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

the epic to-do list

July 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

Hi readers of these updates! Hope your summers are good. It’s now kinda hot here, Scøtt was dog-sitting for a couple weeks so I was hanging out with this little yellow dog Winnie as well as Buio-cat, they were hot too, everybody was/is hot, it’s hot now & it’s midnight.

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So… this is a chance for me to tell you what I HAVEN’T done. There’s a lot of stuff I need to write more about on here, including other projects I did in the spring like complete an assignment for Headmaster Magazine #6, and the final outcome of the print that I shared some process drawings from here.

Also… I never really put together final posts about the Manchester St. Power Station print project (in progress here), or even the Recycle-A-Bike poster from a couple years ago (process moment)! Yikes!

Then there’s a bunch of other stuff from the past year that hasn’t really seen the light of internet-day, or even proper documentation: a dazzle camouflage pattern I made last summer to go on a t-shirt to give myself some body freedom/body obfuscation, which was a personal project that I now want to make some kind of mass-production possible for… a text & slide-projector performance/reading (also about bodies) I did that will become a zine someday… a map-and-memory project I made to be installed in my friend’s apartment in Abu Dhabi, that needs to have a local instance at some point, and get realized fully…

Also I’ve had a blog post in draft form for a while about tools for drawing, which keeps developing & changing in its meaning & context since I got a new wacom tablet recently, and have been learning more computer skills… and since my grandfather (who gave me his engineer’s Rapidograph pens) died this past month…

BUT! There are a couple of print projects on my plate right now which I am struggling desperately to complete. As well as organizing shows & events for the rest of the year… And being a living human who cooks, eats, gets dressed, sleeps, talks to friends, and lives. So I’m not writing those posts now!

Also eventually I will finish some really long-unfinished projects like my epically, drastically incomplete print series about everyday spaces? Aahh! (I kind of don’t want to think about all the other projects that are unfinished / aspirational, that’s just the most egregious one…) Someday I intend to eventually bring all the projects to a close. So basically, as it always has been, this blog is a chance for me to say “sorry everything is not done yet” and “it will be done eventually & then I will make a blog post about it”. It’s good to know nothing has changed since 2007, I guess.

For the moment — I am posting some nice barns, letters, building aspects, etc. to instagram/tumblr; you can keep track of my random nerdy notes in either of those spots — and please enjoy this picture of a drawing setup — on the parlor table due to the length of the horizon line I needed to use to get the vanishing point right. The cat was very happy that I was working on a surface he could sit on (as opposed to my main desk, where there’s really no room for him) while I made the marks.

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More soon. !!!

“bread bread bread bread bread”

March 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm

a drawing of a mixing bowl and flour with instructions for mixing bread

So local weirdo, friend, genius Jacob published the “tasty bread” recipe, from my 2008 zine & 2010 print, in the center spread of January’s Mothers News newspaper. I sent him the old illustrator files & he laid it out in a nice layout & mailed/distributed it to hundreds (possibly thousands?) of people all over the U.S. / world.

hand holding a sheet of newspaper with an illustrated bread recipe on it

I was excited, it’s pretty cool to have those graphics back in circulation (and to have them reach such a varied audience)! But I was also like, hmm, I have been changing & experimenting with this recipe a good deal since 2008, and that’s a long time ago now. I make bread often, and sometimes very publicly (last year I was selling loaves at a weekly coffee-shop/social-gathering thingy I was running, and through my friends’ farm CSA… and I’ll be making bread for the Providence Provision dinner this weekend, Sunday March 9th!). Thus there are a decent amount of people in town who have put this bread into their mouths… and later asked for the recipe…

So, when people ask me if the recipe on the poster is the same recipe as the bread I make now, I do say “Yes, but… I am always modifying it! and I’ve changed the proportions to make 5 (or 9) loaves at a time… but it’s the same core recipe”. This is true. But it’s also true that I haven’t made the 2-loaf version from the zine / print / MN centerspread in quite a long time…

