In a memorable scene from the movie Shrek, Shrek is trying to describe ogres to his traveling companion, Donkey. "Ogres are like onions...they have layers!" he exclaims. They are complicated, nuanced... Layers are also the secret behind printmaking. As I detailed in my last post, most of my prints have eight to ten layers of transparent ink to create an image that "pops" out from the paper.
Elizabeth Busey, Breath Intertwined. Linoleum Reduction Print, 25 x 17in, 2012.
My latest print, Breath Intertwined, has many layers, and different parts of the print have different layers. By making use of some cardboard masks, I was able to use thalo blues in the lower green part of the print. The purple-red leaf section received several layers of outrageously electric purple to achieve the dusky red-purple of the finished leaf. Last night I explained to my art group friends that even though different parts of the prints had different layers, it was necessary for them to share some layers as well. In the case of the two leaves, they share several layers, yielding the bold chartreuse color of their veins. This shared color palette helps the image feel connected and harmonious. This explanation made me question why plants like my featured Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) can have green leaves, or purplish red ones. According to Sven Svenson, an Oregon State horticulturist, all leaves have three types of pigments. Leaves that appear green have higher levels of chlorophyll, which absorbs red and blue light, so we see them as green. By contrast, some leaves have a higher level of anthocyanin, which absorbs blue, blue-green and green light, so we see them as having red to purple pigment. (A third pigment, carotinoid, is responsible for yellow to yellow-orange leaves.)
Can you see the chlorophyll? It is all about the layers.
Even leaves that block the green light from our eyes have the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. I imagine that they have the layers of green in them, but we just can't see them. We just have to have faith (or confidence) that it is there.