Elizabeth Busey

Prepare to have your heart yanked by the amazing works of Elizabeth Busey all the way from the valleys of Southern Indiana. With a background of fine arts and printmaking from Indiana University, Bloomington, this lady certainly knows what she's doing with her paints, brushes and blank canvasses. 

Her vision is straight up poetry in motion, especially after her execution on colors and her brush movements. Her works can both be found in public areas and private collections in the United States and Australia.

We are so blessed to have her featured here on All Public Art. Check out our interview with the lovely Elizabeth Busey.

An Interview With Elizabeth Busey 

APA: Who do you admire artistically? Who has influenced your work? Who do you study?

Elizabeth: I am a great admirer of Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr, two painters who created during the early and mid-twentieth century. I’m not only drawn to their personal stories of persevering as female artists in a male-dominated world, but also to their determination to create work that was informed by their academic training, but also transcended it. 

I am also drawn to the work of Yvonne Jacquette – a painter and printmaker during the last fifty years. Her work portraying aerials views of landscape and topography have greatly informed much of my exploration of these topics.

APA: What do you want people to obtain when they look at your work?

Elizabeth: I want viewers of my work to be pulled into my linocuts. My intention is to portray subject matter that is somewhat realistic, but also infused with emotion. In my landscapes, for example, I want to highlight the important personal, historical, spiritual and biological connections we have to our surroundings, both local and global. Like those painters of the Hudson River School, I want to gently hint at this interrelation and encourage the viewers to consider how our collective human fingerprints have altered our natural world.


APA: What is your opinion of art in the 21st century?

Elizabeth: I am fascinated by some 21st century art traditions that focus on the materials used as a way of communicating messages. Think of Ai Wei Wei and the straightened rebars reclaimed from schools in China decimated by an earthquake where thousand of students perished. This type of art certainly conveys meaning in a new way.

At the same time, I believe that artwork has a place in the lives of ordinary people. Perhaps this artwork has a different purpose – one of creating atmosphere, emotion, reverence. Many people find Picasso’s Guernica moving and disturbing, but few want a reproduction on their bed room walls. Can artists who create for the walls of others still be respected and celebrated? I hope so.

APA: What advice would you give to other (aspiring) artists?

Elizabeth: I follow the advice of David Bayles and Ted Orlando in the iconic Art & Fear. 

They write of an art class divided into two groups – those who should make as many clay objects as they could, and those who should make just one superb clay work. Bayles and Orlando note:

“It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

I can now look back on my earlier work and appreciate it as a stepping stone for where I am now. Not everything was deemed frame-worthy, but I learned something each time.

APA: What is one mistake every artist should avoid?

Elizabeth: Avoid making any one work too precious or too important. When you are in the middle of creating something, perhaps you have an inkling that it will turn out to be successful, moving or even important in some way. I often find that this is when I become fearful and timid in my approach, rather than relying on my energy and enthusiasm for the process of creating. 


APA: What do you do to keep going when you are not motivated or inspired to create?

Elizabeth: There are definitely ups and downs in my creative process, and printmaking isn’t a medium when you can just go “play” in your studio. If I’m having difficulty in my studio, I still make an effort to do something creative each day. This might be going on a photo-safari in the forests surrounding my house. Or rearranging the artwork in my house. Or cooking a new elaborate recipe. You never know where the next idea will come from, so continually exercising your creative muscles is important, even if you aren’t producing work that other people will see.

APA: What most often inspires your work?

Elizabeth: Travel has inspired much of my work. I make sure to have window seat on airplane trips so I can get a bird’s eye view of the topography. I love road trips, and spend time looking at satellite imagery of places I will probably never visit. Having an Iphone camera in my pocket at all times means that I can find inspiration in unlikely places, like the reflection of oil on wet pavement. The repetition of natural patterns on various scales is a thread that runs through much of my work.

APA: What is the most challenging part about being an artist?

Elizabeth: Unlike some printmakers, who work in print studios, I work alone in my home. While this appeals to my introverted nature, it also means that I am my own supervisor, task master and therapist. It takes determination to complete your artwork and art business related tasks when you have only a few deadlines.

On the days where creation is not going well, it is hard to get inside your head and decide how to handle these negative emotions, which are inevitable. I try to have other aspects of my life where I interact with other people and have a community of artists, both local and on-line that create a support system.


APA: What do you wish you knew about the art business before you got started?

Elizabeth: I wished I had known how much of my time would actually be spent not creating in the studio. I spend a considerable amount of time writing about my work and studio life, as well as looking for new exhibition opportunities. I spend some time driving my work to exhibition venues, but this is where I often get my next idea for a linocut. This split between studio and non-studio time is beneficial for me though, as there are only so many hours in the day that my hands, arms and shoulders can take the stress of carving and printing.

APA: What is your creative process like?

Elizabeth: My process veers between the linear and the non-linear. Coming up with an idea for my next linocut is such a wandering process. Alone in my house, I get out books that have inspiring imagery, I consult my Lightroom library of images I have taken, and a sometimes take a spin on Google Earth.

I make thumbnail sketches of possible ideas. I enlarge these sketches to possible block sizes and tape them on the walls of my house. Then there is a process of discernment, where I decide if the image is worthy of being turned into a linocut. The process of creating a linocut is time-consuming and somewhat expensive, so I try to make most of my mistakes at this point in the process.

The more linear part of creation comes as I print my series. I use the reduction method of relief printmaking, meaning I carve only one linoleum block, removing sections for each new color.  I print with oil-based relief inks where a succession of opaque and transparent layers yields unusual colors and textures.  Thick western-style cotton paper is used to support these many layers. The non-linear part of my process often interrupts this flow, as I only decide on the next color layer when considering the how the work is progressing. I’m never really sure what the work will look like until I have printed my last layer of ink.


APA: If you could hang out with one artist, living or dead, who would that be?

Elizabeth: I would love to spend time with Canadian painter, Emily Carr. She had a passion for painting the enveloping forests of the Canadian northwest and the totems of the First Nations peoples, each of which was disappearing. At a time when women did not travel unchaperoned, she hired a boat to take her to remote islands off the coast of British Columbia to paint totems before they were destroyed or removed. She developed a style that while somewhat realistic, also conveys a spiritual connection with the subject matter that deeply connects with me.

Carr led an unconventional life. She never married, and had to survive by managing a boarding house and breeding dogs in order to be able to paint the way she wanted. She was known for saying exactly what she thought – sometimes to her detriment. She smoked and drank, and associated with a variety of people, not just those in her social class. Truly a feminist, and a tremendous painter.

APA: What’s one thing that you don’t know that you want to learn?

Elizabeth: I would like to develop my sculpture skills so I can create three dimensional works using my printmaking. The repetitive possibilities of printmaking can yield some fascinating installations.

Follow Elizabeth on her social media pages:


You may also visit her main website at www.ElizabethBusey.com