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“what does that say?”

May 12, 2013 at 3:22 am


It says: dissonance.

Here are the two colorways of the actual print, a green that’s somewhere between forest & olive, & a bright orange. It’s about 27.5″ x 12.5″, a large one. The below images link to the prints newly in the store!


So… why “dissonance” ?

This print springs directly out of drawing (in mid-summer 2012) all the letters for the “our complexity is the world” print (some process details; buy one!); and feeling just a little fed up with drawing so many lowercase letters in the same form; and my handwriting slipping into sketchiness when writing “dissonance”…


Then I realized that there was no need to pull those letters back into linear alignment, and that that was a word that I wanted to celebrate further in another print…

Late summer 2012 found me sitting on a rock on Conanicut, above the waves, mostly naked (as friends & I were a lot last summer), drawing it in my sketchbook:

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page

(Here’s past process notes from some color decisions, and some color testing and weird-overlap-printing. More process shots from printing are below; hover over them for details.)


“Sooooo….. uh. Why dissonance?”

The application of this word to trans stuff or gender issues originates with the awesome writer and scientist Julia Serano, in her book Whipping Girl:

gender dissonance:
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

When I was first reading about trans stuff, Whipping Girl (which I highly recommend), was really important to me, not least because of finding Serano’s definition quoted above. Her extended explication of her use of the word “dissonance” gave me a handle on the way I felt about my body, which I had had no words for before. I had felt that way pretty much all the time since my early teenage-hood, and, partly because of having no words for it, had assumed all women felt the same way about their bodies.

In the couple of years since first reading that, the word “dissonance” has continued to be super relevant to my existence. As time has gone on, through conversations and meeting people and the internet and witnessing the multifariousness of the possibilities of gendered existence in the world, I’ve relaxed some of my harsh demands on my own gendered existence… I’ve allowed myself to be a person who has a complicated gender & complicated body, and I’ve complicated that gender & body for myself further… and come to embrace the ambiguity and positivity that come along with the word “dissonance”.


It’s more useful for wrapping around my gender or body feelings than the commonly used term “dysphoria” — which is all medicalized, seems decisively negative, and makes you feel like there’s something “wrong” with you. Dissonance is originally a word for talking about sound or music, it’s the opposite of “consonance”, which is “things sounding similar” or “things in harmony” — but neither consonance or dissonance are necessarily good or bad, they’re just descriptions of two states of existing or relating.

Sometimes dissonance can be really incomprehensible, confusing, and make you feel unbalanced & weird, when two notes are not in tune or two frequencies are not quite lining up & there are weird noises that you think you might be imagining…


BUT when you listen carefully it might also sound pretty awesome and interesting, and more complicated than just some Mozart or whatever, and there’s a lot to hear there that you might not have listened for if everything had been all sounding-good to start with…


BUT even if you’re making this music yourself, on purpose, cause you like it, it might still be hard or painful to listen to… BUT you feel compelled to make it and/or other music is just boring and/or it’s the only thing you’re interested in and/or you don’t know how to make any other kinds of sounds…


SO you keep making it even though it feels weird sometimes. Or, all the time. Or rather, it feels TOTALLY WEIRD and TOTALLY AWESOME at the same time, or so closely alternating / simultaneous that you can’t actually tell how you feel about it. Even figuring that out is confusing & takes up a lot of your mental energy, but ultimately it’s worth it cause you don’t really know another way to be… you don’t have a choice. OR maybe you do — the “born that way” doctrine is kind of obnoxious & determinist, after all, and you are indeed making a choice — as this guy has said, your choice is to be here with us.


So yeah, DISSONANCE. All right.

“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm


How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!


I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

complexity_blue_246 complexity_gray_245

The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…


…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:


Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:


2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:


3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:


4. …and then fill in the final gap:


5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:


Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:


And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:


2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):


3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):


One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


Full text of the poster:

so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world

In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?


giving all my (rubylith) secrets away…

February 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

So, I’ve written a bunch before on here about this red-and-clear double-layered-plastic that I use all the time called rubylith… and I’ve written a little bit about getting to teach Noel (below) and Priscilla how to use it, and about past classes I’ve taught at the New Orleans Community Printshop and at my house.

