Add your work to Found Objects Online Gallery – free and fun!

I’m collecting some great photos of found object compositions from people who took the Seven-Day Challenge to sharpen their observational and composition skills. And our online gallery is up and running, ready for you to submit your own arrangement photos. Click on the cover, below, for the catalog in progress.

This is the latest composition. It’s from Virginia Bally – she found and collected the objects while working in her beautiful Hill Country garden.

You can read the guidelines hereand you can even bend them a bit if you just can’t wait seven days to collect your stuff :).

When you submit your photos, I’ll make a section for you (up to two photos each time) and will link to your website – all free. This is the best kind of sharing – inspiring each other with our own aesthetic choices and styles.

Found Objects Challenge Guidelines

Found Objects Composition Online Gallery

From Spark to Finish

Finding time to work on pieces to submit for juried shows is definitely a luxury these days, but I’m always looking for the spark of an idea that might work for an interesting “Call for Entry.”

So I got an idea last week for  the upcoming Fiber Artists of San Antonio show based on a piece I did for a show at St. Mary’s University in February. It was a standing screen sculpture with silk ribbon pieces on the surface. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

I made a very rough drawing in my sketchbook with tag-shaped objects that might have faces on them to be printed on linen and then attached to a new screen structure.

You can see the word “beeswax” under the sketch – honest, that’s what it says. But I wasn’t thinking about encaustic at this point, focusing on fiber instead.

I decided to use the faces in this 1936 photo of children in the Netherlands who were living in poverty – isn’t it haunting?

I adhered a piece of linen to some freezer paper that was cut to 8.5 x 11″ and then opened the photo in Photoshop, edited it for a sepia tone, and ran it through my printer. Once the freezer paper was peeled off, I tore two of the photos apart and adhered those to some rice paper. Here they are:

They looked good – and then I got stuck. They really weren’t right for the screen idea – too strong, too something. Days passed. Then I remembered the piece I had just written about, the one at the Museum of Encaustic Art with the faces of young girls working in poor conditions but looking both brave and resigned.

I hadn’t planned on making an encaustic piece from these faces, but coincidentally, the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe has a current call for entry called Global Warming is Real. All of a sudden, I could visualize these children’s faces looking through a window  onto a world where crops fail, oceans rise, and humans suffer devastation.

In the studio, I built a panel frame and added layers of wax and tissue with words of warning about climate change collaged around the edges. I waxed the linen and rice paper images. When the children’s faces were added, the piece worked as an expression of the theme. I call it “The Last Window.”

You can see in these details how well the linen works with the beeswax:

My beloved professor, the late sculptor Phil Evett, once told me that if an idea isn’t working, it’s not about the idea, it’s about where it belongs. In his case, he was talking about a carved head that had sat in his studio for 20 years until he finally found the right piece to attach it to.

In my case, these compelling children’s faces belonged in a mixed media encaustic and fiber collage about a critical environmental concern. It just took me a while to figure it out.

So let’s keep making those sketches and creating small shards of ideas – they will let you know where they belong! Oh, yeah, and I’ll let you know if “The Last Window” is accepted for the exhibit! (The deadline for submitting is tomorrow).

Thanks for reading SHARDS today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two cool things – take a look

Hi, Everyone . . .I have two cool things for you today!

Thing One is a link to the most comprehensive catalog of encaustic artwork available, and it’s free to peruse online. It’s published by the Museum of Encaustic Art, which I described in my last post. The catalog is for the encaustic exhibition called 50 States/200 Artists.

Here’s the link – you will need Adobe Flash to be able to flip the pages.

Catalog Cover

Sample page with encaustic artists from New Mexico

Sample page with encaustic artists from Texas

My pal Michelle Belto and I are both in the section representing Texas – yay!!

If you can’t find something to love about encasutic art within this catalog of almost 200 pages, then exploring that medium just isn’t your thing.

So what if your thing is fiber art and stitchery? — well, hold onto your needles and watch this.

COOL THING TWO: THE AMAZING PATTERN WIZARD

Let’s say you want to embroider a jacket with a portrait of Frida Kahlo on the back (crazy, I know, but play along). You have a photo that you want to use:

So how do you figure out a diagram showing you how to cross-stitch this complicated design?? Just go to the Stitchboard Pattern Wizard. Upload your photo, and voila!!

It even gives you the numbers of the colors of cotton thread you’ll need to buy.

So I realize not everyone is going to run out and embroider this, but think of the possibilities of simplifying a color photo – you could do a beaded portrait of your cat using this kind of diagram – or your could paint it with dots!

Again, here’s that link: Stitchboard Pattern Wizard

I hope you enjoy these two cool things – I’m going back to the studio to work on a new video workshop – stay tuned!

