Scents, Spirit, and Connections

I’m taking a bit of a shortcut in this post and stealing it from our Inside the Enso blog. It’s a new offering from the online residency program called The Enso Circle that Michelle Belto and I began building together at least ten years ago and is now opening its ninth term in January. You can subscribe to the blog without being a member of The Enso Circle. It’s designed to give you an idea of some of our discussions with the Artists-in-Residents – like this one on Sacred Scents!

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SCENTS FOR CREATIVE PRACTICE AND SACRED SPACES

Scents and aromas have been part of sacred spaces for over 5000 years. Originally, perfumes were used in sacred shrines in conjunction with burnt offerings. People burned precious scents such as frankincense and myrrh on their altars. Soon, people began using these rare perfumes on their own bodies and associating scent with spiritual experiences.

Creating a sacred space with the assistance of essential oils, incense, and natural scents is a personal and customizable practice. The scents you choose, the rituals you incorporate, and the intentions you set all contribute to the unique and sacred atmosphere you want to create.

Here are some cross-cultural versions of sacred scents that have endured:

Copal Incense: Copal incense is a resin incense that has been used in Mesoamerican rituals for centuries. It is known for its strong, earthy, and slightly citrusy scent. Copal incense is typically burned on the altar to purify the space, create a welcoming atmosphere for the spirits, and to help lift the prayers and messages to the spirit world. The aromatic smoke is believed to be a bridge between the two realms, helping the spirits find their way.

Below is a very short video about how to burn Copal resin incense from Quetzalcoatl Music Guillermo Martinez.
Source for Copal

Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender’s name traces back to the Latin verb “lavare,” which means “to wash.” This essential oil provides spiritual protection by metaphorically cleansing your spirit. Lavender essential oil has the potential to dispel feelings of depression and aids in regulating our emotional well-being. It is the go-to choice for meditation due to its calming and soothing properties. Lavender essential oil is a valuable tool for enhancing your meditative focus and achieving a deeper state of inner tranquility. Sprinkle one or two drops on your altar cloth or use a mist of 20 drops of lavender oil to 2 ounces of water as a purifying mist.Source for Lavender Essential Oil

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Hand-gathered Smudging Bundles for Purification of Spaces

Smudging with sage or cedar is a centuries-old ritual deeply rooted in Native American and Indigenous cultures. It involves burning bundles of dried sage or cedar leaves and using the fragrant smoke to cleanse and purify a space, object, or person. Sage is often associated with purification, clarity, and wisdom, while cedar is believed to offer protection and grounding energy. The ritual is typically performed by lighting the bundle and waving it gently, allowing the smoke to waft through the area while setting intentions for cleansing negative energy and promoting positive vibes. Smudging is not only a practical act but a spiritual one, fostering a sense of balance and reverence for the natural world.

You can make this even more meaningful by gathering your own plants for smudging bundles. You become part of the sacred process from beginning to end.  Here are directions that we wrote for you about how to make your own Smudge Bundles. They take about two weeks to dry, so practice mindfulness and patience.

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More subtle than music, ephemeral in nature, scents enhance, inspire, cleanse and renew on the deepest level of human consciousness. We’d love to read your comments and observations about how you use scents as a creative enhancement in your own  work.
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One last note: If you think you might be interested in applying for a 12-week Enso Circle residency, please take this link and we will get right back to you – applications for the new term open on December 1.

“Gold—what can it not do, and undo?” – William Shakespeare

Need a little glitz in your art practice?

I’ve been experimenting with Gold Sumi Ink since the first of this year and still have a lot to learn about its properties and how to use it in my own work.

I’ve used the more common Black Sumi Ink for decades – it’s a delightful medium.

But the Gold Sumi Ink is a curious creature.

It’s apparently made of a binder with gold particles suspended in it, and it is both water soluble and also water resistant once it has dried.The description from the  purchase link is not much help, although I like the fact that is has “Chinese herbal medicine and precious ingredients” in it.

