Tag Archives: collage

Praises for tracing paper

You can always tell an artist. We are the people who have our noses inches from a work of art with the security guard rushing in to restrain us. We just like to know the “how” of creating. Often we cannot discern the artist’s secrets… In this blog, I’ve revealed one of the ways I keep track of my patterns — tracing paper.

Collage here, not here. Go this way…

I have been a huge fan of tracing paper for my entire artistic life. Since you can’t scrape away the paint from works on paper, tracing paper lets you estimate what things would look like if you took the next step. In my linocuts, tracing paper helped me determine my next layer of cutting, or forecast what a certain color would look like when printed mid-linocut.

Tracing paper is the ultimate guide

For my monoprint collages, tracing paper has an even more important job. After my monoprint matrix is dry, I get to plan what areas I will collage to create my patterns. I create a sort of template, where I trace around each shape that I want to collage with a monoprint or a map. I then use this template and a very sharp Exacto knife to cut the individual pieces.

©Elizabeth Busey. Celestial Orb. Monoprint collage, 18 x 18in.

Several of my latest monoprints make for confusing cutting. In Celestial Orb (above) I have linear segments that spiral out from the center in one direction. The segments in this collage are unbroken dark blue.

All of the collaged segments spiral in the opposite direction. I do this intentionally, because I want the piece to have a feeling of movement and energy. The trouble is that if I’m not careful, I will cut the sections going parallel to the dark blue segments. Not the same intense feelings.

Enter the humble tracing paper. Arrows now point in the direction of the collage run. Small “x’s” remind me that nothing goes here. The result is better fitting collage pieces, and few artist tears.

What do you use tracing paper for in your artistic practice? Or in your daily life? You never know how useful it may be.

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Why DO we love maps so much?

“Oh, I just love the maps,” say many people upon seeing my latest collages. I confess that I too am a map lover — or more properly a cartophile. I saved a box of old road maps for nearly 15 years before I found their perfect use.

New (to me) maps came my way recently thanks to a friend and the IU Surplus Store. The maps were decommissioned from the Indiana University branch of the U.S. Geological Survey, and feature geological features from around the United States. As I sorted amongst these dusty gems for several hours, I began to wonder, why DO we love maps so much?

Maps bring back memories

The coast of Maine has one of the longest coastlines in the US. Its undulating pattern is captivating. I love this map because my cousin was married in Boothbay Harbor. She and her new husband took a tugboat ride to the reception and we all gathered on a bridge that rotated to let them pass. Truly memorable.

Maps show our struggle to structure our world

If you have ever tried to drive across the Appalachian Mountains, you can perhaps sympathize with previous generations of travelers. The geology of compressed ridges requires that roads go up one valley, and then down another. There are no straight routes, no one perfect pass.

Maps catalog what is lost or is in danger

This is a section of a map of Glacier National Park published in 1938. The Burlington Northern Railway built Sperry Chalet as a way for its rail travelers to enjoy the backcountry. Chalet visitors would have marveled at the Sperry Glacier, which has been shrinking because of global warming. The chalet itself was gutted by the Sprague Fire in 2017. Thankfully, it is being rebuilt, as it is a picturesque place to stay in the backcountry, safe from the grizzly bears that frequent the park.

Maps give us a bird’s eye view

North Dakota is one of my favorite places for a road trip. Bright yellow-green fields are punctuated by “numerous small lakes” as the map indicates. These lakes are a very particular blue as they contrast with the vibrant greens and yellows surrounding them. You can read more about my love of the terrain here.

Now back to cutting these beauties for the next collage.

Why do you love maps? Share an image of them in the comments!

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Titles can be troublesome

All of my monoprint collages have a theme or purpose. Sometimes I begin with the purpose in mind, and other times it evolves with the piece. Then I have to create a title that fully encapsulates the purpose of the work. Easy right? In fact, titles can be troublesome.

©Elizabeth Busey. Longing for Believers. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36in.

