Category Archives: Travel

My art delivery odyssey

Late summer is a time of letting go in the college town where I live. Parents drop off their students and have to walk away. They must trust that their children will eventually find their way by themselves. From experience, I know this is difficult to do — so much is unknown. It turns out that this experience is similar in showing my artwork.

Letting go of artwork

I have been invited to show work in two upcoming shows, located in Lafayette, IN and southwest Chicago. I loaded my RAV4 with three large works laying flat, and five small pieces tucked behind the front seats. I set off with a friend to begin delivering this work. Instead of speeding north, we were eventually detoured onto back country roads, where we spent an hour with intermittent cell service, snaking our way past orchards and through state forests. “What does this have to do with making art?” I thought to myself.

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Snaking through back roads and forests, trying to get to points north.

Delayed more than an hour, we finally drop off one piece and begin the longer part of the journey toward the Argonne National Lab outside of Chicago. Instead of the swift journey forecast by Google Maps, we experienced more delays… and trucks!

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We were always surrounded by trucks as we inched north and west of Chicago. What was I doing here? Why was I not home carving and printing?

After seven hours, we finally pull into the Argonne National Lab, and are greeted by large brick gates, lots of fencing, and a tiny visitor’s center. This is as far as I can go with my art. There is a small area to leave the artwork, which will be moved to the lab’s gallery later in the week.

Now I’m nervous. I have carefully transported my larger work flat, to avoid stress on the frame’s corners. All I can do now is prop them gently against a wall, and pin a note explaining how they need to be moved.

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Distant view of the Argonne National Lab. Was the gallery in this building?

Letting go and trusting the process

When I deliver artwork, I usually bring the work into the space and meet the people who will be installing the exhibit. Argonne National Labs is a collaboration between the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy so in retrospect it makes sense that we left the artwork outside the facility as we were not cleared by security nor escorted. My friend later suggested that the art would be inspected as well. Just as parents cannot find out information about their student’s classes, professors and grades, I must trust my artwork in the hands of others. Not an easy thing to do.

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Consolation often comes with sugar. It just does.

Dealing with loss and change

What do you do when you must let go? Empty nesting parents redecorate, or go on a much needed vacation. The accidents and congestion faded away for our return drive, and we were treated to Simpson’s clouds as we neared the Indiana line. A stop at the Albanese Candy Factory — home of the world’s best gummy bears — lifted our spirits and made the journey home a bit sweeter.

I hope to get back up to the Argonne National Lab to attend the opening. Like Parent’s Weekend this will be my opportunity to convince myself that the artwork is doing just fine without me.

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Demonstrations stretch my mind

My trip to the Southern Graphics Council International’s conference in Portland, Oregon was transformative. The conference is a combination of traditional academic activities (keynote speakers, panels, etc.) along with demonstrations, lots of gallery shows and a vendor fair. Since I am neither a student nor an academic, I delighted immersing myself in only the activities that I chose — a rare occurrence in anyone’s life. Several demos provided new ideas to me, and I will share them briefly here. If you wish more information, please use the link provided to visit each artist’s website.

Encaustic Collagraph

Encaustic collagraph

Elise Wagner creates an encaustic collagraph plate during a demo at SGCI 2016.

Elise Wagner, assisted by Master Printer Jane Pagliarulo, demonstrated creating encaustic collagraphs. The melted encaustic medium (a special blend of beeswax, resin and titanium white that Elise has created) is applied to a plexiglass sheet. Using both heated tools and other implements, Elise created a dynamic matrix that she used to print an image onto damp paper. Because petroleum will react with the wax, she used Akua Intaglio inks and a wiping method similar to intaglio. I found this new option appealing. Creating the plate is much faster than with linocuts, but you have much more control and can take your time in creating — different from when you print wax directly onto paper in encaustic monotypes. I came home with a can of Elise’s medium and am looking forward to giving this new technique a try.

Fake Chine Colle: Alternative Adhesive Processes

Gudy O

Masha Ryskin shares her experiences with alternatives to chine colle for adhering papers.

Throughout my artistic practice, I have wanted to use other papers and elements in my work. Traditional chine colle requires a delicate and skillful dance of making wheat paste, applying just the right amount,  and drying flat. My efforts have only been marginally successful. And I find when I try to glue with anything water-based, my support paper buckles. Masha Ryskin demonstrated how she uses Gudy-O and Gudy-V adhesive films to create chine colle and collage elements in her work. These films — which can be obtained from Talas — are expensive, and a bit tricky to use, but when adhered are invisible, archival and permanent. You could even print over the collage elements you have created.

Akua Colors take on Natural Pigments

Akua demo

Susan Rostow gathered natural pigments for a comparison demo with the Akua Intaglio inks she developed.

Akua Ink creator Susan Rostow did an interesting demo where she compared modern synthetically derived inks with the pigments they are designed to imitate. She personally collected the pigments she was working with, including the tiny cochineal beetles that make up a purple-red color. You could clearly see that natural pigments could not create the same intensity of color that the new inks could. At some point, she said, the amount of pigment in the transparent base was so high that the ink would become chalky. I have some very old Akua inks that I believe are past their prime, but the kind folks at Speedball (which now mass produces the Akua Inks with Rostow’s collaboration) gave me a sample of new inks, and I am eager to try them out!

