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!

 

A few random things

RANDOM THING ONE: Monika is coming to San Antonio. Yep, the internationally know and loved Austin designer, Monika Astara, will be at my house on Saturday from 11-3.  If you’d like details, send me an email – the flyer is below.

I love Monika’s clothes – me and about a jillion other people. The make everyone look good, plus they are comfortable and washable and iconic.


RANDOM THING TWO: Remember the piece I showed in my last post on knowing when something needs more work? I did several more pieces based on what I learned while I was putting that one together. You can see them here on my website (click below) – they look like sisters from the same tribe.

All these pieces are going to Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas today, but I have clay in reserve to continue the series. Doing the beading is a lot more fun than I thought it would be, kind of meditative. The artificial sinew I use makes its own “needle” because it’s heavily waxed.


RANDOM THING THREE: This involves both earthenware and clothing – it’s a Waxed Linen Thread kit that came today – ordered on Amazon – (is there no odd craft supply that you can’t find there??). As I said, I used sinew to put those new clay pieces together, but wanted to try this waxed thread as a substitute. I’ve been playing around with it and am really happy with the way it feels. It’s very strong and would be useful for jewelers and fiber artists. And look at these cool colors!

There are 33 yards of each color on each spool, and the whole kit of eight spools cost just $9.99. That’s your Tip o’ the Day.


RANDOM THING FOUR:

If you go to Marble Falls, Texas, first visit Marta Stafford’s Gallery, then go up the hill to the Blue Bonnet Cafe, est. 1929. The menu will tell you it’s the real deal.Where else can you get a cup of gravy as a side order? But it’s the pies that bring people back. Just suspend thoughts of diet and order a slice. They even have a Pie Happy Hour from 3-5.

Those are all the Random Things on MY menu today – I hope you have a great week. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

 

 

 

 

Rivers and remembrance –

We returned to San Antonio yesterday after a road trip to the past. My husband’s family is from East Texas and mine is from Louisiana and Mississippi. We visited family (and family cemeteries) in all three states, and reconnected with our roots. On the trip, I came to realize how rivers connect all my memories of childhood.

The Ouachita River near flood stage, March 11, 2018

In Louisiana, we walked along the Ouachita River which flowed near my maternal  grandparents’ farm near West Monroe. That river provided energy and materials for the paper mill, which is still in production. The distinct stinky odor of paper production took me right back to nostalgia-land! Anyone ever smelled a paper mill? You don’t forget it!

My father’s family roots run deep in the Mississippi Delta on the Yazoo River. He and his brother were raised in the town of Itta Bena near Greenwood. On Tuesday, we visited the family cemetery there, which is filled with Haleys and Reeses and Lees, all family names (my middle name is Rees and my maiden name is Haley).

Family graves near the Yazoo River

My cousin, Jesse Lee (“Skip”) Haley, came with us to tell us about the “Who’s-Who” in the Itta Bena Cemetery. One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of Ransom Reese, who was in the Infantry in the Civil War. I love his name.

The cemetery is bordered by the Yazoo River, which runs along the edge of Itta Bena. Incidentally, the crossroad near Itta Bena is supposedly where famed blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.

Below is a photo of my father and mother in 1943, fishing just across the street from my paternal grandfather’s house on the riverbank near the cemetery. It was easy to imagine them there. There is a strange nostalgic peace in the Delta that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

My parents fishing on the riverbank in Itta Bena

This beautiful, sorrowful angel was on the back side of the cemetery close to the river.

Angel in Itta Bena Cemetery, Mississippi

After all the rivers and memories, we went down to the biggest river of all, the Mississippi, to spend a couple of days in New Orleans. As usual, I visited galleries to see what local artists were up too.

They, too, seemed influenced by the rivers of the South. There was a wonderful show at the Degas Gallery on Julia Street by Lafayette artist Kelli Kaufman. She works in oil and cold wax.

Kelli Kaufman, To the Wetlands, 60×40″

I also found some great clay assemblages at the Ariodante Fine Crafts Gallery on Julia Street created by Nancy Susanek. This is called a Story Box – I brought it home with me to remind me of the trip and all the river stories that I learned along the way.

