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.  Continue reading “What do you do with your failed linocuts?”

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, $375 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. Continue reading “Renaissance makes its debut”

The truth about art festivals

I am thrilled to be in the beginning stages of my first commissioned linocut. It is so new, however, that my gradated blue rectangles aren’t ready for blog exposure. My other big project — the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts — is coming up soon on Labor Day. So in honor of the festival I thought I would answer some of the most common questions I get about art festivals. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions, and these insights are from my own experience as a festival participant, a festival juror, and local festival committee member.
Who chooses which artists participate?
If the event says it is a juried art fair, then submissions are chosen by a jury. Most festivals use an on-line service called ZAPP, where images of the artist’s work and a picture of the artist’s booth are uploaded. Jurors only see the images — no names or other identifiers are allowed — so it is hoped that the process can be without favoritism. Jurors see artwork by category (i.e. jewelry, ceramics) and give each submission a numerical score.
The festival then uses these raw scores to develop their list of invitees. They keep in mind how many of each type of medium they would like to have. There are usually many more jewelers, ceramicists and photographers than there are say, printmakers. They want to make sure the festival has a good variety of offerings.
Being a juror can be a tough job. Some festivals do live jurying — where the jurors look at the images together for a brief time and then submit scores. I did this for the Broad Ripple Art Fair one year, and it was exhausting to look at so much art! Other festivals allow jurors to score on-line over a period of time from any location.


My first booth shot came from an early January mock set-up in my church hall.
Where do all those white tents come from?

Continue reading “The truth about art festivals”

Putting your art on a T-shirt (UPDATED!)

Sometimes winning something can mean nothing much is asked of you… and sometimes it stretches you in new ways. Over the past week, I’ve been stretched — by a
I am a member of the organizing committee for the Fourth Street Festival of the
Arts & Crafts in Bloomington, Indiana, which is held the Saturday and
Sunday of each Labor Day weekend. Each February, committee members are asked to
submit possible images for the event’s annual T-shirt.
For my design I took part of my linocut Sydney Afternoon and combined
it with vertical lettering inspired by the beach shirts of my adolescence in
the 1980s. It was the height of fashion to have a long-sleeved T-shirt with the
lettering of the particular surf shop running along the sleeves. I used Lightroom
to increase the contrast of the linocut a bit so it would read better as a
A forest green t-shirt will now be the backdrop for my image.

When your design is chosen, you are in charge of the T-shirt production for the year — soliciting bids, dealing with the imagery, considering the numbers and types of shirts, as
well as supervising delivery and distribution. I have never put anything on a
T-shirt before, but employing the Busey family motto I thought “How hard
can it be?”

The T-shirts are intended for advertising for the festival, but the all-volunteer committee also wants to cover the cost of the shirts. So in planning this year’s shirt, I was
forced to grapple with many trade-offs:
• The more colors, the more expensive the shirt
The goal of the
T-shirts is to promote our fine art festival, so we really want fine art on the
T-shirt. This can mean many colors and gradations, all of which add additional
costs to the printing of each shirt. In traditional screen-printing, each color
is an individual screen and is printed separately. There was an option of a
Direct to Garment process (which is used for printing photographs on textiles)
but the textile artists on the committee felt very strongly that they wanted
traditional screen- printing.
• 100% cotton vs. new-century blends
Many of the exercise
T-shirts that are now sold are a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. They
feel softer and more drape-y than the traditional 5.3 – 6 oz cotton T-shirts.
The thinner shirts might feel better, but also seem see-through, which might be
objectionable to some people. Other people object to the boxy stiffness of the
100% cotton men’s T-shirts. My compromise was to order a percentage of women’s
T-shirts, with the intent of creating some specific signage and labeling to
make sure everything sells.
• Where is everything made?
T-shirts are often a
promotional item, and are considered somewhat disposable in the United States.
In my city, the most popular college-town bar orders 2,000 shirts per week
during the university school terms. I use my family’s worn out T-shirts as rags
for my studio. I spent some time reading about the labor records of the
factories that produce the T-shirts most often used, and it was a sobering
read. This also doesn’t take into account the production of cotton and its
environmental problems. At least the shirts will be locally printed.
• How many do you order?
I am never so aware
of the risk of entrepreneurship as when I plan for an outdoor event. In the
four years I have participated in this festival, we have had searing heat, high
humidity and torrential rains. One year the remnants of a hurricane came to
visit. When it is very hot, people don’t like to shop, and they don’t want to
buy heavy T-shirts. When it is raining, it is hard for the information booth to
adequately display the shirts. Poor sales of shirts means more boxes in a
committee member’s basement, and T-shirt costs not covered.
So many trade-offs and considerations exist for something that is so ubiquitous in our culture. Consider this when you put one on this weekend…

What to do when LIFE happens

I enjoy reading the blogs of many artists. Sometimes a long time goes by without an entry, and I’m left wondering…what happened? It is possible that they just simply weren’t inspired, but probably something happened that was not related to their art at all. Life simply got in the way.

This happened in my studio. Life milestones for one child, and serious medical issues for another combined to render me unable to create this summer. I had started a print in early June for the Bloomington Open Studios Tour, which then hung unfinished — and mocked me — for two months. When I finally decided to finish it, I felt that the early layers of ink were just too light. So I flipped the block over and used the MDF surface to print a bright layer of yellow over the pale yellows, oranges and greens. Then I proceeded with more layers of bright color and a series of purples. Here’s the resulting print:


Elizabeth Busey. Drifts of Plenitude. Linoleum Reduction Print.
Edition of 17, 17 x 25in image size.

Continue reading “What to do when LIFE happens”

Getting out of your comfort zone keeps you young

Women should all learn how to use power tools.

Getting out of my comfort zone keeps me young. This week I gained a new appreciation for people who fabricate things out of metal. My husband and I have been working on the parts for my expanded etching press.  We purchased new steel rods, about 1-1/2in in diameter, and I learned how to use a lathe to reduce the diameter to about 1-1/4in. Using the lathe is pretty meditative, as you slowly turn a small wheel to guide the point of the lathe along the rod. You know you are doing the best job when the small metal curlicues it removes are very long. But boy they are hot when they hit your arm.

Continue reading “Getting out of your comfort zone keeps you young”