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

squashy takeover & transparent rainbows

May 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

This year’s Plant Sale poster is done! (Thanks to SCLT for their patience, and to my cousin (letterpress master) Dan Wood for cutting the edges off the prints for me super late-nite / lastminute!) Guess how much fun it was to draw these windows???

It features some of my (and possibly your) favorite buildings in Providence being re-inhabited by a terrifying-yet-friendly giant yellow squash plant. No full shots yet, you’ll have to catch a glimpse of one around town, but don’t steal them down till after the event on May 19th & 20th!

These posters keep getting sexier & sexier, says “one who knows“…

Here’s a moment in the process from about a week ago, when I was drawing the final ‘key’ layer with ink onto wet media mylar (plastic which is treated to hold the ink & not let it run). I mostly used a nib pen, but a couple of Rapidograph pens (passed down from my Grandpa, #1 & #00) are crucial tools for the tiny details. Then to correct blobs & mistakes, clean up lines, and also to create light in the dark areas, I scratch the dried ink away with the back of the blade of my trusty lil’ Olfa knife… Here you can see the pencil drawing underneath, layered with a sheet of tracing paper where I was working out the balance & rhythm of the large color shapes (of yellow squashes & green leaves) across the paper:

Also, each of the three layers in the print was a rainbow roll, which I’ve discussed in the past, but this is this new style where I do one transparent rainbow roll layer over a solid rainbow roll layer… and then a rainbow roll key outline layer. (As seen in this print from a year ago…) Something about the subtlety / complexity of those shifting layers overlapping each other turns out kind of incomprehensible & thus, it seems, pretty amazing.

Ink ready (those are three colors of transparent ink in the foreground, then a jar with water in it for washing off mixing spoons behind them):

On the screen, blending the colors together:

Then printed over the blue layer:

Here’s a tiny detail when ink on the final layer was still wet, and the early morning sunlight was coming in the studio window, showing how the ink sits bumpily on the paper (click for larger, it’s worth it!):

And, speaking of process, here’s what my past few weeks have been like:

To all my friends, including new/future friends as well as old friends, I’m really sorry for dropping off the face of the planet into this total screenprint work zone, please excuse my neglect of you / our friendship & know that I am eating mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in the middle of the night while I draw at a desk in a messy room, and thinking of you.

<3 ian

it’s that time of year again…

April 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

…past time, actually. But I’m excited to be working on the Southside Community Land Trust‘s Plant Sale poster again, the fourth one I’ve done so far!

(my past posters for SCLT: 200920102011)

Sneak preview.

letters (click for larger, in the upper-left-hand corner check out the pinpricks I used to transfer the letters from tracing paper):

more letters, all related:

laying out the drawing on the kitchen floor so I can make a vanishing point that goes *way* off the [very large] page!

The actual imagery of the poster (slightly visible in the photo above) is much more developed now, that photo is from a week or so ago…

I get super melancholic when I think about how many beautiful buildings & places & spaces have disappeared from this city since I moved here (1999).

I’ve (finally?) turned to photography as a consolation for this, and as a way to remember that things are always changing & to be okay with that. I used to really look down on carrying a camera; I was against “instant nostalgia“, against “making memories through taking pictures rather than remembering”, and all: “I can draw it better than I can take a picture, and I’ll learn more about it while I draw it!”. I still mostly believe those things… but at some point I realized that I can’t draw fast enough and ultimately just can’t draw *enough* to document all the beautiful disappearing things that I will want to have a record of in the future. So photography becomes a necessary-yet-incomplete resistance to the constant forgetting that life in a changing city consists of…

But yaknow, it’s also springtime so what better moment to bike around & take pictures of hand-designed, yet still-not-all-obsolete, signs in Providence!

projects done, new projects

May 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

guys I made these posters they are cool now I have to get back to work & make some more!

(color balance is a lil off on these photos…)

The Plant Sale is this weekend! I’ll be there selling these posters at the “merch” section, come find me & say hi. (and get some amazing plants, this event is not to be missed!!!)