It’s good to be back home again to my favorite river – the one that runs through beautiful San Antonio.  I hope you get the chance to visit your own past – it’s an important journey. Thanks for letting me share!

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!

Zen and the art of fly fishing

I’m in love. If you had told me that I could stand in an icy stream for hours and be totally attentive and happy, I would not have believed you – that is, until I was introduced to the beauty of fly fishing in northern New Mexico last week.

My teacher was my husband’s grandson, William, who is plans to major in marine biology when he graduates from high school.

Grandson William explains how the line works

William is a smart and passionate fly fisherman, and ties his own flies. These are his, made of fur and feathers and wonderful stuff, very artful assemblages that mimic nature: 

William was patient with me in teaching the techniques, but more importantly, he taught me how meditative this kind of fishing is – it’s really not about catching fish, since fly fishing is a catch-and-release partnership – it’s more like a dance.

It’s about the observation of the water and the creatures that inhabit it.  And it ‘s about the ritual, such as threading the fly rod with the tippet, the leader, and the line, each of which has its purpose in a successful cast.  The purpose of the leader and tippet is to complete the transfer of energy built up in the fly line through the casting stroke through the line and down to the fly so that your line rolls over and straightens itself out if a fairly straight line. Wow.

I also want to learn to tie my own flies – talk about an art. William told me that there are two kinds- wet and dry. This is a dry fly, one he made and floated in a glass to show me how it mimics a mayfly.

Lest I get too zen-like about all of this, it’s also about getting your line stuck in a tree across the stream. AAcckk!! But William saved me by patiently untangling the line.

Quite honestly, I’ve been totally entranced by this. You are alone with your thoughts, your rod and your serenity. You hear the rushing water and you stand and you wait. You cast and you wait. It’s peaceful. It’s rhythmic. For someone like me who can’t sit still for a minute, this is a revelation.

I’ll never be more than a rank beginner – there are people who devote their lives to this – but the gift of this discovery for me is a peaceful mind, a spiritual concentration, and an immersion in natural rhythms. Thanks, William, for showing me something wonderful! I came back from the trip with a new energy and a feeling of accomplishment. 

My teacher, William, practicing his art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit with Gwen Fox in Taos

Gwen Fox is an extraordinary woman whose abstract paintings glow with inner light and compelling composition. I first fell in love with her work about ten years ago in a gallery in Colorado Springs and knew I had to meet her. So I signed up several years later for Gwen’s week-long painting workshop in Taos and loved every moment. Here’s a post from that 2012 workshop.

Gwen and I and have kept in touch since then, sharing ideas and conversations online. Yesterday, while I was in Taos, NM for the day, I got to visit her in person again.

Lyn and Gwen Fox in her Taos studio in front of a current painting that Gwen has done in oils on canvas.

I was so excited to see the new studio that she built herself – it’s completely inspiring and spiritually satisfying – a perfect space in a perfect place. It’s adjacent to her adobe house.

Everything on the inside and the outside has its place.

The view from her serene bedroom window is as layered as her paintings.

The bathroom sink in the studio is made from a rectangular piece of agate that glows with a translucent abstract landscape when you’re there and, er, sitting down.

And against the walls, Gwen’s painting glow with a resonant energy —

She has a video setup in her studio that I covet.

And here is the most exciting news that I learned from Gwen – she is filming and producing an extensive online class about painting and creativity that sounds amazing.It should be ready this fall and it is the first time her techniques and teaching/coaching expertise will be available online.

Be sure and get on her mailing list to hear more about it and gt updates – I honestly can’t wait for it.

I could go on and on about how much Gwen has influenced my work and my outlook, but I’ll let the video of her home and studio, below, reflect her amazing spirit.

Look for all the little touches she pulls together like grace notes in this home and studio space – like an antique Chinese chest in the pantry because she wants to look at something beautiful when she’s in the kitchen.

Lyn Belisle visits Gwen Fox in her Taos home and studio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I’m headed back to Texas tomorrow but I always feel inspired when I spend time with Gwen. Do subscribe to her list and follow her wise advice for every artist.

