In retrospect . . .

Delaware artist Rebecca Raubacher at her retrospective exhibit, Rehoboth Art League

What is a “retrospective”? In art-speak, it’s an exhibition showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time. I met Rebecca Raubacher last Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, at an event honoring her and her retrospective show at the Rehoboth Art League. Here’s one of her early drawings.

Debby, Rebecca Raubacher, 1976

Talking with her got me thinking about how our paths as artists change and build over the years. Rebecca has always been a consummate draftsman, and her current paintings have a lot of mixed media drawing techniques with oil sticks and metallic inks. Her themes of faces and figures has continued throughout her career.

Rebecca Raubacher, 2015, Watercolor, graphite, sepia ink, and metallic and opaque markers on paper 11 in x 14

So here’s the question for you – have you gone back recently and looked at your earlier work? (This is not a “have-you-gotten-better” question – who even knows what “better” is anyway.) And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been making art for one year or fifty. All of us choose what to keep and what to leave behind. That choosing and abandoning gives us our “style.”

Thanks to a house fire in ’83 (arg), I don’t have much of my earliest undergrad work back in the 60’s. I did take a photo of this piece called “Datachip” which I did in 1979. It’s hard to get a good photo of a drawing behind glass, but you get the idea.

Lyn Belisle, Datachip, graphite and PrismaColor, 24×30″, 1979

Shortly after that, I abandoned drawing for a while and started making a series of large-scale origami kimonos and other large collages which sold well in the ’80s and ’90s.

And like a lot of other artists, I was doing commercial art along the way, like these covers for the NEISD Community Education program – they were mostly collages, too:

And my love for clay has always followed me around – here’s a bowl I did in the 80’s – faces and clay!

So the things I’ve kept are clay, collage, images of faces, and earth colors. I’m still experimenting within those areas. And, overall, the idea of “shards” – constructing new things from small found objects, images and clues from the past, connects the dots for me.

Go back and look at your own work. What colors and themes and images predominate? I read a lot of those advice-for-artist blogs that say, “Get out of your comfort zone! If you like neutrals, go wild with color! If you like watercolor, try oils!” I don’t necessarily agree. Our style develops from our intuition about what we do best.

Our personal retrospective journey is just that, a journey. We take what we discover along the way and build on it. More likely than not, the work of other artists influences us but it doesn’t define us as we keep what resonates and forgo the rest.

So your homework is to find the oldest piece of personal artmaking that you have, and give it a good look. Post it on Facebook if you like! See what changes you’ve made. Think a bit about your personal retrospective. It’s fun and enlightening.

Georgia O’Keeffe, drawing of hand, age 14

 

Save

Save

Save

. . .that’s when I knew her name

One of my favorite poets and people, Pamela Ferguson, contacted me recently to see if I’d teach a Wax and Talisman workshop for her small group, and I said “Of course!”. Pamela had taken the Small Worlds workshop last March and I wrote about her work here in an earlier post.

Teaching this talisman workshop is so rewarding – it’s the subject of my latest ebook, and one of the most personal workshops that I offer. So I was excited to be teaching it “live,” especially when I found out that Pamela’s granddaughter Caitlyn would be in the group. It’s fun to see how different generations respond to an art challenge.

Pamela’s group came to the studio yesterday and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The workshop has three components:

  • Personalizing the earthenware face piece and painting melted beeswax wax on the surface
  • Making rolled paper “blessing beads” and adding texture, beeswax, and metallic enhancements
  • Tying symbolic ribbons and cord to the focal piece and stringing the beads

Every step has meaning and intention. I asked the students to let their intuition lead them and to see what would happen. I also asked them to name their pieces when we finished.

This is Caitlyn’s piece – she is a senior in high school and very perceptive about herself and others. She adores her grandmother, Pamela.

Her blessing beads are beautiful, and I like the way she has grouped them at the bottom edge of the face. During discussion time, I asked Caitlyn what she had named her talisman. She said the name kept shifting as she got deeper and deeper into the process, but it had ended up as “Venus” – not what she’d expected. We all understood what she meant !

This morning, I got an email from Pamela saying how much they had enjoyed the workshop. Then she told me that Caitlyn had started talking about her talisman as they were driving home. Her words were almost an impromptu poem, which Pamela wrote down.

Read Caitlyn’s poem and look at the talisman she created which inspired it – lovely.

