Tag Archives: relief

Being at the end of your rope

Being overextended — at the end of your rope — is a familiar human condition. Managing internal and external demands can be challenging. I met overextension while working on one of my large cloud linocuts, and the results have been challenging.

blue ink

Transparent ink looks deceivingly cohesive when not rolled out.

When ink isn’t quite so juicy

In many of my cloud linocuts, I begin with very transparent layers because I want to make a smooth transition from the white of the paper. I am working on another 25 x 40 inch cloud linocut, and ran into trouble as I printed the first light blue-grey layer. When I printed the first layer onto some very expensive Somerset paper, a strange chalky dry residue remained on the block. When I rolled ink over the block and printed on the next pristine piece of paper, the residue pattern then printed.

Exasperated, I tried cleaning the block, but the problem reoccurred. I tried adding more tack reducer to some of the ink, burnt plate oil to some more, but neither was successful.

uneven ink on paper

Chalky ink clumped on the block, and then printed strangely on the paper.

Help from the internet

I use relief inks by Gamblin, so I sent a query through their website. Cecilia Hamlin reached out with some suggestions. The first was to clean the block with vegetable oil, and then with mineral spirits. Cleaning a block this size and weight is non-trivial, as it requires hauling the cumbersome block out to the garage. I also tried re-sanding the entire block with 400 grit sandpaper twice. Still no improvement.

I sent Cecilia photos of the ink on the glass and on the paper. Then the problem was made clear. She suggested that I had overextended my ink — using too little pigment in too much tint base. The addition of too much tack reducer also meant that the pigment did not disperse evenly, but rather clumped together and stuck to my linoleum.

Ink has a memory

On my latest layer, I followed Cecilia’s advice:

  1. Start with the tint base needed and then add in color.  Mix thoroughly. (I have a bad habit of not mixing as long as I should.)
  2. Only then should I add the tack reducer, with a maximum of 10% of the total ink volume. I tried to use less.

Layer 4 blue prints unevenly over previous layers providing me with a challenge.

The result seemed to be better. Unfortunately, the ink on the paper now affect how much new ink transfers from the block onto the paper. So you get these strange textures. The next linocut will be the true test of the new ink strategy.

In the meantime, I must use all of my creativity to salvage the current work. I’m already thinking of some radical measures to make all of the variation work for the image.

Patience and perseverance are the words for February in my life. What are your words?

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Houston we have a problem

landscape two layers

Two layers printed of my latest linocut featuring clouds.

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…

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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…)

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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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A new leaf…on life and art

I don’t know how Thomas Edison did it. Popular lore claims that he discovered 1000 ways to not create a light bulb before he achieved illumination. I’ve been experimenting with encaustic printmaking this fall, and while I have learned a great deal…let’s just say that I have not achieved my light bulb.

I received some nice news this week that one of my favorite prints, Breath Intertwined (a close-up view of two red bud leaves) was accepted as part of the 2015 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition. This print went to Boston last fall, and is currently at the 57th Mid-States Art Exhibition in Evansville, IN. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this print, and this encouraged me to do another up-close leaf print.

 

Selfie with me and two layers of ink

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You can’t always get what you want

Dry midwestern lake bed. Would you put this on your wall?

Every artist blog needs an image. So when a print you have poured yourself into for weeks does not turn out, it is difficult to know what to do. It is heartbreaking, and a bit embarrassing as well.

During the summer, a nearby lake was drained to repair a leak in the dam. A severe drought helped the process, and by August you could walk on the lake bed and take pictures of these interesting patterns.

I really wanted to use this pattern, but as dry earth, it only conveys lack, desperation and death. Not really the type of image I work with. So I tried to turn it on its head and imagine evaporation, perhaps with some tasty Mediterranean sea salt as a by-product.

The print that shall not be named (detail).

To try to get the idea of crystallization, I turned to etching for some interesting textures. I have now remembered why I prefer the dryness of relief printmaking. In this detail, you can see some of the areas that were etched. I actually etched the block three times, and found it to be a very random process. The changeable autumn weather played havoc with the experiment as well. Sometimes the etch dried quickly, and other times it stayed hydrated and ran off the block — and under the tape I had applied to protect the MDF (medium density fiberboard) block.

Pulling out all the stops in the studio.

As I was cleaning off the block the last time, the MDF was beginning to expand and decompose. I knew this was the last time I could print with this block, and there were still many problems to be solved. So I pulled out all the stops — a frisket for some details, and two different gradations. I gently eased the block back and forth from press to table, but in the end there were perspective problems that had been there from the beginning, and couldn’t be solved with another layer of color.

I thought long and hard about whether to put the whole print on the blog, and decided against it. Once it is here, it has a life of its own. At my house, it glares at me as it dries in the studio. We need some time apart, this print and I.

Time to head to Starbucks for a ridiculously expense coffee, sketchbook in hand, to try to regain my artist inspiration. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you can stuff it in a bottom drawer.

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Time keeps on slipping into the future

Summer in the Midwest has been a combination of searing heat and unrelenting drought. I feel as out of shape as if it were February, hibernating in my basement studio dressed in shorts. Questions abound — when is this going to end? What does this mean regarding climate change? Should I change the front yard landscape to cactus? Will we still be able to get that fabulous bi-color corn from the Farmer’s Market? Will future summers also be this hot?
Elizabeth Busey. Détente.
Linoleum Reduction Print,
(28 x 9in), 2012.
My latest print looks at the world within a much longer time frame. A Bloomington collector friend suggested I look at the mountain ranges in southern Colorado. I learned that these mountains were formed by several different geological upheavals over a vast time span. This movement, along with the punishing effects of water, wind and sun, have created ranges that are alive with serpentine energy.

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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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Room for Growth in the New Year

Spirals are a common theme in many of my works, because nature seems to favor this pattern of growth.  My latest prints are both spiral-inspired, but from very different places on Earth.  The chambered nautilus actually builds a new section of its shell each time it outgrows its current home.  In early spring, fiddleheads appear in my garden, poised with plant kinetic energy, ready to unfurl new fern leaves.

Growth for me as an artist is difficult.  It is sometimes hard to challenge myself to do something that is different, more difficult, out of my comfort zone.  Some of my art group friends lament the loss of art class assignments which spurred them to action.  In these two prints, I tried to challenge myself to consider not only my subject matter, but also clearly focus my attention on the role of the tools I used. (more…)

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On the road for inspiration

After my crush of spring and summer art shows, I was very grateful to have some time away from my home, studio and art tent.  We are lucky to have family in western Montana and like to visit them during the two months of “high season” in July and August.

Rather than flying, my family loads our trusty van and treks west across some tremendously beautiful topography.  My favorite area has always been North Dakota, where undulating yellow-green fields of rapeseed surround glacial lakes of amazingly dark blue water.  Somehow driving gives me a different sense of the land than flying over it.

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