right now!     ian g. cozzens updates, news, photos, and thoughts

linear logic

December 31, 2009 at 5:00 am

So, I am working on finally, finally, finally building the long-awaited & much-discussed web store for secret door projects (and friends). This means spending a lot of time in the spot seen in the photo below, & breaking my brain somewhat trying to wrap it around the linear logic of the computer.

my drawing desk, taken over by the computer.

As a high schooler in the early 90s, I was psyched to be the only female-bodied person in the (somewhat smelly) computer room learning QBasic & other simple programming languages. I got a lot of encouragement for being there: I was the ‘token’ that everyone was proud of. Computers weren’t my strength — but the logic was really intriguing to me, I had a lot of determination, and with good concentration & good explanation, I could eventually figure it out and make some cool things happen.

I now know that it is a rare delight to find someone who has a) the capacity for a deep understanding of a logical language, and b) the patience to give a thorough explanation of how it works. Sixteen years later, as I struggle with computer-programming-type things, I constantly see the calm & gentle face of my ninth-grade computer teacher, Matt Zipin, next to me, and hear the soft tones of his voice going over something with me (probably for the second or third time).

There is nothing in the world like an amazing teacher.

Now, lacking a patient and logical person to explain things, I find myself driven only by my determination, and guided only by various how-tos and written instructions (freely available but sometimes cryptic). It’s not hard in itself, all the elements are simple enough (I think), but the issue is that I must move forward in linear ways in order to make any perceptible progress.

Today I finally made a list of what my goals are for the store, in programming and in style, what I need to accomplish to satisfy myself that the site is good. As I was doing so, the realization rushed over me that this kind of computer work feels the same as the last stages of working on a print. When I’m almost done with the transparencies for a print, I write down very specifically what I have to finish before they will be ready to shoot, usually by color / transparency:

  • blue:
    • finish sky/cloud details
    • reflections on metal
  • brown:
    • tree trunks
    • scratch out texture in roofs
    • fix mistake in large “L” (ink)
  • etc.

…something like that. Then I move through the list, checking things off as I go, forcing myself to work on the next thing on the list, adding more items if necessary, until they are all done. That type of concentration is unnatural to me, and it can be pretty grueling.

That comes only at the end, though — through most of my working process I am jumping around from place to place on the drawing, then from transparency to transparency, returning to the drawing, pencil to ink to rubylith and back. Sometimes I’ll tell people that I like the strange connections that get made by those jumps; “the way of working creates the nature of the work”, “it builds upon itself”, etc.

That is bullshit, though, because ultimately that is really just how my brain works — I don’t have another strategy. When I’m drawing or working in that stage, the hand-tool-eye-paper-brain combo takes its own paths and I kind of follow along. It’s peaceful, intense, focused, and spaced-out all at the same time. After a couple of hours I look up and: “Hey! There’s a drawing! Sweet!” I’ll lay out some aspects of the composition ahead of time, but I don’t plan ‘how to draw it’ in advance: because I can’t.

(I can’t make a preliminary outline for a piece of writing, either, to save my life — I have to write a bunch of stuff, move it around, edit it, re-read a bunch of times, etc. Only then can I pull together what the complete sense is, and consciously refine the form around an idea.)

drawing made in new orleans, partly in the rain!
drawn on the street in new orleans: begun on a rainy day, finished on a clear one.

This jumping-about method doesn’t really work when approaching a numerically logical system, nor, especially, when approaching the construction of such a system. There’s room for a little bit of what Jacob calls “being a clicker”, messing around and seeing what happens. That’s usually what I do mostly… and this can offer eventual results (like the current form of this website)… but it takes a long time. And in dealing with an actual programming language — not just markup code and stylesheets — it might not actually ever work.

Last spring, struggling with setting up a janky wordpress plugin on a website for somebody else, I was in tears in frustration with myself at my inability to understand what was going on. A friend who was advising me said, “I mean, come on Jean, go easy on yourself! PHP is a high-level programming language: you can’t just expect to look at it and immediately understand what’s going on.” At the time, I was furious and felt that he was belittling me.

Thinking about his words now, as I tangle with PHP again (still with no training or real logical background, but maybe with a little less insecurity) I realize that he was right: that is exactly what I am doing. Why? Because that is what works for me in the other work that I do. I look at the drawing or the image or the building in front of me — I learn as much about it as I can, seeking out all the corners and details and information available in a non-linear way, making multiple intuitive connections — I make lines and shapes and marks and notes — and something coherent (and possibly even beautiful!) appears.

