Sunday, May 15, 2022

More tests with pen, ink and matte medium

I worry about the unknowable future. A scan from a book that's almost finished. Collage on eco-dyed paper

Last year I suggested d'Atramentis inks for drawing because I was finding them to be waterproof. Recently I have been having more bleeding when I collage drawings down with matte medium. I am not sure what's going on, it may be that I'm using a different architect's tracing paper. I did use up a roll recently. Unfortunately I don't know what the brand was. 

So now I'm trying to find new ways to seal the drawings before collaging them down. I apply matte medium to the back of the image and the substrate, then lay on the drawing. I coat the top of the collage with matte medium, pressing the collage down with the brush. I smooth it out with my finger and wipe away excess matte medium.

Of course I don't want the image to smear as I brush on matte medium or wipe away excess. Talking to my critique group recently about this, they suggested I try varnish or shellac. And then I saw a mention online of applying matte medium to a gelli plate and pressing the collage material on to that. Varnish is thinned with mineral spirits, very bad for lungs, so that's my last resort. Shellac is thinned with alcohol. I don't know if a small amount would be bad, but I do keep the windows open. If I'm using it a lot I set up a fan to pull out air. Matte medium is acrylic, and so for most people maybe not bad to breathe. 

Testing shellac to seal a drawing before collaging.

Above is the shellac test - It's a brown d'Atramentis ink sketch on architect's tracing paper. I sealed it with a thin coat of Zinsser shellac, thinned with 91% alcohol about 3 to 1, alcohol to shellac. 91% alcohol is  apparently flammable. People online say you shouldn't thin shellac with 70% alcohol, there is too much water. I haven't tested that. At this dilution the shellac doesn't change the color of the tracing paper. Undiluted it has a warm yellow color which is very nice when brushed onto paper to make it look old. I let it dry for 3 or 4 days. Then I collaged the sketch in my usual way. The ink does not bleed at all while brushing on shellac or while collaging it. I like the smell of the shellac, but don't know if it's bad to breathe. 

Above is a test with black d'Atramentis ink and a color print from my Epson printer, which uses the Ultrachrome K3 inks. A thin coat of Golden matte medium was applied to both images using the gelli plate. I rolled the matte medium onto the plate, then smoothed on the drawing and peeled it off. It dries pretty fast - in a matter of minutes in my 40% humidity studio. After collaging the images down I rubbed fairly hard on selected areas. There may be a tiny smear at the top of the drawing. And definitely one on the head of the skeleton. (the image will enlarge) But gentle rubbing doesn't produce smears.

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

My hubris bites me in the rear

Judith Hoffman web site at
My shiny new web site at

Many years ago the software I used to make my original web site got eaten up by Adobe and then stopped working under new operating systems. I couldn't add pages or edit. Several years ago I said I could whip out a new web site with Dreamweaver. Easy peasy I thought. And Bob's your uncle. And other simplistic thoughts. I got a basic skeleton together and then a bunch of other stuff happened, I didn't work on the web site. It has been chaotic around here for years, but that's not a good excuse. I just didn't work on the web site. I did finally decide I had to finish it or give up on it. So here it is, updated, larger images, fairly easy for me to add to. I will be tweaking it for awhile, but the new url has been active for years. I was worried persistent people would find it in a search and think I had no viable web presence. A main page and 6 images with bad links is not a good look. 

previous web site Judith Hoffman artist's books
My previous web site, at It served me well for years. I am tired of the color though.

Note the new url is .art. So it's The old site is still here at Soon I will transfer all the new stuff over. So both urls will work, they will look the same and both be up-to-date. The .art site is sort of a vanity I guess. It seems like the appropriate url for an artist, but is redundant for me. Still I feel extremely pleased to have it.

I have made some changes. The organization is different. I may leave out some of the metal work since I'm not doing that anymore. The Open Studios pages might go, I'm not doing that now. Maybe I will in the future? I  am waffling on keeping the tutorials - most aren't very relevant any more. I do rather like the pinhole camera tutorial though. I'm also waffling on whether or not I should add a section for the drawings. Since some of my drawings go into books, I don't think of my drawings as finished art. But many will never be in books. And I am pleased with some of them.

The best part of doing this - other than learning a little html and CSS - is that while looking at the photos and thinking about how and why I made this stuff, I am inspired to make so many new things. Most will probably not become reality, but it's so nice to see that some of my old projects still have life in them.

Note: The little gadget at the right where you put your email address to subscribe is possibly not working any more. It was supposed to be discontinued last year, but as of January it worked for me. If you want to be sure to be subscribed, email me a judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom. I will send a notification only when I post, I won't share your email address.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

My book is purchased by McCabe Library at Swarthmore Collage

Life is short, suddenly it's over. Try to be present every day. 

