Category Archives: Color Theory

Metallic inks put the shine on

Art-making is compromise.  Those who say that you can make whatever you want are simply mistaken. Art making is a compromise between what you have in your imagination, and what you can accomplish with your materials. In reduction printmaking, this compromise has to do with the number of shades, colors or details you would like versus the amount of ink your paper is willing to accept. Apply too much ink, and you are finished.

What is an overzealous printmaker to do? In many of my linocuts, I turn to metallic inks to finish the piece, even if I wasn’t quite finished myself.

silver and gold metallic inks on a carved linoleum block

A blend roll of gold and silver metallic inks are the last layer on my latest cloud linocut.

Why metallic inks are different

Metallic inks are different from other printmaking inks. The pigments are not ground as finely as other colors so they can reflect light. Gold inks are simulated with combinations of copper and zinc (yielding a sort of bronze) and silver inks are made from aluminum. As these inks dry, the metals rise to the surface.

How shiny these pigments appear depends on the surface on which they are printed. On my very absorbent Rives BFK, the inks aren’t too shiny unless they are the last in a series of ink layers. With the above inked block, these inks are going over six other layers of ink, so the paper is nearly sealed. If you printed on a very slick surface, the results would be shinier. If a very reflective result is required, you would need to resort to foil printing — a fascinating technique with which I would love to experiment.

cans of metallic gold and silver printmaking ink

Cans of metallic inks can bring a shine to any situation.

Mixing brands of ink — apologize later

Gamblin –the maker of my other relief printmaking inks — does not make metallic inks. I have had my Handschy gold and Kohl & Madden silver inks for years. Straight out of the can they are very dark and strong, so I mix in some Gamblin Relief Transparent Base and some tack reducer to get the strength I need. So far my mixing of different ink brands has not resulted in a visit from the ink police.  I also use a bit of metallic ink to make an ink less transparent, without adding white — which can lead to too-pastel colors.

I just applied a layer of metallic gold and silver blend roll to my latest cloud linocut, and I think it is finished. It is a diptych, so I am working on just the right way to display it on-line.

In the meantime, consider if a little metallic ink might help you put your shine on.

Share

Change the color and change the meaning

A few blogs ago I shared some images of the altocumulus undulatus clouds I snapped early one morning. While I loved the shape of these clouds, I don’t find their white to light blue coloring terribly compelling in an artistic sense. As I mentioned in my last blog, I was steered toward the blue greens when printing over orange and yellow. The final result is Harbinger in Teal.

Elizabeth Busey, Harbinger in Teal, Reduction Linocut, 18 x 28 in, edition of 24, $450.

Altocumulus undulatus clouds result from wind shear — an abrupt speed or directional shift that signals a change in the weather. Where I live, a weather change is often brought about by violent storms, and some people link strong storms with blue green clouds. So I embraced my uniquely colored clouds as an illustration of how the world feels to me at times.

Things are unsettled, changes may be coming, and it is not clear if they will be disastrous, or merely different. All we can do is watch the clouds, and hang on.

Hanging on while looking for hope

I took a break from the studio recently to visit Asheville, North Carolina and the surrounding countryside. With the radio turned off and a ban on reading the New York Times on my phone, I was able to capture some images that I found hopeful…

 

 

Hope really is an action, not just an emotion. Continuing to be hopeful in the face of the alternatives takes perseverance.

Keep looking for hope, and if you find some, please share it. The world needs lots of hope.

Share

Embracing Artistic License…or Why Clouds are Green

In creating art, sometimes the materials dictate the direction of the work. In my latest linocut of rhythmic altocumulus undulatus clouds, my vision was for a glowing orange sky. I did not see the entire work as orange, but rather transitioning to some sort of blue. Herein lay the challenge and the realization that I was not in control.

Teal skies are the result of printing blue over orange.

One color determines the next

Even when I mixed my purply blue with some white, when I printed over my orange, I got a teal. But as I stared and pondered my perceived problem, I was reminded of the colors of my mother’s opal ring… colors that I enjoy.

Fiery opals contain some of my favorite colors.

So I decided to keep the teal green skies — as I had no choice in the matter. If Toulouse Lautrec can give people green faces, or Marc Chagall can make blue horses fly, why couldn’t I have green clouds?

Green clouds actually do exist

When I am printing blend rolls in my clouds, I am fastidious in preventing the yellows and the blues from mixing. This would usually result in a strange spring green. But my blueish green clouds are actually a real weather phenomenon. Meteorologists disagree about the causes of these green clouds. Some hypothesize that it is the result of sunlight refracting through hail in the clouds. Others suggest that it is the leading yellow sunlight shining on storm clouds. Sometimes green clouds are seen with severe weather, and sometimes not.

For now, I will embrace the opalescent teals of these clouds and print a few more layers to complete the work. It is spring in the midwestern United States, so I will also be listening for the sirens and looking for green clouds.

