Going back to school — in a box

Today at noon I’m meeting my classmates (virtually) for a workshop called Hand Coloring on Encaustic Images | Workshop in a Box taught by Kevin Tully and Amanda Smith. Amanda owns the ASmith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas, and she specializes in photography and also teaches and works in encaustic. She’s a wonderful curator and artist.

Why “workshop in a box”? Amanda and Kevin ship you a box full of all the equipment, supplies and tools you will need to participate which will be returned at the end of the workshop.

This includes a griddle, the wax, egg tempera paint, your own photos on panels plus a demo work, and an amazing assortment of extras. I received mine two days ago. It is packed with goodies, including a postage-paid label to return the equipment when the workshop is over. You meet the other participants for a mega-Zoom session.

This is a five-hour workshop with three sections – here’s a brief description of the first section:

Starting with a desaturated image we will begin coloring on the print with colored pencil, pastel and water color. Then apply wax to the image. Followed by a demonstration of the application of water soluble wax crayon, egg tempera, pastel and cold wax.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I hardly ever get to take workshops these days, and this one, via Zoom with four other people from around the country, feels like a challenge.

Here are the two photos that I will be working with. I took the first one in Cuba, and the second one in my back garden:

I’ll report back on how the day goes! Off the the workshop 🙂

Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Circle

It seems like just yesterday that Michelle Belto and I welcomed our first Artists in Residence to our online community called The Enso Circle. And today, twelve weeks later, we are celebrating the publication of our first Enso Circle Exhibition Catalog.

This catalog is tangible proof that a “what if” can become a reality. Each of the Resident artists whose authentic, eclectic work graces these pages answered a call for concept that had not been tried before – a virtual Art Residency based on a written application and specific goals.

The Enso Circle is not an art workshop or social media group, although it has components of each of those. It is an invitational art residency, a dedicated three-month time period in which artists join a community of creators for a specific self-chosen goal that is unique to them. The online residency provides the comprehensive artistic support that they need to focus and strengthen their work. Artists who apply are ready to focus on a conceptual goal in their studio practice. It could be a social theme, an exploration of media, a series of work that analyzes personal struggles or celebrates overcoming difficulty.

Linda Rael, Texas, Enso Circle Resident Artist

When Michelle and I opened up this idea online to the arts community in February of 2021, we had no idea how that community would respond. We just knew that The Enso Circle was something we would want at this stage in our creative careers. Much to our delight, we had over twice as many applicants as we cold accommodate. We chose the twelve you see here based on a combination of factors, but any one of the applicants would have been a great choice.

Joanne Desmond, Maine, Enso Circle Resident Artist

Since the first day, the Residents have shown respect, support, humor, and encouragement to others in the Circle. We’ve borrowed ideas from each other and made virtual visits to each other’s studios. I am incredibly grateful to these twelve First Residents who made The Enso Circle a reality.

The catalog contains much more that wonderful photos of artwork. Each Resident Artist has shared personal thoughts about art practice, doubts and triumphs, personal and professional goals, and the how and why of their studio work. Please read about them, enjoy their work, and share it with friends – and to know more about the Enso Circle, visit our website.

Click on the image below to access the complete Exhibition Catalog.

 

 

Three Lessons learned (so far) from The Enso Circle

enso circle logo

The Enso Circle, developed by Michelle Belto and me,  is a new concept in creative communities. It’s a virtual artists’ residency program, joined through application, and limited to twelve participants.

The Circle has definitely exceeded our hopes, both as a successful model for group dynamics and as a platform for encouraging individual artistic achievement.

Part of the appeal of The Enso Circle is that each individual artist sets an individual goal. It could be something specific, like creating twelve pieces of fiber art for an upcoming exhibition, or it could be something general such as learning more about encaustics and producing three exploratory works. Journaling is encouraged, but not required, and there is lots of lively 24/7 conversation in our Slack space.

A huge hunk of icing on the cake for me is what I’m learning as an artist as I work right alongside the Enso Residents on my own project, a series of encaustic collage works with historic photographs of child laborers from the early 20th century.

Here are three huge takeaways I’ve gleaned at this point in the term – they are not new ideas, but the “learning part” is how effective and important they are to getting art accomplished.

ONE: SET A GOALIT’S THE SETTING, NOT THE SPECIFIC GOAL

Just do it – write down a goal based on something you are already doing, something you have always wanted to do, something based on another artist’s intriguing techniques that you want to explore in your own style (yes, that’s OK). Two of our Residents have changed their goals since the started – they knew what felt right, so they adjusted. That’s OK, too.

