Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why would you want to print on silk? Part 1

I’m waiting…I needed to order more linoleum for another large cloud linocut, and of course this is taking longer than expected.

So as I wait, I’m exploring more ideas to incorporate into my printmaking. I have several drawings of rice paddies, and thought how nice it would be if there could be a watercolor effect in the paddies that are flooded. This type of blending with relief printmaking is nearly impossible. As my mind turned toward all things originating in Asia, I thought “SILK!”

Painting on silk is harder than tie-dying

My daughter and I have painted silk scarves with Procion dyes, often used for tie-dying. A e-mail exchange with the folks at Dharma Trading Company prompted me to purchase Jacquard (Green Label) dyes because I wanted to make sure all the colors were going to be stable. Blues (again!) are often the problem.

jacquard-colors

Jacquard (Green Label) Silk Colors were recommended as more stable than the tie-dye Procion dyes I had used before.

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What do you do with your failed linocuts?

Working in multiples has the unfortunate consequence that when you fail, you fail in multiples. For every few linocuts I create, there is always a series that doesn’t work out. Maybe the image doesn’t read right. Perhaps it is boring. There are others in a successful series that have poor registration or inking problems. The paper I use is expensive, and when you are left with a stack of linocuts not destined for frames, it is hard to know what do with them, but also hard to throw them away.

If the paper is large enough, I simply put the stack away, later to be flipped over and used as tests for the next series.  I’ve heard of people who have an annual bonfire of their less successful work, and that has its appeal although it is clearly not environmentally friendly. My friend artist James Campbell has used old art magazines as the basis for sculptures, and I have considered cutting and stacking my linocuts, adhering them in some way that I could then sculpt them.

Lotus stars

Two folded eight-point stars made from my linocuts are ready to join over 10,000 stars woven in Bloomington, IN as part of a worldwide effort.

The best use so far has come from staff and volunteers from the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation in the form of eight-pointed woven stars.  “One Million Stars to End Violence : Lotus International Star-Weaving Project is part of a global effort to create an installation that speaks to the violence occurring globally. Creator Talia Pau from Australia explains, “Every star is a commitment to resist violence and revenge, to believe in forgiveness and healing.” The more than 10,000 stars woven in Bloomington, IN will join those woven around the world at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.  (more…)

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Playing the waiting game

I’m a big fan of the montage — a device in movies used to move the story along. The characters grow, change and learn, all while accompanied by a great soundtrack. I need this for my studio. I am back printing my large (25 x 40 inch block) linocut, and patience has been required at every turn.

waiting game

My latest linocut, hanging to dry after a trying printing session.

My image is a large cloud formation, over a small area of flat land. I couldn’t decide whether this was summer or autumn land, so I did some of each. With such a large block, I would hate to guess wrong. I used a frisket (or a mask for non-printers) to help me lay down some of the bright colors of the land which will contrast with the darker, more monochromatic clouds. This is not an exact process, as I discovered when I printed the first layer of blue. My measurements must have been off, because it overlapped the land in a small band!

My initial reaction was to try and carve away a thin strip or linoleum, but this a dangerous operation. I could carve away too much, and would then be left with an inexplicable slice of exposed white paper. Like a very itchy insect bite, I had to tell myself, don’t touch! This area will be covered by the darkest ink anyway.

More problems came as I printed the first and second layers of transparent blue. There is something about the combination of lots of transparent base and just a touch of pigment that leads to a gummy residue on the block. After every four prints, I had to clean off the block to prevent this residue pattern from transferring onto my paper. I have found that the first transparent layers of a linocut often look terrible, but are incorporated into later layers with no trouble. Again — don’t touch and don’t fret!

Wouldn’t a fast forward button and a great soundtrack be perfect right now?

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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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If it’s yellow…let it mellow…*

I have been up against a self-imposed deadline. During February, I am the featured artist at the Bloomington Bagel Company. Besides the fabulous bagels, the venue has a large white, well-lit wall, and my people (folks who like or buy my art) eat there. So I wanted to get several leaf prints finished.

Everyseed bagels are my sustenance of choice.
But be safe — don’t eat in your studio.

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The gold rush is on in the studio

My exploration with gold that I admitted to in my last post has actually been going on for a few months…

In November I experiemented with chine collé, where thin papers are pasted down as part of the printmaking process. Read this post to learn more.  For the actual cards, I used green and cream kitakata papers, Rives BFK as the card support, and Handschy gold ink.

New Years cards for my collectors and supporters.
Gold ink highlights ginkgo leaves and pine cones.

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Yielding Somewhat Gracefully to Life and Adding Some Bling

Elizabeth Busey, Yielding Gracefully. Reduction Linocut, 17 x 25″

During my exploration of the sassafras leaf, I was operating under the assumption that the colors I see in the fall were always in the leaf, but became more apparent in autumn. For the yellows and oranges we see, this is basically true. But not for the red. The red that I found so challenging and unfamiliar is in fact produced by the leaves as a sort of battle against the inevitable arrival of winter.

