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“in the new year” part 1 — drawy drawy draw draw

February 20, 2014 at 2:36 am

architectural drawing of roof beams under construction

I haven’t been posting things here recently, I’m not sure why, maybe because it feels somehow weightier than putting something on tumblr or facebook, or like something has to be more “finished” to post it here? Which is absurd because this has always been all about process and things in progress.

Also I was really hoping for some “break time” in the new year, but turns out I’ve just been really busy with three big projects that haven’t been commercial print projects (as in making prints that people might purchase), but instead have been three challenging personal projects in response to assignments or calls from other people (for exhibition, publication, etc). So… kind of a break? at least a break from my regular print work? but all of the projects have been on tight deadlines (and/or just really late because I was supposed to work on them in the fall and didn’t because the fall was such a busy non-stop season for me…), so there’s been a certain level of stress / “I can’t do anything till I finish this project! aaah!” feeling to the past six weeks…

… and also some guilt: “if I post something on my blog, the people who are waiting for this work will think I am procrastinating…” :C

(Update: after finishing this post, I think the main reason is that when posting stuff here I feel like I need to write things about the images and tie them all together / explain somehow… and that writing takes a while…)

Anyways! Here are some images from the thing I am working on right now (the last of the three projects, will post next about the other two). Pencil drawing, gonna try to print it as a tri-tone made of halftone layers. This should be difficult, but not impossible, to print well. I’m trying to glean lessons / avoid pitfalls from printing the duotone hands on the Recycle-A-Bike poster

It is a drawing of an imaginary building that is simultaneously falling apart / under construction, and it will have some text in it (spoken by the person on the right in the below image) but will mostly just be these people exploring the building…

drawing of two people standing under a sloping roof having a conversation

Drawy drawy drawy draw draw, keep drawing, draw all the lines:

drawing of broken lath-&-plaster walls with the plaster crumbling & the lath sticking out at odd angles

Will I someday remember to remember that drawing is easy and fun and the best part of everything? It’s so easy to get intimidated by it, before I’ve started…

When I’m drawing people from my imagination, I feel like I’m still in middle school. I remember the specific feeling of revelation, in early high school, where my drawing practice switched over from “oh I drew that face really perfect, even though it’s in the wrong place in the larger drawing I can’t erase it because I could never get it that perfect again” to “if I need to, I can draw it again, go ahead and erase & make it the way you want it!” But I still feel a little like the lines coming together “right” on a drawing of a person, especially the face, is a magical, accidental thing that I don’t quite have control over…

…and apparently I’m still channeling my favorite characters from elementary school:

illustration from the book

in-progress partial drawing of a child

(the color illustration is from Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, by Edward Ardizzone, great author/illustrator/graphic-narrative-maker/hand-letterer, staple of my childhood… I didn’t realize that he wrote & drew the “Tim” books over the span 1936 to 1977, that is a long run! I also didn’t realize that I haven’t read them all… gotta get on that. Also he made a bunch of paintings and illustrations of harsh scenes that he witnessed as an official “war artist” (!) in World War II… many things to seek out.)

Okay here’s some images from me testing out the tri-tone effect on the computer, to see if it will work with the scale of printing / scale of the details on the drawing… I think so? I hope so!

three-color separation of a detail of the drawing:

halftone image of a section of pencil drawing

lightest tones:

lightest color halftones

medium tones:

medium-value color halftones

darkest tones:

darkest color halftones

These are only test images, the separations will change… After making these, I looked at the Recycle-A-Bike prints compared to their transparencies, and made the note to myself that in shooting the screen, the smallest “positive” (ink) dots do not block enough light and are often lost, and then in printing, the smallest “negative” (blank paper) dots often get obscured by ink bleeding into them… so I will adjust the “curves” that determine where these colors fall in the image, to try for the most descriptive image possible…

Here is a detail of the combination:

combination halftone image in super close up

If you click through & zoom in, when you look at the full-size image, that is a screenshot & shows the image at 100% PIXEL size… that’s 27 lines per inch, at 600 dpi… you can look at the ruler at the top of the image to see what a ruler-inch is for comparison.