Talisman
by Caitlyn
Venus is her name –
    the two sides of her face
    the two sides of love
 
The light side has golden glow
The ribbons are bright, peachy,
      lots of strands, beads, charms.
 
The other side is dark –
the walnut stain soaked deeply.
The copper tear by her eye was accidental
      but love can cause pain.
That’s when I knew her name –
      the tear, the dark side.
And those ribbons are thin, stringy –
black, gray – sadder somehow.
 
I didn’t mean for her to be Venus
      the goddess of love
but that’s how she came out.

It’s all about trusting the process – letting go of what we expect and letting the intuitive take over. I’m very glad that Caitlyn’s work and poetry expresses this so perfectly – she didn’t mean for her to be Venus, the goddess of love, but that’s how she came out!

But wait, there’s more! Pamela, a published poet, had her own insight about the process. She sent me her poem this morning, as well – it’s titled “Paper Bead,” but it’s about much, much more.

Paper Bead

     by Pamela Ferguson

 

Cut a strip of paper,

long

narrow

Write a secret word,

a power word

a sacred one –

a promise – a passion –

a vision word.

 

Glue the strip

almost end to end

side to side.

Coat your word

with protection.

 

Lay a skewer on the almost end –

roll the strip onto the tiny dowel

until your word is cocooned within –

held by the power of your hands

the dowel

the glue.

 

Bedeck the roll with ribbon

or string or yarn-

chain or silk or sinew.

 

Seal in place with that most

basic of adherents –

pure, warm beeswax.

Coat the cocoon.

Seal your word

in the unique world you make

and remake each day.

Add its shape and your word

to your memory’s bliss.

 

Then do another.

 

Don’t you love the way the creative process works with work and words? I especially like Pamela’s last line, “Then do another.” It means that we can do this any time, this expressing our best thoughts through our art and our poetry. It’s so comforting and liberating.
Thanks, Pamela and Caitlyn, grandmother and granddaughter, for sharing your artwork and your poetry.
PS I’m always happy to arrange a small group workshop for you – you don’t even have to be an artist or a poet!

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Friday resources, mostly free, all fabulous

But first, before we get to those resources, wanna hear a story? OK, so I needed to find a home for a wonderful easel that Nancy Powlas had given me several years ago. It had belonged to her late sister, and I loved it, but didn’t have room for it in my new studio space. When I got it, it was bent at the back, so I took a rubber mallet and whacked it straight.

Some arty intuition told me to call Lesta Frank to see if she would like it. She came to look at it and said, “Hey, I used to have an easel just like that that I gave away 17 years because it was bent, but I always regretted giving it up.”

And of course, as all good stories go, it turned out to be the very same easel that Lesta had given up and was now returned to her from the Mysterious Art Universe.

lesta

Lesta and easel, reunited at last

So now on to these free resources, most of which are image goldmines for mixed-media artists and designers.

The first one is Pixabay, which has a searchable index of thousands of copyright-free photos and illustrations. I did a search for “rust” and found this beauty – look at the colors and textures! Thanks to Leannah Kurtin Fulmer for reminding me of Pixabay.

rust

The second resource, Unsplash, came to me via Ivy Newport, an imaginative, inspiring and successful artist and teacher – she has curated a collection of portrait photos at Unsplash that are gorgeous. The photos at Unspalsh are offered without restriction – their motto is “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” Wow. Here’s one from Ivy’s collection – just think of all the ways you could use this evocative face.

woman

Another photo resource, also free, is Noah Bradley’s Free Photo Reference Megapack. Noah Bradley is an artist and fantasy author who is building an amazing illustrated world called The Sin of Man. He has photos from all over the world to download and use as backgrounds and reference. I downloaded his American Southwest collection and his France and England collection – they are huge albums.

Here are two examples from those collections.

england southwest

The last resource was suggested to me by my friend Linda Krantz. a wonderfully perceptive artist from Houston who was in my class at Vivi Magoo a couple of weeks ago. It’s called MadRat Rubbergreat name. While they don’t have free images, they have the most original and amazing stamps and other cool stuff for mixed-media artists.madrat

Here’s onenot your everyday stamp design, right? And their prices are very competitive, plus you can get them mounted or unmounted.