Concise and pithy can be a challenge

My largest monoprint collages seem to demand the most thoughtful titles. In Longing for Believers, I’m (again) using a matrix which is used to transform our 3D understanding of the earth into a 2D space. Minus the actual continents. The whole piece shots World! World! World!

Global climate change — specifically human-caused global warming — continues to be one of the issues I want to explore in my work. The collage pieces here are arranged to suggest energy fields. The actual components are a range of maps, some monoprinted and others not, along with monoprint patterns that mimic close-up geologic and biological forms.

Detail of ©Elizabeth Busey. Longing for Believers. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36in.

I have been worrying lately about our inability as human beings to make any substantive decisions regarding global warming. In his book Don’t Even Think About In: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change George Marshall posits that our problem is that we approach climate change as a series of rational actions and choices. While we know at some level that our world is in danger, we fail to be emotionally connected.

Longing for Believers

What the world really needs is for each person to take up its protection with the fervor and zeal that people of faith approach their spiritual life. If people can make changes in their daily actions as guided by their faith, why can’t we, people who profess to care about the Earth, do the same?

Thus, the world is longing for believers.

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Searching for rhythm and energy

One thing I love about creating monoprint collages is how open-ended the process can be. I print the polycarbonate matrix in particular colors and wait for inspiration to come. A large plate (24 x 36in) was covered in tiny tape (1/16 inch chart tape) and printed with bright citrine green and teal blues. All I could think of was rhythm and energy. After several weeks, Inception emerged. (Be sure to click on the image and scroll down for a close-up. This collage is large!)

large monoprint collage with curves, in bright green and blue

©Elizabeth Busey. Inception. Monoprint collage, 24 x 36 in.

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With thanks to Eric Carle

I have been appreciating colorful collage papers for decades, thanks in part to Eric Carle. While many famous artists create collages using found images from the greater media world, Eric Carle created his work with papers that he painted. Take a look at your copy (or your child’s copy) of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to see Carle’s genius in the use of pattern and color.

Monoprints on monoprints on monoprints

With the exception of some old road and geological maps, everything I have been using in my monoprint collages comes from a monoprint itself. The image below shows a detail of a 24 x 36 inch monoprint collage I have been working on. With my exacto knife in one hand, and my paintbrush with matte medium in the other, small squares of other monoprints become part of a larger work.

Detail of a large monoprint collage.

Detail of a large monoprint collage.

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Tiny tape makes it debut

This week tiny tape makes it debut in my creation of monoprint collages. I used black 1/16 inch chart tape from Dick Blick and was pleasantly surprised at how well the tape behaved. To make sure the tape sticks well, I always clean the plate with denatured alcohol to remove any grease before taping. I also run the taped uninked plate through the press with several layers of newsprint to make sure everything stays stuck down. (more…)

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Trying Something New is Necessary

For creative people, trying something new can be absolutely necessary. And tremendously difficult. Perhaps you are one who can keep creating similar works with similar themes, but I am not. Following my “what if” questions down rabbit holes is what keeps me creating artwork instead of more regular and lucrative endeavors.

When to ignore that voice

I have had several conversations with artists lately who mention a new direction, but then quickly follow this with “but it is not what I DO.” This is one of the comments that I try to reject when it comes up in my subconscious, and this summer it has been a frequent visitor…

If you had met me up until July of this year, I would have told you that I was a printmaker who made large-scale linocut reductions. Period. I have occasionally printed on stained silk, all the while wondering if this was “allowed.” Part of this thinking comes from the rules and regulations of shows and festivals. I understand the need for boundaries, but mostly I think these constraints lead to limited art.

Following the idea no matter what…

I remember my first day at a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts where I told a fellow classmate that I just didn’t understand collage. It wasn’t what I do… A few days later, I felt compelled to collage elements onto a monoprint I had created that didn’t feel finished. Silencing my “rules” voice, I began and haven’t looked back. Now I can’t wait to get back to my latest monoprint collage. My drawing table in the main room of our home is continually surrounded by bits of cut paper. Thankfully my family is tolerant, and the cats love sitting on the papers.