Learning about Pochoir — Making the Stencil Brush Fabulous Again

pochoir

Pati Scobey demonstrates her pochoir techniques using a stencil brush and very light ink application.

Pati Scobey used both the positive and negative parts of a polyester plate to demonstrate the technique of pochoir — or stenciling. She used watered down acrylic gel medium, plus salt and carborumdum, to create textured plates. From these plates she cut out shapes, using the cut outs printed positively, and using both the shape or the negative space to print gently around a shape using a stencil brush. With these techniques, Pati creates repetition of shapes, patterns and textures that she uses to create handmade books. Here you can see a selection of her finished work, ready to be bound.

pochoir 2

Sample prints created by Pati Scobey.

Gamblin Inks — Carefully crafted by Chris

Gamblin very kindly hosted an open house for the conference one evening. Here is a very tiny video of the Gamblin process for creating their printing inks. The pigment and the burnt plate oil are mixed together and are then fed into a three roller mill which slowly pulverizes the pigment to the consistency that printmakers need. Use your imagination to see Chris on the right side of this machine, gently guiding the finished ink down a short metal slope into the familiar Gamblin ink cans. He fills each by hand, and will do between 200 and 400 cans each day. Thanks Chris!

Now my brain is full of new ideas, and I must decide which new technique to try first… Stay tuned for the good and the bad of my latest experiments.

 

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Channeling the flux capacitor

At the end of March I am headed to Portland, Oregon for the Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference. This is the first printmaking conference I have ever attended, and as a person without the official blessing of an MFA, I’m a bit nervous. When I registered for the conference, one of the options was to participate in a print exchange.

Printmakers are among the most generous artists I have encountered. They readily share their secret ways of registration and are eager to problem solve with you in Facebook groups. Since they can make more than one image, they share those as well. For the exchange, I needed to produce an edition of 13 images with the paper size of 11 x 14″, and consider the event’s theme of FLUX. I found this theme baffling. Take a look at my finished image — draw your own conclusions — and then I will explain my thinking.

Arboreal Record

© Elizabeth Busey. Arboreal Record. Reduction linocut, 11 x 14in paper size, edition of 13.

The only thing flux brought to my mind was Doctor Emmett Brown’s time traveling DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies. The conference suggested I think about urban change, the DIY culture and the places where the past and the future flow into each other. Not exactly what I do…

While reading definitions of  flux, I found the ideas of energy, change and force fields most illustrative. I finally decided on a stylized tree cross-section. This tree trunk has experienced rapid change, as evidenced by the change from concentric circles to waves. Because of the importance of forest products in the Portland area, this was a nod to a change from clear cutting to a more responsible way of growing and harvesting trees.

The colors of the linocut were inspired by dogwood blossoms, with reddish tips and green interiors. I first printed a flat shape of pale yellow mixed with titanium white. I then added a blend roll of pale pink on the edges, and used a dauber to add green to the center.

Arboreal Record 2 layers

A creamy yellow layer is topped with a pink rainbow roll around the edges and stippled green center.

Carving the concentric rings was a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Gold ink created the rings, with a final addition of textured purple around the edges that represented bark.

Arboreal Record block

Carving concentric circles is hypnotizing. Very reminiscent of the vinyl of my childhood.

The best part is that when I leave the conference, I will have a portfolio of ten original prints from other artists to enjoy. Isn’t sharing wonderful?

Time for our Back to the Future marathon…

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When art really moves you

July was walk-about month for me and my family. I look forward to these trips because they are a time to look at new things, have different experiences, and generally refresh my artistic brain. We decided to go to two very different European cities — mostly because they offered activities that would please both forty-something parents and newly-minted young adults.

Our time in Amsterdam yielded two museum experiences that I enjoyed. A Matisse paper cut-out exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum felt so familiar, as I remembered the reproduction that hung on my bedroom wall throughout my adolescence. I admired Matisse’s use of white space. An early morning visit to the Van Gogh Museum took us through the artist’s development from dark and realistic, to brighter colors and abstracted perspectives. I could clearly see the influence of Japanese woodblock printing during one period of his painting, where shapes were darkly outlined, as if in an homage to a key block.

Lovely to see… but not earthshaking. We then traveled by train to Berlin. In a past life, I studied political science, took Russian, and learned a great deal about Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Our AirBnB 1901 apartment was in Prenzlauer Berg — an area that was part of East Berlin. I imagined the people living in this apartment — with its soaring ceilings and thick walls — during the second World War and the time of the Stazi.

Our first real site in Berlin was an evening trip up the dome of the Reichstag. The former dome burned in 1933 and provided the impetus for the Nazi party to seize political power. The current glass dome was not completed until 1999, nine years after German reunification. Access to the site is free, but requires advanced tickets procured with your official documents. Inside it is quiet as people gradually ascend up to the top, where you can lean back on a circular wooden bench and watch the clouds go by. In a country that has known such conflict and pain, the dome provides a sense of peace and a hope for clear-eyed action in the future.

A view of the ascending and descending ramps in the dome of the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany.

(more…)

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