Patterns ground me

Patterns ground me. I’ve tried to make work that had nothing to do with patterns, and it didn’t feel like me. In the midst of midterm election shenanigans in the U.S., working with the Voronoi diagrams has provided me with times of peaceful creation and discovery.

A change in color hints at leaves

Geometric collage leaf structure

©Elizabeth Busey. Multiplicative. Monoprint collage (unique) 12 x 12in.

(more…)

Share

Is it ever really finished?

Is it ever really finished? This is not a question I’ve had to ask myself until recently. When creating reduction linocuts, at some point you simply do not have any more linoleum to carve away and so the answer is yes, you are finished.

Delighting in an open-ended medium

My recent foray into monoprint collages has allowed me for the first time to decide that something was not finished. This occurred last week, as I was about to post the remaining monoprint collages based on my Voronoi diagram drawing. Here’s the finished monoprint collage, Galaxy Next Door.

Square collage with geometric shapes

© Elizabeth Busey. Galaxy Next Door. Monoprint collage (unique), 12 x 12in.

A rare side-by-side comparison

(more…)

Share

Tiny tape makes it debut

This week tiny tape makes it debut in my creation of monoprint collages. I used black 1/16 inch chart tape from Dick Blick and was pleasantly surprised at how well the tape behaved. To make sure the tape sticks well, I always clean the plate with denatured alcohol to remove any grease before taping. I also run the taped uninked plate through the press with several layers of newsprint to make sure everything stays stuck down. (more…)

Share

Voronoi, Senate Hearings and Tiny Tape

I think I have finally taught my desktop the word “Voronoi.” If you are blog follower, you know that I have an ongoing obsession with this mathematical construction. Voronoi diagrams are used throughout mathematics, the sciences, architecture, and even art. While it is hard to capture in a sentence, let’s say that Voronoi diagrams describe relationships of things to each other.

rolling ink and new plate

Getting inky with my favorite colors and my newly created plate.

In the above image is a 12-inch square polycarbonate plate. On the plate, I used 1/16-inch chart tape to create a Voronoi diagram matrix. You can read more about how to create your own matrix here. I first drew the matrix on paper, and then placed the clear plate on top of the paper as a guide and applied the tape to the plate. (more…)

Share

Trying Something New is Necessary

For creative people, trying something new can be absolutely necessary. And tremendously difficult. Perhaps you are one who can keep creating similar works with similar themes, but I am not. Following my “what if” questions down rabbit holes is what keeps me creating artwork instead of more regular and lucrative endeavors.

When to ignore that voice

I have had several conversations with artists lately who mention a new direction, but then quickly follow this with “but it is not what I DO.” This is one of the comments that I try to reject when it comes up in my subconscious, and this summer it has been a frequent visitor…

If you had met me up until July of this year, I would have told you that I was a printmaker who made large-scale linocut reductions. Period. I have occasionally printed on stained silk, all the while wondering if this was “allowed.” Part of this thinking comes from the rules and regulations of shows and festivals. I understand the need for boundaries, but mostly I think these constraints lead to limited art.

Following the idea no matter what…

I remember my first day at a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts where I told a fellow classmate that I just didn’t understand collage. It wasn’t what I do… A few days later, I felt compelled to collage elements onto a monoprint I had created that didn’t feel finished. Silencing my “rules” voice, I began and haven’t looked back. Now I can’t wait to get back to my latest monoprint collage. My drawing table in the main room of our home is continually surrounded by bits of cut paper. Thankfully my family is tolerant, and the cats love sitting on the papers.

Paper cut out shapes

Cut-outs of the cut-outs waiting to be included in some new creation.

What is something that you are dying to try? Do you have a voice that says, for example — “no I’m a painter, I don’t work three dimensionally?”

Thanks Henri!

I visited the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing (Washington, DC) recently and was delighted to find that the tower with Henri Matisse’s paper cut-outs was open. (The tower has limited hours in the middle of the day to protect the paper, but is well worth planning to see.) I have visited Matisse’s works since the museum opened in 1973. I even had a reproduction of Large Decoration with Masks (Henri Matisse, 1953) on my childhood bedroom wall.

Henri Matisse Large Decoration with Masks

Henri Matisse. Large Decoration with Masks. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on white paper, mounted on canvas, 1953. National Gallery of Art, East Wing, Washington DC.

