It has been a few months since I experienced that fabulous feeling of finishing a linocut. I recently put down the last layer of ink — my favorite metallic gold — and the work was transformed. For the final touch, I want to apply gold leaf to a few of the white ripples, so the water will be rippling one way, but the sun is coming from the opposite direction.
I was all ready with my acrylic medium, my red oxide acrylic and my sizing, when I realized my folly. From my last foray into gold leafing I learned that the printing ink must be extremely dry, or the gold leaf will adhere all over the linocut and not just on the sizing. I so wanted to show the finished work in this blog, but you just can’t hurry that gold ink. Here is a partial peek at the work sans the gold leaf…
There are many interesting phenomena in nature, and we are treated to images of them everyday. Internet-shared imagery zooms in and out showing us the incredible complexity of our natural world, and I am often inspired. The problem comes when I want to translate that inspiration into a linocut. Sometimes a fascinating idea becomes unsuccessful in the studio.
Many of my ideas involve intricate carving and numerous layers of ink, so I like to do a test when I’m thinking about a new series of work. I used the idea of a sea fan for a demonstration at my recent Open Studios, and decided to further pursue this topic. To get a good idea of what things will look like, I had to use a block larger than the card-sized one used for the demo. Patterns need a bit of space to develop.
I live in a university town. I am continually aware of the predictable changes in life — graduations from high school and college, weddings and first jobs. People move in and out of our town with regularity. Other changes — a surprise award, an illness or a job loss — are not so expected. And their results not so predictable.
Elizabeth Busey. Unforeseen. Linoleum Reduction Print
25 x 17 in, 2013.
In a memorable scene from the movie Shrek, Shrek is trying to describe ogres to his traveling companion, Donkey. “Ogres are like onions…they have layers!” he exclaims. They are complicated, nuanced… Layers are also the secret behind printmaking. As I detailed in my last post, most of my prints have eight to ten layers of transparent ink to create an image that “pops” out from the paper.
Elizabeth Busey, Breath Intertwined.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 17in, 2012.
My latest print, Breath Intertwined, has many layers, and different parts of the print have different layers. By making use of some cardboard masks, I was able to use thalo blues in the lower green part of the print. The purple-red leaf section received several layers of outrageously electric purple to achieve the dusky red-purple of the finished leaf.
Last night I explained to my art group friends that even though different parts of the prints had different layers, it was necessary for them to share some layers as well. In the case of the two leaves, they share several layers, yielding the bold chartreuse color of their veins. This shared color palette helps the image feel connected and harmonious.
This explanation made me question why plants like my featured Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) can have green leaves, or purplish red ones. According to Sven Svenson, an Oregon State horticulturist, all leaves have three types of pigments. Leaves that appear green have higher levels of chlorophyll, which absorbs red and blue light, so we see them as green. By contrast, some leaves have a higher level of anthocyanin, which absorbs blue, blue-green and green light, so we see them as having red to purple pigment. (A third pigment, carotinoid, is responsible for yellow to yellow-orange leaves.)
Can you see the chlorophyll? It is all about the layers.
Even leaves that block the green light from our eyes have the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. I imagine that they have the layers of green in them, but we just can’t see them. We just have to have faith (or confidence) that it is there.
I am often asked “what is a reduction print?” A reduction print is where one block is used for the print (instead of carving a block for each color.) After each layer of ink is printed, some more of the block is carved away. I like this method because it is easier for me to register the work and it creates complex and surprising colors. Plus my work is large enough that carving a block for each color would definitely give me carpal tunnel.
Elizabeth Busey, Coming of the Zephyr. Linoleum Reduction Print, 15 x 24in, 2012.