Saturday, August 11, 2018

What Should I Do Next?

This week I have been cleaning up in my studio. Not that it's ready for visitors, but I can see the table. I realized I have a number of unfinished projects and need to be making progress on some of them. I lined up some of them, hoping that seeing them on the table would inspire me to pick a few to complete. The first two were easy - I needed to sew up a dream journal and a notebook to use for lists and notes to myself. Those are done. The others will be harder. I am trying to rank them: Mature or almost done. Established; these need work to become full fledged ideas, but some of that work has been done. Hopefully they are putting down roots and I can't see the progress yet. The last group is Seedlings; little bitty barely begun things that may or may not ever come to completion. The seedlings in my neglected garden have more of a chance of survival than these piles of paper do.


In the image above there is one Mature project, second from the left, front row. It's a book that needs three more drawings, a cover, and a little text for each image. I am working very slowly on the text, which is the hard part for me. I hope to glean it from my dream journals. The stack of pages on the left are probably Established, but there are really three books there, each needs to have the text refined and to have drawings or some other kind of illustration. I don't know where I'm going with these ideas but they have potential. The pile of books in the back row, with a shoe box on top (holding collage parts) and a torn collage on top is definitely Established, but needs a lot of work. It's also the project that calls to me the most right now. In the front row, number three from the left is a pile of eco-dyed papers that are probably too fragile to bind, but I have been drawing on them in idle moments. The fragility is a big part of the appeal. The pile of red pages on the right were a project I was excited about, I have parts of one collage started, but now I don't remember where I thought I would go with this. That one is probably a Seedling. In the very back, upper right are some more eco dyed papers I thought I could use in books, but they have no ideas attached - Seedlings for sure.


In this image there is a shill in the back right - there are notes and some printouts that just need to be gathered together somehow. It will be easy to do and it's there to give me something easy when I get frustrated. In front the orange spotty pages on the right are for a collage book but I have no idea what the topic will be. Definitely a seedling, but I love the pages. On the left is an open manila folder that holds some mock-ups for a pop-up book. I am intimidated by that one - I haven't done a pop-up and I'm not sure the topic is right for the technique. I'm being coy and not showing you any part of it because I need to have some progress on it first. I think I need to make a few more mock-up pages, and one that is complete.

As I write this I realize I am taking an on-line class in mark-making. I have tried one technique from last Monday, there is another I want to try tomorrow. And in two days we will get another lesson with more things to try. So things will be going slower than I was imagining. I think I have a time-management issue for one thing.

How do you get yourself going on old projects? How do you keep from having this kind of pile up in your studio? Maybe most people are more disciplined than I am.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Indirect Tacketed Sketchbook

I'm not sure the title is grammatically correct, but you get the point. I took Hilke Kurzke's Skillshare class on indirect tacketing. This is a book binding approach where you sew together the signatures of the book in a simplified coptic stitch, then sew the cover on separately with tackets. I had been looking for instructions for some kind of medieval style binding when Hilke announced this class.


I had my usual problems with not following directions. Hilke suggests eight sheets in each signature, but I arrogantly thought I would like four better. After sewing together the signatures I realized there wasn't enough space between them to accommodate the tackets, especially if I wanted to use stiff paper for the cover, which might be prone to tearing. So I took apart my book block and tore more sheets down to make ten signatures of eight sheets each. (above is the second version of the text block.)



After sewing together the book block I realized I hadn't thought ahead to the cover material. There wasn't anything in my studio that I liked and thought would be strong enough. Hilke does show how to re-inforce a heavy paper cover, I may try that next time. I have a couple pieces of nice, soft leather I could have used, but didn't want to use my "good" stuff for a test/learning project. So I cut a piece out of an old suede skirt I bought at the thrift store years ago. It must be from the seventies. I have been taking small pieces of leather from it for years. The original skirt was made of small panels so I couldn't get a piece large enough to cover the whole book. Instead I glued on some paste paper covered book board. Since I draw on my lap at night a lot, I prefer a firm cover on my sketch book, so I think this will work well.


There are multiple flaws, but for a first try I am very pleased. It will make a very nice sketchbook. Would I do it again? Yes indeed. I also think this would make a nice binding style for an artist's book with Medieval style drawings. I would have to make a mock-up to see how that would work, my books normally have heavier paper and not many pages. I think at least three tackets would be needed on the cover. That's my personal preference, one tacket would work fine, I just like threes or fives of things.


