Ancient indigo, heroic weeds, and instant rust

But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last. ~Robert M. Pyle

“Indigo Weeds: Elegant”
6×6″
Lyn Belisle 2018

Weeds are my heroes. They are tenacious, enduring, simple, and elegant. “Indigo Weeds” is my new series of small works celebrating these wild, determined plants that are the ultimate survivors.

Here is the series of four finished pieces:

Process: I made enhanced photographs of weeds, then phototransferred them onto sections of torn canvas dropcloth from my studio.They were designed to be stitched into place on a cloth-covered stretched canvas.

It seemed appropriate to build these little fiber works on canvases covered with fabric that was hand-dyed with indigo (a plant related to beans) and then rusted with common metal objects. I liked the nature-inspired symbolism.

Hand-dyed indigo cloth for the covering was no problem – I had plenty left from teaching previous workshops on dyeing with indigo. Remember this one?

But rusting the cloth afterwards can be tedious. It has to be done after the indigo dyeing so it won’t corrupt the indigo vat. I first tried my usual method – wrapping rusted objects in the vinegar-soaked indigo cloth after sprinkling a layer of salt on everything, then leaving it overnight sealed in a plastic bag. Time-consuming . . . .

As always, the results are unpredictable, but that’s part of the appeal of the process.

However, I had a real AHA! moment in the middle of all this – wouldn’t terra cotta walnut ink mimic the rust effect? And it might be an even more appropriate material to use because it is plant-based!

Here are photos of the walnut ink being sprayed onto the indigo cloth – I used rust objects and found objects to create patterns.

TIP: If you scrunch up the walnut-ink-sprayed fabric while it is still damp, it will soften the pattern edges and give a more natural result.

Side by side, fabric rusted with oxidized iron objects (left) and fabric “rusted” with plant-based walnut ink (right):

The walnut ink finish is not a washable process for garments and will fade (as will “real” rust) but I love it because it is fast, engaging, slightly more controllable, and – plant-based!

For my purpose – celebrating the tenacious, adaptable, unbeatable weeds of the world  – it’s perfect!

The Indigo Weeds series will be available at the Pop-Up Gallery at SAY Si during the 44th Juried Fiber Arts Exhibit at Say Si Art Gallery, located at 1518 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78204. Art will hang December 7, 2018 to January 25, 2019.

Oh, and guess who got into the show?? Yep, Boro Horse! You can see him, too, when you come to the FASA exhibit! 

Happy trails!

Lyn Belisle
“Boro Horse” 2018

 

 

 

 

Wax and Words, Paper and Clay, Danielle and the Magic Bus

The Wax & Words Workshop interactive video eBook is live and available on my website! Since I’ve talked about it so much, that’s all ya need to know! Thanks to those of you who have reviewed and purchased it 🙂

Click on the image above to find out more – and thanks to Dani for her review:

“Hi Lyn, I really enjoyed your Artful Gathering workshops this summer and ordered the DVDs. I’m looking forward the Wax and Words workshop ebook next. Thank you for making these workshops available to those of us unable to attend your classes in San Antonio.”

And now, ONWARD! About paper clay — Leslie Newton (of the San Antonio Potters Guild) and I are teaching a workshop this Saturday at the San Antonio Art League on paper-infused clay. This is a new clay product for me. It’s not the same stuff as Creative Paper Clay. This is porcelain or earthenware clay body combined with paper fibers, and needs to be kiln-fired. Leslie mixes her own and fires it to about 2200F.

Graham Hay is one of the foremost potters currently working with paper clay

I used Leslie’s clay mixture to make some small ornamental examples for our workshop. I fired mine to 1900F and got some nice porcelain-like results.

Ornament assortment made by moi with paper-infused clay (and finished with walnut ink, of course)

Apparently, there are a lot of different formulas for paper-infused clay. Last week I went to Roadrunner Ceramics and bought a 25-pound bag of their “bone paper clay.” It’s weird stuff, more fiber-y than Leslie’s mix. It’s quite squishy and pulls apart in ragged layers.

Here are some pictures of the good and bad things I found out as I worked with the clay – because it has paper fibers, it can get stinky black mold in the clay body (which you can spray with Clorox to kill). However, because of those fibers, you can work with very thin slabs of clay!

