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

Art and Climate

For the last five years, The Encaustic Art Institute, based in Santa Fe, has been hosting a juried national exhibition called Global Warming is Real.

Here is this year’s overview. Artists were invited to interpret the theme in their encaustic work.:

THEME: Global Warming is REAL. As nations and economies shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pollution levels and human patterns change in ways that were detectable by satellites. As all types of social, economic, industrial and urban activity suddenly shut off, nature took advantage and showed improvement in the quality of air, rivers, less noise pollution, and undisturbed and calm wildlife. COVID-19 may have temporarily lessened our carbon footprint, giving us a view in to what our individual affect on Global Warming constitutes. At the same time, Climate Change is becoming more visible and tangible through increased fires, glacier melting, and warming oceans.

I found out this morning that my entry, below, was accepted. Yay! This encaustic/mixed media work called River of No Return.

Lyn Belisle, River of No Return 2021

This was my accompanying statement:

This work, called River of No Return, suggests extreme negative impacts – droughts, floods,  famine – on populations whose vulnerability to Global Warming put them at extreme risk. The looming climate change is catastrophic for third-world countries that rely more directly on rivers, rain, and oceans for their agriculture and survival. The colors of ash, bone and rust in the work serve as metaphors for the decline and corrosion that will affect every lifeform on our planet,not just people in industrialized countries.

I am really curious to see how the theme will be interpreted by the others in the exhibition, which opens virtually on July 10.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a thoughtful, sometimes disturbing, online exhibition called Resilience in the Age of Climate Change.

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/resilience-in-the-age-of-climate-change

In this exhibit by Art Works for Change, thirteen visionary artists and architects consider the consequences of climate change, including excess heat, drought, flooding, extreme weather events, food insecurity, displacement, and the loss of biodiversity. Through their work, we can visualize the challenges of a warming planet, and discover opportunities to overcome them through innovation and resilience.

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We’ll have plenty of time to ponder resilience during the days of heat and drought – hope all of you are well and finding time to create safe space for yourselves.

Wendy’s Nature Spirits

A weather note : I started this post on Monday morning. The post (and normal life) has been interrupted by two days of power outages and snow here in South Texas, and there may be more to come! Yikes!

So, before the power goes out again, I want to warm your heart (and mine) by telling you about Wendy Larsen of Nevada.

Normally, I’m shy about writing my buyers to ask how they are using the faces the purchase from my Etsy shop, Earthshards, but Wendy had ordered quite a few of the Celtic Forge faces and I was curious. I emailed her, and she graciously told me about her Nature Spirits.

Celtic Forge faces from my Etsy Shop, Earthshards

Wendy wrote:

“I use all natural materials, and your faces are beautiful addition to my art. I was going to create my own Etsy shop one but the works weigh a lot as I use petrified wood and agate rose quartz . So that makes them quite heavy to ship, but I do have some in a crystal shop in Lehi Utah that carries my art, and I’ve done quite well there over the past few months. I’m currently doing a few commissioned pieces.

It started when I was at a cactus nursery and saw some Choya wood and decided to use it to create a beautiful piece of art. Little did I know they would be such a success! They are inspired by nature. Everything used on them is natural except for what I used to keep them in place. They they all have an energy that lives within each piece. I use a lot of raw crystals, pine cones, living moss, and natural stones as well as the Choya wood and your beautiful clay faces. I’m typically inspired to do a piece by what the face tells me.

Here is a picture of the first piece I ever did — and it’s history from there – LOL.”

Wendy’s Nature Spirits are packed with intricate detail and precious objects – tiny silver lizards, clusters of crystal. Here are some others. You can see the care and love that she adds to each one.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing your wonderful Nature Spirits with us!

Before I close (and before the power goes off again!), I want to remind you that the Early Bird pricing for Painting with Fire is still open if you want to explore a year of Encaustic techniques and processes by 26 teachers (including me!) for less than $10 a workshop — pretty cool. Or hot.

Click here to visit Essence of Mulranny .

Please stay safe and warm – and take good care,

Lyn

The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

Cats and Possibilities

When times are turbulent, I keep telling myself, “Trust the Process.” This doesn’t mean doing nothing and just watching it all happen, but rather doing what we do best – creating with compassion and imagination in the certainly that adding beauty to the world fuels thoughtfulness and optimism.

