|Elizabeth Busey, In Anticipation of Sweetness. Reduction Linocut,
18 x 18in circle, Edition of 16.
|Elizabeth Busey, Yielding Gracefully. Reduction Linocut, 17 x 25″|
During my exploration of the sassafras leaf, I was operating under the assumption that the colors I see in the fall were always in the leaf, but became more apparent in autumn. For the yellows and oranges we see, this is basically true. But not for the red. The red that I found so challenging and unfamiliar is in fact produced by the leaves as a sort of battle against the inevitable arrival of winter.
Everything about our holiday season was late this year. Including this post. It took me until the day after Christmas to dive into a color with which I am not too comfortable… red.
|Deciduous holly berries are the only brightness
in my December garden.
Red is one of those colors in nature that works like an exclamation point. In my yard, outrageously colored holly berries (from a deciduous shrub) are the only bright spot in a garden of muted browns. Red male cardinals fight with grey squirrels for the seed I have set out.
I have been toying with some ideas for a few months. I have visions of layering and new materials. Of well, something different. But something too different can be scary or frustrating, so perhaps something somewhat different would be a good place to start. This was the conversation I had with myself this morning. When you work alone, you have to be your own motivator and artistic therapist.
|Pine Cone on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.|
I don’t know how Thomas Edison did it. Popular lore claims that he discovered 1000 ways to not create a light bulb before he achieved illumination. I’ve been experimenting with encaustic printmaking this fall, and while I have learned a great deal…let’s just say that I have not achieved my light bulb.
I received some nice news this week that one of my favorite prints, Breath Intertwined (a close-up view of two red bud leaves) was accepted as part of the 2015 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition. This print went to Boston last fall, and is currently at the 57th Mid-States Art Exhibition in Evansville, IN. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this print, and this encouraged me to do another up-close leaf print.
|Selfie with me and two layers of ink|
In my last blog I wrote about prints I was fighting with — prints that were intended for the Los Angeles Printmaking Society’s Give and Take Exchange. Here are the two resulting prints:
|Elizabeth Busey. Kaleidoscopic Meristem. Linoleum Reduction
Print, 7 x 9in, 2014.
|Elizabeth Busey, Prismatic Tatting. Linoleum
Reduction Print, 7 x 9in, 2014.
My trusty Tama To needs sharpening after the completion of my latest prints. (For new readers, this is a fabulous tool that cuts small circles in wood or linoleum.) Like my last huge square cellular print, I decided to run two different color series, and the result is two very different prints.
|Elizabeth Busey. Ambrosia. Linoleum Reduction Print,
Edition of 13, (28 x 28in), 2013.
It has been over a month since my last blog post. Since then, I have been consumed by a very large intricate square print…and hundreds of circles. So without further ado, here are the two resulting print series:
|Elizabeth Busey. That Which Surrounds and Supports Us.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 28 x 28in, 2013.
In a memorable scene from the movie Shrek, Shrek is trying to describe ogres to his traveling companion, Donkey. “Ogres are like onions…they have layers!” he exclaims. They are complicated, nuanced… Layers are also the secret behind printmaking. As I detailed in my last post, most of my prints have eight to ten layers of transparent ink to create an image that “pops” out from the paper.
|Elizabeth Busey, Breath Intertwined.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 17in, 2012.
My latest print, Breath Intertwined, has many layers, and different parts of the print have different layers. By making use of some cardboard masks, I was able to use thalo blues in the lower green part of the print. The purple-red leaf section received several layers of outrageously electric purple to achieve the dusky red-purple of the finished leaf.
Last night I explained to my art group friends that even though different parts of the prints had different layers, it was necessary for them to share some layers as well. In the case of the two leaves, they share several layers, yielding the bold chartreuse color of their veins. This shared color palette helps the image feel connected and harmonious.
This explanation made me question why plants like my featured Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) can have green leaves, or purplish red ones. According to Sven Svenson, an Oregon State horticulturist, all leaves have three types of pigments. Leaves that appear green have higher levels of chlorophyll, which absorbs red and blue light, so we see them as green. By contrast, some leaves have a higher level of anthocyanin, which absorbs blue, blue-green and green light, so we see them as having red to purple pigment. (A third pigment, carotinoid, is responsible for yellow to yellow-orange leaves.)
|Can you see the chlorophyll? It is all about the layers.|
Even leaves that block the green light from our eyes have the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. I imagine that they have the layers of green in them, but we just can’t see them. We just have to have faith (or confidence) that it is there.
Spirals are a common theme in many of my works, because nature seems to favor this pattern of growth. My latest prints are both spiral-inspired, but from very different places on Earth. The chambered nautilus actually builds a new section of its shell each time it outgrows its current home. In early spring, fiddleheads appear in my garden, poised with plant kinetic energy, ready to unfurl new fern leaves.
Growth for me as an artist is difficult. It is sometimes hard to challenge myself to do something that is different, more difficult, out of my comfort zone. Some of my art group friends lament the loss of art class assignments which spurred them to action. In these two prints, I tried to challenge myself to consider not only my subject matter, but also clearly focus my attention on the role of the tools I used. (more…)