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

oof, logistical difficulties

April 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Hey, this website and server friends Meg Turner & Chris Monti are finally back after a while out of commission having been taken over by a wordpress virus. :C (super sad face.) Now I’m doing some serious server maintenance/cleanup with the help of generous tech whiz Chris Erway, & I’m also updating the old wordpress installations featuring my brother Rich’s projects from a couple of years ago: Iraqi Stories (travelogue) and Abu Wilyam (his notes on Damascene culture & language interactions – no link since not quite updated yet!)… at the same time as I’m doing business accounting & my taxes! BLURGH

Also I’m wrapped up in other logistics: organizing events & conversations around town, non-art things that involve other personal progress & are pretty logistical… Also I’m working on some posters, one majorly overdue, one just on time! And I’ll be selling prints & postcards with the above-mentioned Meg Turner at the RISD Alumni spring sale on May 5th. Possibly that’s it? but it feels like a lot.

Anyways, glad to be back & present on this corner of the internet. At the top is a picture of me with Albert, my downstairs neighbor’s cat who disappeared a week ago… :C (super sad face again, sadder than the dumb internet stuff…) If you see this guy, pick him up & bring him back!

snapshot jams

February 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

Peer-pressured intimidated inspired by a bunch of 17-to-22-yr-olds (& some older folks) I know who are super active & self-expressive on their tumblr blogs, I re-started mine.

I’m still mostly using it as a snapshot collection as opposed to an internet-bookmarking visual-hunting neat-stuff aggregator. You’ll see a lot of buildings, letterforms, punks, queers, cats, kitchens, light & shadows, manhole covers & other ‘street metal’, process work, and other sights seen… I think the “stuff I like” part at the bottom is going to be my collection of other people’s images…

BUT we’ll see where it goes…

problems with site…

December 9, 2010 at 5:05 am

Really quick — many of the links in the header are broken, due to some more hacking / malware insertion. The malicious files are gone, so won’t be getting downloaded onto your computer… but somehow, something is still directing any links, besides the “store” and the “updates”, to a (luckily now missing) malicious file. We’re working on getting those directed back to where they should be going.
Done and fixed! see comment below……

I don’t know why someone writes a program just for the purpose of messing with someone else who never did anything to them — but suffice it to say that this is incredibly frustrating, and though it’s crucial, it feels like an incredible waste of time to work to fix it: since it’s just to undo someone’s random and malicious handiwork. I appreciate political / principled hackers… but randomly destructive work, I do not understand at all.

back soon… jean


August 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

Yikes! This internet (and others on our shared server space, including my store, Meg’s portfolio, and Andrew’s website) got hacked & infected with crappy malware or some kind of malicious self-replicating disaster, encoded in apparent gibberish. After some frustration, and a lot of being freaked out because of having tried to be a responsible internet citizen and having failed (because of not updating those wordpress installations, probably…), and spending some money to make sure nothing like that happens again… we are back in action!*


I am totally busy with a commission, so my schedule has reverted to the “sleeping 8am-4pm, awake & working the rest of the time” jammie that I slip into whenever I am really working. It’s awesome! LATE NITES. (My brother, a scholar of Arab language & culture, says, “hey, you should fast for Ramadan, your schedule is totally perfect for that!” Except I would be missing all the awesome post-sunset feasting and socialization, because I am working in my room!)

upcoming: SAVE THE DATE: print show at the Bushwick Print Lab in New York City, opening Sunday, October 3rd. Featuring an excellent passel of Providencian (& former Provy) printmakers. The title of the show is: “Pattern Factory — Symbolic Architecture and Ornamental Repeats”. (Megabus is starting Prov-NYC service in a couple weeks, so NO EXCUSES.)


This post has featured some rubylith fire-escape chasers, from the new commission in progress, for your viewing / anticipatory pleasure!

(* There are still some internet issues to figure out, looks like some graphics are missing, gotta update stuff… but that’ll happen after I finish this print.)

secret store! + photo aggregation

March 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm

store screenshot…

After a ton of figuring out & tinkering & messing around & adjusting & learning learning learning learning learning, I finally got the long-promised internet store up & running! It’s not totally perfect yet, but it’s at least in a state that I feel comfortable with showing to the world… so… here ya go!

secret store!