I look at it, and it sorts itself into an order that tells me what to do with it and how to do it.

As the architect John Hejduk says, “The lead of the architect’s pencil disappears. Where does it go? Then a line appears on the paper.” It is undoubtedly magical. It’s what I’ve done all my life. It’s the most prosaic motion; of scratching the pencil over the paper, of feeling the ends of boards with fingertips to ensure that they are cut to the same length. I have no idea how it works.

Can I work with PHP in the same way? How much patience do I have to approach it in a strictly linear fashion? And… is it worth it to discipline my brain to a completely different way of thinking, when I am already “good” at something else?

…well…

The answer to the first question is probably “No, not really”. The answer to the second question is, “Don’t forget to eat and make sure to get enough sleep”. And the answer to that last question has gotta be “Yes”… or else I wouldn’t be still sitting here in front of the computer.

My ninth-grade self is super proud of me.


[hey! jean! writing this has been a lovely and somewhat comforting digression, and has helped you sort it out a little… now get back to actually dealing with what you are trying to get done!]

*finishing* prints, part II.

December 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Anticipatory snapshot of the transparencies for the Industrial Trust Bldg prints.

sweet solid black transparencies!

(The postcard version, seen at upper right, is still un-finished…) These transparencies were made at Faces, which is a great graphic output place here in Prov; they can print transparencies that are solid black and perfectly aligned (unlike a photocopy or laser printout, where the blacks will always be slightly transparent and the image will always be a little distorted). With the small detail and close tolerances of this print, the fancy transparencies were totally worth it.

I printed the first color on the Industrial Trust Building prints, then took a break and did the second chapter of a screenprinting workshop for artist mentors at New Urban Arts. The awesome Emmy Bright (with squeegee below), who is a recent arrival in Providence and an Arts Mentoring Fellow at NUA, set it up, organized the logistical aspects, drove me (and prints) around town, fed me, and in general helped me out SO MUCH during the end of November/beginning of December! A million thanks!!!

At the workshop, we printed the postcard-sized skyscrapers on STICKER PAPER.

transparent blue…

We ran out of time, and since the plasticky sticker paper doesn’t absorb any ink, a hairdryer was pulled into action to get these dry enough to take home.

hairdrying the stickers

Here we are achieving some good eye-breaking-ness!! (plus awesome clouds via rainbow-roll experimentation.) I was pretty exhausted & running on pure will at this point; pushing hard to get the larger skyscraper prints done before the Craftland opening on December 5th. This session of printing fun stickers — in order to demonstrate alignment using a hinged plastic sheet — gave me confidence that the prints would look good, and got me psyched again about screenprinting’s magical ability to create images that people love.

One of the participants also said later that they were glad to get to print an image of mine, instead of a random thing that someone had just come up with as a demonstration… that it showed them the possibilities of what could be achieved. I know what that feeling is like from the learning side of things — when seeing an example of work in a new medium, you want to be inspired by awesomeness, kicked in the pants to get out there & make more awesomeness yourself. It’s eye-opening to me to realize that my work can play that role in people’s lives… I am flattered and touched and it’s super meaningful. Thank you, Sarah, Jadrian, and Emmy, for being part of this night! and also for having patience with my sleep-deprived wackiness.

Watch out for these guys around town, your eyes might get broken.

crazy stickers.



From here on out it was a race to the finish line, another day and a half of nonstop printing.

Born of necessity, innovation:

drywall screw handle

A drywall screw driven into the side of the screen frame, with paper rolled & taped around it, allows you to easily lift up a screen that is smaller than your printing table, and/or that can’t be positioned so an edge sticks off the table for easy grabbin’. The paper roll rotates around the screw, so you can handle it to move the screen up and down over and over again without wearing your skin off.

screen handle closeup

Printing prison…

moving along…

I offered myself the possibility that I could stop printing these in the middle of the run, if I got totally exhausted. I decided not to — my track record with finishing interrupted print runs is not good — it’s generally taken me a year or more to complete them. So, even when I was totally beat, in the early morning of a sleepless night before the deadline for which I only really needed 50 or so prints, a couple more hours of pushing through the run looked a lot better than a year of an unfinished project hanging over my head. So, there are now 345 of these! in 5 different colorways. Man oh man.

