Open Studios — in case you missed it

Opening my studio is one of the best parts of making art. As a member of the Bloomington Open Studios Tour collaborative, I open my studio to guests once a year. In case you missed it, here are some highlights. A very special THANK YOU to painter Dawn Adams, who took these images.

Mary Uthuppuru and guests having way too much fun.

My studio is in my home, a vintage 1976 four-level home. We transform our living room to a gallery space. This year I was joined by printmaker and book artist Mary Uthuppuru. The inclusion of 3D work and her infectious enthusiasm was a valuable addition to the weekend.

New artist in the studio

Mary Uthuppuru’s artist books and commonplace journals were fascinating to visitors.

Mary Uthuppuru brought her artist books and commonplace journals for the weekend. Mary began as a conservator at the IU Lilly Library, and became a full-time book artist and instructor in 2010.

In the studio downstairs, Mary and I displayed blocks in process. Here I have a block carved into linoleum (mounted on MDF.) Mary is creating a two-block image using MDF as the block itself.

Seeing how the monoprint collage is made

I was able to show visitors the components that go into my monoprint collages. I had both blank polycarbonate plates and one with a 1/16in chart tape matrix. People could see the tracing paper guides that I use for the irregular pieces, and touch the maps and monoprints that make up the material of the collages. Seeing things in process helped many people understand how I do what I do.

Collaborative collage takes over the studio

On the glass ink table, visitors had the opportunity to participate in a group collage. Monoprints, maps and handmade papers were available, along with tracing paper, scissors and glue sticks. A matrix was created with a square of Rives BFK and a Sharpie. People were encourages to collage some pieces onto the Rives. Mary is turning this collage into a creation that will be “auctioned” off on social media.

Whew! Another studio tours is complete. I talk more in this weekend than I do in a month at home in my studio. Sharing my work and talking with new visitors and familiar friends is such a gift to someone who creates mostly in isolation.

Time to put things away and get on to the new project!

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Interference is real

Please note: This blog post has nothing to do with the U.S. 2016 presidential election nor the 2018 Saints – Rams NFL division championship. It has to do with interference of light waves, and how this is seen in art and nature. Have I lost you yet? Do read on…

@Elizabeth Busey. Aqua Pura. Monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

Reflectivity is a 2D artist’s attempt at dimension

In many of my monoprints, I include some tiny bits of gold leaf. In Aqua Pura, I didn’t feel like it needed gold’s warm tones, but it did need something reflective. Why did I think this? I was not an overly feminine child and own very little bling as an adult. My only thought is that some reflectivity of light on a 2D work makes it feel less flat. Perhaps there is a 3D artist hiding inside. I’m hoping to let her out later this summer at another Penland workshop… (more about that later.)

Painting Guerra Paint & Pigment Co.’s Interference Blue is the last step.

Interference pigment is magical

I’ve had some interference pigment for a few years. I had intended to make my own encaustic printmaking sticks, and that hasn’t happened — yet. Usually this pigment is added to a binder or to another paint. I used mine straight out of the container, binding it to the paper with gold leaf sizing. I just let the sizing dry for an hour as usual, and then gently painted on the pigment over the sizing areas.

Artists Network explains: “These pigments are not particles but flakes of mica, usually coated with a microscopically thin layer of titanium dioxide pigment.” It is incredibly fine, so I am careful to put it on gently, and brush it off the work out of doors. I painted mine over white paper (with white sizing) so the result is that at one angle it looks like a soft white, and at another angle it is a brilliant cobalt blue.

You can see the interference pigment at work in the dark blue section of the collage.

Interference in nature

Interference is one of the ways color is created in nature. (See this fascinating article to read about all three ways and get a more in depth explanation of interference.) You see this phenomenon in oil slicks on water and colored light on bubbles. The changing of color is what makes it interference — either the light waves are reinforced (the color is very strong) or destroyed (you see white in my work.)

A related phenomenon is iridescence, which means that many colors are shown. I may need to work this into my repertoire as well.

You can see gold leaf and interference pigments at my studio as part of Bloomington Open Studios Tour. Saturday, June 8th (10-6) and Sunday, June 9th (10-4).

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Praises for tracing paper

You can always tell an artist. We are the people who have our noses inches from a work of art with the security guard rushing in to restrain us. We just like to know the “how” of creating. Often we cannot discern the artist’s secrets… In this blog, I’ve revealed one of the ways I keep track of my patterns — tracing paper.

Collage here, not here. Go this way…

I have been a huge fan of tracing paper for my entire artistic life. Since you can’t scrape away the paint from works on paper, tracing paper lets you estimate what things would look like if you took the next step. In my linocuts, tracing paper helped me determine my next layer of cutting, or forecast what a certain color would look like when printed mid-linocut.

Tracing paper is the ultimate guide

For my monoprint collages, tracing paper has an even more important job. After my monoprint matrix is dry, I get to plan what areas I will collage to create my patterns. I create a sort of template, where I trace around each shape that I want to collage with a monoprint or a map. I then use this template and a very sharp Exacto knife to cut the individual pieces.

©Elizabeth Busey. Celestial Orb. Monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

Several of my latest monoprints make for confusing cutting. In Celestial Orb (above) I have linear segments that spiral out from the center in one direction. The segments in this collage are unbroken dark blue.

All of the collaged segments spiral in the opposite direction. I do this intentionally, because I want the piece to have a feeling of movement and energy. The trouble is that if I’m not careful, I will cut the sections going parallel to the dark blue segments. Not the same intense feelings.

Enter the humble tracing paper. Arrows now point in the direction of the collage run. Small “x’s” remind me that nothing goes here. The result is better fitting collage pieces, and few artist tears.

What do you use tracing paper for in your artistic practice? Or in your daily life? You never know how useful it may be.

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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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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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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 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.

Continue reading “Searching for rhythm and energy”

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