Category Archives: Inspiration

Beauty of Beginnings

Ideas for new linocuts are all around me — in the sky, in my phone, in my sketchbook. I go through quite a process to determine if something is worthy of a new linoleum block. Many ideas don’t make it very far. Luckily I was treated to an incredible sight a few weeks ago that was perfect for my next linocut. Here is a quick recap of how I began:

Inspiration after perspiration

One Thursday morning I was walking out of my rowing class and was treated to this site. They are called altocumulus undulatus. I filled my phone with imagery from all angles. At home, I printed out some of these images on 11 x 17 inch photo paper so I could get a better sense of how the pattern would look if it was larger. Some patterns expand well, and others lose their appeal.

Prismacolor helps my planning.

From here I laid out all of the photographs and did some sketches, including some with colored pencils. Although I am not using the pencils in the exact layering technique that I will with my inks, the pencils do help me think about what colors are possible. I love Prismacolor pencils for this task because they have rich pigments and blend together on the page.

Almost ready for the first marks

After I created a final drawing, I used a large sheet of tracing paper and an 8B pencil to create my own carbon copy. Here I’ve transferred the darkest part of the clouds, but I still have to judge which part will be the white area. If I carved away all of the areas that are without graphite, the linocut would have too much white and would appear only two-dimensional.

New color and an old friend

Pygmalion’s Art Supply in downtown Bloomington, IN has a new custom color created each year by their staff, and the proceeds from the pigment sales go to a local organization. I have just a bit left of last year’s Saffron, and use it with a touch of Red Rhino Red to create the glowing orange for the first layer.

I admit that printing light orange over the entire block is a bit daring in a linocut that will also feature blue. But that is all part of the adventure of printing…

I leave you with my very first video filmed with my new Iphone tripod. As February turns to March, my thoughts turn to the Good Humor truck and an icy Dreamsicle. (Don’t drool on your keyboard or phone…)

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Developing your Creative Toolkit for Battling the Blahs

This blog post was delayed by the winter creative blahs. My usual blog writing afternoon found me stretched out on a sunny built-in couch, staring up at bare branches waving in the wind.

Later, another linocut artist trapped in a cold, snowy studio asked on-line: “How do you get through the doldrums?” So whether you are trapped in the snowy northern hemisphere, or the overheated southern, here are my best suggestions for getting through times when you just don’t feel creative.

Doing nothing might be best

Like an athlete, sometimes creative people don’t need to push, but to rest. Perhaps your mind needs rest, in the form of a nap or time spent not thinking about your current creation.

Clouds watching

Clouds are perfect for contemplation and meditation.

(more…)

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Linocuts, rice paddies and Woody Guthrie

linocut of rice paddies reflecting a colorful sun.

©Elizabeth Busey. Walking the Freedom Highway. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK, edition of 10, 10 x 33in (image size), $375 unframed.

How do you work through ideas? Some people run. Others have long conversations in coffee houses. Many artists make art. I used to think that my explorations in art were more about the materials. But if I look at my work more retrospectively, I see my own thought processes come into focus.

Trying an idea one more time

My most recent linocut for 2017, Walking the Freedom Highway, was a second attempt to use a sketch originally inspired by rice paddies. I am especially drawn to the sinuous rhythms of the fields in Asia, where less available land means more creative agricultural layouts. Rice fields in the U.S. are sometimes sinuous, but mostly bordered by a familiar quadrilateral. As I printed, the forms began to remind me of many places I have visited throughout the United States.

How does the paper change the linocut?

Rice paddies reflecting setting sun on textured Asian paper

©Elizabeth Busey. Walking the Cloud Highway. Reduction linocut on Thai Unryu, edition of 3, 10 x 33 in (image size), $375 unframed

This linocut is long (10″ high by 33″ wide) and requires oversized, expensive paper. I discovered that I had a limited quantity of western cotton paper, but I was so eager to begin, that I decided to experiment once again. This time I used some Thai Unryu paper (which translates as “Cloud Dragon”)  that I had in a roll. This paper has thick fibers running through it which show up subtly in the printing.

Close-up of linocut printed on Thai Unryu paper. Thicker fibers show through the darker ink.

As you can see, the Thai Unryu makes the linocut softer and more velvety. Some of the pinks on the cotton paper are quite bright, so this softness may be appealing for some people. In the interest of clarity, I have named the three on Thai Unryu paper Walking the Cloud Highway.

