Author Archives: Elizabeth Busey

Titles can be troublesome

All of my monoprint collages have a theme or purpose. Sometimes I begin with the purpose in mind, and other times it evolves with the piece. Then I have to create a title that fully encapsulates the purpose of the work. Easy right? In fact, titles can be troublesome.

©Elizabeth Busey. Longing for Believers. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36in.

Concise and pithy can be a challenge

My largest monoprint collages seem to demand the most thoughtful titles. In Longing for Believers, I’m (again) using a matrix which is used to transform our 3D understanding of the earth into a 2D space. Minus the actual continents. The whole piece shots World! World! World!

Global climate change — specifically human-caused global warming — continues to be one of the issues I want to explore in my work. The collage pieces here are arranged to suggest energy fields. The actual components are a range of maps, some monoprinted and others not, along with monoprint patterns that mimic close-up geologic and biological forms.

Detail of ©Elizabeth Busey. Longing for Believers. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36in.

I have been worrying lately about our inability as human beings to make any substantive decisions regarding global warming. In his book Don’t Even Think About In: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change George Marshall posits that our problem is that we approach climate change as a series of rational actions and choices. While we know at some level that our world is in danger, we fail to be emotionally connected.

Longing for Believers

What the world really needs is for each person to take up its protection with the fervor and zeal that people of faith approach their spiritual life. If people can make changes in their daily actions as guided by their faith, why can’t we, people who profess to care about the Earth, do the same?

Thus, the world is longing for believers.

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Stop watching and start doing

We have so many ways to learn new things. We can watch Youtube videos to learn how to fix our cars. We can watch cooking shows to improve our culinary techniques. Watching other people being creative can be stimulating or calming. But is it actually enriching? At what point should we stop watching and start doing?

Rolling out a new blend and seeing how it behaves on my Voronoi diagram inspired monoprint matrix.

I was challenged by a recent Hidden Brain episode (Close Enough: The Lure of Living Through Others) to consider the time I spend watching other people do things. I love to have The Great British Baking Show streaming while I cook in my kitchen. I must confess that I haven’t expanded my use of flavors in baking much, despite having watched every episode at least twice.

I’m also a devotee of several home renovation programs. There is something seductive about watching an ugly building be transformed into a spectacular dwelling in about an hour. Without the actual drama of having to work with contractors and subs. Without the actual dust and debris of renovations. I’ve done all that before.

Gingersnap wants to know when you are going to do something yourself.

When does watching get in the way of doing?

The classic example of watching is the PBS painter Bob Ross. While nursing babies and soothing fretful toddlers, it was comforting to watch Ross effortlessly create shadowed mountains and happy trees. When I took my first painting class, I was shocked to discover how difficult painting actually can be.

This is the problem with watching — it lets us off the hook from actually trying something. Being a rank amateur as an adult is a humbling experience. But it is absolutely necessary if we are to develop new creative skills.

I’ve decided to consider before turning on the latest Netflix how-to program whether I am wanting to learn something new. Or I really need some distraction from the stresses of life. Or whether my viewing is getting in the way of my doing.

What do you think?

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Cyanotypes make their collage debut

I have been creating a vocabulary for my monoprint collages. I use patterned monoprints and vintage maps (some of which I have printed on.) Lately though, I have wanted to use some of my own photographic imagery, and this posed a challenge.

To achieve an integrated look, I choose very thin papers for my collages. Rives BFK, for example, is too thick and has a visible white edge when glued onto a collage. Likewise, photo paper has a similar problem. A solution serendipitously came to me last fall in the form of a cyanotype workshop. Now I would have a way to print imagery on my thin Masa paper. Serendipitousmy latest collage, allows cyanotypes to make their debut.

©Elizabeth Busey. Serendipitous. Monoprint collage, 12 x 12in.

What is a cyanotype?

Cyanotypes are an old alternative method of printing photographs. The process was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842. Briefly, paper is sensitized by a combination of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. The paper is allowed to dry and kept in darkness. Prints can be made with negatives or actual objects by placing either on top of the paper and exposing it to the sun.

In future blog posts, my learning process with cyanotypes will be explored. For now, you can see two cyanotypes used in Serendipitous — look for the bright Prussian blue papers. What do you see?

Serendipitous will make its own debut at the Indiana Artists juried exhibition at Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art) in April.

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Making sense of why

After two days of ridiculously warm weather, February has returned to its normal pace of dark and dankness. As someone who needs sunlight to boost my mood, this is a rough month. While I sit at my drawing table, or print in my basement, I struggle to make sense of why I am creating art.

One of the delights of working with collages is that each one begins with a great deal of unknown. As I choose patterns and rhythms, maps and papers, the work begins to make more sense. This sense of now knowing can be a challenge as well. I hope at some point, the work begins to feel whole.

©Elizabeth Busey. Opalescence. Monoprint collage, 12 x 12in.

Opalescence is one of those collages that came together only at the very end. The addition of the mint green topomaps and my use of interference pigments on some of the patterned monoprints made me think of the random color effects of an opal, my birthstone.