I like that unlike coptic binding, there is no fiddly sewing of the last signature and back cover together. That step always makes me tense. Also, the thread holding the text block together is thinner and not so noticeable. I do like colorful decorative stitching on the outside of the book, but a bright magenta thread thru the middle of the signature interrupts the page.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

From my sketchbook

This week I have been doing some blind contour drawings at night. And writing whatever comes to mind around them. I love the background texture the writing makes. Both images enlarge if clicked. Unfortunately much of what I write in my sketchbook is personal, so I can't publish it here. That's the deal I make with myself - I can do anything, messy, experimental, horrible failure. And it's all (mostly) private.

Drawing this skeleton blind contour made me think there are lots of interesting ways to draw skeletons. More to come. This also happens to be an interesting crop - I have an app called Atlas (iOS) that I think is for medical students. You can rotate the skeleton and take screen shots. I also like Pose Tool 3D which is good for different positions of arms, hands, etc.


This is from 3 photos of Feejee Mermaids. Sometimes overlapping contour drawings are very interesting. This is not quite, but the background saves it for me. The text is random phrases from an article.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

More Zymoglyphic Finds

In my search for an answer to the question "is it Zymoglyphic?" I have more finds. Mostly these things show up when we walk around, and I sometimes forget to take a camera. And when I take the camera I don't find anything.

This is one I kinda wish I had kept. It's a frame - from a mirror or some picture? I found it in the grass when we were walking around. People in Portland put things they don't want any more out at the curb. It's interesting and sometimes a gold mine.

Not much to say about this - plant material. I was a little surprised it was accepted, but it does look like a tiny tree.

A leaf skeleton - seems like a fairly ordinary thing, in the sense that they must be all over. But it's not easy to just walk out and get one when you need it and this one is almost intact. This and it's partner are already in a sculpture.

I regard this as a real treasure - a mat of leaves, moss, seeds, twigs, probably some dirt. I found them in a drainage gutter I was cleaning out. When they came out in big chunks, I thought they were perfectly Zymoglyphic. A big win!

I believe this is a leaf of an echinops, a perennial I am growing. It must have fallen off and been on the ground awhile. It's nice and dry and brittle. In the "what is it?" category. And extremely fragile.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

It doesn't look like me!

The hard thing about drawing people you know, friends or family, is that they want the drawing to look like them. If I make a drawing that focuses on line quality, or trying to capture a mood, the first response is "it doesn't look like me." On the one hand, I could say "take a picture." But often I think photos don't capture people very well either. It's very tricky to get a good photo of someone. One that makes you think their essence has been captured. So "take a picture" is really too glib. Back to drawing problems: I do empathize with people who want realism. When I draw my family I often end up thinking "that doesn't look like dad." If I took the image away from the photo I might consider it a good or at least a pleasant drawing for other reasons. But making the comparison can be disappointing. I think we are trained to expect a reproduction, not an impression. The better we know someone the more we want an accurate likeness.

I asked Jim his take on realism and he says it doesn't seem important because there is photography if you want a good likeness. In portraits a painting is interesting if it captures some common humanity. That's what makes Old Masters' paintings so good - you see their humanity over all this time and it still speaks to us. He thinks in contemporary portraiture the expressiveness of line and medium should say something about the subject. This from the guy who, when I did a loose, very impressionistic sketch of his mom, said "it doesn't look anything like her." Oh well. See above.


Somehow, even when I don't want to judge my drawings by their resemblance to the model, I do. Other people do too. This drawing of my dad interests me - when I compare it to the photo I used it's not that accurate. There are five sketches in this particular sketchbook of my dad. When I flip thru the book and glance at the others I think "that's supposed to be dad but it's not right." But when I see this one - I think "that's dad, that really feels like it's dad." Jim says it's like caricature - you can exaggerate some features and the person is still immediately recognizable even when it's not an exact likeness. So that may be what I see in this drawing.


Here's another pair for comparison. To me, knowing my dad, I just don't like this drawing. I know there are ways to get a more accurate drawing, a light pencil sketch, measuring, correcting, etc. would all make these drawings better. But that's not fun. I want to enjoy the drawing process more than I want realism. All the measuring and aiming for realism is what made me stop drawing years ago. If I was aiming for perfection I would probably stop drawing again. Still, I obviously am conflicted about the whole thing. As a friend says "Onward."

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Dream image



This is a bit of a mystery - it's dated March 29 of this year. But the time is 11:35 PM. I don't normally put a time on my dream records. On the bottom right it says "drawn when I first woke up. Ballpoint" I do remember drawing it, there was no dream, I just wanted to make this sketch.
Every time I see it in my sketchbook I like it. I'm not sure why, perhaps the looseness, the weird proportions, the skeleton? I'm about to finish my current sketchbook and wanted to have a copy of this image somewhere else.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dream Journals

If you are in the EU, can I ask a question? I'm supposed to have a notice on my blog that I'm using cookies, it should be visible when you open the blog. Do you see any notice? I don't see it on my end and Blogger isn't offering any help in figuring this out. If you don't want to comment you can email me at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmail.com (that's a "z" as in zebra.)

