I’m a big fan of the montage — a device in movies used to move the story along. The characters grow, change and learn, all while accompanied by a great soundtrack. I need this for my studio. I am back printing my large (25 x 40 inch block) linocut, and patience has been required at every turn.
My image is a large cloud formation, over a small area of flat land. I couldn’t decide whether this was summer or autumn land, so I did some of each. With such a large block, I would hate to guess wrong. I used a frisket (or a mask for non-printers) to help me lay down some of the bright colors of the land which will contrast with the darker, more monochromatic clouds. This is not an exact process, as I discovered when I printed the first layer of blue. My measurements must have been off, because it overlapped the land in a small band!
My initial reaction was to try and carve away a thin strip or linoleum, but this a dangerous operation. I could carve away too much, and would then be left with an inexplicable slice of exposed white paper. Like a very itchy insect bite, I had to tell myself, don’t touch! This area will be covered by the darkest ink anyway.
More problems came as I printed the first and second layers of transparent blue. There is something about the combination of lots of transparent base and just a touch of pigment that leads to a gummy residue on the block. After every four prints, I had to clean off the block to prevent this residue pattern from transferring onto my paper. I have found that the first transparent layers of a linocut often look terrible, but are incorporated into later layers with no trouble. Again — don’t touch and don’t fret!
Wouldn’t a fast forward button and a great soundtrack be perfect right now?
Vexing. This an apt description of the weather in my part of the world. Wide swings in temperature, plus punishing storms make for unpredictable living. Two weeks ago I wrote about similar trials in layering inks. After giving the linocut an entire week to dry, I soldiered on, armed with metallic inks.
I first printed a gold layer, which faded as it approached the horizon, over the patchy purple. Thankfully metallic inks are very opaque and tend to cover a multitude of difficulties. Another deeper blue went on the clouds, which did not share the inking problems. But I was concerned that the clouds might not tolerate too many more layers… Continue reading “The completion of a temperamental linocut”
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.
Were you one of those people who saw the Internet-featured dress as blue and black? Or were you in the white and gold camp? This was an example of color perception being relative — that color isn’t fixed, but changes depending on many factors. This makes finding the right next color layer a challenge for me. I have spent the last week or so sneaking up on the colors that I imagine for my next cloud-themed linocut. Here’s a portion of the linocut in progress:
I’m exploring the effect that the setting sun would have on a blanket of clouds. I wanted the brightest parts to be either completely white or a warm yellow. The task then was to choose colors that will provide the dimensionality of the clouds, and then the dark (by contrast) blue and purple sky.
Intuitively, I want the lowest parts to have purple shadows, and the upper part to have a dark-greyed teal. But how to get there is the question. Purple over the yellow yields a rich brown, a color only associated with tornado clouds. I use this color chart to give me ideas of which way to head. I created this chart on the ill-fated election evening of the Bush vs. Gore election. Hour after hour we watched to see if a winner would be declared, and instead watched the newscasters flounder about in confusion. Mixing these watercolors kept me grounded.
My color challenges are two-fold. My sense is that the colors in the clouds should be transparent, so what color is beneath will directly affect the next color layer. In addition, what a color is next to greatly affects our perceptions. My favorite college art class (besides printmaking) was a color and composition class. Using a box of colored papers we were asked to create demonstrations that would fool the eye. Here are my two best examples:
In this example, the challenge was to take two different colors, and using different backgrounds convince the eye that it was seeing the same color. The colors I used are at the top, and then shown on top of two other colors. The illusion is helped by keeping the stripes away from each other.
In this example, the blue green paper is the same on each side, but your eye is challenged by the different color fields of purple and yellow.
I have probably two or three color layers left on my present linocut. Not much carving, but adding layers will more fully define the clouds and hopefully provide some more depth. To get to the darkest colors I may have to employ some more opaque ink, now that the cloud body is finished. I just hope I can accomplish on paper what I have had in my mind all along…
Thinking backwards is what reduction printmaking is all about. Carve away what you want to leave exposed on the paper. My current subject — clouds — takes this challenging way of thinking to an entirely new level.
I started this new linocut using the graphite tracing paper guide I created in my last blog. (Click here to read about that first.) After transferring the marks, I used my Foredom drill with engraving bits to remove the places in the clouds that I wanted to stay the white of the Rives BFK paper.
I have been waiting patiently for my ink to dry, and was finally able to lay the gold leaf without it adhering randomly to the ink. It still sticks sometimes, so I used a stencil (or frisket to my printing friends) with the gold areas cut out to protect the rest of the linocut. I like the result — warm reflected light that is different from the white of the paper or the transparent blues.
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.”
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”
I have been trying to integrate what I saw in my travels this summer, and I’ve been pondering the question of negative space…
But before I share my noodlings with you, I need to reveal my sea fan experiment from last month. After printing the light fan shapes and the darker water, I added some coral shapes in the background. It amazes me how adding a brighter and darker color makes the water so much lighter and does add lots more depth. The coral shapes have three colors in order to hint at dimensionality. There is a great deal of activity in the work, and not many places for the eye to rest. I often need to live with a linocut for a while before I decide if it will make it to a frame, or get flipped and used as a test print.
Sea Fan linocut. It doesn’t get a name unless it warrants a frame!
So back to negative space — or in the design world, “white space.” There are lots of famous examples of the use of white space. This about the face/vase illusion for example. In all of these, the positive and negative spaces make your brain work to decide what it is seeing.
My two latest linocuts deal with jewels — jewels of the living kind. Out of Many, One is a bird’s-eye view of part of the Great Barrier Reef. Made up entirely of coral polyps, this living structure stretches over 1,400 miles off the eastern Australian coastline.
Beloved, my latest series of reduction linocuts, looks at places that are in danger because of global warming. Ephemeral Sanctuary looks at the delicate islands that ring the southern United States and the Caribbean, such as The Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda and many others. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on Bermuda. These pink sand beaches and shallow aqua waters hold a special place in the hearts of many throughout the world.
Elizabeth Busey, Ephemeral Sanctuary. Reduction Linocut, 10 x 33in, Edition of 13. $375 unframed.