I’ll be adding a couple of prints to it every monday, some old finds from the archives, some new work hopefully! It has its own RSS feed, so subscribe to find out about new stuff, tell your friends, spread the word… YES. (and of course let me know if you find any broken links or problems as you click around there!)

Also, I’ve started putting images — photos, process shots, drawing tidbits, neat things I see (mostly buildings & letterforms), and some details of finished prints — up here on tumblr

tumblr screenshot

… which I like a lot so far. It’s letting me post images that don’t really need a update post for themselves… hopefully it’ll reduce the amount of random stuff that goes up here, & eventually make an interesting narrative/collection/aggregation in its own right. It’s been useful to read back over this updates site to remember what I was thinking about & what was going on in my life at various times… I think the photo collection page will become worthwhile in the same way.

rubylith insanity

Okay that’s it, I am working on crazy rubylith (seen above), about to go teach a silkscreen class (or two) in New Orleans at Louisiana Artworks (if you are there you should take it!), trying to get a last bunch of stuff organized & together before I leave! I am kind of broke so all I will be able to do when I am there, besides teach, is sit on the sidewalk & draw… which I am actually pretty much delighted about. Constraints!

linear logic

December 31, 2009 at 5:00 am

So, I am working on finally, finally, finally building the long-awaited & much-discussed web store for secret door projects (and friends). This means spending a lot of time in the spot seen in the photo below, & breaking my brain somewhat trying to wrap it around the linear logic of the computer.

my drawing desk, taken over by the computer.

As a high schooler in the early 90s, I was psyched to be the only female-bodied person in the (somewhat smelly) computer room learning QBasic & other simple programming languages. I got a lot of encouragement for being there: I was the ‘token’ that everyone was proud of. Computers weren’t my strength — but the logic was really intriguing to me, I had a lot of determination, and with good concentration & good explanation, I could eventually figure it out and make some cool things happen.

I now know that it is a rare delight to find someone who has a) the capacity for a deep understanding of a logical language, and b) the patience to give a thorough explanation of how it works. Sixteen years later, as I struggle with computer-programming-type things, I constantly see the calm & gentle face of my ninth-grade computer teacher, Matt Zipin, next to me, and hear the soft tones of his voice going over something with me (probably for the second or third time).

There is nothing in the world like an amazing teacher.

Now, lacking a patient and logical person to explain things, I find myself driven only by my determination, and guided only by various how-tos and written instructions (freely available but sometimes cryptic). It’s not hard in itself, all the elements are simple enough (I think), but the issue is that I must move forward in linear ways in order to make any perceptible progress.

Today I finally made a list of what my goals are for the store, in programming and in style, what I need to accomplish to satisfy myself that the site is good. As I was doing so, the realization rushed over me that this kind of computer work feels the same as the last stages of working on a print. When I’m almost done with the transparencies for a print, I write down very specifically what I have to finish before they will be ready to shoot, usually by color / transparency:

  • blue:
    • finish sky/cloud details
    • reflections on metal
  • brown:
    • tree trunks
    • scratch out texture in roofs
    • fix mistake in large “L” (ink)
  • etc.

…something like that. Then I move through the list, checking things off as I go, forcing myself to work on the next thing on the list, adding more items if necessary, until they are all done. That type of concentration is unnatural to me, and it can be pretty grueling.

That comes only at the end, though — through most of my working process I am jumping around from place to place on the drawing, then from transparency to transparency, returning to the drawing, pencil to ink to rubylith and back. Sometimes I’ll tell people that I like the strange connections that get made by those jumps; “the way of working creates the nature of the work”, “it builds upon itself”, etc.

That is bullshit, though, because ultimately that is really just how my brain works — I don’t have another strategy. When I’m drawing or working in that stage, the hand-tool-eye-paper-brain combo takes its own paths and I kind of follow along. It’s peaceful, intense, focused, and spaced-out all at the same time. After a couple of hours I look up and: “Hey! There’s a drawing! Sweet!” I’ll lay out some aspects of the composition ahead of time, but I don’t plan ‘how to draw it’ in advance: because I can’t.

