Road trip – and the fantastic Dallas fiber artists

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I’ve spent almost a week in Big D and lived to tell the tale! Last fall,  I was invited to do a presentation for DAFA, the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, and to teach workshops on mixed media to their group.

They decided that they want to learn more about Composition and Collage, so that’s what we did on Saturday. I taught two three-hour workshops, and it was really fun. Each participant was a skilled fiber artist and the way they arranged and embellished their images was fascinating.

Here are some examples:

Nice, right?

On Monday evening for the DAFA monthly meeting, I did a mini-workshop before the presentation. It was called “The Enduring Kimono” and I taught them how to fold small kimonos from paper just to learn how the folds work. These are similar to the large kimonos that I made in the 90’s, only a lot smaller!

If you’d like to give it a try, here are the directions that I gave to the DAFA members to follow along with as we learned to fold the kimono model.

Finally, I did a presentation for the DAFA members called “Shards and Mirrors: Life is just one big mixed media collage.” and I talked about how we can find a small shard of inspiration anywhere, and mirror it through our own creative intuitition into a new work of art.

Eggshells, for example, inspired my fiber art piece, below with the idea of eggs and cocoons. I used silk cocoons on the piece as symbolic elements.

It was a great trip – many thanks to everyone who welcomed me and learned with me. This is an extraordinary group of artists. To learn more about the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, visit their website, here.


My rusty weathered heart I give to you

You know how one thing leads to another – I was sanding a cedar block this morning when I remembered a technique I developed for a faux rust finish a couple of years ago.

Sanding this block gave me an idea . . . .

Aha! I though. That is perfect for Valentine’s day gift for SHARDS readers!!

Here’s a great quote to go with it, from poet John Mark Green. “Beneath the rust and grime which dulls the shine of our weathered hearts, joy patiently waits to be rediscovered” You can write that on the tag you attach to the heart.

So here are the materials and steps – you should have most of this stuff, especially if you tried the faux turquoise finish I posted several weeks ago.

What you will need:

  • A scrap of coarse-grit sandpaper – used is fine
  • A scrap of 300# watercolor paper or card stock
  • Acrylic paint – Quinacridone gold, Aqua Green
  • Tsukineko Walnut Ink – Java
  • Twig
  • Ribbon scrap
  • Heavy-duty hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Tag (optional)


Get some coarse-grit sandpaper and some scissors

Fold the sandpaper in half, and draw half a heart on the fold – this one was about four inches wide

Unfold the sandpaper heart

With a glue stick, adhere the sandpaper heart to a piece of watercolor paper to reinforce it

Cut out around the reinforced sandpaper heart

Paint a coat of Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the surface of the heart

Spray randomly and lightly with Java walnut ink

With your fingertip, brush on a teensy accent of aqua green acrylic for a dash of patina

With a heavy-duty hole punch, make two small holes on the edges of the heart

Poke a twig through the holes, letting it stick out on either side

Add some ribbon (you could also use wire) and a note tag if you like

Optional – hang it on the nearest bird beak

Honestly, this is such a fun little diversion – and you can make several of these in less that an hour. Get a small tree limb and stick it in a flower pot and hang these guys from the branches. How totally Martha Stewart!

Sometimes we just need an artsy-craftsy break from our serious artwork, plus this is a technique that you might find useful in your mixed-media work. Happy early Valentine’s day, my weathered, rusty-hearted friends!

Bee beautiful – construction problem solved

These little “Bee dishes” that I make for Marta Stafford’s gallery have proven to be popular – yay!

I donate a dollar from each sale to the Rodale Institute’s  Honeybee Conservancy. Besides the fact that bees are vital to the environment in so many ways, they also give us sweet-smelling beeswax, which is vital to encaustic artists!

These bee dishes are made from irregular small slabs of clay, stamped and patterned, and then draped over something” so they will dry in a slightly concave shape. I had never been able to find a suitable round object to drape them over.

I tried half of a plastic Easter egg, wads of tinfoil, cotton balls – nothing really worked.

The “something” had to be round on top, flat on the bottom, and relative smooth so the design would not be messed up when it was laid over the mold.

It also had to be heat-proof so that I could dry them in the oven and sand the bottoms before they went into the kiln.

Slab form in progress

I finally had an “Aha!” moment about the forms for draping the clay – I am a potter, after all, so could make the “something” myself!

Bee drape molds made of white clay

I rolled some white clay into balls, and formed two dozen small pinch pots to function as little individual drape molds. I fired them, and just tried them out yesterday. Voila! Perfect!