Now I’m bringing the whole weird set of rubylith & transparent color screenprinting skills that I’ve developed over the past bunch of years to a class at the AS220 Printshop here in Providence.


So… are you interested in learning how to cut clean-line rubylith stencils and set up multi-layer transparent-color silkscreen prints *without* the aid of a computer? while experimenting with color & rainbow rolls? and spending time getting nerdy with other silkscreen enthusiasts? If so, you should consider taking this class!

It’s on Wednesday evenings, 6-10pm, February 20-March 13 (with one extra evening class session — a printing/experimentation open shop time with the instructor (me!) — to be planned based on students’ schedules). The cost is $150. Details & registration info here.


Last night I went by AS220 Industries‘ open house to show some student work from previous rubylith/transparent-color/hand-cut-color-separation classes I’ve taught… and to talk (semi-coherently, I hope — I was tired…) to potential students about what the class will cover.

In the photo above, these (unfinished-state) projects from my earlier classes on the same subject are by (clockwise from top left) Kitty O’Connor, Vanessa Adams, and Jori Ketten… and below is a poster I made that has more than two colors, but uses the same techniques of overlapping transparent colors, printed from hand-cut rubylith layers, with no “key” (or outline) layer, to create an image.


from the class description (that I wrote in a very excitable state, late at night, a couple months ago):

What will students learn & get out of this class?

Students will learn a bunch of different advanced silkscreen techniques and methods: precision alignment, rainbow rolls, using transparent ink colors, complicated hand-cut stencils, careful ink management & printing techniques (including the “plastic mountain”!). They’ll try out a strategy for thinking about color separations & color graphics that will hopefully apply to various different artistic pursuits. We’ll also get to experiment with colors, inks, & printing in a low-pressure way — allowing ourselves to not have an end goal but to see what looks interesting & to try new things that might look weird. Oh, and each student will also make a good-looking finished print of their own, and we’ll do some kind of print trade at the end so we all get a copy of everybody’s print…


[Kitty O’Connor looks at different color versions of her print, at the end of the class in New Orleans]

[two-layer print by Rachel Speck]

Each class participant will be making a two-layer print based on a photographic image — we’ll be keeping it *relatively* simple for the print we make in the class, so everybody has time to figure out rubylith, and to experiment with colors and inks — but the concepts & techniques will be applicable to further projects. Vanessa Adams, who took this class with me in New Orleans, put the techniques immediately to work, making the poster that this image is a detail from right after the class was over:


One of the most exciting things for me about teaching screenprinting is seeing how people use what they have learned in the next things they make…

What is the benefit of hand-cutting stencils for silkscreening?

One of my teachers, David Gersten, when asked why he doesn’t use a computer to make drawings, because “it would be faster and save you time”, responds, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking?” Any process that is done by hand, engaging with the physical, material world rather than the immateriality of a screen, offers a chance for our thinking, made manifest in our hands and bodies, to interact with the world around us… and the energy (conflict, friction, complexity, resolution!) of that interaction is always evident in the resulting work.

[Will Bowling working on the rubylith transparencies for his print of his church, below]

Cutting rubylith stencils is drawing with a knife — and instead of your line having a thickness, you are actually cutting a perfect Euclidean geometric line — it has no existence of its own, it just exists as the division of two things.* Then through screenprinting, that line gets filtered through another material interaction and becomes the division between ink and paper, ink & the ink below it, ink & the other layers of light & ink passing through & reflecting off the ink & the paper. Okay?! Also they’re beautiful.

Hand-cut stencils aren’t right for every scenario, but they’re perfect for situations where you want a sharp edge on your graphics and a clean division between colors, and where you want to cover large areas with solid expanses of ink, and where you want to simplify and stylize complicated forms into graphic shapes.

*credit goes to Jacob Berendes for this astute observation!

Some more student work:

[two-layer print by Emmy Bright]

[two-layer print, unfinished state, by Will Bowling]

[different color versions of a two-layer print by Walker Mettling]

What are some of the results and rewards for experimenting with color?