After going through the process of mixing the transparent shadows for the Durruti prints, I had a real sense of competence with the transparent colors here, and got psyched about being super picky. This is the moment of the final color decision for the blue shadow on the gray-sky skyscraper (with rejected color variants lying below):

looking at transparent colors again…

Cutting the ‘tails’ off at Jim’s shop, with the giant guillotine:

two-handed guillotine

Emmy, still rocking hard as the “print caddy”, dropped me and prints off at Craftland…

safely delivered to Craftland…

… and I sat down and put the barcode labels on them just as Alec Thibodeau was beginning to hang the ‘print wall’.

hanging it up.

I think I have accepted the fact that I live almost my entire life in the realm of the “Just In Time”. I could beat myself up about this under-the-wire, deadline-focused scenario every time that it happens… which is pretty often… but really I’d rather just be psyched about what I do get done, apologize & offer beautiful prints to the people who get inconvenienced, & keep going.

I-195 bridge over the providence river

*finishing* prints, part I.

December 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm

taking you Back In Time!!! … a whole pile of process images from printing the Durruti/Ruins posters. Process work from the Industrial Trust Building prints is coming in the next update, this one got way too long.

Mixing colors. a) they’re not all oranges and blues (!) , b) look at that nice set of blond-beiges, moving right-to-left, getting ever closer to the beige in the sky on the yellow-gold Durruti print.

beige assortment

Green-sky Durruti print, seen through the screen that is about to print the blue shadow. The pink of the QTX emulsion and the yellow of the screen fabric always make such weird and awesome colors. Maybe someday I’ll make a print that is as eye-breaking as this.

looking through the screen, about to print.

Trying out transparent colors for the blue shadow on the green-sky prints. The transparent inks have to be printed through the screen to show their density and hue accurately… At left is the first attempt (too purple). The final color was somewhere between the two on the right. I am excited to do some more experimental stuff with transparent colors; they can be a little bit of a hassle to print, but the way they lie in the paper (instead of on it like the solid colors) is so beautiful.

transparent colors testing…



When you are setting up your transparency on the screen prior to shooting it, remember to think carefully about how the image you are going to print will fit on the paper and how the paper will fit on your table under the screen! Or else you will end up with your screen sticking halfway off your printing table like this. In the background, AO is keeping me company, or rather, checking his email while I grumble & rant about making stupid mistakes like this one.

poor planning

Also here, as Mr. Punch would say, this is *not* the way to do it.

clamped print

Use caution when you open the door to unshaven young men who have moved into thin-walled schoolbuses for the winter; pretty soon they’ll be running up your electric bill in their desperate struggle to stay warm.

personal heating system
[a hairdryer in the studio? yup, for speed-drying color test swatches. They only show their true color when the ink is dry.]

After all that hassle, it actually works!

before & after.

This moment is always pretty magical. In this case, it was extra exciting: I’ve been trying to finish / thinking about / talking about re-printing these Durruti prints since last fall. A stack of paper with just the sky color printed on them has been sittiing around the studio since last December. I’m not sure why it took me so long: there were even a bunch of people who wanted to buy a copy, who I had been emailing back & forth with saying “if you can just wait a couple of weeks! I am about to finish printing them!”, also since last fall.

As I got to the point in the above photos — actually seeing the third and last color on the paper — a large weight lifted from my shoulders, and (not to over-dramatize it) there was a deep feeling of relief. I was antsy to print so I printed, not really thinking about it too much… but in the ensuing days, wondering why it had taken me SO LONG to get back to printing this thing, I realized that I had been completely afraid of it — that it had been pretty much PURE FEAR that was keeping me from working on it.

Fear of what? I am pretty sure it was just fear “that it was going to be really hard”. And in the end, printing it with tricky alignment, mixing the transparent color which I thought was gonna be super difficult… not that hard. Not easy, but interesting, lots of fun, and ultimately successful. I was really scared of color matching to the original prints — and I didn’t get the color totally matched — but the color that I mixed was better than the original color: better contrast, better looking, better overall. Answer: Nothing to be scared of.



Hey, what the heck is going on here? Why is the emulsion two different colors and all patchy-looking?

messing with the screen

When I initially conceived the Durruti print, I wanted the sky to be lighter than the paper. I had bought this yellow-gold paper, and wanted to print white over it for the sky and the bright details in the ruined building. So, I printed the white layer, and then went ahead and printed the blue shadow over it. Then, I began to have doubts: the text in the sky wasn’t readable enough. In the building, where the white areas were separated from the yellow by outlines, it looked great — I liked the way it popped out. But the sky, and thus the message of the poster, were too subtle. What to do?