White clay formed into small pinch pots to be used as drape molds

a Bee dish draped over the white clay form

So the white clay mold worked great – it kept the dish from flattening out, and heated it from the inside while it was drying in the oven before sanding.

Bee dish with bottom sanded to flatten it slightly

When I unloaded the kiln, all the little dishes were nicely concave and were ready to be finished with walnut ink and metallic wax – the small hand-formed clay drape molds worked!

Bee dishes fresh from the kiln without their walnut ink enhancement

Bee dish as a ring holder

A lot of making art is about engineering and problem-solving, whether you’re painting or doing assemblage, fiber art or photography. Construction and composition are vitally important, and figuring it out is fun.

Here is the new crop of Bee dishes – Marta sells them for $12 and part of the money goes to a very bee-you-tiful cause.  Hooray for artistic problem-solving!



Holiday freebie for you – faux turquoise technique tutorial!

I may not have time to give workshops right now (the next one will be in January), but I can still teach you a few things! Here’s a lesson freebie – a cool Faux-Turquoise technique.

While working on a commissioned assemblage, I realized how often I use the painted faux-turquoise finish that I developed several years ago. It works on almost all my mixed-media surfaces – clay, paper, cradle board, canvas.

Here’s your step-by-step tutorial on how I do this finish. Feel free to change it up and experiment with your own variations. There’s no secret here, just simple materials and techniques that give good results in an uncomplicated way. It’s super fun, too.

Step One: Assemble Materials

Rarely do I specify specific brands, but in this case, these three acrylic paints work best in combination of all the ones I’ve tried for this particular technique.

You will also need a wide-ish flat brush (about 1″), a graphite pencil, a terrycloth washrag or studio rag, a white colored pencil (optional), and something to paint on. For this demonstration, I chose  4×6″ piece of archival mat board. You’ll need a water container to clean your brush, too.

You don’t need a lot of complicated materials for this

Step Two: Make you mark

I often have my workshop participants open up to their work by doing some scribbling on the substrate – you can always gesso over it, but it keeps them from being intimidated by a white surface. If they don’t know what to scribble, I ask them to scribble what they had for breakfast! In the demo below, I just did some random markmaking with a graphite pencil. It added a bit of subtle texture to the surface, too.

Make the space yours by claiming it with markmaking

Step Three: Slap on the base coat

Paint right over those marks you made with a coat of Aqua Green acrylic, being generous. Use random strokes, x-strokes in every direction. You don’t want to leave thick texture, but yo do want some slightly raised areas.

A nice coat of aqua green painted randomly on the matboard

Step Four: More marks

Let this coat sit until it is sticky but not dry, then go back in with your graphite pencil and make more light marks on the surface.

Step Five: Lighten it up

Add some of the Matte White acrylic to the Aqua Green to make a paler tint of turquoise. Brush it randomly over about one-third of the surface. Play with the proportions.

Matte White with a bit of Aqua Green

Step Six: Press and Lift

While the lighter tint is still wet, Press your terrycloth rag straight down onto the surface to lift some of the lighter tint in areas. This leaves very stone-like patches of light and dark.

Press the cloth straight down, then lift.

Step Seven: Adding the Azo Gold

Take your bottle of Quinacridone Nickle Azo Gold and drop several blobs of paint on the surface. It will look very dark and slightly gross, but don’t worry – Quin Gold is extremely transparent and will make a lovely glaze in the next step.

Blobs of Quin Gold dropped on the surface

Step Eight: Blob-dabbing

Using the same terrycloth rag (which will never be the same again), dab the blobs firmly to spread them and create texture.

Dabbed-out blobs of Quin Gold

Step Nine: Light blending and marking

Continue to add light marks, and do a bit of blending with the rag, but use a light touch.

More scratches and marks

Step Ten: Finish with dry-brushing

To veil and push back all of the color variations and textures, dry-brush a final coat of aqua green over the surface. You can see here that the right half has been dry-brushed and the left half has not yet been brushed. If you build up this layer slowly, you can control what is revealed and what is concealed. “Dry-brushing” means just that – adding a little bit of paint to a dry brush and stroke it lightly over the surface. After this step, let the whole thing dry. And go wash your brush!

Final dry-brush coat

Step Eleven: Tah-Dah!

You can see in the close-up how the painted finished mimics the real stuff in texture and color. As I said, this surface is archival mat board, but you can try this technique on anything acrylic paint works with.