I am so pleased to tell you my book, In Which Our Main Character Has a Revelation of Wonderment, has been purchased by the McCabe Library. I'm sure every artist is delighted when their work goes somewhere where it will be appreciated. I am no different. The book was purchased out of the Philadelphia Center for the Book exhibit, Looking Out/Looking In.

As part of the PCBA exhibit, Looking Out/Looking In, they now have a walk through video on YouTube. You can see it here. In the video you can see the library setting, and of course the books. It looks like a very nice space and a wonderful show.

There is also an online exhibit here, that has all the work in the show. It was a hybrid show, most of the work was exhibited in the library, because of size limitations a few pieces are online only.

Spectacles for Viewing Christmas on Mars free download - make your own pair

On my web site I have a pdf pattern you can download and make a pair of these spectacles. There is also a slip case and a plain pair you could use as a pattern to decorate your own. These have been around ten years. I think it's time for a new pair. 

The holidays are almost here. However you celebrate, I hope you have some time with people you love. This can be a hard time of the year. I am missing people who can't be here. If you are missing people and feel alone, when everyone is so jolly, you are not alone. I think under the jolliness, many people are feeling sad. I have no smart advice for you, but I hope you can find some time to enjoy the holidays and reasons to be glad to be alive. 

Saturday, December 04, 2021

A finished book

Where are they now, Artist book by Judith Hoffman, paper, collage, paint
Where are they now? by Judith Hoffman, drum leaf accordion, Arches cover paper, collage, paint, ink. About 3 x 4 inches.

It's the same old story - I had a dozen pages left from a book I made years ago. I wanted to use them, and started playing with some mark making and collage. The dozen collaged pages seemed to divide into two themes, so two books. But I needed to make more pages so I could finish each book. I ended up making about 30 more pages. Both books are experiments with family photos. The photos are scanned and printed on an Epson SC-P700 printer, so it's supposed to be good ink.

Where are they now? Artist book Arches cover, collage, paint, ink by Judith Hoffman
Where are they now? First half of drum leaf accordion fold book.

Here is the first book - Where are they now? The other book is finished, but I have no photos to show you. I had to put my photo set up away last week to have some work done in the basement. They didn't show up, now they are coming next week. It's an odd coincidence that the title of this book fits the current problem with scheduling workers. Note: all photos will enlarge.

Artist book made of Arches Cover, collage, paint, ink by Judith Hoffman
Where are they now? Second half of drum leaf accordion fold book by Judith Hoffman

I am hugely enjoying the drum leaf accordion construction. I learned it from Andrew Huot earlier this year in an online class from Book Paper Thread called Books for Photographers and Printmakers. He is also teaching at FOBA this summer.

I will include some knitting news here - read on if you are so inclined. I needed some fingerless gloves for my cold hands. Looking through my yarn I found some almost finished ones I started years ago using yarn I spun myself. It's a thrill to spin yarn and then make something. As I finished knitting the gloves I got the urge to spin again. So another project has begun.

Finished fingerless mitts. Unknown fleece, sort of sock weight, chain plyed.

I never was that good at spinning, what I used to know has come back to me. Also all that I don't know. There are some good classes at Craftsy.

Mistakes and all here are some singles, the fleece is End of Innocence from Into the Whirled. It's lovely fleece.

See those tails sticking out of the singles on the left? Those are all mistakes. They may straighten out when I ply. Still it is relaxing most of the time. And I am delighted to be making yarn.

I hope you are doing well, keeping safe, and getting your booster. These are difficult times, it's good to find things to occupy your mind, other than the news. Thanks for reading and take care. 


Friday, October 29, 2021

Pens, Inks and Drawing in Inktober 2021

Blind contour drawing - that's me, but it doesn't look like me, thanks to the blind contour.

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October is Inktober - a month when many people who are nuts about drawing with pen and ink, or brush, or markers, challenge themselves to do a drawing a day. This seems like a good time for a post on pen and ink drawing. I will intersperse a few of my drawings from this month.

Blind contour and hatching. 

The main time I draw is in the evening, sitting with a cat on my lap and a cup of tea. I don't want ink that can spill, so fountain pens are ideal. I need ink that is water proof so I can use my drawings for collage. I prefer to refill a fountain pen instead of buying a new one, or buying plastic cartridges. And you can mix inks in the same brand to get a wide variety of colors. I often use black or brown, so I'm not sure this is a big deal to me. But I want options.

Judith Hoffman blind contour with added hatching

I have finally settled on De Atramentis Document Inks. Jane Blundell's posts about fountain pen inks are very helpful, this is where I first learned about the De Atramentis inks. This seems to be her most recent post, it includes links to previous posts. Note the Document inks are the ones that dry waterproof. They are changing their bottles and name, the newer Artist Inks are the same formula.

