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July 16, 2009 at 6:07 pm

drafting desk setup

At the moment, I am transferring my ideas from a sketchy house plan to a dimensioned, scaled drawing. The original drawing was on graph paper, for two reasons (since Meg asked):

  1. to make it easier to keep lines roughly at right angles to each other, without having to use a straight-edge and a triangle all the time
  2. and

  3. to hold myself to a uniform notion of the square footage and measurements across the drawing, without having to use a scale all the time.

Staying away from rulers simplifies and streamlines the drawing process, and keeps ideas flowing, not weighed down by details. Also, drawing freehand (even on graph paper) allows me to retain the sense of the building as a not-yet-completed design: once lines start getting sharp and precise, they start to feel like they are fixed and permanent, a construction document as opposed to an idea. With a ruler-drawn line, you tend to start thinking, “Okay, that’s where the 2x4s go!” as opposed to, “This is roughly where the structural wall is going to be.”

(This, to my mind, is the main problem with computer drafting — which Sketchup now seems to be offering a remedy for — it makes sloppy, badly-thought-out drawings look finished — even to the people who drew them, who should know better than anybody else how unfinished they are!)

As I sketched into and modified the drawing, I would tape on sheets of tracing paper, so I could change things without totally destroying what had come before, and try out new ideas on a clean slate while still keeping the underlying dimensions the same. As I added layers of tracing paper, the exact measurement laid down by the graph paper’s grid would get a little fuzzy and vague. So, now that I have a pretty good idea of what the layout is going to be, I’m drawing the plan again, with rulers, a scale, and specific dimensions.

I’ll write more about this house plan in a future update, but here is a hallways of varying widths, with a built in couch of some kind and lots of shelves.

hallway drawing

One thing that putting a specific dimension to things lets me do is see where things do *not* work: in the detail below, the shelves in the hallway, where you walk in from the living room area (center left of the photo) make it too narrow to pass through. … Erase! Erase!

brroken hallway

My big drafting desk is up in the 3rd floor studio; here’s the kit of essentials:

3rd floor work setup

from top to bottom:

  • graph paper / tracing paper drawing (attached to drawing board)
  • adjustable triangle (for drawing angles)
  • circle template (door swings)
  • scale (the fancy one, that I can use now that I have soft floor pads under my drafting desk & am not worried about it breaking, since I drop it all the time!)
  • wallpaper-wrapped brick (to keep the propped-up drawing board in place)
  • toilet paper (to wipe lead dust off after sharpening)
  • lead holder (aka pencil)
  • non-smudging eraser-pencil (this is a great thing that I recently got, it totally solves the smudgy problems that beset me on previous vellum drawings)
  • random ballpoint pen (I’m not using this, not sure why it is on the table)
  • lead pointer (aka pencil sharpener)
  • paper scale (made out of folded graph paper, I’m using it to take approximate measurements off the sketchy drawing)
  • water cup
  • compass
  • two more lead holders (they all have different hardnesses of lead in them, though for this drawing at the moment I’m only using 2H)
  • small piece of chocolate!

[This drawing is actually done now, and I’ve started a new one based on it, dealing with walls & doorways — this was mostly written, and the pictures were taken, a couple of days ago.]

Reading & reference:

  • short comics from Will Krause, a new friend who is about to leave town… :(
  • Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi (again)
  • Understanding Structures by Fuller Moore, a basic architecture school textbook (again)
  • Tomorrow’s House by George Nelson & Henry Wright, 1945: book for the layperson proselytizing modern architecture in home design. Sample quote, emphasis theirs:

    There is no possible way to turn the clock back. In designing houses today we have to be ourselves — twentieth-century people with our own problems and our own technical facilities. There is no other way to get a good house. No other way at all.