What does patriotism have to do with rice paddies?

It is my practice to carve and print in the morning and early afternoon, before my hands, shoulders and mind get tired. I listen to an NPR program called 1A (in reference to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.) As you might guess, many of the topics led me to think about what it means to be “an American…”

I never name my linocuts until after they are completed. As I was searching for an idea this morning, I came back to my feeling that it needed to be something patriotic. I say patriotic not in the nationalistic sense, but in the sense of deep affection for where I live and the people around me, even for people with whom I completely disagree. I decided to consult “This Land is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie ©1956) — my favorite patriotic song. It has poetic, pointed lyrics, and even I can reach all of the notes.

New stanzas change the meaning

As I read the lyrics online, I was stunned to see that there are three stanzas that I never knew existed. Read this Wikipedia article for an interesting account of where these stanzas went.  I give you the entire song here to read, ponder, and perhaps even sing…

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was changing, As the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever made me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

 

 

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What does your art say?

What does your art say?

This is a question that comes to me regularly. Often it is helpful in deciding which imagery to pursue because it forces me to ask if it is visually or emotionally compelling. Recently the question has been asking something else…

When the question is critical and challenging

What difference do your brightly colored nature-pattern images make to the world? Why didn’t you work harder on your silk screen skills, or learn letter press? Then you could make art that really SAID something. This line of thinking is disquieting, and has been with me as I have carved and printed a long, narrow linocut inspired by waves and fields. Here’s the progression of the work…

layer 1layer 2layer 3layer 4

(more…)

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Why clouds anyway?

Saturated Reverie, the last cloud linocut for 2016, reexamines those puffy, cartoon “Simpson’s clouds” of a previous decade. These clouds represent the fluffy cotton balls we used in preschool to portray fair weather formations. In my clouds, only some of the formation is actually white or very light blue. The rest belies what is inside…

The real cumulus

These cumulus clouds are usually signs of fair weather. Their towering, flat-bottomed presence reminds me of ships, sailing in the teal blue of sunny skies. They are filled with ice crystals, water droplets, or both, and are low-lying, occurring at about 2,000 meters (3,300 feet.) The (more…)

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With gratitude

It is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and a perfect opportunity for me to say thanks…

gratitude

Thanks to…

• the people who collect my work
• readers of my blog, whether you comment or not!
• admirers whose compliments can be the best encouragement
• other artists who inspire and challenge me
• business professionals who instruct me
• other printmakers who so readily share information
• art supply businesses who send me my materials ASAP
• galleries and museums who work to feature local and regional artists
• my family and friends who love and support me, even on the tough days

Who are you thankful for? Go tell them now..

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Sometimes art gets political

This has been a hard week to make art. Printmaking isn’t a media where you can get physical with your materials, like ceramics or painting. Sometimes I wish it was. As I completed all of the mundane tasks that the studio required, I tried to identify the particular things that were nagging at me and causing stress. Honestly, I feel that the in-coming administration is going to be catastrophic for the environment. Our environment is the entire reason for my art…

snail

I don’t want to just make pretty art

I despise the word pretty. As a woman, it feels dismissive and demeaning. Things that are pretty are not important. Just because I do not sling black paint on canvases or incorporate headless torsos into my work doesn’t mean that I create artwork to be purely decorative. The images I select to carefully carve and laboriously print are my interpretations of our most precious gift, the natural world. Trees, mountains, streams, flowers, creatures — all of these things spring up not from our human efforts, but because of this amazing ecosystem into which we were fortunate to be born. (more…)

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Some linocuts have stories

Inspiration is a quixotic thing. Sometimes an image’s meaning is obvious, but for me, the stories behind my linocuts make their presence known in the slow, methodical process of creating. Such was the case with the linoleum block I created for my recent experiments with silk. My musings inspired the following essay, a version of which will be published in a compendium about justice sponsored by First United Church, Bloomington, Indiana. It is the brainchild of my dear friend, writer and artist Donovan Walling.

my-favorite-cope-hollow

My personal favorite in the Cope Hollow series.

I am fortunate to live and make my art in a naturally beautiful place. Hikes in the hills and hollows around Bloomington, Indiana often inspire my art. I recently completed a series where I needed a striking image of topographical lines. An area on a map of the Charles Deam Wilderness caught my eye. Poetically called Cope Hollow, it had fingered bottom lands with steep hill contours radiating out like ripples from a raindrop.