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Keeping pace with an artistic practice

When I’m not carving or printing, I am also a student of the practices of other artists. There are numerous resources to choose from…

•  Julia Cameron writes of the morning pages in her now iconic The Artist’s Way. •  Mason Curry relates the experiences of artists & writers in Daily Rituals : How Artists Work. Some writers say they find inspiration by sitting down every day at 8:30 to write. A good many artists relied on a daily dose of alcohol and amphetamines to bring the muse.
•  Twyla Tharp writes of her own practice in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. One of her habits is to order a cab every morning to take her to the gym. The cab ride itself is the habit.

Gingersnap thinks it is time for less carving and more food.

Truthfully, such daily habits have always eluded me. I’m not a person to sit idle, but each time I try stick to a studio schedule, within days I am foiled. Not by the catastrophic event, but by the holiday, the actively dying minivan, or the forgotten lunch and cell phone of my spouse. Little things that frankly make up the bulk of my life. I have always suspected that the artists who claim to work exclusively — five to seven days a week from 9am to 5pm — have had staff.

So what is the flexible artist to do?

Recently I’ve begun the practice of capturing small chunks of time to work, whether this be 15 minutes or two hours. Rather than throwing up my hands when my planned studio morning has been interrupted, I quickly recalibrate in my head to capture the needed time somewhere else in the day.

Armed with my trusty earbuds and a strong Pandora connection, I try to blot out the distractions, and the screaming inner critic that says “you can’t be a real artist if you don’t spend vast amounts of time creating…” and press on.

My favorite example of this talent is showcased in the documentary Who Does She Think She Is? where sculptor Janis Wunderlich, mother of five children, explains where she finds some of her time to work. After four children are at school or preschool, the youngest often falls asleep the in the family car. Janis tiptoes into her (presumably) adjacent studio and works for whatever time she has. A woman after my own heart.

Spectacular clouds and tornado warnings chase me to the basement.

And when I’m not able to create, I take pictures of the clouds with my cell phone, or indulge in my latest American Craft Magazine while I wait for the car to be repaired.

What do you do to keep yourself in the habit of making art?

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First Time in the Hall

I live in Midwestern basketball country. Although there have been years when the home team Hoosiers have not been a formidable opponent, Assembly Hall is always an intimidating place. It is a relatively small arena, with seats that rise to ridiculous, gravity-defying heights. We’ve only ever attended pre-season games, and I can imagine how these college kids from much smaller schools must feel.  Excited, overwhelmed, surrounded, inadequate, humbled, inspired.

Just about to enter the 808 Gallery…

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My kingdom for something flat

The odyssey to expand my printing press began in the amazingly hot Midwestern sun, and has come to completion during a cold spell that has delayed schools. I imagined myself jumping up and down when it was finished, and inside I think I am, but outside I am simply relieved. Here it is…

My new expanded press!

What you see here are the old sides and gearing of the press with new rail extensions on either end to support the 64″ bed. Most of the construction process went without too much trouble — no emergency room visits but some serious bruising — and I did once have to assume the position of a Soviet-era weight lifter to get the top roller into the gearing. My husband did a great job fashioning extensions to support the new bed.

If there was one trouble spot in this whole process, it was the bed. One of the most important criteria for a press bed is that it be flat. And to the naked eye, lots of things appear flat. Our quest for just such a bed involved numerous layers of hardboard, rollers and wood glue, cinderblocks and solid core doors for weight, and a tremendous amount of middle-aged muscle. What we discovered was that each of our two attempts yielded a bed that was not flat. And thus, the obligatory winter dump run…

So in my twenty-first century problem solving mode, I scoured the internet for advice. People recommended something called phenolic resin, but it didn’t come in anything longer that 48″. I corresponded and visited with a plastics supplier, and learned that plastic is not nearly as rigid as we might think.

At this point I had been without my press for a month and was feeling panicked. Miraculously I found an old post from Dean Smith at Graphic Chemical who recommended a composite material called Arboron. Arboron is made of papers impregnated with melamine and phenolic resins and formed under extreme heat and pressure to create a very flat sturdy surface.

The 36″ rollers glide smoothly along my new Arboron press bed.

Google-fingers at the ready, I started searching for a supplier, putting in nearby states as I struck out with my own. I finally found Woodcraft Mfg. Co. in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Jim and his family kindly let me come for a visit, test the material for flatness and cut a beautiful piece of Arboron for me to take home. They even gave me a great deal, and the visit with the shop Boston Terrier, Scooter, completed the day. The Abroron fits the press like a glove, and it the flattest thing I have come across.

The larger Rives BFK paper (30 x 44″) arrived and I am steeling myself for my first large print. I’ve been doing a small test print to see how the press handles, and how I deal with the new press size. So far so good.

Many thanks to the Indiana Arts Commission for making this adventure possible. Now back to printing…

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