Category Archives: Art

Halloween Project Archive

Array of Halloween Projects

This year’s Halloween may be a little different from years past. But maybe you’re doing a Zoom costume contest? Want some spooky snacks? Or want to get in the mood with seasonal decor? Is it not Halloween for you if there isn’t pumpkin carving? Head over to the Halloween Project Archives for inspiration and ideas.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and … we’ve organized dozens of our Halloween projects into categories: costumespumpkinsdecor and food.

Lemon Plum Jam Revisited

Jars of jam

It has been a great season for plums, so I’ve updated the lemon plum jam recipe that I’ve been gradually refining over the years. The new basic recipe is below along with other tips I’ve gathered.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups cut up pieces of plums, pits removed, skins left on, fresh or frozen
  • 3 lemons, (optionally peeled) cut into small pieces, seeds removed
  • juice from 3 more lemons
  • 6 cups sugar

Lemon and plum pieces in a pot

Procedure:

Put the plums, lemon pieces and lemon juice in a sauce pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to soften. At this point, you can use a potato masher to crush the fruit pieces for a more even consistency.

Holding potato masher above fruit cooking in pot

Add sugar and cook, stirring regularly, until it thickens. You can test the consistency for doneness by putting a spoonful in a cold dish in the fridge for a few minutes. After chilling, it’s ready if it holds its shape a bit when you move a spoon or finger through it. You can also follow your favorite canning procedure for longer term storage. Makes about 4-5 pints.

Tips and techniques:

For cutting up the fruit, I like to put a small cutting board inside a baking sheet. This catches the juice much better than any cutting board with a moat that I’ve ever used. It makes cleanup much easier, and you can pour the juice from the baking sheet into the cooking pot.

Most jam recipes call for approximately equal quantities of sugar and fruit. I prefer my jam a little more tart, so I’ve revised down the sugar.

I’ve stopped adding water to my preserves. It cooks a little faster without as much liquid, and there’s enough liquid in the lemon juice to get it started cooking even if the fruit isn’t covered.

I also often leave the lemon peel out for the preserves I make (other than marmalade). The peel gives it a stronger lemon flavor, but keeps the jam from gelling as well. If you want a thicker consistency that gels a little earlier, you can leave the peel out. If you want zingier lemon flavor, leave the peel on and cook a little longer.

During fruit season, I try to preserve as much as I can by making jams and chutneys, but I usually run out of time and end up cutting up the last of the crop and freezing it. Using frozen fruit for jams seems to work just as well as fresh. I measure out 8 cups and store it in a one gallon freezer bag. Then it’s ready to pull out start a batch of jam. I also recently revised my Plum Chutney recipe, and it starts with 8 cups of fruit as well.

An EggBot Brunch Party

Eggs in basket
Photo by Raka Mitra

Heather Seeba wrote in to let us know about a gathering she has hosted around the EggBot.

EggBot set up for Brunch
EggBot set up for Brunch: Photo by Heather Seeba

The EggBot brunches have been big hits with my friends. Seeing the fascination and excitement showing new people my EggBot has to be my favorite part of playing with it. The inspiration came when I took the ‘bot to my (engineering) office so colleagues could make eggs for their kids: people were skeptical then couldn’t stay away. Thus for an EggBot brunch, invite awesome nerdy people over, feed them, and gather round the EggBot.

Heather told us about her events earlier this year, before the advent of physical distancing. Many of her suggestions can be adapted for family groups living together and we’ve added some suggestions for remote attendees as well.

Egg with flowers
Photo by Raka Mitra
Flower pots as backdrops
Photobooths for Eggs: photo by Heather Seeba

Some recommendations for an EggBot brunch include:

  • Print outs of suggested (speedy) designs will engage interest quickly.
  • For in-person attendees, buffet and easy lap food works better than a sit-down meal so the focus can be on the drawing.
  • For remote attendees, have a camera set up pointing at the EggBot so they can see their design being drawn.
  • Print some outline designs in advance and let folks color eggs if they like.
  • Make a photo shoot station for guests’ creations. Flower pots with herbs and blossoms are a great example.
Eggs in the herbs
Photo by Raka Mitra
Eggs in grass
Photo by Heather Seeba

The photo booths can be used even for eggs decorated without the EggBot!

