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

new pinboard

April 9, 2008 at 5:04 am

A trip with Scøtt in the van to a creepily perfect still-almost-brand-new shopping plaza in Smithfield RI, a visit to the giant chain home improvement store, twenty-three dollars spent, some cutting with the knife, and a little time with the white paint =

new homasote boards for pinning stuff up on!

I have been making notes on small cards and laying them out to think about how things are related. This probably traces back somehow to witnessing some of my friend James McShane‘s comic-making practice, in which he works on narrative sequences the same way, as a deck of card/pages that can be ordered & re-ordered.

Laid out on my desk, whatever arrangement the cards are in is bound to get destroyed in less than a day (since I’m also using the computer, reading & taking notes on books, trying to do my taxes, organizing stuff I pull out of my backpack when I come home, etc, all on the same desk). The pinboard solves that problem. Also it lets me look at many things at once, keep many ideas up in front of my eyes, and thus in front of my ever-distractable mind.

Having more pinboards also makes my room into even more of an art-making nest. It’s pretty tiny (about 8 feet by 10 feet), with flatfile storage, bed, clothes, giant 4 foot by 4 foot drawing desk, many shelves, cat litterbox, etc. fitted in on multiple levels. The pin-up boards definitely are kind of tipping the scales towards “work” and away from “other life”. wait, is there such a thing as “other life”?

More cards, with images instead of text, are probably going to be in evidence soon. There’s a drawing of them already, but I need to be able to move them around & rearrange. The second print looks like it’s going to be some kind of catalog or chart of various different ways doors, walls, corridors, windows, stairs etc. can create different degrees of privacy between personal spaces and shared spaces. At least that will be one of the things that is happening in it… My tenuous prediction/hope is that it will be some kind of cross between the rigor of an Edward Tufte diagram, and the nonsense-within-order of a Bernard Tschumi drawing for the Parc De La Villette in Paris. Plus some perspective drawings. In awesome colors. WHO KNOWS.

This stuff happened about a week ago, it just takes me a while to record things and write about them. The non-internet comes first.


  • The Social Psychology of Privacy, a 1968 essay by Barry Schwartz, which was a standout in Robert Gutman’s 1972 anthology People and Buildings, dealing with the implications of sociology on architecture. In general, pretty interesting and relevant, even in its datedness.
  • Architecture and the Burdens of Linearity, by Catherine Ingraham, 1998.
  • A Hut of One’s Own: Life Outside the Circle of Architecture, by Ann Cline, also 1998.

The late-90s critical theory and the late-60s sociology provide a really good counterpoint to each other. Like Fanta and cheap red wine. I mean it!

things fall into place

February 8, 2008 at 5:59 am

initial notes for the next four posters

After a lengthy stretch of time occupied with logistics, being out of town, dead ends, “getting organized”, being sick, preparing, finishing, cleaning up, things not working (including this updates page), and consequent general frustration, this past week some things started to come together.

The results:

  • a more-or-less fully working web site
  • new & reliable web hosting, which was encouraged into existence by Andrew Oesch and the “cooperative not collective” internet project (more on that later)
  • the realization that I already have more than 10 pages of notes and drawings (made in three different notebooks and on scraps of paper) over the course of the past month, about the layout of residential spaces — following that, the realization that I had already started on the thinking work for the next posters in the ‘everyday spaces’ print series…
  • becoming excited about the specifics of those next posters, and how they all fit together…
  • the realization that all the thinking and drawing work I was doing on the forbes kitchen project was already leading directly into the work for the next couple of posters…
  • a large drawing, begun tonight and started very fast, that now takes up my entire desk (the blurry photo above is a detail) that is the first attempt to make those 10+ pages coalesce and cohere, to create the logical backbone of the patterns that deal with common and private, centers and edges, work and relaxing, symmetry and asymmetry, in the spaces from kitchen to bedroom and in between.

So, this page is back, the print series is back (for those who might have been wondering), and I’m back, excited about next steps and possibilities.

New Urban Arts 2007-2008…

October 12, 2007 at 11:13 pm

…has now begun! This now 10-year-old project, an art studio for high school students and young artists in Providence, is well-described on its web site: [link], where there can now be found this yet-again-revised ‘bio’ of myself, since I am one of the artist mentors there this year:

Jean Cozzens is a poster maker, silkscreen printer, and emerging
architect. She is originally from Philadelphia, PA, has now lived in
Providence for 8 formative years, and can occasionally be found in
Worcester, MA. Her many projects include: helping facilitate
participatory art installations, collaboratively rebuilding a
collective kitchen, persistently researching the architecture of
everyday spaces, making screenprints of all shapes and sizes,
practicing ways of interacting that undermine destructive power
relationships, and mentoring at New Urban Arts! Jean has received a
merit fellowship in design from the Rhode Island State Council for the
Arts and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, where she
studied Architecture and Fine Arts. This is her third year at NUA.

