Altered paper, enduring magic

Ahhh – the smell of Citrasolv was in the air yesterday afternoon. Brushed onto the pages of National Geographic magazine, it never fails to turn photographs into otherworldly abstract patterns. When strips and scraps of this paper are combined, magic happens!

No matter how many times I teach this workshop, the results are fabulous – fresh, original and intriguing. Here’s a short video of the workshop participants creating their outstanding work in yesterday’s Small Worlds: Abstract Landscapes and Altered Paper gathering (If you can’t see the video, click here):

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Altered Paper Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Each person chose one of his or her works to mat, and here are their favorites:

Wally

Wally

Mackenzie

Mackenzie

Claire

Claire

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Jan

Pamela

Pamela

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Linda

I taught a comprehensive version of this class at Artful Gathering several summers ago, and the DVD is available here.

There are also a number of free, online resources on this technique, including this really good one from Cathy Taylor.

This is one of those simple processes that rarely fails and is a lot of fun to put together! Happy Citrasolv sniffing!

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The pleasures and possibilities of paper

My artist friend Mary Ann Johnson came by yesterday and, among other things, we talked about our mutual love for beautiful paper. Mary Ann has been making books for a long time and has a fabulous collection of artisan papers which she shared with us at the Lotus Book workshop. Here are some of the books she’s made.

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Coptic bound book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

We both agreed that one of the best online shops to find great paper is Hollanders. It’s a bookbinding store that offers over 2000 kinds of decorative paper – check out these beauties:

papers

I showed Mary Ann an experiment I’ve been doing with paper beads as part of my planning for an upcoming Wax and Fiber Talisman workshop at the Gaian Soul retreat. After I’ve rolled the beads, I coat them with beeswax. It gives a wonderful luster and smoothness and makes them look almost like ancient cocoons.

Rolled paper bead

Rolled paper bead

Coating with beeswax

Coating with beeswax

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Playing with paper has infinite possibilities – go to Hollanders website and get inspired. Another great site is Mulberry Papers and More. And if you’re in San Antonio, Herweck’s has a good selection, as well.

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What do you have to say to yourself?

That was the question in yesterday’s workshop at the studio called “Postcards to Myself.”

It’s a new workshop, one that I designed to see if we, as artists, create unconscious messages to ourselves as we work on art pieces that combine random images and text. The small works that were produced were amazingly lyrical, and many did seem to have meaningful messages.

The project itself was done in seven stages on an 11×14″ sheet of archival matboard.

  • Stage One – images and objects
  • Stage Two – veiling
  • Stage Three – vintage text chosen randomly
  • Stage four – enhancement and alteration
  • Stage five – selection
  • Stage six – wax or acrylic medium
  • Stage Seven – interpretation

When the collage layers were complete, 4×6″ post-card size areas were selected with transparent plexiglass rectangles. Those were cut out, and then finished either with beeswax or acrylic mat medium. We even wrote notes to ourselves on the backs of our “postcards.”

postcard

In the example above, this postcard-size section from the larger work shows faces from two different cultures and contains words such as “separate,” “restrain,” and “ruin.” It sounds like a trailer for a mini-drama! And yet it’s a completely coincidental juxtaposition within the larger collage.

We had such fun and learned so much from this project. I’ll definitely repeat it, and will probably create an eBook with with a list of materials and instructions. In the meantime, please enjoy the video from “Postcards to Myself.”

By the way, the first prototype postcard I did included text that said “eat one’s words” – so I was very careful about what I said during our critique!

proto

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Round Top Report – Vivi Magoo at the Prairie

Historic Round Top home

The little town of Round Top, Texas (Pop. 1200) is friendly, charming, and enjoying an artistic Renaissance. I returned there this week to teach at the Vivi Magoo Art Retreat on the Prairielucky me!

When you go there, check out the Round Top Inn –  that’s where I got to stay. The Inn is really a collection of vintage farmhouses and cottages set on lovely grounds framed by oak trees and guarded by a huge furry black cat.

The main house porch

The breakfasts are yummy, too – organic and locally sourced. Here’s my Wednesday morning plate, a fresh tomato tart and sausage. Drool.

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I taught two all-day workshops, The Beauty of Beeswax: Behind the Vintage Veil (which includes collage composition and basic encaustic techniques) and Fabulous Fusion: Wax, Earthenware and Fiber Talismans (which included mold making, wax on earthenware, and assemblage techniques).

Here are two of the demos I did during those classes – you can get the idea of what we worked on from these photos:

Lyn Belisle: "Frisky Nun"

Lyn Belisle: “Frisky Nun”

Lyn Belisle: Wax, Earthenware, Fiber Talisman

Lyn Belisle: Wax, Earthenware, Fiber Talisman

But the real fun of these Vivi Magoo retreats is, of course, watching the students get excited by the process and create breathtaking work.  I am so happy when they take the methods I teach, adapt them for themselves, and then use them in their own spectacularly individual ways.

