Category Archives: Creative Process

Learning new ways

20130620_170026Part of this summer I have spent learning some new ways to make art.  Recent viewing of DVD workshops by Anne Bagby and Carla O’Connor led to some of my new work, pictured in process here. I have appreciated Anne Bagby’s work, and even own 3 tiny works of hers. Her highly patterned, intuitive process matches and inspires my heart for layering materials and mixing patterns to create interesting surfaces. It’s akin to some of the work I did in fabric as a costume designer.

Carla’s instruction is interesting to me, and watching her go through the process of a painting has encouraged me to let go of some ill conceived wish for perfection…I know better, but it creeps in. Carla works in gouache, and I work in acrylic and collage, but many concepts and processes apply.

Artists in Action

edmonds waterfrontThis is where I will be on my birthday this year, to demonstrate some of the things I do for my artwork. I’ll be making custom stencils and hand cutting stamps that I use for texturing and patterning art pieces. Come on down to the marina on August 25 from 1:00-4:00 PM and help me celebrate my birthday!

She's Got Plans

Art Talk at Artist’s Connect: She’s Got Plans

“She’s Got Plans”


I have a background in theater costume design, so my paintings often have stories behind them, like a scene from a play.

I’ve thought a lot about subtext through the years — Subtext is that thing that a person is saying to themselves while they are saying other things out loud.

The thought that this character had her life plan tattooed on herself captured my imagination.  Her rooms were to be named for secret thoughts or hopes, or fears, things she was dealing with or refused to deal with. All that subtext right out there for everyone to see.  I needed a strong character, and I found her and added this layer of a blueprint or floor plan.  I was not intending this project to be autobiographical — didn’t start that way at all.

Sometimes I get stuck in concept land — where the concept and the way the painting comes together just don’t gel. Paintings get set aside, and are later revisited, sometimes trashed, sometimes layered over with better ideas.

This painting took awhile because I started it just before I met my husband. It waited patiently for me, while I spent time getting to know him, and while I changed and my hopes and dreams changed. He and I found ourselves collaborating to rename the rooms

The floor plan became more hopeful, more autobiographical, and a stronger painting. My hope is that the image is strong from a distance, that it invites you to look closer and when you do, her thoughts, her “subtext” is revealed.

Katherine's Wedding Dress

The Wedding Season

This is the wedding season. Katherine and Evan’s wedding is September 30, 2011, long awaited, and anticipated.

I am making the dress. This section of my blog will be used to keep notes and let those interested in the process to see how we’re comin’.

Here are the specs thus far:

ball gown — tulle layers over organza layers over the underskirt
bodice is a dropped waist to hip bone
There’s a little bolero jacket over all.

the bodice will be the dull side of diamond white satin overlaid with diamond white organza with pin tucks that alternate with 1/2′ strips of bias cut organza. The overall look could be described as organic, a little messy, grunge princess, and Katherine will look fabulous.

She tried on a designer gown that offered us the beginnings of Kat’s gown. the Vera version has:


Innermost layer is dark brown organza.
Then 3 layers of light tulle
Then 3 layers of dark tulle
3 more layers of light tulle
2 layers of handpainted tulle
The top most layer had “pull-ups” looping and tucking the top skirt in to the waist seam, which began about 15-18″ from the waist.


Altered Ancestors

LHensley-TragicWe begin with fine photographic portraiture, the late 19th century cabinet card, a visual record of the stiff Victorian era.

Oh these people! How can I get inside and find out who they really are? How can I tell their stories? How frustrating… little handsome jewel boxes with Pandora’s emotional treasures inside.

Like making short scenes from a play, I added characters from Leonardo’s sketchbooks, layered over the portrait sitters to speak to the emotional undertow, the subtext. Adding words clarifies the scene, because I’d actually like you to know what the piece is about. And if you like ambiguity, don’t worry, there is plenty of ambiguity left for you too.

Materials used:

• Late 19th c Cabinet cards: The cabinet card was the style of photograph which was universally adopted for photographic portraiture in 1870. It consisted of a thin photograph that was generally mounted on cards measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches. Wikipedia

• Images from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks: Collage lends itself to exploring layer of meaning. Images that come from two different cultures, time periods.

• Words from a large print book

• Vintage file tabs and papers, handwritten letters/invoices/attic finds.

The Column Before the Storm

“The Column Before the Storm”, collage and acrylic painting on gallery wrap canvas, 15″ x 30″ x 1″, 2012

Juxtaposing architecture and costume, this piece explores the feminine nature of the Greek Ionic column, and the curves. It also explores the columnar nature of a woman, an upstanding pillar of the community, the calm vertical that withstands social weather, and the female support role in society’s structure. Plus, she’s pretty.

She is a part of an architecture/clothing series that I got started in a collaborative effort with someone back in 2005 or thereabouts, and while the collaborative project fizzled, this painting did not.

