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

further activist imagery

January 15, 2016 at 6:47 am

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you want to use this graphic for the purpose of supporting the Black Lives Matter project/movement/etc. you can! See the bottom of this post. However, DO NOT modify them to say other stuff… Especially (and I shouldn’t even have to say this) that “Blue” or “All” lives matter. Come on, folks. Just google it if you need more info, better people than me have written about why not to do that.

ALSO: If you want to make a graphic of different words in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, please DRAW YOUR OWN letterforms: don’t adapt these letterforms, it’s like putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say. Thank you! — Ian


large letters in red and white that say: BLACK LIVES MATTER

I cut these letters extremely tiny out of rubylith a little more than a year ago, while I was working epic hours on an unrelated project & was feeling horrified and shocked by national events, and inspired by protestors’ responses to them. Lara Henderson & some friends at the AS220 Printshop printed up a bunch of them much, much larger on some rigid chipboard, cause I didn’t have time to, which was great cause they were able to be used by protestors in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement here in Providence, in a timely fashion.

screenshot of the Providence Journal website showing a photograph of protestors holding Black Lives Matter signs
[this photo is by Maria Caporizzo]

Sometime in mid-2015, I printed about 200 more of them, giving them to friends & distributing them through AS220… those were also soon gone. This past fall, an activist group in Providence asked me if they could print some more, and I said yes and finally made a scalable vector file. They were printed by local artist Nina Ruelle and they are available around town.

That group describes itself thus:

“…a newish group in RI called the White Noise Collective. This is an anti-racism organization specifically interested in engaging white people in the struggle against racism and white supremacy. The group specifically examines and works from the intersection of white supremacy and gender oppression. Here’s a link to the organization’s chapter from Oakland. In addition, we are affiliated with showing up for racial justice (SURJ).”

The money that the RI chapter of the White Noise Collective brings in from selling the prints is going to the national Black Lives Matter organization and also to the local Providence organization DARE (Direct Action for Rights & Equality).

Since I apparently don’t have time to keep the posters in print myself (despite my intentions of doing so), and since they could be useful to folks outside RI, I wanted to make the image file available to the general public to print, copy, and distribute in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I have three requests to go along with the images:

1) use them for purposes consistent with & supporting the Black Lives Matter movement/contribution/project.

2) if you sell them or accept donations for them, please put any money made (beyond your printing costs) towards:

  • local organizations in your community that are Black-led and are supporting Black people’s lives & life chances (maybe you are part of one of these organizations! if so, feel free to use/sell this image as you need to.)
  • the national BLM movement and/or BLM protestors’ bail funds/jail support

3) [persnickety design nerd request!] please don’t stretch or squish the image in either direction — you can make it larger or smaller, but keep it proportional. To do this in Photoshop or Illustrator, click on the “direct selection tool” (that first one at the top of the tools menu, the “black arrow”) then hold down SHIFT to keep the proportions, while using your cursor to drag the arrow at one of the corners. request #3 is less important the above two, obviously! no fits will be thrown, it’s just my innermost heart’s desire, but not ultimately necessary. ;)

here are the files! these are download links to Adobe Illustrator and PDF files, so they may not show up “correctly” in your browser — if it doesn’t begin a download, just go to Save Page As under the File menu to save them to your computer.

8.5×11-page-size PDF file (ready to print out)

11×17-page-size PDF file (ready to print out, if your printer can print 11″x17″!)

Adobe Illustrator vector file

ENJOY, utilize, give me credit if you feel like it, but if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t convenient, don’t worry about it. :) Send me a picture if you print them & use them: secretdoorprojects (a) gmail dot com.

a hand with black nail polish pointing to a pile of screenprinted signs that say: Black Lives Matter
[thanks to Shey Rivera for this photo!]


I’m assuming most folks reading this would be familiar with the context & origins of the Black Lives Matter phrase & movement, but I came across these articles which I learned some more from:
http://thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/
http://inthesetimes.com/article/17551/the_women_behind_blacklivesmatter

If there are any more relevant links or information that I should put here, please let me know and I would be happy to add them!


ps. have I been spelling “protestor” wrong this whole time aka. my entire life? … “protestEr” just doesn’t look right!!!

