Happy International Women’s (art) Day

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

I’ll admit that I was curious about the origins of International Women’s Day – after all, shouldn’t every day be a day to honor women? And aren’t people always making up things like “National Milk Chocolate Day”?

But I  found out that this celebration is rooted in a long and honorable history of social activism. The first national Woman’s Day was held across the United States on February 28, 1909. Here is an excellent article from the University of Chicago on the origins and growth of IWD. It’s impressive.

Women in the arts have long known that there is a history of gender disparity in our cultural field. I’m old enough to remember the “Artist and Models Balls” where the guys were the artists and the women were their models. And the term “woman artist” (like, what – as opposed to a “real” artist?) is still common – but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Any race or gender qualifier that precedes the word “artist” can be both problematic and definitive.

Women have historically faced challenges due to gender biases, finding difficulty selling their work and gaining recognition. I love this Guerrilla Girls poster:

Times really are changing, though. I am so lucky to know scores of powerful women in the arts who are expressing themselves in diverse media with diverse voices. They are leading by example in the arts and in society. Check out this list on the GAGA website, for example!

Leading by example and possessing a gender parity mindset drive positive action and change. When diversity and inclusion are celebrated, equality thrives. Championing women’s equality across all spheres is very important.

Because the arts are close to my heart, I applaud my female friends who are making a difference through their unique creativity in every medium. Happy International Women’s Day!

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash


Studio visit: Linda Rael

If I had to name an artist friend whose artistic sensibilities most closely match mine, it would be Linda Rael. In fact, this is what I wrote in this blog in 2016:

I know of no other artist whose works resonate in my heart as much as those of dear friend Linda Rael. Everything she creates makes me think, “Dang, I wish I had done that.” She incorporates animal bones and porcupine quills and rust and earth and tattered linen and other stuff that myths and magic are made of. I purely love her art!

She Cat by Linda Rael – owned and cherished by Lyn Belisle

Yesterday, I finally got to visit her “new” studio near Boerne in the Texas Hill Country. Some of us from the Fiber Arts group toured her studio, and it’s a wonder any of us ever left – what a great place!

Take a look at the video, hot off the camera:

Linda creates figurative pieces. Soft sculpture and clay are the basic ingredients. They are highly embellished with embroidery, beads and found objects, including natural elements found on walks in the woods.I learned a new technique from her involving wax and fiber yesterday – it’s exciting! Seems like I’m always learning something from Linda.

She’s been published in all the best places:

  • Belle Armoire
    Somerset Studio
    Art Doll Quarterly
    Cloth, Paper, Scissors
    Quilting Arts
    Haute Handbags magazine

A lot of SHARDS readers know and love Linda as well. She creates quietly, constantly, and with cause, always with a nod to her native New Mexico. This quote by Milton Avery always reminds me of Linda: “Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms.” 

I took pictures of her inspiration boards while we were there – maybe some of it will rub off on me.

 Visiting other artists’ studios is such a great way to get an insight into their work and mindset. Linda Rael‘s studio is a remarkable place. Thanks, Linda, for your generosity and your spirit!

Linda Rael

“Although the relationship between humans and our environment is a serious subject, I attempt to approach it with humor and whimsy through my figurative work.”    ~~~~~~Linda Rael

Little spirits everywhere – and a little freebie, too

Spirit Doll by Zippy Smith

This spirit doll, above, was a present from my friend Zippy. The doll’s head is made from a burr acorn. She’s winking at me. I keep her on my desk to remind me to lighten up when I start taking myself too seriously!

Which leads me to the joy of Spirit Dolls in general, and how other artists use the spirit doll faces I make for my Etsy shop. I love getting photos of their work, and just received some new ones from Gainesville, Florida artist Regina Roper. Look at her fantastic creations!

Regina Roper

Regina Roper

Regina Roper

I asked Regina if she’d share her thoughts with us on SHARDS. She writes,

“I make 3D bead sculptures, vessels that I make the fabric for myself from loose fiber, boxes, just about anything that strikes me. My work is based in themes of goddess, myth, and legend.