I hate to do this, so blog-typical (and I’ve done it before for this same thing! augh) but I need to get back to drawing, so I will say, “I will do a serious process post on how I make these halftone tri-tones / duotones sometime soon!”. And I will follow through with that! (After the thing is printed & mailed out… sheesh.) Is learning about that process something that’s interesting to anyone that reads this blog? Does anyone read this blog, in the age of facebook & tumblr? Hmmmm.

Here’s some sneak-preview multi-layer dazzle-camouflage-pattern blip-blops on clear acetates for one of the other “new year” projects, that I finished last week… I am under orders not to talk about it till the publication that it is for announces its contributors… so I have to wait to give out more specifics! But here are some cool/weird/accidental colors to tide you over:

a bunch of different color geometric patterns printed on clear plastic

Also it is Buio’s birthday sometime in February, he has been my good friend for almost 10 years! (I found him as a kitten in June 2004…) Here’s a nice picture of this companion in front of a cool Katrina drawing:

a black cat sitting on a table in front of a drawing of two women and their little dogs that says 'I stop the world and melt with you'


revisiting history

May 7, 2012 at 3:20 am

I got an email this past week from a journalist-type person asking if I would answer some questions about my artistic interest in industrial landscapes & why “creative types” like myself find them inspiring. Despite being in deadline mode, I carved out some time to write back. It’s not a perfectly crafted piece of writing or anything, but I was glad to get to re-think some ideas from earlier writings (2006, 2009) on my relationship with the industrial spaces around me.

I was also excited to write about problems with capitalism for a story about “how industrial cities like Providence are drawing new residents” — which I assume takes as a baseline that development & capitalist progress are good things. (That might be a mistaken assumption — we’ll see when the piece comes out — but I know my work has been used to justify capitalist development projects in the past…)

The questions were about what drew me to Providence, and about my & other artists’ finding artistic inspiration in old industrial sites.

My answers were, again, not perfect, but turned out interesting enough to post here. (At the bottom are some links to mind-blowing interviews I’ve been listening to recently, super necessary, don’t miss them!)

I came to Providence in 1999 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, after three years in Chicago attending & dropping out of the University of Chicago, waiting tables, & doing theater tech. Re-applying to art schools, my other option was in Manhattan, and I chose Providence after a conversation with an older artist about how not being in a big city gives you time & space to focus & figure out who you are & what kind of work you want to make. Ultimately this was a good instinct, as I feel that my education as an artist and a person has come mainly from Providence & from the communities I’ve become involved in here, rather than from RISD!

In 2001, I got involved in a struggle to save a group of historic industrial buildings from demolition, initially under an inarticulate, historic-preservation-y, “I love these old decrepit buildings, they are so beautiful, it’s so sad to see them get knocked down!” feeling. This emotion quickly developed into standing up for the rich potential engendered by cheap & flexible spaces that provided places for artists to live for little money while making whatever kind of work & noise they needed, as well as places for other project/business initiatives that didn’t necessarily fall under the “art” umbrella, but were equally important to a lively city full of possibility.

Suddenly I found I had a political stance about local initiative from below vs. corporate development imposed from above. My awareness rapidly expanded further to include an understanding of capitalist development & gentrification as affecting more than just “artists” but entire neighborhoods, especially Black & Hispanic populations who were seen as not-worthwhile, un-important residents by the city government, developers, & police. So my initial attraction to the beauty of these old industrial buildings led me to a very intensely humanist and radical political stance about the value of every person’s life & the unjustness of a system that reduces us to what we produce and purchase, that attempts to control us based on nationality, ethnicity, or class.

