Shards and Santos, Clay and Collage

Happiness is teaching in Taos!

A week from tomorrow, I’ll be at the Taos Ceramics Center working with students in my Shards and Santos Workshop. The class takes place on two consecutive Saturdays – here’s a description.

In this workshop, we will create personal assemblages inspired by these iconic figures of Santos. In the first class, we will construct handmade textured slab-based clay components such as heads, bodies, and enhancements. We will also learn to make hand-crafted clay press molds. These components will be fired once.

Here are some examples of assorted assemblage components that I’m taking with me – honestly, working in assemblage is just like working in collage, only a bit more dimensional:

Continuing the workshop description —

The next week, we will build our figure, incorporating found objects such as bones and shells and bleached twigs into the final assemblage and perhaps include cherished objects and hidden words. We will explore the limitless possibilities of cold finishes, such as metallics and beeswax, to enhance the surfaces of the unglazed earthenware.

These santos, below, are in progress, and I’ll use them to show how the components are put together.

Since we will not be glazing and re-firing the shard components, I’ve been experimenting with cold finishes for fired clay for the last couple of weeks.

One of the most successful combinations I’ve discovered is Pearl Ex powder by Jacquard mixed with Gamblin Cold Wax Medium.  You can control the translucency and the color saturation, then buff the wax finish. It’s exciting to see how well it works on bisqueware.

 

Another technique I’m playing with is tube acrylic paint mixed with a bit of cornstarch to dull the finish.

In the sample below, the acrylic mixture mimics the look of Gilder’s Paste at about half the cost and with less potential toxicity.

This kind of experimentation is part of the fun of planning a workshop. And then I get to share with new people!

I’m grateful to the Taos Ceramics Center for inviting me – and at this writing, there’s just one spot left, so if you need a quick get-away, come on up to the mountains of New Mexico!

 

New Work, Old Concept

Old retablo frame, late 1800’s

THE ENCANTO SERIES

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Companion, 2021

My work has always been strongly influenced by the idea of “shards” as a metaphor for human communication across time. A shard can be a found fragment of clay, a rusty nail, a scrap of handwriting – any little clue that becomes a “secret handshake” between the maker and the discoverer.

Shards, clues, and other stuff

As an assemblage artist, I collect bits of meaning from various cultures and times. This series, called Encantos (charms), respectfully combine contemporary historic images, then veil them with beeswax, a material which has been used in art-making for over 2000 years. This encaustic process seals and enhances the images. The metal adornments on these pieces honor the traditional centuries-old Retablos, painted tin icons that show the significant rust and fading consistent with their age.

Lyn Belisle, Spiral Crows, 2021

For decades I’ve worked with clay, fiber, and paper in assemblage and collage to express this non-verbal time-circle connection. When my friend Michelle Belto introduced me to the encaustic process in 2009, This new-to-me medium seemed a perfect companion for my most-loved materials.

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Talisman, 2021

I’d briefly tried encaustic medium on collage, but I began to understand that beeswax is a metaphoric material in itself, ancient as clay, versatile as paper, compelling as ivory and bone. Now beeswax and encaustic are integral parts of my process.

Lyn Belisle, Nest, 2021

This series feels just right, a synthesis of digital, ancient, and contemporary process and content. Work for this series is available at the Members Gallery (San Antonio Art League) and soon at Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas.

Take good care, hope to see you soon – Lyn

The early bird trickles like sand through the hourglass —

I just finished filming my first lesson for the extraordinary “everything you never knew you wanted to learn about encaustic” course called Painting With Fire:Essence of Mulranny. I am one of 26 international teachers invited to teach at Painting With Fire. The scope and content of the lessons is amazing – yes, even if you are a beginner.

Conceived by Ireland-based artist Lora Murphy, the year-long program’s early bird cost of $199 is the bargain of the century for anyone who wants to learn more about painting with wax or using it as a stellar component in mixed media work. Seriously. The sands are trickling through the hourglass, though – early bird tuition ends on Thursday. After that, the price goes to $249 (which is still a bargain, but $50 can buy a lot of encaustic supplies).

