Thursday, March 31, 2011

encausticamp: featuring Michelle Belto

Well, I didn't do a Wednesday snapshot this week as it would have been a pretty boring photo. The project that is currently on my table is one that I'm dreading and that is sanding down some large boards in preparation for a large commissioned project. I'm not dreading the project...just the sanding.

Have you ever been to Missouri Bend Studio blog? I love Patti's delicate work and I always enjoy reading her posts. She invited me to be part of her special series "Made by Hand" and I am honored once again to be a guest on her blog.


In preparation for Encausticamp that will be taking place this July in Salem, OR, I will be sharing a blog post from each of the instructors in the coming weeks. Today's preview is from Michelle Belto. If I weren't teaching at Encausticamp myself I would just love, love, love to take her workshop. Paper making + Wax .... the possibilities makes my heart go pitter-patter!

All Roads Lead to Forever by Michelle Belto
Encaustic, Tar, Torch on Handmade Paper

"When I got married, I didn’t know the first thing about cooking. Unfortunately, my new husband liked to eat…and eat often! Thinking that it would be something easy, he informed me that his favorite side dish was mashed potatoes and that “it would go with everything.” What he didn’t realize was that even the lowly mashed potato was beyond the level of my expertise. I remember calling up my mom with a raw potato in my hand and asking the question: How do you get from here to there?

I often get asked that question about my work. How did you get there? For those who will be attending the first ever Encausticamp in [outside of] Portland this summer, you will get there yourself! Beating cotton and rag into a giant slushy pulp and then reforming it into something wonderful is addicting. What’s more making your own supports will open the door to endless new ways to explore mixed media work, sculpture, and, of course, encaustic painting.

Here is a visual overview of the process that you will learn when you come to camp:




Participants will first learn how to make pulp from ordinary recycled materials. We will use the pulp in a pour-mold (1) which will allow us to add cool things like glitter and cut up newspaper or embed threads or botanicals. Our form, created from foam core and other materials, will be embedded in the pulp. This will make the support stable enough to take the wax. (2)The next step is to remove the water by pressing. One of my students is hand-pressing the pulp. See she is smiling! It is fun! (3) The final step is to allow the form to dry…and voila! You have just created your one-of-a-kind support."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I am still, and probably will be forever, on the quest of re-using older materials and works that I have in storage in my studio. I have been on a cleaning-out and tossing rampage throughout the house too- must be spring in the air. It feels good to clear out, recycle, donate, or just toss out things that are taking up space and adding to the clutter.

6x6 inch blank handbound mixed media journal

Several years ago I took a monotype print workshop with Seattle artist Doris Mosler. I still have all the prints I made, including the ghost prints. If I remember correctly, I believe this is the ghost print. It's been so long since I've done monotype printing, that I could be mistaken! Whichever it is, it was created on handmade lokta paper. This time around I dipped the print in encaustic medium, which causes the paper to become transparent where there was no ink/paint. So I layered it atop paper and added more layers on top- bark paper, sewn piece of torn ribbon.

I bound it up as a journal cover this past weekend and put it up for sale at along with another journal that I just made. Both sold within the hour! So now my shelves with available works are bare again. Between painting and other projects I have been working on, plus chasing after my little monkeys, my journals usually end up taking the backburner on my to-do lists. But I always enjoy making them. I have created so many since I first started making and selling journals (since 2002) that it always feels like "coming home" in a way. Back to making more journals...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

wednesday snapshot

My little guy today told me that he wanted to "press the pedal on that machine", so when his sister went down for a nap, we cut fabric strips and sewed them onto a card.


I love painting. I love my wax. But for some reason I dream of fabric and sewing and stitching....I've been incorporating those elements into my paintings. I allude to piecing together, stitch work and seams. But I think one day I will succumb to the lure of fabric.

And just because I'm a quote freak, here's one I love:

"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."
~Augusten Burroughs

Sunday, March 20, 2011

silent moments

Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize "The stars are words" and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words, and so is this world too. And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it's all in my mind. ~ Jack Kerouac

silent moments
5x7 inch mixed media panel to be bound
as a journal cover soon

Another bowl painting, but this time it will be a cover for a journal. I just need to bind it up. Maybe it's all the talk of the Super Moon, or waking up to the bright face of the moon in the middle of the night for two nights in a row this week, but the starry skies were definitely on my mind when I made this.

This panel includes an oil painting of a bowl on canvas that I painted a few years ago. I cut it out of its stretcher bars and adhered it to the panel. It always takes a moment of resolve for me to do this, but I am usually happy that I did it in the end. Then added more paint, papers, and encaustic medium. The words read "She was silent for a moment. A few moments". Those two sentences were from a book that I got at a rummage sale many years ago. I scrounge around in it at times for random sentences or phrases that jump out at me. For this painting of the empty bowl under a starry sky, I loved what the words implied...

Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy. ~Eskimo proverb (thank you to Janet Smith for this comforting quote)

Speaking of the celestial bodies, I just added my mixed media painting "Her Moon" to my etsy shop that I am revitalizing. I have had an etsy shop for several years but never used it really as I had amanobooks to sell from. I decided to list at both shops this year and see how it goes. I'll be adding some of my older works to my shop, such as Her Moon, as well as small new encaustic paintings. Well, that's the plan. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

a snapshot

Jen Osborn posted a fun idea of taking a picture of what you're working on every Wednesday and post it. Not sure if I can participate all the time, but I thought it was a fun idea.


