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

“what does that say?”

May 12, 2013 at 3:22 am


It says: dissonance.

Here are the two colorways of the actual print, a green that’s somewhere between forest & olive, & a bright orange. It’s about 27.5″ x 12.5″, a large one. The below images link to the prints newly in the store!


So… why “dissonance” ?

This print springs directly out of drawing (in mid-summer 2012) all the letters for the “our complexity is the world” print (some process details; buy one!); and feeling just a little fed up with drawing so many lowercase letters in the same form; and my handwriting slipping into sketchiness when writing “dissonance”…


Then I realized that there was no need to pull those letters back into linear alignment, and that that was a word that I wanted to celebrate further in another print…

Late summer 2012 found me sitting on a rock on Conanicut, above the waves, mostly naked (as friends & I were a lot last summer), drawing it in my sketchbook:

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page

(Here’s past process notes from some color decisions, and some color testing and weird-overlap-printing. More process shots from printing are below; hover over them for details.)


“Sooooo….. uh. Why dissonance?”

The application of this word to trans stuff or gender issues originates with the awesome writer and scientist Julia Serano, in her book Whipping Girl:

gender dissonance:
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

When I was first reading about trans stuff, Whipping Girl (which I highly recommend), was really important to me, not least because of finding Serano’s definition quoted above. Her extended explication of her use of the word “dissonance” gave me a handle on the way I felt about my body, which I had had no words for before. I had felt that way pretty much all the time since my early teenage-hood, and, partly because of having no words for it, had assumed all women felt the same way about their bodies.

In the couple of years since first reading that, the word “dissonance” has continued to be super relevant to my existence. As time has gone on, through conversations and meeting people and the internet and witnessing the multifariousness of the possibilities of gendered existence in the world, I’ve relaxed some of my harsh demands on my own gendered existence… I’ve allowed myself to be a person who has a complicated gender & complicated body, and I’ve complicated that gender & body for myself further… and come to embrace the ambiguity and positivity that come along with the word “dissonance”.


It’s more useful for wrapping around my gender or body feelings than the commonly used term “dysphoria” — which is all medicalized, seems decisively negative, and makes you feel like there’s something “wrong” with you. Dissonance is originally a word for talking about sound or music, it’s the opposite of “consonance”, which is “things sounding similar” or “things in harmony” — but neither consonance or dissonance are necessarily good or bad, they’re just descriptions of two states of existing or relating.

Sometimes dissonance can be really incomprehensible, confusing, and make you feel unbalanced & weird, when two notes are not in tune or two frequencies are not quite lining up & there are weird noises that you think you might be imagining…


BUT when you listen carefully it might also sound pretty awesome and interesting, and more complicated than just some Mozart or whatever, and there’s a lot to hear there that you might not have listened for if everything had been all sounding-good to start with…


BUT even if you’re making this music yourself, on purpose, cause you like it, it might still be hard or painful to listen to… BUT you feel compelled to make it and/or other music is just boring and/or it’s the only thing you’re interested in and/or you don’t know how to make any other kinds of sounds…


SO you keep making it even though it feels weird sometimes. Or, all the time. Or rather, it feels TOTALLY WEIRD and TOTALLY AWESOME at the same time, or so closely alternating / simultaneous that you can’t actually tell how you feel about it. Even figuring that out is confusing & takes up a lot of your mental energy, but ultimately it’s worth it cause you don’t really know another way to be… you don’t have a choice. OR maybe you do — the “born that way” doctrine is kind of obnoxious & determinist, after all, and you are indeed making a choice — as this guy has said, your choice is to be here with us.


So yeah, DISSONANCE. All right.

late nites work nites

January 15, 2013 at 5:54 am

So nothing is stopping here, really quick here are some various process shots, as I just keep on task in a really kind of wonderful way preparing for this show (opening Feb 2, Saturday, 5-7, AS220, yes I’m mentioning it again!). When I’m really working on things, which I have been & it’s been awesome, I stay up till 4 or 6am and sleep till noon or 2pm, so A) don’t call me before noon unless it’s an emergency or we planned on it beforehand, and B) it’s really great to have a housemate who is also awake all night and practices beautiful/weird bass & piano scales while I mix colors…!

Sometimes the printed color is the same density as the hand-wiped color swatch (L)… sometimes not (R). The far-right test is closer to the ink these were actually printed with:

test swatches & printed test colors

Test prints usually look more dynamic to me than the “real” print (that’s why a bunch of these newsprint test guys will actually be part of the show…):

test printings of geometric letterforms

These are the first two colors on the four colorways (I know, four is too many) of the “Queers!” print:

different colorways of geometric letterforms

One thing that’s unusual for me is because of the deadline, I’m working on six (!) projects at the same time… I usually work on one thing at a time till it’s done. I am really, really bad at working on many things at once. But because of the scheduling, lots of different elements that need to fall into place, and different logistical things, this is how it’s rolling out — and I actually really like it. It means I have to really focus and set aside my evenings & nights pretty dedicatedly to working (and check out my organizational structures at the bottom of this post)! But it’s really rewarding & it’s pretty lovely to be in a color thinking / print thinking / drawing thinking mode a lot — though I switch back into an organizational / logistical mode often, cause it all has to get FINISHED!

Also, all of these projects were begun / conceived of / initiated sometime in the past two years… and are now seeing a final push towards completion for the show. I don’t know if I could be coming up with new ideas or new complex drawings on this kind of deadline and all in the same stretch of time… that might not be possible.

