Thursday, October 06, 2022

Are you curious about critique groups?

Run-Run collage from artists book by Judith Hoffman
A page from my recent in-progress book, running figures that needed faces.

Years ago when I mentioned critique groups to a friend she said “oh, no! I’m not interested in brutal criticism.” But that’s not what I’m talking about. In the groups I have been in people make suggestions, give feedback and say what they like. They don't attack. A critique is a way to hear what other people see in your work. After working on something for weeks or months, I can’t see it clearly any more. I often come to dislike whatever it is and I only see the flaws. If my critique group likes something I don’t, I reconsider. If they think something isn’t right, I also reconsider. I don’t feel bound to go with their ideas but many of their suggestions are useful. 

Here are some examples of suggestions and benefits: 

1. Don observes that most of my stuff is wonky (in a good way). I loved that and try to get that to happen now. I'm actually not sure I do, but it's a goal.

2. I have a few silhouettes in my most recent book. One has a face, the others do not. Linda (instagram) says “put a face on it.” I try it with tracing paper and think it’s a great idea. So I add faces. 

3. Rae (Etsy) says I have a sense of humor in my books. I think I do, but don't expect others to get it. So I’m delighted.

4. Karen (Instagram) likes my "borders - not borders." These kinds of comments are helpful. I feel a lot of doubt about many things. And thinking of them as bordering on borders is helpfu. I can break more rules, even if they are rules I made for myself.

5. I was writing layers of text on book pages - several sentences on top of each other. L. suggested I blow them up and use them as collage material. I tried this but it didn't work. They look too fuzzy to me.

6. There have also been practical suggestions, sealing drawings with shellac is one I loved.

7. I am fascinated by the creative process. Not the art mumbo-jumbo about Post Modern blah-blah, but how people think, what they struggle with and what comes easily. I get to see this in the group.

8. The meetings are a mini-deadline for me. I want to have some kind of progress to show so I put in a little extra effort when I can. We also have good conversations about creativity and life in general. At the end of our meetings I feel inspired.

There are lots more examples, these just spring to mind.

Sometimes people have suggestions that don’t work out, or that don’t appeal to me. They understand if I don’t take their advice. They may not take my advice, I understand that too. I do the same thing with Jim. We offer each other advice about our projects but it’s fine to ignore it. I also get feedback from a few friends. These trusted eyes are very helpful. It’s important to me that the people I show my work-in-progress know me and know more or less where I want to go with the project. They are people I know and like and trust to be thoughtful in their comments. I like their projects and how they think. If I'm going to open myself up for criticism, some kind of connection is important to me. It's very hard to find that. Covid ruined some of my good feedback. Hopefully that will eventually not be an issue.

Do you have a good source of critique and feedback? Does it work for you?

On the blog notifications - I made a mistake. Apparently if you were signed up for notifications before Blogger changed their widgets, you will still be notified. I didn't read the email from Blogger very carefully. Some of you are getting two notifications. Feel free to tell me to stop emailing you at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom. 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

A new kind of dip pen

Kakimori dip pen test. I dipped the nib twice to get all these doodles. That's a lot of ink!

 Recently I saw a post on Jane Blundell's blog about a new dip pen. Of course I had to buy one. It came this week and I have played with it a bit. I do like it. I would say it's equivalent to a US medium. In the detail photo you can see the tip is not sharp. There is a stainless steel version that is supposed to be slightly finer. One of its strong points is the amount of ink it holds. I used sumi ink for my test. It seemed to cake up in the grooves after a few dips. Maybe my technique wasn't good. It was very easy to clean with a soft toothbrush. Later I tried Golden hi-flow acrylic. That worked well. Either could be diluted a bit with water. 

Isn't that interesting! A completely new design. There are parallel grooves all around the barrel to hold the ink. 

I paid around $35. at Wet Paint, but ordered some other stuff, so didn't pay shipping. Prices in the US are going up. The best price might be ordering from Japan with some friends, it seems the price is better from Kakimori. They also have nice nib holders, but to save a bit I think a good nib holder would be the Tachikawa. They are pretty easy to find. And they have a plastic cap that protects the nib. It's what I'm using.

Life and Art

Magnificent book shelves installed 6 years ago. They were a long time dream. The ones left of the fireplace were Jim's, most of his books went into his museum. The others were all mine, with books below and toy cameras on the top two shelves. They were lovely.

At the end of this post is a little note about subscribing to my blog.

I normally don't post about the complications of just being alive.  But of course they do have a bearing on art making, especially for people who don't have wives to manage things. There are many things going on at our house, the most stressful is mold remediation. I have been having migraines for almost three years. It took two years to find the source, some mold under a built-in cabinet in the basement. Now we're preparing for remediation.  Part of the process is disposing of all porous things that can't be cleaned. I had to part with most of my books - Jim estimates there were one thousand. I did do a lot of research and found it was best to get rid of them. The ones I'm keeping will be in storage for two years, giving my reaction time to decline.  Many were art related in some way, although I had two shelves of books I intended to read "some day." I have an irrational fear of waking in the middle of the night and not having anything interesting to read. I kept about one tenth of the total. But have added to my library since, mostly replacing some that I could buy used. But of course buying new books too. All recently acquired books go into the safe part of the house.

This summer, the shelves are almost empty again. The toy cameras will go into storage too. Many have cardboard parts.

