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

new your city forever!

April 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

Real real real quick:

In 2006 & 2007, I conspired with Ann Schattle, the children’s specialist at the Fox Point branch of the Providence Public Library, to work with kids in the library to build a city, in the library!, out of cardboard, recycled materials, and trash. (Here’s the website I made for the second year of the project.) It was named “New Your City” by one of the participants, who was then in second grade…

The library is now the Fox Point Community Library, kids have been asking for and talking about city-building for the past four years, and Ann and local artist Mary Geiser have brought the New Your City project back for a third iteration! The kid who named the city is in seventh grade, and on Friday we built a working drawbridge together, for multiple lanes of traffic…

I haven’t had anything to do with organizing the project this time around, and it’s been really great to pass the project on (under an informal creative-commons share-alike non-commercial license, more or less) and see it come to life again! Back in 2007-2008, two friends who had helped build the Providence New Your City did further versions of the project, one person at the elementary school where they were teaching in Boston, the other with children they were working with in a refugee settlement in Palestine… but I didn’t get to witness those except through photographs.

This time it was great to take part as a helper/builder participant, and to realize that I could be in that space of chaotic building, and be a force for order & structure, without being responsible for how everybody’s building turned out (or whether everything fell over…!). Mary made the asphalt road segments and I built the structure for this super-tall elevated highway:

So why am I telling you about this???

Well…..

There’s a New Your City party this Tuesday, April 26th, from 5-7 pm, at the library (90 Ives St, corner of Ives & Wickenden), and we would love for you to stop by & see what everyone has made. All the kids’ parents will bring great snacks, the What Cheer? Brigade is going to play, it’s your once-every-four-years chance to run around & yell in the library… NOT TO BE MISSED.

My favorite part of the city project is possibly the binder notebook in which kids & grownups are asked to write (or draw, or dictate to somebody else to write) about what they made. The binders from the previous years are still proudly displayed in the library, as a record of everybody’s ideas, work, & intentionality. Here are some snaps from this year’s binder… come see more at the party!

and, um, my favorite that I’ve seen so far:


Other work news: the Plant Sale poster is done, the eggplants are just about the same color as my eggplant-colored sweatshirt, what happened there???? I dunno.

The other poster is laaaate but siiiiiiiiiiiiick. ok more soon!

delights of working

April 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

For a big chunk of the first couple months of this year, I wasn’t really working on print or drawing projects. Partly this is because I was re-doing the main section of my website, to focus on things that are my priorities now — rather than in 2007 when I first set the website up! (Though I haven’t even put the new pages and updated structure up yet, various reasons, blurgle…) Partly I wasn’t working because I was reading a bunch of books, because I was having lots of complicated thoughts, because I was dealing with personal stuff, because I was hanging out with friends and enjoying awesome Providence companionship.

However! whatever the factors, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been working a bunch, and man do I love drawing, and thinking about colors, and printing. !!! It’s good to remember that. I’m putting a lot of energy into figuring a bunch of other aspects of my life out, but it’s amazing to be able to come back to drawing and printing and get super entranced and delighted by it.

In part of my effort to get things done a little faster, keep it fun, and not get bored, a new strategy is “rubylith-native” letters — letterforms that are just laid out sketchily in pencil, and take their final form from the razor-knife cutting the rubylith film. “With that knife, you’re not drawing a regular line, you’re cutting the infinitesimal dividing line between what is and what is not.” Thanks, Jacob!

Two layers of the 2011 Plant Sale poster are folded to the right in the photo below — the “key” outline (eggplants & linework), in black ink on mylar, and the transparency for the orange which will fill in the front of the banners, the red rubylith. The transparency folded back to the left is for the bright green that will be leaves & stems & some other things: that one is a combination of ink & rubylith. Both the orange and the green layers are in process in this photo; you’ll see their development further down in this post. (The blue bits are painters’ tape that holds things together and allows me to fold the transparency layers back and forth while keeping things aligned…)

Here I’ve cut the paper-color letters out of the solid “orange” of the banner; that is the layer that is lying flat underneath. Out of the “green” layer, which in the last photo was still solid, I’ve made delicate outlines for both the Southside Community Land Trust and Plant Sale letters, and I’m lifting it up so they can be seen. As with all these photos, you can click for a larger image, and in this one the larger size really makes clear what is going on.