(I can’t make a preliminary outline for a piece of writing, either, to save my life — I have to write a bunch of stuff, move it around, edit it, re-read a bunch of times, etc. Only then can I pull together what the complete sense is, and consciously refine the form around an idea.)

drawing made in new orleans, partly in the rain!
drawn on the street in new orleans: begun on a rainy day, finished on a clear one.

This jumping-about method doesn’t really work when approaching a numerically logical system, nor, especially, when approaching the construction of such a system. There’s room for a little bit of what Jacob calls “being a clicker”, messing around and seeing what happens. That’s usually what I do mostly… and this can offer eventual results (like the current form of this website)… but it takes a long time. And in dealing with an actual programming language — not just markup code and stylesheets — it might not actually ever work.

Last spring, struggling with setting up a janky wordpress plugin on a website for somebody else, I was in tears in frustration with myself at my inability to understand what was going on. A friend who was advising me said, “I mean, come on Jean, go easy on yourself! PHP is a high-level programming language: you can’t just expect to look at it and immediately understand what’s going on.” At the time, I was furious and felt that he was belittling me.

Thinking about his words now, as I tangle with PHP again (still with no training or real logical background, but maybe with a little less insecurity) I realize that he was right: that is exactly what I am doing. Why? Because that is what works for me in the other work that I do. I look at the drawing or the image or the building in front of me — I learn as much about it as I can, seeking out all the corners and details and information available in a non-linear way, making multiple intuitive connections — I make lines and shapes and marks and notes — and something coherent (and possibly even beautiful!) appears.

I look at it, and it sorts itself into an order that tells me what to do with it and how to do it.

As the architect John Hejduk says, “The lead of the architect’s pencil disappears. Where does it go? Then a line appears on the paper.” It is undoubtedly magical. It’s what I’ve done all my life. It’s the most prosaic motion; of scratching the pencil over the paper, of feeling the ends of boards with fingertips to ensure that they are cut to the same length. I have no idea how it works.

Can I work with PHP in the same way? How much patience do I have to approach it in a strictly linear fashion? And… is it worth it to discipline my brain to a completely different way of thinking, when I am already “good” at something else?


The answer to the first question is probably “No, not really”. The answer to the second question is, “Don’t forget to eat and make sure to get enough sleep”. And the answer to that last question has gotta be “Yes”… or else I wouldn’t be still sitting here in front of the computer.

My ninth-grade self is super proud of me.

[hey! jean! writing this has been a lovely and somewhat comforting digression, and has helped you sort it out a little… now get back to actually dealing with what you are trying to get done!]

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!

palimpsest, fiction, utopia

January 4, 2009 at 6:17 am

colors over each other

I use a thick piece of transparent plastic to align the different color layers as I print them. It’s taped down along one side, so I can print on it, line up the paper underneath it, then fold it back out of the way to print on the paper. If I do everything right, I only have to do this once for each color layer: I mark the table with tape at the corners of the paper, then just line each sheet up to the tape. Usually, I have to do it a couple of times, and adjust the marks somewhat after they are down, to get the color in the right place. The worst case scenario, and what happens for prints with tricky alignment or lots of colors: lining up the paper under the plastic every time. (not as bad as it sounds!)

more color layers

The transparent plastic sheet gets many different layers and colors printed over it, and ends up looking awesome, making me wish I could make a print that would be as good as all the layers randomly laid down over each other. I used to stop using the alignment sheets when they got to a particularly nice state; at some point I got tired of buying new plastic, and I’ve been using the same sheet now for more than a year. Where I want to see through the sheet to check the alignment, I scrub off the old ink, down to the clear plastic; everywhere else I let be. The different layers of ink have different thicknesses and hardnesses, sometimes there’s clear tape on the sheet, protecting some of the colors… This time, as I scrubbed some of the ink off, these remnants of text and image appeared:

palimpsest 1

palimpsest 2

My cousin asked me for fiction reading recommendations. Oh boy! Whenever I am in Philadelphia, I go to the stupendous “Walk A Crooked Mile” bookstore, which is in my parents’ neighborhood (but would be worth a trip even if it weren’t). Here are two super-high recommendations, both from that source:

This christmas-time, I found the book Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, which I had been wanting to read for years and years. I bought it as a present for my brother, then promptly borrowed it and read it. The only thing that’s possible to say about it without creating all kinds of spoilers is that it uses language in a way that no other book I’ve ever read does. The language not only creates the atmosphere and setting, but also disorients and disturbs the reader, shocking them out of their ordinary mind-set and typical approach to reading itself… terrifying and magical. Don’t read anything about it on the internet, just go to the library and get it and read it!