As you watch this video of both my all-day workshops, pay attention to the different directions that the participants take in their finished pieces. I always tell them there is more than one right answer, and each of them found a brilliant one.

To make the experience totally perfect, beautiful Barb Solem, the Vivi Magoo founder, invited me back for next year – yay! It was the best ending possible to a wonderful three days in Round Top, Texas.

Dixie and Karen make talisman magic!

Dixie and Karen make talisman magic!

Henkel Hall, where the workshops were held

Goodbye, Henkel Hall – see you next year!

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Product review and freebie

I’m always looking for new products that aren’t too gimmicky and have multiple uses – this Metallic Creative Medium seems to fit that description.

I ordered some of this CM Metallic from Imagine Crafts, thinking it would work well on my earthenware face shards. Here are some pics and comments:

Here's the Metallic Medium - kind of a creamy paste in a jar. It comes in bronze, copper, gold, and silver.

Here’s the Metallic Medium – kind of a creamy paste in a jar. It comes in bronze, copper, gold, and silver.

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First, I sprayed the fired earthenware faces with Walnut Ink, as usual, and wiped it off to emphasize depth and detail.

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I applied the medium with my finger to the clay surfaces, trying out all four colors. It is very transparent on the clay and I needed two coats. It also seals the surface – that may be a plus in some circumstances.

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Left to right – copper, gold and silver – very subtle on the clay. I added pigment and applied onto some stamped black paper – again, very transparent.

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Finally, I added acrylic paint and rubbed some Pearl-Ex into the surface while it was tacky – lotsa bling.

Verdict for using CM Metallic on earthenware – 6 out of 10. It’s a little too transparent for my purposes, although two or three coats work well.

Best quality – it dries super quickly, so you could stencil it on a surface and go over it with watercolor or (of course) walnut ink almost immediately.

I checked on Amazon and somebody was selling it for $18 a jar – EEK! But  JoAnn’s has it online for about $6, which makes me think they might have it in their store as well for that price.

This is kind of a cool project using the medium that would lend itself to lots of spring-off ideas – I like the notion of covering the blocks with vintage pages – and maybe vintage photos?

Creative Blocks

Click image for directions

Freebie time!! I have four extra jars of this medium, one in each color, that I’m happy to share with you SHARDS guys. Just leave a comment for me and the first four people can have a jar to play with.

The only catch is that you need to be in San Antonio to pick them up at the Studio, because I don’t want to box and mail them. Yeah, I know – chintzy. Sigh.


I may not be pretty, but I work!!

I may not be pretty, but I work!!

SPEAKING OF FREEBIES and such, and because we all help each other out, I have an artist friend who is in need of a cheap car. Really cheap, just reliable transportation of any kind or condition or color. If you’re getting rid of an old vehicle or can donate one, please email me and I’ll pass the info along to her. She can afford to pay $1000 toward getting some wheels, but that’s about it. Help!

Thanks, as always, and stay tuned for more Studio updates – in the meantime, go out and play!

 

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Pale and painterly papers

A collection of pale papers by Lyn and Lesta

A collection of pale papers by Lyn and Lesta

Lesta Frank and I are teaching a workshop this month called Whiter Shades of Pale. Recently we got together at my studio to play with surface design of all kinds and create papers that have subtle painterly textures and intriguing variations of the palest tints.

The workshop has been sold out for a while, but I thought you might like to see some of the results from our pre-workshop experiments.

The first idea, below, is so simple – you just do a reverse stamp onto tan kraft paper (like a shopping bag) using a white stamp pad or white acrylic paint soaked into a damp piece of felt. Another variation we did was to roll white acrylic paint onto a textured placemat and print the design onto the tan paper.

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Below, tissue paper has been painted with clear acrylic matte medium, which causes the paper to wrinkle a bit, and then it was sprayed with walnut ink. It’s almost like tinted glass!

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This is one of my favorites. Lesta stenciled white acrylic paint onto deli paper using a small paint roller, and after it was dry, soaked it briefly in strong coffee to “age” it.

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This is an easy “cheater-ly” way (below) to make multiples of subtle designs for ready-made custom collage paper. We just lay various pale papers on a scanner, scanned them in to the computer, and then printed out 8.5″x11″ composite-designed papers. Lesta tinted the face on the example below with Portfolio oil pastels.

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Cheesecloth can be used in so many ways to add interest to collages with pale papers. You can Gesso it and let is dry, then cut it into fragments. You can use Gold Gesso as well. You can also add it as a layer over textures, then paint over it with light tints of acrylic paint.

