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


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.)

more sweet letters!

December 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

I’m closing in* on being done with these “superman” building prints. The “text on the poster” problem has been solved, courtesy of Stephen Brownell, who sent me an old postcard (date unknown, printed in halftones) that included the original name of the building: the Industrial Trust Building. Constructed, of course, by the Industrial Trust Company. Well, there’s no way I could have come up with anything more beautiful or poetic than that, so that is what is going on the poster: along with the word ‘Providence’; which made a lot of sense and felt right, ultimately.

In Italy, love of your home city or village, no matter how tiny, is called ‘campanilismo’, ‘bell-tower-ism’: the tower is what you can see from far away and identifies the place to which you long to return. As a proverbial generalization, Italians are said to be ‘campanilistic’ as opposed to ‘patriotic’ — devotion to the specific small place of origin outweighs any broader loyalty to the abstract, constructed idea of the nation. This building serves us pretty well as a bell tower.

After learning the name, I was able to find out some more:

Here’s some more process. The best part? Possibly.

Here are the two layers close to complete in Photoshop. This was a snap with the cell phone camera the way the lcd screen looks gives it the gradient (approximating the rainbow roll in the sky of the finished print), and creates a weird, colorful moire pattern (which the finished prints will not replicate!). Looking at this picture on the cellphone screen is the impetus for making a gray-black-and-white ‘minimalist’ version…

cell phone gray tone

Drawing letters; a sequence. Some pictures taken with cell phone camera so the focus & detail are iffy. Watch the C, D, and Es change.

initial layout…

coming to some conclusions

mostly done, re-tracing

re-tracing complete.

Now it’s time for some kerning! (aka. figuring out how far apart the letters need to be in order to feel evenly spaced. The spacing doesn’t end up numerically even, especially with wacky letterforms like these, but ideally the positive & negative spaces balance each other out, nothing is crowded, and legibility is increased!)

letters traced (below) and kerned (above)

Here, the pink letters are the kerned ones. You can see the slight horizontal adjustments between the two texts, opening up more space or pulling it closer together… you can also see my final adjustment of the “N”, cutting it out of the tracing paper, moving it over a 16th of an inch, and re-taping with scotch tape! Here’s a larger version.

I do this by tracing the letters again, one by one, on a new piece of transparent paper. Starting with the first and last letter spaced the necessary distance apart, I work inwards making slight adjustments, moving the new paper around over the original drawing so I can visually judge the shape and amount of the space left between the letters. It’s kind of repetitive, sometimes involves a lot of erasing over and over again, and is totally not the fastest way to do it. BUT as David Gersten says when people ask him why he draws on paper instead of on the computer, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking??” Bzam.

Here you can see knife cuts in the rubylith where I’ve sliced through the softer red layer but haven’t pulled the red plastic off of the clear layer yet:

cutting rubylith

Here you can really see the difference between the kerned and non-kerned text. Compare the spacing of “OVI” and “ENC” in both sets of letters… (larger version)

traced & cut

A final layout, with the postcard from Stephen. It’s from the opposite side of Kennedy Plaza (obviously from before KP was KP; it seems to have been some kind of leafy park… any Prov. historians out there got information to offer?), but it’s surprising how similar the angle and the majesty are. Someone pointed out to me the asymmetricality of the building; it’s true, it’s totally weird.

layout & postcard

Here’s a grainy closeup of the letters showing just how much they changed between tracing and rubylith. The rubylith letters are vertically shifted from the traced ones, but the horizontal shifting all came from the kerning decisions!


Okay, that’s it for tonight, time for BED.

black cat print!

Craftland put one of my prints on their online store, and makes a deserved comparison to science-fiction virtual worlds! Yeah, I couldn’t even keep perspective drawing out of this super-simple, gradient-on-black, print of the helpful cat Buio. Lots of other prints of mine (inc. different versions of the Industrial Trust Building print) are at their holiday sale, till Dec. 31st… as well as many prints by other awesome Providence printmakers. If you’re in Providence, check them out! Blatant sales pitch! yeah!

Oh, if you’re looking for yet more obsessive silkscreen process, I recently came across LesliePVD’s blog, where she’s documenting her artmaking & printing processes, including most recently: screenprinting on linoleum tiles to make patterned floors!! She’s got a lot of great photos & descriptions of technique, much is learnable! Providence does spit out some awesome dedicated maniacs, does it not?

