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:
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!
Here are some of the materials we worked with:
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!
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:
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 try – Michael 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.
TGIF! Hove a lovely weekend, and stay cool.
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 here – and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Stay cool and creative!
Since the video I just posted was embedded, you might have missed the direct link to it – here it is.
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 Moment – aha! 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.
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??