I can see it on a mirror frame, for example, with copper nailheads all around it, or perhaps covering the top of a wooden box. Or how about a turquoise ornament for a Christmas tree, Southwestern style?

Here are a couple more photos of the faux-turquoise mat board cut up into smaller sections, and also a small adornment with copper tape for a collage or pin.

collage adornment

Cut sections of faux-turquoise matboard for mixed media

I hope you enjoy this technique. If you try it, let me know how you use it!

And thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS!




Nectar and Ambrosia

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is remembering all the food that we liked as kids, the stuff that came out only at holidays. I loved to watch my mother make “Ambrosia,” which is a Southern tradition. According to Alabama Chanin, “Ambrosia began appearing in cookbooks in the late 1800s when citrus fruit became more prevalent in markets across the country. These early recipes were very simple, usually including only orange slices, coconut, and sugar layered in a glass dish.”

Mother would spend a long time peeling, de-seeding, and sectioning orange segments, which made the kitchen smell wonderful. It was labor-intensive, for sure. She added coconut and pecans and Maraschino cherries. A bonus for me was getting to sip the juice from the Maraschino cherries after she had drained them – turns your tongue red and gives you a major sugar rush.

I’m making a shortcut version of Ambrosia this year, and so far, it looks pretty good. I have all of the fruit ready and will add the rest of the ingredients, including the coconut,  tomorrow morning. It’s pretty already!

Shortcut Ambrosia in progress – trust the process!

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try – and if you can get to the grocery store today without losing your sanity.


1 (8 oz.) tub of whipped topping, thawed
1 cup sour cream
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained well
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin orange segments, drained well
1 cup red or green seedless grapes, sliced in half
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (10 oz.) jar of maraschino cherry halves, drained very well (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Then you just mix the whipped topping (think Cool Whip), the coconut, sour cream and marshmallows together and fold it in with the fruit. It’s neither huate cuisine or health food, but hey – it’s a Thanksgiving tradition!

The “nectar” part of this post is Almond Tea, which showed up at a lot of Southern holiday parties. It’s a gusssied-up version of Sweet Tea, and it’s non-alcoholic so kids can have some.


3 tablespoons instant iced tea powder
1 cup white sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract

In a 1 gallon container, mix together the instant tea powder and sugar. Pour in the boiling water and lemonade concentrate, and mix well. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Fill container the rest of the way with cold water. Stir and serve over ice, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Actually, you can just add a little almond extract to regular iced tea and it tastes great, different and kind of exotic.

I mentioned the Alabama Chanin Journal earlier – if you want an imaginative, feel-good source of information and inspiration, check out Alabama’s site and read about her beautiful and sustainable food, clothing and other makings. Slow Cloth founder Elaine Lipson introduced me to this journal. It’s a favorite.

Finally, if you’re still in an “easy recipe” mood, take this link to my favorite Cranberry Jalapeno Relish that I published here in 2014.

I am so grateful to all of you for being SHARDS readers – Happy Thanksgiving!


Free-for-all encaustic inspirations by Nancy Crawford

 What artist doesn’t get frustrated when other obligations keep you out of the studio?? Argh. Lately, I’ve been living vicariously, stealing a few minutes on Pinterest or You Tube to take mental notes on what I’ll do when I have time to get back to serious art-making.

One of my “band-aids” for frustration is Nancy Crawford and her wonderful short YouTube videos on encaustic techniques. She is as generous with her methods as Jane Davies is with her painting videos.

Take a look at Nancy’s work. I absolutely love her style and the way she layers the wax. Of course, anything that involves collage and beeswax is manna to my soul!

Nancy Crawford

Nancy Crawford

Here’s a link to her You Tube Channel

Nancy’s work inspired me to teach a workshop last year called Wax and Words. I modified her techniques a bit with stencils, stamps and scribbles – the results were super! I need to revive that workshop this winter at the new Little Studio. All I need is more time to do it!

If you just want a sample of Nancy’s great tips and have two minutes, here are three quickies to get you inspired when you don’t have time to do the work yourself.

Encaustic Technique 13 Transparentizing Paper

Encaustic Technique 12 Hot Wax Stylus

Encaustic Technique 7 Metallic Powder

Hope you’re enjoying this cooler weather in South Texas – it’s almost beginning to feel like Thanksgiving!



Five things that make a really great workshop

All five things were in place yesterday at the San Antonio Art League Studio where seven of us gathered to construct little folding candle screens.

