Animals, animals . . . . what a spirited workshop!

We finished the second part of the “spirit critter” workshop today at the Art League – beautifying our creations.

Leslie Newton did a very skillful job of loading and firing the kiln between last week’s session and this one. Not one ear or tail was lost.

Pan of fired nekkid critters

Today I got to teach some cold finish techniques for the workshoppers to experiment with on the test pieces and the animals. Cold finishes (or post-fire finishes) are amazingly versatile as long as the piece is not going to be used as a functional item – like a mug.

Potters are discovering things like walnut ink (yeah, my old favorite) and wax embedded with metallic particles. Here are some sample pieces that I used today to demo and test various combinations of walnut ink and metallic wax..

And here are some that were made by Jill Wilson, one of our participants, that show lots of possibilities.

When it came time to put finishes on the animals, a lot of participants liked the idea of the simplicity of just using walnut ink to bring out the texture. Here’s an example – this little guy is almost Pre-Colombian looking – very minimalist and whimsical.

By contrast, this piece has layer upon layer of metallic wax and walnut ink which gives it the look of cast bronze.

This is an example of a cold finish formula that I demonstrated today – there are a thousand variations:

  • Spray the bisque-fired clay liberally with Java walnut ink and let it sit for five or ten seconds.
  • Blot the ink with a shop cloth, then dip one corner of the cloth in water and wipe away the color on the surface, leaving the ink in the contours.
  • With your finger, add a layer of silver Inka Gold metallic finish.
  • When that is even, burnish it with a cloth, then add another partial layer of blue Inka Gold, being random and leaving spots uncovered.
  • Add another random layer, this one gold, and blend in with the blue as you go.
  • Rub on a bit of Jacquard powder in Interference Blue. This will give you a raku-like finish.

If you want to see the whole process, click on the links below to see how the animals were created, start to finish:

DAY ONE – BUILDING THE ANIMALS

DAY TWO- COLD FINISHES AND COMPLETION

Many thanks to the participants – Jill Wilson, Lisa Stamper Meyer, Vera Smith, Becky Hadley, Kimberly Anderson – and especially to my co-teacher, Leslie Newton!

Let’s do it again next year!

 

 

 

 

 

Art Walk Alchemy 2020 and The Enduring Kimono

Teaching online workshops is a joy. But preparation is time-consuming. So when Anne Marie Fowler asked me to develop a lesson for Art Walk Alchemy 2020, I almost said that I was too over-scheduled with my work at the Art League.

But then I remembered a project that had been a signature of my work in the 80’s and 90’s – the Origami Kimono!

I had done a version of this for the Dallas Fiber Artists last year which was super fun. With some additional mixed media lessons and demos, like how to create your own scumble-painted paper, this could be a great online workshop lesson.

Here’s a “scumble sample” video from the lesson for painting a long paper strip that is then folded into a kimono:

There are a ton of other mixed-media techniques in this lesson, including new ways to use gold leaf, walnut ink, and stamps in your work.

I’d never done a lesson like this that is part of a year’s worth of workshops, but it’s neat because you get tons of other lessons from many other really excellent teachers from Art Walk Alchemy. Check out the project highlights!

Woodland Dreams-Art Walk Alchemy 2020 from Mystic Spring Studios on Vimeo.

Registration for Art Walk Alchemy is open right now – including a fantastic four-video lesson on The Enduring Kimono by you-know-who. Take a look at the offerings – 🙂

For Love of Leonardo – a fiberart sculpture

That’s the title of a new fiber art sculpture I (almost) just finished. Where these ideas come from, I’m not sure, but I was looking at some of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings and thinking about insides and outsides and metaphors, so I photocopied some of his drawings and notes onto linen fabric.

Then I started building a form with no real plan . . . I use sticks and sinew and gauze and all kinds of things to engineer the armature.

At this point, I just go happily along with no idea of where this figure might be going, but trusting the process. It’s like reading a book that you can’t skip to the end of to find out what happens, but I knew it would have something to do with the Da Vinci notes on linen.

The big step is finding the face that helps tell the story.

Now the “it” has become a “her,” and I look at her in different light and different places to get to know her better.

The linen layers are in progress, and I’m refining some of the details, like skewering her headpiece to add sinew. I got so engrossed at this point that I forgot to take process photos!

Her linen-wrapped legs are anchored into a wood block covered with faded Turkish carpet scraps.

The plot thickens – there are pieces of stitched linen with hearts and babies and love letters . . . it’s complex, and a bit disturbing, but terribly intriguing!

She has an ivory silk braid hanging down her back.