Well, this week finds me in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY hanging out with my brother, his partner, and their baby, my super-new niece! I’m washing lots of dishes, shopping, cooking, letting a small life form sleep in a frog-like position on my chest so she will stay chill while her parents do other things, etc. Today the bread selection at the nearby store was a little limited… AND look what’s on the wall in their apartment:

a horizontal, blue screenprinted poster in a frame

So I decided to test the recipe. My initial intention was to follow it “exactly” from the poster… but… there was some leftover rice kicking around… and my brother & his partner have all these weird seeds & nuts & dried fruits in their kitchen, & by weird I mean awesome (and that I don’t have them in my kitchen)… so I varied it just a little…

a closeup of the bread poster showing mixing the ingredients

There’s no real suspense here, it still works great! What did I expect? Though I would recommend making it in “medium” loaf pans — 1.5 quart, 5″x8″ish — in “large” pans I got flatter rather than higher loaves, which is no big issue except maybe aesthetically. Also — this version of the recipe is prettty sweet, maybe there’s a little too much molasses, you could probably cut it down to 1/3 or even 1/4 cup.

Alternately… one thing I’ve realized only recently, after seven (!) years of making this bread recipe, is that you can let it do that first rise for a long time. Like, you can knead it & set it aside in a big bowl under some plastic wrap, & go out and do all your errands and go to the art opening and run into your friends and drink a whiskey and actually *forget* about the bread, & come back and make it into loaves and let them rise and bake them, & it will be FINE. The longer you let it rise, the less sweet it gets as the sugars in the molasses are consumed by the yeast… so if you like it less sweet, just let it rise longer! (there is a limit to the above; I would say maybe 6-8 hours is gonna start pushing it on the rising time? but yaknow, if it looks over-risen, might as well make loaves & bake it anyways, the worst that can happen is that you’ll get a weirdly-textured but most likely still tasty baked item…!)

closeup of bread poster showing preparation of the dough

I also stirred up one egg white & brushed it on top with some more sunflower seeds… which looked pretty, and was tasty, but the egg white also slid down the sides of the pan and made it a little difficult to get the loaves out?

part of the bread loaf stuck to the pan

Or maybe that is just because these pans aren’t coated with a permanent layer of baked-on oil… like the pans at my house… which I strategically never really scrub that hard… shhhh….

two loaves of bread

Looks pretty good, right? This recipe is the same as the one you can read/get a pdf of here (the progress description is an un-updated snapshot of the stage of this project from 2008 sometime? ha ha! oh, my sad website), with these changes: instead of 4.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, I used 2 c. a-p flour, 2 c. whole wheat flour, and 1/2 c. wheat germ… I added 1/2 cup of leftover, cooked rice to the oatmeal cooking mush… and 1/3 cup of sunflower seeds to the middle of the kneading stage (and the above-mentioned egg white glaze with more seeds on top).

Here are some more past updates about bread-baking, bread poster layout, etc. (including this one of course)…

You can also buy the blue, horizontal, screenprinted bread recipe poster here… AND/OR if you SUBSCRIBE to Mothers News for 2014, you’ll get the back issues including the bread-recipe one, so you’ll have a sparse, black-and-white newsprint copy of the recipe as well. And I just got my automatic stapler back from a long-term loan, so the long-promised third edition of the recipe zine, with detailed instructions, might be re-released someday possibly…

… someday.

ps. Bonus photo! here’s the kiddo! The Downtown Boys‘ newest fan…

baby resting against a pink shirt for the band Downtown Boys

pps. “Bread bread bread bread bread” (etc) is what my friends used to claim was the internal monologue of the almost-wordless baker character in Kiki’s Delivery Service… Now, sometimes, I think that to myself while I am baking… does that mean that this is me?

drawing of the baker, Studio Ghibli

interim photo post

December 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

Stuff is sad (understatement) cause two good people died recently — Providence artist & musician Joe Buzzell, who I knew glancingly from around town, whose art I admired, who I always wanted to collaborate on a project with — and writer & theorist José Esteban Muñoz, who I didn’t know, but whose writing really shaped the way I see the possibility latent in the world, the potential in queerness, the crucial importance of fighting towards utopia. I want to write more about it, but I’m really busy, aah…. so here are some pictures from the past recent times cause things are also beautiful and here we are, alive.

Building 16, now that it’s over it feels like a dream that we didn’t appreciate enough while we had it….