This show already happened (only a day after I finished the posters, unfortunately… but that is what facebook is for, right?). I have a super-limited number of these prints left, they’re not in the store yet — email me if you’re interested!


This kind of side-to-side repeating happened to some extent, simply by accident, on the two previous Plant Sale posters I’ve made, so I made it happen on purpose for these guys:

… aaagh, trapped in an infinite Victorian wallpaper nightmare of eggplant jungle …

Thanks to the magical Noel’le for the loan of the 30″ long squeegee used to make the three separate rainbow roll layers that make up this print!

The drawings & transparencies turned out to be pretty intricate objects in themselves…

Next projects are a poster for Recycle-A-Bike, and lots & lots of work on architectural prints of an imaginary (or realistic?) future, for a show at Brown’s Bell Gallery in the fall… more info upcoming! I also have many many ideas for other projects… argh. Also I’m going to be a workshare again this summer at Scratch Farm — YEAH!

Been reading interviews with & writings by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, sooooo gooooood

new your city forever!

April 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

Real real real quick:

In 2006 & 2007, I conspired with Ann Schattle, the children’s specialist at the Fox Point branch of the Providence Public Library, to work with kids in the library to build a city, in the library!, out of cardboard, recycled materials, and trash. (Here’s the website I made for the second year of the project.) It was named “New Your City” by one of the participants, who was then in second grade…

The library is now the Fox Point Community Library, kids have been asking for and talking about city-building for the past four years, and Ann and local artist Mary Geiser have brought the New Your City project back for a third iteration! The kid who named the city is in seventh grade, and on Friday we built a working drawbridge together, for multiple lanes of traffic…

I haven’t had anything to do with organizing the project this time around, and it’s been really great to pass the project on (under an informal creative-commons share-alike non-commercial license, more or less) and see it come to life again! Back in 2007-2008, two friends who had helped build the Providence New Your City did further versions of the project, one person at the elementary school where they were teaching in Boston, the other with children they were working with in a refugee settlement in Palestine… but I didn’t get to witness those except through photographs.

This time it was great to take part as a helper/builder participant, and to realize that I could be in that space of chaotic building, and be a force for order & structure, without being responsible for how everybody’s building turned out (or whether everything fell over…!). Mary made the asphalt road segments and I built the structure for this super-tall elevated highway:

So why am I telling you about this???


There’s a New Your City party this Tuesday, April 26th, from 5-7 pm, at the library (90 Ives St, corner of Ives & Wickenden), and we would love for you to stop by & see what everyone has made. All the kids’ parents will bring great snacks, the What Cheer? Brigade is going to play, it’s your once-every-four-years chance to run around & yell in the library… NOT TO BE MISSED.

My favorite part of the city project is possibly the binder notebook in which kids & grownups are asked to write (or draw, or dictate to somebody else to write) about what they made. The binders from the previous years are still proudly displayed in the library, as a record of everybody’s ideas, work, & intentionality. Here are some snaps from this year’s binder… come see more at the party!

and, um, my favorite that I’ve seen so far:

Other work news: the Plant Sale poster is done, the eggplants are just about the same color as my eggplant-colored sweatshirt, what happened there???? I dunno.

The other poster is laaaate but siiiiiiiiiiiiick. ok more soon!

drawing some things

April 4, 2011 at 8:08 am

Spring is almost here (though for some reason snow is still falling on our heads occasionally?!)… so now that it’s time to ride bikes and go outside a lot, I find myself working on three poster commissions. I was not really accepting poster commissions for a while, but these are all a) awesome, b) meaningful within my community, and c) planned *way* in advance, so they meet the criteria!

Here is the initial pencil sketch for the 2011 Plant Sale poster, from sometime last week:

and where the drawing stood, pretty much done, in its full-scale version last night a couple of nights ago:

I figured out the secret to doing these things fast: if you choose a plant whose elements are relatively larger, they take up more space on the page, and you have to draw exponentially fewer of them! As opposed to the snap peas or cherry tomatoes of the two previous years’ posters… Strategy, Cozzens, strategy.