Someone was asking about my dream journals - what size, how do I use them, preferences, etc. I was cleaning up a book case this morning so I can move it to paint the floor. It mostly holds my dream journals and sketchbooks so I had them in a nice stack.



Here are, I think, all of my dream journals. There were more that I actually threw away during a divorce. I was disappointed that recording my dreams didn't reveal more to me about my interior life at the time. Still, I have all these, that's a good thing. On the left in back are the earliest - I used loose sheets of notebook paper, keeping them on a board and moving them to a binder. They seemed a little large, but it worked. Then for years I liked the 6.75 by 9.5 wire bound notebooks - they were easy find, not too large and worked. But the wire always bothered me.


Occasionally I would make a book for fun, to try a binding style. A few of those became dream notebooks. The leather one with a big button was made from an old leather skirt I found super cheap in a thrift store.


More recently I started using the Moleshine cahiers. They are slightly larger - 7.5 x 9.75. Folded in half they weren't too large and didn't have the annoying wire. But they had a lump from the fold and it was hard to write on part of the page. I try to not move when I wake, remember dreams and then write them down without moving. So I want to just reach over, pick up the note book and write. It's a little awkward and sometimes hard to read. Later in the day I try to look at them, between the lines I re-write words I think are too scribbly to read later. The lump in the page made it harder to write legibly.


Then I tried taking apart the Moleskine cahiers and making signatures of four sheets each. I was writing on them unbound and then binding them together when I had 12 signatures. For some reason I like the number 12 and usually stop there. The two above were made this way. I found the paper is way too fragile to hold up to the coptic stitch, my go-to. For the second one I put strips of paper in the center of each signature to make it a little stronger. Still it's annoying and makes it more awkward to bind.


This one is ready to bind. It's made from Mohawk Superfine text weight paper - it's about 6.25 by 9.5 inches, a size the paper tears down to. I don't want to cut it and throw away anything. It's a comfortable size for laying on the bed next to me, I can support it with a slightly larger piece of Davey board and clip it together with a space pen. The space pen writes upside down, a feature I don't need often, but it works really well. I know this will bind well because I use the same paper for some of my sketchbooks.


Here are some signatures beside my bed, spread out a bit so you can see the layers, and the Davey board that supports them. I keep extra signatures in my nightstand.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Oops - IFJM becomes Hatching Explorations

I wanted to participate in Roz Stendahl's International Fake Journal Month. If you aren't familiar with IFJM - the idea is to describe to yourself an alternate persona and to journal every day in April as that person. The point, in part, is to side step your internal critic, also to improve or expand in some area. There is a lot of detail at the link. I tore my paper into signatures, planning to do as many as I could and then bind the book at the end of the month. On the first of April I was busy and it slipped my mind. But on the 3rd I started drawing. My plan was to explore hatching, get more content into my drawings, and to include more text on my pages. I didn't have an identity as a different person, but thought one would occur to me as I went along. As the month went by, I wanted to draw in my journal, didn't really think as someone else, did all kinds of hatching experiments. The journal became Hatching Explorations. I guess the persona was me, so it's not really a Fake Journal project. I'm showing a part of my journal. I did include many failures and experiments and some doodley pages. I believe they are important to the process. At the end of this post I will evaluate the project. Images below will enlarge.

Beginning - I was just fooling around, looking at hatching styles, testing pens.

Some inspiration - Mark H. Adams is on Flickr, he posts his work and a lot of photos of himself. Trying to imitate someone else is a good way to learn - almost nothing is as easy as it looks.

Laura Hernandez is on the Sktchy app. I am trying to draw in the style (sort of) of people whose hatching I admire. I'm not showing all those pages - they aren't very interesting. I also looked at Henrik Drescher's drawings and an outsider artist named Foma Jaremtschuk.

Two sketches of Orville from the Sktchy app.

Two sketches of my Dad - from photos.

My Mom on the left and me - from an old photo a friend took. I am mostly doing family members, it's part of a long term possible project.

Two more from photos on Sktchy. I particularly like the one on the right - the wavy lines work well here, he was sitting in a car in the rain when he took the photo. I tried wavy lines again later on a photo of my dad, but it looked like a serious skin condition.

A ballpoint pen experiment. I do like this in many ways.

On the left the wavey lines combined with straight lines are not successful. I do like the one on the right - drawn from an old family photo. I wanted some kind of idiosyncratic hatching. But then I had doubts about it.