On the practical side, these make wonderful adornments for a table or mantle, and they are perfect gifts.

On the creative side, the process allowed us to experiment with many different techniques. And we got to practice our measuring skills!

Here’s the list of elements that made the workshop great:

  1. Focus and limits – we focused on mixed media collage strips that were 4″x12″ to construct small folding three-dimensional screen for electronic votive lights
  2.  An engaging process with an end in mind – we worked toward the specific construction of an object while paying attention to the process of surface alteration
  3. Limited materials, unlimited possibilities – we began with two methods – one included altered magazine paper with metal leaf, and the other included torn paper images. Each method has hundreds of possibilities and combinations
  4. Generous participants – everyone was willing to share both ideas and materials. When something wasn’t working (e.g., the paper was too wet to cut) we helped each other solve the problem
  5. Reflection and practical anticipation – we celebrated when we saw our candles lighted. Each one was different. We talked about how the process could be improved, expanded, and altered, but agreed that what we had done was absolutely perfect!

When you look at the video, try to see how each of the participants found different solutions to the concept of constructing these folding collage cards. It was indeed a great workshop!

Lyn Belisle Workshop at the San Antonio Art League: Votive Candle Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the materials we used – very simple (I don’t believe in requiring expensive specialty craft products):

  • 9×12″ construction paper or other medium weight paper
  • Two 4×12″ pieces of decorative paper
  • 4 2.5” square pieces of translucent vellum or translucent rice paper
  • Two ½” bands of contrasting paper for side trim
  • Compass or large round hole punch
  • Craft glue or double-sided tape
  • Stamps, stickers, metallic pens – whatever “de-lights” your heart
  • Small twigs, reeds or sticks (optional)
  • A battery votive tea light
  • and – voila!!

Mary Ann Johnson’s work in progress

I’ll be scheduling more workshops soon, both at the Art League Studio and at my own studio! Stay tuned, and happy fall weather in San Antonio – at last.




Wednesday all-day workshop with NEISD art teachers

The workshop schedule/format at my studio has changed for a number of reasons – smaller space, my increased responsibility as president of the San Antonio Art League, and just general life changes – but I’m always happy to accommodate special groups like yesterday’s art teachers from North East ISD.

They had requested an all-day session that would give them six hours of CEU credit and jump start their school year with some new ideas for themselves and their students. We decided on a workshop that was similar to the one I taught in Provincetown. It has a little bit of everything – composition, storytelling, photo manipulation, mark-making, encaustic and collage.

We worked hard from 10-4 in the studio, and each participant created a beautiful portfolio of four five mixed media works, one of which was chosen to be matted. Want to see photos from the day’s workshop? Start scrollin’ down and see it step-by-step!

Mixed media stash ready!

We prepare the substrate by taping the edges with blue painters’ tape for a clean border

Once the composition is in place, we veil with white paint

. . .and then use an old credit card to scrape off and reveal chosen sections

Notice how the placement of the objects makes a unified composition

Some quiet work time —

First works are pinned up to the wall for discussion – lookin’ good!

Suggestions are marked up on one of the example handouts

Melissa adds her work to the critique wall

There’s a lot of good image alteration in this one

One of my favorites – subtle and painterly

Although these pieces are studies rather than finished works, they are quite lovely

After lunch, we start working with beeswax, incorporating some simple encaustic techniques

Book foil is a bright addition to the wax layer

Remember this piece from the morning session? It’s layered with beeswax.

This mixed-media collage uses family photos and letters enhanced by beeswax

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you can make art without messing up a studio!

Each person chose one piece to may and display at the end-of-class critique

This is Melissa’s strong work that you saw earlier, this time with beeswax added – notice the vertical blue line and the fantastic marks

Grizelda pulled together a lovely collage of vintage family photos and memories

S’lena’s work is perfectly balanced between image and pattern – the faint writing in the background is a secret layer of history that only she knows

Susan’s work evokes Renaissance themes . . . it’s horizontal rather than vertical

This piece is mine, and is the demo piece I did as I worked along with the others

Happy art teachers, beautiful work, and proud teacher –

I think this workshop format is perfect, at least it was for us. It worked because:

  • We had all day to really explore and immerse ourselves – we even ate lunch at the work table and discussed the process
  • Four to five people is the right number for this space – good dynamics, intimate atmosphere
  • The workshop topic had lots of structure, but also lots of room for exploration with many techniques that could be extended into individual work

This may be the new workshop model at Lyn Belisle Studio. Let me know if you have a small group who might like to spend a day with me making art.