There are other family things happening, some are very good. But it all takes time and energy to deal with, and it's all important to me. Sometimes I feel art is on the back burner. I mostly keep the weekends for art, but when Friday afternoon rolls round I find I have lost touch with what I'm working on. Still I usually can get some momentum by the end of the day Saturday. Just playing with the materials helps a lot. I also keep telling myself I don't have to finish anything. 

I recently heard an artist say it doesn't matter if she leaves something for prosperity. What matters is the process and living life to the fullest now. I agree with that more and more. Unfortunately I don't remember who said this brilliant thing. Very possibly one of the presenters on the Art Juice podcast.

The ongoing challenge is to find a way to stay connected with creativity while I am doing other things. 

I made a mistake when I read the Blogger message about subscriptions. I thought they were not providing subscription notifications any more. It turns out if you were signed up before they turned that function off, you will continue to receive notices. You may be getting two notifications, one from me and one from Blogger. Don't hesitate to ask me to remove you from the list. I am sorry for the confusion. And if you would like to be notified of new blog posts, email me at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom. Note: that is a "z" not a "2."

If you are following other blogs you might find Feedly useful. It's an app that works on iPads and iPhones. I don't know about Android.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

The allure of photographing other worlds

pinhole photos on color film chairs and window Judith Hoffman
Pinhole photo taken with matchbox camera on color film.

While working on my web site I have been looking through pinhole photos I have taken in the past. I think I am not done with pinhole photography. 

Driveway reflection pinhole photo taken with matchbox camera by Judith Hoffman
Driveway reflection taken with matchbox pinhole camera. Wonderful distortion and light leaks.

Pinhole photography compels me. I live in this world, which is concrete all around me. At the same time, when I allow light to pass though a tiny hole I can see another world recorded on film or a piece of light sensitive paper. Although I see only a small portion of this other world, my imagination fills in the world beyond my view. It could be very different from this existing world. And yet it is related. 

photo of Trees in Golden Gate Park taken with matchbox pinhole camera by Judith Hoffman
Matchbox pinhole camera photo of Trees in Golden Gate Park. Taken near the bandstand by Judith Hoffman

These worlds overlap, the one I am in fades and the one I imagine becomes more real. There is something compelling and alluring about seeing that view, imagining another world that is connected to the world we live in. Is it a desire to make my dreams real? A need to create a world where people I love are still alive? Or the classic artist as a god? 

we are pursued by a dinosaur pinhole photo by Judith Hoffman taken with Oneiro camera
I dream we are pursued by a dinosaur. Pinhole photo taken with Oneiro handmade pinhole camera.

Setting up a diorama to photograph on my work table suggests another world too. But in that case I form the other world from my existing materials. If I set up dinosaurs and cut-out palm trees, I can create the Late Cretaceous. If I get out Christmas lights and cut out figures, I can create a dream world.

Handmade pinhole camera collection Judith Hoffman
Some of my handmade pinhole cameras. The altoids tin and matchbox cameras will give you a sense of scale. I use either color film or black and white.
Infrared pinhole camera selfie Judith Hoffman
Infrared film, pinhole camera selfie. Two heads are better than one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Effie Wood Goes on Holiday


Effie Wood Goes on Holiday, an accordion fold artist book by Judith Hoffman made of paper, collage and drawing.
Effie Goes on Holiday, accordion fold book by Judith Hoffman

Effie Goes on Holiday, ©2021. 3.5 x 4 x .75 Collage on watercolor paper, drawing, family photos scanned and printed on Epson SC P-700 printer. See the whole book on my web site. When I was a kid we had many family holidays at my grandparents house in Cincinnati. There was an assortment of ladies that seemed very old to me. I had two living great-grandmothers on my mom's side. There was also my Great Aunt Anna and her roommate, Effie Wood. When I was a kid I was told Aunt Anna was an old maid, Effie lived with her and they were close friends.

Effie Wood, possibly on holiday

It wasn't until several years ago, talking to my cousin, that I found out they might have been a couple. It was a moment for me, I never questioned the story. It must have been hard to be a lesbian couple in those days. It seems the women in our family didn't know they were a couple but the men did. Would they have been shocked? What a sad situation. Effie was a family member but she was always considered as somewhat outside the family. There are very few photos of her, she isn't in the genealogy records. She does appear in some short videos my granddad took. Luckily my uncle put them on a cd. You can see more views of the book on this web page.

Effie Wood on holiday. 

This is the photo that inspired the book. It looks like a seaside resort to me. The story in the book is  conjecture.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

My Compendium of Medical Fears

Artist book made by Judith Hoffman, made of eco-dyed paper, collage and drawing.
My Compendium of Medical Fears, eco-dyed paper, collage and drawing.

I finished this book at least a month ago, took the photos several weeks ago, and finally have processed them. So I have a web page for the book. All photos and information are on the web page. I have tons of medical fears at my age (77). It just now occurred to me, if 7 is a lucky number, 77 must either be double lucky or bad luck. I'll call it double lucky.

When will my next migraine attack happen?
When will my next migraine attack happen? A page from My Compendium of Medical Fears

In non-book news, when I am stressed I have been spinning yarn. It's very repetitive and soothing. I am drafting two colors together to blend and mix up the colors. The result is almost a heathered effect. Mixing colors of fleece is different from paints. You can see most of the yarn is a medium tone. I need to make some lights and darks. It's a new challenge that keeps me interested.

Stay well, stay safe. Thanks for reading, I appreciate you all.

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.

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