Tag Archives: printmaking

Now the possibilities are endless

©Elizabeth Busey_Cantata_for_Eventide

©Elizabeth Busey, Cantata for Eventide. Reduction Linocut on Rives BFK, 18 x 18in image size, $350 unframed.

My latest linocut, Cantata for Eventide, was inspired by a blanket of clouds, and benefits from an entirely new color in my palette. My local art supply store, Pygmalion’s, creates a custom oil color each year. All proceeds go to a local charity, and there is a show in the spring for people to show the artwork they created with the color.

new color in a tube

My yellow relief ink made by Gamblin is definitely on the greenish side, so I was intrigued to use this buttery, warm yellow. Owner and fellow printmaker John Wilson advised me to squeeze out some oil paint on a paper towel and let it sit for several hours. Sure enough, some of the oil soaked into the towel, leaving me with a substance that looks much like my relief inks. Mixed with some transparent base, it is the base for the setting sun in Cantata for Eventide.

I’m thrilled with the results. I haven’t been able to get quite this warm a yellow before. Now it is all I can do to not go and buy lots of Gamblin oil colors with which to experiment. While the number of colors you can make is infinite, the colors you start with make all the difference. 

I wonder what color I will adopt next…




This printmaker is grateful for the humble flax

I have been methodically carving my latest linocut looking at cloud formations, but I don’t have too much to show for it…

Cloud 1 three layers

Three layers of very transparent ink are just the start of this linocut celebrating clouds.

This linocut has three layers of ink on it, but the differences in layers are intentionally subtle. I achieve this through the use of what printmaking ink manufacturers call tint base. It is the substance that holds all of the tiny pigment particles together and allows them to be evenly distributed on my glass table with my rubber brayer. The base is also responsible for drying so that the pigment will stay adhered to my paper, even when there is very little pigment. Tint base is very important.

I use a great deal of transparent base in my work — I will order several cans at one time to keep it in stock. Gamblin — the creator of my inks — uses burnt plate oil as the binder, with the addition of some calcium carbonate. I wondered what burnt plate oil actually was, because in the can the transparent base looks like spun honey, and doesn’t look burned at all.

Burnt plate oil is linseed oil which has been heated to 425 F degrees (or has ignited) and has become thick and viscous. Linseed oil has a drying tendency — it forms polymers — and therefore is used as a binder in paints, inks…and linoleum! The wood pulp and cork particles of linoleum are ably held together with linseed oil. The only thing that is not linseed based in my process is the cotton paper.

Europe was closed to flax exports after a genetically modified variety was discovered in shipments, but the continent is opening up after poor weather in Russia and Kazakhstan dried up sources. File photo. (date last used May 23, 2013) Building a new flax processsing facility in Angusville, Man., is one of several moves Grain Millers Inc. is making to serve health food markets in North America. File photo. (date last used March 21, 2013) Irish flax processor plans to relocate, rebuild plant. File photo. (date last used December 6, 2012) If flax growers can get their crop sequence right and properly manage the mycorrhiza population in the soil, there may be potential to save money on fertilizer. File photo. (date last used August 2, 2012) Western Europe accounted for about 70 percent of Canadian flax exports but some analysts expect to see demand from the U.S. File photo. (date last used September 15, 2011) The flax is in full bloom at plots in the Northern Adapted Flax Variety Development Project plots near Vegreville. The goal of the project is to develop flax varieties better adapted to the northern Prairies.

The flax plant has a gorgeous blue-purple flower that yields the all important flax seed.

Linseed is also referred to as flax, a plant that was used in its wild fiber state nearly 30,000 years ago in the Republic of Georgia. There is evidence of domesticated oil seed in Egypt 9,000 years ago. The seeds and resulting oil are edible, and the fibers can be woven into a strong, if scratchy fabric. The amazing thing about flax is that it made its way into the artist’s studio.

I searched for the genesis of burnt plate oil, but found nothing definitive. There is a spirited debate on-line regarding whether painter and printmaker Rembrandt used burnt plate oil for the impasto parts of his paintings. I can imagine a careless studio assistant getting distracted, only to turn around and see his pot of oil on fire, and later being intrigued by the new consistency of the oil. However it happened, I am grateful for the humble flax plant which brings me not only my printmaking inks, but my linoleum as well.








Thanks to Snowflake Bentley and his obsession

I had intended to post something late last week as is my habit. As I took advantage of sunny weather and just below freezing temperatures to take a winter’s hike, I obsessed about an image of snowflakes on which I have been working. I was creating my annual surprise for my collectors, and it wasn’t coming together as my inspirational and critical creative self had imagined. More drawing, carving and printing, as I yielded to this obsession, resulted in the following image — which will now be transformed into my New Year’s surprise…

Snowflake Obsession

A compilation of snowflakes — soon to be disassembled and transformed into thank you’s for my collectors. Watch your mailboxes!