What if no one knew what they were doing?

Imagine if most of the world sat down each day to work thinking, “I have no idea where this is going, and I have no idea why I am doing it.” Certainly chaos would ensue. Yet this is exactly the state I signed up for when I decided to create art.

I came across a passage from Anne Lamott’s writings in Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012) which perfectly captured why I make art despite this state of constant discomfort:

“In paintings, music, poetry, architecture, we feel the elusive energy that moves through us and the air and the ground all the time, that usually disperses and turns chaotic in our busy-ness and distractedness and moodiness. Artists channel it, corral it, make it visible to the rest of us. The best works of art are like semaphores of our experience, signaling what we didn’t know was true but do now.”

Back to making my semaphores… Thanks Anne.

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My work loves a library

©Elizabeth Busey. Multiplicative, Monoprint collage, 12 x 12 in.

Some of my favorite reduction linocuts and new monoprint collages have been peacefully coexisting in a library this month. It is nice to see that while the techniques can be very different, both the colors and the structures of the work seem to harmonize nicely.

©Elizabeth Busey. Treasure of Great Price. Reduction linocut, ed of 12, 12 x 12in.

The library is part of the Saint Meinrad Archabbey located in southern Indiana. While most of the abbey architecture is made of local sandstone blocks, the library is a white brutalist structure that nestles unobtrusively into the hillside.

You can see a short video of the exhibit here.

I was delighted to give an artist talk about the work to a group of Indianapolis IB math, music and art students recently. As I challenged myself to explain the why of my work, I could see the many mathematical and scientific phenomena that inspire me. The students gave me quite a gift — a kind, attentive and inquisitive audience for the debut of my combined works. In a place of peace and contemplation, I was grateful indeed.

©Elizabeth Busey. Walking the Freedom Highway. Reduction linocut. Edition of 10, 10 x 33in.

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Details make up everything

My first completed work of 2019 is filled with details. Details make up everything. When I was a child, I would lay in my darkened bedroom and imagine myself going farther and farther into space. Born in 1967, I have never know a time when we did not know what the Earth looked like from space. But past the Earth and the Milky Way, well, I had no conception.

©Elizabeth Busey. Before Pangaea. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36in.

Zoom the other direction in your mind, and you begin to encounter the structures of all life — all of the molecules that make up everything that is animate and inanimate. Neil deGrasse Tyson explains that these elements were formed by ancient exploding stars and recombined to create our entire Earth and universe. “We are literally, not figuratively, stardust,” states Tyson.

Detail of Before Pangaea.

If I venture out of my quiet home studio bubble to look at the news, I am saddened by the amount of conflict and discord throughout our country and our world. I know the reasons for discord. I do wonder what it would take for us to see ourselves in others? To acknowledge that we are made from the same stardust.

I wonder…

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My word for the year is peaceful

Business gurus and motivational speakers encourage people to adopt a word as a guide for their intentions for the New Year. A bit less specific than a resolution. My word for 2019 is peaceful.

Detail of my latest monoprint collage…which makes me feel peaceful.

When I first decided to write this blog, I worried I would sound like an annoying middle-class person who has the luxury of working for myself. Certainly there are innumerable products and services that one can obtain in their quest for peace, but are they necessary? I challenged myself to come up with a few things that anyone can do to seek peace that cost nothing. Here are some suggestions:

Consider your posture 
We spend our lives hunched — over computers or phones or books or worktables. By engaging your core muscles, sitting up straight and relaxing your shoulders, you open up your chest. This gives your lungs more opportunity to open, you become taller and may feel more supported.

Think about your breathing
Is your breath shallow — especially when you are sitting down (and might be hunched over?) Take a moment to breathe deeply, imagining your lungs filling completely and then emptying fully. You can do this at any time without anyone knowing. Try it during your evening commute or a stressful meeting.

Hit unsubscribe
I’m assuming if you are reading this that you have some internet connectivity and probably an email address. There are a myriad of things to worry about in our world, and many of them have organizations that will email you…incessantly. Be honest with yourself — how many of these email messages do you actually read? You can still care about issues without having daily doses of hysteria-pitched text thrown into your day.

Choose when to engage
Consider taking unnecessary notifications off your phone, and making use of special VIP lists for email you can’t afford to miss. Decide when you will read or listen to news. Do it at a time when you can give the world happenings your full attention. If it is in the background, why not put on some music or an audio book instead?

Why is being peaceful important to me…and to you?

When I don’t feel peaceful — when my mind is filled with anxiety — I make terrible art. And then I feel discouraged, and more anxious, creating a vicious cycle. Being peaceful isn’t just for people who make creative work all day. Peaceful drivers make for safer streets. Peaceful teachers have more patience. Perhaps peaceful legislators will find ways to work together. The possibilities are endless.

What is your word for 2019? Might I suggest peaceful?

Wishing you peace…

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Can different bodies of artwork get along?

Breath Intertwined
©Elizabeth Busey. Breath Intertwined. Reduction linocut, 25 x 17in, edition of 24.

