Shards and Stories – Lessons from Greece (continued)

Taken at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Examining shards of pottery in Greece, especially in historical museums, is a fascinating and often deeply meaningful experience. These fragments, bearing partial symbols and images, are remnants of ancient lives and cultures, offering glimpses into the past. Each shard is a piece of a larger narrative, a fragment of a story that once was whole.

Taken at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The symbols and images on these shards might depict scenes from daily life, mythological tales, or intricate patterns that were significant to the culture that produced them. Even in their broken state, these fragments can tell us a great deal about the artistic styles, technological advancements, and social practices of ancient Greece.

One of the most compelling aspects of these shards is their ability to be reassembled with other pieces, even those from different pots. This process is akin to piecing together a complex jigsaw puzzle where the final image represents a broader cultural or historical narrative. When these shards are put together, they often reveal a more comprehensive picture, connecting disparate elements to form a richer, more detailed story.

Humans have always told stories with symbols and pictures and objects.Even a small scrap of of pottery gives a rich clue that inspires us to infer more of the story.

My personal artwork has  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.

Lyn Belisle, Encanto Assemblage, 2011

Have you ever wondered whether fragments of the artwork that you create today might one day be discovered and displayed in a museum, offering clues to the creative expressions of the 21st century? Imagine a future archeologist unearthing remnants of our contemporary art, much like how we now marvel at the fragments of ancient Greek artifacts. Each piece, though incomplete, tells a story of its time, revealing insights into the culture, technology, and aesthetics that defined an era.

In ancient Greece, even the smallest fragment of a vase, statue, or fresco can speak volumes. These pieces provide invaluable glimpses into the past, allowing us to reconstruct the visual and cultural landscape of a civilization long gone. The intricate designs on a pottery shard or the delicate chiseling on a broken statue reflect the artistic prowess and thematic concerns of their creators.

Reconstructed Lion, National Archaeological Museum

Similarly, future generations might uncover fragments of our current artworks—perhaps a piece of a digital print, a shard of a ceramic sculpture, or a remnant of a mixed-media installation. These fragments would serve as tangible connections to our present, helping future historians and art enthusiasts understand the themes, materials, and techniques that shape our creative output.

Lyn Belisle, Shard Components

As artists, the possibility that our work could one day be part of an archeological discovery adds a layer of legacy to our practice. It encourages us to think about the durability and impact of our creations. What messages are we embedding in our work? How do our materials and methods reflect the values and technologies of our time? In contemplating these questions, we become part of a continuum, linking our contemporary expressions to the vast tapestry of human artistic endeavor.

Lyn Belisle, Icon, 2020

So, next time you create, consider the enduring journey your art might undertake. Perhaps, centuries from now, a fragment of your work will be unearthed, sparking curiosity and admiration in a future museum, much like the ancient Greek artifacts do for us today. Through these fragments, our stories will continue to be told, and our creative legacy will persist, connecting us to future generations in a timeless dialogue.

Birds on columns, Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Learning from the past enriches our understanding and inspires us to create meaningful, lasting art for future generations to cherish. Or maybe just to wonder about . . . .

End of lesson from Greece !!

Lyn

 

 

 

Painting with Fire – fill your bowl!

It’s so great when things come together almost magically, like bowls and scrolls and wax and fiber!

Today I’m able to announce that my new Painting with Fire Encaustic workshop will be called The Diaphanous Vessel: Exploring Paper, Fiber, Plaster, and Wax.  This class reflects the excitement that I’m having inventing ways to create translucent, delicate but strong vessels.

Vessels are not new to me, but I’ve always thought of them as clay forms. What a revelation to realize that paper and fiber can fuse together to create these organic forms that are surrounded by space inside and outside. Translucent beeswax binds these shapes together and fiber strengthens them.

And of course, if you sign up for Painting with Fire for this coming year, you’ll learn how to make these for yourself.  You’ll also have 53 other great workshops from the best encaustic teachers ever.

Click here for the info and the link to register

My summer class at SW/UTSA will also be about building vessel – there are just so many possibilities, and so many metaphors relating to bowls and receptacles. Stay tuned for that class info if you are here in San Antonio – the summer catalog is almost ready to come out.

Vessels, be they bowls, cups, or urns, embody a metaphorical richness that transcends their utilitarian function. They symbolize receptivity, gracefully accepting the contents poured into them. Conversely, they epitomize generosity, as vessels pour forth their contents, offering sustenance or wisdom to others.  They speak to the human condition, serving as vessels not only of physical substance but also of emotion, culture, and spirituality.

Some new vessels with collage and with Irish paper.

I love this excerpt from Jane Hirshfield’s poem, The Bowl:

A day, if a day could feel, must feel like a bowl.
Wars, loves, trucks, betrayals, kindness,
it eats them.