Halloween Project Archive

Array of Halloween Projects

Looking for inspiration for your Halloween projects? Need ideas for snacks, costumes or decor? Not sure what to do with your pumpkins this year? Head over to the Halloween Project Archives for a list of our projects over the years.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and … we’ve organized dozens of our Halloween projects into categories: costumespumpkinsdecor and food.

From the mailbag: Geometry with AxiDraw

Mark from MN wrote in to say:

I persuaded my school district’s community foundation to buy an AxiDraw for me to use with my high school geometry students. It’s SO GREAT! These kiddos are seeing their 2D creations come to life because of AxiDraw, which is a great motivator for their future studies (either computers or mathematics or art or all/some of the above).

We’ve written about how AxiDraw gets used in the classroom before, and we love hearing from teachers who are using it. Thanks for the note, Mark!

Spicy Plum Chutney

Jars of chutney

I’ve been using my Plum Chutney recipe for years and enjoying every batch. Our own plum tree is now mature and producing lots of wonderful fruit each year, so I have had many opportunities to reproduce and refine my recipe. Here’s my new spicier recipe, with notes below on ingredient changes and other tips I’ve learned over the years.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups cut up pieces of plums, pits removed, skins left on, fresh or frozen
  • 3 lemons, (optionally peeled) cut into small pieces, seeds removed
  • juice from 3 more lemons
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated (a microplane works great) or cut into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups sugar (granulated or brown)

Throw everything except the sugar in a sauce pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to soften. Add sugar and cook, stirring regularly, until it thickens to a consistency you like. You can test the consistency by putting a spoonful in a cold dish in the fridge for a few minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks after cooking. You can also follow your favorite canning procedure for longer term storage. Makes about 3-4 pints.

Fruit and spices in pot

We’ve tended toward more flavor intensity in our cooking over time, and I’ve settled on a version with twice as much spice as before. Sometimes I’ll cut the some or all of the ginger into matchsticks instead of grating it, which results in little bursts of ginger flavor when you’re eating the chutney. If you like that, by all means, use matchsticks! For a more even flavor or consistency, stick to using the microplane. I added a small amount of salt, which makes all of the flavors shine just a little bit more.

I’ve stopped adding water to my preserves. It cooks a little faster without as much liquid, and there’s enough liquid in the lemon juice to get it started cooking even if the fruit isn’t covered. I’ve also started removing the lemon peel for most of the preserves I make other than marmalade. The peel gives it a stronger lemon flavor, and keeps the pectin in the pith from gelling from as well. If you want a thicker consistency, you can leave the peel out. If you want zingier lemon flavor, leave it on.

Using potato masher to crush fruit pieces

One other consistency related tip: if I want a less chunky consistency, I use a potato masher to crush the fruit pieces early in the cooking. During fruit season, I try to preserve as much as I can by making jams and chutneys, but I usually run out of time and end up cutting up the last of the crop and freezing it. Using frozen fruit for jams seems to work just as well as fresh. The other thing I usually run out of is sugar, because I often forget how much it takes to make preserves, so I started using brown and granulated interchangeably in the chutney. I even used palm sugar once! Which sugar you use doesn’t seem to affect the flavor significantly, so use whichever you have on hand.

From plottertwitter: a first painting

Corey Haber just posted a clip of his AxiDraw finishing its first painting:

Astronomy Cookies

Galaxy, globular cluster and nebula cookies

We love any excuse to create science themed food, and we had a blast brainstorming our contribution to “Astro-Gastro” contest at the annual member meeting at the Fremont Peak Observatory. We settled on some of the things we love to show visitors to the observatory: Galaxies, globular clusters, and nebulas.

Cinnamon Pinwheel Galaxy

Cinnamon Pinwheel Galaxies are inspired by palmiers. They are made with puff pastry that is coated in cinnamon sugar and rolled up, sliced and baked. The recipe is identical to palmiers except that you first fold the pastry over itself a little further than halfway, and then roll up from the folded edge to create the spiral pattern that shows when you slice them.

Globular Cluster Cookie

Chocolate Globular Clusters start with the same chocolate graham crackers we used for our Edible Asteroids project.