The first photo is a piece called ‘Come the Spring, I am Reborn’. This is a small faery doll set into an alabaster base, she is reborn every Spring as the Crone turning to the Maiden and gets younger and more beautiful as the seasons turn until again in winter she must spin a cocoon and hibernate until Spring.

Her sister doll is called ‘The Bright Arc of an Afternoon’ and is a small faery with a goddess arc. The free sitting cloth doll is called ‘Caipora’. She is the Brazilian goddess of the wilds. She is a protecting force, she looks over the animals of the rainforest. In this version, she sits in the branch of a tree and guards a nest containing a single amethyst egg that represents the egg of an endangered Hyacinth macaw.”

These are so evocative of the changing seasons and are filled with personal meaning. Wow. Thanks, Regina!

Mt dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, has made a book about spirit dolls that she invites everyone to share. She is incredibly generous. I’ve posted the link before, but here it is again if the spirit starts to move you! How to Make a Spirit Doll.

And if you really want to get deeply into this fascinating craft, my DVD on the subject is not a bad investment! The Magic of Spirit Dolls is available from Artful Gathering.

If you’ve read this far, here is a little freebie for you – a digital collage I made this morning while I was playing with Photoshop. I think I was inspired by Laura Robert’s work at the Art League yesterday!

Click on the image to go to the download link. You can download this, play with it, put it on the front of a card – whatever! I’ll be making more of these to share in the near future. I hope it lifts your spirits!


The gift of Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

You’ve probably been told by lots of your friends, just back from vacation, about some place or other that you absolutely HAVE to visit, right? Well, add my name to that list. You absolutely HAVE to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. No kidding. It will blow you away.

Trinity University alumna Alice Walton of the Walmart fortune founded Crystal Bridges as a gift to the American people, and she did a spectacular job. The museum opened on 11/11/2011, and was celebrating its 6th birthday the weekend we visited. Bentonville is located in Northwest Arkansas, and you can fly in to their new airport from almost anywhere (Ms. Walton was instrumental in that airport, as well).

The art collection itself is spectacular, extensive and priceless. We asked out guide, Deputy Director Sandy Edwards, how much it cost, and she said “Alice doesn’t discuss the cost of a gift.” Chronologically arranged, the works span five centuries in three buildings constructed across a spring-deepened ravine.

Here are a few pictures I took that show the diversity of the collection – you can find many more online. Take this link to explore the collection.

Sculpture by Marisol

George Segal’s Men in Bread Line – he is the second figure

Children learning about early American landscape

The Indian and the Lily, George de Forest Brush

Evan Penny sculpture – “Old Self” – this self-portrait includes the artist’s whiskers embedded in the sculptural material

My friend Victoria photographs a huge fiber art piece by Ghada Amar

Hidden in Amar’s work are embroidered faces of women in distress

The architecture itself is nothing short of miraculous. The site is a difficult one, to say the least, and we loved the story of how Israeli architect Moshe Safdie partnered with Alice Walton to make this project a reality. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. You’ll get a feel for the personalities of both Walton and Safdie.


Here are a few more photos that show the architectural features.

Inside connects to outside visually – almost all of the outside walls are glass

The view across the lagoon

Art at Crystal Bridges does not stop at the walls. All along the trails are sculptures and structures. This is a photo James Turrell’s Skyspace installation.

Here is is from the inside – Bill and our friend Peter Jennings enjoyed the headed seats on a cold Arkansas morning. The circular opening in the top allows for contemplation, and at dawn and sunset, there is a light show along the walls that transforms the space.

Bill and Peter meditate about the Astros’ win at the World Series

Skyspace opening from inside


Obviously, I could go on and on about how impressed and delighted we all were with Crystal Bridges. There’s the Great Hall, the cool Gift Shop, the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Chihuly in the Forest exhibit. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped at a friend’s house, watching an interminable slide show of their vacation.

Just know that I loved this place for its art and architecture, and its special connection to the land. You will, too. Crystal Bridges really is a gift.

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture – I love this place!!





Monika and more – spectacular art-to-wear for fall

New from Monika Astara – Alison Jacket “Tapestry”

Monika Astara is one of those designers who makes everyone look good. Her garments are created individually from artful fabrics and her patterns are designed to flatter. If you have some of her designs, you understand, and you love them as much as I do.