Seeing what others are doing in this turbulent time brings me that sense of optimism – particularly when their art stems from our Teachable workshop community. And particularly when the subject is cats!

Willma Sliger’s Cat Shaman pieces are a perfect example of taking a basic idea (from my Cat Shaman online workshop) and just flying with it.

Wilma writes, As promised here are the Cat Shamans I have joyfully created. . . .Some have very old ticking . An evil eye brought back from Turkey by a friend. A replica of a coin given to men in old time saloons/bawdy houses. And lots more.
You are my antidote for covid. Seriously. Stay safe and well.
Love, Wilma the Desert Dweller

Wilma lives in Moab, Utah where she creates fabric & mixed media collages, incorporating photos and found objects with fabric to produce unique wall hangings. I told her I was stealing her idea of using a mesh screen on the Heart Box of her Shaman – it’s symbolic and mysterious.

Here is another one of those great Heart Boxes filled with charms and found objects. I like the tied desert wood pieces as well.

This Evil Eye fellow may be my favorite, all twisty and dance-y, with the lion-like head and butterfly wings.

I am so grateful to Wilma for sending these pictures – her work is artfully folk-like but complex, with a real sense of purpose in every assemblage.

So what do YOU do when you know you should be creating something for the good of you heart and soul, but you can’t get started because you don’t have an idea??

That’s an easy one – just get started, Grasshopper, and the Idea will come. Here’s an example.

Two days ago, I desperately needed to make some art so I could (at least briefly) focus on the creative rather than the political. Nothing inspiring struck. That’s rare. But I know if I did SOMETHING, I’d feel better, more optimistic.

So . . . I found a block of wood, and marked some holes. Two holes seemed like a good number. Maybe.

I got out my trusty cordless drill (every artist should have one of these) and drilled two holes.

Then I cut some super-strong but slender bamboo sticks to about 18″ tall and stuck them in the holes.

Voila! It ain’t much yet, but it will be SOMETHING! Who knows what?? When I posted it to Instagram, my friends suggested it could be a two-legged table or a REALLY tall spirit doll.

I’m thinking it might be a sculpture with a body that’s shaped like a kimono with beeswax-coated pages that open and close. Maybe so, maybe not . . .but the whole process got me thinking in a new creative direction –

So the point is, you can’t “Trust the Process” if there isn’t a process to trust yet. Start something. Wrap some string around a stick. Pour the last of your morning coffee on a piece of watercolor paper. Unravel a worn-out sweater.

In the background, I can hear Wilma’s Cat Shamans saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, Grasshopper.” Pounce. Munch.

 

Shards, Scrolls, and Synchronicity

The concept of “Shards” is a foundational inspiration in all my artwork – an idea that helps me trust the creative process and follow where it leads me.

To me, Shards are synchronistic fragments that hint at a story, make a collective connection, or suggest a direction. Shards can be objects, or an intangible occurrences. A Shard can be a brief glimpse of something, as well, something that helps you find a direction.

For example, last week I was taking my usual pre-dawn walk in our wooded neighborhood when I saw what I could have sworn was a Nativity creche scene in a distant yard. It was so clear that I could see the roof of the lean-to shelter.

As I got closer, I saw that it was just a string of Christmas lights around somebody’s front door, partially concealed by blowing branches. But the illusion of the creche-like shelter seemed so significant in its clarity. Why that illusion at that time?

I followed that thought-thread as I walked back towards home, considering the whole idea of shelter for travelers, of people who go on journeys to freedom and safety, of how fortunately I was to have a safe destination and a home to return to. I thought about pilgrims and wayfarers, about what it must be like to carry all your belongings with you.

Then came the memory jog. That whole pilgrimage concept reminded me of a series of clay assemblages I had done five or six years ago called “Peregrinos” (Spanish for Pilgrims). It was an age-old theme  that I had I wanted to go back to at the time, but had pushed it to the back of my mind.

Peregrino Series, Earthenware assemblage, Lyn Belisle 2015

Now, though, this Peregrino theme inspired by the mistaken illusion directed me straight to my studio to begin the mixed-media fiber piece I’m working on now. Its working title is The Pilgrim Scrolls. The form is a triptych of canvas scrolls that contain pictures and small relics and memories that represent things we take with us on our journey.

