Author Archives: Elizabeth Busey

Celebrating all the greens

Green is a funny color. It can range from almost beige to nearly black, with many verdant hues in between. Learning to mix and celebrate all the greens has been a long term project for me. I’m never disappointed.

©Elizabeth Busey. Magna Mater. Monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

A glimpse out of my window illustrates the myriad of green possibilities. While it is not true of everywhere in the world, in the midwestern part of the United States, spring is a riot of greens.

Spring is high green season

Outside of my front door, many greens harmonize and compete for my attention.

My front garden is filled with examples of green. A chartreuse miniature hydrangea sits in front of the tender leaves of maidenhead ferns. The seafoam fuzzy lambs ears leaves contrast with the dark blue-green of hellebore foliage. These very distinct colors create a rich, verdant tableau, perfect for collage inspiration.

Your green depends on temperature

When printing my square spiral matrix recently, I created a green that was much more olive-y than my previous mixes. No matter what I did, the green always turned out warmer than I had intended. I blame the Milori blue ink in my palette that day which has a red tint. A phthalo blue would have been much more supportive of a cool green.

©Elizabeth Busey. Magna Mater detail, monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

Can all the greens live together?

I recently pulled this printed matrix out of the “to be collaged” drawer. I considered letting the monoprint be a weed barrier in the yard. Instead I challenged myself. Was there a way to create a collage where all the different greens coexist in one happy whole? Midway through it was not looking successful, but I decided to persevere and finish the collage.

The result in Magna Mater — or Great Mother – representing the enveloping greenness of a midwestern spring.

For further reading on how to mix greens, I highly recommend Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green by Michael Wilcox. This book gives you both the how and the why of color mixing, which is just what you need as you seek to celebrate all the greens.

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Why DO we love maps so much?

“Oh, I just love the maps,” say many people upon seeing my latest collages. I confess that I too am a map lover — or more properly a cartophile. I saved a box of old road maps for nearly 15 years before I found their perfect use.

New (to me) maps came my way recently thanks to a friend and the IU Surplus Store. The maps were decommissioned from the Indiana University branch of the U.S. Geological Survey, and feature geological features from around the United States. As I sorted amongst these dusty gems for several hours, I began to wonder, why DO we love maps so much?

Maps bring back memories

The coast of Maine has one of the longest coastlines in the US. Its undulating pattern is captivating. I love this map because my cousin was married in Boothbay Harbor. She and her new husband took a tugboat ride to the reception and we all gathered on a bridge that rotated to let them pass. Truly memorable.

Maps show our struggle to structure our world

If you have ever tried to drive across the Appalachian Mountains, you can perhaps sympathize with previous generations of travelers. The geology of compressed ridges requires that roads go up one valley, and then down another. There are no straight routes, no one perfect pass.

Maps catalog what is lost or is in danger

This is a section of a map of Glacier National Park published in 1938. The Burlington Northern Railway built Sperry Chalet as a way for its rail travelers to enjoy the backcountry. Chalet visitors would have marveled at the Sperry Glacier, which has been shrinking because of global warming. The chalet itself was gutted by the Sprague Fire in 2017. Thankfully, it is being rebuilt, as it is a picturesque place to stay in the backcountry, safe from the grizzly bears that frequent the park.

Maps give us a bird’s eye view

North Dakota is one of my favorite places for a road trip. Bright yellow-green fields are punctuated by “numerous small lakes” as the map indicates. These lakes are a very particular blue as they contrast with the vibrant greens and yellows surrounding them. You can read more about my love of the terrain here.

Now back to cutting these beauties for the next collage.

Why do you love maps? Share an image of them in the comments!

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How much contrast is too much?

I like orange…in small doses. While I own no orange clothing, I do have one throw pillow. I enjoy including a bit of orange in many of my pieces. Orange often provides a needed contrast to the blues that fill my work. But, how much contrast is too much?

©Elizabeth Busey. Searching for Other Suns. Monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

You can see just a bit of orange in Searching for Other Suns. I like how it amplifies the pull you feel toward the inside of the circle. But look what happens when I use mostly orange, with a great deal of blue…

Way too much orange and too much contrast!

I blame civic loyalty for this creation. Pygmalion’s, my local art supply store, creates a signature color each year in conjunction with Gamblin. Artists purchase a tube of the oil color, and create art that uses the color. This year’s color was Sunset Orange, and after the bleak, gray winter we have had, I thought I would create a monoprint collage that felt as juicy as the color out of the tube.

Sadly, I felt the same way about this collage as I felt when wearing my peach Izod Laoste polo in high school. The color just did not feel right. Luckily Pygs doesn’t care how much of the color you use. With the very orange collage safely tucked in my flat files, balance has been restored in the studio.

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It is not always about the color

Several collages are in process in my studio. One was recently banished to the framing room, because I felt it wasn’t going in a positive direction. For a long time I couldn’t articulate why. Finally I experienced an epiphany: it is not always about color.

A detail of a monoprint collage in process.

