Sometimes just a little change will give you a different perspective

At the printmaking evening at WonderLab I was thrilled to unveil my bromeliad flower. I finally realized that rather than trying to put another strong color on the print, a transparent one would be best. A bit more carving and a transparent blue brought out the shadows of the very pink flower.

Elizabeth Busey, Bromeliad Flower. Reduction linocut on Masa paper, 3.5 x 3.5in, open edition. Printed by many at WonderLab Museum in Bloomington, IN.
One of the biggest challenges of reduction printmaking is registration. We were printing with spoons at the museum, so I created a mini-registration jig complete with pins and tabs. I cut the hole for the block in a piece of foam core — just large enough to hold the block snuggly. My printers did not need to take the block out at all, just use the brayer to ink the block. Then the tabs could be clicked into place and the spoon rubbing began.

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And the clouds revealed…

Elizabeth Busey. Hope Despite the Evidence.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 17 x 25in, 2013.

In the last post I related the saga of my ruining a block and having to start over. This print is the final result of a new block, new paper and many more hours of carving. On the previous block I carved away those crucial corn stalks that extend over the water. Without them, I don’t think your brain would have been able to make sense of things.

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Now if only spring would really come

Elizabeth Busey. Prints on the Land. Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 40in, 2013.

My first large-scale print is finished. In Prints on the Land, I wanted to capture that overwhelming experience of late spring in the Midwest – warm, moist, earth-scented, and yes, green.

When I first finished this print, I hung it in my studio to take a look. My studio is small, so I could only stand about four feet away from the print. I was pretty unsure about what I had created. Last weekend I exhibited one print at my church as part of the culmination of my grant. When I could stand back farther, I suddenly saw what I had intended. Larger work just needs more room to breathe. Whew!
For the grant, I am placing prints at several places where the public can experience the work, read about the project, and yes, even touch the print (gasp!) Framing these larger works is more expensive, and I didn’t want to have any site say no because of concerns over liability. So people can touch the print, read about the press expansion, touch a sample of carved linoleum, and see “in progress” pictures. I rarely put in-progress pictures in my blog because setting up the lights and camera is a lengthy process. For this grant, I set up some of the lights and used a smaller camera. So the colors aren’t exactly precise, but you will get the idea.
Yellow/orange blend roll.
Light green
Blue layer using a stencil protect the hillside.
A layer of magenta changes everything.

 

Now we can see more of the rows.
Another blue area.

 

Another layer of bright blue completes the print. Now if only spring would really arrive in the Midwest.

 

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Yet another developmental hurdle

I have teenagers in my home now. But I clearly remember when they were very young, that before they made a developmental leap like learning to crawl or walk, they fell apart. Happy children became irrational, weeping, demanding creatures. Child psychologists would call this disorganization. Perhaps this is what has been happening to me.

My newly expanded drying rack.

In my last post, I unveiled the newly expanded press. I knew that the challenges of working bigger were not over when the Rives BFK (30″ x 44″) I ordered would not fit into my flat files. When I began preparations for this new work, I went to hang the paper up and realized that my 12″ wire shelving racks weren’t wide enough and the paper would buckle.  Panic set in…

A trip to Lowes and an evening with my dear husband yielded a new wider drying rack thanks to 20″ wide shelving. Now I would have somewhere to put the paper while I was printing.

The paper trapeze is created with a dowel, rope and zip ties.

The next problem I encountered was how to control the paper when I placed it over the block. I really need another set of hands, but since I work during school hours, these were hard to come by. And my cats were not supportive.  I worried that I would not be able to handle this large (and expensive) paper. After one small meltdown and some pacing in the studio, I came up with the paper trapeze. (I do not recall if I have seen anything like this on the Internet, so forgive me if you are the original inventor!)

The paper trapeze is my silent studio assistant.
The idea behind the trapeze is that I can hang the paper over it while I pop on the registration tabs. The Rives paper is stiff enough that it does not make a crease.
I use four registration tabs on a 30″ side.
With the trapeze I can use both hands to snap in the registration tabs. With my left hand, I carefully begin smoothing the paper down on the block, while holding the remaining paper in my right hand. I try to smooth in the very same spot each time.
After my first printing session today, it is clear that I need to start a stretching and strengthening regimen immediately.  Lifting the 25″ x 40″ block straight up and then on and off the press is going to take some practice.  I must stretch in new ways to get the paper on and off the block, and then hang it on the rack.  10 prints and 4 proofs later I am a puddle of exhaustion. But then I remember why I am doing this — I wanted to create prints that are large enough to get lost in, the way you get lost in Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.
Well, maybe not that big, but you get the idea. Hopefully with a little more practice, this developmental hurdle will be behind me.

 

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The curse of the greedy printmaker

Gentle readers, please hear my confession.  I am a greedy printmaker…  Here is my story:

One of the biggest challenges for me in printmaking is getting the block and the paper to line up the same way each time.  Printmakers call it registration.  Even 1/16th of an inch off can make the print look blurry and the edges show the raw colors I have been using rather than the gentle color blends.

Registration has plagued many printmakers, even Picasso.  If you look at his Bust of a Woman (after Cranach, 1958) you can see his problems with registering a six-block linocut.  He nearly abandoned linocuts, but learned from printmaker Amera about the technique of reduction printmaking.  After that, his registration improved.  But it is interesting that his first attempt, even with the misregistration, is highly valued.  Not so for me. Continue reading “The curse of the greedy printmaker”

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Adventures in stencils

My prints are all reductions, meaning that I use only one block and layer colors, one on top of the other.  I create colors this way that I would never have mixed by eye.  But one of the problems with reduction printmaking is that it is very difficult to get contrasting colors on the same print, especially colors in the same tonal range.  Enter the stencil…
I originally learned about stencils from Karen Kunc, a printmaker who also teaches at the University of Nebraska.  She uses stencils cut from brown kraft paper, and strengthened with masking tape.  Holding the stencil over one area of a print, she adds color to specific areas.  Her reduction prints are filled with vibrant colors.

 

A large leaf on lino.
My subject was a close-up of a leaf of Ragged Jack Kale.  The scalloped blue-green leaves are punctuated by pink and purple veining.  I knew that with one block it would be very difficult to do each of these colors justice.

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