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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Back from a week in the wilds of Washington

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I woke up Sunday morning to a temperature of 38F and a herd of elk lurking around the cluster of farm building where I was staying. It was the last day of the Spring 2017 Gaian Soul retreat, held this time at Cedar Springs Lodge and Farm, Skagit County, Washington, just south of the Canadian border.

The theme of the retreat was Tarot and Talismans. I taught talisman-making techniques, including beeswax applications on clay and fiber, and rolled paper/fiber/wax bead techniques. My dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, infused these techniques with mystery, magic and spiritual intent through her teaching of the Tarot. It was a perfect fit. We were all thrilled with the results.

I kept wanting to post pictures to SHARDS all of last week, but the internet connection was slow out there, so I just put a bunch of them into this video to share with you:

Tarot and Talismans from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I also put up a page on my website for the retreat participants with links to the supplies that we used in the workshop, and you are welcome to take a look, too!

Click this Tarot and Talisman link.

Making the beads was such a success that I want to offer it as a separate workshop at my studio later this summer. The talismans took quite a while to complete – three days of fairly steady work, but you can make several dozen spectacular beeswax, fiber and paper beads in an afternoon. Stay tuned.

beadsbanner

I hitched a ride with my friend Lisa Sanger Blinn from SeaTac airport to the Cedar Springs Farm, which is about a two hour drive. We visited the town of LaConner both coming and going. It has great galleries, restaurants and shops. The Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery is fantastic. And all around La Conner, we saw acres of daffodils that are being harvested for commercial florists. Most were not in bloom yet, but some were – spectacular!

And, yes, they grow in boggy soil. There were also fields of swans and snow geese.

Thanks to Lisa for showing me the sights – for a Houston girl who works at Rice University, she sure knows her way around the Pacific Northwest!

And more special thanks to Joanna Colbert Powell and the Gaian Soul circle of women for inviting me back to teach the talisman workshop – it was a wonderful week!

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Après-turkey Saturday, out and about

ASmith Gallery 103 N Nugent Ave, Johnson City, TX

I’m headed to Johnson City on this beautiful fall morning to take some work to Amanda Smith’s Gallery. It’s a new gallery for me, and I can’t wait to meet Amanda.

They specialize in photography, but do some amazing workshops with photoencaustic. The show I’m participating in is called, simply, “encaustic” – it opens December 17, 4-8 pm. Click this link to see all the accepted work. I especially like Sandra Carrion’s “Dragonfly.”

Sandra Carrion

Then it’s off to the Pearl for the San Antonio Clay Arts Festival.  I’m hoping that some of my favorite potters will be there, like Marcia Dahlman – love her work.

Marcia Dahlman

Marcia Dahlman

And then — TAH DAH – I’m going over to the new studio to do a little planning and a little art.  It’s so nice to have a comfortable space close to home to hold workshops and explore new directions for my own art. If you missed the newsletter yesterday, here’s a short video preview of the space – not quite settled, but almost.

A new place of creative belonging . . . from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Oh, if you did miss the newsletter, another exciting happening is an invitation-only trunk show and sale with Monika Astara on December 10th from 11am-1pm at my home. If you’d like to be on the list and get details and an invite, just email me.

Monika’s designs are perfect for the holidays – elegant and easy.

The icing on the weekend cake will be a Sunday get-together with uber-talented Michelle Belto – we are planning an exciting collaborative website for 2017 that will be totally unique.

Michelle and I have worked together for several years – here’s a video from one of our first collaborations – always fun to revisit.

I hope YOUR weekend is a happy one – thanks, as always, for keeping up with SHARDS and me!

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Round Top Report – Vivi Magoo at the Prairie

Historic Round Top home

The little town of Round Top, Texas (Pop. 1200) is friendly, charming, and enjoying an artistic Renaissance. I returned there this week to teach at the Vivi Magoo Art Retreat on the Prairielucky me!

When you go there, check out the Round Top Inn –  that’s where I got to stay. The Inn is really a collection of vintage farmhouses and cottages set on lovely grounds framed by oak trees and guarded by a huge furry black cat.

The main house porch

The breakfasts are yummy, too – organic and locally sourced. Here’s my Wednesday morning plate, a fresh tomato tart and sausage. Drool.

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I taught two all-day workshops, The Beauty of Beeswax: Behind the Vintage Veil (which includes collage composition and basic encaustic techniques) and Fabulous Fusion: Wax, Earthenware and Fiber Talismans (which included mold making, wax on earthenware, and assemblage techniques).

Here are two of the demos I did during those classes – you can get the idea of what we worked on from these photos:

Lyn Belisle: "Frisky Nun"

Lyn Belisle: “Frisky Nun”

Lyn Belisle: Wax, Earthenware, Fiber Talisman

Lyn Belisle: Wax, Earthenware, Fiber Talisman

But the real fun of these Vivi Magoo retreats is, of course, watching the students get excited by the process and create breathtaking work.  I am so happy when they take the methods I teach, adapt them for themselves, and then use them in their own spectacularly individual ways.

As you watch this video of both my all-day workshops, pay attention to the different directions that the participants take in their finished pieces. I always tell them there is more than one right answer, and each of them found a brilliant one.

To make the experience totally perfect, beautiful Barb Solem, the Vivi Magoo founder, invited me back for next year – yay! It was the best ending possible to a wonderful three days in Round Top, Texas.

Dixie and Karen make talisman magic!

Dixie and Karen make talisman magic!

Henkel Hall, where the workshops were held

Goodbye, Henkel Hall – see you next year!

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