-ideas-from” list!

Amanda Smith and me at the ASmith Gallery last Saturday

Amanda Smith and me at the ASmith Gallery last Saturday

I also met two artists whose work resonated strongly with me. Pat Brown is the first. I was looking at matted work in the bins and every piece I picked up seemed to be hers! Here are two and, oops, all of the photos I took at the show that were framed have reflective light spots on them, but you can get the picture :).

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The other artist whom I met (and whose work I loved) is Keith Kesler. Here is one of his photoencaustic pieces.

Keith Kesler

Keith Kesler

When he’s not wearing his artist/photographer hat, Dr. Keith Kesler is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist with an active psychotherapy and coaching practice in Austin, Texas. He and I talked about encaustic process. I got some great ideas about layers with tissue and wax from Keith. His work is very dreamlike and symbolic. Nice!

The theme of the photography portion of the exhibit was “trees.” When you visit the exhibit, take your time walking around the gallery walls – you will be delighted with the fascinating interpretations of trees through the eyes of master photographers. Here are just a few (please ignore the light reflections in the photos – these are taken with my iPhone)

Amanda has had a number of excellent photography exhibits at the ASmith Gallery – I had fun looking through her catalogs and at the archives on her website. Great inspiration! She also has a wonderful assortment of curiosities and small works that grace the walls and table tops.

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Here’s the best news of all – if you’d like to make a quick trip to Johnson City (which is just a little over an hour north of San Antonio) and visit ASmith Gallery and the Nugent Avenue Art District, there is a second reception for this show on January 28, 2017 from 4 to 8pm. I’ll be there – hope to see you!

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Quebradillas: a feast for the senses – there’s an app for that

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I am so proud to be a part of this amazing project! Two years in the making, Quebradillas is a fusion of poetry, intimate audio readings, and gorgeous photos developed in the style of a coffee table book but accessible on your iPad. In a word, it’s stunning. You can purchase it here for only $4.99 – but truly, Quebradillas is priceless!

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Me, Quebradillas author John Dickey, and photographer Scott Taylor at a meeting in my studio in 2015

John Dickey, a dear friend, came to me with this idea about two years ago. He had written a lovely and reflective book of poems titled Quebradillas, inspired by his home in Puerto Rico, and wanted to combine them with photos taken by his son-in-law, photo artist and world-traveler Scott Taylor. I knew just enough to design the epub layout in InDesign and worked closely with John and Scott putting the visuals together. John recorded each poem in his wise, endearing voice.

Larry Ketchersid, app wizard

For turning the concept into reality, we enlisted the invaluable help of Larry Ketchersid, honco at JoSara Media. I had met Larry through another friend, author Bob Flynn and knew he’s be perfect for the job. Larry broke new ground developing Quebradillas in app form, adding an audio file for every poem and making each page glide smoothly across the gorgeous photos.

I hope you will look at the app. I hope you will buy it and show it to your friends! I hope you will cherish the poems and the photos as I do. It’s been an extraordinary collaboration – please share 🙂

Here are two of my favorite poems from Quebradillas – hearing John read them on my iPad is a double delight. And for you non-techies, there may be a hardcover version in the near future! Stay tuned.

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2016 National Juried Photo Encaustic Exhibition

“Untitled” © Kathryn Oliver

Clare O’Neill has pulled together a fascinating and eclectic exhibit that goes a long way in defining the relatively new art genre, “Photo Encaustic.”

As juror of  the 2016 National Juried Photo Encaustic Exhibition, Clare writes, “This newest exhibition of photo encaustic work beautifully blurs the lines between photography and painting; melding together what the camera captures with the vision of the what the artists sees.”

The show opens on June 2 at the Sage Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

D is for Dragonfly © Darren Terpstra

Michelle Belto introduced me to encaustic painting several years ago (thanks, Michelle!). And then I worked with Clare in her online class in January of 2015. With her guidance, I was able to craft a personal encaustic style that worked well for me. Clare and I became friends, and her sold-out classes at my Studio this past January were hugely inspiring to all of us. It’s an exciting medium with unlimited possibilities for both the photographer and the painter.

“No Good Outcome” © Lyn Belisle

I’m delighted to be included in the 2016 National Juried Photo Encaustic Exhibition Michelle Belto’s work is included as well. You can see all of the selected works on this page. It’s obvious that the old chicken-and-egg question applies – “which came first?’ – did the medium inspire the image or did the image call out for the medium? Fun stuff.

“Soul Boxes” © Michelle Belto

If you’d like to know more about Clare’s photoencaustic workshops, here’s a link. I’m also teaching three encaustic workshops in August which have sold out, but I’ll be added a second session of Vintage Veils: Encaustic Photocollage on Saturday, August 13th. It isn’t listed yet on my Workshop Calendar, but if you’d like a spot, email me and I’ll put you on the list.

Now  get out your camera and melt some sweet-smelling warm beeswax to enhance your images!

 

Waterlogued at our retreat in Fredericksburg

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Last year at this very time I was on Whidbey Island at Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Soul Retreat. Four friends from San Antonio went with me, and this weekend the five of us celebrated our one-year anniversary with a reunion trip to Fredericksburg. We stayed at Sidney Burnette’s charming B&B called Butterfly Cottage.