Last christmas-time, I found Antarctica, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I had never read anything by him, but I’d been impressed by an interview I’d come across, so I bought the book for my father, since it seemed like it would line up with his interests in climate change and environmental technology.

In the late fall of this year, I read Robinson’s Red Mars, was totally blown away, and actually went back and read almost all of it over again right after finishing it. (Kevin, I still have it! it will be coming your way shortly…) I was offered the loan of the sequels Green Mars and Blue Mars, but refused, because I had to get work done, and I knew that I would get nothing accomplished if those books were anywhere near my desk. I did find Robinson’s Pacific Edge at a bookstore in Providence, and read that… but! it was short, so it didn’t hold me up too much work-wise, and! then I loaned it immediately to somebody else, so I couldn’t read it again.

Just now, over the christmas holiday, I stole Antarctica from my dad and read it, and while it might not be as finely tuned as Red Mars in its overall sequence and structure, I was thrilled, delighted, and challenged, and would probably have gone back and re-read most of it again if my brother hadn’t stolen it from me in turn.

I feel like my brain is not in the right place right now to describe what is great about these KSR books, but I’m going to try. They bring together a lot of disparate elements: combining landscape writing, science-fiction technology, earth-centric mysticism, anti-capitalist revolution, anarchist ideas about organization and cooperation, the local food movement, humanist theories of architecture, mountain-climbing adventures, actual research and scientific knowledge, very real and sympathetic characters (even the unfriendly ones), and utopian social structures. The theories don’t overwhelm the action, and the narratives subtly but clearly underline the philosophical and political ideas he’s working with. The stories are darn good stories, too, with action, suspense, romance, danger, cliff-hangers, etc, but that would not be enough to make the books excellent…

Ultimately I think what makes Robinson’s writing great for me is that he understands the connection between the personal and the political, the individual and the wider world, the physical body and the philosophical idea — that these things are inevitably intertwined, that they are what we all have to deal with in our lives, and that that is where the greatest adventure lies. He’s smart, he thinks about the world, he gets it, and he writes it in poetic metaphors and incredibly page-turney stories. He isn’t afraid to build utopias — in science fiction, sure, but in a world very close to ours — and to say, straight out to his readers, that yes, this could be real, you could make it real right now, what are you waiting for?

Along related lines, I’m also reading or looking at:

  • Utopia by Sir Thomas More (the original one!)
  • Open Marriage by Nena and George O’Neill (1971, not about sleeping around but about emotional freedom and individual identity: this book is making me think super hard)
  • Posters for the People: Art of the WPA edited/curated by Ennis Carter. (This book just came out, I am very excited to own it!)

… upcoming in the queue (and also from Walk A Crooked Mile) are some books by Martin Buber, which also fall into the utopian category probably…

notes from the internet:

  • Glenn Abanilla, a fellow Providence drawer-of-buildings, keeps this great record of the tools he rescues and repairs!
  • My brother Rich is currently living in Damascus, Syria. His writing about his experiences there, as a tall blond Arabic-speaking north american, provides a different perspective from the suspicious and generalizing attitude that all of the U.S. news media seems to cling to, if you’re interested in what’s happening in that part of the world.
  • My cousin Jonathan rides his bike around a secret city.
  • I’ve been working my way through these essays by Paul Graham; they’re nominally about technology, but are relevant to wider questions of innovation and creativity, and how to work as a creative person.

and yes, I am feeling better! still avoiding coffee and alcohol till everything is totally cleared up… drinking lots of tea, though, staying warm in the snowy cold.


December 15, 2008 at 7:09 am

The past couple of days have been spent mostly seated at the computer… but now there are a bunch of new images on the website of new and old work! Missing posters from 2004 and earlier still haven’t been added, but there are finally some prints showing up for:

2005 . . . 2006 . . . 2007 . . . and 2008 . . .