I love old buildings (not just industrial buildings, but any building made by hand and/or before the onset of mass-manufactured building materials, roughly pre-World War II) for the strangeness of their dimensions, the way every one is different, the ways they’ve been changed over time through being lived in, used, & modified… These slight differences, the visible effects of aging and living, connect them to our bodies and to us, they feel human like us, we give them the metaphorical attributes of our own structure (outer protective skin, windows as eyes, internal intimacy, etc)… Newer buildings, about which the construction decisions are made according to the pre-determined machine dimensions of their materials, are less compelling and have less correspondence to our human lives…

In Western/European society, there’s a extremely long tradition of artists & weirdos being drawn to ruins, decrepit areas, and decay as an inspiration for their work — the Italian Renaissance (which was inspired by digging up Roman-era ruins & scuplture), Dürer’s & Piranesi’s engravings, the European Romantic poets & artists, British landscape architects creating fake picturesque ruins on the estates of rich landowners… (to name the examples that come immediately to mind, I am not really an art-historian…!). I see the artists currently working on imagery of decaying industrial buildings as a continuation of this fascination with ruins, for the same reasons as Western artists since the 1400s — because they bring our humanity and our mortality clearly to mind. For instance… wandering through a decrepit building evokes our imaginations of the lives that have been lived in its now-empty spaces. As the structure is exposed through decay, the craft of the human labor that has gone into it is eloquently revealed. The invasion of moisture, rot, and growing plants make clear the ultimate futility of humans’ bold attempts to create things, and the building’s final collapse shows what will be the inevitable result of our continuing efforts to create right angles and vertical walls.

So all this stuff has a long-standing place in our cultural imagination, our Western/European concepts of human vs. natural, death vs. life, chaos vs. order, etc. Right now, there is especially fertile ground for US artists inspired by these buildings: the scale and hubris of 19th- & 20th-century US industrial development and its subsequent rapid collapse following the multinationalization of corporations, the exploitation of non-unionized workers around the world, and the abandonment of industrial installations here in North America. Buildings built 70 to 140 years ago, which stopped being carefully maintained in the 1960s or 70s, are quickly reaching the end of their structural life, and I appreciate the initiative of skilled photographers and artists who are rushing to document these soon-to-be-lost places!

I think there’s also a growing awareness of the irrelevancy and destructiveness of 20th-century capitalism, and these buildings are a relic of & metaphor for how capitalism’s ideology of progress — and the revelation of the emptiness and disaster behind that ideology — have utterly changed our world in the past 200 years. This is our history, embodied in these structures, so we are working with it & processing it through art. In my own work I find myself turning away from documenting or romanticizing these old buildings. Even though I feel their beauty & emotion, I’m more interested in imagining a future beyond and past and separate from capitalism… what do we build next? If we can use & re-inhabit these old structures, great! But we still have to keep living, whether it’s in the ruins or on the ground where they have crumbled, so how do we deal with their polluted history (literally and figuratively, chemically & emotionally) and work towards reclaiming our lives & supporting our friends & building new families and societies? To echo Durruti, workers built those buildings in the first place, so we can build new & more beautiful things if those are destroyed. That’s what I find myself thinking about these days…

So yeah, this is me remembering that I am a political artist, & feeling more politicized now than ever (mostly thanks to amazing friends / conversation partners / co-conspirators!). Listening (and re-listening, and re-listening) to amazing interviews with Judith Butler and with Dean Spade & Eric A. Stanley while printing Plant Sale posters this last week… Also along similar lines, I got to see some David Wojnarowicz screenprints today! Whoa. Extra super inspired about the possibilities of and necessity for political art… hopefully I can actually accomplish & work on the things I am thinking about…

projects done, new projects

May 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

guys I made these posters they are cool now I have to get back to work & make some more!

(color balance is a lil off on these photos…)

The Plant Sale is this weekend! I’ll be there selling these posters at the “merch” section, come find me & say hi. (and get some amazing plants, this event is not to be missed!!!)

This show already happened (only a day after I finished the posters, unfortunately… but that is what facebook is for, right?). I have a super-limited number of these prints left, they’re not in the store yet — email me if you’re interested!


This kind of side-to-side repeating happened to some extent, simply by accident, on the two previous Plant Sale posters I’ve made, so I made it happen on purpose for these guys:

… aaagh, trapped in an infinite Victorian wallpaper nightmare of eggplant jungle …

Thanks to the magical Noel’le for the loan of the 30″ long squeegee used to make the three separate rainbow roll layers that make up this print!