Gold Sumi Ink

  • Golden calligraphy ink is made from all-natural ingredients. Its high quality and concentration ensure a smooth dense texture.
  • While golden liquid ink is made specifically for traditional Chinese and Japanese brush calligraphy and painting it can still be used for any art form. The ink’s bright luster results in a deep earthy tone when used on Xuan paper.
  • Made with all-natural materials, including a variety of Chinese herbal medicine ingredients and precious minerals.

When you brush it on paper, it has an amazing metallic quality. It can be thinned with water to make a glaze.

You can dip a stick into the bottle and make cool marks.

Gold Sumi Ink behaves differently on different surfaces. On an encaustic waxed panel, it sits on the top like India ink but when it’s fused, you can’t rub it off.

On of my best discoveries recently was using this gold ink on bare wood panels and on the sides of those panels. It creates a lovely “gold leaf” finish and bonds well with the raw wood.

You can mix it with Black Sumi Ink and get a very dark bronze color.

But if the Gold Ink dries, the Black Ink just sits on top and won’t dissolve into the bottom layer. That must be the Gum Arabic in the binder?

There are several brands available. They cost between $15-$20 a bottle and a bottle last a very long time. I’ve used two different brands and they both seem identical in pigmentation and viscosity. My current brand is CA Society Gold Calligraphy Ink and I did get it through Amazon, but it’s made by a small Chinese Calligraphy art business called CA Society.

I gave some of the gold ink to my friend Barbara who is going to play with it, and if you decide to get some, let me know what you discover. Even if I just used it to paint the sides of my wood cradle board, I’d still like the stuff . . .maybe not as much as I like Walnut Ink, but it’s a most interesting addition to your studio materials.

By the way, if you want to learn more about the relaxing practice of Sumi-e Painting, sign up for my FREE workshop, right here.

Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Shards repaired — and Ireland Paper

For longer than I care to remember, SHARDS has been down for a technical glitch that I could not, for the life of me, figure out. But I finally dug out some rusty old tech-brain solutions and found the broken setting. Whew! Like Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), the cracks are finally stuck back together . . . after several frustrating months.

So many cool things happened during SHARDS’ down time – major things, like Shannon Weber‘s workshop, the Wax & Wildflowers Exhibit with the IEA here in San Antonio, and the amazing experience of teaching in Ireland with Michelle Belto. I will eventually work backwards to talk about all this good stuff, starting with Ireland. Today I’m giving you a link to a video showing a technique that I taught in Mulranny – read on.

The amazing Lora Murphy of Painting with Fire had invited us to teach at an Art Retreat at the Essence of Mulranny., on the wild West Coast of Ireland during the last week in July. The place is indescribably beautiful – sky, sea, cliffs, sheep – Celtic fairy tale stuff.

My part of the workshop involved creating a figurative representation of the Irish Goddess Aine. We collected objects and made collage paper as part of the preparation.

I called this collage paper “Ireland Paper” because it reflected the beautiful colors of the Irish countryside which you can see, below, out the studio window..

Lots of people have asked about how we created this effect, so I made a video for you yesterday on how we did this Ireland Paper. And this will be a reminder for those of you who went along with us to Ireland. The technique does involve hot wax, so if you haven’t worked with encaustic before, do your homework on encaustic safety if you decide to try it.

How to make Ireland Paper

But wait – there’s more! Below is a link to a video showing more of the creative things we did in the workshop to construct our figurative sculptures – wish you could have been there!:

VIDEO: Offerings to Aine: a Workshop in Mulranny, Ireland (Lyn Belisle)

It’s nice to be back – thanks for reading SHARDS!!

 

Follow-up on Secrets of Spirit Boxes – wow!

One of my life’s great joys is getting feedback and photos from artists who find a workshop useful and then adapt it to their own style and aesthetics. That’s exactly the purpose of teaching classes like the new Secrets of the Spirit Box.

Here’s a magnificent example from Patricia Mosca, friend and fabulous artist. She emailed me this morning, saying “I have attached a picture of a Secret Message Bearer that I did…(my style of course).”  Look!