There’s something else that inspired me while I was here – fly fishing! I‘ll tell you about that in an upcoming post. It was a total surprise.

Collage, Composition and old Cape Cod

Home at last from a couple of weeks on the East Coast, mostly Boston, but one of my other favorite stops was the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Thats where I taught Friday’s workshop on Collage and Composition. Almost all of the participants had been at the 11th International Encaustic Conference the previous weekend, so they knew their way around hot wax. But many of them had not worked much with collage, which surprised me.

We had a great time working with my “AB3” system of composition arrangement. I’ve included a cheat sheet about what that means at the bottom of this post.

When I submitted the proposal to Cherie Mittenthal, artist and director of the encaustic conference, I told her the title was “Composition Boot Camp and Kick-Butt Collage.” She liked the proposal but suggested I tame the name a bit. I did, but everybody still made awesome kick-butt collages, as you can see in the video, below.

Lyn Belisle: Collage and Composition Workshop at the Truro Center for the Arts from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The AB3 System gets you started by using Alignment, Breathing Room, and Thirds to plan your initial arrangement. Here’s what the Cheat Sheet says:

A=ALIGNMENT – The direction a picture, element, or shape “points” – the best alignment directs the viewer’s eye into engagement with the message or focus of the work.

B=BREATHING ROOM – Allow your elements to establish a dialogue with each other. Leave enough space that there is a contrast between “quiet” and “busy.”

3’s=THIRDS AND THREES – Use the nine-space grid that photographers use to establish good “bones” for your piece, and think in odds rather than evens.

One of my students, Mary, lived in Wellfleet, very close to the Arts Center. Bill and I told her that we had tried to find the Wellfleet Harbor and ended up on this weird one-lane road that took us to an even stranger dead-end island. Mary said that we had obviously gotten lost and ended up on isolated Lieutenant Island – check out the road through the marsh and the creaky wooden bridge we drove across. EEK!

Special thanks to Bill for all of the great photos that I used in the workshop video. Most of the time I take all of the photos myself while I’m teaching and I never get to see myself! And thanks to the super-nice kick-butt workshop participants.

 

Sous Vide, Scott Bradshaw, and Seven Ravens Bake House

Scott Bradshaw’s Rum Cake (via Instagram)

The 11th International Encaustic Conference sessions in Provincetown are over, and we have had several free days before I teach my post-conference workshop tomorrow at the Center for the Arts at Castle Hills in Truro. So yesterday, Bill and I took a road trip to Plainville MA to visit his nephew, Scott Bradshaw.

What surprising and delightful experience! I knew that Scott was an expert and innovative baker who lived in a restored 18th century house, but WOW. I’ll show you some photos of his extraordinary house first, then talk about Scott’s culinary creations.

The house is at least two-and-a-half centuries old and has been lovingly restored and remodeled over the years. The previous owner was a chef who taught cooking classes in her kitchen, so the kitchen was ready and waiting for Scott when he bought the house four years ago. Scott has also expanded the herb garden and done some major structural reinforcement.

When Bill and I arrived, Scott was experimenting with caramelizing milk and dark chocolate using the Sous Vide technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.

Bill and Scott discuss the chemistry of cooking – Dingo is Scott’s helper

The Sous Vide setup

Scott’s kitchen – swoon . . .

Scott gave us a sample of some caramelized white chocolate that he had just done, and then we tried some of the ganache that he had made from it. Good heavens! It tasted like the essence of Tres Leches cake – delicious and addictive. I learned so much about the art of baking in our short visit – and you can learn from Scott, too!

He has a fantastic new blog called Seven Ravens Bake House.

Here you will find all kinds of recipes and techniques that are generally know only to the experts – of which Scott is definitely one!

He’s also a very entertaining writer who will make you laugh out loud with his dry humor. I definitely encourage you to subscribe to his blog for the writing, if nothing else. Although the latest post on making Cola Ganache is pretty interesting – cola ganache??