I have been using more brightly colored base monoprints for recent collages. After working with some brightly colored maps and other monoprint patterns, I sat back to assess the progress. All I could think of was “Meh.” Clearly “meh” is not a feeling I want for a potential viewer, so I was doing something wrong.

Were the colors not harmonizing? Were the maps and textures confusing? I finally put the collage away in frustration and began something new. But I can see the offending work every time I walk down the stairs to my family room. It looked pitiful, sitting there unfinished, unloved.

IPhone 6 to the rescue

Black and white view of the same collage.

When I photographed part of the work, and put it into black and white, I could see a potential problem. Many of the tones are very similar, even though some are patterned and others plain. When you take the color away, things look very different.

I’m forced to take up painting

Areas of white Masa are still quite translucent.

Now I had to think of solutions to my problem. I considered the monoprint patterns I have been using, printed on thin Masa paper. The paper itself is somewhat translucent, especially in areas that are left white or have very light ink printed. The oil-based ink also seems to add to its translucency. When glued over a darker monoprint base, these pieces lose their lightness.

To combat this problem, I flipped over these patterned pages and painted a white acrylic wash over the areas that were printed on the other side. I used titanium white thinned with water that had wetting medium added. With a large foam brush I painted quickly and hung them to dry. Because I am using matte medium as my adhesive, I reasoned that these surfaces would bond together nicely. So far they have.

The result is that many of the oranges, yellows and whites are brighter. I will still need to be cognizant of my tonal values. Perhaps my eyes have a black and white setting…

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Fight climate change by talking about it

Spring is late this year. Even the non-native forsythia isn’t fooled. But does this mean I don’t think the climate is changing? Not at all. This week I was lucky to attend a talk given by atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Her take-home message: the single most important thing one person can do to fight climate change is to talk about it.

So I’m devoting this week’s blog to talking about climate change. But instead of me doing the talking, I’ll let my images speak for me. Interspersed are links to some terrific resources Katherine Hayhoe has created. Maybe one of these could help start a conversation with someone you care about but might disagree with regarding climate change.

A warmer atmosphere retains more moisture, resulting in stronger, more devastating storms.
@Elizabeth Busey. Summertide Brings the Derecho. Reduction linocut, 25 x 40in, edition of 6.

The best way to get an overview of Katherine Hayhoe’s message is to watch her TedTalk.

Coastal areas are some of the most vulnerable places.
@Elizabeth Busey. To Whom Much is Given. Reduction linocut, 24 x 13in, edition of 13.

Global-Weirding is a PBS Digital Series created with Katharine Hayhoe. You can find short, engaging videos that cover all sorts of subjects that are supposedly taboo to talk about. Like religion and politics. But in a nice way. She’s quite nice, and this is PBS.

The agriculture of the Midwest is responsible for one-fifth of the US GDP according to Hayhoe. Extreme variation in water availability – from droughts to floods – is making farming much more difficult.
©Elizabeth Busey. Benediction for an Unlikely Journey. Monoprint collage, 18 x 24in. Unique.

If you are person who likes their data instead of sweet graphics, Hayhoe has you covered there too. I was fascinated to learn that opinions regarding global warming in the United States in fact directly correspond with political affiliation.

Read a more comprehensive article about the factors shaping our climate debate here.

Scrolls of Spring
The native plants and animals that we love may soon disappear.
@Elizabeth Busey. Scrolls of Spring. Reduction linocut, 24 x 13in, edition of 26.

One of the most challenging things for me is that I do live in a blue bubble. It is rare that I have the opportunity to talk with someone who is different from me — whether in political affiliation or church membership.

Clearly I have to try harder. How about you? Time to get talking…

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In praise of being messy

I am a neat person, as well as a clean one. While I appreciate patina on certain antiques, I don’t seek it out. This predisposition doesn’t always serve me well in the studio, though. Sometimes it is best to praise being messy.

A close-up view of one of my monoprint sheets I create for my collages.

Who knew that repelling materials could create such beauty?

The above image is the result of not cleaning off my polycarbonate plate after I printed. You can see the fainter circles and roller marks, which are remnants of the previous inking. In some places, solvent has dried the pigments on the plate, resulting in places that print white. Below is what the plate looked like after the first printing. (You can see my non-slip mat beneath the almost transparent plate.)

A polycarbonate plate after printing. It looks as though there isn’t much left on it.

Old ink, brayer marks and solvent-dried areas repel the new ink in interesting ways. I would never be able to create these marks intentionally. I think of it in the same way that human beings are probably incapable of doing things that are completely random. You can read an engaging, philosophical article about this here.

Monoprint sheet achieved after a second inking. Lots of seredipitous marks, just waiting to be collaged.

Above is a view of the entire 24 x 18in plate, inked and printed for a second time. I just love how the colors mix and layer on the plate, creating something completely surprising on the paper. You can read more about how I work with collage papers in this blog.

So I will sometimes leave the plate unclean, because you never know… The studio itself is clean, however. Can’t have the studio cats tracking ink everywhere!

Gingersnap’s favorite color ink to step in is yellow… Very colorful and staining.

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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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