“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

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!):

material_resistance_poster_smaller

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…

material_10

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

material_11

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

material_02

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

material_03

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

material_04

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

material_05

… 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…

material_06

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:

material_09

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

material_08


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.

material_07

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!

drawing fonts / trading projects

February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap

Oh, the assistance of a tiny dog… so crucial for drawing this typeface for Liz Novak’s jewelry line / personal-world-creating self-actualization project, With Care… !

Liz (“E. Elizabeth”) is a skilled pal who I don’t get to see often enough, maybe because we both work a ton? or maybe because I am mega distractable and don’t realize that actually months & months have gone by since I have seen some of my friends? Unclear. In any case, it’s unfortunate… and partly with the ulterior motive of ***hangouts*** I asked her for help with the bandana project that I began for the “Practical Tools For Shifting Reality” show at AS220. She had asked me for help with a letterform project at the end of last year (which I had actually forgotten about in the chaos of holiday-sale-december-time — yikes), so it was a great chance for a work/project trade!

Liz is a jewelry-maker, a proud New-Jersey-ite (and also a loyal adopted Providencian like myself), a seamstress at the local bad-ass-lady-run business I’m Your Present, and a SERIOUS flea-market-hunter and collector of visual & graphic ephemera (check the instagram!). She also makes costumes… knows a ton about fabric & sewing & clothing… & has helped me in the past in various self- and gender-actualization-through-clothing-modification projects!

hankies in progress spread out all over a couch, with a cat on the shelf above[photo by liz]

In the lead-up to the AS220 show, she advised me on some of the fabric stuff for the bandanas, did a bunch of ironing, figured out the use of the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine to sew the tight hems, did a bunch of the sewing, and taught me how to use the rolled hem foot so I could keep doing it on my own… Her help was super crucial to that hanky project actually happening. At the end of our second day of working together, Liz said something like “You know what I really like? Working hard.” I never really think about this, possibly I just take it for granted? But I’m on the same page. And indeed, working hard together was especially fun.

hemmed & folded hankies...[photo by liz]

It helped that the bandanas looked super awesome when we were done!

In return for helping with that project, she had asked me to help her with font & logo design for With Care… which I was super psyched to do, since I had just been in the very rewarding realm of drawing lots of fonts/letterforms for the show.

two words, "correia" and "fabrik", in 1920's letters

Liz had collected together a bunch of objects, decorative items, and (of course) historic letterforms, which I (of course) love looking at, and which gave me an idea of what kind of letters she was interested in for the logotype, and some graphic/visual context to work from…

the back cover of an old magazine titled "your health", with the titles of articles

two words, "charm" and "ferragamo", in old typefaces

So we sat around & talked about different kinds of letterforms (& various other important community news, what some might disparage as ‘gossip’, but is actually crucial) and I drew some letters! It’s a pure delight to take this set of letterform-drawing skills that I have & turn it towards creating a ‘brand’ identity for someone a) who is a friend, b) whose taste I really respect, c) who also respects my aesthetic judgment, and d) who has a very strong vision for what the aesthetic world of their creative project/business is. Wearing my ‘designer’ hat, it’s really nice to be able to perceive someone’s aesthetic and try to follow & amplify it! I hope I succeeded…

Getting ready for some kerning — the letters in “CARE” are awkwardly spaced here, and I wanted to even out the curve to make it more symmetrical:

a drawing of letters with overlapping curving guidelines

The drawing scenario, with bright light (clip lamp) at Liz’s kitchen table, showing bristol board (original drawing), tracing paper (kerned letters), and small black jewelry box which this rectangle is designed to eventually go on:

different tracings of letters "with care" arranged on a table

Final drawing, with gemstone — somehow I have never drawn a gemstone before?

a person's hands holding a tracing of a gemstone onto a drawing of letters
[photo by liz]