The drawings & transparencies turned out to be pretty intricate objects in themselves…

Next projects are a poster for Recycle-A-Bike, and lots & lots of work on architectural prints of an imaginary (or realistic?) future, for a show at Brown’s Bell Gallery in the fall… more info upcoming! I also have many many ideas for other projects… argh. Also I’m going to be a workshare again this summer at Scratch Farm — YEAH!

Been reading interviews with & writings by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, sooooo gooooood

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???


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!


July 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm

braddock stairs
[fire escape stairs in Braddock, PA]

Well, here I am in Pittsburgh, PA with Meg Turner, at the house of our awesome friends Miriam and Jeffrey, hanging out with them and their awesome cat Boris, drinking a lot of coffee, drawing a lot, working (which includes drawing, but also fiddling with the internet and trying to stay in touch with everybody and keep it together), and trying to catch up on stuff. This is kind of overwhelming, since I am trying at the same time to explore outwardly (Pittsburgh is really intriguing & beautiful, lots of good biking & looking at buildings) as I try to clean house work-wise & inwardly (and hopefully writing some letters as well, Deb!). I’m also working on a commissioned print that has nothing to do with Pittsburgh, or Providence for that matter, so that’s another split for my time & energy.

Still, it’s really good to be here and good to focus: the unaccustomed environment allows for a certain kind of inward-ness that so far feels very productive.

I am enjoying drawing the same thing over and over. Drawing with pen only — no erasing (which is nice & challenging, though I think I’m gonna be throwing pencil back into the mix for the next one). There’s at least one more drawing to be made of this view… maybe more? as well as many more beautiful back alleys within five blocks of where we are staying.

snow way 1

snow way 2

snow way 3

Our friends and co-collaborators Liz, Meredith, Delia, and Andrew O are also joining us for parts of this informal residency — it’s (been) great to have them along. Andrew is *right now* doing a participatory city-building project in St. George, Utah — if you are in that part of Utah, you should find him, check it out, and jump in!

Here are a couple of photos from recent travels — I’ll be putting more up on tumblr soon.

gazela stairs
Stairs down to the engine room on the tall ship Gazela, in Philadelphia (May 15-18, May 29-31, July 8-12: family & weddings)

Tape measure brothers, or maybe uncle and nephew? at my aunt’s house in Austin, TX (June 3-7, family visit & my cousin’s high school graduation)

a giant building, with a weird little cabin extension built out over the driveway…
in New Orleans (June 7-14, visiting Meg, learning about what it means to be hot)

beautiful letters, beautiful bike!  bike trips: the best kind of traveling…
Voluntown, CT (June 23-24, bike trip with my friend Laura)

photo of sketchbook…
Drawing from Chinatown in New York (June 29-July 1, work trip to draw & take reference photos for the commission)

sad neon
and… in Pittsburgh. (July 13-present).

So yes, I have been traveling around way way way too much — there wasn’t a week since the beginning of May when I wasn’t out of town for one thing or another! Craziness. This time in Pittsburgh is a good existence in one place for a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to an August & September spent entirely in Providence.

At the end of Sept/beginning of October I & some other Prov/former Prov folks are going to have a print show at the Bushwick Print Lab in New York. In November I think I’m going to be back in New Orleans to do some more teaching… more info & dates for both those things as they approach and as stuff gets solidified.

Also, I just found out that I am going to be in the RISD alumni/student fall and winter sales! October 9th and December 4th, respectively. In the meantime, some of my prints are now for sale at the awesomely curated shop-of-precious-items Frog & Toad, on Hope St. in Providence (as well as still at Craftland).

