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

art sale season is (almost) over…

December 17, 2012 at 4:40 am

… at least the part of the season where I stand around near a table & have all my prints on display for people to look at. yeah!!!

I’m pretty wiped out from being so extended into the public/social realm for the past two weeks, printing with a bunch of friends/visitors at my house/studio, then selling work last weekend at the RISD sale and this (just) past weekend at Cardboard Pankakes at NUA. But A) it was important to sell stuff & make the money, which you gotta do to stay alive… and B) it was really all lots of fun. Though I was really tired for some of the sale days, it is always great to talk to lots of people (some friends, many strangers) & ask them about their relationships with Providence & their lives and experiences (for example, someone told me about being a teenage night janitor in the Industrial Trust Building in the 1970s & smoking weed in the middle of the night up in the observation tower… what!!??).

Also it’s amazing when people come up to me & say “I saw your print on the wall of my friend’s house in Dublin!” or “My professor had us over to her house for the final class of the semester & her kitchen was full of your work…” or when people get a certain look in their eye when they’re buying something & you know that it connected with them on a very specific & personal level. It is strange, super humbling, and magical. What just happened? I had an idea for something, and made this thing that I thought of, and now it’s gonna be on someone’s kitchen wall for a year & they’re going to look at it every day & think about it every day… or it’s gonna fade into the backdrop of their daily life, but still be there in the corner of their eyes when they cook eggs and drink coffee with their friends… or their kids will grow up with this poster on their bedroom wall & it will be “that poster that I had on the wall when I was a kid” for somebody…

Anyways I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of what I do cause it’s just posters & letters & graphics & colors. But I also want to acknowledge that it has a power and it is important to our identities and that we choose graphic material to be around us because we feel the meaning of it or we want to be reminded of what it is telling us… I have lots of thoughts about this & they’re all garbled right now because I’m still exhausted, but the simple upshot is that I’m super honored that people choose my work to be around them! thanks everybody! it’s really amazing & I’m glad you like the work.

[… at the RISD sale, I was tabling alongside traditional glass-worker/high-tech ‘maker’ Jenine Bressner (Fireworks/Flowerclouds), across the aisle from fabric artist Cynthia Treen & photographer Karen Philippi, and I got to hang out for one too-brief moment with screenprinter colleague/pal Liz Squillace from Bridgeport, above! … and NUA, of course, was full of wonderful people actually too numerous to mention, many of whom can be spotted here in Max Binder’s photos.]


Okay and in self-promotion mode… if you somehow missed corralling me in person while I was standing behind that pile of paper, but you still want a print! Both Craftland and Frog & Toad have some of my prints & postcards at their stores… It’s getting close to the wire for Christmas-eve-arrival mail-order but here’s the WEBSTORE anyways, if you’re in the northeast USA a mailing tube will probably still get to you in time for that holiday! OR, if you’re in Providence you can come over & look through *all* the prints here at the studio & take some home with you, get in touch: secretdoorprojects (a) gmail.com. yet another OR, if you’re in Philadelphia I’ll be heading down there on the 22nd or so, get in touch & we can arrange a pickup / drop off.

OKAY BEDTIME

new color work

October 26, 2012 at 4:32 am

In the past I have been very frustrated, impatient, and (even?) bored when re-printing new editions of old prints. When you print something for the first time, there’s the moment of excitement when you see how the color layers are coming together, all these interactions that you had previously only conceived of in your head and tried your best to build into the transparencies. That moment can be super exciting, when it all works as you planned… super frustrating, when you realize how far off you were… either way, undeniably compelling.

That flash of totally new resolution, and the engagement & process & figuring out that go along with it, is missing from a second printing, and I’ve found myself just not caring about how a second edition of a print turns out. I don’t know if that’s a terrible confession of my artistic callousness — or if it’s actually okay, like it’s just not life-or-death anymore, and really it’s not life-or-death at all in the first place, it’s just ink on paper, it’s okay, and the second-edition-reprints make that clear (whereas the first printing of something is usually the culmination of a ton of work and stress and intense energy and carries all that momentum…).

But for some reason re-printing the Industrial Trust Building prints (first printed in 2009) was really fun and I had a great time mixing the colors and I think they are a lot better (or maybe just more confident and less conservative) than the original colorways… and I have developed a lot of control over the rainbow roll / ink gradient (most of which just involves doing lots of test prints on waste sheets when you can tell the gradient will not be smooth)… and I have somewhat better command of the transparent colors as well. Also I have this new technique for keeping my screen exactly in the same place which takes all the frustration out of alignment (!!!).

So! Very satisfying. There’s one “subtle” colorway, partly inspired by the personal fashion color scheme of awesome friend Christiane Marie, one “pink and grimy green” colorway for all those pink-lovers which now includes me I guess, and two more that are semi-converses of each other and are somewhat based on colorways from the postcards and are just bold & good. When sleep-deprived I have found myself saying that the colors on the blue-&-mint-green-sky print are “perfect”. Not sure I would totally stand by that when not hopped up on two hours of sleep. But it looks pretty nice.

Color mixing sequence. The first picture here appeared in the last post, but I threw it in for nerdy comparison purposes. Look at the two test sheets, one white, one ‘ivory’, that appear in all three of these photos, for context of “how many marks have been made since the last photo was taken”…

I took this picture for Buck Hastings so we can prepare to battle, I think he will win…

Chipboard is so not archival but it looks sooo good with silkscreen ink on it…

Your diligent correspondent, having just printed around 350 of these bad boys; that’s 2 pulls on each print, not counting all the test pulls on newsprint! I’m awaiting the day when someone says to me, “Wow, you really have the shoulders of a serigraphist!”