(I know, just in time for 2009!)

I’d been putting it off for a while; glad to have it done.

Last week I also did the long-put-off step of (gasp!) buying 8-oz containers at the restaurant supply store. This allowed me to clean out my ink shelves, which had seemed totally crowded. In actuality, they were just packed with more than 30 pint- or quart-size containers that had less than 8 oz. of ink in them (mostly because we buy more earth balance and yogurt than we do hummus). Here are some (but not all!) of the new containers:

new ink containers!

I also fixed my glasses: copper wire and superglue.

glasses repair

So, all this stuff is getting done, great! . . . . . then yesterday I cut the first finger on my right hand, pretty deeply, on my friends’ pinball machine… Now all I’m good for is 9-fingered typing, I can’t even hold the stylus properly, and the printing that I urgently wanted to get done this weekend is getting put off another day or two till I can heal a little bit. . . . some things are seemingly ‘under control’, other things are totally messed up. .. and I can do nothing about them except wait with time & patience .. . . . . .

finishing and beginning… part 1.

August 19, 2008 at 6:57 am

The bread zine is done, I kind of gave away all my copies at the zine swap, but… I’m gonna make more. It’s still a rough draft, so if you’d like to try out the recipe and give me feedback (on recipe, instructions, design, etc), I will totally send you one: email me!

Here are some sketches of the beginning of a new project:

[sketches in chronological order L-R, click for a larger version]

This has been cooking in my brain for a while, but it all came together just now thanks to a false-alarm deadline. I wanted to donate a print to the AS220 print lottery, and for some reason I’d convinced myself that I had to make a brand new print for it… in a week and a half. So I thought about it, discussed it with Mr. Monti my patient and distractable housemate, finally got an idea from a book that’s been sitting in our bathroom for months, and started working frantically, late-late-nite, on these sketches. A day and a half later, I came to my senses and realized I could just give AS220 an already-made print for the lottery, and not have to stress out about it. Yeah!

The drawings, however, kind of ended up embodying an idea I’d been verbalizing (but not yet envisioning) for the print I am going to make through Tiny Showcase: “kitchen, ordinary life, view out window… but no cat, that’s too cheesy.” So now, after a meeting with my distant cousin Dan Wood, the letterpress printer who will be printing the image for TS, the idea has taken on its own life: there will be a small (er… tiny) letterpress version, available through Tiny Showcase in the late fall (?), and a larger screenprinted version, hopefully by late November.

There will be some nice, elegant differences between the two, which have their origins in our different printing methods. The letterpress version will be printed on rice paper, which would get all wrinkly if I printed on it with silkscreen inks. The colors will be different, and will also be used in different ways within the two prints: for instance, I’ll use gray/brown paper and print white on top of it, but since Dan can’t print white over dark with his oil-based inks, the paper he uses will be white. The transparencies will have changes and reversals to make this possible… etc.

[small sketch of the final composition, roughly…]

As I’ve drawn more on the full-sized drawing, I’ve gotten more and more excited about it. I’ve been looking at some Japanese woodblock prints, to inform the composition & other details. There’s a quote that goes along with the image (from that book in the bathroom!) which I think will be printed below it in both prints, large and small. The implications of the text resonate with everything that ended up showing up in the drawing… I think it will come together well, though it will be a while before I print my version of it.

not least: There has been amazing weather here in Providence for the past couple of weeks, an unusually cool and pleasant August. This makes all work and life so much more possible in our not-air-conditioned house, and the lovely days that mix rain and sun make the garden super bountiful.

also — the skies have been beautiful, tempting me out of the house for many bike rides!

click for the full image, looking north from Sprague St. in south prov:

…on the main secretdoor site, I updated the in progress page, and added a page for the near future, which, though already out of date, gives me a chance to put all (“all”) my projects on one page.

also, Jacob Berendes has finally put up an online catalog, where you can get awesome stuff from his Junk Store, including a poster I made and the classic “Worcester: Paris of the Eighties” T-shirt. If you like the stuff, buy it! and help HBML pay their rent & survive another two or two million years.

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