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!

 

Wax & Words workshop worked wonders :)

The Wax & Words Workshop was a winner. We all had a great time, and the new Semmes Studio at the Art League worked well as a venue.

As usual, the participants were the stars, pulling out creativity and originality and taking the process their own way with grace and wonder – thanks, y’all!

I’ll let the video speak for itself – if you can’t see the video window, click on the Vimeo link below.

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Wax & Words from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

There will be lots more in the Wax & Words eBook – hopefully by the end of July. What fun!

It looks like writing, but we can’t quite read it – – –

What does it say in the background??!!

I’m baaaaa-aack.

The last two weeks have been filled with family visitors, young and old, hailing from near and far. In the course of hosting, we got to play tourist, and have – over the last ten days – visited the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, The Witte Museum, the Briscoe Museum of Western Art (fantastic exhibit of Warhol and Schenk), the San Antonio Art League and Museum (yay!), the downtown Public Library and its BookCellar, the Twig Bookshop and the Pearl, and the Nimitz/Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.

We stopped for Fredericksburg peaches during our Hill Country excursion – yum.

Lucky us to have families that love art and books!I Oh, yeah, and food – here’s a shout-out to Twin Sisters where we ate breakfast every morning this past week!

And now it’s time for a new art diversion.

This afternoon I got back to the studio, and in preparation for my Wax & Words workshop this Sunday and Monday, I did a little video tutorial on Asemic Writing that I thought you might enjoy. It’s a fun exercise in line and design and even though I’m a lefty, I think you can get the idea…

Asemic writing for collage and design from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I plan to do my next eBook on calligraphic markmaking and stamped and stenciled lettering in combination with beeswax layers – stay tuned. And thanks for reading SHARDS.

Second Session: WAX & WORDS on Monday, June 25

I’ve added a second section of Wax & Words on Monday, June 25th from 1-4 at the Semmes Studio, San Antonio Art League, for those of you who couldn’t get in the first one. Thank you all for your quick response.

The second session will have the same agenda as the first – if you would like to register, please go to this link and scroll to the bottom of the page. There is a limit of eight participants. We will have fun!

Description:

This three-hour workshop taught by Lyn Belisle introduces you to the concept of asemic writing as a component of evocative encaustic collage. Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret.

We will explore mark-making with all kinds of tools, including sticks, stamps, and sprayed walnut ink over stencils. Areas of the artwork will be isolated, then covered with thin layers of beeswax to add translucency to the mystery of the marks.  The resulting work, elegant and timeless, will be matted for display and discussion.

All materials are provided, including

  • Drawing paper
  • Sticks and ink
  • Letter Stamps
  • Walnut ink stencils
  • Graphite pencil
  • Encaustic wax and brushes
  • Gallery mats
  • Gold leaf . . .and more
Hope to see you there!

 

Working (and RE-working) in a series – five tips!

I lied.

The last time I posted, I said that the Artful Gathering “Southwest Stripe” project using the four elements as inspiration was “totally foolproof”. Actually, nothing is. In this little clip from one of the workshop videos, you can see that sometimes you have to rethink and redo.

Sneak Preview from the Four-Hour Class, Southwestern Stripes: Serapes & Sunsets from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The point here is that you start to think outside the box about what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about context. Everything you create has merit, truly. You may not think it is successful because it doesn’t do what you wanted it to, but remember to trust the process. Every one of your creations is worthy in itself, even if’s not right for the moment. Perhaps it works as a learning experiment, or perhaps it’s a step to something even better that you intended.

In the video above, you saw that piece that was a “failure” as part of the Four Elements  series, but look what happened later in the video when I took the scissors to it, boldly sliced it into three strips, then collaged the strips over another background that I had put in the “to-be-reworked” pile:

Lyn Belisle, “Three Sisters” 5×7″ Mixed Media Collage

“Three Sisters” (detail)

I titled it “Three Sisters” and I love it as a stand-alone mixed media collage! I turned the strips upside down and changed the order – voila!

SO . . . . . .Here are FIVE TIPS that might help you re-imagine something you’re working on that just isn’t working:

1. Hold the work up to a mirror. This give you a whole new perspective on the composition and may suggest a clue for a new direction.

2. Take a photo of the work with your phone. This visual reduction minimizes the details you’ve been fussing over. Email the photo to yourself and play with it online with PicMonkey or another free photo-editing site.

3.  Take a mat that is smaller than your artwork and move it around on the surface until you find a great spot that really works – crop that section out. Save the rest for your “to be reworked” pile.

4. Put a piece of tissue paper or tracing paper over your work. Does it look better? If so, figure out why and what to do about it. You may want to just collage the tracing paper over the whole thing to soften it, or you may want to paint a translucent glaze on top.

5. Get out the scissors! Don’t be afraid to cut up the work into sections like I did with “Three Sisters”. But fold it first to see if you’re really going to like the sections before you actually do the deed.

Remember, everything you do is worthy because YOU created it and it brought it into existence. You certainly don’t have to save everything, but give “pieces” a chance!

Oh, yeah – and the Southwestern Stripes class is open if you want to join us in the workshop 🙂

 

 

Road trip – and the fantastic Dallas fiber artists

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Come to the Texas Hill Country Saturday morning and learn to make a spirit doll with native materials and good intentions! There are three spots left! Click here!

(OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post.)

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)

Steps:

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.

Ingredients:

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions
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!