And here is how she describes her creation on her Facebook page:

…secret message bearer…
we all have them…those deep secrets that we don’t share…the secret message bearer allows you to put your thoughts and words onto paper and hide them…each comes with a small box attached to the back where you can place your secret soul whispers so only you and the bearer can witness them…we all need a safe place for blessings and gratitude…

 

Just as she transforms the idea of Secrets of the Spirit Box, she also transforms my Earthshard faces by painting them in a realistic way that brings a different kind of life to them.

Brava, Patricia, for raising the bar on taking the basics and flying with them to new heights!

Another wonderful artist friend, Ann Leach, is also interpreting the Spirit Boxes and their secrets in her own style. Look at this assortment of her “Sea Sisters SEAcret Spirit Boxes.”

Ann is also the driving force behind the Call for Elemental Spirit Dolls. I’ll be talking more about this in detail, but for now, please follow this link to see more:

https://www.annleach.com/elemental-spirit-dolls

And, yep, that’s my Spirit Doll on the poster. Won’t you join in?

 

 

 

Descanso: art and healing

I am sharing this story with you without additional commentary other than the plea that we all hold in our hearts the healing power of art and our profound gratitude to those who make it.

DESCANSO:

A cross placed at the site of a violent, unexpected death, in memoriam.

A state of quiet and re-creation

A pause, a rest, a haven

The Email Conversation, June 22, 2022

Lyn, I wanted to share the piece I created using the “Paloma” face I purchased from you some time ago. I created the Santa Madre Guadalupe altar “descanso” to remember all children who have died-victims of violence. It is dedicated to the little angels killed at the Uvalde school shooting. The “milagros” represent the kids. The hearts represent the broken hearts of their moms/dads. ~ Enid

Enid, this is beautiful and bittersweet. I would love to share it on my blog with your permission. Uvlade is so close to San Antonio and all of here are still mourning, as is the rest of the nation. Would you tell me a little bit about yourself as background? Would it be OK to share this with others as a healing gesture? Art heals in so many ways. I am very grateful to you for sharing this, and the little milagros speak louder than words could. ~ Lyn

The Response and the Story, June 23, 2022

I am 72, and an adult survivor of childhood abuse, neglect, maltreatment, and violence, I have been involved with, engaged in some form of PTSD recovery therapy for more years than I can count. While providing some small relief benefits, traditional talk therapy failed to help me move forward, to move pass the trauma. Taking my well-being and mental health into my own hands, I started to create art as an outlet to gain insight into my childhood experiences and to speak my truth.

It’s been 2 years now since I started creating my “healing art”, and I am just starting, just learning how to use healing art to express emotions too difficult to say or share while building inner strengths and developing inner emotional resilience.

My creation, La Santa Madre, expresses my deepest emotions in a way that words could never express and reflects my culture, religious upbringing, world views and values. Lyn’s clay art woman faces have been part of my artistic creations and personal journeys to mental, physical, and spiritual well-being for some years now. I start out every journey by holding and talking to the faces, asking,” Who, what do you want to be?” I listen and wait sometimes for years to hear the faint voice.

On May 24, 2022, I heard Paloma-Lyn’s creation, say to me, “I am the mother of the angelitos of Uvalde and of all children-victims of violence.” That day, I started creating La Santa Madre Guadalupe Descanso . The children milagro charms represent the many children who have lost their lives to violence. The corazones represent their parents’ hearts, broken and too often buried with their children.

One milagrito is my son Billy who died in 1992 as a result of a driver’s poor judgement. One milagrito represents me and the childhood I lost.

Enid Sepúlveda Rodríguez
New Mexico
6/23/2022

Thank you, Enid. You have touched many hearts today.

Lyn

Plein Aire isn’t as simple as it sounds!

I have always loved Vikki Fields’ work. She is perhaps the only painter I know who works exclusively from life, never from photographs, and her En Plein Aire landscapes are stunning. She sometimes spends hours in the outdoors at the same time every day capturing the light on a particular tree or mountain.

I own this small painting that she did of Arroyo Seco near Taos – it’s a treasure.

Taos by Vikki fields

So when the Witte Museum asked the Art League to partner with them in teaching a Plein Aire painting class to celebrate to opening of their new exhibition, Vikki was the first person I asked to teach it. She agreed!