SCLT asked me for some small graphics to use as spot illustrations or decorative emblems on other promotional materials. Here are those as drawn in ink on mylar, ready to be scanned in & cleaned up to become digital graphics…


I’m usually working on multiple projects at the same time, but usually not so close together or so intensively as these two posters. Here’s some progress on the Grass Widow / Songs For Moms poster (amid the detritus of drawing day, also feat. Jacob‘s sketchbook, Christopher‘s circle template, and (not pictured) Charlotte).

Letters done / building more developed / rubylith cut & folded back to prepare for more perspective drawing (!). Plowing through the chaos.


Back to the plant sale poster! SCLT is working with a RISD design professor to unify their graphic identity for their 30th anniversary — historically they’ve had a bunch of different publications & newsletters, a website, as well as posters made by artists, which have all been designed by different people and thus all over the place visually & aesthetically. They asked me to use some of their new identity colors in the poster:

It’s really interesting to have someone else’s color selection to work with, it makes things a lot simpler in some senses, reduces the scope of decision-making. I matched the colors exactly… and then in getting ready to print, I’ve found myself shifting them slightly towards a combination that is more interesting to me, or that seems more harmonious or possibly more weird. I do have to put my name on this thing after all… :)

Final, ready-to-print orange layer (actually it’s already printed as I type this!):

Final ready-to-print green layer (that one’s tomorrow i.e. in a couple of hours):

The bottom of the green layer, showing three different materials going into one layer of a screenprint. I cut the stems and graphic stuff out of rubylith, then taped a sheet of prepared mylar over it and on that, drew the ink textures of the leaves, the speech-bubble outlines, etc. Using ink & a brush on a piece of tracing paper, I drew the names of the musicians, scanned that in, inverted it, printed that onto a copier acetate… and then cut out those names and collaged them onto the other layers, cutting out gaps in the rubylith so that the letters would show through to the color beneath…

More soon, including, most likely, finished posters!


This past week I also got to go in the Tirocchi mansion, which E. Elizabeth has some real nice photos of on With Care. Rob & John & I went over and joined lots of our friends and fellow Providencians in a huge nerd posse exploring this soon-to-be-renovated magical giant house. I took lots of pictures.

Patterns for the copyin’:

Never-to-be-seen-again (at least by me) views:

And really beautiful construction details.

Rob, as is his wont and his passion, looked for unnoticed detritus, and John, as is his profession and his passion, did research:

Working! it’s awesome!

late-nite printing at NUA

April 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

My friend & colleague Emmy Bright (at right above) is an amazing artist, teacher, and mentor, and has incredible abilities (and reserves of strength) to organize & inspire the people around her! I met her through New Urban Arts, where she came to be a Mentor Fellow in the fall of 2009 — to work with the artist mentors there, supporting them and developing insight into how artist-mentoring works at NUA. She also has become a super crucial presence around the studio, both emotionally, artistically, and in a leadership role keeping (bad) craziness down & awesomeness (aka good craziness) up. I can’t really put the words around how important her presence — at NUA, in Providence, and in my life — has been over the past year & a half!

it's a traditional "key" layer! mostly.

One of the first things we did together was a screenprinting workshop for artist mentors… Since then I have been proud to assist and consult with Emmy on the multiple screenprinting projects that she has taken on! I stopped in to New Urban Arts a week or two ago when she was finishing printing the poster for this year’s Conversations In Creative Practice Series, and I got to take some pictures of Emmy working with Bridgette, Noel, and CJ — NUA students & alumni who were helping her out.

sorting out finished prints

taking the tabs off the finished prints

Here’s the timelapse video of CJ and Emmy pulling the last four prints in the run of (I think?) one hundred. CJ is keeping her hands clean, placing the paper with two colors already printed on it onto the pins — then Emmy (with messy hands!) pulls the print and floods the screen with ink again — then CJ lifts the paper off and puts a new sheet on.

print details:

( these two events have already taken place, they were pretty great:)

the first two conversations in the series

(and these two are yet to come, on the next two upcoming Thursdays: April 14th & April 21st, 7pm, at 743 Westminster St, Providence. more information!)

the last two conversations in the series

A couple of days later, we went to Black Cat Graphics on Providence’s South Side to trim the edges off the posters with Jim Pfeiffer’s giant paper cutter. Check out how the guillotine cut reveals how the rainbow roll (from red to transparent ink) was slightly varied on each one of the prints:

as cut by the giant guillotine!