Butterfly Cottage owned by the very lucky Sidney Burnette

We shopped and ate and reminisced. And shopped. And ate! I collected photos of the wonderful colors and textures in this great Hill Country town. Special thanks to Sidney for sharing her country home with us!

One of the things we played with at the cottage was the artful iPad app called Waterlogue. I’ve had it for quite a while but the others hadn’t seen it – it transforms every photo into a watercolor masterpiece. We went crazy taking photos and transforming everything into watercolor paintings – cats, rocks, each other – nothing was safe. It was an unexpected and fun diversion.

Below are some before and after “Waterlogued” examples from photos I took on Saturday. Truly, the watercolor version take exactly one second and one click to create. I thought you might want to know about this fun app to try it for yourself. It works on iPhones and iPads and costs a mere $2.99 (cheaper than four years of art school). It’s an easy introduction to altered digital images. Here’s more info.

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The kitchen at the cottage

 

 

 

Waterlogue version

Waterlogue version

Bluebonnets on Willow City Loop

Bluebonnets on Willow City Loop

Waterlogued version

Waterlogued version

Cemetery angel

Cemetery angel

Waterlogued version

Waterlogued version

Decayed Daguerreotypes and The Public Domain Review

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Portrait of Emma Gillingham Bostwick [between 1851 and 1860], by Mathew Brady’s studio

Part of having some leisure time over the holidays is discovering new Good Stuff, which, of course, I’m passing along to you guys. Look at that wonderful portrait, above – it’s an old daguerreotype that has been naturally distressed over time by scratches, dust, hair, etc, and particularly the rubbing of its glass cover. Isn’t it beautiful?? Artists strive to achieve those distressed effects in wax and paint – age and natural process has done it for us here.

It’s part of a collection from a site called The Public Domain Review: a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation. You can read more about these daguerreotypes and see many more fantastic examples here.

Reading the Public Domain Review’s mission statement makes me smile:

images“In particular, as our name suggests, the focus is on works which have now fallen into the public domain, that vast commons of out-of-copyright material that everyone is free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restriction. Our aim is to promote and celebrate the public domain in all its abundance and variety, and help our readers explore its rich terrain – like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond.”

 

The Public Domain Review has unbelievable treasures, and my personal favorites are in the images collections. Here are a few of the non-copyright images I came across in my first visit – it won’t be my last. I hope you have fun with this great resource. I plan to donate to their site (just as soon as I climb out of this rabbit-hole of digital discovery)!

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Faces of Art – and a Friday Free-bee

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Ramin Samandari is an extraordinary artist and  photographer whose work is in the permanent collections at the San Antonio Museum of Art and the University of Texas at San Antonio, along with numerous private collections. He has embarked on a remarkable project to photograph San Antonio artists. Here’s what he writes:

“I started this project about a year ago with two objectives in mind: To make photographs that show a glimpse into the artist’s emotions and psyche, and to make an important archive of the San Antonio’s visual art community, which did not exist.

I decided not to photograph the artists in the usual way, with their work in their studios. Instead I wanted to make portraits where the viewer has to encounter the artist’s face with no other distraction.”

I visited Ramin on Tuesday, and he just sent me this photograph from my session at his studio – I love itmany thanks, Ramin, for your talent and vision (and your mastery of Photoshop!). Plus, now I have a head shot that doesn’t involve cats or a messy studio in the background! Yay!

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Lyn Belisle, photographed by Ramin Samandari

You can see an Interview with Ramin as he photographs my good friend, Anne Alexander. And you can get more information on funding the project here at Ramin’s website.

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Ready for the Friday Free-bee? Yep, it’s a B Beautiful bee dish! One lucky SHARDS subscriber will win one of these little guys to keep or give. A portion of the sales of these hand-built pieces goes to support the Honeybee Conservancy. Drawing will be held Sunday night – good luck! And thanks for bee-ing a subscriber!

PS – I sold all of these at the last studio event, but I have several dozen more back in stock – they are coming out of the kiln today (just in case you don’t win the Friday Free-bee and still want one :))

 

It’s almost showtime . . .

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William Henke’s Uptown Henke Meat Market, now a contemporary art gallery

Michelle Belto and I went to Fredericksburg, Texas yesterday to check out the space for our upcoming duo exhibit at  Dan Pfeiffer’s gallery. The space is an architectural wonder, a 120-year-old meat market which Dan converted into a stunning art gallery.

Dan’s architectural background gave him a reverence for the original structure, and you can see lots of the original trappings of the market, such as the huge meat grinder, which looks kind of like a contemporary metal art object. Dan’s own work is fantastic – carved wood sculptures and furniture that are an amazing blend of artistic form and practical function.

_DSC3746_300ppiOur show is called “Coeur Samples,” and I thought of the name when Michelle first showed me her new sculptural pieces. They resemble blocks of iridescent material that could have come from the heart of a mysterious planet –  and they fit well with my PhotoEncaustic work which samples a moment in time through vintage photographs. “Coeur” is French for “heart” – so, voila – the show became Coeur Samples: Encaustic Explorations. Although Michelle and I have taught together many times, we have never exhibited together, so I hope you can get yourself to Fredericksburg to see our first-time duo show next month. Here are a few photos from yesterday’s visit with Dan at the gallery – we’re excited, and grateful to Dan for hosting our work in this amazing space.