To get the contrast I wanted in the letters, I needed to somehow print a darker color on the sky, without changing the white in the building or covering up the blue shadows. I didn’t want to cut up or modify the transparency itself, because I knew I would want to use it again to print other versions of the poster. Also, at that moment (over a year ago now), I didn’t have time to re-shoot the screen, or a free screen to shoot… There was a lot of argle bargle-ing… but eventually…

Using the screen through which I had printed the white ink, and placing it over a misprinted copy of the print for ‘tracing’ purposes, I took some of the emulsion and painted in all the white areas on the building that I wanted to keep, or areas of blue shadow that I didn’t want to print over. I re-shot the screen so that emulsion would harden… then a beige color (which can be seen being mixed at the top of this post) was printed through that screen.

yellow/gold Durruti final print

The photo doesn’t quite show the contrast as it is in real life, but I’m pretty psyched about how it came out. And — more color variations & experimentations will happen in the future!


Vibration pattern on the surface of my un-drunk coffee:

coffee frequency

It was sitting on the print table while I was printing. The main axis of the pattern (lower left – upper right in this photo) is parallel to the direction in which the screen moves up & down.


Jori Ketten, a local artist/photographer/teacher/co-conspirator (etc), helped me out immeasurably by taking documentation pictures of my prints — soon to be seen here. She also did photoshop magic on them (which would have taken me many, many hours). They look great, & she deserves a million shout-outs. Hopefully you won’t get sick of them. Thank you Jori!

finished prints. wow.

December 18, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I’ve been struggling for the past couple of days with getting good photo documentation of a bunch of recently finished prints. I wanted to put up really nice photos of what I think are really nice prints — and I think I’m only 1 or 2 days away from a solution — but I’m going to go ahead and put up process/studio photos now. These were done a week and a half ago, and I’m impatient to get them out & seen by the world.

industrial trust building prints on white paper

industrial trust building prints on ivory paper

These are the finished Industrial Trust Building prints! The long ‘tails’ the prints have at their bottom edges (good for avoiding getting inky fingerprints all over) have since been trimmed off, so the final print dimensions are about 7×17 inches. I was taping prints up on the drafting desk in order to make decisions about the colors… these are the final group.

Five different versions on two different kinds of paper: 1) gray/blue/white, 2) orange/purple-brown/white, 3) green/blue/ivory, 4) blue/red-orange/ivory, 5) orange/purple/ivory. As I was working on figuring out these colors, I was thinking a lot about creating different seasons, times of day, or kinds of light… how the color of the shadow creates the color of the light that is casting it… etc.

More finished prints! Here are the new color versions of the Ruins/Buenaventura Durruti print. I’ve been trying to finish printing these for almost (or more than) a year, so to look at a stack of completed ones is an extreme delight plus a giant weight off my shoulders.

three colorways!

There are two variations on the version on yellow-gold paper, on the right: one has blue-purple outlines, and the other (shown in the photo) has brownish-red outlines. When good pictures have been taken, I’ll put up details from both of them.

The prints on yellow-gold paper are 15.25 x 25.5 inches, the prints on white paper are 15.25 x 26.

If you’re in Providence, they’re for sale at Craftland, and/or you can buy them from me via email & paypal! I am working on this web store thing but it is not there yet.

“Industrial Trust Building – Providence” prints (signed & numbered) are $30
Durruti prints on white paper (3 colors, signed, un-numbered) are $25
Durruti prints on yellow-gold paper (4 colors, signed, un-numbered) are $50
…and there are still a bunch of these little neighborhood prints kicking around.

Shipping is $4 for the smaller prints and $6 for the bigger ones… email me for multiple prints or whatever!


I have a bunch of images & thoughts from the process of printing these, especially the Durruti prints, which had me stalled for months in terror of finishing them! However, I’m gonna do something more directly productive right now & get back to writing that stuff up later. Here’s just a hint of my epic process of mixing the transparent color for the shadow in that print:

transparent colors testing…

I began November totally intimidated by the challenge of figuring out transparent color complexities, and began December with the feeling of having a deep and lasting capacity to repeatably get a good result that would surprise me by its well-fitting-ness… though not of having the control to get a repeatable exact result: that is something that I am not sure if I would actually hope to have. !


If you are in New Orleans tonight, you should head over to the Community Printshop at Louisiana Artworks for their fundraiser party and drink one of these for me!

more sweet letters!

December 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

I’m closing in* on being done with these “superman” building prints. The “text on the poster” problem has been solved, courtesy of Stephen Brownell, who sent me an old postcard (date unknown, printed in halftones) that included the original name of the building: the Industrial Trust Building. Constructed, of course, by the Industrial Trust Company. Well, there’s no way I could have come up with anything more beautiful or poetic than that, so that is what is going on the poster: along with the word ‘Providence’; which made a lot of sense and felt right, ultimately.