Play it Again

Brilliant Affirmations

I’ve been working on affirmations lately with Alyson Stanfield, at artbizcoach.I’ve worked with Alyson before, taken classes and gotten LOTS of good information. I really appreciate her support and the community she’s built up around the coaching she does.

You might have read some of the affirmations on my facebook postings. Not posted yet, one of them is: “My art work is brilliant and fun.”

I chose to focus on this one for a bit because of a statement from one of the art foundation teachers I had while working on my BFA in the century before this one. She was teaching a class in two-dimensional art, essential for graphic design, and for simply understanding color/value/line/shape relationships. She repeatedly insisted that none of us or the works we produced were brilliant enough, at least that’s how I heard her words. “More brilliant, more brilliant!” was her mantra, or nag, depending on one’s perspective.

In the end, the class did it’s job, making us all think about how visual elements come together, and to make the leap from simple to brilliant. BUT I will never feel comfortable in range of someone who teaches this way — teaching by complaint never creates confident artists.In total contrast, my mentor and advisor, Elizabeth Hopper, said many things to me — the most memorable within the point of this little post was, “Well, you’ve found your voice.” Thank you Liz.

Oh my — DUH! I have to change my affirmation!! “My art work is brilliant and fun, and I have my own voice.”

I remember this as I contemplate the next steps of what I will do as an artist.


Chiaroscuro, an Italian word which means light-dark, is used to describe shading in painting to reveal or conceal form. I love to take apart words, Chiaro, or clear or light. Reminds me in a way of Charro, the tiny hispanic spitfire dancer of the 70s. She was a bright one, funny, happy, sparky. Scuro, or obscured, hidden, shadow. This word got me to thinking about dark and light in others work as well as my own.
Jonathan Talbot - Chicago PatrinOther’s work: Jonathan Talbot, Dianna Shyne, Vermeer, Georges de la Tour
Here Jonathan Talbot added shadow after the collage pieces are set into place. This creates a sense of 3 dimensions where there are indeed only two.

Ancient Warriors series-The Watchers_Shyne
Dianna Shyne allows the terra cotta soldiers to emerge from the earthy background. One can hardly tell where foreground and background begin and end, and the soldiers just rise up out of the field, nearly blending into each other as well.

Vermeer: The Girl with the Pearl Earring

Vermeer completely obscures the background in darkness,allowing the subject to become the only focus. There is plenty to look over, of course, in the one subject. She herself, fades into the darkness, her clothes, her head wrap and her neck all succumb to the darkness on the right side.



Georges de la Tour, master painter of candle light scenes. Here the foreground is obscured, revealing only a tiny portion of the scene in light. This is so theatrical and focused, and what a mood it creates: the subject’s posture, uncertainty, melancholy, and private-ness all contribute to the scene’s drama.
Georges de la Tour: Repentant Magdalene

The way I work most often is like Jonathan Talbot, above. I layer materials to create images. In using this method, I’m not usually thinking very much about light-dark in terms of revealing form until the last step when I will choose a light source direction and add some highlights and shading. I tend to be more interested in how the chosen shapes, images, textures all work together on a 2 dimensional surface, and I’ve allowed light and shadow to  be an afterthought. So now I’m wondering how different my work can be if I think about light-dark ahead of shapes, images and textures. In collage, it’s easier to just begin and not to plan ahead, but that’s not the only way to make collage work. And who says it has to be easy?
To bring this idea into a psychological realm, I’m thinking about how chiaroscuro could be used for emotional impact, to create mystery, or to obscure edges of things, people, and locations. To blend the edges of people into places, to blend the edges of people into each other. Where can I add mystery, create a sort of co-dependent painting….where do you end and I begin? If our edges or boundaries are in shadow, how can you tell where the edges are?  I remember times in life and relationship when personal boundaries were obscured; in a way this ‘connection’ is comforting, but it’s also dark and binding. It took time and lots of talk therapy to change my perspective about personal connections, which has resulted in the way I live my life now, maintaining my relationships as interdependent, not co-dependent. There’s more darkness for me in that co-word, and more light in the inter-word.
“Love is heavy and light, bright and dark, hot and cold, sick and healthy, asleep and awake- its everything except what it is! (Act 1, scene 1)” ― William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet

Light and shadow. In a way, shadow in art reveals as much as light does, in that one can create focus by taking away the usual distractions of a scene by placing them in shadow. Is the glass half full or half empty, or is it half in the light and half in the shadow? Does the half in the shadow even exist? Who is in that shadow, anyway?
Idea sparkler for possible upcoming posts:
Sfumo, or smoke
light sources
hidden edges and edge issues
shades of gray
Three Eggs Over Easy

Crossing the Bridge from “Art” to “Product”

I remember when I first began to consider selling my art. There were a few factors that led to this decision. I wanted to be recognized for the work that I had accomplished, I wanted other folks to like it enough to put it in their homes, and hey, I could use some extra cash! That began a thought process that has taken me on an interesting journey. I’m going to talk about these in some order, though the process was anything but orderly!