My dad again on the left, and at last - a live model! Jim taking a nap.

At this point I am feeling a lot of anxiety over some of the drawings - are they too mannered? Is this what I want? I decide I am over thinking things and do a sketch of a PeeWee Herman doll (from Sktchy) just for fun. Have Fun! Really, it's not that serious.

A very quick sketch, this guy had such a charming face. Again from Sktchy.

And back to the more mannered style of hatching. Outlining the shadow areas sometimes seems too artificial, sometimes I like it very much.

This one struck me as awful when I finished it, but now I do like the eye area. I often end up with a chain link fence effect on chins. I need to monitor myself carefully on chins and noses. Danger Zones!

Back to emulating someone else - trying to imitate Laura Hernandez (from Sktchy) on the left. Jim, my son and I were vacationing on the coast for a few days and maybe I was more relaxed. Which also explains the salt shaker and pine cone on the right - while I had two potential live models, they were getting touchy about me taking photos, I didn't want to press my luck by trying to draw them. It's okay, they are both supportive, and I do understand how tiresome it is to have someone scrutinizing you a lot.

I try the slow build-up of lines again. The lighting was beautiful in this photo, from Sktchy. But I realize I'm not going to spend hours on a sketch. I am too impatient for that. Still I like the lines and love drawing with a pen. So I need a compromise.

Me again - from an old photo. Nearing the end of the month and wondering what I have learned from all this.

My wrap up: I didn't draw with another person's profile. I just started practicing hatching, trying out various approaches. I did realize I can improve with daily practice over the course of a month. I was impressed that I ended up with 31 two page spreads. I was able to stick with this for a month because I was really enjoying what I was doing. I also was surprised at how much progress I made in a month. It pays to chip away at things. I don't pick things up quickly and don't feel I have much natural ability. So there is always a learning curve. But time spent does pay off.

My goals were to improve hatching, find a style I like and incorporate content. I certainly did learn more about hatching. And about my preferences. I do like Andrew Parrish's hatching where he combines outlining with some hatch marks. And I admire Laura Hernandez's hatching. Andrew's is pretty quick, but can look too mannered in my hand. Maybe I can improve that. Laura's looks classical but takes a lot more time. Maybe that could be loosened up some to go faster. Going forward I will try more hatching and try combining hatching with ink washes. I want to use a technique that will work in an artist's book - something that can stand up to some page turning and handling. I also want to work on adding some content, something that didn't happen in April.

Here are some things I already knew about myself, and things I learned in the last month: In general I don't respond well to a regimen dictated by some outside source - either prompts or something like "draw a face every day." But somehow this project worked for me - maybe because I was trying to not judge what I was doing. And not showing many of the drawings to people. A few did go on Sktchy. However I do find it's best for me to keep things private until they are done. I believe one should keep mistakes in sketchbooks. And allow plenty of mistakes to happen. Also doodles, fooling around, all kinds of random things are good - some interesting things come out of them. I will certainly do some kind of "fake" journal again next year, although I didn't really work inside the guidelines this year. Maybe next year that will happen.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Defining Zymoglyphic

People often ask Jim what makes an object suitable for the Zymoglyphic Museum? I don't have a good handle on it myself. About a week ago we were out walking and I found a piece-of-wood-rotten-root-thing that he liked and kept to use in his museum. I often hand him stuff I find, hoping it will meet with his approval. I think about 10% of my finds are accepted. When I handed him the rotten wood and he accepted it, I felt victorious. So I decided I need to document the successes. And maybe some of the failures.

We just came back from a few days in Rockaway Beach. There had been a storm before we arrived so there was a lot of stuff at the high tide line. Below you can see what I found on the beach that Jim thought he might use in the museum - I was doing unusually well for some reason.
There were mole crabs all over the beach, in various states of decay. These were interesting because they still have their digging parts attached.

This is possibly a piece of bamboo. The harder it is to tell what it is, the better Jim likes it.

I think this one was accepted because of it's interesting texture. The piece of bark in Jim's left hand was found by Jim.

This one is very twisty and ambiguous in size. I believe it has already been assembled into something.

I don't remember anything about this.

This chunk of wood was selected because it's potentially a stand - things with holes in them are useful that way. I would have brought this home for myself if Jim didn't take it.

Another with interesting texture.

The appeal of this one mystifies me - it looks like just another chunk of driftwood to me.

There was a large log on the beach with a beautiful pattern. I was amazed when Jim reached for his camera to record it. I had to take a photo. He almost never reaches for his camera.

This is the log texture that Jim couldn't resist.

And finally an end-of-the-day shot. Happy treasure hunting to you all!