Fifteen of us signed up and met at the Witte last Sunday afternoon (hot, hot!) as Vikki guided us through the plein aire preparation process.

Vikki Fields discusses choices and vistas

Most of us painted from the shady balcony overlooking the San Antonio River.

The view was beautiful — but, where do you start?? It’s sort of a green blur to me.

Some people used watercolors, some painted with oils, others, like me, started with a pencil sketch.

I hadn’t painted from life in about 20 years, so I had to try and remember how to “look” at the subject in a different way. For me, it works if I can flatten it out in my imagination, like an illustration. For a painter like Vikki and some of the others, it’s a process of starting with values and underpainting.

Three hours went by remarkably quickly. If it hadn’t been so hot, we probably would have stayed on, but we went inside the (air-conditioned!) museum to look at our work and discuss it.

The differences in approach were fascinating – take a look at some of the paintings. We weren’t expected to finish, nor to create a masterpiece since we were just working on studies, but I loved seeing the results.

So here’s mine – remember when I said I thought like an illustrator rather than a painter? Good thing we weren’t supposed to paint a masterpiece!

The huge lessons I learned were PATIENCE and OBSERVATION. It was really hard for me to slow down and truly look at what was going on with the rocks and the water since I don’t have a painter’s eye for suggesting many details with one brush stroke. It was also a relief to know that I could still draw – whew! But painting? Not so much.

Here’s my friend Lara Hye Coh – now this girl can paint!

A million thanks to Vikki for her encouragement and teaching skills. And many thanks to Mary Margret McAllen, Director of Special Projects at the Witte Museum, who cooked up this great collaborative workshop!

This Plein Aire Workshop was designed to compliment the wonderful exhibit now at the Witte called James Ferdinand McCan: A Texas Artist Rediscovered. It features more than fifty of McCan’s paintings—most of which are rarely displayed to the public. And we in the class got to see them even before the exhibit opened.

McCan was a plein aire painter, friends with Julian Onderdonk, and he captured the incredible change in animals and landscapes that occurred in the 30 short years (between 1895-1925) he was painting in Texas. Please go see the exhibit! It’s open until October 2nd at the Witte.

Here’s an example of one of McCan’s remarkable paintings.

Mossy Oak and Bluebonnets, James Ferdinand McCan

Want to give plein aire painting a try? One of the things I did before the workshop was to set up a suggested materials list for those who signed up. For those of you who would like some guidance with materials, here is a link to a list of suggested supplies to purchase online. They are portable and not very expensive. Go for it!

I am so glad I had this learning experience!! It was humbling and exhilarating, all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire up the pot(s) – a festive gathering

Last Friday, we got to participate in an amazing experience at Andy and Virginia Bally’s Studio near Canyon Lake. We had talked about planning a pottery pit fire for several months, and thanks to the Ballys’ hard work, it actually happened!

A pit fire is the oldest known method of firing pottery, dating back to 29,000 BC. It works as a kiln using a hole in the ground as insulation and fuel to reach temperatures around 2000 degrees farenheit.

British potter Jane White says, “The process of pit firing has endless possibilities, the pieces seem to have been created by nature itself, by the organic material, and the fire, which transforms the surface of the clay into a myriad of different patterns and colours, and each piece that is unearthed from the ashes is totally unique.”

A motley crew of potters and friends gathered outside the Bally Studio to watch the spectacle.

The pit was impressive. It was almost two feet deep and covered on the bottom with a deep layer of sawdust.

Here, I’m taking a photo of just the first third of the pit as it is being loaded with clay objects. The pieces are covered in all sorts of crazy, experimental stuff, including tamale shucks.

We also experimented with different colorants and chemicals on the surface of our bisque clay before adding them to the pit.Here, Julie and I are painting on Mason Stains (powdered pigments made of a combination of oxides and frits) and spraying on various chemicals including insect repellent and organic weed killer (!) to see how they would react with the flames.

Everyone kept a close eye on the fire – Andy was the Fire Pit Master and added oak in a steady, slow controlled process.

There is something about a communal fire that is exciting and sort of ancient. And we were all anxious to see how our clay would turn out, even though we knew it would take several days to cool and we wouldn’t get to see the results any time soon.