Then the next day comes, spotless and hungry.

The bowl cannot be thrown away.
It cannot be broken.

It is calm, uneclipsable, rindless,
and, big though it seems, fits exactly in two human hands.

Bowls both give and receive – vessels both hold space and occupy space.  I hope to see you in Painting with Fire this year so we can continue this conversation!

♥Lyn

Afterwords: Shards and Sand

After I posted “Shards and Sand” several days ago about our trip to the beaches of Normandy, so many of you responded with thoughts and memories about war and peace and humanity. Thank you.

In that post, I wrote, “Part of our duty as artists is to pass on tradition and preserve our cultural history in various formats, to express human emotion and help us all to feel hope and peace of mind.” My artist friend Pamela Ferguson, a wonderful poet and painter, sent this note with a poem she wrote which will speak to all of us.

“I was moved by your post/blog on Normandy, Lyn. I’ve been to France but not there. I can imagine the voices who whispered to you. I look forward to the art that comes from your experience. This poem wrote itself after I read your blog. I wanted to share it with you.”
Here is the poem, brilliantly composed by Pam from the point of view of a young soldier watching the incoming invasion. I superimposed the words on the photograph of a bunker at Pointe du Hoc in which he might well have been waiting.

Isn’t the power of artists inspiring each other amazing? I am so grateful to Pam for sharing this poem which I know will stay with each of you as is has with me, opening our minds and hearts.

We interrupt the blog post we were working on for this message . . .

I just got an email from Lora Murphy, the genius behind Painting with Fire. She’s going to be featuring one of my workshops this Wednesday, which is a couple of months before it was scheduled.

Here’s the info:

This mini-workshop combines Spirit figure construction with encaustic surface design and a bunch of other fun stuff. Remember the toilet paper rolls that I’ve been saving? Here’s how to use them! Gauze, Paper, Plaster, + Wax is a 45-minute treasury of techniques and inspiration (if I do say so myself.)

It’s kind of a prelude to my other workshop, which comes up in 2023 on Painting with Fire, called The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax.

If you have been thinking of joining Painting with Fire, do it now and you can see the Gauze, Plaster, Paper + Wax workshop day after tomorrow. Plus, you’ll get the Shaman workshop and about a zillion other workshops by a zillion other fantastic teachers in encaustic and mixed media.(A zillion = 26)

Some of the other teachers are Roxanne Evans Stout, Crystal Marie Neubauer, and my Enso Circle partner, Michelle Belto. Subjects include things like eco-printing and large-scale pouring and found object inclusions and — well, it’s a very cool program. And you don’t need a ton of new material and equipment to participate. Heck, in my class this Wednesday you just need some wax and a toilet paper roll – and a few other things. Actually, here’s the short materials list.

I know I’ve talked about Painting with Fire before, but the email from Lora remind me to remind YOU that you can register any time. Class started April 27th but since these are prerecorded videos, you get instant access to the already released classes when you sign up. Classes are delivered each Wednesday approximately 12 noon EST as prerecorded video and once they are available you can watch whenever you wish. You get lifetime access to all classes.

Here’s that signup link!

OK, now back to my other blog post in progress – it’s about provenance and the soul of objects. I’m enjoying writing about that and will post it soon.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Painting with Fire (by request)

Thanks for the great response to the Painting with Fire announcement, and thanks for all your questions. It occurred to me that I have been teaching this program for a year, and so was just assuming that everyone knew how it worked.  Not true – yikes. So here is some more info, by request –

This is a year log program with 52+ workshops of which mine, The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax, is just one little part of many really amazing classes. At the end of this post, I’ll show you who all the other teachers are and you can see the names of the classes that they are teaching. And all of these are included in the $249 Early Bird price.

pro

A lot of the questions I got about this year-long program were about experience level and also how to access the classes. So I went to Lora Murphy, the genius artist behind PWF, and got a few of her answers for you:

All the lessons are independent projects from start to finish and it is up to you which order to take them in or how many lessons to complete. You can work at your own pace it is up to you.

All the courses on Painting with Fire have a lifetime access and all classes will stay on the course page.

All our courses are for individuals of all skill levels, including beginners. Don’t be intimidated by comparing your work to other students who have more experience in art. We are all in different phases of our creative journey and we all once were beginners. The best thing – is to compare your own work from before to what you do now, and how it changes and improves as you practice. I would recommend to post your work so you can get feedback from the teachers and support from fellow students. Be kind to yourself and others!

As Lora alludes to, we have a great Painting with Fire Facebook group that’s active and helpful – I’m on there all the time getting ideas and giving advice.

So here’s the best part – look at this list (below) of the 26 teachers and the topics of their classes – you really do get all of this for one price for the whole year! You can watch them as they come out every week, and you can save them for when you have time – you can even pick and choose from the classes that have been released.