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Finally, don’t forget that you can lighten images with your printer using MS Word – here’s a Renaissance face with its contrast decreased, printed on a plain piece of inkjet paper and mounted to matboard. I punched holes and will attach this to a collage as one of the final layers – hmm, and maybe cover it partially with tissue?

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If you want to play around with pale papers, here are some materials you might want to try.

I hope you have a chance to use some of these ideas – you can make just a few pale papers and collage little 3×5″ creations for cards. Or whatever – pale is pretty!

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Waxy weekend, comfortable camaraderie

Saturday and Sunday I taught two encaustic workshops at the Studio – both were what’s become the signature class called “Behind the Veil.” We work with vintage photos, learn about the AB3s of composition, and create lovely little mixed media stories that have depth and mystery.

On both days, everyone was relaxed, happy and spectacularly creative. I thoroughly enjoyed the company! The video shows happy smiles and super-nice work.

If you weren’t able to be there with us but would like to try this, I’m giving you a couple of handouts that we used in the workshop. Both are from my eBook called “Behind the Veil.”

Page Four has a list of materials that you’ll need to do this project along with some great tips on image sources, and Page Five shows you how to set up your workspace and gives you wax and safety info. Help yourself to these, and if you’d like to download the whole eBook, you can get it here.

Happy Monday!

Wax and Words – no worries, everything worked!

After a month away from teaching workshops, I was a little fearful about starting off the new sessions with something I hadn’t done before, a class called Words and Wax. It was inspired by some of Nancy Crawfords beautiful Love and Gratitude encaustic series pieces.

Nancy Crawford, 4x4", Even More Love and Gratitude

Nancy Crawford, 4×4″, Even More Love and Gratitude

I wanted to emphasize the mark-making within the words, so I designed a four-layer process that involved ink, stencils, graphite and stamping as the initial approach,followed by the addition of beeswax, and incising into that. The results were wonderful, thoughtful, accidental but purposeful. Please see what the students did in the video below.

I’m happy to share with you the general outline of the class in case you want to play around with this idea. You can find the steps here.


Postscript:

Ironically, just as I was writing this post about words, I received some sad news about the death of an old friend and consummate man of words, Professor John Igo. John was a San Antonio educator, writer, artist, photographer, producer, and critic. He kept us all on the straight and narrow path with our word usage in his delightful radio program called Grammar Gripes.

John leaves a legacy that is wide and deep across the arts and letters community – he will be greatly missed.

John Igo

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Lessons in metal from a master teacher

I will never again underestimate the artistry that goes into a pair of earrings designed by nationally-known artist Dale Jenssen – her skills are impressive. She taught two days of detailed metal jewelry techniques at the Studio this weekend, and her students produced some amazing work (see the video, below).

I have been a fan of Dale’s for years and have collected some of her work – earrings and a treasured mirror – but working with her gave me new insights into her talent and experience as a designer and craftsperson. She provided an array of materials for students to choose from, then led them through the process of cutting, finishing, and assembling their pieces using tools like the drill press, grinders, punches, and wire brushes. It was cool!

Dale’s metalwork is featured in Artful Home as well an  in galleries and public and private spaces through the United States. Here are some of her iconic sconces. She also does custom work and special commissions. I am profoundly grateful to her for sharing her skills with us!

Sconces by Dale Jensses in Artful Home

Sconces by Dale Jensses in Artful Home

Wasp Sconce by Dale Jenssen

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What a weekend – high fives all around

I absolutely love showing off my students’ work, and this weekend I had two workshop opportunities to give a round of high fives!

Saturday, the talented Karen McCauley, artist and teacher at the Coppini Academy, brought her group over to the studio for three hours of encaustic  collage exploration. Here are some of the details of their work – notice the depth and texture that the beeswax layers produce. (Remember, if you can’t see the photo gallery, click on the top of this post to take you to the original site)

Lots of people ask me about the foil that produces those fine gold lines – encaustic artists call it “Book Foil.” I learned about it from Michelle Belto. You can order it under other names, including this one from Amazon. Just remember, it takes a few layers of wax to make it stick to the surface of your work.

foil

 

 

 

On Sunday, I taught an acrylic painting workshop inspired by some of the techniques I learned with Jane Davies at our Big Fat Art Weekend – line, shape, texture pattern, layering (thanks, Jane!).

This was not an easy workshop to grasp, particularly for beginning painters who had just three hours to practice the process. but they did it! The abstract acrylic studies they produced are beautifully symbolic and richly constructed over layers of marks and color history. Take a look!

I am convinced that there is some sort of magic synergy that takes place at the Studio when a group gathers for a three-hour workshop. The students never fail to amaze me – and themselves – with their insightful artwork. They help make Lyn Belisle Studio a true place of creative belonging, and, dang, am I grateful! Good work, everyone – what a winner of a weekend!