My own goal was pretty specific: Working from dark to light in mixed media and encaustic photocollage pulling images from the dark of the past to the light of the present. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee formed in the hopes of ending the horrors of child labor. One of these investigators was the photographer Lewis Hine, who traveled across the country meeting and photographing children working in a variety of industries.

I’ve never been a write-down-your-goal person before, but, boy does it help!!

Here’s one of my first experiments toward my goal:

This led to my panel idea (below).

TWO: MAKE A TIMELINE – REVIEW IT OFTEN AND HAVE A MIDPOINT

I wanted to be halfway this week. I had decided to make five panels, each with photographs of the children on black backgrounds. If that timeline didn’t exist, I probably would have thought “too busy” and just let the project lapse, but I felt a self-imposed obligation, thanks to the others in the Enso Circle who were all reporting on their own progress.

Here’s the halfway point – the screen panels have been finished and connected. I had to figure out the best way to connect the waxed panels, and ended up using strips of hand-dyed canvas. It worked great.

Next will come finishing the back with handwritten stories of each of the children pictured  on the front . I’m still not sure what that will look like, but I’ll ask my fellow Residents what they think.

THREE: SHARE YOUR WORK – WARTS AND ALL

Even if you don’t belong to a structured community such as The Enso Circle, you can still do a “show and tell” with like-minded friends. Do it on a regular basis. Right now, it will probably be virtual through images shared on Instagram, email, or Facebook, but it won’t be long before we can gather again in small groups.

I have learned about the importance of talking about work in progress – it’s an authentic way to expose yourself to feedback. In the Circle, we use Slack, uploading pictures, asking questions, and making comments. So far, the sharing seems to be keeping us all on track.

Here’s how Katherine, one of our Resident Artists, put it:

It is unbelievably helpful to see other artists in action. To truly see the individual style, prep and steps along the way of each artist and their projects. To see successes and failures and the opportunities in the those too.

I will be putting together a mid-term catalog of Works in Progress from our Residents – stay tuned for that in the next week or so.

______________________________________________________________________

I hope my three takeaways from The Enso Circle help. You can do this for yourself, particularly if you are stuck and feeling kind of directionless.

And while I’m not formally recruiting for The Enso Circle, we are taking applications for the Second Term, which begins on June 14. It you are interested, here’s the link to the application.

Thanks for reading, and take good care.

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” —Bill Copeland

A Holiday Card and a Little Gift Tutorial

We did it! 2020 is almost in the rear-view mirror.

We will have tales to tellhappy ones and scary ones, lonely ones and sad ones. And we will never forget this year.

I am so grateful for the collective art practice that keeps us creative, resilient, and inspired. Thanks to everyone who joined me in a workshop online, and to all the friends who Zoomed with me across time zones and borders. Lessons were learned!

Here is a little card for you based on an origami model called the Diamond fold. It’s actually part of a short video that includes a free little tutorial on how to create one of these cards for yourself.

Click on the image to open the card and the video.

If you don’t see the image, click here to access the video.

Please remember that even though the year is almost over, we must continue to take good care of ourselves and each other. We can do this.

Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

~Lyn

PS – If you need to make a last-minute gift, don’t forget about the free workshops at my Teachable Classroom, Lyn Belisle Studio. I’m sure someone you know would like a Lotus Book or a Votive Candle Card. And you can whip out one (or five) before Christmas – honest!

The Lotus Book

Glowing Paper Votive Screens

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 free workshop on Teachable – Spread the Word

The events of the past two weeks have been unsettling and rocky, and perhaps that is necessary in order to prioritize some important discussions that are long overdue. I can’t presume to speak with any sense of understanding, but I can listen and encourage the discussion through art. You can, too. Read on to see how you can sign up for a free workshop.

It occurred to me that WORDS are potent agents of change in difficult times.

And that reminded me of a project I did a long time ago with my high school art students which elevated meaningful words to artwork. It involved choosing a “mantra” word as the basis for a symbolic collage.  This can encourage a lot of good discussions about personal values. Here’s a digital example of that project using the word “Justice.”

We’ve seen a lot of that word lately:

One thing I CAN do to participate in the discussion is teach about how we can communicate with artso over the past week, I’ve created an absolutely free workshop on Teachable called “Spread The Word.”  The idea, based on my lesson with students, is to choose a word that has meaning and making it into art to share.

I worked this project myself before I started filming the lessons on how to do it. I chose the word “breathe.” Breath is life and must be honored and protected. Here is my finished artwork:

This piece is made from several kinds of cut paper. It’s 11 x 14″ and putting it together was really an easy process. You can do this with almost any word. How about using the word “Dad” for a Father’s Day art collage?

