Yielding Somewhat Gracefully to Life and Adding Some Bling

Elizabeth Busey, Yielding Gracefully. Reduction Linocut, 17 x 25″

During my exploration of the sassafras leaf, I was operating under the assumption that the colors I see in the fall were always in the leaf, but became more apparent in autumn. For the yellows and oranges we see, this is basically true. But not for the red. The red that I found so challenging and unfamiliar is in fact produced by the leaves as a sort of battle against the inevitable arrival of winter.

According to Emily Habinck from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, this red color is produced by only certain trees, and is the leaf’s attempt to protect the tree for winter. The leaf produces this red color — anthocyanin — in an attempt to recycle nutrients from the leaves before they fall from the tree. William Hock, now at Montana State University, Bozeman, hypothesizes that this color acts as a sort of sunscreen that helps keep the leaves on the tree just a little longer, strengthening the tree. The tree is slowly, slowly yielding toward its inevitable plant hibernation and the cycle of another year. And what a beautiful way to do this.

The challenge of yielding gracefully to aging is not lost on me. I was not too aware of my aging until about two years ago when I was on a college tour, and had the sudden realization that the tour was not for me. As a fair-skinned person, I have my share of crow’s feet and serious smile lines around my mouth. I put on sunscreen daily. Am I yielding gracefully to the passage of time? One of the things I notice about the aging process for women is the sudden appearance of glitter in clothing. There is one store in my city that I refuse to shop in because everything there has some bling, a style I am not ready to embrace.

But recently I have been considering whether I could incorporate some bling — in this case gold highlights — into some of my leaves. At first I used some gold pigment mixed with transparent base, but I found it was far too coarse.

Coarse gold pigment looked like shiny sand on the paper.

The result had some sparkle, but I feared it would flake off the paper over time. Most of it stayed on the roller, even when I mixed in some ink. It was dreadful to clean up as well. I found it throughout the house, and was reminded of the days when my kids were young and snow days forced us to break out the glitter and white glue.

Much of the gold pigment adhered to the roller.

For the sassafras leaves, I eventually used some Handschy Gold ink pretty much straight from the can to put some highlights on the green leaf. Even with five layers of ink under it, the Rives BFK was still able to suck up enough ink so that it really isn’t shiny. No bling.

A close-up shows the gold providing dimension, but no shiny highlights.

Perhaps my search for artistic bling is my way of coping with the impending winter of life. In my next post I’ll show some of my other attempts at bringing some gold into my work.

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