And thanks for reading SHARDS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enacustic! Wax and creativity in Santa Fe . . . .

We just got back from a long weekend in Santa Fe, and one of my must-visit places is the Museum of Encaustic Art on Agua Fria Street near the Railyard Arts District. The museum and gallery was founded by Douglas Mehrens in 2005 and is a great place to learn more about the ancient/contemporary medium of wax as a medium in all art forms.

Doug was there when we arrived at the museum, and I was really happy to see that he had one of my photoencaustic pieces, El Paso 1910, by the front entry. That piece is part of the museum’s permanent collection, which contains and preserves over a hundred works of encaustic art.

Lyn Belisle, El Paso 1910, Encaustic and Mixed Media, 2016

Much like the San Antonio Art League & Museum, the MEA contains both a museum and a gallery space for current exhibitions. On view in the gallery is a show called “NO CREATIVE BOUNDARIES: ANYTHING GOES.”

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the exhibit – there were lots of ideas to steal! (Steal Like an Artist!)

There were so many inspiring pieces in the exhibit and in the permanent collection that I decided to put together a slideshow of about 25 of them, which you can see on my website by clicking on the image below.

Even if you are not an encaustic artist, or an artist of any kind, you will undoubtedly enjoy the images as creative statements made with wax. CLICK BELOW.

Images from the Museum of Encaustic Art

I hope you’ll visit the MEA when you’re in Santa Fe – there’s so much art to see there, but this is a special place with an unusual focus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax and Clay Talisman mini-workshop

Last week my friend, fiber artist Mary Ann Johnson, arranged a workshop for a small group of four, including her sister Rosalie who was visiting from out of town. The other two participants were artists whose work I have long admired – so it was a very creative afternoon!

This is a workshop that I’ve taught before, but always love, because of the variety of techniques. We worked with clay, paper, wax and fiber to make personal talismans. One of the most amazing parts of the process is rolling paper into beads, then (optionally) adding fiber for texture before painting them with beeswax.

Jean Dahlgren, one of the participants, brought some of her fabric beads (top right in the photo above), and they also took the beeswax beautifully.

One of the nice things about these beads is that you can write a secret message along the inside of the paper before tightly rolling the strip. Rosalie chose to make her beads very simple, without fiber embellishment, so she can see the structure better.

When we started working on the clay faces, some of us chose to add only walnut ink to emphasize the contours, and others added beeswax and metallic finished – bling. The formula for a raku-like effect is a bottom coat of silver, another of blue metallic, then red metallic, then gold metallic to blend all of the layers together randomly.

The handmade beads were strung on strands of Sari silk and sinew.

As an added attraction, we made simple paper origami boxes to hold our beads and our clay faces.

Besides making wax and paper beads for their talismans, workshoppers brought meaningful objects to tie into the silk and sinew strands. Rosalie added charms symbolizing each of her children and family members.

See how her Family Blessing Talisman turned out, filled with magic!

Speaking of blessings, there’s nothing more wonderful than creating meaningful work with a group of like-minded friends. Thanks, Mary Ann, for requesting this workshop!

Email me if you’d like to suggest a small-group workshop at my studio, and if you’d like to play with your own clay talisman faces, you know where to find them! Yep, my Etsy shop, Earthshards.

Stay cool and creative!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milagro moments

No matter how busy things get, I can always steal a few minutes to spend in my little in-house clay studio (usually in the very early morning when it’s still dark). There is such comfort and calmness in claywork, kinda like meditation.

The space is about 7×10′ – it’s very cozy. I can slip into my chair at the clay table and lose myself in the comfort of hand building earthenware when there’s an extra 30 minutes or so.

A couple of weeks ago I had a Milagro Momentaha! You know, or course, that milagros (miracles) are those little charms that adorn altars and artwork all over the Southwest and Mexico. What if I made a clay press mold from milagros just like I do from cemetery faces? I could fire it and use it for all kinds of milagro textures.

This is how it turned out.

Here is an unfired earthenware heart taken from the press mold – I sanded it to refine the shape.

Now that I have the press mold, I can use it for lots of handbuilding projects like the small heart-shaped shard pockets that I’m making because they take a comparatively short time to create – see the one on the right:

I can also incorporate the clay shape into other assemblages. This one, a personal altar adornment was finished last night.

The detail that clay can replicate is pretty amazing – I’m using Longhorn White with Grog to form the press mold and firing it to Cone 05.

Small Milagros-patterned ring dish

Making clay objects has been my go-to comfort practice since the late 70’s when I took handbuilding classes from Jerry Alexander at the old San Antonio Art Institute. Some of you remember that time!

So getting grounded by working with earthenware always helps me find those Milagro Moments – new ideas that keep the enthusiasm for the next creative experiment alive and well. So, what’s YOUR next Milagro Moment??