Next steps for this guy are a little bit of cutting & pasting, to make it fit the differently-proportioned rectangles that Liz needs (Etsy-store header banner, two different jewelry boxes, postcard), rubylith cut-out (to get clean-but-slightly-wobbly lines without using a computer), scan rubylith & clean up on the computer. At some point I might draw some different versions of it at different weights or with a three-dimensional shadow on it… infinite possibilities… !


postscript: Clearly, the “animal in proximity to project” scenario is not unfamiliar to me:

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap [Martin, at Liz’s house]

a person trying to work at a computer with a cat sitting between them and the computer [Buio, at my house]

police! stop judging people by their skin color

May 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I am excited to have been part of this rally against racial profiling — actually, a rally to push the RI state legislature to get the long-delayed racial profiling bill out of committee and passed — that PrYSM, a Providence youth activism organization, put together. I also got to help make some signs: yaknow, drawing letters freehand, my favorite thing to do!

PrYSM is a great organization & their collaborative campaign against racial profiling, especially profiling of youth, is really strong. They made this video, Fitting The Description, to talk about why they are working on what they are working on:

Here’s one of the signs I made, note the piece on the right-hand side cut off the left-hand side & taped on when I ran out of room to finish the word “profiling”, ha!

…and captured in action during the protest. Photos by Tina Meetran.

The man carrying the sign in the photo above is a former police officer… !

This sign went back to PrYSM’s office with the others, but I watched one of the protest attenders walk away with the other sign, the one that says “Police…” Who knows whether he was into it, or it was just an absentminded acquisition? I hope the former — it is always an honor when any of my work finds a resonance with somebody — but you never know.

duotone, finally

May 28, 2012 at 2:22 am

I’ve been working on this Recycle-A-Bike poster for probably a year… but I realized I hadn’t ever posted any images to this blog yet. So here goes! [n.b. I have actually finished printing this poster now!]

Here are the duotone transparencies that I prepared literally almost a year ago for printing out: the darker color is on the left & the lighter color is on the right. (There is a line grid in the background so that I could align the hands once I had cut them apart — Faces does the most accurate transparency printing in town as far as I can tell, and they do not underprice their work, so it was important to keep the printing area to under 8.5″x14″… so I had to consolidate the hands onto one sheet & then cut them apart to put them where I wanted them on the actual transparencies I used to expose the screens. Once the hands were in place & aligned with each other, I scratched the light lines off the plastic.)

(Oh yeah, when I do a duotone thing again, and thus have to figure out how to do it all over again, I will make a tutorial post… except my version of photoshop is 7 years old! but maybe it will still be useful to some…)

Close-up of duotones. This is confusing because what you’re looking at is the screen for the lighter color (open yellow areas on pink solid background) with the transparency for the next color, the darker color (black dots on clear plastic) top of it… so it doesn’t look at all like it will look when printed, since the lighter color is somewhat “in negative” here. But you can see that the angles of the halftone patterns are different, thus making a “rosette” instead of a weird-looking moiré pattern!

My mom would call this the “art shot” — macro-focus, looking through the screen at a light source, showing a closeup of the freewheel gears (exposed from hand-cut rubylith) and the hand holding the gears (exposed from digitally-printed transparency).

Okay, printing! This is the first color, it was a rainbow roll from one blue to another… I can’t get away from the multiple rainbow rolls over each other, it’s kind of a gimmick but it just offers too many possibilities… (like this, I mean, this isn’t a screenprint but look at Buck Hastings jacking my style/inspiring me all over again as usual!!!)

This layer is all rubylith, yeah I cut all those little gears out by hand, yargle bargle

Second color! Some people who’ve seen this print have said “it’s so flat, usually your work has a lot more visual depth & perspective in it…” and it’s true, that’s what I was trying to do! and/or just to change up my usual way of working… and/or to free myself from creating something that “looked like” what it was “supposed to”… and/or to make a lil homage to the Stenberg brothers who are kind of the seminal crowd faves in iconic graphic poster making, and were my direct inspiration for combining photographic collage with graphic solid color elements in this poster…

In the photo below, you can see really clearly something that Emmy Bright and I have been calling “halftone thinking”: using one ink color to get two tones, one of them solid, one of them made up of dots, dashes, lines, or some kind of pattern. You can do this by hand drawing, making those marks with ink… or by photocopying a pattern & collaging it… or by using an photograph made into actual halftones! In this image, there are four (or maybe five?) graphic tones created by just the yellow ink on the ‘natural’ paper, in different patterns:

Okay that’s it for now, more photos of finished poster soon, and you’ll probably see it around town if you’re here in Prov. Spring is choogling along, being physically alive is pretty awesome, swimming biking dancing doing movement exercises pushing the possibilities of my body getting stronger!!!


