About lynbelisle

Lyn Belisle Artist’s Statement: Shards and Veils As an artist, my personal obligations and passions are pulling individual connections from the circular nature of time, fashioning shards of recognition from the well of collective unconscious, exploring the idea of the “secret handshake” in symbol and archetype, celebrating the frozen moment between what was and what is to come. I work in four main media to explore these ideas: • In collage, often using beeswax and altered papers to celebrate anonymous faces and otherworldly places • In unglazed earthenware clay and found objects, often to create spiritual and symbolic “neo-santo” assemblage • In fiber and paper, often to create wall pieces with natural colors, wax, felt, cheesecloth and digital photo images • In acrylic paint, often as pure, non-referenced exploration of form and veiling I take inspiration and comfort from the knowledge that we are all connected on a deep cross-cultural level with shared collective memories that each of us can glimpse through art without the need for words.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax on the Water (California Dreamin’)

Morro Bay, CA

It really does seem like a dream. I was somehow at Morro Bay on the coast of California with my heroes, friends, and mentors.We were at an in-person gathering, talking about the art of encaustic and learning so mych from each other. People I had known only from Zoom were giving me real hugs. Even Lora Murphy, founder of Painting with Fire, was there from Ireland.

Me with Lora Murphy – what a brilliant artist she is –

But wait! It was real! My first trip out of Texas in almost three years really was to California to the Wax on the Water Convergence, hosted by the International Encaustic Artists.

Juror Pamela Smith Hudson discusses the work in the IEA Convergence Exhibition of encaustic art.

My dear friend Michelle Belto went with me and gave a wonderful opening program on creating authentic art. It set the tone for the amazing conference.

I brought home lots of great memories – a wonderful workshop with Jay and Ann Bonestell, the swanky dinner at Windows on the Water honoring Trish Seggebruch and Lora Murphy, meeting fellow Enso Circle residents in person –

One of my favorite stories is meeting Barbara Sitar, the former Morro Bay Art Center Gallery Director. Barbara has exhibited and been a featured artist in galleries and other installations in Europe and the USA. During her thirty years as an art professional, she has been a curator, mentor and artist in her native Slovakia in Prague, Vienna, Germany and America.

Talking with Barbara, whose work was in the IEA Exhibition, I found out that she was a native Czech speaker. I introduced her to my husband Bill, who also speaks Czech, and they carried on a happy conversation about Prague and families and all kinds of Czech-related topics. It was fun to watch (even though I didn’t understand a word of it).

The nicest coincidence, though, was that in the IEA Members’ Art Exchange, I won Barbara’s work! It’s an encaustic piece depicting a beautiful Morro Bay white heron. It has a new home in Texas 🙂

Barbara Sitar, 2022

If you would like to see an overview of this wonderful gathering, please view the video – Sean, our videographer, did a stellar job capturing the joy of ConVergence in just five minutes of film.

Master.mp4 from Seannie Cameras on Vimeo.

There was also a good article from San Luis Obispo New Times about the Conference. Many thanks to my fellow IEA Board members whose hard work made this an unforgettable experience. Here’s to next year!!

The Spirit Doll hits the road to Austin

It’s been approximately four years and twenty five days since I last got to teach an in-person Spirit Doll workshop (but who’s counting??). That one was at the Hill Country Arts Foundation in Ingram, Texas – it seems like forever ago. Like a whole pandemic ago . . .

I have said often that when times get uncertain, I return to clay and figurative sculpture as the “comfort practice” in my studio. There’s something about making a tribe of small figures from natural materials that creates a sense of optimism, particularly since humans have been doing this for millenia.

Lately, I’ve been working on a new series of Spirit Dolls that are so much fun and fulfilling – here’s a look at those. Remember what the base is made from? Yep, recycled TP cardboard rolls.

Use what you have, right?? And pretty soon, you have a bunch of these little figures marching along in their underwear on the way to Austin.