In Italy, love of your home city or village, no matter how tiny, is called ‘campanilismo’, ‘bell-tower-ism’: the tower is what you can see from far away and identifies the place to which you long to return. As a proverbial generalization, Italians are said to be ‘campanilistic’ as opposed to ‘patriotic’ — devotion to the specific small place of origin outweighs any broader loyalty to the abstract, constructed idea of the nation. This building serves us pretty well as a bell tower.

After learning the name, I was able to find out some more:

Here’s some more process. The best part? Possibly.

Here are the two layers close to complete in Photoshop. This was a snap with the cell phone camera the way the lcd screen looks gives it the gradient (approximating the rainbow roll in the sky of the finished print), and creates a weird, colorful moire pattern (which the finished prints will not replicate!). Looking at this picture on the cellphone screen is the impetus for making a gray-black-and-white ‘minimalist’ version…

cell phone gray tone

Drawing letters; a sequence. Some pictures taken with cell phone camera so the focus & detail are iffy. Watch the C, D, and Es change.

initial layout…

coming to some conclusions

mostly done, re-tracing

re-tracing complete.

Now it’s time for some kerning! (aka. figuring out how far apart the letters need to be in order to feel evenly spaced. The spacing doesn’t end up numerically even, especially with wacky letterforms like these, but ideally the positive & negative spaces balance each other out, nothing is crowded, and legibility is increased!)

letters traced (below) and kerned (above)

Here, the pink letters are the kerned ones. You can see the slight horizontal adjustments between the two texts, opening up more space or pulling it closer together… you can also see my final adjustment of the “N”, cutting it out of the tracing paper, moving it over a 16th of an inch, and re-taping with scotch tape! Here’s a larger version.

I do this by tracing the letters again, one by one, on a new piece of transparent paper. Starting with the first and last letter spaced the necessary distance apart, I work inwards making slight adjustments, moving the new paper around over the original drawing so I can visually judge the shape and amount of the space left between the letters. It’s kind of repetitive, sometimes involves a lot of erasing over and over again, and is totally not the fastest way to do it. BUT as David Gersten says when people ask him why he draws on paper instead of on the computer, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking??” Bzam.

Here you can see knife cuts in the rubylith where I’ve sliced through the softer red layer but haven’t pulled the red plastic off of the clear layer yet:

cutting rubylith

Here you can really see the difference between the kerned and non-kerned text. Compare the spacing of “OVI” and “ENC” in both sets of letters… (larger version)

traced & cut

A final layout, with the postcard from Stephen. It’s from the opposite side of Kennedy Plaza (obviously from before KP was KP; it seems to have been some kind of leafy park… any Prov. historians out there got information to offer?), but it’s surprising how similar the angle and the majesty are. Someone pointed out to me the asymmetricality of the building; it’s true, it’s totally weird.

layout & postcard

Here’s a grainy closeup of the letters showing just how much they changed between tracing and rubylith. The rubylith letters are vertically shifted from the traced ones, but the horizontal shifting all came from the kerning decisions!

overlay

Okay, that’s it for tonight, time for BED.


black cat print!

Craftland put one of my prints on their online store, and makes a deserved comparison to science-fiction virtual worlds! Yeah, I couldn’t even keep perspective drawing out of this super-simple, gradient-on-black, print of the helpful cat Buio. Lots of other prints of mine (inc. different versions of the Industrial Trust Building print) are at their holiday sale, till Dec. 31st… as well as many prints by other awesome Providence printmakers. If you’re in Providence, check them out! Blatant sales pitch! yeah!


Oh, if you’re looking for yet more obsessive silkscreen process, I recently came across LesliePVD’s blog, where she’s documenting her artmaking & printing processes, including most recently: screenprinting on linoleum tiles to make patterned floors!! She’s got a lot of great photos & descriptions of technique, much is learnable! Providence does spit out some awesome dedicated maniacs, does it not?


* Actually, this update was begun almost two weeks ago (Dec 2nd?), but I was too busy working on finishing the prints themselves to have time to go through the process photos to post them here. So, this is totally way old news. An update with the completed print is next! I also just came back from New Orleans, with fewer drawings than I would have liked (it rained all week), a copper plate partially etched, some photos, and lots of thoughts, which I will try to sort out & write about in upcoming updates.


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