Here is the (almost) completed piece – she’s 20″ high.

For Love of Leonardo, Lyn Belisle, 2019, Fiber sculpture with mixed media

I borrowed a lot of techniques I developed for last year’s “Boro Horse,” (below) which I love, but the Leonardo piece feels more personal somehow.

Next up – a wall piece that celebrates the complexity old fiber rugs and weavings.  I plan to incorporate some of the found objects I’ve collected in the last couple of weeks for the Collage Challenge.

This piece is just barely started, but we shall see what we shall see –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Spark to Finish

Finding time to work on pieces to submit for juried shows is definitely a luxury these days, but I’m always looking for the spark of an idea that might work for an interesting “Call for Entry.”

So I got an idea last week for  the upcoming Fiber Artists of San Antonio show based on a piece I did for a show at St. Mary’s University in February. It was a standing screen sculpture with silk ribbon pieces on the surface. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

I made a very rough drawing in my sketchbook with tag-shaped objects that might have faces on them to be printed on linen and then attached to a new screen structure.

You can see the word “beeswax” under the sketch – honest, that’s what it says. But I wasn’t thinking about encaustic at this point, focusing on fiber instead.

I decided to use the faces in this 1936 photo of children in the Netherlands who were living in poverty – isn’t it haunting?

I adhered a piece of linen to some freezer paper that was cut to 8.5 x 11″ and then opened the photo in Photoshop, edited it for a sepia tone, and ran it through my printer. Once the freezer paper was peeled off, I tore two of the photos apart and adhered those to some rice paper. Here they are:

They looked good – and then I got stuck. They really weren’t right for the screen idea – too strong, too something. Days passed. Then I remembered the piece I had just written about, the one at the Museum of Encaustic Art with the faces of young girls working in poor conditions but looking both brave and resigned.

I hadn’t planned on making an encaustic piece from these faces, but coincidentally, the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe has a current call for entry called Global Warming is Real. All of a sudden, I could visualize these children’s faces looking through a window  onto a world where crops fail, oceans rise, and humans suffer devastation.

In the studio, I built a panel frame and added layers of wax and tissue with words of warning about climate change collaged around the edges. I waxed the linen and rice paper images. When the children’s faces were added, the piece worked as an expression of the theme. I call it “The Last Window.”

You can see in these details how well the linen works with the beeswax:

My beloved professor, the late sculptor Phil Evett, once told me that if an idea isn’t working, it’s not about the idea, it’s about where it belongs. In his case, he was talking about a carved head that had sat in his studio for 20 years until he finally found the right piece to attach it to.

In my case, these compelling children’s faces belonged in a mixed media encaustic and fiber collage about a critical environmental concern. It just took me a while to figure it out.

So let’s keep making those sketches and creating small shards of ideas – they will let you know where they belong! Oh, yeah, and I’ll let you know if “The Last Window” is accepted for the exhibit! (The deadline for submitting is tomorrow).

Thanks for reading SHARDS today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photoshop Elements Texture Quickie

This morning I started putting together a post about jurying art competitions, coming soon. Yesterday I was the Juror for the Canyon Lake Art Guild‘s new exhibition. It’s always an honor – and a learning experience! Stay tuned to see the winners – and see if you agree with me!

In the meantime, I got distracted by a topic on Pinterest that’s worth sharing (I have the attention span of a gnat).  Even if you’ve used Photoshop Elements, you may not know how easy it is to work with textures and overlays using your own photos.It’s also very addictive.

This very short video (you can skip the ad in 5 seconds) by Nicole Young is one of the best I’ve seen. (She uses a Mac, so if you’re using a PC, just replace the “Command” with “Control.”)

So here’s my masterpiece to use as an example. I call it “Morning Desk with Almost-Empty Diet Dr Pepper.” This is the original photo, taken just minutes ago:

Here is is with a texture overlay that I snagged from Free Stock Textures:

You can even use your own photos as textures. Here’s a photo I took when I was dyeing fabric for my Boro Horse:

And here’s what it looks like combined with the amazing Diet Dr Pepper masterpiece:

As I said, working with textures and blending modes is addictive – you have been warned!

A last word – last night I had an email conversation with my Austin-based designer friend Monika Astara about digital art as ART. (She’s doing some wonderful digital collage work and incorporating it into a new line of one-of-a-kind T-Shirts, soon to be available!)

We talked about digital art vs traditional studio-based art. If you ever thought that digital art is not “real” art, read this article for a different perspective.

Facts and Myths about Digital Art

And if you want to see more digital art tutorials by Nicole Young, check out her website!

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 🙂