I built some shelves

and filled them up with stuff.

I have definitely done this in my time as a bike rider:

Epic two-day ink-sort-out, dealing with all the random ink containers (30+ ?) that had accumulated after rainbow rolls that I’d never “put away” properly, for maybe the past two years…?

There’s always a container into which I scrape all the gross crap that shouldn’t go back into the good ink but also shouldn’t go down the drain, just started a new one, here it is:

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In my friend’s secret repository of slightly water-damaged paper:

I acquired all this paper (the biggest sheets here are 40″x26″, the stack is about 1.5 feet tall) WHOOPS

This building is on Public St on the south side, go see it before they put walls on/in it & you can no longer witness this epic structural situation:

I picked up some old wooden casement windows out of the trash today for the first time in a long time. I kind of swore off doing that a while ago (it’s just too tempting, there are so many, and you (I) will never really do anything with them!). BUT today was a “save for some reason” day, except now I know the reason: saving a thing and appreciating its beauty, or planning to do a project with it, is a tiny promise against death, for a little while, completely ineffective, but hopeful in its own illogical way…

the show is up!

November 6, 2013 at 3:21 am

… after four and a half relatively brutal days (and some long nights in there) of installation work. I cut a ton of pieces of glass to put the art behind, I hammered in almost 400 L-pins to hold the glass (and prints) to the wall, I began to understand why people *frame* art (cause once you frame it once you never have to frame it again!!!), I depended on my friends, especially Scott, for help & support… I felt more professional than ever before, and also very much like a force of chaos in the desirably-predictable space of the gallery… and not in a cool disruptive gadfly way like when AO & I were working on the Magic City Repairs project, but in the way where I was letting people down… if that makes any sense?

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BUT! It all* got up on the wall, despite (or because of?) the chaos; it looks very professional (I think/ I am still surprised by), and I really hope you will come to the….

… OPENING RECEPTION!

free & open to the public, wheelchair accessible, etc, as a public institution all places should be. Catered! food! drink! (no wine though since it’s a university? or somethin’? bring your flask if you wanna, I guess). Thursday November 7th, 4:30-7:30 pm, University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Rd, Kingston RI.

please come & join the party & check out what I spent 13 years of my life on!

People are coordinating some rides from Providence on the facebook event page, if you’re not on facebook & need a ride, email me & I’ll connect you to somebody. You can also take the 66 bus from Kennedy Plaza, it seems to run about every hour… If you can get down there, someone will probably be able to drive you back to Prov afterwards, as a last resort you can climb in the back of Scott’s van….!

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(This is the front of the postcard that I made, featuring many of my favorite tools…)

*(The only things still missing from the gallery walls, in my mind, are some photos that are necessary to give context to the paper ephemera from the Magic City Repairs project… photos which I don’t have physical prints of yet. In thinking about this, I realized that I haven’t gotten a physical print made of a photo since I stopped taking pictures with film, which is strange… but I’m gonna go to CVS tomorrow to remedy that situation, hopefully I have a chance to sneak in with a hammer & level before Thursday afternoon!)

The funny thing was, when we started to actually get all the artwork up in place, my first thought was “it’s like looking at my website, but all at once and without having to click on links”. I’m not even gonna try to figure out what that means in terms of how much the internet has colonized my brain, I’ll just leave it there… and I really haven’t processed the surrealness of having all this work, each piece of which has defined and shaped my life in its own way, up in the same physical space. It’s surreal. I don’t know what more to write about it than that — I’m still pretty sleep-deprived… !

Here’s a moment from the hanging process, this is the “recent work” wall, which is (parts of) 2012-2013, in progress… (and yes, “Queer Buttz” did make it into the show…)

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Here are some screenshots of the spreadsheets that I made to organize the many (I haven’t counted yet) pieces of work for the show, and that will hopefully help me to put everything back in its correct place when it’s time to take it down…

October 27th at midnight:07:47 AM:

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a detail of another screenshot around the same moment:

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… and then, November 1st at 2:53:54 AM:

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and here are the same documents (or a selection of the information thereon) in action, as reference documents for cutting the glass to go over the prints:

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Here’s the *back* of the postcard that got printed (the yellow/orange image above up there is the front); I’m proud of all this hand-drawn text (from the poster) used as computer text, even though that in itself was a project & a half….

