Category Archives: Composition

Celebrating memorable imagery

This image has been on my Iphone home screen ever since my first model. I captured these clouds with an Iphone 3 from the passenger seat of our 2000 Sienna minivan, as we hurtled west on I-94 through North Dakota. For all of the jokes made about North Dakota being uninteresting, I find the state a beautiful place to travel through by car. In the summer, the skies really are this intense blue, with horizons that stretch for miles and fields of bright yellow rapeseed punctuating the land.

Highway Caprice

Elizabeth Busey. Highway Caprice. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK, 22 x 16in image size, $350 unframed.

I try not to simply duplicate my photography when I create a linocut, but the cloud patterns I love move so quickly that a photographic record is a necessity. I get to take liberties with all the other aspects of the creation. Here I created a purple underskirt for the clouds, and a haze above the rolling hills. In my photograph, we had a highway rapidly disappearing in the distance, which I replaced with fields of slowly emerging rapeseed.

Rapeseed is the seed used in Canola oil (a combination of Canada and oil), and its flowers are a shocking greenish yellow. Your mind and eyes have a difficult time resolving what you are actually seeing when you come over a ridge and see this colorful splendor.

I did put the suggestion of a trail in my imaginary fields in honor of the many immigrants who probably trod through this landscape over a century ago. How splendid and hopeful this sweep of clouds must have been for travelers who were constantly wondering if they should change course.


Channeling the flux capacitor

At the end of March I am headed to Portland, Oregon for the Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference. This is the first printmaking conference I have ever attended, and as a person without the official blessing of an MFA, I’m a bit nervous. When I registered for the conference, one of the options was to participate in a print exchange.

Printmakers are among the most generous artists I have encountered. They readily share their secret ways of registration and are eager to problem solve with you in Facebook groups. Since they can make more than one image, they share those as well. For the exchange, I needed to produce an edition of 13 images with the paper size of 11 x 14″, and consider the event’s theme of FLUX. I found this theme baffling. Take a look at my finished image — draw your own conclusions — and then I will explain my thinking.

Arboreal Record

© Elizabeth Busey. Arboreal Record. Reduction linocut, 11 x 14in paper size, edition of 13.

The only thing flux brought to my mind was Doctor Emmett Brown’s time traveling DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies. The conference suggested I think about urban change, the DIY culture and the places where the past and the future flow into each other. Not exactly what I do…

While reading definitions of  flux, I found the ideas of energy, change and force fields most illustrative. I finally decided on a stylized tree cross-section. This tree trunk has experienced rapid change, as evidenced by the change from concentric circles to waves. Because of the importance of forest products in the Portland area, this was a nod to a change from clear cutting to a more responsible way of growing and harvesting trees.

The colors of the linocut were inspired by dogwood blossoms, with reddish tips and green interiors. I first printed a flat shape of pale yellow mixed with titanium white. I then added a blend roll of pale pink on the edges, and used a dauber to add green to the center.

Arboreal Record 2 layers

A creamy yellow layer is topped with a pink rainbow roll around the edges and stippled green center.

Carving the concentric rings was a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Gold ink created the rings, with a final addition of textured purple around the edges that represented bark.

Arboreal Record block

Carving concentric circles is hypnotizing. Very reminiscent of the vinyl of my childhood.

The best part is that when I leave the conference, I will have a portfolio of ten original prints from other artists to enjoy. Isn’t sharing wonderful?

Time for our Back to the Future marathon…


Sometimes it looks worse before it looks better

Thinking backwards is what reduction printmaking is all about. Carve away what you want to leave exposed on the paper. My current subject — clouds — takes this challenging way of thinking to an entirely new level.

I started this new linocut using the graphite tracing paper guide I created in my last blog. (Click here to read about that first.) After transferring the marks, I used my Foredom drill with engraving bits to remove the places in the clouds that I wanted to stay the white of the Rives BFK paper.

sky graphite one

I have carved away places that I want to stay white. The graphite indicates the areas of sky around the clouds.



A square began it all

When I haven’t been working on my water linocut and waiting for the ink to dry, I have been diverted by a small linocut I am preparing for the Center for Contemporary Printmaking’s 5th Biennial Footprint International Competition. Printmakers are charged with creating a work that is 12 inches square. Here is my creation, based on clouds that I captured during an early morning drive along a road that is on a ridge, yielding spectacular panoramas.


©Elizabeth Busey. Crescendo. Reduction Linocut. 12 x 12in, edition of 8, $200 unframed.

The challenge of the contest is how you create a composition using a square. Before the advent of Instagram, the square seemed to be unpopular, except with the painter Mondrian. Photographers (amateur and professional) seem to be most interested in exploiting the square format. They give advice such as:

  • Fill the frame
  • Be careful about using the rule of thirds
  • Exploit symmetry
  • Use diagonals

I have a special fondness for squares. They show off my circular forms to great advantage. The first real reduction linocut I ever attempted was a four color reduction of the Grand Canyon. Little did I know that my first experiment would lead to many years of reduction linocuts, and many square compositions.

©Elizabeth Busey Grand Canyon Grand River

@ Elizabeth Busey. Grand Canyon, Grand River. Reduction Linocut, edition of 5, 12 x 12in.


Considering the negative…space, that is

I have been trying to integrate what I saw in my travels this summer, and I’ve been pondering the question of negative space…
But before I share my noodlings with you, I need to reveal my sea fan experiment from last month. After printing the light fan shapes and the darker water, I added some coral shapes in the background. It amazes me how adding a brighter and darker color makes the water so much lighter and does add lots more depth. The coral shapes have three colors in order to hint at dimensionality. There is a great deal of activity in the work, and not many places for the eye to rest. I often need to live with a linocut for a while before I decide if it will make it to a frame, or get flipped and used as a test print.
Sea Fan linocut. It doesn’t get a name unless it warrants a frame!
So back to negative space — or in the design world, “white space.” There are lots of famous examples of the use of white space. This about the face/vase illusion for example. In all of these, the positive and negative spaces make your brain work to decide what it is seeing.