Five Easy Questions

Do you “journal”? To me, a “journal” is still a noun – I am just not disciplined enough to write down my thoughts everyday in a meaningful, artful journal-ese way. That doesn’t mean I don’t take notes and write out ideas and make outlines for classes and write/sketch constantly on scraps of paper or in my Lefty Date Book.

See? Look at these notes – clear, organized, legible. . . . not.

Seriously, though, since Michele Belto and I have started working with The Enso Circle group, I am learning the value of keeping track of my time just so I can see were it goes. I devised five questions for the group to fill out at the end every week for that very purpose.  I’ve started answering these questions for myself every Friday, and it’s helping me keep track of my projects and my processes.

Here are the five questions, below. They are specifically designed for our Enso art group, but anyone can use them by changing a couple of words. If you want to use them, feel free.

I suggest you print them out and put them somewhere, then answer them once a week on the same day. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this but do it every week. And save your answers in a file or folder so you can track them after a few weeks.

What took up most of your headspace this week?

What was your proudest art-related accomplishment this week?

What one specific step did you take toward your goals?

What was your biggest obstacle this week in moving toward your

goals?

If someone gave you a present to help motivate you next week,

what would it be?

_________________________________________________________________

So, one of the things that I have learned from answering these for the last couple of weeks is that “Life happens.” My headspace gets filled with unexpected family distractions, or appliance breakdowns, or an email that needs immediate attention, or an offer that is too good to pass up. We just have to balance our time in the best way we can.

The “biggest obstacle” question is related to this. Often the obstacle is something unexpected and un-preventable. I just got my flu shot today, and it may lay me low tomorrow just when I need to be working. Oh, well. It’s important to get the flu shot. Balance it.

It’s super-important to concentrate on the proud moments and those small accomplishments that nobody but you might understand. Today I taped the sides of six 24x24x2” cradle board panels with masking tape  – it was incredibly boring, but I did it! This kind of achievement is like prepping to paint a room – you gotta do it if you want the job done right, but it is spectacularly tedious.

The last question about a “present” is fun. It could be something silly, like having somebody show up at your door who loves to put masking tape on panels, or it could be something serious like a call from a gallery offering you a solo show. But by answering this question, you are allowed to wish (and therefore define) any short-term assistance that might move you forward. And by defining it, you might even figure out a way to get it, or something reasonably close.

If you are  journaler (and I admire your dedication) you can include these in your journal every week. If like me, you are more of a random note collector, you can answer these every Friday on your computer, or jot them down on a sticky note, or whatever you choose. But the point is to give yourself a consistent creative check-up. You’ll make better progress when you can reflect a bit on how far you’ve come that week. And no matter what your answers are, I’ll bet you’ll enjoy the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busted.

Busted. I got caught doing the very thing I warn everyone not to do. Copyright violation.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

THE STORY

Last month I received and completely unexpected email regarding an image that I used on this very blog in 2017:

Unauthorized Use of Boxist.com’ Images Cease and Desist / Settlement Agreement – Case #150421B

It has come to our attention that you are using an image (or images) owned by Boxist.com (Stock Photography) for online promotional purposes without our authorization or a valid license which is copyrighted work in accordance with the copyright law, We own the image(s) exclusively and have filings with the U.S. Copyright Office for said image(s) under: Registration Number: VA0002000962.

We have searched our records and have not been able to locate a valid license for the use of the image(s) under your name, Attached for your reference is a copy of the image(s) in question and the usage found on your website, Also attached is a payment demand representing a settlement that Boxist.com would expect to receive for the unauthorized use of the image(s) should no license exist.

Although this use might have been unintentional, the use of our imagery without proper licensing is considered “copyright infringement” and entitles Boxist Stock Photography to pursue compensation for infringing uses, the consequences of copyright infringement can lead to substantial penalties, and If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement”.

List of the infringement materials on your website:

(Digital cached data and printed proofs of this infringement have been preserved for our use as evidence in any lawsuit or litigation proceedings).

________________________________________________________________________

YIKES!! At first, I did what any computer-savvy person would do – I googled the sender, hoping it was a scam. Long story short, it turns out that they were right. This company does provide images but they require a license. They also do a thriving business in searching for people who are using these images without a license, and they found me, four years later.