So this is a preview of what I am doing for my first Painting With Fire lesson – it will be released really soon, on Wednesday, May 26th. It’s called Surface Sampler, and it’s super-fun, if I do say so myself. Just click on the image or the link below:

Link to Preview

Here are some FAQs about Painting With Fire

  • Class starts on Friday, April 30th
  • Every class after this is on Wednesday (from May 5th onwards).
  • There are 52 weeks of lessons, often several in one week. All you need is an internet connection to view them. You can go back to previous lessons during the year.
  • All classes are prerecorded (with one exception) and will be available from approximately 12 noon EST each Wednesday.
  • Lifetime access to the videos.
  • There is a Facebook group which is private for PWF students.

And here’s my invitational link to join – please make sure that if you want to take part, join today or tomorrow before the Early Bird tuition goes away.

You’ll be joining a wonderful community of talented teachers and students!

 

 

 

 

Serenity through bamboo – for you?

My latest online class for everyone is called, “Sumi-e Painting: Serenity and Simplicity.” It’s absolutely free, and it’s designed to de-stress your mind and to celebrate the coming of spring – yay!

In this class, you’ll learn to paint a variation of the ancient Asian art form called Sumi-e in a simple way that anyone can do. It’s fun and relaxing, even if your bamboo leaves end up looking like bananas. 🙂

Here’s the class link.

The class opened on Monday, and right now there are 90 people signed up, painting graceful bamboo stalks and wild orchid grass. I’m getting lots of favorable responses!

There is a joy in providing a no-cost chance to be creative that money can’t begin to buy – honest!

One of my favorite responses came from a participant who wrote:

“My friend was asking me about some painting tutorials and where to get started.  I told her about (your) lotus book tutorial and how much fun it was. Your free painting video arrived today in my email has been a great way to show her what you are doing.

We had great progress and successfully completed the tutorial this afternoon.”

bamboo

“The first photo shows (my friend’s) work from start to finish and you can see the progression after we practiced and how quickly we got some good results with your excellent instruction.” – – – (Wow, thanks!!)

I told her how much I loved their work – and how nice (especially these days) to get to paint together with a friend.

She wrote back:

I did two little cards on some scrap watercolor paper. We were using the same watercolor paper as you demonstrated with.  I even found a little stamp that we dipped in red watercolor for chop mark.

I actually had a stone chop made when I was in Taiwan in 1978 but I really couldn’t put my hands on it this afternoon. It has my name in Chinese carved into it with an ox figure on top. I am year of the ox!

Before we went I had pored over a book my Dad had brought back from his travels of Chinese watercolor painting . I was fortunate enough to get the watercolors and brushes ( the brushes  we used today) and paint and paper while I was in Taiwan. . . Funny how things come full circle!”

(Special thanks to Marti Bledsoe for sharing this painting adventure.)

So, try this project if you haven’t – you don’t’ need any fancy materials – just some inexpensive watercolors and some paper. And maybe some nice wind chime music in the background. You, too, can bamboo!

If you like this technique, I also have a new in-depth workshop called Sunsets and Serapes which, strangely enough,uses this Sumi-e technique to make Southwestern striped paintings for mixed media artists!

Serape Mother and Child

This particular painting workshop is not free (a mere $39) but it has four hours of videos on painting with strong East/West influences. Here’s that link.

Finally, here’s a challenge/idea – how about making Lotus Books (another free workshop) and doing the covers with Sumi-e paintings? That would be beautiful!!

Wishing you a serene and stress-free day! ~~~ Lyn

Wendy’s Nature Spirits

A weather note : I started this post on Monday morning. The post (and normal life) has been interrupted by two days of power outages and snow here in South Texas, and there may be more to come! Yikes!

So, before the power goes out again, I want to warm your heart (and mine) by telling you about Wendy Larsen of Nevada.

Normally, I’m shy about writing my buyers to ask how they are using the faces the purchase from my Etsy shop, Earthshards, but Wendy had ordered quite a few of the Celtic Forge faces and I was curious. I emailed her, and she graciously told me about her Nature Spirits.

Celtic Forge faces from my Etsy Shop, Earthshards

Wendy wrote:

“I use all natural materials, and your faces are beautiful addition to my art. I was going to create my own Etsy shop one but the works weigh a lot as I use petrified wood and agate rose quartz . So that makes them quite heavy to ship, but I do have some in a crystal shop in Lehi Utah that carries my art, and I’ve done quite well there over the past few months. I’m currently doing a few commissioned pieces.

