Category Archives: Topography

Key blocks bring everything together

I enjoy getting lost in cities — at least on foot. I delight in the unexpected finds that are off the typical tourist trail. But sometimes life demands a predetermined order, and my life has felt like that of late. I have been wanting to do another linocut featuring the undulating forms of rice paddies, and my current project demands structure in the form of a key block.

key-block

A test print of my latest linocut on newsprint. I’m wondering whether the large dark areas, when printed with an opaque green, will read convincingly as planted paddies.

For printmaker who use multiple blocks, a key block is a familiar element. In Japanese printmaking — especially Ukiyo-e — the key block carries all of the final graphic information and is usually printed last in a dark color. Printmakers will also use this block to transfer information to other blocks so they will know where to carve away for each color block. April Vollmer has written a terrific book on Japanese printmaking called Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop if you want to read more about this technique.

No key blocks for reduction printmaking

I never use key blocks with reduction printmaking. First, remember that I am only using one block. Sometimes the final stage of a block will look as though it is a key block, as I usually print the darkest color last. But I didn’t start with this last stage in mind; rather, the block evolved throughout the process.

Bahamas-last-layer

The last layers of my reduction work often look like this — where only the orangey part is actually printed. Not like a key block at all.

My latest linocut has a key block though. I will be using hand dyed silk to create the floating world imagery that my imagination has been clinging to. With these dyes and the silk, colors can flow easily into one another in way that is impossible to create using my typical techniques. The large blocks of dark ink are where I am considering having some rice that remains to be harvested, while the other areas are reflected water.

Carving as therapy

Carving a key block during this particular week has been a tonic. It is my equivalent of cleaning my house — a repetitive activity that has a tangible result at its end, but requires reduced thinking during the process. Like a working meditation, my mind can wander, my breath can slow.

Now I wait for longer paper to be delivered and prepare to allow the silk dyes to flow unimpeded through the fabric. A peaceful process for a peaceful image.

 

 

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Perspective is everything

Perspective is everything. I’m not just talking about two or three point perspective here, but also the question of “Why do you do what you do?” What is your motivation? This is a question ask of every linocut I undertake.

Using my imaginary view finder

In all of my linocuts, I take a subject matter that is familiar and try to look at it through a different view finder. Take your thumbs and pointer fingers into L-shapes and make a square. When you crop the scene, how does it change your experience of the subject matter?  I am most struck by how I experience topography, especially when viewed through the window of an airplane.

mountains-right-wing

View of mountains on my way to Portland, Oregon.

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Sometimes horizons are necessary

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.

Tranquil Terraces Dawning

©Elizabeth Busey. Tranquil Terraces Dawning. Reduction linocut. 10 x 33in image size, edition of 19, $300 unframed.

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.

pink horizon

You can see where I need to start experimenting with monotypes.

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…

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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.

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Looking for a breakthrough

One of the most challenging things for me about being an artist is that about half of the time I must be a businessperson. I must find collectors for my work, if for nothing else than I need to buy more paper. But in truth, I also need to find homes for my work because that conversation — between me and collector — is crucial.

A butte in Golden, Colorado looms over the quiet college town.

A butte in Golden, Colorado looms over the quiet college town.

Some may be lucky enough to have a gallery that just handles all of the business side of creating art, but I am always seeking new ways to market my work to the world. So last week I took a break from my usual studio routine to attend Art Biz Breakthrough, a conference in Golden, Colorado produced by artist coach, Alyson Stanfield. I have worked personally with Alyson in 2015 and will again in 2016, but the event still gave me lots of great things to think about. (more…)

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Renaissance makes its debut

I love topography. This should be obvious to even a casual reader of this blog. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with a local scientist on my first commission highlighting some spectacular scenery.

A river delta in Saskatchewan creates a blue fractal in a sea of green foliage.
©Elizabeth Busey. Renaissance at Mossy River. Reduction Linocut, 14 x 22in image size, Ed of 9, $275 unframed.

Professor Doug Edmonds of the Geology Department at Indiana University had a very particular formation that he wanted to be the subject of a linocut. During a meeting at his campus office, he explained that the Mossy River Delta in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, Canada is a very new formation, not only for geological time, but in recorded human history as well. (more…)

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The quest for texture

I love topography. Sometimes the colors are spectacular, or the rhythm of the shapes, but usually it is the texture. Unlike with lithography and some forms of intaglio, achieving texture in a relief print is tough. There is either ink or no ink. You need to get creative.
My latest linocut celebrates the textural contrast between land and water.

