Printmaker Elizabeth Busey’s linoleum linocuts feature patterns found in nature, on both large and intimate scales. Enjoy more of her beautiful artwork by visiting her website.
For a person whose work is all about patterns in nature, my printmaking has relied tremendously on both modern and old-fashioned technology. Having my Iphone camera with me at all times has allowed me to capture ephemeral imagery, like ripples and reflections in water or rapidly separating clouds.
Other times I rely on Google Earth to soar about the planet, looking for geological features that move me. Only occasionally do I have the luxury of holding a specimen in my hands as I create – like the green and purple redbud leaves from my yard.
Have you ever noticed that macro and microscopic patterns repeat themselves? Those veins in your hands mirror the drainages in the land around you. Or the way clouds and bubbles on water separate in just the same way? There are of course scientific explanations for many phenomena, but as a layperson, I prefer to experience these as a cosmic familiarity, a way of knowing about the world in its totality.
Each linocut is created using one a block of linoleum in the reduction method. I chose linoleum, rather than wood, because so often my subject matter requires curves, rather than straight lines.
Linoleum, because it does not have a grain, is a perfect matrix for my work. I purchase my linoleum in rolls, mount sections of it on MDF, and create any size block that I require.
I use Japanese woodblock tools made of highly refined steel to carve many of my images. I also use a Foredom drill with a flexible shaft. Here I employ engraving bits to create areas of texture and randomness. The block is carved in stages, first removing the places that must be white. Then small areas of the block are carved away, and each stage is printed with either transparent or opaque oil-based ink on cotton rag paper.
I begin with only a general sketch of the imagery I want to explore. Each new layer of color dictates my subsequent carving and the next color to be added. With this method, I create colors that I could not have imagined myself. The printmaker’s “Aha!” moment when the paper is peeled off the block for the last time is addicting.
I create my linocuts in my basement studio in Bloomington, Indiana, on an etching press my husband built from recycled steel well pipes. This old-fashioned technology provides the pressure to print eight to ten layers of ink on each linocut in a series. Who knew that a printing press could be such a meaningful and romantic gift?
I see the images I create as modern-day messages. In the past, humans chose to express their community values through stone carvings, or churches with stained glass.
Today, messages are often experienced more personally. It is my hope that the images I create will speak directly to people’s unconscious, reminding them of their love for this world, and their responsibility for protecting the beauty that exists all around them.