Couldn't find my pen, I really like the weird bottle shapes.

Many fountain pen inks will bleed when wet media is applied over them. The De Atramentis Document inks have been waterproof for me with a few exceptions. My usual method is to draw directly on the substrate - which is usually collage held down with Golden Matte Medium, or to draw on architect's tracing paper, and then use that as collage material. Either way the drawing ink needs to be waterproof.  The De Atramentis Inks work great. The one exception is their white, which seems to be made in a different way. It will settle in the pen. You need to shake the pen a bit and scribble on scrap paper to get it going. The white sometimes smears a bit when I am collaging, especially when I have drawn on a layer of acrylic paint. When applied to the architect's tracing, it smears a tiny bit where it is very thick but works well all in all. I try to just paint over the collaged paper with the matte medium, then squeegee off excess with a rib squeegee. I don't work over the same area multiple times.

Blind contour with hatching, Inktober 2021

In the last 5 years I have tried a number of inexpensive fountain pens. Now I am using what pen nerds might call an affordable fountain pen, but to me it is fairly expensive. It's the Twisbi Eco, $35.50 at JetPens. I switched to the Eco because the ink in the nib doesn't dry out. I can lose a pen for weeks, find it under my chair, and start drawing right away. There is a piston filler that works well, but you have to be careful not to twist the knob at the end of the pen when there is ink in it. If you do, ink will leak out. 

Insomnia. Inktober 2021.

I get most of my pens and inks from JetPens. They have a number of short videos explaining and demonstrating paper, pens and inks. Here is an article about fountain pen nibs. Another place that has been a good source is the Goulet Pen Company. They have the De Atramentis Document White. I haven't used them as much as JetPens, but have been happy with both places. Please Note: I am not affiliated with JetPens or Goulet Pens in anyway, I just want to suggest places I have found to be reliable. Both are in the US.

Strange rabbit from Svankmeyer's Alice. I like to experiment with hatching styles.

Some business: Blogger says they are no longer going to use the feed burner subscription widget thing. I do still see the sign up to get on my mailing list on my blog. I have been resisting signing up with another company because I am so tired of privacy issues. I feel if you give them your email address you are in for something unseen. And companies end up getting hacked and information is stolen. So I am making my own subscriber list, and sending out reminders when I post a new blog post. For now feed burner seems to still be working, or at least I get notifications when I post. It was supposed to have stopped in August. I have no idea what will happen, but if you want to be sure to be notified of new blog posts, email me at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom. You can unsubscribe at anytime, just send me an email. I don't want to send spam to your inbox.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Sending two books to the Philadelphia Center for the Book exhibit

Stolen Shadows by Judith Hoffman is on its way to the Looking Out/Looking in exhibit at the Philadelphia Center for the Book.

I am delighted to say I just sent Stolen Shadows and In Which Our Main Character Has a Moment of Wonderment to the Looking Out/Looking In exhibit at the Philadelphia Center for the Book. I haven't accomplished much in the last few years so it's nice to be able to share something with other artists and people in general. There will be a Zoom artist's talk on November 3rd. You need to register at the PCB website to attend. The exhibit can be viewed in person at Swarthmore's McCabe Library October 23rd to December 5th. It can also be viewed online beginning October 22nd at the Looking Out/Looking In exhibition page

Sunday, October 10, 2021

In Which Our Main Character Has a Revelation of Wonderment


In Which Our Main Character Has a Revelation of Wonderment, 2019, 5.75 x 4 x 1 inch. Materials: Eco dyed Bagasse paper, eco dyed linen thread, architect’s tracing paper, found papers, acrylic paint, ink. Techniques: eco dying, collage, drawing, rubber stamping. I took good photos a few months after finishing this, and then forgot to post them anywhere, so here they are at last.


I have had a few moments in my life when I felt connected to the universe, as if I could see everything all at once, and it all made sense. We can all have those moments, where we feel joy and are free from our daily worries and routine. It is, in a way, looking out at the world, seeing the beauty and reality without the overlay of our worries. But it's also looking in, seeing and feeling the space inside. I'm not saying life is always wonderful, because it's not. But allowing space for the good moments is important.

I enjoy the collage mixed with drawings, rubber stamping and the eco dyed marks. As I work I become absorbed in some internal story. On this page Benjamin Franklin is studying a huge moon. There had to be a small building to delineate the earth, and in the end I added a large stamp of a bird to have a weird change in sizes.

The pages are so wonky from the eco dye process it's hard to photograph the book. They also spring open however they want to.

When she saw this page, my friend Elise said "He is hoeing the earth and the mountains are growing. 

Here an amazing thing is happening just behind the photographer. He's so absorbed in his flower he doesn't notice.

Our life can be so amazing, and then suddenly it's over.