Oh geez, how to answer this question? What are the rewards for experimenting with anything? You see things you wouldn’t have thought of doing if you hadn’t tried them, you get new ideas for things to try next, and you maybe find the perfect weird color combination for your project. Or you just get to play around in unfamiliar territory. We’ll be sharing ink colors and color combinations with each other, so we’ll be challenging each other to use colors we wouldn’t ordinarily use! Often with screenprinting, we are content to stick with what we know or with “poster colors” straight out of the jar from the store — this class will just be pushing a little ways out of that territory, hopefully to everyone’s satisfaction.

[transparent color overlay test strips by Li Pallas]

[two-layer print by Kitty O’Connor]

[two-layer print by Hannah Jegart]

If you’re intrigued, here’s the extended class description, and here’s some very specific details and how to register!

“we don’t like to keep it simple”

December 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

we don't like to keep it simple

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with Priscilla Carrion (a textile artist, and New Urban Arts alumni student & alumni mentor), assisting her in creating a four-layer screenprint that is for sale as a fundraiser for NUA. Our process has had a similar structure to the project I did with Noel back in the summer; and I think the results are equally if not more awesome…

looking at the different transparency layers

The print is called “We don’t like to keep it simple”, and the title as well as all the text that’s incorporated into the image are drawn from NUA students’ artist statements over the past years.

In this case we started out with relatively well-defined imagery (see drawing to the right in the photo above) that we wanted to replicate, and I worked with Priscilla through the steps of color separations, rubylith cutting & creating transparencies with ink on mylar, decision-making about ink mixing, and printing some epic rainbow rolls: (ANIGIF ANIGIF ANIGIF feat. Printeresting “dirty apron contest” prize apron!). The final print dimensions are a little over 12″x24″, it’s super complex & a beautiful mysterious landscape, if I can say that myself…

We made it as a fundraiser for the New Urban Arts studio, it’s a place that has changed my life, among many other people’s, and is super close to all of our hearts. You can ACQUIRE a copy of this print at the “Cardboard Pankakes” art/craft/studio sale at New Urban Arts, 705 Westminster St, Providence, this weekend, December 15th & 16th, from 11am-4pm… They are sliding scale $45-$150+; get a beautiful print & help an awesome organization sustain its continued future!

cardboard pancakes!
(Yolibel at last year’s Cardboard Pankakes, photo by Jesse Banks III)

There will also be lots of other local artists & craftspeople (including me) selling their own work at “Cardboard Panckakes”, it’s the best-feeling “commercial” space you will have ever been in, come by & check it out. Facebook event here!

Here’s a sequence of images from our print-making process — click on any of them to see the whole lineup as one large image.

print process sequence part 1
print process sequence part 2
print process sequence part 3


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!).


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

and last but not least, happy Halloween from Buio!

“master printer” / collaboration

July 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I spent the past week or so working with Noel Puello (friend, artist, fashion designer, New Urban Arts alum, and future student at MassArt!) on making a super-epic, four-layer, 12-color collaborative screenprint.

We made this print to fundraise for Noel’s college expenses: zig has a gap of about $8000 to cover for their first year of art school at MassArt. Read more, see more pictures, buy a print ($30-$100+ sliding scale), or donate just a couple of bucks, right here: http://noelpuello.net !!!

This was a whirlwind project:

  • about two weeks ago, we decided together on a size for the poster, based on paper I had around the studio
  • I gave Noel some wet media mylar (transparent plastic that’s been treated to allow it to accept ink & markers) and we talked about different layers & uses of color, looking at examples around the house
  • Noel went to the store & got some black paint markers (the easiest way to create solid black on plastic)
  • Noel flew to DC for a six-day national youth student leader conference and got about four hours of sleep every night and thought about the poster
  • Noel came back to Providence and made most of the transparencies for the print in one day (!)
  • we met up that evening & talked about rubylith and what text should go on the poster, organized the transparencies, talked about colors and added a rubylith “background” layer

  • by the next day, Noel had decided on the text, we finished the first layer transparency, shot the first screen, & mixed ink colors
  • two days later, Noel mixed the colors for the first & second layers, & we printed those layers on about 75 prints, with the help of CJ Jimenez…

  • the next day Noel mixed all the rest of the colors, and we printed the last two layers, including a final layer with glitter, with the help of Anne Reinhardt who also made us all an amazing dinner that we ate after midnight…

  • that was a very late night, but then we were done! BAM!