In the meantime, I’ll be teaching a “Postcards to Myself” workshop at the San Antonio Art League on Sunday, August 29th as a fundraiser and introduction to the Art League. I’ll put the details up this weekend and post it on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the teachers who worked with me yesterday – art education is in good hands with you to guide and mentor creative kids!


A visit with Gwen Fox in Taos

Gwen Fox is an extraordinary woman whose abstract paintings glow with inner light and compelling composition. I first fell in love with her work about ten years ago in a gallery in Colorado Springs and knew I had to meet her. So I signed up several years later for Gwen’s week-long painting workshop in Taos and loved every moment. Here’s a post from that 2012 workshop.

Gwen and I and have kept in touch since then, sharing ideas and conversations online. Yesterday, while I was in Taos, NM for the day, I got to visit her in person again.

Lyn and Gwen Fox in her Taos studio in front of a current painting that Gwen has done in oils on canvas.

I was so excited to see the new studio that she built herself – it’s completely inspiring and spiritually satisfying – a perfect space in a perfect place. It’s adjacent to her adobe house.

Everything on the inside and the outside has its place.

The view from her serene bedroom window is as layered as her paintings.

The bathroom sink in the studio is made from a rectangular piece of agate that glows with a translucent abstract landscape when you’re there and, er, sitting down.

And against the walls, Gwen’s painting glow with a resonant energy —

She has a video setup in her studio that I covet.

And here is the most exciting news that I learned from Gwen – she is filming and producing an extensive online class about painting and creativity that sounds amazing.It should be ready this fall and it is the first time her techniques and teaching/coaching expertise will be available online.

Be sure and get on her mailing list to hear more about it and gt updates – I honestly can’t wait for it.

I could go on and on about how much Gwen has influenced my work and my outlook, but I’ll let the video of her home and studio, below, reflect her amazing spirit.

Look for all the little touches she pulls together like grace notes in this home and studio space – like an antique Chinese chest in the pantry because she wants to look at something beautiful when she’s in the kitchen.

Lyn Belisle visits Gwen Fox in her Taos home and studio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I’m headed back to Texas tomorrow but I always feel inspired when I spend time with Gwen. Do subscribe to her list and follow her wise advice for every artist.

There’s something else that inspired me while I was here – fly fishing! I‘ll tell you about that in an upcoming post. It was a total surprise.

Indigo + paper + beeswax = kimono construction

For a while now, I’ve wanted to go back to basics with some of my favorite simple materials:  paper, beeswax, indigo and walnut ink in new ways and combinations.

And I’ve wanted to revisit my beloved kimono format that brought me such joy and success in the past. Here’s one of those pieces, a large-scale origami construction called “Luna,” done in about 2003.

But I didn’t want to revert to exactly the same process. So I am experimenting with natural indigo and mulberry paper which I’ve painted and stamped with pure beeswax, much like the traditional batik technique, but on paper rather than fabric. As far as I know, no one is working quite this way, but I thought it would be a great material to fashion into small kimono constructions.

The new kimonos pieces are not completed yet – I’m still working on them for an exhibit in August (Susie Monday, this is the process I was describing to you) – but I thought I’d share what I’m doing with the indigo paper and beeswax surface design.

This is the indigo dye vat. I chose a rectangular container instead of a round bucket because I wanted to submerge the mulberry paper without crumpling it. (Mixing indigo is a whole ‘nother subject. Jacquard has a pre-reduced indigo that makes it easier.)

I used a heavily-textured white mulberry paper, and painted it with natural beeswax. Sometimes I stamped on the wax with random found objects. Here’s what it looks like before the dye.

And here’s what it looks like after the indigo dye bath process.

The varied blues are wonderful, and the wax gives the paper a very different feel. Here are some other samples, some with terra cotta walnut ink added.

One of the neat things about working with mulberry paper rather than fabric is that you can control how the paper “frays.” If you run a stream of water on the edges, the fibers fall apart, giving a wonderfully organic look.

I’ve sketched the kimono forms and have decided to add some of the paper and wax beads that I used in the Talisman Workshop. It will be a great combination – I hope!

Once the pieces are finished, I’ll post them here on SHARDS. In the meantime, this kind of creative play with paper and indigo is such fun! It’s even red, white and blue! Sorta.

Happy 4th, everyone!! Thanks for reading SHARDS.