The triptych (so far) has photo transfers of my original Peregrino clay assemblages along with other images and components. It will have smaller scrolls, patches, stitches, and pockets. It speaks to homelessness, but not randomness.

Phototransfer on canvas in progress

Part of the techniques I’m employing, particularly the phototransfer on fabric, came from my recent Prayer Flag workshop, but I would not have been given the Peregrino/Pilgrim theme without the “synchronistic Shard sighting” that was not even what it seemed. I’m really looking forward to completing this work, to seeing where it takes me and what I learn.

During Covid-time, I’ve had more time to think about sources of artistic inspiration, and I want to explore more about my “shards” and other kinds of synchronistic fragments that seem like a secret handshake from a deeply collective and timeless source. There’s always something surprising to discover, and something to say about that discovery.

I’m re-reading a book that I keep coming back to over the years called The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self by Jean Shinoda Bolen.

She’s written many books, but this is one of her first, and my favorite. You’ll like the way she explains synchronicity and why sometimes it seems as if we are meant to be in a particular place at a particular time to come across a particular “Shard.” Here’s a link.

UPDATE!

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’d like to know that I finished Pilgrim Scroll last night – here’s how it turned out – I’m very happy with the way the shards led me!

Barbie and The Spirit Women

Spirit Woman, Barbie Koncher

I get to meet the most amazing artists through my Etsy shop. In the last post, you read about Brita, and now – meet Barbie!

Barbie Koncher lives in Hawaii and uses banana fiber as an element in creating her Spirit Women. Indigenous materials add authentic magic to her creations. She sent me some photos of her work along with some great notes:

Hi Lyn,

I’m happy to share my techniques. I have always shared ideas with fellow artists. Inspiration and sharing is critical to artists. I am working on shaping some banana fiber for a Spirit Doll who will inhabit it. I am using this instead of a stick body, using your techniques in my own way. This banana fiber has been soaked overnight then cut to size and scrubbed clean. You can only cut and shape when wet. Then I’ll wax with encaustic before I begin to build my doll, Shaman or Spirit woman. You have shown me an entirely new path!

There’s a lot more to know about this remarkable woman:

I have been creating jewelry for 35+ years and am best known for my large bead creations and fused glass jewelry (20 years). I designed for Saks Fifth Avenue, numerous cruise ships (traveled with them as a guest artist), and my glass was sold at the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

But wait, there’s even more!

I also had a 25 year career with the Department of Defense and capped that career working at the Pentagon and State Department.

I am a certified Art Clay instructor and am toying with the idea of making faces with bronze Art Clay, if I can keep it light enough. I also torch fire enamel on steel beads or copper screen. I am retired in Hawaii and 75 years old but I can’t stop creating. I am an active member of the Kona Palisades Artists and the Las Vegas Artisans Guild.

I just made some lovely cheese cloth painted fabric! I’m having so much fun with the Spirit Woman series.

In this last photo, Barbie accents the Spirit Woman with a cracked glass Christmas ornament and some sea glass. There’s something mythical about it all.

I love Barbie’s work. Many thank to her for permission to use her photos and her thoughts. If you’d like to get in touch with Barbie, you can email her here: koncher@msn.com

It’s such a pleasure to see how the Earthshard faces travel around and inspire so many fantastic artisans. So, now I have the words to “It’s a Small World After All” running through my head!

Happy Holidays – and dare it say it? Happy New Year – yay!!!!

The pie is out of the oven

Just this afternoon, Michelle Belto and I finished our first collaborative workshop on Teachable. I say “collaborative,” but it has been the weirdest collaboration I ever was a part of!

Apparently, we were both insane from quarantine, because we agreed to do an experiment in which each of us made a serious artwork based on the theme of “Apple Pie.” The catch was that neither of us would share what we were doing until the bitter end. We would never see each each other in person, and we would film the whole thing in lesson format for a workshop.

Here’s my studio where I filmed the Apple Pie collaboration – notice the real apple for inspiration . . .

It was an amazing experience. We had our final Zoom call this afternoon, and both of us commented that it felt like we were working blind, filming alone in our studios, trying to figure out our next moves and having to talk about it to our invisible audience. There are many funny, teachable moments.