I must admit that I did not capture the intricacies of these snowflakes first hand. For that I have to thank W. A. Bentley, who spent his entire adolescence and adult life perfecting a (more…)


A bit of hope for the season

Making art when you are worried or under stress can be hard.  I created this linocut, entitled Hope Despite the Evidence, in response to a dear friend’s medical crisis. An homage to the great printmaker M.C. Escher, it portrays barren, flooded fields that capture a hopeful scene of blue skies and white clouds in a reflection. A wise friend observed recently that hope is more than an emotion — it is an action. Today I saw hope in action…

Hope Despite the Evidence

©Elizabeth Busey, Hope Despite the Evidence. Reduction linocut, 17 x 25, edition of 25.

Hope arrived this morning at my progressive church in Bloomington, IN in the form of about ten members of our city who are of Turkish descent. Many are graduate students or faculty at Indiana University, but they are also members of a nonprofit organization — founded in the Midwest — that encourages Muslims to bring Noah’s Pudding to Christian congregations as a way of creating community and understanding.

The making of Noah’s Pudding is a cultural observance in the homes of both Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. It is created (with no animal products) by boiling grains and legumes and sometimes almonds with water and sugar to create a congealed pudding. After sitting overnight, dried fruits, other nuts and spices are simmered, and the entire creation is served cold topped with pomegranate. Recipes are large, and the intent is to make enough so you can share cups with all of your neighbors.

Our minister said that this observance had been scheduled long before the violence in San Bernadino, CA took place this week. He also observed that he could think of no better action that we could take in response to this violence than to establish warm relationships with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

The pudding was delicious, and it was a joy to meet people who have traveled far from their warm, Mediterranean homes in order to study and to teach. They filled our stomachs, and our hearts. I am already wondering how we can reciprocate.

Hope is an action…

You can read more about the tradition of Noah’s Pudding here.


Uncovering the mystery of white ink

I began my Tuesday with the best of intentions. I had spent the previous afternoon carving away tiny areas in my most recent linocut. There is always this sense of excitement and expectation when I print the next layer — as it is hard to predict the effects of the carving and the new color.

In my latest linocut, I needed to transition from a very bright yellow-green to blues, and I knew from experience that unless some of the green was blocked by a more opaque ink, I would not get to the blues that I sought. So I had printed a white ink, tinted with blue.

Titanium white

Was the culprit the Titanium White?

Alas, when I gently touched the surface of the linocut, I could feel that it was still tacky and wet. A bit of the very light blue remained on my finger. Sometimes the last layers of a linocut dry more slowly…but in this case I think the culprit was the Titanium White ink. With no printing happening on this day, I decided to try and discover why it was that the white ink behaved so differently from my other inks.

Sadly, when I typed in a search of “why does white ink not dry like other inks” I didn’t get any useful information. Complex treatises from the commercial printing industry surfaced, with discussions about squirting inks and plasticity. Not what I needed. (more…)


Making art with a message

In the epigraph of my copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, E.B.White is quoted:

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”

Bees have been all over print and social media lately. Concerns are now being raised about the use of pesticides called neonicotinoids, and their effects on bees. The pesticide affects the nervous system of these tiny creatures, which impedes their ability to navigate and find nourishment. You need to look no further than your cereal shelf or your refrigerator to find foods that rely solely on bee pollination. Cranberries are one of these plants.

Blessed by the Bumblebee

Elizabeth Busey. Blessed by the Bumblebee. Reduction Linocut. 23 x 16in. Edition of 12.

I wanted to experiment with creating work that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but might force the viewer to think about the image. What is this pattern? What does it mean? Why did the artist choose to impose this extra element into the work? In Blessings of Bumblebees, I take a view of a cranberry bog at harvest time and place it within the matrix of a honeycomb. Cranberries — a native shrub to North America — are created through flower pollination. While imported honey bees do pollinate these plants, our native bumblebees actually do a better job. The plant and the insect were made for each other. (more…)


The best kind of feedback

Feedback. Everyone needs it, including artists. When you are in an art class, you receive lots of feedback in the form of critiques. Or in my case — just blank stares because I don’t use any black ink in my relief prints. (What was wrong with me?)
Feedback now comes to me during a much more sympathetic monthly gathering. My art group, of which I have been a participant for perhaps ten years, is a group of women who meet to share whatever is going on in our lives creatively. Everyone has some sort of formal art training — I probably have the least. People work in two and three dimensions, some market their work while others choose to create just for themselves.
Experimenting with a honeycomb shape, with the addition of colored pencil.
I brought my latest experiments to this month’s meeting. I enjoy taking experiments because then the question about what to do differently is so much easier to discuss. It is hard to pick apart finished work among these artist friends.  One suggestion that I’ve been toying with regards the honeycomb-patterned linocut. It was suggested that the white in between the hexagons was too pronounced. It created a figure/ground problem. What if it was just a lighter color — even a lighter layer of the work? The next day I amended the above linocut with colored pencils. I wanted to make the viewer think about why these shapes were included, not wonder why they were looking through chicken wire! Perhaps a full fledged honeycomb linocut is in the works.