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And here is the 4-foot-wide text on the gallery wall, I traced my scans of the knife-cut-paper letters into vectors & then it got computer-cut by some place out of a plastic fabric / sticker stuff… looks so cool, doing the vector work is physically difficult for me cause the tablet I have is old & it’s strenuous to hold the pen (because it’s wide in diameter, I think…)… but it’s cool to see my hand-drawn letters so big! Yay for vectors? maybe? It’s so not-fun to make them but… well… they’re useful…!?

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That’s it! gotta keep working on some spreadsheet stuff tonight! Tomorrow I teach the second class of my AS220 class (on their website it’s marked as “sold out” for now, but there will be another one in January 2014!). Thursday the opening! Then hustling to finish up Craftland stuff! and to move my woodshop stuff out of Building 16… and you know, just to get everything done… whatever…

feelings of love, & fear

October 24, 2013 at 3:43 am

Last night & tonight I’ve been powering through the final incarnations of the project that I was making those three-dimensional letters for. Here’s the first one, the poster for my upcoming show (which will be printed by the URI printing services!):

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So I think it was worth many hours of adjusting objects tiny amounts while squinting through the viewfinder???!!! Big thanks to photographer Matthew Clowney for helping me out with photoshop adjusting some lighting levels, sharpening, and making the pencil text more legible! and also huge gratitude to Scott for putting up with a giant door/table, tripod, and light stand (a.k.a. a mic stand that he let me borrow) in the middle of our shared studio for 48 hours…

Tonight I’m feeling exhausted by computer work / sitting at the compy all day doing layout — last night I was feeling SUPER energized & in love with all the tools I use and even feeling psyched about the digital tools — camera and photoshop — which I always feel like I am just starting to learn how to use. So — that excitement continues, but is always ready to flop over into overwhelmed-ness by all the different things you can do with digital tools… sometimes it’s nice to have a tool that just does one thing?

Here are some moments in this process that I had never done before, and which felt pretttty confusing / scary at times:

… initial thoughts towards text arrangement…

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… got all the elements I had initially planned for in there, but it looks pretty barren & empty… hmm…

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… some of my tools were on the table, what if I start putting the tools in there too? oh, that’s better. okay…

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… at some point I realized I had to modify the chipboard holding up these little letters so that the light could shine through them…

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… which gives me a new understanding of the term “drop shadow”…

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… here’s the studio while I was shooting / adjusting / shooting / adjusting / etc. it really was pretty impossible to move around…

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… and then here’s the second setup, for the postcard design, on which photoshop / layout is almost done. this camera & object setup went a lot faster, unsurprisingly! you can see how chaotic the table had become…

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It was really fun to make a mess like this for the camera; it was crucial, I guess, to be doing it under time pressure so I had to bring it to a conclusion instead of fooling around; it made me want to be doing stop motion animation or something? or building dioramas of buildings to draw them? or just making lots more three dimensional letters? We’ll see… not right now, now I have to get the actual art ready for this show!


Here are some photos of the aftermath of the talk / presentation I did at the RISD Museum on Sunday:

A table of tools, including some of the drawings / watercolors I made of the Allens Ave warehouse demolition process this summer:

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Erik Dardan & Scott talk in the background of poster process material spanning 11 years:

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And this is for evidence of my “digital workflow” — scanning some of the three-dimensional letters to make them into the text for the back of the show postcard.

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This is my 2005 (!) powerbook, with the bottom third of the screen non-functional, but luckily still choogling along, since my newer computer can’t run the ol’ crappy scanner (and I do love this old compy). These moments of going back & forth between digital & physical, in somewhat (very?) inefficient ways, strike me as totally hilarious and also a nice hallmark of living in ‘the future’, the real future, which feels terrifyingly and authentically science-fictiony… There’s never a clean jump into the future, we’re always dragging our old rapidograph pens and film line cutters and proportional scales and rusty 1970s pickup trucks and ninety-year-old buildings and crappy scanners that haven’t completely broken yet into the future with us… And we’re using them right next to our unimaginably high-resolution digital capture devices, at the same moment as we check in with our constantly-interconnected, instantaneously-updated, internet personality profiles…


There’s one more spot left in my Transparent Colors & Hand-Cut Stencils advanced silkscreen class at AS220! Starts October 30th, the awesome Jen Hall will be the T.A! Come hang out with us & learn some intense / cool screenprinting techniques!

rapid update

October 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

Remember the beginnings of this guy? It’s finally getting done, I hope!