Writing a bio is always difficult, even though the goal is to express what you are about, it always sounds somewhat forced. (Since this one is for the NUA web site, the next-to-last sentence is included at their request…)

Over the summer, the NUA studio underwent some renovations, including constructing an and expanded black & white photography darkroom, and a totally new silkscreen darkroom! I had the interesting experience of being the ‘client’ as my friend Adrienne served as the ‘architect’ for the new spaces — I’m not sure if she was pleased or not to have a client who knew how to read a drawing and made last-minute changes (in colored pencil) to the wiring diagram, a day or two before the electricians showed up. We definitely didn’t do that as an affront to Adrienne’s knowledge or prerogative as the designer — we did it because we knew that a certain arrangement of switches and outlets would make sense for the darkroom’s needs: a non-UV safe light (switch close to the door), a regular light for occasional cleanup (switch further away from the door), an outlet for the light table that is next to it instead of directly above it, and an outlet for a ventilation fan that is switched to go on with the safe light. We might not have been very good clients in that we didn’t know how to articulate these needs ahead of time — but Adrienne was a great architect in that she didn’t get territorial about it, but let us speak from our bases of knowledge to make the space more intuitively functional.

Various mentors and volunteers have also been doing a lot of the finish work on the space, if it can be called that — it’s still pretty rough, though luxurious compared to where the screenprinting facilities were previously housed. Andrew, working with some students, laid the vinyl tiles for the floor. Kate, Andrew, Jack and I retrofitted a sturdy metal table into a dual-purpose light-table-table and coated-screen-storage-rack. Our friend Pete came in and built a narrow table for coating screens. Andrew and students did a bunch of finish plaster work and painting. Jack and I built a rack for storing screens. I put up shelves for ink and materials… Now all the mentors & staff that will be using the silkscreen setup are working together to figure out some new ‘protocols’ for printing and for keeping the screens organized, so we can all be on the same page working in this awesome space…

It is a vast improvement over NUA’s screenprinting setup from the past two years, where you had to go into a dark and flood-prone corner of the moldy basement to coat screens kneeling on the floor, then sit in the basement on the light table for 10 minutes, while dust and grit fell on your head from the the floor above, while the screen was exposing. You also had to go into the basement to turn on our old high-pressure hose, then climb up a scary, dark bulkhead door into a gravel alley (where the neighbors’ dogs’ poop would go un-picked-up for days or weeks) to wash out your screens.

Now: you can stand up to coat screens, and there is a safe place to put them to keep them dark and dry while they cure. You still have to sit on the light table for 10 minutes, but it’s up in the main space, so people will hang out & talk with you, and it’s not cold, damp, or gross anymore. We also have a really, really nice washout sink, with a light on the wall behind its translucent back, and a hose that turns on right next to the sink, with a sprayer head that won’t spray water all over the place and get you wet!

It’s hard to remember sometimes how mediocre & crummy the situation was just five months ago, when I was printing the 10th anniversary poster. When I look back on the past month and a half, since I finished the ‘windows’ print at the end of August, it sometimes doesn’t seem like I’ve done that much, since I don’t have any new finished prints. But using the new NUA studio this first week of programs, and seeing how easy it is for other people to use, I’ve realized that a lot of my energy has been going into making the studio really good. It’s still in progress, and I know that a lot of stuff will get changed around, systems modified and adapted, etc, as the year goes on. I’m still really proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and especially of the process we’ve gone through, planning, negotiating, discussing, advocating for inches or feet in one direction or the other… another facet of the constant conversation that makes up the daily practice of New Urban Arts.

I’ll have some pictures of the new space here soon. I’m at the studio, 743 Westminster St, Providence (across from Classical & Central high schools), Tuesdays from 3-7 pm, if you want to stop by and say hi and check out some silkscreen process.

Print series update: all the ‘lost’ posters have been found. I’m waiting for Priority Mail tubes and then I will re-send lost ones, and send out prints to the couple of new far-away subscribers. There are about 8 subscriptions left, if you’re still interested in subscribing, contact me!