So now you have lots of places to get inspiration. Print out the photos, tear them up and collage them, stamp into them, veil them with paint and scribble over the paint. That’s going to be the first workshop at the new studio – Intuitive Photocollage!

And if you know a bit of digital imagery manipulation, you can work on you computer to combine these resources into something totally new – like this!

memory

Happy weekend –  if you’re in San Antonio, bundle up – it’s finally gonna feel like Thanksgiving weather. Thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

Save

Save

Face it – this clay don’t need no kiln

faces

One thing is for sure – the number of faces that came into the workshops on Sunday and Monday were a lot fewer than the number of faces that went out. The energetic and enthusiastic workshoppers must have created hundreds of little air-dry clay people – and not just human faces – there were 3-D molds, insects, cats, and one persona that looked like creepy Chucky (that one became our mascot).

chuckie

The object was to explore ways to use no-fire clay – to make original and iconic clay face shards and other dimensional components without the need of firing in a kiln.

We concentrated on four areas:

  1. How to make reverse press molds with both two-part silicone and with air dry clay
  2. How to use the molds with various kinds of air-dry clay to make a dimensional object
  3. How to finish the surface of the dried clay faces with walnut ink and metallics
  4. How to use those finished components in mixed media projects

The key to success is to embrace the imperfections inherent in the air-dry clay – those cracks and irregularities give the pieces the illusion of heritage and a wabi-sabi touch of imperfect beauty. You can see what I mean from our video – every picture tells a story, every little face has a secret history – hopefully not Chucky’s:

 

Save

Save

Save

Kintsugi and Boro – fusion and inspiration

Celebrating the imperfect, the time-worn, and the re-invented resonates deeply with me, probably because I am a combination of all of those things. That’s why the Japanese arts of Boro and Kintsugi are so appealing. Boro, a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags,” describes lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing used much longer than the normal expected life cycle.

Boro is enjoying a revival among fiber artists who treasure its indigo blue color and melange of textures and subtle patterns. In fact, the Fiber Artists of San Antonio are offering a Boro workshop taught by Mary Ruth Smith in July.

A Japanese houshold Boro textile

Linked to Boro by concept is Kintsugi, meaning “mended with gold.” It refers particularly to the Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

Both Boro and Kintsugi are interwoven with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which means “to find beauty in broken things or old things. ” See why I like this stuff so much?

So today at the Studio, I was putting away materials from our Citrasolve and altered paper collage workshop, and I started thinking about torn paper scraps (Boro) mended with gold (Kintsugi). I printed out the word “kintsugi” and began arranging Boro-like tatters of paper (they would probably have been dumped in the trash) onto 8×10″ pieces of archival mat board.

Then, inspired by the gold veins of Kintsugi, I “mended” the spaces between the scraps with gold leaf. It was amazing how fast time flew – I created five of these collages in about four hours. They almost pieced themselves together.

Here are the five collages – #3 is my favorite because it looks most “Boro-like.” These pieces are destined for the Beacon Hill Art Walk this Sunday, but when I come home from Boston, I’m going to continue to explore the idea of gold-mended tatters and the beauty of imperfection and re-invention.

Mended with Gold #1 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #1
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5
Lyn Belisle 2016

 

 

Save

Save

Little shardz

sz4

Mama Didn’t Tell – earthenware assemblage, Lyn Belisle, 2016

I love working in clay, making little pieces that become parts of a whole. When people ask me what my favorite medium is, earthenware is right up there because it’s my first love. In the 70’s, I learned handbuilding and production pottery with Tracy Dotson, (miss you, Tracy). He told me to stick to painting! But I still love making small clay shards that tell a story all by themselves of as part of an assemblage.

Last night after getting ready for Monika’s Trunk Show (today, 11-3, Studio, be there!), I started finishing some small pieces that can be used as components in assemblage or just as little mysterious bits of clay to frame or put in your pocket for a lucky charm. They are tagged as “Shardz” because my little alphabet stamp set didn’t have two S’s. I kinda like “Shardz.” I’ll have these at the Studio on a regular basis starting today. Priced from $4-$12, they invite you to pick one for yourself to use in mysterious ways! Hope to see you today at Monika’s Sale!

sz1

Framed “Shardz” – looks just like a Pre-columbian relic!

sz6 sz2  sz3 sz5

Lighter look for SHARDS?