* Actually, this update was begun almost two weeks ago (Dec 2nd?), but I was too busy working on finishing the prints themselves to have time to go through the process photos to post them here. So, this is totally way old news. An update with the completed print is next! I also just came back from New Orleans, with fewer drawings than I would have liked (it rained all week), a copper plate partially etched, some photos, and lots of thoughts, which I will try to sort out & write about in upcoming updates.


November 8, 2009 at 6:14 am


Yes, you are not mistaken: I made some halftones on the computer, printed them out*, then traced/stippled over them with a rapidograph pen, modulating the size of the dot I was making with the pen to match the dots in the halftone gradient.

halftones on paper…

It’s true, Liz Girlhaus was there, she saw it all go down! Yes, THIS IS TOTALLY CRAZY and backwards from the way that anything in the realm of image-reproduction should be done. Also it’s incredibly obsessive & reveals my need for an ordering system to underlie everything I do.

more halftones!!!

But, when I got the gradient for the street finished, I had that moment that comes in every project where you go from thinking, “this totally blows and it is going to be the worst thing I’ve ever done”, to thinking, “hmm, this might actually looks pretty good… hmm… hmm! yeah!” Well, we’ll see how it prints.

[* thanks to the awesome tiny laserjet printer I got from Mike “Pants” Hernandez-Stern when he moved. Thanks man!!! It works great, and makes the dynamic between computer and paper SO much more direct. (I had to think hard to find a way to not to use the word “workflow” in the above sentence…)]

for Kate: building with rounded corner, Corbusian/industrial long windows, and another ridiculous neo-classical pediment over the door. Main Street, Pawtucket, RI.

maaco bldg

for Jonathan: “The sheltered prince escaped from the glamorous but stifling confines of the castle, to join his bold outlaw sister in the wild forest of the Amherst St. kitchen, where she and the two sassy orphan children that she had taken in lived happily in banditry, with their old auntie the teakettle looking out for them when they got into any serious trouble…”

the runaway prince…

thank you for the shiny new coffeemaker!

… and, those blueprints:

beautiful blueprint lettering…

more amazing lettering.

… the most prosaic stuff, in the most beautiful form. Thanks, Rob!

Their influence on my lettering for the poster can be most clearly seen in the N and the A, as well as the H and the E. My Os and M are following along the same lines of thinking, but end up in an entirely different place…

classic superman style

October 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

This building, which faces onto the central bus plaza of downtown Providence, has been the home of three or maybe four banks, one after the other, in the ten years I’ve lived here. When I talk about the print I’m working on to people, nobody is exactly certain which bank is the current occupant… but everyone immediately knows the building itself. It’s generally referred to as “the Superman building”, because it supposedly gets leaped over in a single bound in one of the early movies.

“the superman building”

In architectural history class years ago, discussing 1920s urbanism, the professor raised the crucial point that Providence didn’t ever actually need setbacks on its single, lonely skyscraper — even now, the downtown density doesn’t warrant them. However, it’s good that they did build this slightly cheesy, mini-Hugh-Ferriss-ian pile of limestone, because it’s the one building that receives unconditional love from everyone who’s ever lived here. Providence’s newer tall buildings (whether from the 1980s or the 2000s), with their flat curtain walls, tend to be universally detested.

I drew it from life in summer 2002, sitting on the steps of the downtown post office for days on end (becoming buddies with the post office security guard in the process). Watching the sun pass over the building during the course of the day, I gleaned some secrets about the uses of recessed and protruding facade elements to cast shadows, enhancing the heavenward directionality. (The photo above is terrible, by the way: it’s taken with my cell phone camera at the cloudy end of a day, so none of the awesome linearity of the building is apparent… I’ll update with a better photo on the next sunny day!)

dave cole poster

I used the image to make the above poster design for Dave Cole, which the excellent Neil Burke printed (because I didn’t know anything about printing then, and was totally overwhelmed by the idea of printing 200 posters or however many Dave wanted). I finished cutting out all the super tiny windows totally last-minute, during down-time at my cousin’s wedding in Maine: I have troubled memories of sitting at a folding table, awkward in my fancy clothes, slicing meticulously with the knife, trying desperately not to be distracted by the fun happenings in the next room.

oh, the scotch tape!

complete with registration mark & black ink correction over the rubylith...