Here’s part of a lesson that I did, not having any idea how this apple print would turn out. It was, indeed, “less than thrilling,” but it gave me a great new idea that you’ll see in the next lesson if you take the workshop.

We ended up with a total of six hours of video lessons between us – not just the “technique” kinds of lessons, but lessons in what it’s like to truly “trust the process” and hope the right decision comes along fast.

I invite you to look at the free lessons on the Cooking Up a Collaboration workshop page. While I’d love for you to sign up, you’ll get to see the final results in the lessons called “The Goddess of Apple Pie” and “Family Recipe” from the free previews. Here’s the link.

I’ll be sending out a newsletter in the next day or so with more workshop and studio news, and a give-away, but in the meantime, I’m gonna go have a piece of apple pie.

Take good care,

Lyn

Fat fiber and skinny holes – Carolyn to the rescue!

Just because I call myself a “mixed-media artist” doesn’t mean I am good at everything. On the contrary.

When I took a seed-beading workshop a few years ago, I got so frustrated trying to threading those microscopic devil-beads onto a hair-thin sewing needle to attach them to a piece of felt, my table-mate finally said, “Honey, why don’t just just try hot glue?”‘

Threading stuff is not my strength. If you’ve watched my workshop videos, you may have noticed that I often have to change course after try to force a piece of fuzzy thread through a little hole in a clay face.

Fortunately, one of my online workshop participants, artist Carolyn Congrove from Tucson, took pity on me and just sent me this great video that she made to help me out! This is very cool.

She shows three easy approaches to threading wiggly big thread and ribbon though little holes without causing the threadee to have a nervous breakdown. I asked her if I could share it with you guys, and she said I could.

Her daughter April shot the helpful video. The floss-threader tip, as she says, is a game-changer.

 

This isn’t the first time Carolyn has helped me out – she sent some great photos of her lotus books that I used in one of my recent posts about giving gifts of art from your heart during this pandamic.

Carolyn Congrove

I have met so many nice (and helpful) people like Carolyn through the online workshops on my Teachable site. Don’t forget there are free workshops for you there, including the Lotus Book.

And if you want to trim your Lotus Book with some little-bitty beads on some wiggly fuzzy thread, Carolyn has come to our rescue.

Take care – stay cool!

Lyn

 

 

Imaginary friends, bossy inspirations

Human faces and figures, ancient or contemporary, fascinate me as summaries of life stories in the moment. The longer I work as an artist, the more focused my work seems to be on interpretations of those themes.

Clay, paper, beeswax, and fiber are my instinctive, beloved media, all of which lend themselves to representations of faces and figures as small sculptures, spirit dolls, and earthenware faces.

Below are two of the latest little figures (sticks, clay, found objects) which I just dropped off at Marta Stafford’s gallery in Marble Falls. They are called “StarSeason” (top) and “Pastime” (bottom)

Creating an assembled piece related to human form is different from creating an abstract painting – there’s still a lot of intuition, technique, and trust involved, but these small sculptures seem to function as creative “guides.”

It’s easier to tell what element a figurative assemblage “wants” than it is to tell what color a painting “wants,” at least to me. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird.

I discovered this when I started teaching Spirit Doll workshops a decade or so ago, and then re-learned it in the latest Spirit Doll workshop, now up on Teachable.

If you look at the second lesson in the Spirit Doll workshop (which is a free preview) you’ll see how a bunch of stick almost pull themselves together to become something with strong opinions and a personality! It’s really fun to be involved in that process.

I remember when I was putting this piece (below) together a couple of months ago (it’s kind of a cross between mixed-media sculpture and Spirit Doll), I felt strongly guided on what to do next. For example – when it came time to represent the hair, she wanted horsehair.

I didn’t even know I had any horsehair, but then I remembered that a friend had brought me some a long time ago at my old studio. I finally found a hank of pale, coarse horsehair in a buried Ziploc, and used it. The sculpture/spirit doll was right! Nothing else would have worked!

Then there’s Mojo Woman, who wanted everything but the kitchen sink – I listened to her, too – not sure about this one 🙂 See how smug she looks with all that stuff?

Anyway, join the new Spirit Doll workshop if you need a new imaginary best friend who can be a bit bossy. But if you don’t like having somebody telling you what to do, you may regret it!

Take good care,

Lyn