What do you think? Do you like the lighter look? Everything else is the same except the color scheme. I think it’s easier to read. Maybe it was because I was working with so much white during Wednesday’s workshop, but this seems to be a nice change. Let me know.

OK, back to work — have a wonderful weekend, and stay dry in those predicted thunderstorms!

strawhatdetail

 

 

Fun with faces

A package of Face Shards from my Estsy show ready to ship to California

A package of Face Shards from my Etsy shop ready to ship to California

I was getting an Etsy order out this morning for five Rune and Relic Face Shards, and thought about how much fun these little faces are to make. You can use them for so many things – Spirit Dolls, ornaments, pins and pendants – anyway, I thought I’d re-post a SHARDS link to a very simple tutorial on mold-making and faces that I did for a workshop a couple of years ago. This tutorial recommends a two-part product called MegaMold that you can order online from Cool Tools (this site also has a bunch of very nifty pre-made molds). Michael’s has something similar called Amazing Mold Putty for about $20 – use your 40% coupon!

moldstuffThis mold-making project would be great fun to do over the holidays with kids – and you can get air-dry clay at Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s – it’s very inexpensive, doesn’t need a kiln, and isn’t discouragingly messy. I like the one called Model Magic. It comes in tubs and also in small packages, in different colors. So plan some time to make some faces!

Also, I’m re-posting this link to the Angel Face Gift Tags I designed several years ago just in case you need some last-minute gift-wrapping help. You can print these out and stick them on a packing wrapped in brown paper and tied with raffia, and it will look all Martha-Stewarty – honest!

gifttags

 

 

 

 

I’m headed to Boston for just a few days for a quick visit  – back soon! Keep out of trouble and go make something creative!

Curious evolution of a work on canvas

dissofmem2Where do art ideas come from? Darned if I know – Here’s a piece that invented itself from 12 clay face slabs I made last week just because I didn’t want to throw away too-dry clay. The piece is called “Dissolution of Remembrance” because forgetting the names of objects and misplacing small items worries me, and I know I’m not alone in that.

I used these unplanned clay pieces to address this worry through an art piece. I arranged the fired earthenware slabs in an almost irregular pattern on a 24×30″ canvas, then sewed and adhered them in place. First came a wash of walnut ink (of course). Then I added some red oxide acrylic paint – here’s what it looked like at that stage – kinda disjointed.

dissofmem0

I tried to make it more cohesive with various colors of paint, attempting to suggest a progression of memory loss, and finally got the idea of putting rusted wire inside each head – it didn’t really work. Suddenly, I remembered talking about cheesecloth in my last post, and added a layer of cheesecloth over the whole composition to unite the elements. That was a good decision.

After that, there was lots of action going on with matte medium and fabric stiffener. Next came a thin coat of encaustic wax. Finally I added branches to allude to the branching dendrites in the brain. Science occasionally comes in handy 🙂

dissofmem

The last element, silk cocoons, was another accident – the plastic bag of cocoons was open on the table nearby and the silk kept catching on the branches – well, duh – how obvious was that? So, on they went. Symbols of hatching new thoughts?

I’m not sure “The Dissolution of Remembrance” is completely finished, but it’s been amazing to watch the process as both the maker and the observer. Now if I could just remember where I put it –  – – only kidding. I think.  dissofmem1

Far-flung faces and una mas Friday Freebie

I told my Trinity students that if they finished their websites by class time yesterday, we wouldn’t have class on Tuesday of next week and they could travel home for Thanksgiving. Worked like a charm! Which, of course, means *I* don’t have class next Tuesday either. Yahaha.

And speaking of travels, the little Face Shards that I make and sell on Esty sure get around. I love getting photos of how people use them. This first batch shows detailed spirit dolls made by my friend Ginger Quinn in New Mexico (some of you know Ginger) – and check out the neat mud-cloth jacket she made, also:

These photos come from Karen Anderson in Sacramento, California. She created these lovely necklaces using my face shards for her Etsy shop, Catching Waves:

I’m grateful to all the artists who get inspired by these little faces and use them in the most creative ways – and I’m also grateful to you SHARDS subscribers, so here’s the “una mas”  Friday Freebie. It’s a sister piece to the Friendship Bridge purse given away a couple of weeks ago with a face shard inside. And if you are a SHARDS subscriber by this coming Monday morning, you’ll have a chance for your name to be drawn. Good luck and have a lovely weekend!

purse