Lift your spirit (dolls) in uncertain times – free for the making

Hello from a planet holding its breath, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. This is not the post I though I’d be writing.

However, when I got an thank-you message from a woman in France this morning, I decided to write a blog post that might be of help to those whose plans have rearranged themselves because of caution and semi-isolation. Read on.

Hilda’s message described her frustration with trying to purchase one of my my Kindle books from French Amazon. She had tried three times, and while she kept getting refunds, she really wanted the book.

I asked for her email and sent her the PDF version as a gift. Here’s the note she wrote back, with a translation:

Wow.  “Like all the French population, we are confined because of the Corona virus…this book will allow me to escape for a moment and not let myself panic.

Right after I read that, I got another message on my Etsy Shop site thanking me for a custom listing for her Spirit Doll faces and saying, “These faces will be therapeutic during these uncertain times.”

Finally a light dawneda perfect project for us might be creating and sharing a bunch of little Spirit-Lifting Dolls made from natural materials that remind us of simple endurance and resilience?

We can stay busy collecting materials. We can keep these small sculptures as reminders of hope, and also give them to friends to lift their spirits! This might be a good project for kids, too – it’s a bit old-fashioned, but that can be a good thing.

So here’s some free stuff that I’m sharing with you in in this post, hoping we can lift some spirits:

  • A free book from me on how to make a spirit doll – just click the link below to download the PDF:

Spirit Doll Book

  • A list of materials to make a Sprint doll – just click the link below to download the PDF:

Spirit Doll Materials List

  • A guide to making your own air-dry clay Spirit Doll faces with craft store materials – just click the link below to download the PDF. You can also make faces in many other ways – drawing on watercolor-paper circles, painting on rocks . . . .

Making Air Dry Clay Faces Instructions

  • A list of nice quotations about hope and encouragement to cut out and put inside your Spirit-Lifting doll or tie on a tag on the outsidejust click the link below to download the PDF:

SPIRIT LIFTING QUOTES

  • A fun video on “short-cut” Spirit Dolls made with wooden grilling skewers that you can make in half an hour – click on the image to open it in You Tube:

Hang on to these instructions and resources. You may want to come back to them in a few weeks if you’re not totally stir-crazy right this minute.

It may be that we will get deeper in to hunkering down and distancing for the good of all. If so, remember that you might feel isolated, but you are never alone – I’m sending all good wishes for you to keep your spirits up, your bodies healthy, and your creativity flowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beeswax and Clay: experimental play

Studio work is not all directed toward completed pieces of art – sometimes the best part is experimentation without expectations. Whether it works or doesn’t work, the results add to the body of knowledge about the subject at hand. I got to play a bit at my studio yesterday, and learned a few things.

I’ve been doing a lot of mixed media sculpture lately, and I wanted to play with beeswax on textured fired unglazed clay (bisque). The video camera happened to be set up above the work table, so you get to see what I was playing with.

This is not a tutorial at all – it’s just me, fooling around and making comments 🙂

I learned a couple of things from these experiments:

  • White clay is a better match for beeswax than red clay
  • Eucalyptus might be a better shade of walnut ink for this process because it’s not as intense as Terra Cotta
  • Heavily textured clay surfaces don’t take the beeswax as successfully as lightly textured surfaces
  • Photo-transfers on clay are not particularly beeswax-friendly because they are not porous enough due to the transfer process

New things I want to try because of these experiments:

  • Using the same technique on paper clay to test its absorbancy
  • Doing more intricate scoring and carving into the beeswax surface once it’s cooled on the clay
  • Heating the beeswax with a heat gun to “drive it” into the clay surface to see what happens to the finish
  • Adding metallic wax to the beeswax surface aft it has cooled.

I’ve filed this information away until I need it – probably at one of those “Aha!” moments when I realize that this technique is exactly what I need to complete a work in progress. Or maybe not! But everything you learn doesn’t have to be put to practical use – it’s OK to play.

 

Medical Miracles and Healing Art

I’ve just returned from two intense weeks San Diego with my brother, who lives in Austin. My brother (who is just 14 months younger than I am) needed a very critical and specialized operation, and UC San Diego Health is the worldwide leader for this procedure, called pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE) surgery. The surgery was – hooray –  a huge and miraculous success thanks to incredibly skilled doctors and expert staff.