Sooooo – I’m delighted to announce that Monika will be in San Antonio on Saturday, September 30, for a Trunk Show from 11-3. And she’ll have it in my home! Talk about convenient for me (and for you).

Monika is also getting pretty tech-savvy! She just sent me this short video of some of the things she’ll be bringing. Wow, love those silks!

MA Trunk show Invitation Sept. 30, 2018 from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

So here’s the deal – if you’d like an invitation to see this fabulous collection, just send me an email for directions and details. Monika always has deep discounts for my friends – woohoo!


But wait! There’s more!! My friend Mary Ann Johnson from the Fiber Artists of San Antonio has organized an evening with Doshi, nationally-known fiber artist who will be here to juror the annual FASA Exhibit.

Doshi creates exquisite hand dyed clothing in original designs that range from contemporary to traditional.  Shibori, an ancient Japanese textile dyeing process, is the method she uses for her artistic expression.  The technique uses knotting, pleating, rolling, pressing or sewing during the dyeing process.  The resulting designs are the memories of the method used to resist the dye.

Doshi’s wearable art is represented in numerous galleries across the United States.  Buyers are invited to browse the on-line catalogue or, better yet, come to the Trunk Show while Doshi is here in San Antonio!

It’s going to be so much fun seeing these new designs and getting a special look for fall. Fiber art-to-wear is everywhere this fall – look at this Artful Home collection. – but we will have a better selection right here in San Antonio at these two Trunk Sales.

Now, I’m off to the Fiber Artists meeting where we will be hearing from another nationally known artist, Elaine Lipson.  In 2007, inspired by the Slow Food movement, she began to form and write about the concept of Slow Cloth. Her textiles writings articulate links between food and fiber, the importance of sustainable and ethical production practices for artists, designers, and entrepreneurs, and the joy, contemplation, and connections inherent in any textile medium.

I can’t wait to hear her and see her work! Come join us at the Garden Center at 10:00 this morning if you want to learn more – it’s free, and guests are welcome.

Fall and Fiber Art go together like peanut butter and jelly, love and marriage, ham and eggs, Pancho and Lefty . . . . get your art on!



Revival! Workshop at the Art League studio opens new doors

Nine pioneering participants joined me on Sunday to test-drive the decades-old studio space at the San Antonio Art League & Museum.

Our workshop was called “Postcards to Myself” – it’s all about learning to trust the creative process without exactly knowing where it will take you – no preconceived notions allowed.

Here’s a little video of the intuitive work that the participants created during the three-hours session.

Lyn Belisle, “Postcards to Myself” -The First SAAL&M Workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The time together was fun and informative. One of the best parts was the feedback everyone gave about the space itself as a venue for workshops and art gatherings. We all are excited about its potential and had plenty of ideas for improving the old studio to make it even better. Our wish list so far . . . .

  • lots of skylights!
  • another bathroom!
  • more storage space!

I’m determined to find funding to make this studio space even more vibrant as it comes back to life. It would be a perfect place for guest artists, small lectures demonstrations, and beginning art classes. It’s already very accessible.

If you’re interested in attending another session of “Postcards to Myself” at the Art League Studio in the next month or so, send me an email. And stay tuned to what’s happening at The Studio of the San Antonio Art League & Museum by signing up for our newsletter here on our website.









I need your help with a logo design!

It’s time to update the media/branding look of the San Antonio Art League & Museum. Coincidentally,  I’m the new President and I love playing with logo design. So – aha! I get to create some new design ideas, and you get to help!!

Here’s the original design – it’s been around for years, but it doesn’t seem to reflect what we are – it’s fairly generic and undistinguished. It also has a drop shadow effect that’s hard to reproduce in print.

I like the way the old logo kept the word “ART” as the focus, so I used that in the new designs. But it doesn’t say much about the organization.

When you create a logo, you are creating a visual symbol that says “who we are.” At the San Antonio Art League & Museum, we are

  • guardians of a precious permanent collection of notable paintings that are exhibited several time a year
  • an active support organization for San Antonio artists. Our Members Gallery, opening in September, will feature work by area artists throughout the year
  • part of one of America’s most beautiful historical areas, the King William District

Getting all of that into one design is a challenge.