Here are some of the shelves I referenced in the last post: the new ones are on the right, at paperback-depth (upper) and zine-depth (lower)…

… and new ink shelves for all the transparent colors (the laser-cut background panel was scrap from a recent project by amazing Providence artist & friend Joan Wyand!).


…unrelated…

Looking across the Woonasquatucket River valley, from the (newly cleaned up & organized) third floor studio:

and last but not least, happy Halloween from Buio!

studio time

October 5, 2012 at 4:22 am

Radio silence here, due to mostly-quitting facebook (it was sucking all my life, time, & attention away?) and spending a lot of time taking care of long-procrastinated projects around the house & in the studio. Which has mostly meant cleanup & organization, sorting out things, taking action on random un-acted-on things, and building shelves. I probably haven’t talked about how much I like building shelves… more on that sometime soon, along with pictures of the shelves. (“It’s not hoarding if the stuff is on a shelf, right???”)

Now it’s back to art work, somewhat reluctantly. The studio is way way way more organized & more of an actual useful active work space than it’s been since we started renting it (SIX YEARS as of early September ’12!), so now I know how long it takes to have a functional studio space come together, for future reference. I find myself with a physical desire to keep organizing “just a little bit more”, to “really put things into place”, but I’m aware that organizing itself can be a procrastination tactic for me. I want to recognize the substantive value of “setting up” even in the absence of “actually playing” (as evidenced by the hours my childhood best friend Alyssa and I would spend “setting up” the My Little Ponies, in preparation for “playing with them” which never quite actually happened, the “setting up” was engaging enough in itself or maybe was really the whole point…). However, in my semi-grownup or at least no-longer-9-years-old life, I have stuff I want to make and this studio is a functional structure for letting that stuff happen, not an end in itself!

So this is what’s happening right now:

… getting ready to re-print these guys which have been my bread-n-butter in terms of what people want to spend money on around these parts; all five colors of the first printing are now pretty much all gone! Tuesday I got struck down by some sickness (cold & fever?), tried to fight it, Wednesday didn’t get much done besides a long bicycle errand, today gave in & spaced out & made good food & napped all day, taking care of the sickness which was making me immobile & useless… Then mixed some colors tonight, as seen in the photo. I’m trying to get just a couple of the second edition of these Industrial Trust Buildings printed before the RISD street art sale which is happening on Saturday October 6th, very very soon!

Also listening to a live Work/Death set consisting of Scott putting a bunch of random metal items on a crappy old turntable & recording its rotation. Ambient aluminum rustlings. Lovely.

*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

finished prints. wow.

December 18, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I’ve been struggling for the past couple of days with getting good photo documentation of a bunch of recently finished prints. I wanted to put up really nice photos of what I think are really nice prints — and I think I’m only 1 or 2 days away from a solution — but I’m going to go ahead and put up process/studio photos now. These were done a week and a half ago, and I’m impatient to get them out & seen by the world.

industrial trust building prints on white paper

industrial trust building prints on ivory paper

These are the finished Industrial Trust Building prints! The long ‘tails’ the prints have at their bottom edges (good for avoiding getting inky fingerprints all over) have since been trimmed off, so the final print dimensions are about 7×17 inches. I was taping prints up on the drafting desk in order to make decisions about the colors… these are the final group.

Five different versions on two different kinds of paper: 1) gray/blue/white, 2) orange/purple-brown/white, 3) green/blue/ivory, 4) blue/red-orange/ivory, 5) orange/purple/ivory. As I was working on figuring out these colors, I was thinking a lot about creating different seasons, times of day, or kinds of light… how the color of the shadow creates the color of the light that is casting it… etc.

More finished prints! Here are the new color versions of the Ruins/Buenaventura Durruti print. I’ve been trying to finish printing these for almost (or more than) a year, so to look at a stack of completed ones is an extreme delight plus a giant weight off my shoulders.

three colorways!

There are two variations on the version on yellow-gold paper, on the right: one has blue-purple outlines, and the other (shown in the photo) has brownish-red outlines. When good pictures have been taken, I’ll put up details from both of them.

The prints on yellow-gold paper are 15.25 x 25.5 inches, the prints on white paper are 15.25 x 26.

If you’re in Providence, they’re for sale at Craftland, and/or you can buy them from me via email & paypal! I am working on this web store thing but it is not there yet.

“Industrial Trust Building – Providence” prints (signed & numbered) are $30
Durruti prints on white paper (3 colors, signed, un-numbered) are $25
Durruti prints on yellow-gold paper (4 colors, signed, un-numbered) are $50
…and there are still a bunch of these little neighborhood prints kicking around.

Shipping is $4 for the smaller prints and $6 for the bigger ones… email me for multiple prints or whatever!


I have a bunch of images & thoughts from the process of printing these, especially the Durruti prints, which had me stalled for months in terror of finishing them! However, I’m gonna do something more directly productive right now & get back to writing that stuff up later. Here’s just a hint of my epic process of mixing the transparent color for the shadow in that print:

transparent colors testing…

I began November totally intimidated by the challenge of figuring out transparent color complexities, and began December with the feeling of having a deep and lasting capacity to repeatably get a good result that would surprise me by its well-fitting-ness… though not of having the control to get a repeatable exact result: that is something that I am not sure if I would actually hope to have. !


If you are in New Orleans tonight, you should head over to the Community Printshop at Louisiana Artworks for their fundraiser party and drink one of these for me!

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.

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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