And here’s my first experimental piece with that paper clay formula from Roadrunner:

Experimental piece made with bone paper clay

Some of the edges look as delicate as paper, but they are sharp because they’re fired clay! I believe the fiber burns away in the kiln leaving just the clay-coated texture.

In a SHARDS post last year called “Lotus and Clay”, I mention that Leslie and I love Roadrunner Ceramics as our go-to clay store now that Clay World has closed.

Even if you’re not a potter or ceramicist, they are super nice to their customers and encourage questions from everybody.

OK, I’ve saved the best for last. When I was looking around for materials about using paper-infused clay, I came across potter Danielle Bluestone of Magic Bus Studio – you gotta watch this – she is my new hero.

There is no way to follow Danielle’s act, so I’ll just say, “Bye for now.”

Metaphor and Nostalgia at the Carver

Congratulations to Michelle Belto and her seven fellow artists for a visually diverse, culturally rich exhibit called Exchange Project now showing at the Carver Community Cultural Center until September 14th. I strongly urge you to make time to see it.

The premise is fun – what was your childhood San Antonio telephone exchange name? Taylor? Pershing? You could tell where your friends lived by their phone number prefix. Exchanges defined both the geographic and demographic qualities of those San Antonio neighborhood.

Each artist in the exhibit expresses an authentic sense of childhood and local  neighborhood, and each one is different in both media and metaphor.

Some of my favorites:

Bernice Appelin-Williams addresses directly the advertising of the 50’s which often used African-American stereotypes in soap ads, wanting to “wash themselves white.” One of her most compelling pieces is titled “Seeds.” In her statement, she says, “Seeds are a sacred metaphor for life and renewal, it is the gift of life for those seeking/wanting; plant the seed of distrust, of sub-human, and one is denied the kind of life that is full of energy, full of hope.”

Laura Mijangos provides a visual contrast with her paintings, which are mysterious and misty, much like childhood memories. Again, the metaphor – an infinity sign floating like a jump-rope above the paint-veiled child.

Viewers could spend forever exploring Diane Mazur’s large mixed-media collage which is filled with symbols and memories of her childhood house at 400 Mandalay Drive. I loved its complexity and composition, its constructed levels.

And it’s no secret how much I love Michelle Belto’s work. She chose to construct a “neighborhood” of three-dimensional houses with wax and mixed media, each with its own clues about the inhabitants. Michelle is a marvelous artist and creative craftsman.

Other artists have equally compelling work in The Exchange Project – RitaMarie Contreras, Thelma Muraida, Patricia Ortiz, Sandy Whitby. This exhibition is delightful, thoughtful, and diverse.

Please go see it, especially if you grew up in a San Antonio in the 50’s and 60’s – but the work truly speaks to everyone on every level. There’s plenty of parking around the Carver, and it’s easy to get to.

EXCHANGE PROJECT

Now through Sept 14th

Carver Community Cultural Center
MAP Directions
226 N Hackberry
San Antonio, TX 78202. San Antonio

(210) 207-7211.

 

 

W&W2 Workshop report

Give a bunch of cool poets some hot beeswax and whaddya get? A very nice collection of encaustic collages!

I taught another Wax & Words workshop at my studio yesterday at the request of Pamela Ferguson, who wanted to share the beeswax collage techniques with some of her writer friends.

I was curious to see if their work emphasized words more than images and how well they would do with asemic writing – after all, they are in the creative vocabulary business. As usual, there was a eclectic mix based on each participant’s perception and focus.

The trick to doing best-practices encaustic college is to use adhesives that don’t block the absorption of the beeswax. Acrylic medium won’t let wax penetrate, so that’s out. I often use glue sticks to attach paper to the substrate before waxing, and asked the participants to try a relative new product called  Elmer’s Re-Stick Glue Sticks.

The results were just so-so. Edges kept peeling up before we applied the beeswax and needed more glue, but the glue stick did allow us to shift things around a bit before permanently attaching them. I think I’ll stick to my tried and true favorite, Scotch Permanent Glue Sticks.

We also made sure that all of the paper we used was absorbent so the beeswax would not just sit on the surface of the collage elements. All of this info will be in the video Wax & Words eBook, which should be available in a couple of weeks on my website..