Here’s the first idea – The green color suggests the leafy environment in the area and the triangles add a contemporary touch. There is an architectural fragment used as a graphic element on the top right.

The next one is a clean contemporary design with a rendering of the Art League building in the circle.

This logo features my favorite vintage bronze color with an antique brush etching and a very contemporary font.

The last idea has a classic column on the right side and a paint spatter on the left side. Designers have a saying that says “purple pulls” so this one is purple, but I’m not sure about that.

You can take this link to tell me what you think about each logo, or just tell me which one you like the best. You don’t need to be an artist to choose what you like – in fact, that sometimes complicates the choice!

If you are an artist, I’m open to suggestions – if you have a design that you think works better, send it along to me via email and I will give you TWICE what I earn as the SAAL&M graphic designer. Lucky you!!

And if you are a SAAL&M member, these logos will go out in tomorrow’s newsletter for you to vote on. It definitely takes a village to support a beloved non-profit art organization like the San Antonio Art League & Museum!




An experimental workshop venue: the San Antonio Art League studio – everything old is new again!

Do you have a pioneering spirit? Join me on August 20th at the venerable King William Street home of the San Antonio Art League and Museum for a workshop.It will be held in their old studio building that’s not been used for teaching in a VERY long time.  We’ll test-drive the space and see how it works!

The workshop is called “Postcards to Myself.”  It’s a mixed-media exploration of everything from composition to mark-making to collage to encaustic in just three hours.

Here’s the story behind this workshop:

  • As President of the San Antonio Art League & Museum, I want to help make it an engaging and lively organization for local artists
  • That means that we need more members and more exposure
  • Workshop bring new people to the group
  • Voila! New members, new energy! People come to make art and talk about art!
  • And, as with all non-profit arts organizations, we need money, so I’ll be donating all workshop proceeds to the Art League.

So here’s what I want you to dosign up for the workshop if you’re interested.

If it is sold out, go to this link to add your name to the SAAL&M email list to be notified of the next one.

And please go to this link to join the San Antonio Art League & Museum. You’ll get discounted workshops as well as eligibility to exhibit in our new Members Gallery.

San Antonio Art League & Museum 130 King William, San Antonio, TX 78204

Everything old is new again!!

(Note to friends who teach workshops – if this works out as well as I hope, you can contact me to use this studio space for your own workshops if you will consider giving a portion of your tuition profits to the San Antonio Art League & Museum.)



Indigo + paper + beeswax = kimono construction

For a while now, I’ve wanted to go back to basics with some of my favorite simple materials:  paper, beeswax, indigo and walnut ink in new ways and combinations.

And I’ve wanted to revisit my beloved kimono format that brought me such joy and success in the past. Here’s one of those pieces, a large-scale origami construction called “Luna,” done in about 2003.

But I didn’t want to revert to exactly the same process. So I am experimenting with natural indigo and mulberry paper which I’ve painted and stamped with pure beeswax, much like the traditional batik technique, but on paper rather than fabric. As far as I know, no one is working quite this way, but I thought it would be a great material to fashion into small kimono constructions.

The new kimonos pieces are not completed yet – I’m still working on them for an exhibit in August (Susie Monday, this is the process I was describing to you) – but I thought I’d share what I’m doing with the indigo paper and beeswax surface design.

This is the indigo dye vat. I chose a rectangular container instead of a round bucket because I wanted to submerge the mulberry paper without crumpling it. (Mixing indigo is a whole ‘nother subject. Jacquard has a pre-reduced indigo that makes it easier.)

I used a heavily-textured white mulberry paper, and painted it with natural beeswax. Sometimes I stamped on the wax with random found objects. Here’s what it looks like before the dye.

And here’s what it looks like after the indigo dye bath process.

The varied blues are wonderful, and the wax gives the paper a very different feel. Here are some other samples, some with terra cotta walnut ink added.

One of the neat things about working with mulberry paper rather than fabric is that you can control how the paper “frays.” If you run a stream of water on the edges, the fibers fall apart, giving a wonderfully organic look.

