Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Mostly Handmade Brushes

handmade brushes Judith Hoffman
1. several feathers 2. large knitting needle 3. paint stick 4. vegetable netting 5. rubber bands 6. nylon string 7. shoe string 8. short cotton string 9. long cotton string 10. gardening twine 11. long green plastic broom straws 12. short tan plastic broom straws 13. tree branches

In this post I will show you some of the handmade brushes I made as part of Jane Davies' Mark Making class, and also the marks some make. See my previous post for a summary of the class. And if you are interested in the question of awkwardness and balance in art, check out the thoughtful comments people left on my last blog post.

There is lots to think about and no one clear answer. 

So now about the brushes (as usual all these images should enlarge):

More brushes to experiment with

Most of these are clearly not handmade but I experimented with them to see what kinds of marks they would make. 1. goat hair brush 2. Fineline applicator 3. chip brush old but fairly clean 4. chip brush all stuck together 5. stencil brush 6. splatter tool 7. silicon basting brush 8. sumie brush 9. dried pine needles 10. moss on a stick.

more handmade brushes
I forgot to include these brushes in the first photo. 1. long pine needles 2. short pine needles 3. pipe cleaner (chenille stick?) 4. three Douglas fir branches tied together. 5. splatter stick from Dick Blick.

I won't post all the tests I did, I have stacks of paper with marks. In general for me, the string and twig brushes make the best marks. I like a brush that holds a fair amount of ink or paint. (I used high flow acrylic paint for my tests - drawing ink would also work). I love the big splats and small splatters most of these brushes make - they are so dynamic. There is also an element of surprise, although practice helps to get marks in the right place, more or less. The main thing I gained from all this testing is to find that I love the process of mark making and I am now more aware of contrasts between marks, shapes, size, etc. Because of this new awaeness, I think this was a worthwhile way to spend a month. There are marks I really like and marks that leave me cold, but none are completely terrible. I am already cutting or tearing up these papers to use bits in collage.

I would definitely encourage you to try this yourself. Reading about these things is not the same as getting down and dirty. All these brushes were made quickly. I figured I could make a more attractive version of the ones I like to use. If you search online there are lots of handmade brushes, some are really beautiful. Ink or high flow acrylics are good for testing. You could also use some water in acrylics. The colors would be less intense, but that might be good. If you post experiments anywhere, I'd love to see them.
Gardening twine - this is fairly absorbent, hard to control the marks but brush-like enough to feel familiar. Would make a big splat if loaded with paint.

Large ball chain - what striking marks. I can't imagine putting these on a drawing, but a torn out piece of this would be good in a collage, maybe in the background of a drawing.
Three Douglas fir branches tied together. These were fresh, very pliable.  The stiffness makes them very nice to scribble with. 
Fresh pine needles. The dried ones fell apart right away. The fresh ones lasted a week then started falling apart. I really like the materials that splay out. They make a nice scratchy mark. This one also held enough paint to make a wonderful splat.

A bundle of sticks. Tied in two places to make a long and short brush. I keep thinking different lengths would make different marks, but they don't make much difference. The sticks are slender so they make a nice scratchy mark, but don't hold a lot of paint.
I will include some commercial brushes because all this mark making inspired me to get out some brushes I have had for years and see what they can do. I love these little sprays of paint, I wanted to test the different sizes. My favorite for texture and size is the scrubbing brush, lower right. Upper left is a splatter tool, I think you can get one at Dick Blick. The toothbrush is an antique - it's flat and makes a nice small splatter.
This is a splatter brush from Dick Blick - it holds a ton of paint and makes a huge splat.  It can also be used like a toothbrush, running your finger across the ends of the brush. Or scrub with it for other marks. A horizontal fling makes a splatter that has a lot of direction.
This goat hair brush is very soft - I bought it for paste papers. I didn't expect it to be interesting because I tend to like stiff brushes, but I do like the wide dry brush marks. When ever I spend a lot on a brush I write the price on it, so I don't do some dumb thing like scrub some paint into coarse paper. (It says $32. goat hair for water based paste. Soak 30 minutes first.)

I can't add a caption to the image above - I just had to include it. The grey swoosh was made with a paint stirring stick on it's side, drug though a little house paint. The ecru drips are house paint drips. This is one of my favorite from the whole month.

Take care, be good. And definitely be well.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Mark Making Class with Jane Davies


Collage as marks experiment. I was trying to keep this awkward and to leave some breathing room.

The main part of the class was using different tools to make a variety of marks and then combining them. There is a class blog we posted to. Jane makes comments on each experiment, guiding us to step out of our comfort zones and encouraging us to be aware of the mark. 

Testing handmade brushes. It's a messy but fun process.

There was also a lesson on making your own brushes. I'm not sure how many I will actually use. However it did make me more aware of the qualities of brush strokes. There are many ways to hold a brush and make a mark with it. I will try to post some of my brushes and tests in a later blog post. Splattering was also fun - I normally use a toothbrush to make stars on a dark background. I hadn't used splattering as another element in a collage, as in the first image above.