Milagro Heartshard with branches

 

 

 

 

Another opening, another show!

This is a follow-up to the Borderland post – the GAGA group show titled “A Certain Sense of Her” opened yesterday at the Coastal Bend College Gallery in Beeville, Texas.

In this photo, you are viewing the “quilt” sides of the paintings. Don’t they look amazing? Kudos to Sylvia Benitez and her GAGA installation crew for this great display.

You may remember that I was working on the reverse side of my “Borderland” painting in a recent post.

I decided to intersperse photocopied newspaper stories about the struggle on the border with canvas fragments from the palette I used while painting the front.

This is how it came out.

You can see it on the middle left in the installation photo at the top of this post. It makes a strong statement about the chaos on the border in a very different way that the painting itself does, like two sides of the same coin:

I wish I could have been in Beeville yesterday! But fortunately, Sylvia and the GAGAs posted a video of the installation. Just go the the GAGA homepage and scroll down to the video on the right. You’ll get a great inside view of the scope and drama of the installation.

I am so proud to be a part of this talented group of women!

 

Evolution of a painting: Borderland

The amazing Sylvia Benitez, founder of the Gentileschi Aegis Gallery Association, (GAGA) has devised a new group painting installation for the COASTAL BEND COLLEGE Gallery in Beeville.

Individual artists first create a maquette (scaled study) of a painting that might be cut into quilt squares – here’s mine, with notes, which was completed several months ago:

Lyn Belisle, Maquette for Quilt Project

This was the small sketch for the larger painting in close-up – it was just a general idea that I hoped to develop somehow — in my notes on the maquette, I wrote, “I have come to rely on synchronicity, intuition, and collective unconscious” – in other words, I try to trust the process and the concept will emerge.

The next step was to create the painting itself, a 20×20″ work on unstretched heavy canvas with six coats of Gesso. One of Sylvia’s brilliant ideas was to use a separate canvas for the palette, which could them be cut up into a quilt design that would reflect the colors in the painting.

Working from my initial composition, I started the painting, laying our blocks and texture:

At this point, I posted on Facebook that I liked the palette better than the painting! You can’t go wrong with Quinacridone Gold and Payne’s Gray!

Then the painting got to that stage where things get murky and uncertain – I had imaged that it would be misty and soft, but more geometric shapes seemed to be called for.

I almost stopped here. The painting was pretty – but that’s ALL it was. There had to be more . . .

Immediately, I knew there need to be a large dark block on the left — a WALL:

I realized that the painting was becoming the abstract representation of a borderland in turmoil – fences, walls, wire, smoke. Just yesterday I had seen photographs of a bulldozer at a protected butterfly sanctuary on the Mexico border.

Here is the finished painting, titled Borderland:

I am so grateful for the intuitive guidance that helped me express the frustration I feel about divisions and conflict. It’s cathartic to paint it through. Every little dab and brushstroke in the finished piece now has new meaning for me.

The next step will be to cut up the painted scrap palette I used, and create a quilt collage on the back side of the canvas. I’ll post a photo for that when it’s done.

Sylvia’s vision for our GAGA group show, A Certain Sense of Her, should play out well at the Coastal Bend Gallery – can’t wait to see all of the quilted-inspired paintings on site!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art from 40 years ago – and a lesson about archival media

I just came across a portfolio of old mixed media drawings that I hadn’t seen in decades. The year was 1978. I was teaching art at MacArthur High School and working part-time as an illustrator.

Even though these nine pieces are 40 years old, I can still see my style in development – narrative work, limited palette, graphite. And there are lots of Jasper Johns and Larry Rivers influences, which I cherish today.

Each piece is fairly large, 18″x24″. The are done with Ebony pencil, watercolor, even spray paint. Most of the drawings are in good shape – however . . . .

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One of my favorite pieces is the mixed media drawing titled “Delta Dawn,” from the Tanya Tucker song:

“She’s forty-one and her daddy still calls her “baby”
All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy
‘Cause she walks downtown with a suitcase in her hand
Looking for a mysterious dark-haired man. . .”

Unfortunately, I created this layered piece on manilla paper, which is made from wood fiber and is anything but archival – you can see on the left side how it’s crumbling and disintegrating.

More severe deterioration can be seen in this untitled piece of a mysterious guy floating on what appears to be a dream-catcher:

In 1978, I had no idea that I’d be looking at this work 40 years later, but I’ve certainly learned a lesson about archival paper! These days, we can photograph old works and “repair” them digitally, but it’s always a good idea to think ahead and use a substrate that will stand up to time.

Here is a great article on archival paper from Making a Mark blog – I wish I had read it 40 years ago. Oh, wait, there was no Internet back them . . . .