Why Austin?? Well might you ask – because I’m finally finally teaching an in-person Spirit Doll class there at the Austin School of Fiber Arts!! HOORAY!!

On the first day of the two-day workshop, we will explore the simplest form of a spirit doll, a figure crafted from twigs and twine adorned with scraps of fabric and fiber.

On the 2nd day, we’ll work with a paper and plaster armature to create a small Spirit Doll sculpture which will be wrapped and adorned with fiber, fabric ribbon, beads, bone – any materials that reflects your aesthetic and spiritual intention. These figures can be free-standing, or wall hung.

These art dolls will become a beloved part of your body of work in fiber and mixed media. Well, of course!

The cost for the two-day workshop is just $150, which is pretty reasonable these days, and each day we will work from 10-4. I hope you’ll consider coming to this class – I’m excited about it, and I like the facility a lot.

There is a limit if EIGHT students – so if you’re considering it, register early. I will be providing three Earthshard faces for each participant. You’ll bring your own sticks and fabric and we can play to our heat’s content.

 

Here’s the link to information and registration – 

ENROLL

I hope to see you in May. Now, I need to get some clothes on those spirit dolls before they hit the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compass: Shannon Weber

Shannon Weber’s art has resonated powerfully and personally with me since the first time I saw it at least fifteen years ago. I felt an immediate, eerie sense of connection and a feeling that her work could guide me to a new place on my own creative path.

In 2018, I got to work with Shannon for five days as part of a Fiber Artists of San Antonio intensive workshop at the Southwest School of Art. I wrote about it in this SHARDS post.

Recently, I asked Shannon if she would make a work for me, a commission piece of one of her boats that are so magically symbolic. During the time she worked on it, we talked back and forth about life and art and uncertainties. I knew that the piece she was making would be a guide for me and an inspiration.

Yesterday, the piece arrived from Oregon, packed meticulously in its own huge box, cradled with layers and layers of protective wrapping. The title of the piece is Compass. It could not be more perfect. And I could not be more grateful for this protective, symbolic vessel. 

Shannon Weber, Compass, 2022

In a handwritten note, Shannon described the provenance of the pieces in the assemblage – “small beads, stones, and fossil from my magic beads gathered last year, bone harvested off side of road on forest drive, rusted washers found on construction site, nails from junk shop, vintage burn papers, reed, handmade papers, waxed linen, shell beads, feather.” And then she wrote, “I think it will fit in your nest.”

Shannon Weber, Compass (detail), 2022

How is it that a piece of art can affect us so completely? Shannon says that the title, Compass, is for her all about direction. For me it recalls the saying about adjusting one’s sails when you can’t change the wind.

Shannon Weber, Compass (detail) 2022

That red thread that sparkles in a few places is pure Shannon symbolism – throughout history and across philosophies, red thread has been worn for protection, faith, good luck, strength, and connection. It’s a symbol of being loved, supported and, feeling safe and secure. It’s a prompt to stay positive while facing any adversity.

Every element in Shannon’s work is meaningful, partly because she allows the collected material to direct how the work is going to evolve. Every element collected has a history or a mythology of location, age, or place that is allowed to shapeshift as the materials and techniques are mixed together to the form the structure of the designs.

Her work has attracted the attention of curators of Fiber and Fine Craft who have included her work in their lectures for her skill and methods in design, both nationally and internationally. She has been asked to speak on her methods and use of materials, and she has been featured in numerous publications worldwide. 

I still need to look at Compass a lot more to discover more layers of meaning, but to be able to hold one of Shannon’s works in my hands and feel the connection is pretty awesome. When I get stuck, or get discouraged, or wonder why we make art, I’m going to have this wonderful vessel to guide me out of the rough spots.