Our last lesson was “Collage as Marks.” I thought this would be easy for me. It turned out to be the hardest because I have so many preconceived assumptions about collage. The instruction was to add as much variety as we could and to keep these awkward. I am continually thinking "what would make this better," and "what would be harmonious?" After tossing those thoughts I think "how can I make this awkward?" Still I think it helped me to tune in more to things like differences between shapes, sizes, tones, etc. Hopefully I will become more experimental.

One of my favorites from the collage-as-marks group. Of course it's not awkward. My comment at the bottom: "I can't stop looking at these as composition. This one seems balanced to me. I do like the tiny fling of paint in the middle - maybe too small for the space. But while it doesn't hold together I do like the final version."
Another collage-as-marks test. This one seems all over to me, but none of these are finished, and will most likely ever be finished. My comments on the collages: "This one seems a little better, although I am considering the red and white as a light and a medium combined. I can’t decide if it’s unbalanced. I guess the long piece of map should have been closer to the center. The tan squiggle should be darker than the piece of topo map. But this one seems awkward in the sense that it’s all over and not holding together. That tan squiggle was made with a piece of tire I found on the road. It’s braided and frayed on the ends."

I usually approach my collages intuitively. I never really grasped the lingo of art - especially things like balance and composition. For me, it works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work I start over. That has led to some laziness in my approach. When I was younger I tended to be experimental, now I sometimes think I'm in a rut. Looking at things in a new way will be good. And if I can look at something and think "It needs a small element" that will be a real boon.

One thing Jane mentioned was that I need to decide what "balanced" means to me. I don't know that I could put words on it. Is it a felt thing for most artists? Do you know when something is balanced? It seems lazy to say "I'll know it when I see it," but it does seem like that. Some things make me happy. Do any of you have an opinion?

After I posted the collages above and a few others, Jane suggested I make another 20. I did in fact make 18 more. Below is one of them. Taking scans along the way helps me to see what's working and what's not.

This is from my last group. That's good contrast in size isn't it? I have stacks of painted papers now that are collage-ready. Also some that have paint dribbles and splatters.

Second stage of the previous collage. The grey lines are house paint dribbles. The aqua blue is a large posca marker. 
Third stage - I thought the grey dribbles were too dense so I tried putting white paint on a brayer and rolling that on. The house paint dried so thick the white paint stayed on the top of the grey dribbles for the most part. I'm still not happy but right now I'm loving the little red circles with numbers. I may try more white on the remaining grey lines. It's an interesting effect, but ultimately might just be a trick. 

I am getting very antsy to get back to making finished collages, so I think I'll be putting these aside for awhile. I would highly recommend this class to anyone interested in extending their mark making language.

I imagine almost everyone is aware of Jane Davies - but here are some links. Her website. Jane's favorite materials (the one I look at frequently). Upcoming workshops. 

I hope you are all well and safe. We are well here, and looking forward to spring.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Clamshell box with Andrew Huot


5 x 7 box made in Andrew Huot's clamshell box class.

This class was an amazing eye opener for me. I took a one-day box making class years ago and made a nice box but didn't come away with any confidence that I could repeat it. When my mind wanders for a moment in a class I miss some instruction. And if there is no handout I am even more mystified. I think of myself as being able to learn things from books, but maybe because I'm not totally enthused about making boxes, I haven't been able to pick this up. It does feel like an important skill for any book artist so I have kept trying occasionally over the years. 

end view of clamshell box made in Andrew Huot's class. There is a small measuring error, but the box looks good.

Part of what worked for me in Andrew's class is that we did the boxes in stages, over about 4 weeks. Each step looks very approachable and the instructions were clear. For each step there was a video I could watch multiple times and pdfs to download. I completed the step at my own pace and was ready for the next one. I highly recommend this class if you want to learn box making. I think skills you learn here would easily transfer to other types of boxes. His class is available for the fall at Book Paper Thread. I am also signed up for the Books for Photographers and Printmakers Class in March. That one covers Drum Leaf Binding, and a couple other structures.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Wrap-up of the Hard Sided Wrapper

Hard sided wrapper, made in Andrew Huot class

The last enclosure we made in the Preservation Enclosures class was a hard sided wrapper. So it has the wrapper body,  but with a book board case. It looks great on the shelf and whatever you put inside is well protected. And it's not particularly hard to make.

Hard sided wrapper open

Right now I'm finishing up my next class - Clamshell boxes, also with Andrew Huot. There will be a post about that soon. I highly recommend him as a teacher, he's very good at demo-ing and explaining. He does sometimes teach at FOBA. And his classes will be offered again next year at Book Paper Thread.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

More box making with Andrew Huot

Left: tray to store small bits of collage papers, based on corrugated clamshell box. Right: one tray in place.

