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

print objects, printed objects

April 2, 2014 at 3:36 am


Okay! I just got back from spending a good chunk of time in the Bay Area, for the “Southern Graphics Council International” graphics, print, & printmaking conference. I was nervous about attending this, I’m not sure exactly why, I think I was a little intimidated by the rumoredly academic/MFA-y focus… and maybe the general vague worry that one is not in the “cool kidz club” or something??? and maybe because I had been spending lots of time in the studio working in the past bunch of months, I was nervous about a highly social environment. but anyways, my fears were unfounded & it was awesome.

… and ultimately there were way more interesting events, talks, & shows happening as part of the conference than I could ever hope to do or see all of. Even in its aftermath I find myself overwhelmed by the feelings of “okay, I want to be in touch with that person, and that person, and follow up on that possibility…” with what’s probably an unrealistic number of people…

BUT, speaking of which, if we met there, or if you ended up with my print in the membership exchange, or if you found me through SGC, please be in touch — I would love to stay connected!


(the print I made for the exchange)

I have been gathering some conference photo notes & links here on my tumblr, but this is definitely not a complete catalog of the neat stuff that I saw or was part of! And there is also a *very* partial selection of interesting letters and building things I saw out west, here on the instagram

Also, San Francisco, Oakland, & Berkeley (and Walnut Creek and Grass Valley/Nevada City, which I also visited, to see my cousins, uncle, and great-aunt!) were beautiful & interesting, and I was really excited to get to spend some time experiencing the different topographies, architecture, and ecologies of all those places… as well as noticing different ways that people interact in different cities, I feel like I am inspired to make more & better eye contact back here in Prov, as opposed to avoiding catching people’s eyes, which I think I have been doing? Hmm.

… more thoughts about (and images from) those travels soon…


Anyways, one thing I was trying hard to get done before I left for California, but mostly failed to get done, was to finish some more of my bandanas (as visible here in their original incarnation/context) on different fabric (100% cotton this time) & trying out new inks. I did a bunch of printing (above & below, on Beth Brandon‘s fabric printing table), but didn’t get to finish the (even more time-consuming) sewing part…



… so I had only one finished bandana to take with me and when people were like “OMG can we buy those??” I still had to say “aah no I’m sorry I’m still testing the colors and methods of making it” which is just aggravating and it’s pretty stupid to have too many ideas and not be able to get them all done!

BUT guess what I got when I was in California???

MORE BANDANAS. Just what I needed!

This seems to be a new bandana, “made in China”, from a vintage store in Berkeley:


This is a real nice old one (also from the same vintage store), I think I have a similar-patterned one in just white (no black) on blue, but it’s really ripped & torn up:


This one is faces of historic printers, made by students in the printmaking dept. at Ohio University:


This one’s discharge-printed (aka, with a bleach paste) & hand-heat-set (to make the bleach work properly) (with a heat gun, on the sidewalk outside, apparently?!!!) by Matt & Lena at the Compound Gallery in Oakland.


The Compound’s central clerestory and shared studio space, with various letterpresses & proof presses…!


Another nice old bandana from the same vintage store as the earlier ones above, never seen one in this pattern before:


And this isn’t really a bandana but instead an absorbent cotton towel in a perfect color, this was a gift from my uncle, a trauma surgeon, who says that a specific kind of kit for sewing up human beings comes with three of these towels, and that he always uses just one of them, and saves the other two because he doesn’t need them, and the hospital would just throw them away because they are no longer sanitized! and they are the best towels! so he keeps them and gives them to people.


(…now you know where I originate from…)

Oh and if that wasn’t enough nice fabric for you to look at, check out “discharge-style” for more drooly times!

and… here are some more bonus shots: a detail of the shelves of a homemade print drying rack at the Compound Gallery…


… and the custom-made tool for tightening the wing-nuts that keep the rack shelves in tension. So nice!


“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'


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:


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…


June 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm

As hinted at earlier, I have been working on drawing the Manchester St. Power Station, for a commission design but also for my own purposes. Though I’ve occasionally turned to camera/computer as photo-reference to keep the work moving along, since it’s been raining a bunch this week, mostly I’ve been drawing outside, “from the real”.

stormy building

[n.b. most of this update was written in late May, please forgive the slightly fictional historicity…]

To get the view that I decided is best (I will write more about this in a further post on this project) this means sitting on the Point Street Bridge, on the walkway part but about three feet from the guardrail & the vehicular traffic. This is a very loud experience (I keep forgetting earplugs) and also vibration-y, as I’m pretty sure that bridge was not made for the scale of trucks that pass over it.

providence poses for its portrait

Today it was also a very windy experience; a thunderstorm was projected, I kept expecting a giant bucket of rain to dump down on my head (as it did earlier this week: I attempted to shelter for a bit under one of the bridge trusses, during which attempt I took the photo at the top of this post), and there was a consistent & very gusty strong wind from the southwest. I was using a complicated paper ruler to get a specific kind of simulated-perspectival-regression thing to happen — when you’re setting up that kind of a scenario, you do it trial-and-error-style: “does this look right? does that look right? okay, draw the line, make the marks, good”. Then that little piece of paper with a family of marks and lines on it is your reference document for creating semi-realistic perspective on any line in the building that is parallel to that line. (does that make sense? I’ll write more about this technique at some point.)

buiding & drawing

And I guess that that is the downside of the paper ruler? Because if you have a windy day, and you are sitting next to a busy road on a bridge over a river, and your drawing is taped down to a piece of masonite board, and to keep the little paper rulers from blowing away you are sticking them between the drawing and the board, and if the wind then blows a bunch of grit & sand off the road surface right at you/your drawing and between the paper and the board, and to get rid of the grit so it won’t make bumps under the pencil lines you stick your hand between the paper and the board and try to brush the sand away….

