Thursday, July 08, 2021

My pasta machine can do that?


pasta machine prints Judith Hoffman
My first pasta machine prints

Above are the prints I made during the class I took from Bettina Pauly with the Jaffe Center for the Book Arts. (All images enlarge) This was a good introductory class. I was able to get familiar with all the basics and gain some confidence. I really thought I would hate printmaking, but I like any low tech approach so I gave it a try. The image on the upper left was done with a milk carton, the others are all tetrapak prints. The print on the lower right was done during the last class, I was doodling on a piece of Tetrapak. You can see the folds and a hole for the spout.

The Tetrapak is a carton made with layers of cardboard, thin foil and plastic. I get my soy milk in one. You might also have juice cartons or broth in one. They all say "Tetrapak" on the bottom. Ordinary milk cartons also work. I think you can only get five to ten prints from these flimsy cartons. Some people use Akua plates which are a fairly thin plastic, they might yield up to 20 prints.

texture tests from pasta machine printing Judith Hoffman
These are texture tests on Tetrapak.

I am so excited about the pasta machine printing I decided to sign up for another class. This one is from Sally Hirst. It's a self-paced class. Above are texture tests, made by painting various mediums and white acrylic paint on the Tetrapak. Coarse mediums hold ink and print dark, the white paint (any acrylic paint) dries glossy and repels the ink, so print white. 

Splattered textures for pasta machine printing
Two of my favorite textures made by splattering PVA and mat medium. 

These textures were made by splattering PVA and mat medium with a toothbrush and a spattering tool from Dick Blick. I can't find it at their website. It's number six in the second photo on my mark making blog post. The splattering tool was used for the top test, it made bigger splats which show better. But the smaller spray is a nice grey tone.

Pasta machine on it's side for printing
To make things easier, I took the base off my pasta machine and laid it on it's side. then clamped it to the table. The books make a horizontal bed to support the materials as they go through. 

Pasta machine with improvised bed for printing
Here's the pasta machine with the plate and whatever that part is that's underneath - a sheet of 22 gauge brass. Anything stiff but thin would work.

To make a pasta machine print you sandwich together chip board, scrap paper, your plate and paper and felt. It has to bend a little to come out of the bottom of the pasta maker. To make things easier, I took the base off my pasta machine and laid it on it's side. then clamped it to the table. The books make a horizontal bed to support the materials as they go through. There are videos online to do this, but I can't find them right now. Not all pasta machines can be easily taken apart. Mine had four screws in the bottom, taking those out released the base. This lets me use a stiffer plate to print and makes it easier to feed things through. I can also print long things easily. I am still limited to a fairly narrow opening - around 5 1/4 inches wide. My set-up from the bottom up is: 22 gauge brass. a sheet of chip board, a piece of newsprint, the plate (usually a piece of tetrapak), A piece of damp Stonehenge printmaking paper, another piece of newsprint, two pieces of wool felt. I have tried mulberry paper and Kitikata. Thinner papers of course need more newsprint layers. The newsprint protects the felt and chip board from getting inky. Actually the lower piece gets interesting ink marks on it (you can see them in the photo above), I may switch to slightly nicer paper for that so I can use it for collage.

mucky bottom after pasta machine print
The back of two tetrapak plates and their impressions on scrap paper. The box creases and the label printed nicely

Some people print with a Sizzix Big Shot Plus or an Xcut Xpress die cutting machines. I am seriously thinking I may get a Sizzix. Apparently the Xcut machines are hard to find. The advantage would be a wider bed and a taller space to put the plate through. 

Summer is half over here and I keep meaning to set up a table outside to make paste papers. There are so many things I would like to do. I need a schedule with deadlines. I hope you are all well, some people here are not wearing masks, but I am still masking up indoors with strangers.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pasta maker and tetrapak printing


tetrapak plate, two prints on Stonehenge and Kitikata papers

Well, this is exciting. I have been playing with the pasta maker printing and I think it's working. It's very hot so my ink gets thick and hard to wipe in less than a minute. I'm using Blick waterproof block printing ink. However, I think the light print from the last post was due to not rubbing the ink into the incised lines. I like almost everything about these prints. The Kitikata works nicely, thanks to Aine Scannell for that suggestion. I need to learn to keep my hands clean, but progress is being made. And I realized the Tetra pak plates are so easy to come by, I can draw blind contours on them and choose the one I want to add hatching and details to. 