I am almost done with the Preservation Enclosures class with Andrew Huot. This class has been more useful than I expected. From the title I thought some enclosures would be good for librarians, and hopefully I would get some ideas for artist's book enclosures. I had seen some enclosures friends made in a class of Andrews, so I had faith it would be a good investment. Most of what we have done has turned out to be potentially very useful. In the last post about this class I mentioned that I could adapt the corrugated clamshell box to make trays for storing collage parts. I have made nine trays so far and am very pleased. In the image above on the right you can see my old funky make-shift system with one new, lovely, perfectly fitting tray in place. (click on all images to enlarge)

Insert in cigar box. I wanted to save time and try the insert without making the box.

We also made two inserts that I think will have a lot of applications. I made the first one, above, in a cigar box to save a little time. But wouldn't it be a nice way to present a small book? A nicely made box would have a lot of presence displayed in a show, and would make a good enclosure for storage. Or of course if you have a box appropriate for the book subject, an insert like this would be perfect. Small books often disappear in a show in a large room. Maybe the book could stand up on the open box somehow? 

Insert in corrugated clamshell box.

This second insert also has potential. It occurs to me that you could present an interesting object in the insert area, place it higher in the box, and leave a space below to house an artist's book. It's also faster to make, so a good choice if you want to find a safe way to store something.

Soft sided slip case - holding a set of paper sample booklets.

We also made a soft-sided slip-case. It was pretty quick and good for holding a set of paper sample books. I have stacks of them and they tend to be in a messy pile. Mine is a little funky, but you get the idea.

Next week we will make a wrapper with a hard case. I know this will be useful. Then the class is done, but in the meantime I am starting the Clamshell Box class with Andrew. I know this one will be harder, but undeniably useful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

 I have been drawing most days for Inktober. I am also taking the Preservation Enclosures class I mentioned in my last post. Next week I will start a Clamshell box class, also with Andrew Huot. Below is a little photo essay of some of my Inktober drawings. They are all on the architect's tracing paper that I use in collage. You can see I don't keep a perfect, beautiful sketchbook. I try out ideas and experiment with things that pop into my head. I decided I needed a hard cover, that's the first photo. Because I am going to take the sketchbook apart when it's full (and use the drawings for collage)  I quickly made a temporary cover that holds the sheaf of tracing paper in place with a piece of elastic. Then I can slip another sheaf of papers in there.

sketchbook with architect's tracing paper. Judith Hoffman
Hard cover for tracing paper sketchbook made with binder's board and book tape. Judith Hoffman

sketchbook with architect's tracing paper. Judith Hoffman
Sketchbook, tests, textures. Judith Hoffman

sketchbook with architect's tracing paper. Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook, patterns and doodles. Judith Hoffman

Inktober sketchbook Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook, doodles, tests, patterns. Judith Hoffman

Inktober sketchbook. Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook, various faces and patterns. Judith Hoffman

Inktober sketchbook, center spread showing how it was assembled. Judith Hoffman
Center spread - testing various transparent acrylics. 

Inktober sketchbook. Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook, faces and patterns.

Inktober sketchbook. Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook. I like the layered shadows.

Inktober sketchbook and cat. Judith Hoffman
Inktober sketchbook and cat. Everyone's a critic. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Box making class with Andrew Huot

I over committed this month. I am doing Inktober, and also taking an online class, Preservation Enclosures, with Andrew Huot through Book Paper Thread. The website says the class will be offered again in 2021. I'm half way through the class. To start we did two kinds of wrappers and a soft sided slip case. Below is one of the wrappers and the slipcase.

Self-closing wrapper and soft sided slipcase, from Andrew Huot's class, Preservation Enclosures

Then we did a corrugated clamshell box. This was much easier than I expected. These are mainly intended as preservation enclosures, as the class title says. But there are other applications. I can easily modify the clamshell box to be a tray for storage of collage parts. The materials are already ordered.

Corrugated clamshell box, from Andrew Huot's class, Preservation Enclosures

Andrew is a good teacher. He is clear and explains what he's doing plus there are handouts. I learn so much better when I can watch someone go through the process. I have not taken any formal book arts classes. I did do one intense workshop years ago with Shereen LaPlantz which was good. And of course I watch videos online. But everyone has different ways of working and I don't absorb everything the first time around. This time I have learned stuff about gluing and measuring, aside from the box techniques. Being able to go back and watch the video multiple times is helpful. The one good thing about Covid is that there is so much online now. Andrew has taught at FOBA, and I had planned to go out there next time he was teaching. But this is much better for me. I don't travel well and it's exhausting and stressful. 

These are hard times for everyone. I often feel stressed and anxious about the future. Having something to do that takes my mind off all that for awhile has been helpful. I hope you are finding this break from normal life productive, or at least not too stressful. I know some people are busier than ever, and others are at loose ends. Which ever it is, I send you my best wishes.