The transparencies, subject of so much precisional distress, are now in pretty rough shape: besides physical damage, check out where the non-archival scotch tape, stuck on to hold tiny straying pieces of rubylith, has actually bled the red color out of the rubylith! I scanned them a couple of months ago, and now I’m working in photoshop to repair some of the damage, and to re-align (more…)

almost too busy to write

November 15, 2008 at 9:03 pm

buio cat rubylith

… but here’s a preview of an unfinished transparency for a small print that will be ready for Craftland. The transparencies for this print are now done, this photo is from a week ago. This print is actually gonna be tiny, the cat image is a little more than three inches high…

I’m working on about 8 things simultaneously, all in various stages of completion, and it’s nice, I can switch off between projects and tasks if one gets too tedious. Right now, it’s making me a little crazy to sit at the desk all day… but it feels really good to be working hard, and I think things will come together in good ways, at the appropriate time!

here’s the craftland website, it’s charming and informative! … all right. back to work!

craftland banner!

final stages and printing!

June 18, 2008 at 1:02 am

The “farmers’ markets / mercados de granjeros” poster is done!

I finished printing the morning of June 4th, wrapped the posters up in paper and then a couple of plastic bags, and biked them across town in the rain. I arrived at the Farm Fresh offices with dry posters and wet everything else. By now, they are up around town (at least, so I’ve heard, since I’ve been away!) and the farmers’ markets have actually begun, so go check them out if you’re in RI… or go visit your local farmer & help them pull up some weeds! with all the rain, they will need the help.

last steps, from ink drawings on transparency to printed color stages, follow.


upcoming, rapidly

May 15, 2008 at 1:29 am

Farmers’ Markets poster: It’s further along now than it was in this picture. The Farm Fresh folks liked the layouts they saw yesterday! I am pretty psyched about it, though it promises to be a pain to align… It might be done this weekend, more likely early next week.

New Urban Arts: Come to the giant Art Party this Friday, May 16th, 6-8 pm. I’m currently helping students finish three complicated print projects. Hopefully they will all get done in time!

also, a page I am psyched about finally exists at the “cooperative (not collective)” shared server-space linkage-nexus, or whatever that kind of thing is called. it features a bunch of NUA-related collaborative web projects (and a sweet multi-colored transparent gif): cooperativenotcollective.org!!!

Print Series print #2: “private/shared”: long overdue update coming soon (also early next week) with images of drawings. thanks for your patience.

the feline graphic designer strikes again

December 10, 2007 at 1:26 pm

cat-created disorder on the drawing desk

Buio likes to sit where my attention is focused, especially since that puts him right under the warm lights (it’s cold here)…

the original drawing, from 2002

close-up of paper in chaos

I appreciate how the text now echoes the piles of broken timbers at the bottom of the drawing… At first, I was not sure whether I should use his modifications to my initial design (which had the text going straight across the page, horizontally, all normal-like). This text does need to be at least somewhat legible. As I look at it, though, it seems more & more likely that his input will be taken into account in the final product…

We shall see.

If all goes well and I finish these posters as planned, they will be for sale at the
“Millcraft” holiday art & craft sale, this weekend and the next weekend. (The posters will be cheap: $5 for a two color print, $20 for a three color print on nice paper.) The Millcraft folks seem to be slacking off, and haven’t updated any of their information on the internet, so here’s the setup:

at Firehouse 13, on Central St (off of Broad St. behind the McDonalds)
Opening party: Thursday December 13th, 6-9 pm
Gallery open: Dec. 14-16, Dec. 21-23
(fridays 5-9 pm, sat-sun 12-5 pm)

. . . also for sale there will be work by other folks, students and mentors, from
New Urban Arts.

a short two day project

October 17, 2007 at 11:23 pm

…that has nothing to do with any of the other projects, except that it’s pushing the photocopy-collage-for-generating-form strategy, and it’s an easy way to get back into sitting at my desk, drawing, cutting stuff up, and working quietly. The best part of tonight was when Buio (the cat) jumped up on the desk and knocked apart the careful, rectilinear arrangement I had laid all the pieces out in. I was initially frustrated, but then after he got down and I looked at the patterns again, I quickly taped everything into place just as he had skewed it. Cat! so much better of a graphic designer than I am!

The idea of using this specific pattern (a relatively mundane one, the origin of which I will not reveal here…) to make further patterns was stolen from Scott Work/Death. He’s been on tour for almost two months now, and when I found another box with this pattern on it and remembered our earlier conversation about how rad it was… I couldn’t resist. I am sure that when he gets around to making his own pattern out of it, it will be completely different, so I’m not worried about stepping on toes here.

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