Tag Archives: layers

Deciding which color layer comes next

Deciding which color layer comes next is a very serious decision for printmakers. Especially those of us who create using the reduction method. In the past, I have used test sheets on less expensive paper, or the reverse sides of spoiled prints, to make my color decisions.Each of these strategies has a problem.

Less expensive paper can cause ink to behave very differently — often sitting on top of the surface rather than being incorporated into the paper. Further layers don’t print the same way as on my good Rives BFK. The reverse side of the spoiled prints have a particular texture which actually interferes with the next inking of the block and creates problems for the actual edition.

Creating color test strips for layers

My latest linocut has nine color layers, so accuracy has been important. I now print color strips as I go along to help me. I save the long narrow pieces of paper that remain when you tear down paper for an edition. I use a similarly sized piece of linoleum for my test block.

test color strips

My color test strips for recent linocuts have nine layers of ink, and evidence of lots of testing.

After I print the first layer of ink on an edition, I ink the lino scrap the same way as my block and print it onto my scrap paper. I leave a bit of white paper at the top so I can hang the scrap paper with the edition to dry. When I am deciding on the next color, I use my palette knife to “draw down” some of the color over my first printing layer. I keep in mind that the layer using the knife will be a bit darker than when it is actually printed. When I’ve decided on a color, I can wipe off these draw downs.

linocut topography warm colors

Pandora’s Paradise. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK. 12 x 12 in (image size) Edition of 12, $300.

Nine color layers mean lots of testing

In Pandora’s Paradise, you can see the color decisions I made for each layer. After I print each layer, I make sure to ink and print on the paper scrap in the same way. For this linocut, I used a modified blend roll, using the heel of my hand to blend some complimentary colors. (Read more about this in a previous blog.)

Occasionally I have a color that isn’t exactly what I expected, but as we know from color theory, how it appears will change with the next color. I just remember to print each new color on my color strip, and eventually I find my way.

 

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Printmaking sometimes takes an eternity

Printmaking can sometimes take an eternity. Or this is how it seems. My first art professor impressed upon me that unlike reading a book which can be skimmed, or writing a paper during an all-nighter, making art takes the time it takes. This fall, I have found this to be true. I decided to create a linocut concept that had twelve layers of ink, the most I have ever done.

On the Far Side of Forever, an aerial inspired linocut.

Elizabeth Busey. On the Far Side of Forever. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK. 16 x 21in (image size), 28 x 37in (framed size), edition of 13, $375 unframed.

I wanted to create imagery that asked the question — what if aerial views were like topographical maps? To answer this question, I created both horizontal (above) and vertical (below) compositions. I imagined the views a hawk or turkey vulture might have, if they were flying around in a topo-filled world.

The Grand Eternal Show, a topographically inspired aerial view linocut.

Elizabeth Busey. The Grand Eternal Show. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK. 21 x 14in (image size), 31 x 23in (framed size), edition of 13, $375 unframed.

Creating similar but not the same

To make these works harmonize, but not be the same, I used different views of the topography so that the largest shapes are repeated. I also wanted to find a way to make the layers not be completely homogeneous. To do this, I started both series with some loose diagonal color fields as the first layer of ink. I even reversed the location of each color for the different linocuts.

First layer of linocut has rough inexact color fields.

The first layer had rough, inexact color fields.

Carve this, not that

One of the more difficult tasks was remembering where to carve for each subsequent layer. Once a layer was carved away, I could not go back and touch up the linear marks that divided it from the others. Each time I printed, I also printed the line marks to keep them a consistent tone throughout, even if the color was somewhat different.

The last layer — the lines alone — required some strategy. I could leave them with the darkest tone only, but this meant that the darkest areas were not well differentiated from a distance. So I went to my old friend, gold ink.

Getting serious with pigment

I had been using a very old gold ink from Handschy, and wondered if another ink would give me more brilliance. I ordered some Charbonnel gold etching ink on a whim, and now was able to give it a try. As you can see from the video, this ink does not have the viscosity of most relief inks. I wanted to keep the pigment as intense as possible, since it was going to go over fairly dark blues and greens. The addition of some burnt plate oil allowed me to gradually roll out the stiff ink.

Gold ink on the last layer of the topography linocut.

The last layer need to print clearly. The thick gold etching ink did the job well.

While the ink looked too thick on the glass, and didn’t make that velvety sound I usually strive for, it did adhere to the linoleum well and printed evenly on the ink-saturated paper. With one layer of ink, the gold sheen can be delicately seen, especially in the problem dark areas. I wondered if more gold would be better, and printed another layer of gold immediately. This gave me more gold reflection, but meant that now your eye was confused about what was important. I wanted the work to be more about the layers, with the lines playing a supporting role. So I stuck to one layer of gold ink.