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Detail of layer 2 (actually the first printed layer, but begun 5 months after what will be the second printed layer) in progress, this is rapidograph on wet media acetate:

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Hopefully I’ll have some of these ***finished*** at the RISD Fall Alumni Art Sale, this coming Saturday October 12th, on Benefit St. in Providence between 10am & 4pm… I’m going to get some sleep this time so I can be coherent & friendly… Come say hi!

Also, thanks to the late night internet and Printeresting for this encapsulation of my life recently:


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, back to it!

roll over, more to come

September 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

This was the ten-thousandth (at least) picture taken on my little camera:

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The other day, the camera created a new folder on the card & started putting pictures in it, and I was like “huh?” until I noticed that the first image in that new folder was titled IMG_0001.jpg. Looking back, the first picture I took on the camera seems to have been IMG_1576.jpg, so I’ve taken eight thousand four hundred and twenty four pictures since March of 2011… & a bunch more photos must have been taken by its previous owner (I can’t imagine that he only took 1575 pictures with it, but it’s possible?)… (and it’s a canon powershot sd1000 “digital elph”, if you’re curious.)

So, good going, lil camera! Thanks for being tough & sturdy, fitting snugly in my pocket, having decent battery life, and letting me take literally thousands of pictures of manhole covers, building details, hand-drawn letters, and cool-looking cats, etc etc, that I am happy to have recorded somewhere, even if they may never see the light of day…


I realized that in the last post I totally forgot about two other event-type things that are happening soon! Crap!

October 2nd through November 2nd, in Lowell, MA, some of my poster work is going to be part of a show at Zeitgeist Gallery, called “The Message is the Medium: Prints, Propaganda, and Persuasion”. There are two opening events, one Thursday Oct. 10, 6-9 pm, and another Saturday Oct. 26, 6-9 pm. Lowell is having a celebration of printmaking (?!) this fall and the folks at Zeitgeist decided to showcase political print work, and asked me & some other Providence artists to be part of the show. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like but I am excited to go & check it out, and I’ll try to make it to at least one of the openings! (Lowell is a really, really beautiful mill town… and when I’m there I’m gonna be looking around to catch a glimpse of a cat, so I can make the dumbest joke ever….)

Here in Providence, on Sunday, October 20th, from 2-4pm, I’ll be doing a presentation about my methods & process of working on things by hand, and leading a conversation about intractable, flawed physicality, at the RISD Museum.

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My talk/presentation/conversation is called “Material Resistance”, it’s a “Demo & Discourse” event in the “One Room” series of presentations that is part of their “Locally Made” show happening now through November 3rd.

Confused? I am too, a little bit. But it should be good, I like showing & talking about my process work (as readers of this blog already know), and I’m excited to get to link the materiality / immateriality of the artwork I do with the materiality / immateriality of the body, language, and body+language stuff I think about a lot. RISD Museum admission is free on Sundays! FREE!

Here’s the statement for that talk, which I just re-wrote & expanded from what’s actually on their website at the moment… hopefully they’ll switch it up…

I’ll show some of the layered process work and test sheets from my silkscreen prints, and some recent drawings of buildings & spaces in Providence & the surrounding area, and maybe some other new projects. I’m interested in talking about how the physical substance of the world is crucial and everpresent — and always incoherent and stubbornly inaccurate. We muster up all these tools to bring our worlds into being, whether they are pencil, ink, & paper; structural and sheathing elements of the buildings we create for ourselves to live in; or the ways we dress, modify, and present our bodies to enable our existences… and even though all these attempts will fail us in one way or another… we do them anyways!?