  • Ninja by Brian Chippendale: this is a huge graphic epic that I had read parts of in mini-comic form; it was published in a giant (12″x18″) edition a couple of years ago. I finally read the whole thing, in a concentrated manner, over the course of three or four nights, a week or so ago. I’m re-reading it now again, going slowly, trying to sort it all out and make all the connections… In some ways it’s a narrative of Providence, of a time that I also lived through, and it brings back to me very strongly the anger, emotion, and outrage of that time. Disjointed, hilarious, disturbing, and inspiring…

Okay, speaking of pencil-lead hardness, I’ve also been doing some just plain old observed drawings, which are really grounding and exciting, in a calm way. (That might make sense, or not.) Using a 4B (super soft) pencil is really fun, because it calls for a lightness of hand as you lay things out, but allows for real darkness if that is what is needed. The only problem is that if you are keeping the pencil sharp, it gets shorter real fast!

soft pencil drawing

It is a view from the 3rd floor of our house, looking out over the Woonasquatucket valley… and will be in a drawing show at Stairwell Gallery that opens on Sunday.

The neighbors who live behind us have been playing the same romantic dance song over and over again, for a number of hours each afternoon, for the past couple weeks. Possibly they are rehearsing for a dance of some kind, or else they just really like this song. My housemates are slowly being driven crazy, I think, but for me, it’s not that bad: sometimes I barely recognize the song, then other times it brings the slow acknowledgment of half-recalled memories, of a distant past that might or might not be my own. The song, combined with the faintly heard ice-cream tunes that cross and re-cross the neighborhood at intervals, gives the audible atmosphere of our house a nostalgic familiarity. . . . . I’ll be sad when the rehearsals are over.

Summer is awesome by the way.

[no longer] !

June 25, 2009 at 6:19 am

1) I am drawing? It is good. I am engaged, staying up late, forgetting to eat. (That doesn’t sound good, but it’s better than getting distracted by making cookies.) It looks like a house? Kind of, getting there.

advancing the drawing

The way that this happened was that Andrew OOO came over and sat at my second desk tonight, we drew at the same time. THANK YOU AO. (That also means that both my desks are cleared off. Also, not coincidentally, the floor is clear of clothes and the cat litter is freshly changed. This is a big deal.)

2) Yes, I am more or less where I was at 11 months ago.

I think that’s okay? or at least it’s gotta be.

3) Yes, this is the print series print #2. all right. it is, for real, happening.

4) And, francis d.k. ching‘s Building Construction Illustrated is the best book ever. Clearest explanation of everything he explains, of anybody I’ve ever seen. Plus the whole thing is HAND LETTERED. god damn.

5) best acronyms of “out of order” sticker:

messes up the formica

medical condition

band name?

colloquial translation

so they cheered Muntadhar al-Zaidi

somewhat overblown operatic production


my favorite.

thanks to cross-country internet architect friend Eric for the [brackets]!

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

desk finished and in use.

January 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

This all got finished before last Friday, but I just got my act together to take pictures of it now.

new desk (center), and left of it, stair/ladder up to the loft:


continued below are detail pictures of the sweet computer shelves, which was pretty much the whole point of the project > > > > check it out: (more…)

less busy; briefly

November 28, 2008 at 5:17 am

cityscape postcards

Well, [most of] my stuff for Craftland is done! If I didn’t explain Craftland before, it’s a seasonal art & craft store, that opens in December and features lots of (mostly local) handmade stuff, ranging from the OMG-cuuuuuute to the fine art/craft, and combinations/in-betweens of the above. You can visit their website here, and you can (should?) also visit the store itself: 235 Westminster St, Providence, RI, Dec. 5-24 (7 days a a week!) 11am-6pm. Yeah, that’s my one blatant shill: come buy stuff! it rules, it’s made by awesome folks, and it’s cheap (at least my stuff is). If (yes, “if”) you need holiday presents for people, this is the place in Providence to get them. I also just sent a bunch of stuff up to my friends’ store Eli Phant in Portland, Maine, so that’s another good place to look for rad prints (and other crafty/arty stuff). All right!… advertising moment over.

more of what I got done in a crazy marathon last week:

cat postcards:

cat postcards

cat print (only one layer, but hey, it looks good!):

one layer cat print

little coffee maker print:


What I did not get done yet, but is gonna be done soon:

  • reprinting the Mill City print
  • printing more than one color on the cat print (or maybe I’ll just leave it…)
  • printing the bread-making poster
  • fully thanking the people that helped me out last minute in the rush time: thank you!!!!!
  • responding to emails and calling people back from the many days when I was working in crazy mode, sorry friends and strangers!!!