“Ferdinand’s” department store building, Roxbury, Mass. When faced with the question of “How will we make our dilapidated landmark building look like a really cool graphic poster image, and keep the pigeons out, while waiting to find out if we can get funding to renovate it or if we’ll have to tear it down?”, these people came up with the #1 absolutely correct answer! I don’t know anything about this project or building, but this is a quite stunning (hopefully temporary) solution to what must be a really frustrating situation… go Roxbury!

alison is the coolest

January 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

I am super psyched about having an intern. Even if Alison & I weren’t getting anything done, it would be super helpful to me just to have to figure my schedule & projects out every day that we are going to meet up, and to be pushed to articulate & plan what I want to work on & what my next steps are. So that’s great in itself… BUT AND! we are getting a lot of stuff done, and working on projects together that I probably wouldn’t have had the impetus to work on on my own, and she’s also helping me with some stuff like studio organization and finishing the reprints of the “queers” posters

Also having another person around is great for me to be able to look at my process & see where I’m not so organized or putting things off to ill effect, and to be aware of how I’m focusing or failing to focus… Also Alison is good at seeing where distraction and chaos come into the space we’re working in, and good at saying “hey, let’s take steps to take this distraction away”… Which, sometimes, it’s hard for me to say about my own time/space… but when I’m working with somebody else, it legitimizes creating clear space for us to work in, and then gives me an example of how to create that space for myself in the future / when I’m working alone. Hmmm. The upshot is, Alison is great & I feel lucky to get to work with her!

Here is some of her work, just my snapshots of the slightly random selection that happened to be within thirty feet of my desk…

A poster she designed & printed for a show at Witch Club, the mill space she helped create & run this past summer & fall (a slightly mis-printed version, I believe):

A typography zine that she made this fall (cover & selections from internal pages):





She drew the fonts & letterforms for this poster collaboration with Julia Moses:

And this is the flyer she made for the dance party we had at the beginning of January:

She also does “non-poster” CMYK silkscreen work based on her photography… here’s her tumblr page… oh wait & did I mention she’s a radical femme, with at least one secret scheme up her sleeve, and an outspoken queer feminist at RISD (which is an institution that sometimes feels very lacking in queerness or feminism, & can be a difficult place to be either of those things)? Anyways, SO AWESOME.

Right now we’re collaborating on a poster for the *next* queer dance party (second Saturday in February, mark those calendars!).

Some thumbnails & sketches & color test & figuring out the action steps:

Drawing elements for the poster, being combined…

Combined sketch & beginning of letters (& look at that glossy black paper we are going to be attempting to print on, ha ha!):

Okay, well needless to say perhaps, I would most likely have not thought of using this color scheme or this kind of imagery if I were not working with Alison. But I’m generally excited these days about pushing myself in a different direction, or in a bunch of different directions… and I’m reminded again about how collaboration is super useful as a spur to get you to try things you’ve been nervous about tackling….. !

(more…)

more sweet letters!

December 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

I’m closing in* on being done with these “superman” building prints. The “text on the poster” problem has been solved, courtesy of Stephen Brownell, who sent me an old postcard (date unknown, printed in halftones) that included the original name of the building: the Industrial Trust Building. Constructed, of course, by the Industrial Trust Company. Well, there’s no way I could have come up with anything more beautiful or poetic than that, so that is what is going on the poster: along with the word ‘Providence’; which made a lot of sense and felt right, ultimately.