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I will also probably talk about screenprinting as a one-, two-, and three-dimensional medium… and about dazzle camouflage as queer protective/illusive body strategy, via analysis of scale and pattern in architecture… just some things I’ve been thinking about recently all the time…


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Today I got to hang out with Tara Cavanaugh and do some co-directing, kind of, of some video documentation of my process & existence…? It was fun, we noodled around the Paragon Worsted Mills building and Tara took some footage of me drawing on the drawing of the loading dock alley that I’ve been working on (slowly!) since April 2012… and she got psyched on the afternoon-light-gorgeousness of that seemingly infinitely complex structure; it was cool to share that building with a friend…

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Then we walked up Manton Ave to the house & she documented my visually hectic studio and me cutting tiny rubylith things (last steps on the power station rubylith!), and then we did a hopefully cool process walkthrough of shooting a screen, washing it out, setting it up, and printing! Bam! It will be very useful (as a teaching & explaining tool) to have this all well documented; I will share it here when it’s done!

Here is (slightly sloppy) evidence of demonstration printing of the 1-color version of the power station print; it’s come a long way from back in May

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Well there’s already been some building details on here, but we need our hand-drawn letters, stuff on the ground (no manhole covers this time, sorry), and cool cats… in the interest of letting photos see the light of day, here you go!

Hand-painted sign plus doughboy doll from Mr. Doughboy in northern R.I.:

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Some squished garbage that is totally gonna be the beginning of some art thing:

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Rowan and a kitten on a string!

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the “paper ruler”…

May 24, 2013 at 4:13 am

Related to this project for With Care, here’s a further note on font-drawing technique… or actually, on a technique that’s applicable to any precise-ish drawing *not* on a computer. [n.b. I wrote some of the below update back in February, revised & publishing now…]

My friend Will found this stack of 60-year-old r.s.v.p. cards, and I’ve been working on making letterform drawings of crucial or significant words on them… 35 of them were up at AS220 in February — these guys:

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(more in-progress shots here and here.)

35 cards was enough for the gallery, and I had to get other things done for the show so I set the remaining 22 cards aside for a bit. I had been working on them with all the earlier ones spread out in front of me… so when they were all up in the gallery, I went in a couple times to draw some more of them while the space was open.

The card below is going to say “presence”… but whoops, even though the “E”s will be a little narrower than the other letters, the “S” is still too far to the right to fit the whole word on the card. I moved “P” “R” and “E” to the left already, but I had drawn out this nice and slightly weird curve for the “S”, and I wanted to retain its weirdness instead of making it more generic when I moved it over…

an index card with illegible handwriting on it and the large letters "PRES"

This involves a tool which I’m not sure I’ve ever posted a picture of here: the “paper ruler”, which is a scrap of paper, often an 8.5″x11″ sheet but it could actually just be a little scrap, folded in half diagonally (for length, straightness, & sturdiness), with the folded edge used to transfer distances and dimensions. Line the folded edge up to your drawing, make fine pencil marks on the paper ruler at the marks you want to transfer, then move it to where you want to transfer the dimension to & make the marks on the drawing.

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For drawing purposes, it improves on a traditional ruler with numbered markings, because a) there’s no need to translate what is simply visual information into numerical information and back again, b) inches or centimeters have no relevance when the important units are “how wide is the letter” or “what is the distance between the baseline and the crossbar of the “A”, etc, and c) the piece of paper will be easier to hold and move around than a (usually heavier) regular ruler is. Also, you can make one wherever you happen to be by using a postcard, business card, or the edge of an envelope, or tearing a sheet of paper out of your notebook and folding it to create a straight line.

I took the paper ruler and made a set of marks on it showing how far I wanted to move the “S” over… then setting one mark against the existing curve of the “S”, marked that distance to the left, at intervals. You can see the dots on the card to the left of the upper part of the “S”, and a line traced through those dots to the left of the lower part:

closeup of the letters "ES" showing how the letter S is being moved to the left

The transferred “S” (dots erased, and lines cleaned up):

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Once the drawings that they are made for are finished, the paper rulers become meaningless — I never remember which dimension was relevant to which specific thing I needed to measure, and the drawing’s done anyways. Even if I pause a drawing and start it a couple of days later, I’ll just make a new set of marks on a new folded piece of paper. But the rulers themselves have been touched and marked and known and seen so many times in the course of making the drawing, that it is hard for me to let them go completely… obviously sometimes they get lost in the shuffle of desk papers… but they are such information- and memory-laden objects that, though I occasionally intend or attempt to throw one away, I can never quite complete the action of putting it in the trash basket.