…. well, then what happens is that you watch your dumb little scraps of paper, that you just spent an hour utilizing to make all these crucial precise finicky decisions, blow away across a roadway of speeding cars and in the inevitable direction of a grody body of water. My initial reaction was “Oh crap!”, my secondary reaction was “Ah, you know, whatever, it’s just paper, I already used them to note the perspective lines I needed”, my third reaction was “Oh wait I still need those to make some more perspective decisions for the rest of the drawing…” and my fourth reaction was a deep sinking feeling of loss, destruction, regret, stupidity, and sorrow, an emptiness in the gut, a disaster I had just made happen. All in the course of 30 seconds.

I did jump up, making sure to carefully set my drawing on its board flat on the concrete walkway, but the paper rulers were already blowing down the middle of the roadway — and the Point St. bridge traffic is not to be trifled with at rush hour (or any time, really — it’s one of the worst biking passages in Providence, I think…). Somewhat ironically, the real reason I didn’t run after them immediately is that my new (to me) computer was in my backpack which was sitting next to me on the bridge walkway… I couldn’t quickly pick up backpack & drawing at the same time, couldn’t really run with them, and I couldn’t figure out whether to leave the computer, the drawing, or my bike totally vulnerable to anybody who might be walking past while I ran on a risky mission after the rulers. Bike: crucial to my life, irreplaceable; computer: new & valuable money-wise & also work-wise; drawing after 3 or 4 days of working on it: completely irreplaceable and also now extremely valuable in terms of time spent on the commission & when I needed to get it done by, and also just as a beautiful object that I was attached to………

grubby & stained drawing
[click on this image for a higher-resolution view, so you can contemplate just how dirty this drawing is]

So I let the paper rulers blow away. They weren’t even in the river yet, but they were already gone. This was a weird decision, for me. I hate losing things, I think about everything I’ve lost for a long time, the memory of them keeps coming back to me with regret & sadness. But it was a passable day for drawing, & I needed to get drawing done, and I sat back down & kept drawing. Lines! You can re-draw lines… But I kept being washed over by a wave of the regret and loss feeling, the lack of physical existence of the objects that I had such a clear physical memory of holding in my hands, folding, drawing on, using as tools, with their smeared graphite dirtyness and their intense reality that had just become unreality, or at least a reality that I could no longer reach in the same way…

About ten years ago, I asked a teacher and friend of mine, Peter Stempel, an architect and designer, why he had stopped making pencil drawings and started making his architectural drawings on the computer — in the early 2000s, he had just recently given up resisting the universal switchover to CAD. I asked: was it taking you too long to make the pencil drawings? No, he said, he was really happy about everything about his drawing process — except the uniqueness and fragility of the paper documents: when he took those drawings to the duplicator, if they got caught in the machine or torn or some other freak accident happened on the way there, that was the only copy he had and all the information he had worked so long to develop and note down could be lost. The possibility of this loss — in a profession where no one else was risking it — was too grave to entrust his work to that process any longer……

some details

Drawing as object // drawing as information. That is the dual nature that makes paper drawings so resonant: they embody both at the same time. In a computer era, the printout exists and has a bunch of uses, sure, but that paper is already garbage the moment it comes out of the printer — the important information is in the file, the vector coordinates, a series of numbers…

In a paper drawing, the paper holds the information but is also where the information came to become itself, where the decisions were made, where useless or inaccurate or simply un-beautiful lines were decided against and erased, turned from marks into indentations, ghosts or echoes… The drawing object is four-dimensional, resonant of its past as well as its bumpy, grubby, warped, gritty, folded departures from the plane… it tells of all the things that have happened to it, and of the future potential for its own non-existence. The person holding the drawing in their hot little hands has also had a lot of things happen to them, so maybe they understand how the drawing feels? but unlike the drawing, their own non-existence is not a future potential but instead a future certainty… whereas— unlike both— the vectors will last forever…

So anyways… philosophy aside: now that I’m done the commission (more process notes later) and have turned in the vector files I made based on the drawing to be sent to a company which will print them on tote bags (!!), my conclusion about vector graphics is that using the tablet & stylus to drag little “nods” around hurts my hands a bunch and puts me seriously at risk of repetitive stress injury… in a way that cutting rubylith and drawing never has… BUT… in this modern world, there’s nothing like being able to instantaneously send someone a vector file which they can reproduce at any scale and at any resolution. I just have to not work on those files for too long at a stretch…. AND there’s no question that drawing is way more beautiful. DRAWING!!!

And, on the practical aspect, I did also find a solution to my specific windy-day, drawing-on-a-bridge problem. The *new* informational scrap of paper is attached by a length of blue masking tape to a rubber band around my wrist… awkward but secure?


Hey remember this cool print I worked on last year with Noel Puello? Noel and friends (& fellow NUA alums) Carmela Wilkins and Sara Tolbert are working on another one this summer! Once again, for college fund-raising.

carmela sara noel

Here we are drinking coffee & tea & strategizing (with their sketch and color-test-sheet) around my kitchen table… I’ve seen some photos of their printing process that were stunning… I met with them today to do a quick html/css/ftp tutorial… and now they’re working on an updated web presence for it… I’ll keep you posted on the further developments of this project!

different colorway

I promise I’ll write more about both my weird simulated-perspective method, and the rest of the process on the power-station image, very soon!

Also this update is dedicated to Puppy Bonesteel, a cat who passed away this past week. A unique & personable cat, he had beautiful spots & big eyes, he was a good friend to my dad and my brother (who shared in his ownership) and an adventurous animal. He is missed.


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


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