Paper cut out shapes

Cut-outs of the cut-outs waiting to be included in some new creation.

What is something that you are dying to try? Do you have a voice that says, for example — “no I’m a painter, I don’t work three dimensionally?”

Thanks Henri!

I visited the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing (Washington, DC) recently and was delighted to find that the tower with Henri Matisse’s paper cut-outs was open. (The tower has limited hours in the middle of the day to protect the paper, but is well worth planning to see.) I have visited Matisse’s works since the museum opened in 1973. I even had a reproduction of Large Decoration with Masks (Henri Matisse, 1953) on my childhood bedroom wall.

Henri Matisse Large Decoration with Masks

Henri Matisse. Large Decoration with Masks. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on white paper, mounted on canvas, 1953. National Gallery of Art, East Wing, Washington DC.

Matisse was a painter and sculptor throughout the majority of his life. He did use paper cut-outs as templates for larger scenery commissions, but it was after a cancer surgery in 1941 that he fully embraced paper cut-outs as a complete art form. Imagine how he must have felt to be confined to bed or a chair, unable to physically do the work that had defined his life. Under his direction, assistants created brightly-hued gouache-covered papers that he then cut into the shapes that are now so obviously his. Little did I know that forty-five years after seeing his cut-outs, I would give myself permission to create with paper myself.

Thankfully, Matisse ignored whatever critical voices he might have had (from himself or others.)

Is there something that has been calling you?
Why not just do it? Share it with us as a comment!
It may make all the difference.

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Monoprints as an Homage to Chagall

I first experienced Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at the Church of St. Stephan in Mainz, Germany. (Read more about these windows here.) I love the energetic quality of Chagall’s work that seems to draw you — almost physically — into his world.

I created a spiraling monoprint matrix with 1/8 inch painter’s tape, and set out to see where my monoprinting would take me. The following suite of monoprint collages were created with Chagall’s energy and love of color in mind.

Monoprint collage Jubilant Expanse

©Elizabeth Busey. Jubilant Expanse. Monoprint collage (unique). 24 x 18 in.

Jubilant Expanse

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Variations on a Monoprint Theme

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A true monoprint is unique. But coming up with a new idea for each monoprint can be exhausting! So I have used my painter’s tape technique to create variations on a monoprint theme. I hope the traditionalists in the printmaking world will forgive me.

One of my latest variations uses a landscape/perspective matrix, with similar colors but different techniques. Images may help me explain…

Solvent drops and a view from an airplane

©Elizabeth Busey. Boulder to Birmingham. Monoprint collage (unique). 18 x 24in.

©Elizabeth Busey. Boulder to Birmingham. Monoprint collage (unique). 18 x 24in.

Boulder to Birmingham (title inspired by the classic Emmy Lou Harris song) considers an imaginary view from an airplane. I used translucent Thai Unryu paper to create the illusion of a curved airplane window. The cloud-like papers were a ghost print from an earlier monoprint. Ghost prints are made when you print the plate again without re-inking. I use thin Masa (mulberry) paper because it has a smooth texture and captures lots of ink while being thin enough to collage. The spots on the surface — are they raindrops? — were created by solvent. (more…)

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Adventures in painters tape Part 1

My adventures with painter’s tape continued during my time in a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts.  I should probably mention that monoprinting usually uses a plate with no matrix. No etched plate, no carved linoleum or wood block, no collagraph. Nothing repeatable.

I just had to have a matrix

Yet I felt compelled to try out my new tool by creating a matrix. My intention was to create the matrix, roll out the ink and then remove the tape. I eventually did this, thus destroying the matrix before I could take a picture of it. Here’s what a new matrix looks like, with both 1/4 inch tape and 1/8 in tape. You can see some ink residue on the tape even after it has been cleaned. (more…)

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