Tag Archives: carving

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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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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Inspiration from another sea bed

Get out of your studio! Get in your studio! These push-pull messages are always with me as I decide how to spend my art time. We have been inside for most of June, as my area of the country has had record rainfall. As the sun began to peek out, I quickly kidnapped my husband from his nearby university office and we went out to the Indiana Limestone Symposium held on the grounds of the Bybee Stone Company in nearby Ellettsville, Indiana.
One of may favorite things to do, when I am not carving a new linoleum block, is watch other people creating — especially those who work in 3-D media. I find ceramicists and glass blowers fascinating. I have lived in Indiana’s limestone belt for over twenty years, and I wanted to see how stone carvers coax life out of our fossilized sea beds.
Amy Brier uses an air chisel to sculpt a figure out of Indiana limestone.
Amy Brier uses an air chisel to free this figure from the limestone.
Amy Brier, a co-founder of the annual event, showed us a technique where she used an air chisel to sculpt a figure. She explained that as she is working on an area, she is seeing each individual line as it makes its way around the figure. Her chisel is actually more gentle on the stone than a hand chisel and hammer, and the air forces the chips away from her. (Amy was very quick to mention this, as she insists that all of her students and those doing hand carving wear safety glasses.)
As she carved, the noise from the compressor was loud, but the carving looked surprisingly soft. The grey stone only hints at the entire ecosystem that lived and died in this place, giving us the material that we have used to create structures both grand and mundane. Amy talks in depth about her love of limestone in her Bloomington Tedx talk. She also designed the world’s largest anatomically correct brain that now resides outside Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences where my husband works.
Indiana limestone is shaped into an anatomically correct brain. Designed by Amy Brier. Located in Bloomington, IN.
Visit this sculptural brain at the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at 10th & Woodlawn in Bloomington. Visit it after dusk for an interactive light show.
I chatted with site director Delaine Gerstbauer about the challenges of deciding what to carve, and what to allow the viewer’s own visual system to complete. When is an incompletion a hint of something else, and when is it an error? This is a question I ask myself all the time. Too much and the work is to literal or static. Too little and the entire image is confusing and frustrating.
Stone and wood carver Delaine Gerstbauer is the site manager of the Indiana Limestone Symposium and also works on her own carving.
How much of “anything” should be carved away? Wht cn yr brn rd nywy?

I not only observed seasoned stone carvers at this event, but I also saw a noted neuroanatomist and a beloved local singer/songwriter, each lost in the creation and destruction of the carving. I decided since they were clearly there to stretch their creativity, they didn’t need me outing them, or acting like a groupie. I doubt I will ever have need of such anonymity, but I thought I would extend it to them.

One person I did chat with was glass artist Abby Gitlitz. I asked her about the differences between blowing and working her glass, as opposed to her hand sculpting a limestone block. She said that working in a different media helped her to get her creative juices flowing. We both wondered about the possibilities of combining her colorful glass with the quiet mat textures of the limestone.
Abby Gitlitz usually works with glass but finds working in other 3D media helps keep her creativity fueled.
Glass artist Abby Gitlitz uses a hand chisel to coax a form out of a limestone block.

Getting the creative juices flowing is so important, especially after you have worked very hard for a period of time. I’m taking baby steps with a new small linoleum block, and enjoying using my Iphone camera to capture images of inspiration. Perhaps next year I will schedule a few days at the Limestone Symposium and try my hand at relief carving in a whole new way.

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Relief Printmaking as Topography in Action

My new series, Beloved, looks at land areas at the edge — places where land and water combine in spectacular fashion. Places that will be lost with sea-level rise.

It is often hard for people to imagine how I go about creating my linocuts. You have to think backwards, I tell them, like in watercolor. I usually have a pencil outline of the most important features of the image — in this case, land and water. After these sections are marked, I use colored pencils to remind myself where I should carve. Here is a progression from one of the linocuts:

Water is drawn in blue. Places to carve away pink.

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A new leaf…on life and art

I don’t know how Thomas Edison did it. Popular lore claims that he discovered 1000 ways to not create a light bulb before he achieved illumination. I’ve been experimenting with encaustic printmaking this fall, and while I have learned a great deal…let’s just say that I have not achieved my light bulb.

I received some nice news this week that one of my favorite prints, Breath Intertwined (a close-up view of two red bud leaves) was accepted as part of the 2015 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition. This print went to Boston last fall, and is currently at the 57th Mid-States Art Exhibition in Evansville, IN. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this print, and this encouraged me to do another up-close leaf print.

 

Selfie with me and two layers of ink

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The seen and unforeseen of life

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.

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