More updates later! There is a lot more to catch up on. I’m sorry for lacks of information about crucial projects… but I need to draw!

time, timer, timing

April 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

new orleans, poydras st.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written or posted anything here! and I’ve generally been neglecting my internets in general. (with the exception of Facebook, for what it’s worth…) The translation of this is that I’ve been working really hard & intensely on stuff in the physical world.

new orleans, beautiful can from the fridge at Nowe Miasto, long-opened and full of moldy beans!

quick list:
new orleans …

new orleans, central city neighborhood

back in Providence…

  • drawing
  • printing (postcards, prints, posters)
  • a little bit of gardening
  • making zines
  • mixing colors, printing infinite rainbow rolls that really deserve the name
  • trying to get old projects printed so I can move on to new projects.
  • building little block cities out of a bag of woodshop scraps from Utah.
  • taking lots of pictures, realizing on return from new orleans that there are a bunch of things I like to take pictures of (hand-drawn letters, beautiful buildings, useful/weird customizations of things, falling-apart stuff) here as well! and that I should document it somehow, and that drawing just isn’t fast enough… that the speed of the camera doesn’t imply some kind of lack of moral grounding. I know, self-limiting thoughts, hilarious. !

providence, off of Prairie & Public streets.  they may be tearing this building down, it’s unclear…!?


Real briefly, big developments in my life & thinking have been these two:

— Realizing I don’t need to be an architect someday. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me it is a big one. Since I finished school, I had had in my head the idea that at some point I would stop making prints and go work in an architect’s office and work my way up into that kind of career… that that would be when my “real life” would start.

Recently, due to a number of incidents & factors that all kind of piled on each other, I realized that a) I really love making prints and those challenges and sets of ideas and questions and things to explore (especially, hey, prints about buildings); b) as an artist who understands buildings, I can always work with architects and build off their deeper knowledge and learn more from them and add something to their understandings (even in traditional architectural practice, architects hardly ever work alone, they are always collaborating with other architects, engineers, specialists, etc!); c) that I can always work on buildings but under a collaborative and co-learning model, not trying to fit the way I work into the hierarchy of an office (very intimidating to me), and not being limited by “architecture’s” rigid separation between designing and building.

With the idea in mind that I was someday going to stop printing and change paths, I wasn’t really letting myself give all my energy to print stuff… now I sense a re-focusing and a shifting of my attention, and expansion of energy… it’s very exciting. We’ll see what comes out of it. !!

drawing for plant sale poster 2010!

— A friend ribbed me that “For the past five years, you’ve been making the same thing!” Aha, a sensitive spot!

Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.

(Borges, The Secret Miracle)

Thinking about this, I realized that I have, for the past bunch of years, actually just been executing ideas that I originally had two or five or eight years ago… that I have kind of been a carrier-out of my own ideas, as opposed to an artist working in the present with what I am thinking about now… ideas I have now are pushed off till later (“till I finish the projects I already planned”) and sometimes get forgotten or shoved away entirely. Not the best of situations! So along with focusing my energy on printing instead of on a vague and not-really-desired future as an architect, I am finishing up long-standing projects and trying to get to a place where I can work more directly on ideas I have now…

Okay, so this could get into a much longer ramble about thoughts for the future and specific projects and etc. that I know you all want to know about… but I really need to get to printing!!! The upshot is, still working, still thinking, same projects, new motivation, new projects, new ideas pouring in all the time, can I keep up with them? Probably not, but I’m still trying.

can I get a little figurine made of this?[attempt on the left by me; drawing on the right by Lena, inspired by San-X, there is a singing worm from the worm-bin next to me; in background, new Industrial Trust Building postcards!]

Helpful Tools note:

I have started using an internet-based work timer called SlimTimer, which Arley-Rose told me about… I was skeptical at first, having had limited success with ‘systems’ which are supposed to help you manage your time… but whoa, being able to know how long I actually spend on things is actually CHANGING MY LIFE.

Also, Meg Turner & I are gonna be selling our work at the spring RISD alumni art sale! Saturday May 1st, 10am-4pm, Benefit St, Providence. Directions are at the link… come by & say hi even if you’re broke! I will have cheap postcards/small prints and zines for sale, as well as some older/larger/more expensive work too. Meg will be bringing her gorgeous photogravures (some new & some old), as well as new screenprints, up from New Orleans. Hooray for ART!

drawing in new orleans!