Matisse was a painter and sculptor throughout the majority of his life. He did use paper cut-outs as templates for larger scenery commissions, but it was after a cancer surgery in 1941 that he fully embraced paper cut-outs as a complete art form. Imagine how he must have felt to be confined to bed or a chair, unable to physically do the work that had defined his life. Under his direction, assistants created brightly-hued gouache-covered papers that he then cut into the shapes that are now so obviously his. Little did I know that forty-five years after seeing his cut-outs, I would give myself permission to create with paper myself.

Thankfully, Matisse ignored whatever critical voices he might have had (from himself or others.)

Is there something that has been calling you?
Why not just do it? Share it with us as a comment!
It may make all the difference.

Share

Monoprints as an Homage to Chagall

I first experienced Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at the Church of St. Stephan in Mainz, Germany. (Read more about these windows here.) I love the energetic quality of Chagall’s work that seems to draw you — almost physically — into his world.

I created a spiraling monoprint matrix with 1/8 inch painter’s tape, and set out to see where my monoprinting would take me. The following suite of monoprint collages were created with Chagall’s energy and love of color in mind.

Monoprint collage Jubilant Expanse

©Elizabeth Busey. Jubilant Expanse. Monoprint collage (unique). 24 x 18 in.

Jubilant Expanse

(more…)

Share

Variations on a Monoprint Theme

Don’t ever miss a post! Sign up here for a monthly newsletter digest of my blog posts along with news of upcoming events. Your information will never be shared.

A true monoprint is unique. But coming up with a new idea for each monoprint can be exhausting! So I have used my painter’s tape technique to create variations on a monoprint theme. I hope the traditionalists in the printmaking world will forgive me.

One of my latest variations uses a landscape/perspective matrix, with similar colors but different techniques. Images may help me explain…

Solvent drops and a view from an airplane

©Elizabeth Busey. Boulder to Birmingham. Monoprint collage (unique). 18 x 24in.

©Elizabeth Busey. Boulder to Birmingham. Monoprint collage (unique). 18 x 24in.

Boulder to Birmingham (title inspired by the classic Emmy Lou Harris song) considers an imaginary view from an airplane. I used translucent Thai Unryu paper to create the illusion of a curved airplane window. The cloud-like papers were a ghost print from an earlier monoprint. Ghost prints are made when you print the plate again without re-inking. I use thin Masa (mulberry) paper because it has a smooth texture and captures lots of ink while being thin enough to collage. The spots on the surface — are they raindrops? — were created by solvent. (more…)

Share

Adventures in tape Part 2

My final adventure with painter’s tape was to use it as it was intended. Also known as masking tape, its purpose is to protect a surface from paint or ink.

When I perused a collection of images I had gathered for inspiration during my workshop at Penland School of Crafts, I was surprised to see how many were of city window reflections.  Inspired by this, I first used a blank polycarbonate plate to print a vertical light blue-grey flat.

Newsprint sketch makes masking easy

Now it was time to create my matrix. Hint #1 — If you want to recreate this matrix quickly (you are going to pull the tape up) draw your design on a similarly sized piece of newsprint. Placed underneath your plate, it is easy to recreate your matrix. I wanted to create another version of my icebergs, but now the iceberg would be reflected in the windows of a building. This might be a reminder of the perils of global warming when we are ensconced in our people-made bubbles.

Monoprint plate

A monoprint plate, sans the masking tape, ready for printing.

The painterly approach proves problematic

I created the above image by rolling a very light blue on the top and darker pthalo blue below the waterline. Sharpie marks on the back of the plate helped me to keep the horizon parallel. I used rollers, palette knives and pieces of mat board to add color to the ice above and below.

I found there were several challenges to this approach. First, the ink tended to gather along the tape, which didn’t allow for a crisp a line when I removed the tape. In addition, the plate above has a great deal of ink on it. When I ran it through the press, some of it actually squished and ruined the reflection effect. Hint #2 — One solution might be to remove some of the ink with a sheet of newsprint…maybe with the press, or perhaps without.

Another problem was the removal of the tape. Once your fingers marred the ink surface, especially where it was flat, there was no fixing it. Hint #3 –Leaving “tails” along the edges made the removal much easier. Sticking the inky tape segments immediately to an old phone book kept them under control.

Two layer monoprint

This version used much less ink, with better results and no squish.

The next iceberg was simpler — less ink and no squish. But you can still see places where the ink has bled into the areas kept blank by the painters tape. I guess this is a problem that is universal.

