Quick Kitchen Counter Photo Trick

Sample pieces of paper-infused porcelain clay

I took that fairly impressive photo, above, on my kitchen counter this morning with my iPhone.

Want to see how you can get the same photo-studio effect? All you need is some Scotch tape and  large piece of drawing paper. It helps if you have a light under your kitchen cabinet that shines on the counter.

So here’s my lighted kitchen counter with the little clay pieces sitting on it. I taped an 18″ x 24″ piece of newsprint against the back wall of the counter and let it curve loosely down on the counter surface.

Then I arranged the three small pieces in the center of the paper so it looked as if they were “floating.” I snapped three or four photos with my iPhone and chose the best one.

Later, I needed a good photo of a project I just finished for my Wax & Words eBook. It’s a little standing screen made with encaustic panels covered with marks and letters. Waxed surfaces are hard to reproduce in photos. This is what it looked like when I took the photo on the table in my studio. Kinda blah.

So I brought the little project home and tried my kitchen counter photo studio technique. I added an interesting rock and arranged the everything on the taped-up sheet of drawing paper.  Check it out!

Here’s how the pros do it – no cheap drawing paper or scotch tape for them.

But isn’t it amazing what a seamless background can do for a photo, even an iPhone photo? And nobody has to know that you took it on your kitchen counter.

 

 

 

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.

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 🙂

 

 

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!

Art, alignment and your New Year’s Resolution explained – maybe

I was working in the studio yesterday on a striped background for a painting workshop, and when it was finished, I assumed it was going to be a horizontal composition. Then I wondered. . . why had I assumed that? Why was horizontal my default?

So I asked my Facebook friends what they thought. I wanted to see how weird was I compared to them. I posted the painting in three separate pics (combined, below) and asked if they like it better horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. (Remember, this isn’t a finished painting, just a striped canvas, so content isn’t really an issue).

When the FB comments started, they were all over the wall, so to speak. Some people gave reasons, others just stated a preference. Some changed their minds, some had some cool out-of-the-box replies.

I decided that different kinds of people like different linear arrangements – well, duh. But why? Here’s an article from Vanseo Designs that explains part of the reason:

The Meaning of Lines: Developing A Visual Grammar

 Horizontal lines are parallel to the horizon (hence the name). They look like they’re lying down, at rest, asleep. They suggest calm and quiet, a relaxed comfort.

Horizontal lines can’t fall over. They accentuate width. They’re stable and secure. The convey an absence of conflict, a restful peace. Horizontal lines by their connection to the horizon are associated with earth bound things and idea.

Vertical lines are perpendicular to the horizon. They are filled with potential energy that could be released if they were to fall over. Vertical lines are strong and rigid. They can suggest stability, especially when thicker. Vertical lines accentuate height and convey a lack of movement, which is usually seen as horizontal.

They stretch from the earth to the heavens and are often connected with religious feelings. Their tallness and formality may give the impression of dignity.

Diagonal lines are unbalanced. They are filled with restless and uncontrolled energy. They can appear to be either rising or falling and convey action and motion. Their kinetic energy and apparent movement create tension and excitement. Diagonal lines are more dramatic than either horizontal or vertical lines.

Diagonal lines can also appear solid and unmoving if they are holding something up or at rest against a vertical line or plane.

MY CONCLUSION, and how to decide on your New Year’s resolution:

After you have chosen your preference and know whether you are a Horizontal, Vertical, or Diagonal person, you can write a really cool New Year’s resolution. To wit:

  • Horizontal people should resolve to get out of their comfort zones. Take a chance. Eat a squid taco. Experiment with fluorescent paint on a burlap canvas. Paint it with your toes.
  • Vertical people should resolve to lighten up. Loose the formality. Eat a Cheesy Jane’s beanburger and don’t use a napkin. Toss the oil paint realism and go for a Jackson Polluck style with enamels. Get high on the fumes.
  • Diagonal people (oh, how I wish I were one) should resolve to channel their crazy energy. Eat tofu, drink green tea. Paint with only shades of gray on white paper. Yeah, that’ll last about ten seconds.

See what one little question on Facebook can lead to? OK, now that I’ve helped you with your self-analysis and your resolutions, I’m headed out for a squid taco. Ewwww.

Happy New Year! And thanks for reading SHARDS, no matter how weird it gets.

Exquisite ephemera

My friend Lisa Stamper Meyer had a great studio show and sale yesterday that showcased her recent painting trip to France. She (lucky woman) enjoyed a time of deep artistic exploration during a month-long residency at the Chateau Orquevaux.

Here’s a piece that I purchased from her yesterday. It reflects some of her signature materials and themes, which came into sharp focus during her journey – and everyone loves her ravens:

Mixed media collage, Lisa Stamper Meyer

Lisa is a master in both collecting and using “ephemera,” those wonderful scraps of vintage paper that add intrigue to artwork. Fortunately for her friends, she brought back packages of French papers, letters, and book pages to share with us. Look at some of the cool stuff I got!

There is something about using authentic letters and book pages that somehow makes one’s artwork more precious than using reproductions.

When you are working with ephemera and printed pages, remember that the same guidelines of composition apply – Alignment, Breathing Space, and Thirds.

Here’s a preliminary collage arrangement of some of the pieces that I got from Lisa:

collage composition practice

And here are a couple of tips for YOU that will help when you use ephemera or printed media.

ephemera composition tips

  • If there is a border on the torn paper strip, use it to good advantage by reinforcing the visual border of your work (see on left edge how the black border stops the eye from going off the page).
  • If you have one torn edge and one straight edge, the torn edge should face into the work (see the top edge) – again, this focuses the viewer toward the interior of the composition.
  • When you use a section of text, align it into the center. If it’s aligned away from the center, the viewer will be inclined to turn the composition outward to try and read it, and that will redirect the eye off the page.