It was super interesting to work with a less-experienced screenprinter to help them realize their vision, as opposed to creating or setting out my own vision — I was definitely in the realm of “master printer assisting an artist” as opposed to “artist-printmaker” on this one. I also wasn’t in the realm of “teacher”, because I wasn’t “teaching” Noel a process that zig could then reproduce on zig’s own — rather, we had a joint goal: to create something excellent together.

In experiences that I’ve categorized as “teaching”, I’ve often stepped back and stopped myself from imposing my aesthetic opinion on the scenario, to let the learner follow a course I might not agree with. In this case, I was happy to have the occasional possibility to step in and offer a thought or opinion that I might shy away from talking about with someone who didn’t feel like as much of a creative peer as Noel does.

I was so psyched to work with a friend who was excited about learning and open to my ideas, but confident in the validity of their own vision & aesthetic sense as well. Noel & I were working together to do what was needed to make a beautiful and meaningful object. It’s been really fascinating to make something that looks nothing like anything I would have come up with out of my own imagination — but to still be extremely proud of what we made, and to feel a strong sense of my own artistic identity with it……

You think you’re a grownup & have felt or thought all there is to think & feel, but then there are these new complexities of feeling & understanding that come up, all the time, and demand to be paid attention to & not get generalized into prior experiences. !!!!

Buio stole my leopard-print bandana that I made (by ripping up a pair of pants I found in the trash) for the Feral Summer queer dance party last Friday!

but you just can’t be mad at a person-face cat.

duotone, finally

May 28, 2012 at 2:22 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

late-nite printing at NUA

April 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

My friend & colleague Emmy Bright (at right above) is an amazing artist, teacher, and mentor, and has incredible abilities (and reserves of strength) to organize & inspire the people around her! I met her through New Urban Arts, where she came to be a Mentor Fellow in the fall of 2009 — to work with the artist mentors there, supporting them and developing insight into how artist-mentoring works at NUA. She also has become a super crucial presence around the studio, both emotionally, artistically, and in a leadership role keeping (bad) craziness down & awesomeness (aka good craziness) up. I can’t really put the words around how important her presence — at NUA, in Providence, and in my life — has been over the past year & a half!

it's a traditional "key" layer! mostly.

One of the first things we did together was a screenprinting workshop for artist mentors… Since then I have been proud to assist and consult with Emmy on the multiple screenprinting projects that she has taken on! I stopped in to New Urban Arts a week or two ago when she was finishing printing the poster for this year’s Conversations In Creative Practice Series, and I got to take some pictures of Emmy working with Bridgette, Noel, and CJ — NUA students & alumni who were helping her out.

sorting out finished prints

taking the tabs off the finished prints

Here’s the timelapse video of CJ and Emmy pulling the last four prints in the run of (I think?) one hundred. CJ is keeping her hands clean, placing the paper with two colors already printed on it onto the pins — then Emmy (with messy hands!) pulls the print and floods the screen with ink again — then CJ lifts the paper off and puts a new sheet on.

print details:

( these two events have already taken place, they were pretty great:)

the first two conversations in the series

(and these two are yet to come, on the next two upcoming Thursdays: April 14th & April 21st, 7pm, at 743 Westminster St, Providence. more information!)

the last two conversations in the series

A couple of days later, we went to Black Cat Graphics on Providence’s South Side to trim the edges off the posters with Jim Pfeiffer’s giant paper cutter. Check out how the guillotine cut reveals how the rainbow roll (from red to transparent ink) was slightly varied on each one of the prints:

as cut by the giant guillotine!