The power of Shannon’s work comes, I think, in part from her ethical authenticity. Here is how she describes her process (from an article in Hand Eye Magazine):

By applying ancient techniques and transitioning to contemporary designs, I can achieve my desired effects by using a mixture of repetitive layers, weaving, stitching, and cold connections along with painting and encaustic. These multiple applications make it very easy to blend metal, wire, rubber, and organic materials of all kinds. Each layer of material mixed with different techniques begins to build structure that gives the objects and vessels their form and opens doors for detailed surface design embellishments of all kinds. While the form is taking shape, I consider it an amulet or talisman to be displayed in a personal space.

Thank you, Shannon, for this talisman – and for the lessons you have taught me about working with what I have and to be open to experimenting with almost any material to see what becomes of it. We all need a Compass, and you’ve provided one for me!

 

 

 

Trunk Story

Some of the best gifts come from unexpected places. Several weeks ago, I received a note through my website contact form. This is what it said:

I love your work and the way you incorporate different textures with your clay. I have two very old trunks the type that are made of wood and have metal and leather details. The two trunks came from my Dad’s family ranch south of San Antonio that is an original family land grant.

The wood and metal details are very very weathered. I was wondering if you were interested in having these two trunks. I would like to donate them if you want them and I can send you pictures to see if you’re interested. The trunks look very old.

We connected, and she sent me some photos of the trunks as well as some photos of the ranch where they came from, a place where she grew up.

When she brought the trunks to my house (yes, delivery was included!), I got that goose-bumpy feel that some old objects can produce just by radiating a sense of profound history and adventure. Canvas, rust, wood – everything I love just ready to be re-purposed.

I asked her if it would be OK if I took some of the components apart to used in mixed-media assemblages, and she said, “Of course,” but I can’t bring myself to do that just yet.

These photographs show the well-worn canvas coverings and the character of the boards that were used to construct the trunk. Some of the hardware is incredibly intricate,

What did these trunks hold? How far did they travel? Who made them? Where did the metal hardware come from? And how will I honor them thorough my art?

This is a starting place – an open doorway for a lot of visual stories.

Stay tuned for more. This is a gift that requires a lot of thought! Thank you, Margaret, for this inspiration.

 

 

Artists or Artmakers?

Question – “What do you do?”

“Well, I’m an artist.”

Next question – “Oh, cool – what do you paint?”

Why does that “artist” description automatically conjure up someone who paints paintings? If you look up images for the term “artist” on Google, that’s what you’ll see, rows of people at easels painting paintings. (Hi, Bob Ross ♥)

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s no wonder we have a problem calling ourselves “Artists.” That term doesn’t describe what we do because it has so many associations and preconceptions.

But what if I answered, instead, “Well, I”m an Artmaker.” The next question would be, “What kind of art do you MAKE?”

This difference is HUGE!

Now I can answer, “Hmm –  that’s tricky, but basically I work with my hands in my studio on all kinds of artwork that connects us.” Then I can click a few photos on my phone that I have ready to go. And hopefully, a conversation starts. Maybe like this —

“I make sometimes paintings, but they are not traditional paintings . . .still, people seem to like them.” (click)

“I do assemblage work” (click)

I work in beeswax wax and paint for all kinds of different projects and objects: (click)

“Sometimes work with photographs and fiber” – (click)

And so on – not too many photos (if you get that far) – just four or five.

Or if you (like I) use MOO business cards that let you have as many as 50 different images, you can show several of those, and hopefully, your inquirer will take a card, any card. Ask, “What’s your favorite?”

The point is, we are ARTMAKERS. From the introduction to Melanie Falick’s wonderful book, Making a Life, “We make art to connect with others. To express ideas and emotions, feel competent, create something tangible and long-lasting. And to feed the soul.”

What do YOU do?? If you find yourself mumbling that you are “an, er, artist” (and thinking “am I a real artist, or what — why do I call my self that, what does it mean anyway, urg, it sounds so pretentious, I don’t even have a true studio,etc. etc., rethink that.

Tell them with a happy smile that you are an Artmaker. It’s more than semantics. It’s how and why you work to make beautiful things. Feel the truth of that through your heart and soul right down to your toes. Then get ready for an interesting conversation!

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.