When you watch the workshop video, below, you’ll see the richness the writers brought to their Wax & Words collages. And you’ll also see the completely individual approaches to the task. Always amazing – – –  !

Wax & Words Workshop, Take Two from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Open for Artful Business!

Registration for Artful Gathering opened yesterday – yay! That means I can finally tell you about my two new workshops, never taught before on this planet! (They are supposed to be secret until registration opens).

This year’s theme for the Artful Gathering online “summer camp” is celebrating the Southwest, so the first workshop I designed is actually about painting. Even if you don’t consider yourself a painter, this one is super-fun and easy. Called “Southwestern Stripes: Serapes and Sunsets,” it explores how simple stripe techniques in several media can come together to make spectacular artwork. There are over four hours of videos in this class with a ton of projects, including this mixed-media shrine painting on stretched canvas.

Serape Shrine

We start out with a very simple series of color studies in watercolor or gouache to portray the four Sacred Elements of Earth, Sky, Water and fire. Here’s “Sky.” These little paintings are totally fail-proof, honest.

For more about this class, you can take this link.

The second class is perhaps my most favorite of all my Artful Gathering workshops. It’s called Neo-Santos: Creating Personal Spirit Guardians.

It’s kinda like a spirit doll class, but with very different techniques. These small sculptures are created from found objects and collages papers, along with all kinds of charms and construction details.

Here’s an example of the first variation on the Neo-Santo theme:

Santa Colores

I also show you how to construct another variation I call Santa Blanca:

 

Neo-Santos is another 4+ hour class with a ton of ideas, inspirations and techniques.

Once the classes are actually open, you’ll download the videos and then work with me and the other students in the online classroom. If you haven’t done this kind of thing before it’s remarkably easy, plus you get the benefit of seeing everyone else’s work and getting specific feedback from me whenever you need it.

Click here to find out how to register for these classes, and for a bunch of other wonderful classes on Artful Gathering. Hope to see you in class – and if you have questions for me, just send me an email!

What is good art? Lots of answers at SAALM!

Onderdonk purchase prize 2018 – Brian Row, House Divided

For many months, the committee for the  San Antonio Art League’s 88th Juried Art Exhibition has been working toward yesterday’s event – the opening reception and award presentations. As President of the 106-year-old group (but truly unbiased) I gotta say that this show is a solid winner. Most of the 200 guests at the opening agreed. What an amazing, eclectic display of artwork in every media!

Sylvia Benitez, Texas Norwegian, Keller Memorial Award

As I watched juror Michael Ettema, Santa Fe art appraiser and gallerist, select each piece back in February, I was very curious about his criteria. He said he looks for a strong concept and a strong execution of the idea. There didn’t seem to be a lot of connection between the works he was choosing, but when I saw the show in its entirety yesterday, I got it!  This is from his juror’s statement – it’s well worth reading and remembering:

The quality of art must be measured by how well it performs its intended function.  Making that judgment requires an understanding of the relationship between what I believe are the two fundamental components of art: vision and skill.  Vision is the ability to imagine an aesthetic object that serves an expressive purpose, while skill is the technical ability to make that object effective in its purpose.  Both are worthy and enjoyable by themselves, but in the most effective art they depend on each other and reinforce each other.  Unskilled execution always distracts from and eventually discredits even the most profoundly creative vision.  A display of technical virtuosity alone can be very exciting, but ultimately we lose interest because it lacks any insight that would nourish us emotionally or intellectually.

So, it has to start with an idea – and you have to be skilled enough to share that idea effectively. It’s not enough to look at a flower and paint a picture of it that resembles a photo – there has to be a “why” behind the effort.

Take a look at this video showing examples from the just-opened exhibit and see if you can see both the “why” and the “how” of the works.

San Antonio Art League 88th Juried Exhibition from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I invite you to see the show in person. It’s a learning experience for sure. The San Antonio Art League is located at 130 King William Street (MAP) – free parking across the street (and a great lunch spot, The Station Cafe, just down the block). Admission is always free to SAALM, so bring some friends, see the exhibit, and get some lively conversation going about “What IS art, anyway?”.. You won’t be sorry!

 

 

 

 

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!!