Thus, this envelope that lives next to my desk:

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a selection of various sized rulers from the envelope:

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closeups, including a golden-section reference card for a specific (unremembered) layout [blue cardstock, left], and an Occupy Providence flyer [upper right].

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This technique, and this blog post, fall into the categories of “Why would I want to spend less time thinking?” and “my computer is almost 8 years old & very slow & drawing is way more fun anyways”* and “things that are way harder to explain in words than they are to do”…

… and also squarely within the category of “things I learned from Myron Barnstone that I use every time I draw”. Mr. Barnstone, who turned/turns 80 this year (I think?), is an independent art teacher in Coplay, PA (outside of Bethlehem), who teaches an intense course of study on composition, drawing, and color. I took his drawing and composition classes when I was 18. His rhetoric is deeply dogmatic, of the “My way is the one correct way to do art” variety — it took me about a year to recover from the intimidation & start drawing again after studying with him — but 16 years later, I use techniques & methods that I learned from him in pretty much everything I do. If you’re intrigued, the man is 80… his knowledge & skills are irreplaceable… now is your chance…!


* I got a modern computer this month… it makes many things faster… but drawing is still more fun…

“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

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How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!

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I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

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The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…

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…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:

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Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:

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2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:

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3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:

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4. …and then fill in the final gap:

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5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:

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Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:

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And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:

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2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):

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3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):

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One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


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Full text of the poster:


so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world


In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?

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“practical tools for shifting reality” – snapshots & statement

February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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The show is up! & I am on to the next projects (and of course finishing the things that I didn’t have time to complete for the show itself!). Here is an assortment of snapshot-based documentation, plus the artist statement — written the night before the opening, but based on ideas that have been rumbling around for a couple years now, as usual.

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Practical Tools for Shifting Reality
artist statement

I was a nearsighted, nerdy, artistic, attention-hungry, weird little kid: fascinated by printed objects around me, terrified of losing unique things (and pretty much everything, even trash, fell into this category), captivated by odd dreams of creating my own brand of notebooks, and compelled to learn to draw horses realistically. The horses thing kind of faded away (for the better, probably), and I long ago stopped collecting boogers & dust balls (for the better, definitely), but the rest of it remained — along with all the drawing practice I had done, and the terror of loss — as a great recipe for becoming a meticulous maker of screenprinted posters.

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Additionally, I was a boyish kid who didn’t really understand why she couldn’t be in the Boy Scouts, have short hair like her brothers, or be called “Keith” on a regular basis. In recent years, as I realized that I didn’t actually have to be “a girl”, and became aware of the validity and realness of my gender variance, I worried that much and maybe all of my single-minded, perfectionist, intense-work-ethic art- & poster-making had been born from the combination of the attention-hungry kid with the teenage girl who didn’t identify at all with her perceptible, supposedly “girl” body. This person figured out that if they could draw the most complicated drawings, make them into neat-looking screenprints, and distribute them, that people would pay more attention to the images than to the physicality of the human behind them…

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This tactic worked for almost a decade; it was a good one! But it stopped working when I realized I had the chance to figure out an embodiment and a physical presence that would potentially feel more true to myself. The fact that the posters were no longer the point of my life revealed the fact that they had been: that much of my identity and even my physical presence in the world was wrapped up in the work I had made. For a long while after that, when I was working on art, it felt like I was actively avoiding having a gendered body — a continuation, perhaps, of the avoidance/distraction/dazzle-camouflage scenario that I had been constructing for so many years.

