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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!

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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do you want to be the secret door projects intern?

January 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I am looking for someone to help me out with logistics, print organization, outreach, communications. This could range from schedule problem-solving to hanging out while studio cleanup happens, to doing publicity & helping put me in touch with galleries or publishers or people like that. If you’re interested in learning about screenprinting, meticulous analog art methods, and perspective drawing, I can help you out there! You could also have access to the studio here to work on print projects of your own. It’s unpaid, but perks of the position include bottomless coffee, good company, cookies and homemade bread… and of course prints.

… get in touch if you’re interested!

*finishing* prints, part II.

December 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Anticipatory snapshot of the transparencies for the Industrial Trust Bldg prints.

sweet solid black transparencies!

(The postcard version, seen at upper right, is still un-finished…) These transparencies were made at Faces, which is a great graphic output place here in Prov; they can print transparencies that are solid black and perfectly aligned (unlike a photocopy or laser printout, where the blacks will always be slightly transparent and the image will always be a little distorted). With the small detail and close tolerances of this print, the fancy transparencies were totally worth it.

I printed the first color on the Industrial Trust Building prints, then took a break and did the second chapter of a screenprinting workshop for artist mentors at New Urban Arts. The awesome Emmy Bright (with squeegee below), who is a recent arrival in Providence and an Arts Mentoring Fellow at NUA, set it up, organized the logistical aspects, drove me (and prints) around town, fed me, and in general helped me out SO MUCH during the end of November/beginning of December! A million thanks!!!

At the workshop, we printed the postcard-sized skyscrapers on STICKER PAPER.

transparent blue…

We ran out of time, and since the plasticky sticker paper doesn’t absorb any ink, a hairdryer was pulled into action to get these dry enough to take home.

hairdrying the stickers

Here we are achieving some good eye-breaking-ness!! (plus awesome clouds via rainbow-roll experimentation.) I was pretty exhausted & running on pure will at this point; pushing hard to get the larger skyscraper prints done before the Craftland opening on December 5th. This session of printing fun stickers — in order to demonstrate alignment using a hinged plastic sheet — gave me confidence that the prints would look good, and got me psyched again about screenprinting’s magical ability to create images that people love.

One of the participants also said later that they were glad to get to print an image of mine, instead of a random thing that someone had just come up with as a demonstration… that it showed them the possibilities of what could be achieved. I know what that feeling is like from the learning side of things — when seeing an example of work in a new medium, you want to be inspired by awesomeness, kicked in the pants to get out there & make more awesomeness yourself. It’s eye-opening to me to realize that my work can play that role in people’s lives… I am flattered and touched and it’s super meaningful. Thank you, Sarah, Jadrian, and Emmy, for being part of this night! and also for having patience with my sleep-deprived wackiness.

Watch out for these guys around town, your eyes might get broken.

crazy stickers.



From here on out it was a race to the finish line, another day and a half of nonstop printing.

Born of necessity, innovation:

drywall screw handle

A drywall screw driven into the side of the screen frame, with paper rolled & taped around it, allows you to easily lift up a screen that is smaller than your printing table, and/or that can’t be positioned so an edge sticks off the table for easy grabbin’. The paper roll rotates around the screw, so you can handle it to move the screen up and down over and over again without wearing your skin off.

screen handle closeup

Printing prison…

moving along…

I offered myself the possibility that I could stop printing these in the middle of the run, if I got totally exhausted. I decided not to — my track record with finishing interrupted print runs is not good — it’s generally taken me a year or more to complete them. So, even when I was totally beat, in the early morning of a sleepless night before the deadline for which I only really needed 50 or so prints, a couple more hours of pushing through the run looked a lot better than a year of an unfinished project hanging over my head. So, there are now 345 of these! in 5 different colorways. Man oh man.

After going through the process of mixing the transparent shadows for the Durruti prints, I had a real sense of competence with the transparent colors here, and got psyched about being super picky. This is the moment of the final color decision for the blue shadow on the gray-sky skyscraper (with rejected color variants lying below):

looking at transparent colors again…

Cutting the ‘tails’ off at Jim’s shop, with the giant guillotine:

two-handed guillotine

Emmy, still rocking hard as the “print caddy”, dropped me and prints off at Craftland…

safely delivered to Craftland…

… and I sat down and put the barcode labels on them just as Alec Thibodeau was beginning to hang the ‘print wall’.

hanging it up.

I think I have accepted the fact that I live almost my entire life in the realm of the “Just In Time”. I could beat myself up about this under-the-wire, deadline-focused scenario every time that it happens… which is pretty often… but really I’d rather just be psyched about what I do get done, apologize & offer beautiful prints to the people who get inconvenienced, & keep going.

I-195 bridge over the providence river

*finishing* prints, part I.

December 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm

taking you Back In Time!!! … a whole pile of process images from printing the Durruti/Ruins posters. Process work from the Industrial Trust Building prints is coming in the next update, this one got way too long.