The image was something I had found through a Google search. Here’s what it looked like in the 2017 blog post:

In my own defense, when I choose something from Google images, I do a cursory search for copyright, but in this case (and in every case) you need to look more thoroughly.

Boxist.com asked for $150 to use their photo – it didn’t matter that I had already taken it down. I had used it without permission. I also found through searches that this company catches a lot of people this way – but they are absolutely within their rights.

In the end, I went to their site and paid $50 for a license to use the small version of the photo which I wasn’t even using any more on a four-year-old blog post. But the law is the law.

I quickly heard back from Boxist.com – here’s the email:

Dear Lyn,

I appreciate your attempt in resolving this matter, the purchase of a new license subsequent to notification of the unauthorized use does not address the copyright violation, but since you have already purchased the image from us, and such action make me believe that you had no intention to harm our business and this is all just an innocent mistake, so in good faith I will consider this issue resolved and the case is closed, also you have been granted a perpetual, non- exclusive, non-transferable license “meaning the rights are non-sublicensable, meaning that you cannot transfer or sublicense the image to anyone else” to use the Photograph for your online and social media uses under our standard license.
This is to confirm: Boxist.com (Stock Photography) is ending all legal claims and does hereby release and discharge you from any and all claims for copyright infringement regarding this case, this settlement is effective and the payment for the copyrighted image(s) is completed, our invoice and confirmation for the payment has been sent with the order email.
____________________________________________________________
Apparently, I escaped by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin! Or at least with only a small financial penalty — and a big fat lesson! If you want to read more about this, check out this link (and be sure to read the responses).
Your Friend,
The Reformed Copyright Violator

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

“Where can I get . . . ? (my top five sources – non-Amazon!)

The New Year is a great time to identify the creative materials you use the most .  These are your signature media, your “desert island” necessities. This list can help you in your resolution to streamline and simplify your studio space once you know what you will really use.

I know what MY own signature media are. Here are the Top Five that I use extensively in my own work and in almost all of my workshops (Raise your hand if you’ve used walnut ink because you learned about it in one of our workshops!)

  1. Tsukineko Walnut Ink
  2. Beeswax
  3. Book Foil
  4. Sari Silk
  5. Artificial Sinew

I get a lot of questions about where to find these materials since they are not really mainstream art/craft materials. I prefer to buy from places other than Amazon (although the Big A is certainly fast and convenient).

But when I can obtain my signature materials from other artists or independent retailers, I try to share those sources.

Here they are – enjoy looking! :

Tsukineko Walnut Ink:

https://www.imaginecrafts.com/walnut-ink/view-grid/1351

I have always ordered my walnut ink spray from Imagine Crafts. They have friendly customer service and ship quickly.  It’s often hard to find walnut ink at places like Michael’s or JoAnns (a lot of people have never heard of it) but it’s always in stock at Imagine.

If you browse around the Tsukineko inks, you’ll see that there is a pastel set (Cherry Blossom, Cornflower, Willow, Lilac) as well as an earth-tone set (Java, Eucalyptus, Walnut, Terra Cotta). Either set of four bottles retails for $23. Any color can also be purchase singly for $5.70.

Beeswax:

There are many different forms of beeswax and thousands of ways to use it.  I use beeswax for encaustic collage and for assemblage. I use it on clay and on fiber. My preferred beeswax is all natural White Beeswax pellets, refined in the USA without any chemical bleaching aids. My favorite source for this is Swans Candles in Tenino, WA.

Swans has a fine selection of beeswax and other encaustic supplies (including Damar Varnish if you want to make your own encaustic medium). Their prices are excellent. You can buy a pound of Natural White Beeswax pellets for $9.95.

Most retail art stores now sell beeswax and other encaustic supplies, but you can expect to pay almost twice as much per pound. Even on Amazon, a pound of R&F Encaustic White Beeswax lists at $18.86.

Book Foil:

This foil, also known as Deco Foil, is generally used for transferring metallic finishes to craft projects using an adhesive. Here’s a link to a video that shows demos about that. However, if you’ve taken an encaustic workshop with me, you know that we also use it to create fine gold marks onto a waxed surface.

One of the best places to order this foil is Dharma Trading Company. They are generally known for their fiber art supplies, but you will love their site for lots of other reasons! For Deco Foil, for example, they have the best selection and lowest price of anyone, including Amazon. Currently, they sell a cylinder of five sheets, 6×10″, for just $3.89.

