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.

 

Shards and Santos, Clay and Collage

Happiness is teaching in Taos!

A week from tomorrow, I’ll be at the Taos Ceramics Center working with students in my Shards and Santos Workshop. The class takes place on two consecutive Saturdays – here’s a description.

In this workshop, we will create personal assemblages inspired by these iconic figures of Santos. In the first class, we will construct handmade textured slab-based clay components such as heads, bodies, and enhancements. We will also learn to make hand-crafted clay press molds. These components will be fired once.

Here are some examples of assorted assemblage components that I’m taking with me – honestly, working in assemblage is just like working in collage, only a bit more dimensional:

Continuing the workshop description —

The next week, we will build our figure, incorporating found objects such as bones and shells and bleached twigs into the final assemblage and perhaps include cherished objects and hidden words. We will explore the limitless possibilities of cold finishes, such as metallics and beeswax, to enhance the surfaces of the unglazed earthenware.

These santos, below, are in progress, and I’ll use them to show how the components are put together.

Since we will not be glazing and re-firing the shard components, I’ve been experimenting with cold finishes for fired clay for the last couple of weeks.

One of the most successful combinations I’ve discovered is Pearl Ex powder by Jacquard mixed with Gamblin Cold Wax Medium.  You can control the translucency and the color saturation, then buff the wax finish. It’s exciting to see how well it works on bisqueware.

 

Another technique I’m playing with is tube acrylic paint mixed with a bit of cornstarch to dull the finish.

In the sample below, the acrylic mixture mimics the look of Gilder’s Paste at about half the cost and with less potential toxicity.

This kind of experimentation is part of the fun of planning a workshop. And then I get to share with new people!

I’m grateful to the Taos Ceramics Center for inviting me – and at this writing, there’s just one spot left, so if you need a quick get-away, come on up to the mountains of New Mexico!

 

Serenity through bamboo – for you?

My latest online class for everyone is called, “Sumi-e Painting: Serenity and Simplicity.” It’s absolutely free, and it’s designed to de-stress your mind and to celebrate the coming of spring – yay!

In this class, you’ll learn to paint a variation of the ancient Asian art form called Sumi-e in a simple way that anyone can do. It’s fun and relaxing, even if your bamboo leaves end up looking like bananas. 🙂

Here’s the class link.

The class opened on Monday, and right now there are 90 people signed up, painting graceful bamboo stalks and wild orchid grass. I’m getting lots of favorable responses!

There is a joy in providing a no-cost chance to be creative that money can’t begin to buy – honest!

One of my favorite responses came from a participant who wrote:

“My friend was asking me about some painting tutorials and where to get started.  I told her about (your) lotus book tutorial and how much fun it was. Your free painting video arrived today in my email has been a great way to show her what you are doing.

We had great progress and successfully completed the tutorial this afternoon.”

bamboo

“The first photo shows (my friend’s) work from start to finish and you can see the progression after we practiced and how quickly we got some good results with your excellent instruction.” – – – (Wow, thanks!!)

I told her how much I loved their work – and how nice (especially these days) to get to paint together with a friend.

She wrote back:

I did two little cards on some scrap watercolor paper. We were using the same watercolor paper as you demonstrated with.  I even found a little stamp that we dipped in red watercolor for chop mark.

I actually had a stone chop made when I was in Taiwan in 1978 but I really couldn’t put my hands on it this afternoon. It has my name in Chinese carved into it with an ox figure on top. I am year of the ox!

Before we went I had pored over a book my Dad had brought back from his travels of Chinese watercolor painting . I was fortunate enough to get the watercolors and brushes ( the brushes  we used today) and paint and paper while I was in Taiwan. . . Funny how things come full circle!”

(Special thanks to Marti Bledsoe for sharing this painting adventure.)

So, try this project if you haven’t – you don’t’ need any fancy materials – just some inexpensive watercolors and some paper. And maybe some nice wind chime music in the background. You, too, can bamboo!

If you like this technique, I also have a new in-depth workshop called Sunsets and Serapes which, strangely enough,uses this Sumi-e technique to make Southwestern striped paintings for mixed media artists!

Serape Mother and Child

This particular painting workshop is not free (a mere $39) but it has four hours of videos on painting with strong East/West influences. Here’s that link.

Finally, here’s a challenge/idea – how about making Lotus Books (another free workshop) and doing the covers with Sumi-e paintings? That would be beautiful!!

Wishing you a serene and stress-free day! ~~~ 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

A Walk-in-the-Woods Workshop?

2020 was surely The Plague Year (and we’re still being extra-cautious), but it did get a lot of us outside, walking and exploring nature. That’s a good thing. Decades ago I discovered that walking worked well for me as meditative thinking time – plus I find lots of cool stuff along the way. And sometimes it seemed that the cool stuff was left there especially for me to find.

You may remember the wonderful photo collection of composed found objects that artist friends contributed to my website in 2019. Here’s that link, and here’s one of my favorite compositions (this one is by Marilyn Jones)

Marilyn Jones, Found Objects

This kind of collecting is nothing new for me. One of my signature techniques is embedding sticks and other natural objects into my assemblages – there’s just something mythical about material found outdoors “by accident”.