When I title my pieces, I strive for playful ambiguity. I want people to see their own experiences in the work. In this case, the actual place demanded acknowledgement. Ridges and hollows in this part of the world are named for early residents. Certain names are still quite common in the county, but no listings for Cope appear in the phone book.

Two unpublished articles from the public library provided the best information about the Deam Wilderness, which was officially designated as a wilderness area in 1982. This area was the last part of Monroe County to be settled beginning in 1823. Native Americans may have hunted here at a much earlier time, but they did not stay.

cope-hollow-topo-map

Almost all of the Deam Wilderness is part of the Norman Uplands, a formation of mostly siltstone that was sculpted by glacial run-off into drainages and steeply-sloped ridges. The desirable bottom lands were the first to be settled, but were subject to unpredictable spring flooding. The ridges were settled last, some so narrow they only had room for a house and a frog pond for water. Top soil here is extremely thin and the slopes were too steep to be settled. Making a living meant trying to raise enough crops and livestock to feed your family, and most families relied on logging for cash income.

Who would choose to live in such a place? Certainly those who had enough means would have kept right on going, reaching lands farther west that were much more suitable for a profitable economic life. Those who remained spent day after back breaking day felling trees and digging stumps, trying to coax crops and fodder from thin steep soils with inconsistent water. When the Forest Service began buying land for a national forest in 1935, it is no wonder many people jumped at the chance to sell out.

In my daily life, I am surrounded by people who are socioeconomically similar to me. Many are artists and friends. Some collect my work. A few generations ago, areas just around my home were the homesteads of people who clawed a subsistence living from an ungenerous land. Some lasted so that their names are still mentioned in the local paper. Others like the Cope family, have vanished.

Many around the world still experience this harsh life today. A search for statistics paints a sobering picture of poverty. How did I become so fortunate? It is hard to know how to help when the global problem is so vast. Perhaps it is best to start small, in my own backyard.

Cope Hollow is a good reminder.

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Digital Handmade opened my eyes

I am in the throws of building enormous frames for my latest large linocuts Breath of Hermes and Summertide Brings the Derecho. I’m also planning for two new linocuts and they are in the messy stages as I try to push my linocuts to incorporate new techniques.

Digital Handmade sparks my creativity

My planning has been enriched by the discovery of Digital Handmade: Craftsmanship and the New Industrial Revolution by Lucy Johnston (2015). This beautifully photographed book highlights artists and designers who are using digital processes to push traditional media in new and challenging ways.

digital handmade

Johnston, Lucy. (2015) Digital Handmade:Craftsmanship in the New Industrial Revolution. New York: Thames & Hudson.

I was drawn to this title on my library’s new book shelf because of the ongoing dialogue in my head regarding use of new technologies versus the traditional printmaking value of the hand. As printmaker, I chafe at the use of the term gicleé prints to describe a photographic copy. But I fear this prejudice holds me back from creating new, more challenging work as I triumphantly tell people that everything I create is “by hand.” I had an aha! moment when I read the following quote from product designer Tord Boontji who fabricates intricate garlands cut from paper-thin sheets of silver, copper and brass: (more…)

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The clouds and I …. on the move

I am suddenly longing to get back to carving and printing — as I have been consumed with gathering new imagery, and getting the work I have completed ready for new homes.

We recently escaped to Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan as a celebration of my husband’s milestone birthday. An unseasonable cold front had settled over the Midwest, so we were greeted with light snow, temperatures in the 40s and a furious wind. This gave us very atmospheric conditions to hike the dunes and the springtime woods, and provided me with lots of moving cloud pictures for inspiration. Here are some favorites…

cloud 2

cloud 1

The wind was blowing so hard — sometimes taking sand with it — that all I could do was point my Iphone in the direction of the clouds and push the volume buttons. We did take a moment to snap a quick self-portrait. Note the fleece headband — in May!

cold weather selfie

Back from our weekend, I have been madly framing and preparing to take my work to the Broad Ripple Art Fair at the Indianapolis Art Center. One of the greatest challenges — undertaken by my dear husband — was to create a way to transport all of my work and equipment in our RAV4. Here is his solution, complete with clips that hold the metal display panels together that he 3-D printed himself. Quite a mensch!

rav 4

And yes, if you thought the RAV4 was riding a bit low despite being on an angled driveway, you would be correct. Always an adventure…

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