First there were practical considerations. Where would I sell the art? Who would want to display it? Where did my art “fit”? How much should I ask for each piece? How much would I actually make and how many of those dollars would I have to share with the venue? How would I get the word out? How much time will this take? How do I balance art making and marketing my work — not to mention the other aspects of life?

Second, there were the emotions. Was I confident that people would like my art enough to buy it? How would I measure up to more experienced artists? How would I feel about rejection? How far will this go–could I possibly make a living making my art?

Third, there was the resistance to actually parting with my work. Related to the emotional aspects of deciding to sell my art, I called the resistance “this hump I have to get over”. These were my precious creations, and like babies growing up and going off to foreign lands, I knew I’d never see most of them ever again! I know this is not unique to me.

Here’s a bit of background. For about 20 years I was a costumer and a costume designer, so I had almost always used my creativity for something that I didn’t keep in my possession. The costumes stayed with the theater, put into storage after the run of a show was over. But these pieces I was now contemplating selling were things that I made without someone else’s direction, not theater collaborations. I had not made them with the idea that they would become “products”, in fact, by it’s very nature this work is much more personal to me. It speaks of my thoughts, humor and ideas. So on the one hand I was used to letting go of my work, and on the other, this new non-theater work, the paintings, collages and assemblages were all made solely from my own creativity.

To be honest though, after awhile I didn’t have enough room for it all!

The first thing I had to find was the willingness to part with the art. So how did I get over “this hump I have to get over”? For me it was a conscious decision to let go of the art. That sounds simple, and it really was like crossing over an emotional bridge. It was a shift in my thinking about art as a precious thing to keep close to myself as opposed to a product to sell. (Truth is, it’s actually something in between.)

I also had to find the confidence to put myself out there in the public eye. Sometimes a lack of confidence will creep in, but overall, I LIKE my art, and others seemed to like it as well. It really takes both for success in selling art. And the good news is, one can find acceptance even in tiny niche markets. My and your art don’t have to be universally liked to succeed, it just needs to appeal to enough folks so that the effort of selling the art one makes is a sensible proposition.

In addition, focusing on the practicalities of getting ready to sell my art helped to allay the fears and resistance that I had. Taking action helps! So does inviting company along for the journey. In order to boost my own confidence, I applied to my first show with two other local Seattle area artists, Maggie Yowell and Amy Peacock. I studied up on what needed to be included in an application, we all set up a day with a friend to shoot professional photos of our work, labeled everything, and together we put together a proposal. Submitted with slides and cover sheets and clever artistic packaging for the submission, that carefully worked out application got us the group show, though it was scheduled for 1.5 years into the future. I wasn’t going to wait around, so I submitted applications in several other places. Many were even accepted.

It may be cliche’ but it’s true: success breeds success.

My first art show was actually a solo exhibit, way before the group show, and I lucked out. I entered and was accepted into the Greenwood ArtWalk, and placed into a dress shop that was about to close permanently, Moki Dugway. The proprietors were extremely welcoming, and allowed my work to stay up all month. As their inventory dwindled, so did mine. I had decided that as a beginner exhibiting artist, I should price my art reasonably. I really wanted folks to take it home. And take it home they did.

By this time I was hooked and the issues I listed at the start of this article were nearly all moot points. This decision to sell my art launched a highly creative time in my life. I’ve since learned so much about marketing my art that I’d like to share with you. There are lots of practical things I can share, and there are things I’d love to talk over as well. I’m far from expert on the art process–I’m definitely still learning so so much!

To close off this post I’d like to share one more thing. One of my fears was that I’d be selling out in order to sell my art. But I found as time went on and I spent time talking with people that took my work home, this is far from true. It surprised me to discover that people sort of fall in love with the art they choose to take home which is a charming and humbling side benefit to sharing my art in public this way. Relationships like these are unique to artists and artisans. I get to make personal connections in a way that most people don’t.

We’ll be talkin’.

Lynette Hensley
Flying Redhead

Details: Let’s Play What If….

What if shoes were soled with fur?
Then you would walk softly…

What if collars were lined in maps?
Then the world might know your pulse.

What if corset stays were made of feathers instead of bone?

What if quilting was done with glass rods?
What if I stitched fortune cookie fortunes into pocket tops, collars, cuffs?

What if I wore a picture of my love on my sleeve?
What if thread was elastic?
What if clothes were higher than our heads, wider than our shoulders,
longer than our hands….etc.
What if clothes were only for comfort and not for beauty?
What if a shirt told you exactly what I was thinking?
What if pants truly fit?
What if socks were the gaudiest thing I wore?
What if the reason for wearing clothes was to make the most noise?

More to come….