When the flames died down after several hours, the pit was covered with metal to keep in the heat and allow the pieces to cool slowly.

There was so much to learn and to experience. We all took lots of pictures. After Andy and Virginia opened the pit two days later, they pulled the pots from the ashes and cleaned them. Then they sent photos of our work.

I had fired some face shards in the pit, thinking they would come out looking like ancient relics, and the did! Here are several of my pieces.

The face on the bottom left had Mason Stain applied before firing, and the face on the bottom right has traces of smoke “clouds.” All of us wish we had taken better notes so we could duplicate the results next time!

You can see the whole process and many more of the pieces in the video below.

VIDEO: A PIT FIRING AT BALLY STUDIOS

There is also a You tube video of a Masterclass in Pit Firing by Jane White at this link. You’ll learn more about the process and be amazed by the results.

Jane White’s Masterclass Video on Pit Firing

No matter what our age or circumstances, we can resolve to keep on learning new things in the New Year. Participating in the Pit Fire experiment reminded me that creative learning and seeking out new experiences makes life rich and meaningful. It connects us to our past and makes us more resilient for the future.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas-time and looking forward to being with you in 2022!

♥Lyn

Five Easy Questions

Do you “journal”? To me, a “journal” is still a noun – I am just not disciplined enough to write down my thoughts everyday in a meaningful, artful journal-ese way. That doesn’t mean I don’t take notes and write out ideas and make outlines for classes and write/sketch constantly on scraps of paper or in my Lefty Date Book.

See? Look at these notes – clear, organized, legible. . . . not.

Seriously, though, since Michele Belto and I have started working with The Enso Circle group, I am learning the value of keeping track of my time just so I can see were it goes. I devised five questions for the group to fill out at the end every week for that very purpose.  I’ve started answering these questions for myself every Friday, and it’s helping me keep track of my projects and my processes.

Here are the five questions, below. They are specifically designed for our Enso art group, but anyone can use them by changing a couple of words. If you want to use them, feel free.

I suggest you print them out and put them somewhere, then answer them once a week on the same day. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this but do it every week. And save your answers in a file or folder so you can track them after a few weeks.

What took up most of your headspace this week?

What was your proudest art-related accomplishment this week?

What one specific step did you take toward your goals?

What was your biggest obstacle this week in moving toward your

goals?

If someone gave you a present to help motivate you next week,

what would it be?

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So, one of the things that I have learned from answering these for the last couple of weeks is that “Life happens.” My headspace gets filled with unexpected family distractions, or appliance breakdowns, or an email that needs immediate attention, or an offer that is too good to pass up. We just have to balance our time in the best way we can.

The “biggest obstacle” question is related to this. Often the obstacle is something unexpected and un-preventable. I just got my flu shot today, and it may lay me low tomorrow just when I need to be working. Oh, well. It’s important to get the flu shot. Balance it.

It’s super-important to concentrate on the proud moments and those small accomplishments that nobody but you might understand. Today I taped the sides of six 24x24x2” cradle board panels with masking tape  – it was incredibly boring, but I did it! This kind of achievement is like prepping to paint a room – you gotta do it if you want the job done right, but it is spectacularly tedious.

The last question about a “present” is fun. It could be something silly, like having somebody show up at your door who loves to put masking tape on panels, or it could be something serious like a call from a gallery offering you a solo show. But by answering this question, you are allowed to wish (and therefore define) any short-term assistance that might move you forward. And by defining it, you might even figure out a way to get it, or something reasonably close.

If you are  journaler (and I admire your dedication) you can include these in your journal every week. If like me, you are more of a random note collector, you can answer these every Friday on your computer, or jot them down on a sticky note, or whatever you choose. But the point is to give yourself a consistent creative check-up. You’ll make better progress when you can reflect a bit on how far you’ve come that week. And no matter what your answers are, I’ll bet you’ll enjoy the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Jude Hill

With so many artists teaching online these days (including me) and so many techniques to learn, it’s inevitable that a student’s work is influenced by an instructor’s.

