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making challah at the all-night art lock-in at New Urban Arts

April 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

late Friday night/early Saturday morning: while others were sleeping, we were making challah bread. Thanks everybody!

10:34 pm. Mixing the dough:


10:35 pm. “Can I use my hands?”


10:36 pm. It feels soft, squishy, and good.

crazy hands!

10:39 pm. Kneading:

kneading part 1

plant system development

April 19, 2009 at 5:32 am

This is the promised “I love drawing part 2” update: showing the bottom part of the poster, and the drawing of the plants! (hey, it’s a Plant Sale poster: you gotta have plants on it.) These transparencies are all ready now, I’m just waiting for an information double-check before I shoot the screens… so this is a voyage into the recent past.

sneak preview:
plant drawing

Here’s a hard-to-see picture of the first idea I drew: plants are coming out of a pot and climbing up around the letters… okay.

plants development 1

Now, here is a better idea (which is pretty much the original idea I had for the poster in the first place):

plants development 2

The next photo was taken some time later; I missed taking a picture of the intermediate stage when I was beginning the sketches of the plants…

plants development 3

I had vaguely promised myself not to bring any perspective drawing into the process for this poster, but I decided to use perspective after all, and it ended up making things easier and probably faster. There are two different sets of vanishing points here, which lie on the same horizon line — allowing the houses to exist in a coherent space, but not have to be lined up to each other in a right-angled grid. (The white paper attached at the right & left of the drawing above creates ‘wings’ that extend outward as far as they need to go to fit the vanishing points.) To keep things easy & simple, though, I based the vanishing-point locations off of my initial sketch houses, instead of making an “accurate” perspective system and then re-drawing the houses to fit it, as I did for the Farmers’ Markets poster. It ended up being pretty fast and loose. Following in the footsteps of Piranesi! (more-or-less)

I initially intended to use a bunch of drawings of pea plants that I made in 2004 as the basis for this poster. However, I looked for them… and looked for them… and didn’t find them. (The act of looking was productive, though: I ended up cleaning out my whole flat file and organizing all my old transparencies and preliminary artwork!) It being end-of-March/early-April all the pea plants in existence in my area were still in their small round dried wrinkly form, so I used the ever-helpful Internet for (many, many) photo references. This meant that I was inventing an amalgam/generic plant… but I still wanted it to make sense, and be recognizable as a pea plant, and have an internal logic that governed its “growth” and structure.

After I had drawn the bottom of the poster (in the photo above) I had the “pea plant system” pretty much down, and just kept going for it, guided by practice, compositional demands, and mysterious echoes of sense memory that somehow came back to me from when I made all those pea-plant drawings five years ago. At first, I felt that the peas weren’t dense enough, they weren’t as tangled as the plants in some of the photos I was looking at… then as I kept drawing, following each stem to its ‘logical’ extension, they got extremely interwoven, often to the point of my extreme confusion & puzzlement. Which was brain-fusing on occasion, but also pretty great.

Here’s a sequence of the drawing in progress:

plants grow #1


can I just say something?

April 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

I love drawing.

plant sale sketch

I haven’t been drawing for a while, so it’s nice to get back into it by working on lots of letters… (they offer really nice parameters, both to fit within and to break out of.)

plant sale sketch 2

I also love erasing things, then drawing them again and modifying them. I also love changing things by tracing them. With every change, the drawn line becomes richer and more complex. [note the shifting “Y” — looking back at these photos, I’m kind of tempted to go back to a curvy one…] Below, using tracing paper, I’m moving the letters closer together, and spacing the lines farther apart vertically, for what I hope will be increased legibility.

plant sale sketch 3

My housemate says that this kind of thing would be easier with a computer; I’m pretty sure it would take the same amount of time, just require a different kind of patience, a different method for the modification of lines…

plant sale sketch 4

Above, the little golden-section rectangle is giving me a set of dimensions that are proportional to each other, which I’m using as the letter-heights and vertical spacing for the text in this little group. This is super fast & loose, and in this case, is mostly based on “what looks right” as opposed to any rigorous proportional analysis of the rectangle of the poster. I tried to find some good geometries to use in the overall layout… but the placement of things by eye looked better than placing the elements by geometry, so that’s what I went with.

Here’s one stage of the semi-finished sketch for the top of the poster, from a couple of days ago:

plant sale sketch 5

… and the middle of the poster, from that same stage:

plant sale sketch 6

The next update will show the bottom of the poster and its development…

Oh yeah — did I forget to say that I love drawing?

Southside Community Land Trust is a great organization that supports and helps organize community gardens all over the city. I’m excited to be making this poster, partly because SCLT is radical (in the multiple senses of the word), and partly because I’m following in the awesome footsteps of Jo Dery, who has made the SCLT plant sale posters for as long as I can remember.

split fountain, double sided

April 5, 2009 at 3:50 am

I know that sounds like a really good ice cream sundae: however I’ll leave it up to Scott and/or Jacob to describe what kinds of flavors & toppings something with that name would have, and instead talk screenprinting tech. Yeah!

This is something I designed and printed very swiftly the week before last: a going-away-party invitation for my friends. The sparkly/shiny blue paper stock that I got from Jim at Black Cat as a cut-off scrap dictated the size of the card, and I quickly decided that to take advantage of the many possibilities of the iridescent light blue, I would print on both sides of the paper.

rainbow roll cards
[The sweet illustrations, by one J. Neumeister, are lifted from a 1960 French-learning phrasebook.]

However, this being a last-minute project with an immediate deadline, I had to print these very quickly: which meant finding a way to not have to do four pulls for each card. Here’s the method I came up with, basically printing the front and back at the same time, onto the two separate pieces of paper that are set up next to each other into a taped-down border (as you can see below).

tape border

I printed half the fronts and backs in the first color, then took the ones I had printed that were already dry, flipped them (carefully making sure they were lined up right), and printed the other half of fronts-and-backs in the first color. After a break, I set up the screen again with the second color: which was a sweet “rainbow roll” / “split fountain” / “bokashi” or whatever technical term you like*: it’s a gradient of different ink colors blending into each other. (In this case, utilized mostly because it would be pretty and make people say, “Ooooh!”). Again, I printed half the fronts and backs in the second color, flipped them, and then printed the other half. Done!

Here’s the whole setup:

rainbow roll setup!

You can see the graded-color ink sitting in the screen at the top, the two lined-up cards that have just been printed, the squeegee with the gradient of ink on it at the bottom, the one-color-printed cards at the left, ready for their second color, and (faintly) the open areas in the lower part of the screen through which I printed the pink first color. And yes, Robin, I’m still using your screen… a year and a half later? The mesh still washes out almost completely clear, and it works great — thank you!

* I don’t like any of them. More specifically, I don’t like “rainbow roll” (it feels like it should only apply to prints about which one could say, “whoa man::: psychedelic!!”) “Split fountain” is a term from offset printing and doesn’t necessarily describe this kind of smooth gradient. “Bokashi” is a term from Japanese woodblock printing and is technically a layer of ink applied to the block in a gradated thickness, not two different colors of ink blending into each other. What I usually do with ‘rainbow rolls’ has a more atmospheric effect, like bokashi, but using a Japanese word feels opaque, jargon-y, and on the uneasy edge of cultural co-option. So… rainbow roll it is, I guess. . . . Psychedelic!

[The slightly sassy tone of this update is brought to you by my feelings of bummed-out-ness this evening… which I am trying to combat by putting pictures of shiny things on the internet.]

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