A special thanks to Dingo for being a fine co-host on this memorable visit – thanks, Scott and Dingo – we’ll be back!!

Woof!

Cathedrals and cheese

We left a week ago from Texas for a river cruise on the Rhine, and it’s been an extraordinary learning experience. I’ve never been on a cruse of any kind until now, and I’ve learned a lot about that environment. Very very interesting, still processing the wheat from the chaff. We’ll dock in Amsterdam tomorrow, home in a few days.

One of my goals on this trip was to shake up my design aesthetic by exploring some galleries and museums in the cities we visited. Unfortunately, the way the trip is structured, there’s not a lot of time for that kind of individual activity. However, there have been two experiences that will stay with me once I’m home.

The first was visiting the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. I was quite literally moved to tears as I approached it from the plaza. The structure defines the range and scope of inspired human achievement. And it’s still a work in progress. You can read more abut it here.

The second memorable experience was this afternoon’s trip to a family cheese farm near Kinderdjik, Netherlands.The Kaas- en Zuivelboerderij Kuiper (Cooper’s Cheese and Dairy Farm) is a family-run operation, now in its third generation. The farm makes gouda cheese using their own milk and starter enzymes that they buy from a commercial firm.

There is a sense of timelessness on this farm, and the rhythm of the seasons and generations resonates strongly. The cows were pretty wonderful, too. They stay inside during the cold months, but on the first day that they are allowed back outside, they go bonkers, according to the farmer, dancing across the fields and falling into the canals.

Cheese and cathedrals both take a long time in the making – and it all brought me back to my favorite saying about art, “Trust the process.” There is such beauty in every step that humans take in creating something that enhances the spirit, whether is a magnificent soaring structure or a creamy gouda from happy cows.

I’ll have lots to think about when I get home, but paying more attention to the process and less to the frantic rush-to-completion will be something I’ve learned on this trip. Home soon!

Leavin’ on a jet plane

I get to go on vacation!! Ten days of sightseeing on the Rhine River with friends and family. Gosh, I’ll probably come back with all kinds of ideas about castle-and-cuckoo-clock building workshops . . . and it really is going to be nice to get new creative inspiration in a completely different environment.

I’m taking my sketchbook and a little set of watercolors. Wonder if I can still remember how to draw? Wonder how fast we pass those castles? Better draw quick.

Pocket watercolor set – cute – wonder if you use an eyedropper for water?

Project on hold till I get back – the Talisman eBook. It’s finished, but I have asked pals Joanna Powell Colbert and Michelle Belto to review it for me while I’m gone. And since I have to close my Etsy shop while I’m away (and nobody can order talisman faces), it’s a good time to let it rest until I’m back at the end of April and can show it to you guys. You will love it, I’m hoping.

Some of the pages from the new eBook, which also has instructional videos – available May 1

Other projects on hold – summer workshops at little Studio Cinco. I’ll be listing those soon, but am still working on ways to let more more people to be able to sign up before all the spaces are gone. It’s a good, but worrisome, dilemma. Meanwhile, Lesta Frank and Michelle Belto are offering some great workshops – check ’em out.

I just bought a book at The Twig called “How to Pack” because most of the time when I travel, I’m schlepping around art supplies and have room for maybe an extra pair of jeans and t shirt. But this book came to the rescue and gave me all kinds of tips for being a well-dressed tourist:

Tips, pp 38-39

If the equation says I can wear only one pair of shoes at a time, it sure isn’t gonna be that pair at the top left. Can you imagine how your dogs would be barkin’ after a day walking along the cobblestones of Cologne in those?? I kinda like that hat and the sunglasses, though. Do you squash the hat up in your carry-on? Or just put it on your head and wear it on the plane? Hmmmm. . .

My number one travel tip is to look for a nice tall person to help me put the carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

Hopefully, I can send a signal from abroad – but if not, see you when I get back. Have fun at Fiesta, all you fellow San Antonions!

PS.  A shout-out to travel doc Mark Thornton for helping me get over the Dreaded Cough of 2017 and be ready for the trip – whew! That one had me worried.

 

 

 

 

 

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