If you’ve been through  a similar experience, you know that you spend a lot of time at the hospital waiting for results, which can be stressful. Fortunately, the UC hospital campus was a haven of healing, in no small part due to its art.

The Jacobs Healing Arts Collection is exhibited throughout the hospital, from hallways to patient rooms. The collection includes more than 150 individual pieces, including paintings, sculptures and digital photographs.

I spent many hours looking at the art and finding fascinating details that engaged me. This painting (above), Roses and Two Lemons by Manny Farber (1996) is an oil on board featured on the first floor of Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health.

Below is another piece that fascinated me – it’s a huge spectacular fiber sculpture/canvas behind glass that appears to have been made from partially cut canvas which was sliced into tiny “tiles,” then folded and gilded.

Take a look at a couple of detail photos, below. It’s hard to figure out how this was done, but the results are amazing – kinda like the surgery!

One more small collage by an elevator caught my eye  – it reminds me of our Citra-Solv workshops:

After having time to really look at these artworks, it occurred to me that true “healing art” does not mean “inspirational” posters of hands and sunsets and lotuses (although those can have their place).

The real curative power of creativity comes from authentic work by artists whose message is engaging and intriguing like those in the UC San Diego Hospital’s Jacobs Collection.

Even when we are most stressed and anxious, carefully curated art helps us think and question – how did the artist do that? What do those shapes mean? Why do those lines feel visually serene? How in the world did the artist mix that color?

It’s more than just a distraction or decoration – it’s a comforting connection to human creativity that is ageless and infinite.

It’s good to be back home. Thanks to the wonderful UC hospital and staff in San Diego for performing healing miracles!

And thanks to the artists who help us heal by keeping us focused on our universal humanity.

 

 

 

 

S____T Animals?*

 

My friend Leslie Newton and I are teaching a Spirit Animal workshop at the San Antonio Art League tomorrow, and I’ve been practicing!
I chose to experiment with the “slab method” of construction. It’s just what it sounds like. You roll out a slab of clay and cut out a shape. I made a paper pattern of a generic beastie with a neck and four legs, rolled out the slab, then textured it with a cool spiral wooden pattern tool.
The clay was all floppy, so I invented the  Belisle Toilet Paper Roll Animal Hanger/Dryer Box and draped him over it to shape him up. Necessity is the mother of invention, and he was too wet to stand up on his own.
Here are two of his cousins in the dryer box:
I used different methods of texturing the slabs – here is a rubber mat made for that purpose:
I cut out ears and tails to be attached later.
Everything was fired, and then assembled. I put walnut ink on this first fellow, and here is the result.
He’s whimsical and aardvark-like, and although don’t know what “spiritual characteristics” he might symbolize, he’s pretty cool. Now, onto the big question . . . . . .
*Why did I call this post “S____T Animals?”
Because that term is apparently very controversial. Here is a message I received from someone about the title and subject of this workshop shortly after I announced it:
Hi Lyn.  I just wanted to share this article with you, explaining why “spirit animal” is a harmful term. https://www.spiralnature.com/spirituality/spirit-animal-cultural-appropriation/
It was kind of a shock to realize that I was unintentionally indulging in serious cultural appropriation by using the term “spirit animal” which is all over pop culture. Living in San Antonio, we have such a blend of peacefully co-existing cultures here that I have truly not though enough about this.
What are your thoughts? It’s not a debate, just an enlightening discussion about how we can be more culturally sensitive in our art.

Wednesday Workshop

    Lyn’s demo piece, composition and collage workshop on Wednesday, September 18th

I love it when a group of friends organizes an afternoon workshop at my studio, especially if I have not worked with them before.

Yesterday, five such friends met for an afternoon of exploring composition, collage and beeswax – one of my favorite topics. It has something for everyone, no matter how experienced or brand new someone is to making art. Here’s the class outline:

  • Exploring Encaustic Collage is an all-level workshop designed to introduce you to simple encaustic techniques and layering.This popular workshop allows you to use your own images or studio images to layer stories through translucent beeswax and mixed media.

    The Project – create a narrative encaustic collage that tells a compelling story using photos and textures.