I guess people in hotter areas would not be impressed by our heat, but today it's supposed to be 113 degrees. Right now, 6 pm, it's 108 here. I don't think we will get much hotter, but that's enough. Tomorrow it will be much cooler. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Another day, another workshop

Intaglio test print judith hoffman
Test print, Tetra Pak plate

 I resolved weeks ago to not take anymore workshops. It takes time to experiment with new techniques and for things to sink in. Then I saw a post about a pasta machine printing workshop at the Jaffe  Center for the Book Arts.  I signed up, of course. It's something I had been curious about. Right now we seem to have a bounty of online workshops. I hope they never end, but they might, when the virus is under control. The first class was instructions and demos. We have a week to practice, then we meet again next Tuesday. The instructions were clear and the examples Bettina showed us were inspiring. 

Above is my third or fourth print, the plate is a piece of Tetra Pak. I traced a recent drawing and transferred it to the plate. I need to go over some lines, they should be deeper. Or maybe I didn't ink the plate correctly? The beauty of Tetra Pak plates is that they are free. I can sit and draw blind contours on them without tracing or planning and then work more on the ones I like.

Intaglio test print judith hoffman
Milk carton and Tetra Pak plates, first print and ghost.

Above are my first prints - they came out amazingly well. The ink seemed almost too wet and my ghost prints are very faint. But I am pleased with the first prints. That was yesterday. I thought this would be easy. Today the Tetra Pak plate didn't print so well, and the same ink was thick on the plate. When I tried to wipe it off it didn't want to move. I ended up taking a slightly damp piece of tissue paper and wiping most of the ink away. Then I had to use the ball of my thumb to smooth out the streaky marks. This will take some practice.

And of course there is another workshop on the horizon. It's Seeded Notebook with Henrik Drescher. I have admired his drawing style for years and years. A chance to watch him work in a sketchbook is very alluring. Check out the short video, it's a simple idea. But the second half of the class is watching Henrik work. And it will be a way to use all the cast-off prints I am making right now.

I'm looking for suggestions for a thin paper that would be good for printmaking, but also would be good for collage. Any ideas?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Artist Book: Seeing and Seen


Seeing and Seen Artist Book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen, front and back cover. 2.5 x 3 inches, artist book by Judith Hoffman

Seeing and Seen Artist Book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen, pp 1 and 2

Before the book I want to tell you Feedburner is going away. If you are getting email notification when I post a new blog entry, that will end in July. I have downloaded the email addresses from Blogger and will send you an email when a new blog post is out. If you want me to email you directly, you can let me know at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom. Of course change the capital letters to the appropriate symbol. That is a "z" as in zebra. I will also announce new blog posts on my Facebook pages and my Instagram. I have two Facebook pages - I prefer to use the personal one but I will keep posting notifications on my "business" page also. Please note - you can't count on Facebook showing you my posts. It may help if you add my feed to your favorites. My Instagram gets more love than my Facebook page, but not many reposts. 

I made this book in 2020 and apparently never took photos or posted about it. Images should enlarge.

I am happy spending most of my time alone, but during the pandemic I realized how important it is for me to spend some time with my friends. I want to see them, to understand them in their complexity (or at least try) and to be seen by them.

Seeing and Seen, Artist book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen artist book pp 5 and 6

My art energy was on pause last year, but one thing I did was look through old, unfinished projects.

2.5 x 3 inch painting/collage tests Judith Hoffman
2.5 x 3 inch old painting/collage tests, sanded to be glued back to back

Among many other things, I found a stack of small mixed media collage experiments on 300 pound watercolor paper. I love small! And because the paper was already used, I didn't feel bad making some experimental collages on the back sides. Above you see the old painting experiments, sanded before gluing them back to back with PVA. They did get interesting didn't they? Sanding turns out to be an awesome technique.

Seen and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman pp 7 and 8

I started the experiments by collaging found images that reflected my scattered mind. Then I added drawings of faces to the results. The drawings are on architect's tracing paper, which is fairly transparent.

Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman pp 9 and 10

As some of the collages came together I spread them on my work table and made pairs of pages. I realized some of the people in the images were trying to connect with each other.

Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman pp 3 and 4

Some looked away, connections were not made. But a few were able to see each other and make contact. 

Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman
Seeing and Seen artist book by Judith Hoffman pp 11 and 12

To assemble the pages I glued the collages back to back. I drilled small holes in each page and bound them with Keith Smith's singe sheet binding method. The original paintings are not seen, except for a small bit around the edges which you can see that most clearly in the first photo of the front and back cover.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Drumleaf Binding with Andrew Huot

I recently took a class with Andrew Huot called "Binding for photographers and printmakers." The title should have given me a clue - maybe work that isn't flat would not work so well in these bindings. But I wanted to learn drum leaf binding. My fantasy is to lay a group of two page spreads (a piece of paper folded in half) on my work table and work on them with collage and paint. Then choose the ones that work together, and glue them back to back. I don't want to have to make art on the back of any of these pages. If you enlarge this image you can see gaps between the pages in the overhead view. There is room for notes - I slipped a piece of paper with comments in between two pages. 

Drumleaf binding, mark making samples

The book above does not close completely. There is thin collage and a fair amount of paint on some of the pages. And all pages bow out a little. It's made with Stonehenge and does feel very nice in my hand. The content is mark making experiments I did in a class with Jane Davies. There is a video of this book on my Instagram account, judehoffperson

Double folio accord with one misplaced page.

Above is my sample for the Double Folio Accordion book. One of my pages is out of order, creating a page where there shouldn't be one. This format is also made with sheets folded in half, it satisfies my requirement of being able to work on a group of pages out flat, then gluing them together. It wouldn't close flat with collage or paint on the pages, but maybe I can accept that.

The other problem with both these books is that they are presented with straight cuts to make them look tidy. One reason I love coptic binding is that I can have torn page edges. Would a tidy straight edge look out of place with my books? Does it matter if they are wonky? Maybe not. Maybe wonky across the top and on the fore edge is okay. Maybe torn edges would be okay too. I'll have to try that. Except of course on the folds of the accordion. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

How many unfinished projects do you have?

Unfinished artist's books. Titled "Heaven, Hell My Sketchbook" and "Egypt" by Judith Hoffman

A friend is doing some kind of finishing projects challenge. She has talked about it several times and we decided to each bring an unfinished project to our next zoom meeting. I have been cleaning so I put the ones I could easily find on my work table, side by side. There are at least these 6, and possibly many more, depending on how you count. Some must be at least 15 years old. I have one somewhere that goes back to the late 80's, luckily I'm not sure where it is. I started taking photos of some, thinking maybe a different view would help me decide. Or I might even decide to toss it. It can be healthy to let go of that old stuff, right?

The two above are still interesting to me. They pose painting problems. I'm not really a painter so I have doubts and tend to fumble around as I work, but I am happy with most of my progress so far. 

"Heaven, Hell, my Sketchbook" A favorite pair of pages.

Just after I wrote the last paragraph I listened to a Learning to Paint podcast with Jane Davies as the interviewee. She says she never forces herself to finish something. She feels it will look forced. I am thinking about that - is it worth the anguish? Using the word "anguish" doesn't make it seem desirable. Maybe I have gotten enough out of those projects already. I did learn stuff,  it was probably a step forward in some way. By the way, I highly recommend that podcast. The one with Jane Davies is very good. Many of the others are interesting.

Egypt an unfinished artist's book by Judith Hoffman. I like the folding lawn chair. I just might be seeing a red theme here.
A group of handmade journals I haven't worked in.

This group is journals, intended to be for fooling around, not finished art. Two are made from scrap papers, some pages were the paper on my table that I wiped brushes on, or scribbled on to get things going. One has small amounts of paint or collage to break up the white. One is blank. So they do present a different aspect. I don't have to finish every page, I can skip around and just play. They are intended for fun and experimentation. But I made them around three years ago and haven't worked in them since. Should I push myself a little?

These mostly white pages would be easy to draw in.

Some interiors are old scrap papers used for testing paint or to cover my work area. They will be harder to work with. This is the only page I have done anything with. 

I also have at least 10 stacks of prepared pages, intended to be books. Some have been eco-dyed, some are painted, some have a little collage on them. Or all of the above. I have some cut out collage material and one finished page for a book. And several models for a pop-up book that isn't right. I'm sure there is more, but I don't want to look deeper. I did end up throwing one project away - it's so old and different from how I work now I can't possibly start it up again. And it did feel good.

Do you have many unfinished projects? What is your relationship with them? Do you still love them and want to get back to them? Or are you hiding them in the closet, hoping they will fall through a hole in the floor?

It's spring here and very beautiful. As always, stay as well as you can, be as happy as you can. 

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.