 

 

Share

Reading signs in the clouds

My love affair with large linocuts has been tested this summer. In June, I began a 25 x 40 inch linocut of a large severe thunderstorm, fully intending to complete it in a month. Over the course of two months, I have used an engraving bit to texture every inch of this block — change occurring at a glacial pace — which is completely the opposite of a fast moving storm.

©Elizabeth_Busey_Breath_of_Hermes

©Elizabeth Busey. Breath of Hermes. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK Heavyweight. 25 x 40in (image size), Edition of 6, $600 unframed.

(more…)

Share

Even printmakers get the blues

The carving and printing of my monster cloud linocut continues. While most of the colorful land has been printed, the monochromatic clouds make up the majority of the work. I’m trying to capture the moody pre-storm clouds with a range of blues. Blues are one of those pigments that have always given artists fits, and I am no exception.

Attachment-1

(Detail) Three blues down and a couple more to go to complete my moody clouds.

Midway through the clouds, I have had two Gamblin Artists Colors to choose from: phthalo blue and Prussian blue. Both pigments lean toward the green side, which is challenging when working with clouds. Prussian blue, when intense, actually leans toward black.  I’ve had to use both quinacridone red (a cool red) and napthol scarlet (a bright orange) to drag the blues away from the green side, and into the blue-gray.  It also doesn’t help that the tint base I am using is slightly warm (tending toward a yellow.)

Gamblin used to make an ultramarine blue relief ink, but has stopped. I don’t know the reason, but today’s synthetic ultramarine pigments are said to be at risk of discoloration in more acidic environments. I had previously relied on ultramarine blue for any blues that were neutral or leaned toward indigo…

Attachment-1 (1)

Is it a canyon or a cloud?

There is one piece of hope, not for this linocut sadly, but for the future. A blue pigment called YlnMn was discovered by accident by chemist Mas Subramaniam and his lab at Oregon State University. It has now been licensed for commercial use, and the lab has given it to some local Oregon artists to try out. You can see a printmaker use the pigments here. This new blue, which tends toward neutral blue to cool (purply) blue is stable and non-toxic to manufacture. I know it would be a wonderful addition to my printmaking palette.

Another interesting characteristic of this new pigment is that it reflects a large amount of infrared light, making it perfect for roofs that can keep buildings cooler. Can’t wait for blue roofing materials to hit the market either.

There is hope for our blues, too!

Share

The completion of a temperamental linocut

Vexing. This an apt description of the weather in my part of the world. Wide swings in temperature, plus punishing storms make for unpredictable living. Two weeks ago I wrote about similar trials in layering inks. After giving the linocut an entire week to dry, I soldiered on, armed with metallic inks.

Tempest Intermezzo

©Elizabeth Busey. Tempest Intermezzo. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK. 14 x 28in image size, edition of 14, $350 unframed.

I first printed a gold layer, which faded as it approached the horizon, over the patchy purple. Thankfully metallic inks are very opaque and tend to cover a multitude of difficulties. Another deeper blue went on the clouds, which did not share the inking problems. But I was concerned that the clouds might not tolerate too many more layers… (more…)

Share

Now the possibilities are endless

©Elizabeth Busey_Cantata_for_Eventide

©Elizabeth Busey, Cantata for Eventide. Reduction Linocut on Rives BFK, 18 x 18in image size, $350 unframed.

My latest linocut, Cantata for Eventide, was inspired by a blanket of clouds, and benefits from an entirely new color in my palette. My local art supply store, Pygmalion’s, creates a custom oil color each year. All proceeds go to a local charity, and there is a show in the spring for people to show the artwork they created with the color.

new color in a tube

My yellow relief ink made by Gamblin is definitely on the greenish side, so I was intrigued to use this buttery, warm yellow. Owner and fellow printmaker John Wilson advised me to squeeze out some oil paint on a paper towel and let it sit for several hours. Sure enough, some of the oil soaked into the towel, leaving me with a substance that looks much like my relief inks. Mixed with some transparent base, it is the base for the setting sun in Cantata for Eventide.

I’m thrilled with the results. I haven’t been able to get quite this warm a yellow before. Now it is all I can do to not go and buy lots of Gamblin oil colors with which to experiment. While the number of colors you can make is infinite, the colors you start with make all the difference. 

I wonder what color I will adopt next…

 

 

Share

Sneaking up on color

Were you one of those people who saw the Internet-featured dress as blue and black? Or were you in the white and gold camp? This was an example of color perception being relative — that color isn’t fixed, but changes depending on many factors. This makes finding the right next color layer a challenge for me. I have spent the last week or so sneaking up on the colors that I imagine for my next cloud-themed linocut. Here’s a portion of the linocut in progress:

Rosy colored cloud

Sunset illuminating clouds — in progress.

I’m exploring the effect that the setting sun would have on a blanket of clouds. I wanted the brightest parts to be either completely white or a warm yellow. The task then was to choose colors that will provide the dimensionality of the clouds, and then the dark (by contrast) blue and purple sky.

color chart

Watercolor chart created during election night for Bush v. Gore. I wonder if I will have some more nights like this during the current U.S. political season.