Bodies of artwork are like siblings. They come from the same source, and you hope they play well together. There are no guarantees.

Some of my linocuts and monoprint collages are getting ready to be featured together at the St. Meinrad Archabbey in Ferdinand, IN. I chose linocuts that explore similar themes to the newer monoprint collages. Both Breath Intertwined (above) and Multiplicative (below) explore the concept of leaf cellular packing, but from different starting points. 

What follows is my artist statement for the exhibit — my explanation of my artistic progeny. I hope they behave themselves.

©Elizabeth Busey. Multiplicative, Monoprint collage, 12 x 12 in.

Making a statement 

What if what you perceive is related to more than just your immediate experience? Does an image or natural formation remind you of something other than its current form? I often sense that there is a connection across the macrocosm, where patterns and forms tell a story of the underlying laws of our existence.  

A century ago, Scottish scientist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson mused that “everything is what it is because it got that way.” In contrast to the popular Darwinian evolutionary theories of the day, Wentworth thought that living and non-living things (such as in astronomy and geology) were shaped by the requirements of physical forces. Accidents in formation are also part of the process, leading to wide variations within tremendous similarities. In my work, I strive to explore these similarities and consider how the human experience might mirror that of nature itself. 

I gather my inspiration with the assistance of science and technology. My personal photographic catalogue is filled with images taken from commercial airplanes, often partly eclipsed by an airplane wing. I delight in the myriad of satellite images available to me, as well as those unveiled by highly sensitive microscopes. Artists from only decades ago would have been amazed at this source material.  

The materials and techniques I choose are surprisingly simple in stark contrast to my methods for gathering inspiration. My imagery is created with linseed oil-based inks on cotton rag paper with the assistance of a hand-cranked etching press built with recycled steel. My reduction linocuts are created by a conversation between carving away layers of one linoleum block and printing the resulting pattern in overlapping inked layers, until the block is mostly carved away, or reduced.  

My latest work embraces monoprinting, which is a spontaneous and surprising way to create images. Made by printing an inked sheet of smooth polycarbonate, no two monoprints are exactly the same. I develop unique textures on paper (which are themselves monoprints) that are then cut apart and combined with old maps to create monoprint collages. Taking my cues from the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse as well as the playful exuberance of children’s book artist Eric Carle, the collages seek to create something that feels resonant and familiar in an abstract form. The addition of gold leaf in some collages hints at the reverence I feel toward my subject matter.  

©Elizabeth Busey. Benediction for an Unlikely Journey. Monoprint collage, 18 x 24 in.

One of my latest monoprints is entitled Benediction for an Unlikely Journey. In the global liturgy of which we are all a part, here is the benediction I would give…  

As human beings, we are surrounded by wonder.
Pay attention, be amazed and feel connected.
Then go and work to preserve this wonder.

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Making art that does not fit on a cell phone

What do you do when what you create does not look its best on a cell phone? I have been struggling with this question ever since I wanted to post my first monoprint collage. Take a look at my latest monoprint collage, Benediction for an Unlikely Journey and I will explain.

©Elizabeth Busey. Benediction for an Unlikely Journey, monoprint collage, 18 x 24in.

I am drawn to small details and want to see how the compilation of details creates an energetic, continually interesting whole. I cut details out of monoprints I have created and maps on which I sometimes print colors. When people take a look at my work in person, they first come close to see all of the details, and then back up to see the work as a whole. I find these dual ways of enjoying artwork means my imagery that doesn’t get boring.

Sadly, many of the people who see my work will never see it in person. It is largest when the image is clicked on through my website. I also post it on Instagram and Facebook. Imagine how tiny the image becomes when viewed in the Facebook platform on a small cell phone. The details are completely lost. Does this make a difference?

Getting up close and personal

Detail of Benediction for an Unlikely Journey.

To counter the problem of the tiny screen, I have started including details in my social media posts and even on the webpage of the work. I’m hoping that between the two images, viewers can get a clearer idea of the work despite the problems of scale. It takes some work on their part, however…

Making the art feel at home

Benediction for an Unlikely Journey in my living room.

In my quest for image clarity, I created an in situ photograph of the work. I popped the collage into the frame matted, but without the glass to avoid reflections. Now people can see the scale of the work and how the details read from a few feet away.

Will all of these images help with the problem of the tiny screen? It will probably be some time before I know if it is a reasonable substitute to visiting the work on my living room wall.

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Searching for rhythm and energy

One thing I love about creating monoprint collages is how open-ended the process can be. I print the polycarbonate matrix in particular colors and wait for inspiration to come. A large plate (24 x 36in) was covered in tiny tape (1/16 inch chart tape) and printed with bright citrine green and teal blues. All I could think of was rhythm and energy. After several weeks, Inception emerged. (Be sure to click on the image and scroll down for a close-up. This collage is large!)

large monoprint collage with curves, in bright green and blue

©Elizabeth Busey. Inception. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36 in.

(more…)

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