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At the same time, I knew that that was not the only purpose my work had served. As a poster-maker with my art practice founded in my community of friends, I knew that screenprinted posters & prints, distributed as limited multiples, become important objects to other humans, and carry strong associations for everybody whose lives they touch: “that was the gallery opening where my partner and I first kissed”, “that was the last show in our house before we got evicted”, “that was my favorite building before they tore it down”, “that poster was above our kitchen sink for six years, I looked at it every day…”

These printed objects hold power for creating our lives & realities, for piecing our stories together, for sharing them with each other, based on memory, imagination, delight, the irrational, the impossible, the failed & beautiful. Shared self-made graphics allow our lives to be located outside of a dominant or market-logic paradigm, through a visual language that we teach each other & make up together as we go along. I realized that I wanted to turn this power towards furthering validity for trans, queer, and gender-variant existences like mine — towards making complexity visible, and by showing what I saw of it, to create chances for further complexity in the world.

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I wanted to put visual tools in the hands of others like myself, who might occasionally need a reminder that they are real, when from many sides they are told that their existences are impossible. I also wanted to get to do more of the practices that are the most engaging & interesting for me — drawing, first of all, and also printing, but not printing epic, grueling editions (which I do enough of already): “fun printing.”

So, the work brought together in the gallery here is a beginning stab at both those projects. There are lots of hand-drawn words & letterforms, which hopefully reveal my discovery & delight in the drawing of them as well as the self-imposed limits (and also delights!) of following a system, creating a graphic space that is coherent and includes weirdness, and learning deeply from drawing things seen in the world around me.

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The “word prints” (the ones in white frames, two of which are in the photos below) are a group in which there are no mistakes. Each one is different; every print that gets made is part of the continuing whole, and any strange or unexpected color layer simply presents a challenge to figure out what the next layer and color on that print will be, and/or a (parallel) challenge to understand the existing combination as complete and unified.

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All of this work involves interference between patterns, scales & layers, as well as colors and images overlapping by chance and by intention. Language as action, graphics as tools, words as accumulated structures. Printed things as evidence of thought, of having an idea & making it real & sharing it with the people around you, providing them yet another piece of structural existence to build their own selves with. The dissonant territory between “reading” and “looking”, between up close & from across the room, between what we can see & what we can’t see. Creating reality, creating our bodies and existences, and the world around us, through strategic and/or magical language and significant objects — as well as through improvisation, accident, making do with what is there, making it into something else, making it into what we want to see in the world…

February 1, 2013

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[from the wall with the letterform drawings on index cards, this text says: “To wrap something in stories rather than in theory is to let words work at its strangeness rather than at its credibility. — Robin Evans, Translations From Drawing to Building” … I couldn’t resist the (un-posed) reflection of a gallery visitor reading the hanky tags near the opposite wall…]

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[I drew & printed the bandanas — the color is ink, the white lines are negative space, Liz Novak and I hemmed them all on the sewing machine! Somewhat impulsively, in the middle of a late night, I sent some emails asking the people who had requested a specific color how they wear their hanky (or hankies), what color(s), and why… It soon became clear that those statements would be a really crucial part of the project, and that the accumulation of different colors of hankies and of written statements of visible desires, attached to these significant, coded, yet potentially infinitely varying objects, is its own project and will probably go on for a while… If you’d like to contribute thoughts about how & why you wear a hanky, please get in touch!]

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[“…starting the revolution by publicly announcing the object of your desire, and asking in public who desires you…” this Guy Hocquenghem quote was on the wall of hankies/bandanas.]

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[this Robert Venturi quote has been kicking around on the bulletin boards in my room for about four years… I think I’ve finally made some of the work that can properly have this text displayed alongside it, in my general realm of “thinking about bodies like thinking about buildings”, and possibly even “thinking about words like thinking about bodies”…]

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[A friend bought this little print, which is a rectangle cut from a chaotic test print that I have been printing on since 2010 or earlier… the orange curlicue & blue-gray rectangles are elements of a test from when Meg Turner was printing this poster in my studio a couple of years ago!]

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[The “our complexity is the world” print, originally made for this portfolio, serves as the textual & conceptual backbone of all the work in this show, I hope…]

[below, a shot from while I was installing… (if you haven’t, please read Mark Aguhar’s blog.) These are re-prints of the stickers that Meg Powers & other friends & I made this summer; they’ve now been Risographed by Walker Mettling (and look beautiful but the ink is smudgy, so they don’t make great stickers as such — it was experimental anyways!)… BUT look how nice & serious & real things look when they are behind a little sheet of glass!]

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