 

It’s here . . .PAINTING WITH FIRE 2022-2023

You probably know by now that Lora Murphy has created an artworld sensation with her year-long exploratory encaustic painting program, Painting with Fire. Last year, I got to be a small part of it, one of 26 teachers they called “The World’s Best” (talk about Imposter Syndrome).

But, wow! PWF is back and even better than ever. I was just looking at some of the new classes – and some new teachers, too. Roxanne Evans Stout has always been one of my favorites, and she’s here, as well as dear friend Michelle Belto, and Bridget Benton, who just did a guest stint for us in The Enso Circle.

I thought and thought about what to teach for my main Painting with Fire class this year, and finally decided on a project called The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax: Exploring Simple Mixed Media and Encaustic Figure Construction.

workshop promo

The White Shaman murals were painted on rock in the lower Pecos River Valley of Texas 4000 years ago. These murals are the inspirational source of The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax. Using simple materials – sticks, wax, pigment, sinew – we will create assembled figures that reflect the mystery and collective consciousness revealed through shamanic symbols and marks. Some of the explorations include:

  • Wax on paper, both monoprint and direct painting
  • Collage techniques
  • Waxed paper beads and adornments
  • Simple primitive figure construction
  • Face-making
  • Mark-making
  • Figure presentation

What do you think? Will it be fun? You bet 🙂 I hope you’ll sign up for Painting with Fire 2022-2023 through my link, below:

I want to be a fire painter, too!

Every week you’ll get a new class, and you can watch them any time from now until forever. Every teacher in this group is so excited to get to do this another year with you. If you click the link and go to the Painting with Fire site, you will see a list of all the teachers and their themes and processes. Like I said, I’m getting major Imposter Syndrome to be in this group.

Special thank to Lora Murphy, of course, and to all the creative people who joined us for the previous year of Painting with Fire. All the dates and information are here.

Yay for wax and fire and shamans and art and magic and creative beloved friends!!

 

Finding answers in your own work-stash Shards

It seems fitting to start the new year with a post on the whole idea of Shards.

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.

But sometimes the maker and the discoverer are the same person. Have you ever gone through work you’ve done earlier and found the answer to something you are doing right now? Perhaps it was a sketch, or a scrap of dyed fiber, or an unfinished collage. These are your shards, fragments of creations that were waiting for re-discovery to be put to good use in the place they had been waiting for.

Such was the case with this sculptural piece which garnered many comments when I posted it on Facebook.

Child of the Universe. Lyn Belisle 2022

I had completed the main body and really liked it, but there was something in this piece that wanted more. I envisioned him as a pilgrim coming home. He needed to be bringing something with him, but pilgrims bring only what they can carry.

I searched through my own older clay shards for answers and found four pieces that fit perfectly and answered the question of what he is carrying – he is carrying memories on his back.

Child of the Universe, back view

 

The four shards I found in the “shard stash pile” fit so perfectly on the back of the pilgrim that you cannot see them from the front. One piece even has the word “Memory” on it. Who are these people carried in the pilgrim’s memories? We don’t know, but we want to.

All of this reminds us that sometimes our own burdens are not visible to the people we encounter in our face to face dealings. It is only when we take the time to look behind the facade that we can discover and empathize.

It’s amazing to me that when we look to our own work for “shards” in our past stash pile, we often find and answer to a story that is deeper than we could have imagined if we had started out all fresh and new.

Nicholas Wilton had a great quote this morning that inspired this post – it really resonated with me, especially with this earthenware piece I’d just completed.

“Even in the mess we make, there’s hope! Beautiful clues emerge, like certain colors together or how a line relates to a shape, to inform your way forward and keep you progressing. Rather than looking at others’ work, staying immersed and attentive in your art-making will provide the solutions. It’s a self-generating process that comes from within.” – Nicholas Wilton

Now go through your own stash pile this morning for clues from your earlier self that will shape and inform your work!

Three of a zillion stash piles in my studio

 

 

 

 

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