In Italy, love of your home city or village, no matter how tiny, is called ‘campanilismo’, ‘bell-tower-ism’: the tower is what you can see from far away and identifies the place to which you long to return. As a proverbial generalization, Italians are said to be ‘campanilistic’ as opposed to ‘patriotic’ — devotion to the specific small place of origin outweighs any broader loyalty to the abstract, constructed idea of the nation. This building serves us pretty well as a bell tower.

After learning the name, I was able to find out some more:

Here’s some more process. The best part? Possibly.

Here are the two layers close to complete in Photoshop. This was a snap with the cell phone camera the way the lcd screen looks gives it the gradient (approximating the rainbow roll in the sky of the finished print), and creates a weird, colorful moire pattern (which the finished prints will not replicate!). Looking at this picture on the cellphone screen is the impetus for making a gray-black-and-white ‘minimalist’ version…

cell phone gray tone

Drawing letters; a sequence. Some pictures taken with cell phone camera so the focus & detail are iffy. Watch the C, D, and Es change.

initial layout…

coming to some conclusions

mostly done, re-tracing

re-tracing complete.

Now it’s time for some kerning! (aka. figuring out how far apart the letters need to be in order to feel evenly spaced. The spacing doesn’t end up numerically even, especially with wacky letterforms like these, but ideally the positive & negative spaces balance each other out, nothing is crowded, and legibility is increased!)

letters traced (below) and kerned (above)

Here, the pink letters are the kerned ones. You can see the slight horizontal adjustments between the two texts, opening up more space or pulling it closer together… you can also see my final adjustment of the “N”, cutting it out of the tracing paper, moving it over a 16th of an inch, and re-taping with scotch tape! Here’s a larger version.

I do this by tracing the letters again, one by one, on a new piece of transparent paper. Starting with the first and last letter spaced the necessary distance apart, I work inwards making slight adjustments, moving the new paper around over the original drawing so I can visually judge the shape and amount of the space left between the letters. It’s kind of repetitive, sometimes involves a lot of erasing over and over again, and is totally not the fastest way to do it. BUT as David Gersten says when people ask him why he draws on paper instead of on the computer, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking??” Bzam.

Here you can see knife cuts in the rubylith where I’ve sliced through the softer red layer but haven’t pulled the red plastic off of the clear layer yet:

cutting rubylith

Here you can really see the difference between the kerned and non-kerned text. Compare the spacing of “OVI” and “ENC” in both sets of letters… (larger version)

traced & cut

A final layout, with the postcard from Stephen. It’s from the opposite side of Kennedy Plaza (obviously from before KP was KP; it seems to have been some kind of leafy park… any Prov. historians out there got information to offer?), but it’s surprising how similar the angle and the majesty are. Someone pointed out to me the asymmetricality of the building; it’s true, it’s totally weird.

layout & postcard

Here’s a grainy closeup of the letters showing just how much they changed between tracing and rubylith. The rubylith letters are vertically shifted from the traced ones, but the horizontal shifting all came from the kerning decisions!

overlay

Okay, that’s it for tonight, time for BED.


black cat print!

Craftland put one of my prints on their online store, and makes a deserved comparison to science-fiction virtual worlds! Yeah, I couldn’t even keep perspective drawing out of this super-simple, gradient-on-black, print of the helpful cat Buio. Lots of other prints of mine (inc. different versions of the Industrial Trust Building print) are at their holiday sale, till Dec. 31st… as well as many prints by other awesome Providence printmakers. If you’re in Providence, check them out! Blatant sales pitch! yeah!


Oh, if you’re looking for yet more obsessive silkscreen process, I recently came across LesliePVD’s blog, where she’s documenting her artmaking & printing processes, including most recently: screenprinting on linoleum tiles to make patterned floors!! She’s got a lot of great photos & descriptions of technique, much is learnable! Providence does spit out some awesome dedicated maniacs, does it not?


* Actually, this update was begun almost two weeks ago (Dec 2nd?), but I was too busy working on finishing the prints themselves to have time to go through the process photos to post them here. So, this is totally way old news. An update with the completed print is next! I also just came back from New Orleans, with fewer drawings than I would have liked (it rained all week), a copper plate partially etched, some photos, and lots of thoughts, which I will try to sort out & write about in upcoming updates.

mockups / proofs …?