This workshop, as I said, is absolutely free. You can take it just for the experience without any agenda at all.

It’s an engaging and easy technique that everyone loves. You can make a word collage of your own name or a friend’s name. You may, like I did, choose a word that helps you reflect on how we treat each other in this incredibly difficult time – a word like “unity” or “love.” Whatever you like. No experience or special materials required.

If you want some inspiration, here is a good post on words about social justice on the site Astronomy in Color. Some of them I hadn’t hard of, but I know about them now.

The free workshop, Spread The Word, opens today on my Teachable site and will be up until the 4th of July. You just need to sign up at the link below.

SPREAD THE WORD

If you’d like to share the word art that you create, I’d love to post it on my website in the Spread The Word Gallery page. Just email me a photo of your work before July 4th.

Spread the word. We’re all in this together.

 

 

Postcards to Myself – and two workshops on Teachable

Thank goodness for cyberspace! Otherwise I’d be a sad teacher with an empty workshop studio. But fortunately, I’ve got a three new online workshops to tell you about.

First, thanks to everyone who ordered my new interactive eBook, Postcards to Myself, which just came out. And special thank for helping me tweak it! The response has been great – a new comment came in just yesterday, “This is one of the best workshops I’ve ever taken, it’s full of ideas and very thoughtfully done.” Yay, thanks, Rosmary!

An “interactive eBook” is an interesting critter – you download a PDF document that looks like a hard copy, but it also has links on its pages that take you to a video that shows you what you’ve been reading about.

At $18, it’s a real bargain for people who like both reading instructions and watching demonstrations.

Here’s a sample page from the book:

And here’s an example of the video clip on that page:

Link to Video 16 from Postcards to Myself by Lyn Belisle from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

You can order it here. And . . . .

I’M GIVING AWAY THREE FREE COPIES OF POSTCARDS TO MYSELF THIS SUNDAY – WANT TO ENTER THE DRAWING? CLICK HERE.

But wait! There’s more! (as always)

I have two workshops online at my new Teachable site, Lyn Belisle Studio. Both workshops are new versions of classes that I’ve taught at Artful Gathering in recent summers. Now that Artful Gathering faculty has scattered, I’ve brought back those classes at (ahem) really low prices so more people can enjoy them. They are all such fun, and each class has about two hours of instruction.

Teachable is super-easy to use.  The first introductory workshop – still only $10 – is about making unique portfolios –  “Story in a Story.” More than 30 people have already signed up for that one. Here’s what that looks like once you’ve signed up:

The second workshop, Small Worlds: Altered paper landscape collages, just went live last night. This was one of the most popular workshops at my old Studio. If you haven’t played with Citra-solv papers, you will love this one. Tuition for that one is $29, which is a lot less than the Artful Gathering price of $89.

Like all my Teachable workshops, it’s self paced and you can download any of the videos or just watch them online wherever you want.

When times get strange and scary and sad, we get comfort in doing what we love, and I love teaching. Right now, I’m putting together a free mini-workshop called Spread the Word. You’ll hear about that one soon, but it’s my small way to teach about sharing kindness through words.

So sign up for a workshop! This old schoolteacher needs students <grin>. And have a nice weekend. I could not do without you – and this wonderful community.

(from the Small Worlds workshop :))

 

 

Chop wood, carry water

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” — Zen Buddhism 

I have a book called Chop Wood, Carry Water that I bought decades ago. It still helps me remember to focus on the things I can control in my day-to-day life, and to try to do those things with a full heart, to keep on keepin’ on.

So I’ve found comfort, as usual, in art and teaching. Now that my duties as President of the San Antonio Art League are over, there’s more time to return to those beloved foundations.

The new eBook workshop I’ve been putting together, called Postcards to Myself, will be finished by June 10th. I’ve been working on it since February, off and on.

It’s actually kind of metaphorical. First, you make a big, mixed-up picture with lots of words and images, and then you focus only on the most beautiful small areas and take notes on why those little parts make your heart sing. This helps us remember that there are little patches of beauty in today’s crazy-quilt of chaos.

Anyway, before I get too carried away, here’s a short clip that tells you more about this interactive eBook book and the 19 (!) videos. Or if you like, just skip to the bottom of this post where I have a question for you.

VIDEO LINK

Here’s the question – I’ve been talking with friends in my circle (Lesta Frank and Michelle Belto among them) about how we can continue our work in art and teaching during this time of physical distancing and beyond, into whatever the “new normal” might look like. Interactive eBooks (like the one above) can almost substitute for an in-person workshop, as can online classes and Zoom critique groups.