That’s kinds of the point – if you admire someone’s work, you want to know how it’s done. But the rest of the story is about what happens when you know how it’s done and what you do with the information.

In the last newsletter from the GAGA group of women artists, this question was posed:

I have spent the last two years working hard on my painting style so that I can become as recognized as other artist of note in this community. I have paid a lot of money to teachers for classes and workshops, incorporating their techniques to help me improve and sell my art. Now that I am getting ready to enter a national juried exhibition (with substantial prize money), this pops up in the Prospectus: “Works that have been completed under instruction or in direct association with a class or workshop are not eligible.”  So why have I spent so much of my money on these classes and workshops if I can’t use the art techniques from my teachers? 

See what you think about the answer:

Most worthwhile juried shows include this phrase to protect both professional artists who teach and students who so admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy an instructor’s style and end up looking rather foolish and unoriginal. Good exhibition guidelines discourage direct copying of another artist’s style, which can be like trying to find a lazy shortcut to success without all the work it took the original artist to get organically to that point. It can also be illegal – an artist has the right to prohibit others from making truly derivative works.

Technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. And a lot of work done under instruction has both the professor’s hand as well as intellectual creative “solve” in it! So, student work is not artist work. It’s a stepping-stone to one’s finally developed voice!! You can and should learn technique, but after that it is your creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves. Technique is not art, lessons are training wheels, copying is not creating, paintings are not recipes and sales are not always the goal.

If you do not yet recognize this and are upset by this very common phrase in a Call for Entries, perhaps you should spend a bit more time on your journey of development. When you learn how to experiment and play in your own way with what you learn, you will develop your own voice. Quit imitating and honor the techniques you learn from your teachers by translating them into your own language. Being slavishly derivative does not become any of us and does not earn us recognition in exhibitions.

“Influence” and “emulation” and “incorporation” are all words we use that describe our use of the signature techniques that other artists share with us. “Copying” has a different connotation altogether.

And you certainly don’t have to be a teacher to experience the realization that another artist is “heavily influenced” by your work. It’s a complicated subject.

Jude Hill is a beloved fiber artist whose blog and practice are followed by thousands of people. She is sensitive, low-key, and very authentic. She addresses this complicated issue in a video – it’s really brilliant. It’s so relaxing to watch her stitch and listen to her soothing voice.

Video Link

So what do you think? It’s certainly not a black-and-white situation, and there is, as I always say, “more than one right answer.”

To help give you some perspective, read Inspiration vs. Imitation by Christine Nishiyama, illustrator, author, and artist. You’ll enjoy it.

Lyn

New Work, Old Concept

Old retablo frame, late 1800’s

THE ENCANTO SERIES

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Companion, 2021

My work has always been strongly influenced by the idea of “shards” as a metaphor for human communication across time. A shard can be a found fragment of clay, a rusty nail, a scrap of handwriting – any little clue that becomes a “secret handshake” between the maker and the discoverer.

Shards, clues, and other stuff

As an assemblage artist, I collect bits of meaning from various cultures and times. This series, called Encantos (charms), respectfully combine contemporary historic images, then veil them with beeswax, a material which has been used in art-making for over 2000 years. This encaustic process seals and enhances the images. The metal adornments on these pieces honor the traditional centuries-old Retablos, painted tin icons that show the significant rust and fading consistent with their age.

Lyn Belisle, Spiral Crows, 2021

For decades I’ve worked with clay, fiber, and paper in assemblage and collage to express this non-verbal time-circle connection. When my friend Michelle Belto introduced me to the encaustic process in 2009, This new-to-me medium seemed a perfect companion for my most-loved materials.

Lyn Belisle, Crow’s Talisman, 2021

I’d briefly tried encaustic medium on collage, but I began to understand that beeswax is a metaphoric material in itself, ancient as clay, versatile as paper, compelling as ivory and bone. Now beeswax and encaustic are integral parts of my process.

Lyn Belisle, Nest, 2021

This series feels just right, a synthesis of digital, ancient, and contemporary process and content. Work for this series is available at the Members Gallery (San Antonio Art League) and soon at Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas.

Take good care, hope to see you soon – Lyn