Emmy measuring and marking the stack of prints for cutting. Hooray for screenprinting projects!

giant guillotine blade at left...

time, timer, timing

April 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

new orleans, poydras st.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written or posted anything here! and I’ve generally been neglecting my internets in general. (with the exception of Facebook, for what it’s worth…) The translation of this is that I’ve been working really hard & intensely on stuff in the physical world.

new orleans, beautiful can from the fridge at Nowe Miasto, long-opened and full of moldy beans!

quick list:
new orleans …

new orleans, central city neighborhood

back in Providence…

  • drawing
  • printing (postcards, prints, posters)
  • a little bit of gardening
  • making zines
  • mixing colors, printing infinite rainbow rolls that really deserve the name
  • trying to get old projects printed so I can move on to new projects.
  • building little block cities out of a bag of woodshop scraps from Utah.
  • taking lots of pictures, realizing on return from new orleans that there are a bunch of things I like to take pictures of (hand-drawn letters, beautiful buildings, useful/weird customizations of things, falling-apart stuff) here as well! and that I should document it somehow, and that drawing just isn’t fast enough… that the speed of the camera doesn’t imply some kind of lack of moral grounding. I know, self-limiting thoughts, hilarious. !

providence, off of Prairie & Public streets.  they may be tearing this building down, it’s unclear…!?


Real briefly, big developments in my life & thinking have been these two:

— Realizing I don’t need to be an architect someday. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me it is a big one. Since I finished school, I had had in my head the idea that at some point I would stop making prints and go work in an architect’s office and work my way up into that kind of career… that that would be when my “real life” would start.

Recently, due to a number of incidents & factors that all kind of piled on each other, I realized that a) I really love making prints and those challenges and sets of ideas and questions and things to explore (especially, hey, prints about buildings); b) as an artist who understands buildings, I can always work with architects and build off their deeper knowledge and learn more from them and add something to their understandings (even in traditional architectural practice, architects hardly ever work alone, they are always collaborating with other architects, engineers, specialists, etc!); c) that I can always work on buildings but under a collaborative and co-learning model, not trying to fit the way I work into the hierarchy of an office (very intimidating to me), and not being limited by “architecture’s” rigid separation between designing and building.

With the idea in mind that I was someday going to stop printing and change paths, I wasn’t really letting myself give all my energy to print stuff… now I sense a re-focusing and a shifting of my attention, and expansion of energy… it’s very exciting. We’ll see what comes out of it. !!

drawing for plant sale poster 2010!

— A friend ribbed me that “For the past five years, you’ve been making the same thing!” Aha, a sensitive spot!

Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.

(Borges, The Secret Miracle)

Thinking about this, I realized that I have, for the past bunch of years, actually just been executing ideas that I originally had two or five or eight years ago… that I have kind of been a carrier-out of my own ideas, as opposed to an artist working in the present with what I am thinking about now… ideas I have now are pushed off till later (“till I finish the projects I already planned”) and sometimes get forgotten or shoved away entirely. Not the best of situations! So along with focusing my energy on printing instead of on a vague and not-really-desired future as an architect, I am finishing up long-standing projects and trying to get to a place where I can work more directly on ideas I have now…

Okay, so this could get into a much longer ramble about thoughts for the future and specific projects and etc. that I know you all want to know about… but I really need to get to printing!!! The upshot is, still working, still thinking, same projects, new motivation, new projects, new ideas pouring in all the time, can I keep up with them? Probably not, but I’m still trying.

can I get a little figurine made of this?[attempt on the left by me; drawing on the right by Lena, inspired by San-X, there is a singing worm from the worm-bin next to me; in background, new Industrial Trust Building postcards!]

Helpful Tools note:

I have started using an internet-based work timer called SlimTimer, which Arley-Rose told me about… I was skeptical at first, having had limited success with ‘systems’ which are supposed to help you manage your time… but whoa, being able to know how long I actually spend on things is actually CHANGING MY LIFE.

Also, Meg Turner & I are gonna be selling our work at the spring RISD alumni art sale! Saturday May 1st, 10am-4pm, Benefit St, Providence. Directions are at the link… come by & say hi even if you’re broke! I will have cheap postcards/small prints and zines for sale, as well as some older/larger/more expensive work too. Meg will be bringing her gorgeous photogravures (some new & some old), as well as new screenprints, up from New Orleans. Hooray for ART!

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