February 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

I got stuck in New Orleans for five extra days last week, because of the many feet of snow that fell on the mid-atlantic cities, blocking all airport connections. So I got some extra time down there to draw, watch the Saints win the super bowl, build a loft with Meg in her room, and work a little bit more on a new print. It wasn’t really *warm*, but we did get some good sunny days, and it was really good to be there.

post breakfast
[looking skeptical, but actually feeling great, on a typical street in the Bywater neighborhood… my facial expressions rarely correspond to the internal emotions!]

Going through the photos of this trip and my visit in December, I realized there are way too many to put up here, and I should probably finally bite the bullet and make an account on flickr or something like that… but for now, here are just a couple of pictures/notes.

My experience with metal-plate-based printing is very slim: I made a couple of drypoints back in 2002 as part of a wintersession class that I partially audited before fleeing Providence (heartbroken!) on a two-week greyhound-bus Punch & Judy tour. Now, Meg is running a community printshop at an arts non-profit in New Orleans, and they have two large etching presses… so one of my goals for visiting was to print those drypoints again, and to work on a new plate… or two… or however far I got.

meg’s favorite factory

I’ve been really drawn towards just looking & drawing, as I’ve written about here before, and I had an idea about drawing directly on the printing plate… Well, this was more complicated than I thought it would be, because it’s very hard to see what you are drawing in the shiny metal, and even harder to understand how it’s going to print.

Sitting outside and drawing the factory was really rewarding, but the technical demands of the plate made those rewards fewer and farther between. You scratch a line in the metal – it feels like it was deep enough – but it might print really lightly, or really darkly — it’s hard to tell… and you can’t tell for sure until you pull a print from it, which is a bike ride and 45 minutes of work (at least) away.

preliminary pencil drawing and metal plate with tools…
[left: preliminary drawing on paper, and right: beginning to transfer it to the plate]

I guess I should say that it’s hard to tell *for me*, a beginner. Also, it’s really hard for me to feel like a total beginner at something: and the learning curve is pretty steep here, at the point where I am, and in this process which is ancient and demanding. Right? So, I can go easy on myself. Or, I would like to be able to…

reflection & scratched lines…
[out-of-focus scratched lines in the plate…]

The initial proofs look good, but I’ve got a ways to go… somewhat like all my other projects right now… argh. I don’t know why I expect anything different, at this point. My friend Sandy, who recently moved to New Orleans, brought up the idea of doing a series of prints about the city… I would like to… maybe studies of building details, especially of awnings and overhangs… I took some pictures while I was there for source material… but there are so many things I am trying to do!

Here’s Meg’s loft under construction (for some reason there are no pictures of it completed – yet):

meg with the drill
[yeah, we know you are supposed to use nails and not screws to hold joist hangers — but she wants to be able to take the whole thing apart and re-assemble it, if need be…]

gray computer tones

October 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

The preliminary single-color version of the Polish Home drawing, which Olneyville Housing will use as publicity for their re-dedication, is done.

ink drawing - computer tones

The gray computer tones are useful for showing the shape of the building, & differentiating the bricks and the stone trim. They are little too clean, maybe, but when the image gets printed out, the texture that the printer makes — even though it is fine-grained — warms it up a little bit! And the final screenprint will be more complex & messy: the chaos will get its chance.

By looking at one of the pictures I took as a photo-reference, we can see what the real purpose and function of “Art” is in the world: removing awkwardly placed urban infrastructure!

photo reference

I’ve been reading the great new book The Printed Picture, by Richard Benson, which is all about how images have been transferred to paper across the years, and goes up through the present digital printing technologies. It is super excellent, super nerdy, and right up my alley. It was a gift — thank you Rob!

polish national home / george c. arnold building

October 19, 2009 at 5:43 am

I am working on too many projects at once but THAT IS OKAY.

polish home drawing

This is for a commissioned print of the Polish National Home, in my neighborhood, that has been renovated by Olneyville Housing Corporation, the local community development non-profit, for use as their offices.

