Today was one of those studio days that makes you question all of your decisions…and all because of ink. I have been working on my latest linocut, a landscape with broody clouds and dark early spring fields, with a hint to clearing in the middle. Here is the underprinting of lighter colors before the contrast…
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.
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…
I have been methodically carving my latest linocut looking at cloud formations, but I don’t have too much to show for it…
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.
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.
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…
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 Continue reading “Thanks to Snowflake Bentley and his obsession”
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 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…
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.
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. Continue reading “Uncovering the mystery of white ink”
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.
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. Continue reading “Making art with a message”
|Experimenting with a honeycomb shape, with the addition of colored pencil.|
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, $350 unframed.|
|Dale Enochs. Dialogue. Linocut on paper. Ready for a frame and a place in my house!|