I traded some prints to Shawn G. for a new camera with the capacity to shoot time-lapse stuff, so here’s a first experimental video in that vein. What is mostly noticeable from this is a) how many times I erase and re-draw things just to move them over a sixteenth of an inch, and b) how jankily I hold my pencil! Look at that squinched-up finger, eek. Other things that might be of interest to fellow nerds are the development of the tiny serifs as I draw the word “Plant”, figuring out the angle of the letter A and its cross-bar, and re-drawing the S over & over again to make it curve around the curve of the banner…..

The pencil is a 2mm H lead (I know, pretty soft) in a Staedtler Mars 780 architect’s lead-holder; the eraser is a Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub #1960: new indispensable tool, crucial for erasing on vellum, excellent on everything else as well. Periodic pauses denote sharpening of the pencil.

I’m also drawing a cool cutaway building, secret-headquarters-style, for a punk show on April 28th (yeah, way in advance!). I was working on it yesterday last week at “drawing day” at Ada Books, in the storefront window next to Tom Bubul‘s feet:

The tools here are: a regular pencil (B, really soft!), the trusty Peel-Off Magic Rub, Olfa knife for sharpening, and COFFEE.

The bands are: Grass Widow, Broken Water, Songs For Moms, Jacob The Terrible, and Static Era a.k.a. Natalja Kent‘s New America (that last link is slightly NSFW, sorry…). This show is gonna rule. April 28th. Thursday nite. BLDG 16. Don’t skip it…

I have a couple of small handmade books, including my hand-printed-&-bound calendar/planners from 2004-2006 (memories!), in the Magic Child Repository, a group show at Craftland that opens on Thursday, April 7th! Curated by Art Middleton of Tiny Hawks, Arcing, and other local awesomeness.

Okay I think that’s it for now. See you at a dance party or a show or a coffee shop or in my (or possibly your) kitchen in the near future!

reading: Loose Space: Possibility & Diversity in Urban Life, ed. Karen A. Franck & Quentin Stevens; The Screwball Asses, by Guy Hocquenghem; Lyonel Feininger’s collected comic strips from 1906…

non specific progress

May 6, 2009 at 12:43 am

… this is an interim update to let you all know that I have not fallen off the earth. The Plant Sale poster is done, more images soon. We made a garden at our house (building four raised beds and two planter boxes out of old stockade fencing scavenged from the empty lot next door!) and planted seeds, we’re getting more plants at the end of next week. I’ve been working on making a website for my brother which is not functional at all: problems have to do with Arabic/English language switching and I am in over my head. As Andrew says: “you really should not feel bad about not being able to understand a complicated programming language just by looking at it!” to which I say “but…. I want to understand everything!” All these things are not possible within our human timeframes, I guess…

In any case, I am stopping all of that stuff (for now at least) because I need to draw and print. Drawing! Printing! Yeah! There will be an update on the print series progress soon, it is all insanely late, I know.

In other news, I won a dirty apron contest.

Also, here is a cool picture of the plant sale poster being printed in the early, early morning. In the glancing light from the eastern sun, you can see the pale green transparent ink, just printed, lying over the other colors in a layer that has actual *thickness*. Click to see the large file. So sweet!

printed ink with actual thickness

plant system development

April 19, 2009 at 5:32 am

This is the promised “I love drawing part 2” update: showing the bottom part of the poster, and the drawing of the plants! (hey, it’s a Plant Sale poster: you gotta have plants on it.) These transparencies are all ready now, I’m just waiting for an information double-check before I shoot the screens… so this is a voyage into the recent past.

sneak preview:
plant drawing

Here’s a hard-to-see picture of the first idea I drew: plants are coming out of a pot and climbing up around the letters… okay.