I’ve sketched the kimono forms and have decided to add some of the paper and wax beads that I used in the Talisman Workshop. It will be a great combination – I hope!

Once the pieces are finished, I’ll post them here on SHARDS. In the meantime, this kind of creative play with paper and indigo is such fun! It’s even red, white and blue! Sorta.

Happy 4th, everyone!! Thanks for reading SHARDS.







Artful Gathering students shine – take a look at their work!

One of my favorite teaching gigs is the online summer Art Retreat called Artful Gathering. It’s an international gathering of artists, teachers and students who come together to “find their wings.”  I’ve been teaching classes there for the last five years, but this session has to top them all.

The class is called Natural Expressions. I designed it to introduce the process of combining beeswax, pigments and hand-enhanced papers with vintage photos, particularly of families. Well, wowzers! Did they ever find their wings with this project!

I’m sharing (with their permission) some of the work these students are doing and the notes they are making about these very personal pieces pieces. You will be inspired, as I was.

This first portrait collage with beeswax is by Theresa Kent of her grandson, Ezekiel.

Theresa writes, “Here’s my first attempt. This is my grandson, Ezekiel. I used the stencil with walnut ink on rice paper. I added a piece of lace with encaustic and then waxed the outside to add deeper color. Then I added the final touches. Love this process and will be working on more soon. I’ve got lots of vintage photos I want to play with. “

Next is a gorgeous piece by Lorelei Crandall.

Lorelei says, “This is a portrait of my daughter. I manipulated the photo a little in Photoshop to remove the background, then made it a sepia tone. The numbers are glued on and are made of cardboard and painted. I used prismacolor pencils, inks, stamps and stencils on the photo and the frame. I waxed over the raised numbers ( ended up removing some excess wax), and fused all of it”
What great ideas!!

Here’s another piece by Lorelei – I think she’s found her medium!

She writes: “Here is my first attempt using a family photo of my husband’s grandfather when he worked on the railroad in Iowa.  The numbers represent the numbers on his cap. I added a collage of train tracks ( printed on tracing paper) from Flikr commons, and a conductor’s watch. The frame paper is rusted. I used stamps, etching into the wax, inks, and adding color to the encaustic medium.”

Next is a very poignent piece by Kate – not a relative, but a person from the past whom she was touched by.

Kate says, “The photo is copyright free, of a woman in Clonmel, Ireland.  It was taken in 1937 by a doctor.  The woman, perhaps named Mrs. Casey, had a skin condition called Pellagra.  Her face haunts me, and I created this piece in honor of her.”

Catherine Howe is creating a series of family collages with beeswax and mixed media, each one unforgettable.

Catherine says, “This is my dad Estes (child that looks like a girl) with his two brothers.  The quality of this photo is very poor.  I did the best I could do with it.  I loved the little overalls and hats on the older boys.  Very few pictures were taken of my dad’s family.  So what I have are very precious.  They lived in rural Colorado and their father was a stockherder (word used on census).  He was a real cowboy raising cattle to sell in Denver, CO.”

This is Catherine’s mother, Billie, when she was a little girl – notice the wonderful textures on the mat.:

Another great piece from Catherine:

She says, “This is a picture of my mother’s Uncle Byron when he was little (on the right).  Byron was really like a brother to my mother.  This was probably taken in Nebraska.  I do find coloring the picture does help to highlight the images.”

Kim Smith did this piece – she works kind of like I do, using the process as a series of studies to explore the possibilities.

Kim writes, “This is a 5×7 collage on mat back with stamping, ink, pencil and beeswax. Working on several of these and will make frames for one I like best. Great class, thank you!”

Aren’t these pieces amazing? There are more to come – I’m in awe of (and inspired by) my students.

There’s still more than two weeks left in the class, enough time for you to jump in if you’re interested. We have many lively discussion and lots of tips to share as we work. Just go to the Artful Gathering link to check out this class and all the others.

I’m also teaching an assemblage class called Sacred Serendipity in the second session which starts July 16th.

Now I’m headed back to the studio where I’m working on some indigo-dyed paper  wait till you see what that looks like – it’s coming up! Stay cool!