The feeling of satisfaction I had upon completing these two linocuts was one I haven’t felt in a long time. For this, I am eternally grateful.

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This is only a test

There are many interesting phenomena in nature, and we are treated to images of them everyday. Internet-shared imagery zooms in and out showing us the incredible complexity of our natural world, and I am often inspired. The problem comes when I want to translate that inspiration into a linocut. Sometimes a fascinating idea becomes unsuccessful in the studio.

Many of my ideas involve intricate carving and numerous layers of ink, so I like to do a test when I’m thinking about a new series of work. I used the idea of a sea fan for a demonstration at my recent Open Studios, and decided to further pursue this topic. To get a good idea of what things will look like, I had to use a block larger than the card-sized one used for the demo. Patterns need a bit of space to develop.

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Little prints and a little fame

In my last blog I wrote about prints I was fighting with — prints that were intended for the Los Angeles Printmaking Society’s Give and Take Exchange. Here are the two resulting prints:

Elizabeth Busey. Kaleidoscopic Meristem.  Linoleum Reduction
Print, 7 x 9in, 2014.
Elizabeth Busey, Prismatic Tatting. Linoleum
Reduction Print, 7 x 9in, 2014.

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Now if only spring would really come

Elizabeth Busey. Prints on the Land. Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 40in, 2013.

My first large-scale print is finished. In Prints on the Land, I wanted to capture that overwhelming experience of late spring in the Midwest – warm, moist, earth-scented, and yes, green.

When I first finished this print, I hung it in my studio to take a look. My studio is small, so I could only stand about four feet away from the print. I was pretty unsure about what I had created. Last weekend I exhibited one print at my church as part of the culmination of my grant. When I could stand back farther, I suddenly saw what I had intended. Larger work just needs more room to breathe. Whew!
For the grant, I am placing prints at several places where the public can experience the work, read about the project, and yes, even touch the print (gasp!) Framing these larger works is more expensive, and I didn’t want to have any site say no because of concerns over liability. So people can touch the print, read about the press expansion, touch a sample of carved linoleum, and see “in progress” pictures. I rarely put in-progress pictures in my blog because setting up the lights and camera is a lengthy process. For this grant, I set up some of the lights and used a smaller camera. So the colors aren’t exactly precise, but you will get the idea.
Yellow/orange blend roll.
Light green
Blue layer using a stencil protect the hillside.
A layer of magenta changes everything.

 

Now we can see more of the rows.
Another blue area.

 

Another layer of bright blue completes the print. Now if only spring would really arrive in the Midwest.

 

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“Ogres are like reduction prints…they have layers!”

In a memorable scene from the movie Shrek, Shrek is trying to describe ogres to his traveling companion, Donkey. “Ogres are like onions…they have layers!” he exclaims.  They are complicated, nuanced…  Layers are also the secret behind printmaking. As I detailed in my last post, most of my prints have eight to ten layers of transparent ink to create an image that “pops” out from the paper.

Elizabeth Busey,  Breath Intertwined.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 17in, 2012.

My latest print, Breath Intertwined, has many layers, and different parts of the print have different layers. By making use of some cardboard masks, I was able to use thalo blues in the lower green part of the print. The purple-red leaf section received several layers of outrageously electric purple to achieve the dusky red-purple of the finished leaf.

Last night I explained to my art group friends that even though different parts of the prints had different layers, it was necessary for them to share some layers as well. In the case of the two leaves, they share several layers, yielding the bold chartreuse color of their veins. This shared color palette helps the image feel connected and harmonious.

This explanation made me question why plants like my featured Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) can have green leaves, or purplish red ones. According to Sven Svenson, an Oregon State horticulturist, all leaves have three types of pigments. Leaves that appear green have higher levels of chlorophyll, which absorbs red and blue light, so we see them as green. By contrast, some leaves have a higher level of anthocyanin, which absorbs blue, blue-green and green light, so we see them as having red to purple pigment. (A third pigment, carotinoid, is responsible for yellow to yellow-orange leaves.)

Can you see the chlorophyll? It is all about the layers.

Even leaves that block the green light from our eyes have the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. I imagine that they have the layers of green in them, but we just can’t see them.  We just have to have faith (or confidence) that it is there.

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Muddling in the middle

The new Tu-Way Drier is working so well that I have two new prints in process. Each has about six layers of ink. I start out my prints with a tracing paper guide that has the most important lines. Then it is up to me to develop the patterns and colors. So I’m in the middle… Here are some quick snaps of the latest work.

Print about ice in process.

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