* * * *

This picture was taken as a “visual note” so I can remember how I might want to line up the next layers:

printed script letters with rubylith transparencies over them

Printed on my 5+-year-old plastic alignment sheet, as this gloss varnish dries, it seems to make the worn & scratched alignment sheet look clear & clean… hmm… oooh… gloss varnish… !

gloss varnish, printed on plastic, showing its anti-refractive tendencies

Harnessing the magic of the test prints to make cool unique “real” prints:

cool accidental/intentional color magic

Also I’ve been re-laying-out & adding a second layer to these stickers from this past summer:

screenshot of misalignment test for stickers

They are gonna get Risographed by Walker Mettling of the Providence Comics Consortium, which I am excited about, but the degree of my stress about getting the layout & alignment of the images set up for the RISO machine was totally out of proportion to the importance of whether these are actually well aligned. Walker was like “it’s just like a photocopier!” and I was like “waaaahhh I am scared of processes that I don’t have control over…” HA. hmm. Turning over control to someone else, it’s good!

Looking back at these photos of the earlier Queers prints, to figure out the next colors:

screenshot of looking through different variants of one print

Tonight, testing further colors (WHY CANT I USE ALL THE COLORS) for the Dissonance prints, and using the testing time to think about what order the layers should go in. (Anybody out there got color thoughts? I really kind of do want to use all the colors…)

color testing for script font print

… and… this is how all these things come together over time & in their logistical sequence: pages of basically illegible notes & calendars & details:

lists of scribbled handwriting

Note mediocre drawing at bottom center, of the orange cat sleeping on the mat in the hallway with all his feet tucked under! cat blob!

this is what a decision looks like

January 6, 2013 at 5:15 am

So I still need to actually mix & refine these colors, but here you can see the evidence that a set of decisions that I procrastinated on for almost two years has now been more or less made, over the course of the past seven or so hours!!!

sheets of paper with color notes and color swatches

I made 30 of these “Queers!” prints about two years ago and it was super fun to make them because I totally played around with the colors while printing them and no two of them were alike. This is from an unfinished blog post about them from April 2011, that was gonna be titled “not making multiples”:

… In any case, for me it is difficult to part with the objects of the world. I am now able to throw boogers, napkins, paper cups, and most things that other folks would consider actual trash into the trash! However, there are some odd folders and containers in my room/studio, of things that most people might not save: “lists”, “paper rulers” (little measuring strips I use in making drawings, that no longer have a purpose once the drawing is done, but while it was in process, they were tools that I touched thousands of times), “ephemera” (neat packaging), “pins I used to wear on my jacket” (that’s a good one, right?), “broken cups & bowls that have a sentimental value”, etc etc…

As someone who makes objects and then the objects go away from me, multiples are an easy thing to deal with emotionally, because they never have to leave me completely — I always have one left of each kind. I usually don’t sell my drawings; I’ve done it a couple of times, and probably will to a greater extent in the future, but I actually miss the ones I have sold and think about them relatively frequently. I know that the sold drawings are framed and loved and on someone’s wall somewhere, as opposed to hidden in a drawer in a flat file, and that is great to know. But… when I think of their lines and spaces, remembering the process of drawing them, I do wonder, with a certain sadness, if I will ever see them again.

… and I was going to write further about how the stress of parting with the individual unique prints was mitigated by how awesome of a time I’d had printing them.

However, even as I was making the unique “Queers!” prints, I knew I wanted to make some multiples of them too — in order to have some that I could distribute on the internet and sell for a cheaper price (the uniqueness of each one, and initially selling them through a ‘real gallery’, had pushed me to set the price kinda high). I had decided to make four different colorways… BUT I didn’t want to replicate exactly any of the colorways in the initial group… BUT I wanted to learn from the earlier color relationships as well… and that was in February, 2011.

So what happened today? First I decided not to procrastinate on this project anymore — which I can credit partly to having a deadline and partly to recently being back on medication for attention deficit disorder. Mental health care — it’s pretty crucial! First I made tests swatches of a bunch of different transparent colors that I had in the studio (previous post). Then I looked at the remaining original prints in complete confusion for about an hour or so. I finally wrote down some anecdotal notes on the color interactions… then realized I could consolidate those notes into a semi-analytical observation of what the different colors were doing in each of the original prints that I had a photo of (about half of them — thanks to photographer Pam Murray — having digital images & being able to flip through them on the computer screen really helped!). Then I looked back at my test swatches and thought about what I wanted to have happen in the four different prints, colorwise… and then through making notes and moving the swatches around, I was able to pick out, roughly, some colors that would make those dynamics happen.

paper with colored ink on it, paper with graphical diagram of color relationships

What began as a “super fun let’s play with colors yayyy” experimental project in early winter 2011, became a looming, terrifying “oh my gosh what colors am I going to use for these four editions what if they are not as good as the first ones uhhhhhngh” decision that stressed me out to the point of completely avoiding it for almost two years, and then turned into a “well I have to get this done this week!” necessary decision process. The strategy that allowed me to sneak up on the decision was making a bunch of grids & diagrams to “make sure” that I was making the “right” decision. Ultimately the crucial moments of working were just moving little tabs of color around on the table, noting down things about their roles & relationships that the charts had allowed me to understand, but really just looking at them together. Then suddenly I was able to look up & say to my housemate, “Hey, I think I just finished making this decision which I put off for two years, huh!”.

table with strips of paper, ink containers, and diagrams on it

I harnessed the momentum of that decision into another one — the two central colors here will (more or less) be the background colors for the two colorways of the “dissonance” print…

a selection of color swatches

…which you can see a very initial sketch for here, from back in July (also including my legs in Conanicut Island midsummer mode, beet-pickle juice was involved):

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page


this work is copyright to jean cozzens | Secret Door Projects

Creative Commons License
most of it is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
for more licensing & copyright details, check out the credit page.