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.
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… Continue reading “The completion of a temperamental linocut”
Perspective in art is difficult. My early lessons came from sketching the interior of the Indiana University Art Museum, designed by famed architect, I.M. Pei. There are few right angles to be found except between the walls and the floor. So when I began my exploration of nature patterns and topographies, I was delighted to find that I could do this without using traditional perspectives.
With some of my topographies, like Tranquil Terraces Dawning, I immersed the viewer in the patterns, which give a sort of roller coaster feeling of being about to plunge down into the rice paddies. But with clouds, this makes less sense…
The reality is that sometimes, what you are exploring is interesting only in relation to something else. With clouds, your eye really needs some cues if you are to understand the scale and the vastness of each formation. You need a horizon. I slipped a horizon into my second linocut, Highway Caprice. Now with my latest linocut, I’m back to horizons again.
I have printed two layers of ink here, and you can see where the horizon line might be, but all will be revealed only after I do some carving and lay down some darker inks. The image for this linocut was captured east of where I live, after a tremendous storm over early spring fields. More will be revealed soon…
Travels, art delivery, holidays and my upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon have kept me from my next cloud linocut. But given that this is late March in the midwest, perhaps that is fortunate. I always have my phone with me, not so much to be connected with the outside world, but for the camera. Here are some of my most recent cloud captures — potential subjects for new work:
This menacing beauty emerged after I drove through a complete white-out of rain. My husband took the image as I tried to regain my composure. I felt sure we were going to be engulfed.
In a landscape with very little elevation, clouds provide another dimension. I can’t really see the clouds reflected in the flooded fields from this angle, but that is what imagination is for.
When the sun and clouds compete for attention, you can get some spectacular effects.
This cloud followed us around on our Easter night walk in our neighborhood, and brought super-ball sized hail.
I hope my flight to Portland comes complete with some spectacular clouds as well, but perhaps since I want a smooth flight with no delays, that might be asking too much.
If you want to see images from the 2016 Southern Graphics Council International conference in Portland, Oregon you can follow me on Instagram at elizabethbusey. Or search for #sgci2016 for images from lots of printmakers.
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.
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.
Interconnection has always been one of the defining concepts of my work. In doing research for my latest linocut on alfalfa of all things, I read articles about pollination, bee species, crop rotation and water export controversies.
This linocut is a depiction of a field of alfalfa, a plant from the legume family that produces a bluish-purple flower. Even more important than cranberries (the focus on my last linocut), alfalfa is a forage crop that is fed to dairy cattle. Like cranberries, alfalfa relies on bee pollination, in this case to produce seed to replenish the crop. So without bees, we wouldn’t have that milk for your coffee or for your favorite ice cream.
Alfalfa is a plant that has been around the world and back. We have records of its cultivation as a forage plant by the Greeks and Romans. It isn’t really a favorite of our imported honey bees. They complain that the structure of the flower smacks them on the head. And many experienced bees remember — so you need lots more bees — and young ones in particular — who are willing to be smacked on the head for the nectar. To the rescue comes our own native alfalfa leafcutter bee who somehow gets the nectar collected and the pollinating done without a fuss. But each of these species is greatly troubled by the use of the pesticides called neonicotinoids. You can read more about this issue in my previous blog.
In addition to the challenges of pollination, alfalfa is now positioned squarely in the middle of the water wars of the American West. Western farmers produce alfalfa (irrigated by precious water resources) as a good cash crop, and also as a rotation crop in the fields that grow the vast majority of the produce crops we enjoy. These farmers claim that if they don’t use their allotted water, they will lose rights to it according to current water laws. In addition, some part of this alfalfa crop is being harvested, baled, and shipped in containers around the world. Right now, American alfalfa is feeding Chinese dairy cows.
Beauty, fussy insects, water rights — honey, ice cream, the produce that makes up your nightly salad. I am left with a speechless fascination and awe of the intricacy and connectedness of our natural world. How to protect it? Which choices to make? How to make people care, especially when things get complicated — as they do with alfalfa.
In the epigraph of my copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, E.B.White is quoted:
“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”
I wanted to experiment with creating work that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but might force the viewer to think about the image. What is this pattern? What does it mean? Why did the artist choose to impose this extra element into the work? In Blessings of Bumblebees, I take a view of a cranberry bog at harvest time and place it within the matrix of a honeycomb. Cranberries — a native shrub to North America — are created through flower pollination. While imported honey bees do pollinate these plants, our native bumblebees actually do a better job. The plant and the insect were made for each other. Continue reading “Making art with a message”