Next time Lisa goes to France, I am going too, with four empty suitcases to fill with nifty French ephemera! (I wish) What is it about printed materials foreign languages that is so intriguing?

If you’re interested in materials like this and can’t get to Chateau Orquevaux, there are good sources on Pinterest for vintage French correspondence like this one

There are also design sites like this one that sell more vintage collage and decoupage ephemera that you can shake a glue stick at -:Southern Blackberry Designs

Somehow, though, going to France on a residency program to collect ephemera sounds a little more appealing. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your experience, your work (and your fantastic ephemera) with us!

The art and science of aromatherapy – essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve studied and used essential oils since 1989 and was actually teaching workshops on their uses way before I began teaching art workshops. In the late ’90s, Dr. Bill Kurtin and I partnered in sharing research-based information about aromatherapy with social agencies and college classes, and set up our informational website, called Chemaroma, in 2006.

Bill is a biochemist who chaired the Chemistry Department at Trinity University for many years. We’re married now, and since Bill retired from teaching, he’s had time to do more research on current studies about essential oils. He’s just written an article for our Chemaroma blog summarizing recent research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease. Here’s the link to the complete article, which I think is wonderful and encouraging.

In his article, Bill writes, “The research . . ., as well as much work not mentioned, strongly suggest that EOs may provide an excellent alternative, natural, widely available, and inexpensive treatment for AD, particularly for easing the symptoms of the disease.” He writes for a general audience, who, like me, have trouble with scientific complexities – whew! It’s a fascinating premises that could help millions.

If you have not any in-depth reading on the science of aromatherapy and need an introduction, here’s a good background article from the University of Maryland Medical Center. And, or course, you can always go to our website, Chemaroma, for more info.

I’ve always relied on Clary Sage essential oil for getting past creative blocks – the name in Latin means “clear eye” – and its smell is intoxicating.  Here’s another take on essential oils from an artist on the Craftsy site.

Bill and I are especially interested in essential oil research that pertains to our aging population – anything that will help all of us stay alive, engaged, and creative longer is worth pursuing! Read and share the article, Are Essential Oils Useful in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a good one.

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Who owns your work – and where did you find that photo, pal??

copyright

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation on the torturous, mind-bending subject of copyright in the digital age to an audience of first-rate artists at the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts.

Copyright issues are of particular importance to artists  – one, because a visual artist’s work can be so easily copied and distributed digitally these days, and, two, because most artists use or take photos as reference sources or use them in mixed-media pieces.

The presentation was limited by time and scope, but I created a Power Point slide show to illustrate some specifics. For this blog, I converted it to a video (who knew you could do that?? Live and learn!) because I wanted to share the presentation with you guys. It works just like a regular Power Point, but if you want to read a slide, you need to pause it. Of course, you won’t hear my not-so-brilliant comments, but you can get the main points.

Many thanks to Charlotte Cox and the Coppini for inviting me to present! It gave me a chance to brush up on those points that I used to teach at Trinity University in my Computer Science class. And, as I said in the summary, below, copyright is a slippery subject, rather like trying to nail Jell-o to a wall.

chectsheet

So get out there, create, and Steal Like an Artist – but respect the laws of copyright!

 

 

 

 

Last-minute gift tags

This is a quickie post – we’re all holiday-busy! Four years ago I designed some little gift tags for SHARDS readers, and I actually needed to print out some for myself this morning.

I found the old post from 2012 and decided to share it again with you guys. Here’s what the gift tags look like – you can just print out a sheet of six on card stock, fold them and attach them.

xmastags1 xmastags2

Get your tags here!! And happy wrapping!

Stack of books and other presents in basket. Christmas decoratio

Big problem, but I got it covered . . .

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My nifty new ultra-cheap ultra-cool floor covering in the studio workshop room

So when I moved into the new Studio, two of the rooms had wood-grain floors that I was really afraid of messing up with paint and glue and art stuff. I tried a drop cloth, but kept tripping over it and saying bad words. I tried plastic sheets, and that was worse. Think Attack of the Saran Wrap Monster.

In desperation, I went to Home Depot and asked a nice guy named Dave what might work. He showed me this fantastic indoor/outdoor carpet that is a perfect solution!

I’m sharing this with you guys in case you need something cheap and durable for your workroom floor. It’s called Elevations Indoor/Outdoor carpeting, and it comes in 12″ and 6″ widths. They cut it for you with a giant machine to whatever length you want. I got enough to completely cover two big rooms for less than $100. I kid you not.  Cheaper than canvas drop cloths.

This is where I taped a seam together with clear packing tape - works great.

This is where I taped a seam together with clear packing tape – works great.

The sheets of carpet lie flat and are light enough that I could lay them down by myself – I moved half of the furniture to one side of the room, lined the carpet up and rolled it out part-way, moved the furniture back on that half, then – well, you get the picture. No glue, no tape – when you move out, you just roll it up!

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You can see how nicely the edge of the carpet meets the door – it’s not glued down and it still lies flat.

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It has a tightly-woven grain – not bad looking at all!

 This carpeting comes in four colors – I picked “Stone Beige”, of course – Neutrals ‘R’ Me – but they also had a pretty blue, a grassy green, and a nice gray. It’s worth the purchase just to see them cut the stuff with the 20′ long cutting machine. Rowwrr.

And that’s your Studio Tip for the Day, kids – by the way, don’t you just love the way Home Depot smells when you walk in? It makes you feel all strong, like you really want to buy a chain saw or a flat of Sheetrock. Yeah!!

Elevations at Home Depot – great for art studio floors – yay. Hmmm, wonder if they’ll give me a discount for this free advertising  . . .?

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