I got to see the original blueprints for this building, and even some preliminary proposal drawings for it. In the preliminary drawings, it had an art-deco style chain-hung metal-and-glass awning over the door… then by the final blueprints, there is this totally awkward neo-classical pediment thing going on. Why? I don’t know.

polish home drawing detail

Ink is going onto mylar over the super precise pencil drawing. I forgot how much fun making this kind of drawing is.

It was great to figure out the geometry and composition of the front door corner facade: reminding me again that even a strange little building like this one has a proportional rhythm to it. The perspective looks wrong because the building is on a hill: the street to the right goes up steeply, but it looks like the line where the building meets the road is receding too sharply. Any suggestions about how to solve that problem?

The blueprints have great hand-lettering on them. At some point soon I’ll try & post some pictures of them and of other old blueprint lettering that Rob C. & I found recently…

… on the sad end of the spectrum, I suspect that the George C. Arnold building, aka “the skinny building”, is about to be torn down. The owner was grudgingly beginning to address its structural issues, and had put up some scaffolding along the back wall (which is windowless) when there was a suspicious fire. Last week, the scaffolding was taken down… which, to me, seems to bode ill for the building’s long-term survival.

george c. arnold building, providence, ri

It’s on the corner of Washington & Mathewson streets, in downtown Providence. Go visit it, pay homage, take some beautiful pictures, ask yourself again why the heck they ever built a building that is only ONE ROOM WIDE, maybe call the preservation society even though they are generally kind of ineffective these days… I don’t know what course of action to recommend… If it is demolished, a lot of people will miss it greatly.

If I had more time and was less project-schizophrenic and in a super-intense emotional state all the time, I would sit out there downtown, even in this cold October weather, and make some awesome drawings of it, probably crying giant tears the entire time… Things being as they are, I just took a bunch of pictures (crying giant tears the entire time) that will hopefully be able to serve as photo-reference for some drawings and prints in the future.


classic superman style

October 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

This building, which faces onto the central bus plaza of downtown Providence, has been the home of three or maybe four banks, one after the other, in the ten years I’ve lived here. When I talk about the print I’m working on to people, nobody is exactly certain which bank is the current occupant… but everyone immediately knows the building itself. It’s generally referred to as “the Superman building”, because it supposedly gets leaped over in a single bound in one of the early movies.

“the superman building”

In architectural history class years ago, discussing 1920s urbanism, the professor raised the crucial point that Providence didn’t ever actually need setbacks on its single, lonely skyscraper — even now, the downtown density doesn’t warrant them. However, it’s good that they did build this slightly cheesy, mini-Hugh-Ferriss-ian pile of limestone, because it’s the one building that receives unconditional love from everyone who’s ever lived here. Providence’s newer tall buildings (whether from the 1980s or the 2000s), with their flat curtain walls, tend to be universally detested.

I drew it from life in summer 2002, sitting on the steps of the downtown post office for days on end (becoming buddies with the post office security guard in the process). Watching the sun pass over the building during the course of the day, I gleaned some secrets about the uses of recessed and protruding facade elements to cast shadows, enhancing the heavenward directionality. (The photo above is terrible, by the way: it’s taken with my cell phone camera at the cloudy end of a day, so none of the awesome linearity of the building is apparent… I’ll update with a better photo on the next sunny day!)

dave cole poster

I used the image to make the above poster design for Dave Cole, which the excellent Neil Burke printed (because I didn’t know anything about printing then, and was totally overwhelmed by the idea of printing 200 posters or however many Dave wanted). I finished cutting out all the super tiny windows totally last-minute, during down-time at my cousin’s wedding in Maine: I have troubled memories of sitting at a folding table, awkward in my fancy clothes, slicing meticulously with the knife, trying desperately not to be distracted by the fun happenings in the next room.

oh, the scotch tape!

complete with registration mark & black ink correction over the rubylith...

The transparencies, subject of so much precisional distress, are now in pretty rough shape: besides physical damage, check out where the non-archival scotch tape, stuck on to hold tiny straying pieces of rubylith, has actually bled the red color out of the rubylith! I scanned them a couple of months ago, and now I’m working in photoshop to repair some of the damage, and to re-align (more…)

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