Right now I’m working on: getting stuff cleaned up and re-organized around the studio here, helping my friends tear down and rebuild their kitchen, finishing up some old projects and commissions, finding a server that doesn’t crash twice a day, printing some wedding invitation envelopes for Black Cat Graphics, getting photo documentation of my work from the past two years, rebuilding the rest of the website and finally creating a good image gallery…

… so the next print in the series is kind of put to the side for now. I have to tie up a bunch of these loose ends to give myself space in my head to think about it… when most of them are tied up, I can begin working on it again. I’m hoping to get it done in a mad push through late October, November, and mid-December…

We’ll see!

sorry, post office

September 29, 2007 at 7:29 pm

So I need to retract my cynicism about the US Post Office — the two posters that were in conveyor belt limbo did indeed arrive at their destinations. They took about three and a half weeks — but they did get there.

Now we’ll see if the two that went to wrong addresses get forwarded to their right addresses… one of those depends on the mail in Canada which I have zero experience with. ??

Again, subscribers, if you didn’t get your poster yet, let me know so I can try to track it down.


August 27, 2007 at 10:28 pm

The prints are done — as of last Thursday night/Friday morning.

I printed the seventh color on Wednesday night/Thurs morning. After I’d printed about six copies, I realized that I had run into a classic transparent color problem, which I had expected to happen at some point along this process… but hadn’t looked for at the very end.

(background information: the previously promised transparent color mixing notes.)

It is especially hard to predict how the transparent colors are going to act when printed: what they look like is determined by the amount of pigment in the transparent base, and by how thickly it lies over the other colors. You can test solid colors by wiping them with a brush or your finger on a piece of paper, but with a transparent color you have to print it through the screen to see how dark or light it will be, and how it will change the color behind it. The transparent base I use also makes the printed colors a little bit iridescent, so they are darker or lighter when you look at them from different angles…

So, the ‘classic problem’ comes from the transparent color unpredictability combined with the hope of the printmaker that the color she mixes, at a certain density, will turn out to be the correct value to create a bunch of different effects in different places all over the print. In this case, the large text needed to be dark enough to be legible, but light enough to reveal what was behind it; the small handwriting text needed to be not too dark (so it wouldn’t show up as a blobby shape of its own) and not too light (so it could still be read); the small drawings of people in the rooms needed to be dark enough to be seen clearly…. and the wall in one of the upper bedrooms needed to be a light enough value to contrast with the wall of the hallway, and push the room walls a little further into the distance.

As printed, when the large text and the small people in the rooms were legible enough, the walls of the upper room were waaaaaay too dark. Since I was using the values of different colors in the print to try and create the appearance of receding space, this kind of value conflict — which actually made the room walls almost the darkest thing in the composition — was non-negotiable: it totally broke down any sense of space in the upper part of the print. After a couple moments of frustrated contemplation (post-midnight), considering various possible solutions, I decided that the best path would be to finish printing the transparent blue as planned, and then shoot another screen with just the wall shapes on it, and use that to print a transparent light color over the dark areas.

So I did end up printing an eighth color after all, Thursday night into Friday morning. It left me completely exhausted… and if I hadn’t written about it, you would probably never have noticed it.

However! the prints are finished.

I am working on a letter that will go out with the prints, that should be done tonight. Prints to out-of-town subscribers will be mailed out tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, and prints for Providence subscribers will be ready for pickup after that — I will also do some delivery runs around town.

Then it’s on to some more exciting stuff…!

almost ready

August 22, 2007 at 7:00 am

The transparency for the seventh and last color is ready.

In the ‘morning’ (2:30 pm, when I wake up…) I will shoot the screen… and if all goes well, print it tomorrow night/today (Wednesday into Thursday).

Thursday: sort out, sign & number.
Friday: pack up some posters, head to Worcester to deliver the Worcester subscriptions.
Saturday & Sunday: back to Providence, address and prepare for mailing. Contact Providence subscribers and deliver posters around town.
Monday: mail out posters.

… there you have it.

The Shape of Content, by Ben Shahn.

Essays about art and why it might be worthwhile to strive to create anything in the world. I read this book when I was 17 or 18, and coming back to it now I found myself thinking “Oh, I’ve read this one before, I don’t need to read it again…” Then a couple of sentences into the essay: “Hey, wait a second — I don’t remember this part!” It’s really thoughtful, down-to-earth, and unpretentious, focused on art’s connection to and meaning within life. Reading it now, it is obvious that this book was about 50% of the reason why I ended up dropping out of the the University of Chicago when I was 19. (the other half? attention deficit disorder.)

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