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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Whiter Shades of Pale – playing in the no-color zone

Lesta Frank has a ray gun – she brought it to our all-day Whiter Shades of Pale workshop yesterday, and when anyone “called color” on another person (like, they were reaching for some red paint), they got blasted with flashing lights and wild beeps. It was pretty funny!

The whole day was a delight, as a matter of fact. In the morning, we made beautiful pale papers under Lesta’s expert tutelage – ecru, ivory, palest gold and silver – all breathtaking. A favorite was the string-embedded paper.

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In the afternoon, we used those papers to create stunning assemblage/collages with the hand-embellished paper and found objects tied into our canvases.

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Lesta’s collage

The video from the workshop is just pure eye-candy. It’s astonishing how much richness and variety can come from such a a limited color palette. Limiting the color choices allows you to concentrate on texture and composition.

Pale colors and textures are so wonderfully nostalgic that I thought I’d treat you to the original inspiration, the song called “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which won a Grammy for Procol Harum in (gulp) 1967. The video looks so sweet and goofy – very non-MTV. But boy, does it bring back memories!

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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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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.

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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!

 

 

 

Textured white collage – new workshop exploration

whiteOffering a new workshop is a risk, both for the teacher and the students who are the first  “test drivers.” That was the case with the Wednesday Exploring Textures in Collage. I knew that I wanted to offer a workshop that pared down collage to very simple textural elements layered with white paint and touches of walnut ink tints, but would the lack of color bore students? Would the project take too long to dry? Would it be deceptively complicated or not make sense or . . .? But once again, my amazing students pulled off a spectacular triumph of artistic exploration.

white2I started the session by demonstrating how to draw a visual classic cruciform framework with pencil lines on a 9×12″ canvas. Then we built thin layers of torn paper across that flat framework. I showed several techniques using both created and found textures, and combined these with mark-making through wet paint.

After that, they were on their own to select textures using their own intuition and style. The hard part was layering white over everything, like watching a blanket of snow fall on carefully arranged objects.

I mentored and suggested, but let them work independently for the most part, and their finished works were professional and evocative – yay!! You should see the work they produced in just three hours! Actually, you can if you take a look at the video, below. Stunning results, be sure to watch until the end to see them.

Monika Astara – a visit to her studio

When I first met Monika Astara at a FASA Runway Show several years ago, I was almost tongue-tied by the beauty and originality of her designer clothing. She was swamped with customers, but I managed to ask her rather tentatively if she ever did trunk shows – she said that she did! Six months later, she brought her wearable art to my Studio, and it was a huge success. We became fast friends and she’s had several more fantastic shows with me – her clothes are comfortable, casually elegant, yet very distinctive. If you are a Monika fan, you know what I mean.

Hoverer, I had never been to HER studio until this weekend, and what a treat it was to see where all of the Monika Magic originates. I got to see her long cutting table where she paints and constructs her garments, the stacks of patterns, and most of all, the fabrics! Her signature fabrics are chosen for their unusual textures and colors and for their practicality – not an easy task.

I took some photos during my visit to share with you, and I hope you will be at her next show and sale at Lyn Belisle Studio in October, date coming soon!

Friday freebie – scratch and scrape

This’ll be quick – the Spurs are playing Houston and the game is tied! This week’s Friday freebie is a simple but effective little tool set for making marks and textures in painted surfaces, plaster, clay, anything that needs a skritch or a scratch. I ordered an extra set to give away to a SHARDS subscriber – be on the blog subscriber list by midnight Sunday and this fabulous, wildly expensive (think “Three-Buck Chuck”) set of DecoArt Texture Tools could be yours!

textureOK, back to the game – GO SPURS!

 

 

 

Work, work, work – rust, rust, rust

handHiya – I’m popping in for a minute to show the latest results from my summer vacation painting month at the Studio – these are the first two in a series called “Sympathetic Resonance.” They are a continuation of my explorations into rust and patina, their color and texture. I love the way these are presented – a craftsman friend constructed heavy cedar boxes that stand by themselves as objects or hang on the wall as frames – either way, the pieces seem to work. The cedar compliments the patinas.If you can’t see the pieces in your email (and if you’re interested), you can look at them in browser view.

Yay! Art is so much fun when things are going well. I am taking a few of these pieces to Dan Pfeiffer’s Gallery in Kerrville next weekend to see if they are a good fit for his space. He is a fantastic woodworker/artist. So I’ll be laboring away on Labor Day doing what I love – hope you will be, too! More soon, happy weekend.