Emmy measuring and marking the stack of prints for cutting. Hooray for screenprinting projects!

giant guillotine blade at left...

drawing some things

April 4, 2011 at 8:08 am

Spring is almost here (though for some reason snow is still falling on our heads occasionally?!)… so now that it’s time to ride bikes and go outside a lot, I find myself working on three poster commissions. I was not really accepting poster commissions for a while, but these are all a) awesome, b) meaningful within my community, and c) planned *way* in advance, so they meet the criteria!

Here is the initial pencil sketch for the 2011 Plant Sale poster, from sometime last week:

and where the drawing stood, pretty much done, in its full-scale version last night a couple of nights ago:

I figured out the secret to doing these things fast: if you choose a plant whose elements are relatively larger, they take up more space on the page, and you have to draw exponentially fewer of them! As opposed to the snap peas or cherry tomatoes of the two previous years’ posters… Strategy, Cozzens, strategy.

I traded some prints to Shawn G. for a new camera with the capacity to shoot time-lapse stuff, so here’s a first experimental video in that vein. What is mostly noticeable from this is a) how many times I erase and re-draw things just to move them over a sixteenth of an inch, and b) how jankily I hold my pencil! Look at that squinched-up finger, eek. Other things that might be of interest to fellow nerds are the development of the tiny serifs as I draw the word “Plant”, figuring out the angle of the letter A and its cross-bar, and re-drawing the S over & over again to make it curve around the curve of the banner…..

The pencil is a 2mm H lead (I know, pretty soft) in a Staedtler Mars 780 architect’s lead-holder; the eraser is a Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub #1960: new indispensable tool, crucial for erasing on vellum, excellent on everything else as well. Periodic pauses denote sharpening of the pencil.


I’m also drawing a cool cutaway building, secret-headquarters-style, for a punk show on April 28th (yeah, way in advance!). I was working on it yesterday last week at “drawing day” at Ada Books, in the storefront window next to Tom Bubul‘s feet:

The tools here are: a regular pencil (B, really soft!), the trusty Peel-Off Magic Rub, Olfa knife for sharpening, and COFFEE.

The bands are: Grass Widow, Broken Water, Songs For Moms, Jacob The Terrible, and Static Era a.k.a. Natalja Kent‘s New America (that last link is slightly NSFW, sorry…). This show is gonna rule. April 28th. Thursday nite. BLDG 16. Don’t skip it…


I have a couple of small handmade books, including my hand-printed-&-bound calendar/planners from 2004-2006 (memories!), in the Magic Child Repository, a group show at Craftland that opens on Thursday, April 7th! Curated by Art Middleton of Tiny Hawks, Arcing, and other local awesomeness.

Okay I think that’s it for now. See you at a dance party or a show or a coffee shop or in my (or possibly your) kitchen in the near future!


reading: Loose Space: Possibility & Diversity in Urban Life, ed. Karen A. Franck & Quentin Stevens; The Screwball Asses, by Guy Hocquenghem; Lyonel Feininger’s collected comic strips from 1906…

“printed in Providence” show – last day!

April 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Today, Saturday April 2nd, is the last day to see the group show I am in at Cade Tompkins Projects!

The gallery is open till 6pm. It’s in the basement of a large brick house on Hope between Waterman & Angell streets; you have to go up Fones Alley to the lower level garage driveway, walk up to the totally forbidding door to the right of the garage doors, and knock: there will be a few seconds’ pause in which you wonder if you are indeed in the right place, and then Ms. Tompkins (say it: “Cay-dee”) will open the door super graciously and welcome you inside. You could try to crawl in through the dumbwaiter like my brothers did but I do not recommend it.

If you can’t make it over there, get the vicarious experience of my prints through Danny & Richy:

There’s so much great work in the rest of the show, as well — I highly suggest checking it out in person if you can!


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