Sometimes, I even construct pieces almost totally from found objects and natural material, such as this piece called Bone Tea.

Lyn Belisle, “Bone Tea”

It was influenced by my friend Shannon Weber, whose work with natural materials makes me swoon.

Shannon Weber

So all of this leads up to a new workshop that I’ve just posted on my Teachable Studio site. It’s called Sacred Serendipity:Nature Shrines and Assemblages.

Collecting things from nature and assembling them as art is a long and honorable practice.

If you’ve ever read Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, you know how she describes different seashells as stages in a woman’s life – the oyster shell, covered bumps and lumps but still smooth and beautiful on the inside.

This is a workshop for anyone who has ever found a pine cone, a smooth rock, or a red and gold leaf and brought it home in gratitude and wonder.

There are several free preview videos, including one of me being very goofy in the woods across the street from my house, pretending to “find” objects. But I think the real beauty of this workshop lies in the techniques about arranging and attaching natural objects to a small canvas. This gives you so much leeway to create your own small Shrine to Nature.

I also show you step-by-step how to make a mold from a natural object and then cast it with paper clay – you can do faces this way, as well. The class fee is a mere $29, and you can start and stop whenever you like. The lessons are yours forever – or at least as long as the Internet lasts. Think of this as the cost of a bag of groceries but with more lasting results!

Workshop Preview Link

So here’s to a walk on the wild side – and the natural treasures that we “accidentally” find there. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop Formats, lifelines, and learning

Yesterday I did my first official “live” Zoom workshop for a creative group sponsored by the Boerne Public Library.

It was a whole ‘nother way of teaching. I could interact with the participants in a limited way, and everything was happening in “real time,” but it wasn’t like sitting around a worktable together.

Here’s a little video of what the workshop interface looked like – many thanks to library gurus Caren Creech and Robin Stauber for setting up the Zoom class.

There will be three more Zoom Workshops in this series, all on Thursdays at 2:00 during December, and anyone can join. For information, email Caren Creech at the Library.

Here’s another segment (about ten minutes)  from that live Zoom workshop on Lotus Books at the Library if you want to take a look.

As a long-time teacher, I am intensely curious about how people want to distance-learn. There is a link on my website that asks what method of teaching that viewers prefer if in-person real-time instruction isn’t possible, which is an unfortunate reality these days. Here are the choices I suggest in the website survey:

About 200 people have responded so far, and there is no strong preference, but the two most popular online formats so far are “Online Classes with Several Videos” and “Zoom Discussion Groups.”
So I’m going to add “Live Zoom Workshops” to the list of choices after yesterday’s really fun experience. If you have a suggestion for a workshop that could be done with this live Zoom format in 90 minutes or less, send it along!
Meanwhile, the self-paced workshops at Teachable are really going well – more than 500 people are participating in both the the free and fee-paid workshops. Here’s that link.
And if you want to jump right into the free Lotus Book class, click here.
You may wonder why I’ve been talking so much lately about online teaching. For one thing, it’s MY creative lifeline to fellow artists and learners.
For another thing, comments sent to me like the ones below help me realize that we are all in this together, and the more we can connect as a community, the happier and healthier we can be.

Hi, Lyn,
I have so enjoyed your free tutorials online! I attended an encaustic workshop with you a couple years ago and can’t wait to take another one when COVID is no longer an issue. I brought the “Spread the word” one to our church youth group. I believe that focusing on a word of healing or hope is so important.

Hi Lyn,
I have been going back and forth between your eBook offerings with accompanying videos and the Teachable platform method of delivering your content. I must say that I truly like the ease of going from one video to the next with the Teachable method of delivery. It is far superior to having to log into to each Vimeo video separately. I absolutely like this method of presentation much better. It’s so much easier to follow, stay in the flow of your workshop and repeat segments easily for more clarification. Two thumbs up for finding a great way to creating online workshops. Kudos to you for being such a great teacher…I don’t think I could get to Texas🧡🧡 so this is the next best thing🧡🧡

Thanks, Everyone, for reading SHARDS today – like a lot of us, I have had a difficult time getting motivated to write, and even to focus on the next step at the studio, but knowing that you are out there, too, makes it nicer.

If a tree falls in a forest, and there are a bunch of us around to hear it (even if we can’t see each other), we can all say, “Whoa, what the heck was that??” Now THAT’s profound.

Q. When is a workshop NOT a workshop?

Q. When is a workshop NOT a workshop?

A. When it’s a resource collection of materials, links, tips, and freebies.

I am finally getting all of my favorite materials with their sources in one place in my Workshop Studio on Teachable, and sharing it with YOU. I got (stole?) the idea from Pamela Caughey’s Art and Success school.

The RESOURCES “class” kind of looks like a workshop, and it’s free, but it’s more of a grab bag of ideas and art stash. Check it out.

Here’s what up there right now. Every resource has a link. I explain why I like them and how I use them.