We iced them with a chocolate icing derived from a recipe for Black And White cookies from Baking Illustrated. Melt 2 oz unsweetened chocolate in double boiler. Bring 2 Tbsp light caro syrup and 3.5 Tbsp water to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in 2.5 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 tsp vanilla. Stir icing into chocolate in the double boiler. You may need to reheat the chocolate icing in the double boiler to keep it at a good consistency for spreading.

Immediately after spreading the icing on a cookie, very slightly moisten the top of the icing with water. You can either dip a finger in a dish of water and smooth a bit over the surface of the icing or use a water mister to give it a very light spritz. The water on the surface will make it sticky enough for the sprinkles to adhere to. Drop small white non pareil sprinkles over the center of the cookie. We used a small funnel held over center of the cookie, to create a dense cluster in the middle, and fewer and fewer as you reach the edges.

Meringue nebulas

For the Meringue Nebulae, we divided a batch of meringue into two, and colored half of it with black food coloring. The other half we split again and colored with red and blue respectively, stopping before it was fully mixed in to allow for some color variation. We spread the blue meringue along one side of a piping bag, and red along the other. Then we filled the middle with the grey. We piped the mixture out with a #12 icing tip in a wavy, uneven fashion. Using two different sizes of non pareil sprinkles made it look like there were stars of different brightness in our nebulae.

Meringue Nebula closeup

Other astronomers brought moon rock smores, almond asteroid cookies, and an Orion constellation cake. We’re tickled that the Cinnamon Pinwheel Galaxy won the contest against such fun competition.

Featured artist: Michael Fogleman

Drawing of lots of small coils titled Spiral Galaxies

Michael Fogleman is an active member of the plotter art community. His twitter feed often contains either new art, or links to new tools that he has made.

He has created and shared some incredible resources, including a wide variety of vector art tools and even an alternate Python library for AxiDraw.

Drawing of a protein diagram displayed at the Plotter People Meetup

I am a fan of science as an art subject, and Michael’s protein ribbon diagram drawings are a great example. A ribbon diagram depicts the 3D structure of the protein as well as the common secondary structures of helixes, strands, and coils.

In addition to making the drawings, he has a twitter bot that publishes ribbon diagrams and has published the code for the project. This ribbon diagram was one that we got to see at the Plotter People meetup in San Francisco.

Drawing of Galaga

Michael hits another of my weaknesses, vintage gaming with his NES Sparklines drawings.

For these drawings, I use an NES emulator (of my own creation) to record a snapshot of the Nintendo’s RAM at each frame (60 fps). The NES only had 2048 bytes of RAM. For each address in memory, I plot its values over time as an individual sparkline. I only show addresses that changed at least once, so there are usually fewer than 2048 sparklines. Because each game developer used the memory in different ways, each game produces its own unique look when plotted.

MOS 6502 processor drawing

He also plotted something dear to our hearts (and close to the heart of the NES), the MOS 6502 processor.


Topographic map of Mount St. Helens

One subject that I’ve often thought appropriate for plotting are maps, and Michael’s topographic maps are elegant. Again, in addition to making drawings, he has provided his code for working with AWS terrain data as well.


Drawings of the Stanford bunny

Michael sells drawings, and accepts commissions for favorite NES games, proteins, map regions, and even cellular automata. He has projects on wide ranging subjects, not limited to pen plotters, so go check them out!

Featured Artist: Vincent Pidone

An array of drawings featuring Moire patterns

Vincent Pidone is an artist particularly interested in Moire patterns, making the AxiDraw a tool well suited to him. You can find him on instagram, and he has a show opening this week.

I have a show of my recent artwork opening August 17th in Hudson, New York. The show will be up through October. All of the work consists of Moire drawings, some hand drawn, but most of them were done with my Axidraw. (Everything in the photo above was done with Axidraw.)

I am always intrigued to see artists building on each other’s work. In the piece above, Vincent took artwork from Justin Lincoln and added colors and layers with the AxiDraw to make it into something new. Here’s Justin’s original:

Vincent has also experimented with using his AxiDraw for dispensing paint.

He has shared the software and hardware details of the project on hackaday.io.


Vincent’s show, focusing on his recent Moire pieces, is opening this Saturday, August 17th at Walnut Hill Fine Art in Hudson, New York, and will be up through October. Even if you aren’t able to make it to his show, you can follow him on instagram.