Mixing colors. a) they’re not all oranges and blues (!) , b) look at that nice set of blond-beiges, moving right-to-left, getting ever closer to the beige in the sky on the yellow-gold Durruti print.

beige assortment

Green-sky Durruti print, seen through the screen that is about to print the blue shadow. The pink of the QTX emulsion and the yellow of the screen fabric always make such weird and awesome colors. Maybe someday I’ll make a print that is as eye-breaking as this.

looking through the screen, about to print.

Trying out transparent colors for the blue shadow on the green-sky prints. The transparent inks have to be printed through the screen to show their density and hue accurately… At left is the first attempt (too purple). The final color was somewhere between the two on the right. I am excited to do some more experimental stuff with transparent colors; they can be a little bit of a hassle to print, but the way they lie in the paper (instead of on it like the solid colors) is so beautiful.

transparent colors testing…



When you are setting up your transparency on the screen prior to shooting it, remember to think carefully about how the image you are going to print will fit on the paper and how the paper will fit on your table under the screen! Or else you will end up with your screen sticking halfway off your printing table like this. In the background, AO is keeping me company, or rather, checking his email while I grumble & rant about making stupid mistakes like this one.

poor planning

Also here, as Mr. Punch would say, this is *not* the way to do it.

clamped print

Use caution when you open the door to unshaven young men who have moved into thin-walled schoolbuses for the winter; pretty soon they’ll be running up your electric bill in their desperate struggle to stay warm.

personal heating system
[a hairdryer in the studio? yup, for speed-drying color test swatches. They only show their true color when the ink is dry.]

After all that hassle, it actually works!

before & after.

This moment is always pretty magical. In this case, it was extra exciting: I’ve been trying to finish / thinking about / talking about re-printing these Durruti prints since last fall. A stack of paper with just the sky color printed on them has been sittiing around the studio since last December. I’m not sure why it took me so long: there were even a bunch of people who wanted to buy a copy, who I had been emailing back & forth with saying “if you can just wait a couple of weeks! I am about to finish printing them!”, also since last fall.

As I got to the point in the above photos — actually seeing the third and last color on the paper — a large weight lifted from my shoulders, and (not to over-dramatize it) there was a deep feeling of relief. I was antsy to print so I printed, not really thinking about it too much… but in the ensuing days, wondering why it had taken me SO LONG to get back to printing this thing, I realized that I had been completely afraid of it — that it had been pretty much PURE FEAR that was keeping me from working on it.

Fear of what? I am pretty sure it was just fear “that it was going to be really hard”. And in the end, printing it with tricky alignment, mixing the transparent color which I thought was gonna be super difficult… not that hard. Not easy, but interesting, lots of fun, and ultimately successful. I was really scared of color matching to the original prints — and I didn’t get the color totally matched — but the color that I mixed was better than the original color: better contrast, better looking, better overall. Answer: Nothing to be scared of.



Hey, what the heck is going on here? Why is the emulsion two different colors and all patchy-looking?

messing with the screen

When I initially conceived the Durruti print, I wanted the sky to be lighter than the paper. I had bought this yellow-gold paper, and wanted to print white over it for the sky and the bright details in the ruined building. So, I printed the white layer, and then went ahead and printed the blue shadow over it. Then, I began to have doubts: the text in the sky wasn’t readable enough. In the building, where the white areas were separated from the yellow by outlines, it looked great — I liked the way it popped out. But the sky, and thus the message of the poster, were too subtle. What to do?

To get the contrast I wanted in the letters, I needed to somehow print a darker color on the sky, without changing the white in the building or covering up the blue shadows. I didn’t want to cut up or modify the transparency itself, because I knew I would want to use it again to print other versions of the poster. Also, at that moment (over a year ago now), I didn’t have time to re-shoot the screen, or a free screen to shoot… There was a lot of argle bargle-ing… but eventually…

Using the screen through which I had printed the white ink, and placing it over a misprinted copy of the print for ‘tracing’ purposes, I took some of the emulsion and painted in all the white areas on the building that I wanted to keep, or areas of blue shadow that I didn’t want to print over. I re-shot the screen so that emulsion would harden… then a beige color (which can be seen being mixed at the top of this post) was printed through that screen.

yellow/gold Durruti final print

The photo doesn’t quite show the contrast as it is in real life, but I’m pretty psyched about how it came out. And — more color variations & experimentations will happen in the future!


Vibration pattern on the surface of my un-drunk coffee:

coffee frequency

It was sitting on the print table while I was printing. The main axis of the pattern (lower left – upper right in this photo) is parallel to the direction in which the screen moves up & down.


Jori Ketten, a local artist/photographer/teacher/co-conspirator (etc), helped me out immeasurably by taking documentation pictures of my prints — soon to be seen here. She also did photoshop magic on them (which would have taken me many, many hours). They look great, & she deserves a million shout-outs. Hopefully you won’t get sick of them. Thank you Jori!


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