Tag Archives: reduction linocut

Celebrating memorable imagery

This image has been on my Iphone home screen ever since my first model. I captured these clouds with an Iphone 3 from the passenger seat of our 2000 Sienna minivan, as we hurtled west on I-94 through North Dakota. For all of the jokes made about North Dakota being uninteresting, I find the state a beautiful place to travel through by car. In the summer, the skies really are this intense blue, with horizons that stretch for miles and fields of bright yellow rapeseed punctuating the land.

Highway Caprice

Elizabeth Busey. Highway Caprice. Reduction linocut on Rives BFK, 22 x 16in image size, $350 unframed.

I try not to simply duplicate my photography when I create a linocut, but the cloud patterns I love move so quickly that a photographic record is a necessity. I get to take liberties with all the other aspects of the creation. Here I created a purple underskirt for the clouds, and a haze above the rolling hills. In my photograph, we had a highway rapidly disappearing in the distance, which I replaced with fields of slowly emerging rapeseed.

Rapeseed is the seed used in Canola oil (a combination of Canada and oil), and its flowers are a shocking greenish yellow. Your mind and eyes have a difficult time resolving what you are actually seeing when you come over a ridge and see this colorful splendor.

I did put the suggestion of a trail in my imaginary fields in honor of the many immigrants who probably trod through this landscape over a century ago. How splendid and hopeful this sweep of clouds must have been for travelers who were constantly wondering if they should change course.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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My first museum label…an affirmation

In every person’s professional life there are milestones. For some it is a promotion, for others a large grant or publication in a prestigious journal. For still others it is simply making a profit. For me it was seeing my work installed in a public location, complete with museum tag.

First Intalled Art

Me posing with An Echo of Beginnings at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.

The Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center purchased my linocut An Echo of Beginnings, after my two-month show at the center in June and July of 2015. During a visit with my daughter to the annual Artisan Guilds of Bloomington (IN) show, I spotted my work, installed and professionally labeled.

First Museum Tag

A museum label accompanies my linocut at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.

I’ve made plenty of labels for my own work, but seeing my name, plus “American, 1967” — why that was what they put on the labels for real artists! A bit of emotion choked me as I read this. I am so thankful (on this Thanksgiving Day in the United States) that my work can be seen by lots of visitors at the Convention Center. I feel like I have arrived.

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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
Opening
Reception, Friday June 5, from 5pm – 8pm
Hors
d’oeuvres, wine & performance by guitarist Atanas Tvetkov

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

 

Visit
BloomingtonOpenStudiosTour.com to plan your entire tour.
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I don’t want to just make pretty art

When I was taking printmaking classes at the university level, I was an anomaly.  My images were full of colors and curves, few straight lines, and no black. In the relief printmaking class, skulls and angst were typical. When I put my relief prints up during a critique, they garnered few comments.

Part of this was the stage of life I was in (mid-30s) vs. my classmates (late teens to 20.) Certainly art can be used to overtly communicate dark feelings. But must work have the gushing blood of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes to make a serious statement? I think not.

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Printmaking with mica — an experience in highlights

I should have been a sculptor. I am always trying to coax more depth out of a flat piece of paper. This is especially true when I am working on topography. In real life, tiny reflections of light glint off water, ice or metal surfaces to give us clues about depth.
Painters and mixed media artists have it easy. Add some white, or something metallic. Glue on a mirror! Scrape off some paint to expose the white paper beneath. Certainly I can save some white paper, but it never has quite the same effect.
Topography inspired by the Himalayas. Are these mountains surrounded by water, or maybe a tropical coral?
The white highlights are actually white mica on the teal layer of ink.
After my many trials with gold leaf, a new strategy was suggested in a post by fellow printmaker Annie Bissett. She was using rice paste printed from a block to secure powdered mica. Traditional Japanese printmakers often use powdered mica to create highlights, and I was enchanted by the possibilities.  So I ordered white, gold and silver powdered mica from McClain’s.

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Incomparable Wonder in Louisville

I ventured two hours south last Friday to bring my work to the Roberta Marx Gallery at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I crossed snowy fields covered with a strange fog — even though the air temperature hovered around 10 degrees F. Other fields had rows of corn stubble peaking up, fodder for future prints.

 

The Roberta Marx Gallery at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
Photo by Jill Baker

The atmosphere at the church felt much warmer, with modern architecture and a clear appreciation for the natural world. The late winter sun streamed in through a round skylight.

I titled this exhibit: Incomparable Wonder: The Intersection of Spirit, Science and Art. The idea of exhibiting in a place of worship appeals to me. In centuries past, places of worship used stone carvings and later stained glass windows to communicate important stories to the congregation. Today, everyone can read stories from sacred texts. Art can take on a whole new role of asking what we value today. In my mind, what could be more important
than considering our natural world – both its beauty and fragility?

My newest work finds a bright wall. Photo by Jill Baker.

I had intended to make a return trip to Louisville two day later to join the congregation for its service, and a pot-luck reception afterwards. I even baked my white cheddar cheese biscuits with sage. (Full disclosure, this is a Martha Stewart recipe, and I am happy to share it.)

Alas, even though I make work considering the forces of nature, I am still amazed when nature affects me directly. The morning of the reception dawned with seven inches of new snow outside our window and travel advisories issued for the counties we needed to cross. The threat of freezing rain later made even my Montana-born husband demur from making the trip.

Bubble images are brightly lit by the round skylight and late
winter’s sun. Photo by Jill Baker.

Thankfully my work was wonderfully introduced to the congregation by artist and member Jill Baker. I enjoyed hanging the work with Jill on Friday and hearing about her journey as an artist. Advice from successful artists is priceless. I was sorry to miss meeting the good people of Thomas Jefferson, but am glad that my work can have a home in their gallery for the month.

Time to head back to the studio for a new series…and to try to forget that the cheese biscuits are residing very close by in the basement freezer.

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Synthesizing sunlight in the studio

It has been a dark winter. When I lived in Seattle, I craved sunlight so much that I would sit in our tiny Honda CRX during rainy lunchtimes on the off-chance of glimpsing some rays. Our midwestern winter has been mostly grey and overcast. Perhaps that is why I’ve been delving into the joys and trials of yellow.
Elizabeth Busey, In Anticipation of Sweetness. Reduction Linocut,
18 x 18in circle, Edition of 16.

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