November 7, 2009 at 5:52 am

Well, I’m in the middle of trying to fend off a known issue in a way that I’ve never tried before.

Relatively often, I find myself working on stuff that needs to look semi-“realistic” or have a semblance of representation of a specific thing. (And yes, what exactly that means should entail a further digression, but I’m not gonna go there right now!) I don’t particularly like this territory for working — it is a little boring — but here I am in it at the moment: this is a commission & to fit the needs of the organization, it has to to achieve a certain level of beauty and pictorialism. To create the right sense of space and form and depth and distance, all that stuff, the illusion of reality, the colors all have to work together well, and have values and intensities that reinforce the illusion.

Getting this right is more or less easy if you’re drawing the outlines, then coloring in the shapes. Here, however, the colors go on the paper in reverse order: lightest to darkest, fills to outlines. The super-professional way to make sure they all look right together would be to do proofs before printing of all the different colors — but that would require setting up the four screens multiple times, instead of just setting them each up once.

The less labor-intensive way is just to test the colors, give them your best guess, then start printing and adjust each color when you get to it, crossing the fingers all the while. But, what if I print one of the earlier colors, say the light red of the bricks, the wrong color, or too dark or too light of a value…? By the time I get to the last color, the dark red/brown that will be the outlines, I might be asking it to play too many roles in the print, to be darker than some colors, but not too dark so that it diminishes others… THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. Multiple times. And it’s usually meant that, to maintain the desired illusion, I have to mix another batch of ink, shoot another screen, and print one more color than I planned to.

So, the solution that I am trying now? Making a color mockup on the computer. This involves the extra steps of scanning the transparencies, messing with their contrast, & aligning them all on the computer… but that is much less involved than proofing all four colors/screens multiple times before printing. Also, the image doesn’t have to look perfect on the computer, just imitative of the real thing enough to give me a sense of what the relative values should be. This is not a “beautiful intermediate stage”, like some of the drawing stuff I usually put up here, and it’s not really going any farther than this: I think I’ve got more or less what I wanted to get from it.

color mockup attempt

Yup, it looks kind of terrible, and no, it will not look like this when printed. Computer images: not my strong suit. However, it is very helpful to get to look at the whole thing as a color image, instead of just as black & clear & red transparencies that I am trying to imagine in my head as various colors, holding all their possible interactions in my mind’s eye together… Not only does this let me think specifically about the values of the colors I want to use for printing, but I can modify the transparencies to make their interactions better, before the screens are shot. Hooray! Purposes are served!

All right, let’s look at something that actually looks good: how awesome is the drawing of these letters? Working out the letterforms was my probably my favorite part of this project. Drawing is the best!

detail of letters - click for full image

As I am clambering laboriously back into work mode after a summer of making very little art or work, I am realizing that drawing might actually be the best. At least, it’s what keeps pulling me back in, the flickering & elusive candle flame that I am following through the darkened building. I don’t know where it is leading me: what kind of drawing I need to pursue, and what its application should or could be, are still unclear. Do I draw to make plans for the construction of buildings? to figure out how to build furniture? to design fonts? to create images? to pay attention to, reflect, and understand reality? full-scale with a sharpie and a utility knife on sheets of drywall? I don’t know. But, for however purpose… it feels the best, makes the most sense, and is the most immediately engaging of any activity that I do.


In other awesomeness: New Urban Arts was just recently given the Coming Up Taller award, which means that some folks decided that it is one of the top 15 youth arts organizations in the country, and that Jason & Rosalia got to go to the White House and hug Michelle Obama! Tyler wrote about this, and the culture of awards, really thoughtfully on the NUA blog. I’ve known Rosalia since 2006… it’s really amazing to see her standing next to the first lady in that picture, with her smile of confidence and secret hilariousness. Go NUA!!!

classic superman style

October 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

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

“the superman building”

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

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

dave cole poster

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

oh, the scotch tape!

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

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

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