Shedding some light on art

Light. Artists and art collectors have a love-hate relationship with it. We need some light to enjoy what has been created. Too much light, over time, will destroy the creation.

Elizabeth Busey. Day’s End on the Ontario Shield. 10 x 28in, Edition of 20, $250 unframed.



From limestone to linoleum and back

It began with a Facebook message. Bloomington area sculptor Dale Enochs wanted to know if he could come to my studio and see my printmaking process. It is not often that an accomplished artist wants to see my studio. During our visit and subsequent conversations, I learned that Enochs was revitalizing an interest in printmaking that had started during college and graduate school, where he admits he was fascinated by tools and materials.
One of the things I did was sing the praises of linoleum. Unless you need the grain of the wood, linoleum is easier to carve than many types of wood and holds edges better than rubber. I gave Dale two square of linoleum to try out, and worried I had led him over to the dark side. A few months later, he gifted me with this diptych, entitled Dialogue. I shouldn’t have worried.
Two linocuts of silhouetted faces with energy running between them.
Dale Enochs. Dialogue. Linocut on paper. Ready for a frame and a place in my house!
Enochs has been a sculptor for many years, and his stone and metal creations grace many buildings, homes and outdoor sites throughout the world, and right in our town. His installation Elemental Indiana fills two giant walls in the ticketing area of the Indianapolis International Airport.



What if the canvas was blank?

In preparation for my upcoming show and Open Studios, I’ve spent the better part of the spring in my basement printing and thinking. My latest linocut, Evanescence, considers a land form that is both beautiful and under threat — the river delta.
Reduction linocut of River Delta
Elizabeth Busey, Evanescence, Reduction Linocut, Edition of 10, 28in diameter, $550 unframed.

River deltas are wetlands that carry and deposit sediment into a particular mostly triangular shape. Like other wetlands, they are very important to both people and wildlife. River deltas provide protection from storms, filter run-off, and contain food and other resources.

River deltas don’t just happen anywhere. Strong tides or wave actions from the body of water that they meet prevent many from forming. Many river deltas are sinking because of human activity. Dams and other water control measures change the delicate balance between sediment and water flow. Removal of deltas’ water, oil and natural gas resources are causing their elevations to change. Imagine if these lacy fans vanished into the oceans — leaving places like Bangladesh, Louisiana and the Pearl River in China vulnerable. An estimated 500 million people live on river deltas.

It is a puzzle to me how visual artists can illustrate the lack of something. White canvases a la Robert Rauschenberg? What is the visual equivalent of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?

Questions like these were on my mind as I spent an afternoon recently at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. On the top floor I came across a mixed media installation by Mark Dion and his studio team. Harbingers of the Fifth Season is comprised of an artist/naturalist’s desk complete with materials. Detailed watercolors on cork board illustrate the many invasive species that have been introduced to new habitats and subsequently damaged existing ecosystems. On the reverse, three chalkboards chronicle the ever-growing list of extinct species.

Mark Dion, Harbingers of the Fifth Season, Mixed Media Installation, 2014.
Invasive species are chronicled in naturalist’s watercolor sketches.


Reverse of Mark Dion’s Harbingers of the Fifth Season, 2014.
Extinct species are handwritten on three large chalkboards.

The installation is calm and quiet, belying the real pressure that invasive species are placing on ecosystems around the world. How much can one artist’s work do, sequestered on the top floor of a medium-sized city’s art museum?

Time to reread Silent Spring and try to discover Rachel Carson’s secret.

If you are anywhere near Bloomington, Indiana please consider joining me for:

•   Considering the Beloved   •
Bloomington Convention Center Art Gallery
302 S. College Ave, Bloomington IN
June 5 –
July 27, 2015
Reception, Friday June 5, from 5pm – 8pm
d’oeuvres, wine & performance by guitarist Atanas Tvetkov

Bloomington Open Studios Tour   •
Join me in my printmaking studio
4324 E Beacon Ct, Bloomington IN
June 6 (10am – 6pm) and Sunday, June 7 (10am – 4pm)
See new
work, enjoy refreshments and try your hand at printing.


BloomingtonOpenStudiosTour.com to plan your entire tour.