In a brief hiatus from busy-ness, I’m helping my parents blow-in insulation to their attic, trying not to sleep too late while staying at their house, and trying to get some work done on finally filling in the missing years of the main secret door poster archive area (I’ve had the images for a little while now, there has just been too much other stuff making demands on my time…).

I also scanned in some process work which may or may not show up in the College Hill Independent in an article on artists’ processes. To usher in what I’ll be working on in the next months, here’s one of the scans; a drawing I made in… August? which was the beginning of the house that will be on the next print series print, as a way to show instances of different kinds of connections between spaces. I’m super psyched to have most of the other stuff out of my way, and be able to work on this again. It is very exciting to pull these drawings out again, to remember what I was thinking… and, um, to try to decode my own handwriting…

(click on the image for larger version)
private shared house plan

. . . In the “tools” updates category, and making any and all computer image manipulation much sweeter, my major birthday present last month was a little wacom tablet. It was somewhat awkward to start to use, but now it just feels like my computer is (either) my friend (or just) exponentially more an extension of my brain/hand. Since I don’t really work on the computer all that much or do my primary work on it, to feel much more directly connected to it is really interesting… and great! Streamlined somehow, less interference blocking the way. Thank you AGP!

Oh yeah, and at the end of October I got to be 30 years old! Crazy.

on to the next!

October 3, 2008 at 5:45 am

Bread and Puppet posters are printed, Jim at Black Cat cropped the edges for me, and they are going up around town.


first color (that horse!)
[that horse!]

second color

third color

finished poster (in a sloppily composited image) after the break. (more…)

sucked in

July 17, 2008 at 6:28 am

…These past weeks have seen lots of work on the ‘privacy’ print.

Looking back over my notes on Edward Tufte, thinking more about the organization of the whole print, I figured out how I am going to lay it out. There will be an axonometric drawing of a living space on the bottom half of the print (this one will be kind of like a ‘dollhouse view’, we will be looking in from above & be able to see all the rooms and how they are connected). From every place (‘moment’?) where an interesting dynamic between personal and shared space is created, there will be a line leading up or down to a smaller diagram or perspective drawing, plus some text describing how each spatial connection does what it does. This is exciting, since it lets the different doorways and connections exist in a context, related to each other, rather than floating in space — it gives them an added layer of meaning.

[early stage]

This also implies that I need to actually draw a building. This is: “Scary!! (fun?)” as I wrote on my large brainstorming sheet of paper a week ago… The building I’ve been working on is kind of theoretical, since it is only one story, even though any living space of this size (5 bedrooms) in a city (small lot sizes) in New England (cold climate) would almost definitely be a 2-or-more-story building. However, when you have more than one story, it’s relatively straightforward to define private spaces, since the stairs can be used to create the separations between private and public, and even make subtle refinements within those categories… Last week, one of the subscribers told me about figuring out how to use the space in her house: she put her bedroom and office on the second floor, and then created a “guest zone” on the third floor, so that her guests can feel like they have their own special place, and not feel like they are getting in her way or invading her personal space when they visit Providence and stay with her.

So both for graphic purposes, and to deal with the more difficult problem of creating privacy when the whole living space is on the same floor, I’m going with a slightly unrealistic 1-story building.

[later stage — “I broke the drawing”]

… to make it more realistic, though, I am working on making a believable structure and roof plan…


… and because I couldn’t figure out the roof issues to my satisfaction by drawing it on paper, I let myself be persuaded by Andrew to make a model on the computer.