It started when I was at a cactus nursery and saw some Choya wood and decided to use it to create a beautiful piece of art. Little did I know they would be such a success! They are inspired by nature. Everything used on them is natural except for what I used to keep them in place. They they all have an energy that lives within each piece. I use a lot of raw crystals, pine cones, living moss, and natural stones as well as the Choya wood and your beautiful clay faces. I’m typically inspired to do a piece by what the face tells me.

Here is a picture of the first piece I ever did — and it’s history from there – LOL.”

Wendy’s Nature Spirits are packed with intricate detail and precious objects – tiny silver lizards, clusters of crystal. Here are some others. You can see the care and love that she adds to each one.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing your wonderful Nature Spirits with us!

Before I close (and before the power goes off again!), I want to remind you that the Early Bird pricing for Painting with Fire is still open if you want to explore a year of Encaustic techniques and processes by 26 teachers (including me!) for less than $10 a workshop — pretty cool. Or hot.

Click here to visit Essence of Mulranny .

Please stay safe and warm – and take good care,

Lyn

The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

A Walk-in-the-Woods Workshop?

2020 was surely The Plague Year (and we’re still being extra-cautious), but it did get a lot of us outside, walking and exploring nature. That’s a good thing. Decades ago I discovered that walking worked well for me as meditative thinking time – plus I find lots of cool stuff along the way. And sometimes it seemed that the cool stuff was left there especially for me to find.

You may remember the wonderful photo collection of composed found objects that artist friends contributed to my website in 2019. Here’s that link, and here’s one of my favorite compositions (this one is by Marilyn Jones)

Marilyn Jones, Found Objects

This kind of collecting is nothing new for me. One of my signature techniques is embedding sticks and other natural objects into my assemblages – there’s just something mythical about material found outdoors “by accident”.

Sometimes, I even construct pieces almost totally from found objects and natural material, such as this piece called Bone Tea.

Lyn Belisle, “Bone Tea”

It was influenced by my friend Shannon Weber, whose work with natural materials makes me swoon.

Shannon Weber

So all of this leads up to a new workshop that I’ve just posted on my Teachable Studio site. It’s called Sacred Serendipity:Nature Shrines and Assemblages.

Collecting things from nature and assembling them as art is a long and honorable practice.

If you’ve ever read Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, you know how she describes different seashells as stages in a woman’s life – the oyster shell, covered bumps and lumps but still smooth and beautiful on the inside.

This is a workshop for anyone who has ever found a pine cone, a smooth rock, or a red and gold leaf and brought it home in gratitude and wonder.

There are several free preview videos, including one of me being very goofy in the woods across the street from my house, pretending to “find” objects. But I think the real beauty of this workshop lies in the techniques about arranging and attaching natural objects to a small canvas. This gives you so much leeway to create your own small Shrine to Nature.

I also show you step-by-step how to make a mold from a natural object and then cast it with paper clay – you can do faces this way, as well. The class fee is a mere $29, and you can start and stop whenever you like. The lessons are yours forever – or at least as long as the Internet lasts. Think of this as the cost of a bag of groceries but with more lasting results!

Workshop Preview Link

So here’s to a walk on the wild side – and the natural treasures that we “accidentally” find there. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Barbie and The Spirit Women

Spirit Woman, Barbie Koncher

I get to meet the most amazing artists through my Etsy shop. In the last post, you read about Brita, and now – meet Barbie!

Barbie Koncher lives in Hawaii and uses banana fiber as an element in creating her Spirit Women. Indigenous materials add authentic magic to her creations. She sent me some photos of her work along with some great notes:

Hi Lyn,

I’m happy to share my techniques. I have always shared ideas with fellow artists. Inspiration and sharing is critical to artists. I am working on shaping some banana fiber for a Spirit Doll who will inhabit it. I am using this instead of a stick body, using your techniques in my own way. This banana fiber has been soaked overnight then cut to size and scrubbed clean. You can only cut and shape when wet. Then I’ll wax with encaustic before I begin to build my doll, Shaman or Spirit woman. You have shown me an entirely new path!

There’s a lot more to know about this remarkable woman:

I have been creating jewelry for 35+ years and am best known for my large bead creations and fused glass jewelry (20 years). I designed for Saks Fifth Avenue, numerous cruise ships (traveled with them as a guest artist), and my glass was sold at the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

But wait, there’s even more!