MY TOP FIVE MATERIALS

These are materials that are somewhat unique to my workshops, my five “signature” favorites. You probably won’t find them on everyone’s lists of materials because they are a bit unusual. I’m often asked for sources – so here they are, all in one place. And what’s even more remarkable – you can get all five of them together for under $50.

WALNUT INK ($6)
GOLDEN FLUID ACRYLIC, QUINACRIDONE AZO GOLD ($9)
ARTIFICIAL SINEW ($14)
BEESWAX ($13)
BOOK FOIL ($7)

FIVE MORE MUST-HAVE FAVORITES

Like the first list, these things are materials or tools I use in virtually every workshop. They don’t take up a lot of room, they are very affordable and versatile, and they do a specific job and do it well. You can get all five of these for about $65 – or the cost of a dinner out in a nice restaurant (remember the days when we went to restaurants?) 🙂

EK TOOLS HOLE PUNCHER ($11)
ARTISTS’ WHITE TEMPERA PAINT ($9)
POTTER’S TOOL SET ($10)   (My “Best Art Bargain”)
HANDMADE DRAGON CLOUDS MULBERRY PAPER SHEETS ($16)
BOOKBINDING KIT ($18)

The best thing is that you can order them all online in one place, and the whole assortment of ten essentials for your mixed-media studio costs just a little over $100. ______________________________________________

Other things on the Resources page include:

WORKSHOPS: SELECTED LISTS OF MATERIALS. . .( these lists give you an idea about the scope of the workshops)

FREE PRINTABLES. . . (collections of designs to print out and use in collage or other projects)

FREE LESSON PREVIEWS. . .(selected preview lessons from several different workshops, all in one place)

As I said, check it out, and let me know what else you would like to see on that RESOURCES page – it’s a never-ending project!

A surprise gift for you that lights up!

OK, so all of you who take my online workshops really DO light up my life. Your response to the Prayer Flag Sampler has been amazing. It reinforces my conviction that we all continue to need hope and optimism in the weeks ahead.

So here’s a new FREE workshop that I just finished. It’s based on an article that I wrote for Cloth Paper Scissors. Some of you have done this workshop in person at my studio and you know how much fun it is to create these simple, lovely votive lanterns.

I’ve spent the last few days making how-to videos of the process so everyone can learn to make them, and the new workshop, called Glowing Paper Votive Screens, is ready for you! You just need to join the school if you haven’t already, then scroll down to the enroll button, and you are in. No catch, no cost.

Offering these free workshops is one small way I can contribute to keeping us creative and inspired during this unbelievably challenging year. I’ve provided you with a materials list and some other resources as well as the video lessons.

By the way, those of you who have taken the free Lotus Book workshop will see it featured in the upcoming issue of Wax FusionInternational Encaustic Artists digital magazine very soon – I’ll be sure to give you that link when it’s available. I wrote the article to celebrate the joys of sharing a small project with many other artists, and some of the wonderful student work is featured. Over 200 people have already enrolled in that class – and my sister-in-law loves this project so much that she’s even opened an Etsy shop featuring her Lotus Books! Yay!

But your homework assignment right now is to sign up for the Glowing Paper Votive Screens workshop and get busy spreading some light around this sweet (but tired) old world.

Even if you’re not ready to start today, it is a self-paced class, ready for you when you are ready for it – but don’t wait too long. The holidays are coming soon, and these will make beautiful gifts and table adornments.

As always, thanks for all you do – trust yourself, trust the process, stay safe – and VOTE.

♥Lyn

 

Blessings from Bri – prayer flag inspirations

I just finished the last video for my new workshop called Strands of Light: A Prayer Flag Sampler. Now comes the editing, the writing, and the uploading to my online classroom – and it WILL be done by October first. Yikes, that’s just a week from now!

The person I called on for advice when I got the idea for this prayer flag workshop was my friend Briana Saussey, writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor. Bri holds a B.A. and M.A. in Eastern and Western classics, philosophy, mathematics and science from St. John’s College (Annapolis and Santa Fe), and is a student of Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.

While I can (joyfully) teach the techniques for making prayer flags, it’s Bri who is the expert on the heart of the matter – creating and offering prayers and blessings. She graciously agreed to partner with me as my “expert witness” to the power of spirituality  in our art making. Without that component, a prayer flag is simply a piece of decorated cloth.

Bri has agreed to share her Daily Blessings with the workshops participants as well as her thoughts on the subject. Here is an excerpt from an interview we did earlier in September. I asked her about the nature of prayer and blessings.

Excerpt from an interview with Briana Saussey for the Strands of Light Prayer Flag workshop from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I am so grateful to Briana for her help. Incidentally, she has a new book out called Making Magic. I love my copy of this book – it’s very surprising in many ways, and very practical.

Here are two of the prayer flag/blessing banners that I made for the upcoming Strands of Light workshop. Both use Bri’s Daily Blessings as inspiration.

So when the workshop opens on October 1st, you’ve got all kinds of resources, both artistic and spiritual, to make a fine flock of prayer flags and blessing banners! Hope to see you then. I’m off to the studio make a little prayer flag to honor RBG.

♥Lyn