plants development 1

Now, here is a better idea (which is pretty much the original idea I had for the poster in the first place):

plants development 2

The next photo was taken some time later; I missed taking a picture of the intermediate stage when I was beginning the sketches of the plants…

plants development 3

I had vaguely promised myself not to bring any perspective drawing into the process for this poster, but I decided to use perspective after all, and it ended up making things easier and probably faster. There are two different sets of vanishing points here, which lie on the same horizon line — allowing the houses to exist in a coherent space, but not have to be lined up to each other in a right-angled grid. (The white paper attached at the right & left of the drawing above creates ‘wings’ that extend outward as far as they need to go to fit the vanishing points.) To keep things easy & simple, though, I based the vanishing-point locations off of my initial sketch houses, instead of making an “accurate” perspective system and then re-drawing the houses to fit it, as I did for the Farmers’ Markets poster. It ended up being pretty fast and loose. Following in the footsteps of Piranesi! (more-or-less)

I initially intended to use a bunch of drawings of pea plants that I made in 2004 as the basis for this poster. However, I looked for them… and looked for them… and didn’t find them. (The act of looking was productive, though: I ended up cleaning out my whole flat file and organizing all my old transparencies and preliminary artwork!) It being end-of-March/early-April all the pea plants in existence in my area were still in their small round dried wrinkly form, so I used the ever-helpful Internet for (many, many) photo references. This meant that I was inventing an amalgam/generic plant… but I still wanted it to make sense, and be recognizable as a pea plant, and have an internal logic that governed its “growth” and structure.

After I had drawn the bottom of the poster (in the photo above) I had the “pea plant system” pretty much down, and just kept going for it, guided by practice, compositional demands, and mysterious echoes of sense memory that somehow came back to me from when I made all those pea-plant drawings five years ago. At first, I felt that the peas weren’t dense enough, they weren’t as tangled as the plants in some of the photos I was looking at… then as I kept drawing, following each stem to its ‘logical’ extension, they got extremely interwoven, often to the point of my extreme confusion & puzzlement. Which was brain-fusing on occasion, but also pretty great.

Here’s a sequence of the drawing in progress:

plants grow #1


can I just say something?

April 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

I love drawing.

plant sale sketch

I haven’t been drawing for a while, so it’s nice to get back into it by working on lots of letters… (they offer really nice parameters, both to fit within and to break out of.)

plant sale sketch 2

I also love erasing things, then drawing them again and modifying them. I also love changing things by tracing them. With every change, the drawn line becomes richer and more complex. [note the shifting “Y” — looking back at these photos, I’m kind of tempted to go back to a curvy one…] Below, using tracing paper, I’m moving the letters closer together, and spacing the lines farther apart vertically, for what I hope will be increased legibility.

plant sale sketch 3

My housemate says that this kind of thing would be easier with a computer; I’m pretty sure it would take the same amount of time, just require a different kind of patience, a different method for the modification of lines…

plant sale sketch 4

Above, the little golden-section rectangle is giving me a set of dimensions that are proportional to each other, which I’m using as the letter-heights and vertical spacing for the text in this little group. This is super fast & loose, and in this case, is mostly based on “what looks right” as opposed to any rigorous proportional analysis of the rectangle of the poster. I tried to find some good geometries to use in the overall layout… but the placement of things by eye looked better than placing the elements by geometry, so that’s what I went with.

Here’s one stage of the semi-finished sketch for the top of the poster, from a couple of days ago:

plant sale sketch 5

… and the middle of the poster, from that same stage:

plant sale sketch 6

The next update will show the bottom of the poster and its development…

Oh yeah — did I forget to say that I love drawing?

Southside Community Land Trust is a great organization that supports and helps organize community gardens all over the city. I’m excited to be making this poster, partly because SCLT is radical (in the multiple senses of the word), and partly because I’m following in the awesome footsteps of Jo Dery, who has made the SCLT plant sale posters for as long as I can remember.

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