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In praise of the tiny coral — nature’s jewel

My two latest linocuts deal with jewels — jewels of the living kind. Out of Many, One is a bird’s-eye view of part of the Great Barrier Reef. Made up entirely of coral polyps, this living structure stretches over 1,400 miles off the eastern Australian coastline.

From above, the reefs seem to glow as if illuminated by an underwater light. And yet the National Academy of Sciences estimates that it has lost half of its coral since 1985 due to coral bleaching. Warmer oceans stress the coral, which depend on a symbiotic relationship with algae-like protozoa that photosynthesize and provide the coral with nutrients. Stressed coral expel these protozoa and begin to fail.

Aerial view of part of the Great Barrier Reef
Elizabeth Busey, Out of Many, One. Reduction Linocut. 28 x 14in, Edition of 10, $275 unframed.
I was struck by the almost infinite number of tiny organisms that make up such a massive and impressive structure. A piece of jewelry for the world. And it could disappear.

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What if the canvas was blank?

In preparation for my upcoming show and Open Studios, I’ve spent the better part of the spring in my basement printing and thinking. My latest linocut, Evanescence, considers a land form that is both beautiful and under threat — the river delta.
Reduction linocut of River Delta
Elizabeth Busey, Evanescence, Reduction Linocut, Edition of 10, 28in diameter, $550 unframed.

River deltas are wetlands that carry and deposit sediment into a particular mostly triangular shape. Like other wetlands, they are very important to both people and wildlife. River deltas provide protection from storms, filter run-off, and contain food and other resources.

River deltas don’t just happen anywhere. Strong tides or wave actions from the body of water that they meet prevent many from forming. Many river deltas are sinking because of human activity. Dams and other water control measures change the delicate balance between sediment and water flow. Removal of deltas’ water, oil and natural gas resources are causing their elevations to change. Imagine if these lacy fans vanished into the oceans — leaving places like Bangladesh, Louisiana and the Pearl River in China vulnerable. An estimated 500 million people live on river deltas.

It is a puzzle to me how visual artists can illustrate the lack of something. White canvases a la Robert Rauschenberg? What is the visual equivalent of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?

Questions like these were on my mind as I spent an afternoon recently at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. On the top floor I came across a mixed media installation by Mark Dion and his studio team. Harbingers of the Fifth Season is comprised of an artist/naturalist’s desk complete with materials. Detailed watercolors on cork board illustrate the many invasive species that have been introduced to new habitats and subsequently damaged existing ecosystems. On the reverse, three chalkboards chronicle the ever-growing list of extinct species.

Mark Dion, Harbingers of the Fifth Season, Mixed Media Installation, 2014.
Invasive species are chronicled in naturalist’s watercolor sketches.

 

Reverse of Mark Dion’s Harbingers of the Fifth Season, 2014.
Extinct species are handwritten on three large chalkboards.

The installation is calm and quiet, belying the real pressure that invasive species are placing on ecosystems around the world. How much can one artist’s work do, sequestered on the top floor of a medium-sized city’s art museum?

Time to reread Silent Spring and try to discover Rachel Carson’s secret.

If you are anywhere near Bloomington, Indiana please consider joining me for:

•   Considering the Beloved   •
Bloomington Convention Center Art Gallery
302 S. College Ave, Bloomington IN
June 5 –
July 27, 2015
Opening
Reception, Friday June 5, from 5pm – 8pm
Hors
d’oeuvres, wine & performance by guitarist Atanas Tvetkov

Bloomington Open Studios Tour   •
Join me in my printmaking studio
4324 E Beacon Ct, Bloomington IN
Saturday,
June 6 (10am – 6pm) and Sunday, June 7 (10am – 4pm)
See new
work, enjoy refreshments and try your hand at printing.

 

Visit
BloomingtonOpenStudiosTour.com to plan your entire tour.
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Carving Away Paradise

Beloved, my latest series of reduction linocuts, looks at places that are in danger because of global warming. Ephemeral Sanctuary looks at the delicate islands that ring the southern United States and the Caribbean, such as The Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda and many others. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on Bermuda. These pink sand beaches and shallow aqua waters hold a special place in the hearts of many throughout the world.

Aqua waters flow through pink sandy islands, in danger because of sea level rise & global warming.
Elizabeth Busey, Ephemeral Sanctuary. Reduction Linocut, 10 x 33in, Edition of 13. $300 unframed.

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