    The Process – create encaustic collages on substrates. Explore effective story-telling composition. Enhance the wax and images with mixed-media techniques.

    The Goal – enjoy learning about the beauty of beeswax as a mixed-media tool while developing your skills in collage composition.

We emphasized the practice of veining images with white tempera paint (which is beeswax friendly) to conceal, reveal and connect images and design elements. I promised one participant, who said she didn’t like any of her main images, that if she started working with the one she disliked the least, she would learn to love it. She did!

Mary Francine, collage detail

Here are some of the materials we worked with:

  • Images from copyright-free web sources, old catalogs, magazines, personal digital photos printed on plain paper, ephemeral scraps and partial images
  • Assorted collage paper, fiber, tissue
  • Substrate – 5×7”-8×10” archival mat board, 140-300# watercolor paper, Bristol board, heavy drawing paper
  • Glue sticks –Scotch permanent glue sticks if possible
  • White Tempera Paint – (note: this does not seal the substrate)
  • Dick Blick Matte White Acrylic
  • Graphite pencils
  • Flat paint brushes, 1”
  • Tsukineko Walnut ink
  • PrismaColor pencils
  • Small stencils
  • Rubber stamps, natural stamps (like bottle tops)
  • Stamping ink, black and/or brown
  • Mats for isolating compositional elements
  • White (clear) beeswax
  • Metal leaf
  • Book foil
  • Pigment sticks, wax metallic finish
  • Needle pottery tool or other incising tool
  • Scissors
  • Equipment for melting beeswax
  • Hake brushes

In the video below you can see the process and the results.

I wish you could have been with us during the final discussion and critique to hear the words of the artists as they explained how their stories developed while they worked on their collages.

This is an amazing exercise. You never know why you choose certain images intuitively until the whole narrative starts coming together and making sense. It’s kind of like choosing Tarot cards to find a message for yourself. Trust the process!

Pieces of possibility, found and handmade

Did you look for found objects today? Lots of people have been doing it, and they’re sending me photos of their great compositions. This one is by Marilyn Jones:

Marilyn Jones, found object composition

If you haven’t checked out our online Found Object gallery in a while, see what’s new HERE.

So what’s the next step? Sometimes it’s just enough to photograph them for the record, but you also might want to save them for a more fixed form as assemblage components.

I regularly combine found objects with small earthenware pieces (which were made for no particular purpose) to create assemblages. You can do the same thing with air-dry clay if you don’t have a kiln (see a couple of possibilities at the end of this post).

Here’s an assemblage example that I finished yesterday:

Some of the pieces are found, some made of clay, and some repurposed, like the old paintbrush.

I keep a couple of trays of unfinished clay shards handy so I can try various combinations, just like we’ve been doing with the found objects

Some are more complete than others, but they are all still just possible components.

Here’s a possible work in progress – it’s not even a “work” yet, just a “play.”

If you make these kinds of clay components, be sure to punch holes in strategic areas in case you want to attach them to other objects. I use various sizes of paper straws.

As I said, it’s easy to do this with air-dry clay, especially since these are small textured “shards.” It’s also a good way to test different kinds of air-dry clay and try out interesting textures.

This is one of my favorite air-dry clays. It’s inexpensive, and dries quickly, especially if you put your pieces on a paper plate out in the Texas sun to dry, That’s the only time I’m grateful for 100F heat! This paper clay takes paint and walnut ink very nicely.

And here’s something new that I’m just getting ready to tryMichael Tarricone wrote me about it:

Hi, Lyn –

I was wondering if you have seen the new Quick Cure Clay from Ranger Ink. I’ve been using it from a few weeks now and it’s really fantastic. It only dries when you apply heat with a heat gun. It dries rock hard in just a couple of minutes. It work beautifully in silicone molds, in face you can cure it in the mold.

Michael’s not associated with Ranger, he just liked the way the clay worked. I ordered some and will give you a report once I try it out this weekend:

If there’s a point to today’s rambling, it’s “don’t be afraid to mix the found with the handmade” – that synergy will often enrich both kinds of components, bringing order to the found and natural richness to the handmade.

Mixing found objects with the handmade components

TGIF! Hove a lovely weekend, and stay cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!