This photo is pretty much a snapshot of my life:

My work table, encaustic palette, a large encaustic painting in progress on the table, a mixed media panel that will be bound into a journal cover and an egg-crate caterpillar that my 4 year old son and I have been working on. He and I have been working on some fun projects together. He made his first journal this week, punching the holes with my Rubi-coil and then coiling it up. He's going to use it as a sticker book and sketch book, he told me. We are also going to start birding together. I've never done it, but I'm looking forward to learning how to be a birder with him. We checked out some books from the library yesterday, I'm going to prep what we need to make our bird journals, and my little guy has his binoculars ready! And now that it seems that spring is on its way to Chicago, maybe we'll be seeing some birds soon. Hopefully.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Playing with Fire

"Spirit, Lead the Way"
encaustic and mixed media
14x11 inches

I am happy to announce that this encaustic painting, as well as Born of Earth and Bone are on exhibit at the Tubac Center of the Arts in Arizona in the "Playing with Fire" exhibit.

March 18 - May 1
Reception, Friday, March 18, 5-7pm
Walkthrough with juror Barbara Rogers, Friday, March 18, 4:30-5pm

I wish I could be there, not only to soak in some southwest desert sun, but to hang out out a dear art friend from my Seattle days, Karon Leigh who also left the Pacific Northwest around the time my family and I left. But I will be here in Chicago trying to recover from whatever crazy bug that's out there.

For the past two weeks my family and myself have been beseiged with this cold/sickness/plague. One after the other, we all have been taken over with fever, cough and congestion. Hopefully we are finally on the mend. Taking care of sick chldren while you yourself are sick is tough and I have been laying low, trying to recover. Hopefully I'll be back soon with something new to share! Thanks for all the lovely comments left for me in regards to my bowl.

I have another Raymond Carver quote to share:

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."

"Late Fragment"
Raymond Carver

When I read that the other day, it made me want to weep and dance and holler at the same time. I believe it was the last thing he wrote before he passed away.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Rise Above

The last time I posted, I mentioned a painting that was undergoing The Kitchen Test and that I thought it was done. Well, it did not actually pass The Kitchen Test. Again. So I brought it back to the work table. Again. My husband had noticed that it was gone from the kitchen wall and said, "I thought it was done". I shook my head, no, no, it's not quite there. Then he shook his head, muttering something that I couldn't quite catch. Luckily I had two hours of studio time this past Wednesday and I was finally able to declare it finished. I am so completely confident that it is done that it didn't even need to undergo The Kitchen Test.

Rise Above
16x20 inches

My second bowl painting.

Actually, I have a couple of bowl paintings from a few years ago when I was working on my Expecting series. The bowl to me then was about the woman/mother as vessel. And it still means that to me. I think that all ideas feed into another, whether it adds to the meaning or morphs into another.

This painting has some pretty personal meaning for me that I won't get into here. But what I will get into is what is influencing me right now.

- that Raymond Carver poem
- layers and layers and layers of encaustic paint
- urban grunge, graffiti, rust, copper patina, metal, concrete

In Seattle a lot of my work had a soft blue, mossy, gray palette. Sort of like the watery, mossy environment around me then. Natural decay caused by sun and moisture. Here, my palette has changed for sure. I have a lot more rust and yellow in my work. A lot of the buildings in my Chicago environment are a rusty brick color or a yellow-ochre brick. Graffiti, stapled up billboards, rusted metal, patina of underneath metal of the L tracks. I can feel all that entering my work.

I can't help it. I'm a sponge.

The funny thing is when we first moved to Chicago I was really worried about my art- I had been so inspired by Seattle-the tall firs there, the mountains, the water. And I wondered how on earth I was going to find inspiration in such an urban environment my new home was in! I was really distraught about it. But there is inspiration everywhere, I have learned. And the urban world has a beauty of its own.

"The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep." ~Paul Strand

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

wax and cookies

"Be willing to be a beginner every single morning." ~ Meister Eckhart

Last Saturday I gathered up myself, my supplies and some *cookies and headed up to Evanston to Cindy Jevon's Perfical Sense Studio to teach an encaustic workshop called Intro to Encaustic and Mixed Media. I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of workshop attendees for my first workshop! There were six students, all with different backgrounds, some with encaustic experience and some with none. I even had the cutest couple taking the workshop together. How fun is that?! Everyone was just eager to have a good time and try out a new medium and it was really a great time. For me, especially. I am so grateful for the opportunity and to meet such fantastic people. I've been working alone in my studio since 2002 and doing this, was like a breath of fresh air for me, invigorating and inspiring.

Ellin sharing her encaustic and photocopy transfer piece created during the workshop

This was the only photo I took the whole time as I was too busy to take pictures. I wish I had more as everyone did a fantastic job.

I haven't taught in a classroom setting since 2000, when I worked as a speech and language therapist in the Chicago Public School system...which is quite different than teaching encaustic to adults! But at one point in the middle of the happy chaos of humming creativity, I looked around and smiled and thought, "I like this." The energy, the sharing of technique, the process of discovery. I'm looking forward to the next one...

I wanted to share with you all the website of Eileen Madden's print and bindery studio called Evanston Print and Paper, which is right next door to Perfical Sense Studio. She attended the workshop as well and we briefly talked about me doing an encaustic book workshop with her in the future. Check out the workshop section- that resin workshop looks tempting!

There is a possibility that I will be doing a follow-up encaustic workshop at Cindy's studio again, I will let you all know once we pick a date.

"Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads." ~Erica Jong

*I added chopped dried cherries to this recipe. This is one good recipe. For real.