[early in the process…]

This involved me cursing at the screen for a couple of hours while conquering the learning curve on Sketchup, then getting pretty psyched about it (though still frustrated occasionally…)

It’s been an interesting drawing experience, since I haven’t used a computer drafting program since a long time ago in school. Skp doesn’t have a very intuitive interface for moving your point of view around, or moving the model around — I’m using key shortcuts and a mouse, very awkward, so it feels like inventing a new way of moving in space, like learning to walk from scratch. However (or maybe because of this?) I find myself almost physically connected to the building I’m drawing: I’ve found myself craning my neck to look around a corner… it’s very strange.** Sketchup is probably most satisfying when you accidentally jump into the wall of the building itself and things get glitchy… suddenly you are making nice Thom Mayne or Zaha Hadid drawings, congratulations! I’ve been taking lots of screen captures. It’s three days later, now, though, and I still haven’t finished the roof plans. A fruitful distraction.

… in other news, I am moving my sleep schedule back four hours, so that instead of going to sleep at 10 am and waking up at 6 pm, I can go to bed at 6 am and wake up at 1 pm. Tonight I’m a little late… but working towards it. !

* the green cardstock = cutoffs from those wedding invitations I printed a while ago!

** I’ve never experienced Second Life, but I find myself wonder what Sketchup would be like if the interface, for navigating in space at least, was something like the one shown in this slightly weird but fascinating video from the makers of SL…

“pretty happy with”

July 6, 2008 at 2:34 am

This past month I’ve finally been working again on the second print in the print series. At the end of June, I had a tentative layout that I was pretty happy with, incorporating some larger perspective views of different kinds of connections between shared and personal spaces, and also a bunch of little axonometric drawings of more different kinds of passageways and doorways. It seemed like a good solution to displaying lots of options for offering different degrees of privacy within a living space…

However, the use of the words “pretty happy with” is always kind of a bad sign, stuff tends to ring hollow after a little bit if it can be described that way…


[another, earlier, version. note: AGP with sprained wrist/robot arm. ]

The original phrasing of the second pattern, from my print series proposal (December 2006), is this:

Private spaces should be delineated by subtle yet effective boundaries, so that individuals can be alone without closing themselves off entirely.

This is still what the poster is about, but I’ve realized that it has to not only deal with the boundaries, but has to involve their context, to also show the organization of the space in which the boundaries exist.


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.

so helpful.

May 2, 2008 at 12:14 am

Buio helps me get the last bunch of drawings and prints ready in time for the show! What a great cat!!!

In actual news, I am indeed trying to finish some last-minute stuff (visible there under the tail). Probably just one, maybe (if I am lucky, and fast) two new small prints. They are about the layout of spaces inside small apartments. In addition to being part of my research for the 2nd print series print (re: privacy & shared space), they (will) tie the architectural drawings in the show together with the more pictorial stuff. I hope.

And why am I paying so much attention to ordinary, crummy, low-rent apartments? Cesare Pavese, quoted in Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style, says it for me:

A true revelation, it seems to me, will only emerge from stubborn concentration on a solitary problem. I am not in league with inventors or adventurers, nor with travellers to exotic destinations. The surest — also the quickest — way to awake the sense of wonder in ourselves is to look intently, undeterred, at a single object. Suddenly, miraculously, it will reveal itself as something we have never seen before.


My hasty measuring of all the work to figure out where it all goes on the wall. I am not very good at putting up art shows, haven’t done it that much, can’t afford to get anything framed right now. . . Stephen and I hung most of the show yesterday, but I ran out of binder clips and am still finishing some stuff… eep. Going back tomorrow with a new box of clips and a clearer sense of what will actually be finished. We also still have to finish putting up the ‘back room’ of the gallery, which is going to be lots of drawings, sketches, and preliminary work.

I went in today to drop off a drawing that had been at my friend’s house, and was surprised by how professional it looks, even in a not-quite-done state. In comparison to the Magic City project, it’s very sparse and “gallery-ish”, and feels empty, too much on the wall, not enough mess. Andrew says “Even though you know the people who run the gallery, it’s still a gallery.” We’ll see how the back room turns out. . . . that might ramp the mess factor up to where I feel comfortable with it. Who knows.

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