Intuitively, I want the lowest parts to have purple shadows, and the upper part to have a dark-greyed teal. But how to get there is the question. Purple over the yellow yields a rich brown, a color only associated with tornado clouds. I use this color chart to give me ideas of which way to head. I created this chart on the ill-fated election evening of the Bush vs. Gore election. Hour after hour we watched to see if a winner would be declared, and instead watched the newscasters flounder about in confusion. Mixing these watercolors kept me grounded.

My color challenges are two-fold. My sense is that the colors in the clouds should be transparent, so what color is beneath will directly affect the next color layer. In addition, what a color is next to greatly affects our perceptions. My favorite college art class (besides printmaking) was a color and composition class. Using a box of colored papers we were asked to create demonstrations that would fool the eye. Here are my two best examples:

pantone different looks same

Stripes of two different colors look the same when placed on different colored grounds.

In this example, the challenge was to take two different colors, and using different backgrounds convince the eye that it was seeing the same color. The colors I used are at the top, and then shown on top of two other colors. The illusion is helped by keeping the stripes away from each other.

pantone same looks different

Rectangles of the same blue green paper look markedly different on purple and yellow grounds.

In this example, the blue green paper is the same on each side, but your eye is challenged by the different color fields of purple and yellow.

I have probably two or three color layers left on my present linocut. Not much carving, but adding layers will more fully define the clouds and hopefully provide some more depth. To get to the darkest colors I may have to employ some more opaque ink, now that the cloud body is finished. I just hope I can accomplish on paper what I have had in my mind all along…

Share

This printmaker is grateful for the humble flax

I have been methodically carving my latest linocut looking at cloud formations, but I don’t have too much to show for it…

Cloud 1 three layers

Three layers of very transparent ink are just the start of this linocut celebrating clouds.

This linocut has three layers of ink on it, but the differences in layers are intentionally subtle. I achieve this through the use of what printmaking ink manufacturers call tint base. It is the substance that holds all of the tiny pigment particles together and allows them to be evenly distributed on my glass table with my rubber brayer. The base is also responsible for drying so that the pigment will stay adhered to my paper, even when there is very little pigment. Tint base is very important.

I use a great deal of transparent base in my work — I will order several cans at one time to keep it in stock. Gamblin — the creator of my inks — uses burnt plate oil as the binder, with the addition of some calcium carbonate. I wondered what burnt plate oil actually was, because in the can the transparent base looks like spun honey, and doesn’t look burned at all.

Burnt plate oil is linseed oil which has been heated to 425 F degrees (or has ignited) and has become thick and viscous. Linseed oil has a drying tendency — it forms polymers — and therefore is used as a binder in paints, inks…and linoleum! The wood pulp and cork particles of linoleum are ably held together with linseed oil. The only thing that is not linseed based in my process is the cotton paper.

Europe was closed to flax exports after a genetically modified variety was discovered in shipments, but the continent is opening up after poor weather in Russia and Kazakhstan dried up sources. File photo. (date last used May 23, 2013) Building a new flax processsing facility in Angusville, Man., is one of several moves Grain Millers Inc. is making to serve health food markets in North America. File photo. (date last used March 21, 2013) Irish flax processor plans to relocate, rebuild plant. File photo. (date last used December 6, 2012) If flax growers can get their crop sequence right and properly manage the mycorrhiza population in the soil, there may be potential to save money on fertilizer. File photo. (date last used August 2, 2012) Western Europe accounted for about 70 percent of Canadian flax exports but some analysts expect to see demand from the U.S. File photo. (date last used September 15, 2011) The flax is in full bloom at plots in the Northern Adapted Flax Variety Development Project plots near Vegreville. The goal of the project is to develop flax varieties better adapted to the northern Prairies.

The flax plant has a gorgeous blue-purple flower that yields the all important flax seed.

Linseed is also referred to as flax, a plant that was used in its wild fiber state nearly 30,000 years ago in the Republic of Georgia. There is evidence of domesticated oil seed in Egypt 9,000 years ago. The seeds and resulting oil are edible, and the fibers can be woven into a strong, if scratchy fabric. The amazing thing about flax is that it made its way into the artist’s studio.

I searched for the genesis of burnt plate oil, but found nothing definitive. There is a spirited debate on-line regarding whether painter and printmaker Rembrandt used burnt plate oil for the impasto parts of his paintings. I can imagine a careless studio assistant getting distracted, only to turn around and see his pot of oil on fire, and later being intrigued by the new consistency of the oil. However it happened, I am grateful for the humble flax plant which brings me not only my printmaking inks, but my linoleum as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Questions both digital and existential

I have been waiting patiently for my ink to dry, and was finally able to lay the gold leaf without it adhering randomly to the ink. It still sticks sometimes, so I used a stencil (or frisket to my printing friends) with the gold areas cut out to protect the rest of the linocut. I like the result —  warm reflected light that is different from the white of the paper or the transparent blues.

©Elizabeth_Busey_Aqueous_Tapestry (more…)

Share