I also had a 25 year career with the Department of Defense and capped that career working at the Pentagon and State Department.

I am a certified Art Clay instructor and am toying with the idea of making faces with bronze Art Clay, if I can keep it light enough. I also torch fire enamel on steel beads or copper screen. I am retired in Hawaii and 75 years old but I can’t stop creating. I am an active member of the Kona Palisades Artists and the Las Vegas Artisans Guild.

I just made some lovely cheese cloth painted fabric! I’m having so much fun with the Spirit Woman series.

In this last photo, Barbie accents the Spirit Woman with a cracked glass Christmas ornament and some sea glass. There’s something mythical about it all.

I love Barbie’s work. Many thank to her for permission to use her photos and her thoughts. If you’d like to get in touch with Barbie, you can email her here: koncher@msn.com

It’s such a pleasure to see how the Earthshard faces travel around and inspire so many fantastic artisans. So, now I have the words to “It’s a Small World After All” running through my head!

Happy Holidays – and dare it say it? Happy New Year – yay!!!!

A surprise gift for you that lights up!

OK, so all of you who take my online workshops really DO light up my life. Your response to the Prayer Flag Sampler has been amazing. It reinforces my conviction that we all continue to need hope and optimism in the weeks ahead.

So here’s a new FREE workshop that I just finished. It’s based on an article that I wrote for Cloth Paper Scissors. Some of you have done this workshop in person at my studio and you know how much fun it is to create these simple, lovely votive lanterns.

I’ve spent the last few days making how-to videos of the process so everyone can learn to make them, and the new workshop, called Glowing Paper Votive Screens, is ready for you! You just need to join the school if you haven’t already, then scroll down to the enroll button, and you are in. No catch, no cost.

Offering these free workshops is one small way I can contribute to keeping us creative and inspired during this unbelievably challenging year. I’ve provided you with a materials list and some other resources as well as the video lessons.

By the way, those of you who have taken the free Lotus Book workshop will see it featured in the upcoming issue of Wax FusionInternational Encaustic Artists digital magazine very soon – I’ll be sure to give you that link when it’s available. I wrote the article to celebrate the joys of sharing a small project with many other artists, and some of the wonderful student work is featured. Over 200 people have already enrolled in that class – and my sister-in-law loves this project so much that she’s even opened an Etsy shop featuring her Lotus Books! Yay!

But your homework assignment right now is to sign up for the Glowing Paper Votive Screens workshop and get busy spreading some light around this sweet (but tired) old world.

Even if you’re not ready to start today, it is a self-paced class, ready for you when you are ready for it – but don’t wait too long. The holidays are coming soon, and these will make beautiful gifts and table adornments.

As always, thanks for all you do – trust yourself, trust the process, stay safe – and VOTE.

♥Lyn

 

Fat fiber and skinny holes – Carolyn to the rescue!

Just because I call myself a “mixed-media artist” doesn’t mean I am good at everything. On the contrary.

When I took a seed-beading workshop a few years ago, I got so frustrated trying to threading those microscopic devil-beads onto a hair-thin sewing needle to attach them to a piece of felt, my table-mate finally said, “Honey, why don’t just just try hot glue?”‘

Threading stuff is not my strength. If you’ve watched my workshop videos, you may have noticed that I often have to change course after try to force a piece of fuzzy thread through a little hole in a clay face.

Fortunately, one of my online workshop participants, artist Carolyn Congrove from Tucson, took pity on me and just sent me this great video that she made to help me out! This is very cool.

She shows three easy approaches to threading wiggly big thread and ribbon though little holes without causing the threadee to have a nervous breakdown. I asked her if I could share it with you guys, and she said I could.

Her daughter April shot the helpful video. The floss-threader tip, as she says, is a game-changer.

 

This isn’t the first time Carolyn has helped me out – she sent some great photos of her lotus books that I used in one of my recent posts about giving gifts of art from your heart during this pandamic.

Carolyn Congrove

I have met so many nice (and helpful) people like Carolyn through the online workshops on my Teachable site. Don’t forget there are free workshops for you there, including the Lotus Book.

And if you want to trim your Lotus Book with some little-bitty beads on some wiggly fuzzy thread, Carolyn has come to our rescue.

Take care – stay cool!

Lyn