Layers of tape are perfect for blind embossment

My final experiment combined my love of the mathematical patterns I painted on my bathroom walls. Some tape was one-layer, used to delineate polygons. I used small rollers to combine two colors on some of the shapes. I used four layers of 1/8 inch tape to create embossment lines that continue the pattern out to an embossed border. I discovered that 1/4 inch tape doesn’t yield nearly as crisp a line as the thinner tape. Hint #4 — Avoid getting any ink on the areas where you are doing blind embossing. Even a little ink will stain the tape and will print faintly.

Monoprint with blind embossment.

Tape provides the geometric structure and some linear blind embossment.

Will I use painters tape in the more traditional sense in my monoprints? It worked best in areas where a thin layer was rolled evenly over the entire surface. Looser, thicker ink was less successful. And yet I haven’t entirely let go of the idea of environmental problems reflected in skyscrapers.

Maybe the solution is out there waiting to be discovered…

Share

Adventures in painters tape Part 1

My adventures with painter’s tape continued during my time in a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts.  I should probably mention that monoprinting usually uses a plate with no matrix. No etched plate, no carved linoleum or wood block, no collagraph. Nothing repeatable.

I just had to have a matrix

Yet I felt compelled to try out my new tool by creating a matrix. My intention was to create the matrix, roll out the ink and then remove the tape. I eventually did this, thus destroying the matrix before I could take a picture of it. Here’s what a new matrix looks like, with both 1/4 inch tape and 1/8 in tape. You can see some ink residue on the tape even after it has been cleaned. (more…)

Share

My love affair with painter’s tape begins here

I love painter’s tape.

This is a quick story to tell you why some of my latest work uses masking tape. And to illustrate the maxim that you never know where your next inspiration might come from…

I am not one of those artists (or writers) who is able to go to the studio every day and create. There are seasons of my life where creative pursuits are excruciatingly difficult, like earlier this summer. So instead, I painted the interior of my house. House painting is my form of meditation — even prayer. Two bedrooms later, and I realized that the main bathroom could use a make-over.

Bathroom freshly painted white.

My main bathroom, newly painted a fresh white. The vintage 1970s gold tiles sadly must stay.

What to do with all those sample paints?

I realized that I had ten small sample cans of paint from my various projects, and set a challenge for myself to create a mural in this otherwise nondescript bathroom. The design must also harmonize with the 1970s vintage gold tiles which are sadly staying.

I am fascinated by nature patterns and their mathematical foundations, so while doing some internet research, I came across Delaunay triangulation and Voronoi diagrams. (Click on these links for more mathematical explanations.) These constructions explain many patterns in nature including air bubble packing and leaf cellular structures.

Cat in mirror

My cat Gingersnap thought this project was fabulous, but needed more treats.

More people would love doing math if it involved tape and paint

I started the process by drawing random dots lightly on my white wall. A mathematician friend pointed out that humans can’t actually be completely random, and he’s right. I just tried not to make them regular. Then I used 1/4 inch painter’s tape to connect the dots into triangles that had the smallest sides possible. I overlapped on the mirror a bit so that my design would seem to grow out of the mirror.

Masking tape triangles and polygons

It took a lot of measuring to find the midpoints of all of the triangle sides and then perpendicular bisectors of each midpoint.

Next I used a clear ruler to find the midpoints of each line of each triangle, and marked this on the masking tape. Then I lightly drew pencil lines perpendicular to each of these midpoints. The intersection of these perpendicular lines was a new point — usually inside the triangle but not always.

I connected these new points, and they created polygons. My intention was to paint these polygons with the various colors of sample paint, which were surprisingly harmonious. I traced the polygons with Sharpie marker so I didn’t get lost.

Painting the polygons

Painting the polygons took one day for each coat of paint.

My sample paints are surprisingly harmonious

I chose seven colors of sample paint, including a new gold paint that would harmonize with my tiles. The darkest color reads as almost black in the images, but is really a dark purple. It took two coats of paint to make sure the polygons were saturated with color. Now the fun part begins!

About an hour after I finished the second coat, I began carefully peeling off the painter’s tape. From all I have read, this is the best timing to avoid pulling up the paint. I needed to touch up some places where the paint bled through the tape.

Completed

My wall completed.

Here is the completed wall. It is amazingly difficult to take an accurate image of this narrow space. See the video below to get a glimpse of the entire wall, including where the design wraps around a corner.

Is my bathroom great art? Probably not. Was it therapeutic during a time when I couldn’t do my studio work. Absolutely.

Now I have a new tool in my toolkit that was instrumental in my explorations at Penland School of Crafts. Stay tuned for more about me and the painter’s tape in my next blog.

 

Share