And if you have more questions – send them along – as you can tell, I am such a fan of Painting with Fire and feel so privileged to teach with all of these great instructors. Here’s the info/registration link.

 

Grateful Spirit

Ah, Spirit Dolls – they were the inspiration for my shard faces which solidified my return to earthenware in 2008 as my personal healing medium.

When winter days approach, there’s nothing more comforting than to settle down at my workbench and get my hands into some clay. After the clay has dried, I watch the earthenware pieces come out of the kiln, vitrified and transformed at 1900F, and marvel at the miracle of earth and fire. It never gets old.

Part of what keeps this exciting is connecting with the diverse world-wide circle of Spirit Doll makers and their creations. As you probably know, I have an Etsy shop called Earthshards, which is visited by doll makers, assemblage artists, fiber artists, and mixed media artists for the small Shard Faces that I make. Sometimes in their Etsy reviews they send photos of how they use the faces – what a delight!

Here are some inspiring pictures from the last eight month. I’ve credited them using just their buyer names for privacy, but I wanted you to see what I get to see as feedback!

Jan


Bada


Beloved Lake


Brita


Cristel


Cynthia


Elizabeth


Holle

Judie

Kelly


Metis


Rachel


Tess


Torpor


Viki


Wally


Wendy

______________________________

Thanks to all of these creative makers for sharing their work.

If you want to make your own spirit doll after seeing these and need a little inspiration, here is my free Spirit Doll instruction booklet.

Now go cultivate your grateful spirit!! Give a little spirit doll to a friend as a thank-you. It will warm your heart – and theirs – this winter!

Pleeeeeze buy my art??? (whimper)

When I was a Girl Scout, we were supposed to go door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies as part of our merit badge activities.

I was painfully shy, and had to force myself to slink up someone’s front steps and ring the doorbell. When it was answered, I’d hang my head and mumble “You wouldn’t want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, would you?” People felt so sorry for me that I actually sold a few packages.

Fast forward about six decades to the Uptown Art Stroll which took place last weekend. It had been years since I had sold art in person at a large art fair like that, and I had forgotten how weird it can be.

First of all, when I got my art together the night before the Stroll to tag it and such, it looked like a whole lot of exciting stuff.

But by the time I got the table set up the next day at the sale, it looked pretty puny. Yikes!

You have to remember that there are about twenty square blocks of art tents in this event with eleventy-thousand artists packed on every corner, so there is a whole bunch of competition! Gulp. No wonder it looked puny.

And it’s called a “Stroll” because people walk around at the event, look at your stuff, pick it up, ask questions, and then stroll away. Actually, that’s a fib. They often purchase art, and I made a respectable number of sales. But it did bring back memories of Girl Scout cookie days.

When people came close to the booth, I tried to balance my expression somewhere between desperation (“pleeeeze by my art”)…..

. . . .and sophisticated coolness (“if you knew good art, you’d definitely buy one of these assemblages, dude”).

I want to give a high five to my fellow artists who do this kind of event with such ease and grace. And I want to thank the buyers who actually purchased my art – you will never know how much it meant to me! Want some cookies to go with that art??

And finally, thanks, Marta Stafford – you do a much better job selling my art than I do!

 

 

 

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

The early bird trickles like sand through the hourglass —

I just finished filming my first lesson for the extraordinary “everything you never knew you wanted to learn about encaustic” course called Painting With Fire:Essence of Mulranny. I am one of 26 international teachers invited to teach at Painting With Fire. The scope and content of the lessons is amazing – yes, even if you are a beginner.

Conceived by Ireland-based artist Lora Murphy, the year-long program’s early bird cost of $199 is the bargain of the century for anyone who wants to learn more about painting with wax or using it as a stellar component in mixed media work. Seriously. The sands are trickling through the hourglass, though – early bird tuition ends on Thursday. After that, the price goes to $249 (which is still a bargain, but $50 can buy a lot of encaustic supplies).

So this is a preview of what I am doing for my first Painting With Fire lesson – it will be released really soon, on Wednesday, May 26th. It’s called Surface Sampler, and it’s super-fun, if I do say so myself. Just click on the image or the link below:

Link to Preview

Here are some FAQs about Painting With Fire

  • Class starts on Friday, April 30th
  • Every class after this is on Wednesday (from May 5th onwards).
  • There are 52 weeks of lessons, often several in one week. All you need is an internet connection to view them. You can go back to previous lessons during the year.
  • All classes are prerecorded (with one exception) and will be available from approximately 12 noon EST each Wednesday.
  • Lifetime access to the videos.
  • There is a Facebook group which is private for PWF students.

And here’s my invitational link to join – please make sure that if you want to take part, join today or tomorrow before the Early Bird tuition goes away.

You’ll be joining a wonderful community of talented teachers and students!