Sari Silk:

I discovered my source, Felt Better, on Etsy several years ago, and I have ordered from them many times.

This is what the owner, Michelle, says about her sari silk: “The beautiful, exotic sari ribbon I carry is all the best things about recycling that I love. First and foremost, it helps our fragile planet by making use of material that would end up in landfills. Did you know that it helps women too? It’s a fair trade product that works close with women co-op groups, insures they get a fair wage, that helps them support their families….and most importantly, no child labor is involved.”

I use sari silk for so many things – for journals, assemblage, spirit dolls, and just to hang in my studio for pure enjoyment of its colors, history, and textures. A 100 gram skein (about 45 yards) costs $12.50 at Felt Better.

Artificial Sinew:

Do the words “cat gut” make you shudder? What about “sheep sinew?” Those were traditional material used for lacing and tying leather and gourds. Fortunately, artificial sinew is now available because I use a lot of it! It’s a material I use for clay assemblage, bead stringing, fiber art, and almost anything else that requires tying one thing to another thing.

I used to buy it at Tandy’s Leather Store, but have discover a new online treasure trove. The Thread Exchange specializes in the kinds of thread that are not sold in stores, including a huge selection of artificial sinew. The company is based in North Carolina and its website is user-friendly.

They have almost twenty colors of sinew, although I am partial to the Natural and the other earth colors like Terra Cotta. A 17-yard roll is about $5.00 and a 265-yard roll is only about $15.00.

For 2020, I would like to make a commitment to bring into my workspace only those materials that I really need, use and love. Hmmmm… it’s not always easy, because experimenting with new things is part of the game.

So here I go, tempting you with great sources for wonderful materials that may be new to  — I hope some of these will inspire your work for the new year. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

Tech Report: CamFind

Y’all probably know that I taught in the Computer Science Department at Trinity University and have always been kind of a closet techie. So I was really excited to read about an app called CamFind, which searches for objects based on a photo. Kim Komando, self-described as America’s Digital Goddess, wrote about it on her site. I really like her tips (most of the time).

Anyway, Kim wrote: “CamFind uses the Cloudsight API (application program interface) to search the Internet for your image. If it’s a cup of coffee, it’ll recognize that image, translate it into an online search, and give the results. CamFind recognizes almost any image. Plus, it’s free to use. So, give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.

And this was a consumer review about CamFind: “This blew my mind, it even recognized a contemporary abstract painting by an unknown artist that hangs in our apartment as an abstract painting.”

So I downloaded CamFind (free for both iPhones and Android) because I wanted to find info about some art-related objects, and gave it a try!
First Object – the Diet Dr. Pepper that was sitting on my desk (as always):
CamFind swung into action and immediately identified it as:
RED AND WHITE COORS BEER STEIN
And then it helpfully gave me a link to where I could by some more red and white Coors beer steins.
Wow.
So then I tried a photo of an encaustic piece that I did several years ago:
CamFind took a look and told me that it was
BROWN AND BLACK WALL DECOR
Hmmm – that was a little better, but I was hoping for something more like. “Engaging ecaustic dimension art work by world famous artist Lyn Belisle. “ Didn’t happen. I am reduced to being a creator of brown and black wall decor. Sigh.
Finally, I tried the metal piece that I really wanted to identify – I have been using these in some of my Ex Voto constructions and wanted to know what it was and where it came from (a friend had given me several of these).
CamFind instantly identified it as – I kid you not
BLACK PEEP-TOED SANDAL
And it showed me several sites where I could buy another sandal just like this one.
So — to the reviewer who was astounded that CamFind could identify her abstract painting as an abstract painting, your point is??? I can look at it and see that much. Can’t CamFind give me a nice critique of the color, style, and hidden motivation? Guess not.
In summary, CamFind is free and often unintentionally hilarious; however, don’t count on it to actually identify stuff for you in detail. But as Kim Komando says, “Give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.”
And by the way, Kim has some interesting tips for artists who want to sell their work online through social media. If you’re interested, click here see what she tells an online caller from Alabama.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to take some more photos with my amazingly amusing CamFind app before heading out to the studio to paint.

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!