As part of this change, I’m updating my own email list so that anyone interested in sharing their thoughts and getting further information about all of this can be included in the discussion. I won’t be sending out a zillion newsletters or anything like that – who has time? – but I may send occasional updates on new classes and collaborations from my studio and with other artists like Lesta and Michelle. And I’ll be asking what you think.

If you’d like to be included in future updates, just click this link to submit your email.

And there’s more! If you submit you email (and optional comments) before Friday, I’ll put your name in a drawing to win a lovely new face mask from Johnny Was. Winner announced Friday afternoon, shipped to you or available for pickup.

In the meantime, chop wood, carry water, put one foot in front of the other, and keep on keepin’ on safely and kindly. Thanks for your help.

 

Lift your spirit (dolls) in uncertain times – free for the making

Hello from a planet holding its breath, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. This is not the post I though I’d be writing.

However, when I got an thank-you message from a woman in France this morning, I decided to write a blog post that might be of help to those whose plans have rearranged themselves because of caution and semi-isolation. Read on.

Hilda’s message described her frustration with trying to purchase one of my my Kindle books from French Amazon. She had tried three times, and while she kept getting refunds, she really wanted the book.

I asked for her email and sent her the PDF version as a gift. Here’s the note she wrote back, with a translation:

Wow.  “Like all the French population, we are confined because of the Corona virus…this book will allow me to escape for a moment and not let myself panic.

Right after I read that, I got another message on my Etsy Shop site thanking me for a custom listing for her Spirit Doll faces and saying, “These faces will be therapeutic during these uncertain times.”

Finally a light dawneda perfect project for us might be creating and sharing a bunch of little Spirit-Lifting Dolls made from natural materials that remind us of simple endurance and resilience?

We can stay busy collecting materials. We can keep these small sculptures as reminders of hope, and also give them to friends to lift their spirits! This might be a good project for kids, too – it’s a bit old-fashioned, but that can be a good thing.

So here’s some free stuff that I’m sharing with you in in this post, hoping we can lift some spirits:

  • A free book from me on how to make a spirit doll – just click the link below to download the PDF:

Spirit Doll Book

  • A list of materials to make a Sprint doll – just click the link below to download the PDF:

Spirit Doll Materials List

  • A guide to making your own air-dry clay Spirit Doll faces with craft store materials – just click the link below to download the PDF. You can also make faces in many other ways – drawing on watercolor-paper circles, painting on rocks . . . .

Making Air Dry Clay Faces Instructions

  • A list of nice quotations about hope and encouragement to cut out and put inside your Spirit-Lifting doll or tie on a tag on the outsidejust click the link below to download the PDF:

SPIRIT LIFTING QUOTES

  • A fun video on “short-cut” Spirit Dolls made with wooden grilling skewers that you can make in half an hour – click on the image to open it in You Tube:

Hang on to these instructions and resources. You may want to come back to them in a few weeks if you’re not totally stir-crazy right this minute.

It may be that we will get deeper in to hunkering down and distancing for the good of all. If so, remember that you might feel isolated, but you are never alone – I’m sending all good wishes for you to keep your spirits up, your bodies healthy, and your creativity flowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beeswax and Clay: experimental play

Studio work is not all directed toward completed pieces of art – sometimes the best part is experimentation without expectations. Whether it works or doesn’t work, the results add to the body of knowledge about the subject at hand. I got to play a bit at my studio yesterday, and learned a few things.

I’ve been doing a lot of mixed media sculpture lately, and I wanted to play with beeswax on textured fired unglazed clay (bisque). The video camera happened to be set up above the work table, so you get to see what I was playing with.

This is not a tutorial at all – it’s just me, fooling around and making comments 🙂

I learned a couple of things from these experiments:

  • White clay is a better match for beeswax than red clay
  • Eucalyptus might be a better shade of walnut ink for this process because it’s not as intense as Terra Cotta
  • Heavily textured clay surfaces don’t take the beeswax as successfully as lightly textured surfaces
  • Photo-transfers on clay are not particularly beeswax-friendly because they are not porous enough due to the transfer process

New things I want to try because of these experiments:

  • Using the same technique on paper clay to test its absorbancy
  • Doing more intricate scoring and carving into the beeswax surface once it’s cooled on the clay
  • Heating the beeswax with a heat gun to “drive it” into the clay surface to see what happens to the finish
  • Adding metallic wax to the beeswax surface aft it has cooled.

I’ve filed this information away until I need it – probably at one of those “Aha!” moments when I realize that this technique is exactly what I need to complete a work in progress. Or maybe not! But everything you learn doesn’t have to be put to practical use – it’s OK to play.