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

the epic to-do list

July 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

Hi readers of these updates! Hope your summers are good. It’s now kinda hot here, Scøtt was dog-sitting for a couple weeks so I was hanging out with this little yellow dog Winnie as well as Buio-cat, they were hot too, everybody was/is hot, it’s hot now & it’s midnight.


So… this is a chance for me to tell you what I HAVEN’T done. There’s a lot of stuff I need to write more about on here, including other projects I did in the spring like complete an assignment for Headmaster Magazine #6, and the final outcome of the print that I shared some process drawings from here.

Also… I never really put together final posts about the Manchester St. Power Station print project (in progress here), or even the Recycle-A-Bike poster from a couple years ago (process moment)! Yikes!

Then there’s a bunch of other stuff from the past year that hasn’t really seen the light of internet-day, or even proper documentation: a dazzle camouflage pattern I made last summer to go on a t-shirt to give myself some body freedom/body obfuscation, which was a personal project that I now want to make some kind of mass-production possible for… a text & slide-projector performance/reading (also about bodies) I did that will become a zine someday… a map-and-memory project I made to be installed in my friend’s apartment in Abu Dhabi, that needs to have a local instance at some point, and get realized fully…

Also I’ve had a blog post in draft form for a while about tools for drawing, which keeps developing & changing in its meaning & context since I got a new wacom tablet recently, and have been learning more computer skills… and since my grandfather (who gave me his engineer’s Rapidograph pens) died this past month…

BUT! There are a couple of print projects on my plate right now which I am struggling desperately to complete. As well as organizing shows & events for the rest of the year… And being a living human who cooks, eats, gets dressed, sleeps, talks to friends, and lives. So I’m not writing those posts now!

Also eventually I will finish some really long-unfinished projects like my epically, drastically incomplete print series about everyday spaces? Aahh! (I kind of don’t want to think about all the other projects that are unfinished / aspirational, that’s just the most egregious one…) Someday I intend to eventually bring all the projects to a close. So basically, as it always has been, this blog is a chance for me to say “sorry everything is not done yet” and “it will be done eventually & then I will make a blog post about it”. It’s good to know nothing has changed since 2007, I guess.

For the moment — I am posting some nice barns, letters, building aspects, etc. to instagram/tumblr; you can keep track of my random nerdy notes in either of those spots — and please enjoy this picture of a drawing setup — on the parlor table due to the length of the horizon line I needed to use to get the vanishing point right. The cat was very happy that I was working on a surface he could sit on (as opposed to my main desk, where there’s really no room for him) while I made the marks.


More soon. !!!

breaking time & space at Slater Mill

May 31, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I just busted out a project that I am really excited about. I finally got to make some really big three-dimensional letters… it is for a show celebrating labor protest history… and it is in a great old industrial building.


It is part of a show at Slater Mill Historic Site, a museum that is in the location of the first installation of the “Arkwright Method” of factory textile production in the United States. The exhibit is called The Mother Of All Strikes, focusing on the first factory labor walkout in US history, which happened at Slater Mill in 1824 when women loom operatives walked off their jobs and protested successfully for the restoration of their cut wages. It’s up till July 31st so there is lots of time to check it out — if you want to see it, contact me (secretdoorprojects@gmail) and I think it’s possible to arrange a free visit.

The show includes historical information & imagery, as well as artwork made specifically for it by Christine Ashley, Chelsea Carl, Priscilla Carrion, and Kristina Brown, and me!

I don’t have great pictures of the final installation yet, but here are some process shots and blurry phone pictures of the real thing, with more writing & good pictures to follow!

Slater Mill’s interior, with various textile machines from different eras (some still operational!):


A little chunk of a project description I wrote for a reporter this week:

The piece I made for Slater Mill, and for the anniversary of the 1824 strike, is called, straightforwardly, “Autonomía” — which translates to “Autonomy” in English. The large letters (made of cardboard and silk-screened paper) are staggered in space and take over six bays of the factory building, getting in people’s way — just a little bit! — as they walk around. From one end of the building you can see that they spell a word; from other viewpoints, the shapes of the letters are visible but it’s not quite clear how they fit together.

The idea of autonomy is the idea that everyone should have control over their own lives, projects, work, and associations — it’s a specific way of talking about freedom that is about self-determination and cooperation as well as about independence.

The word was created using a perspectival illusion, based on combining an architectural drawing with a drawing of the letterforms. The furthest-away letters are the largest, and as they come towards you they get smaller, so from a specific viewpoint they all appear to be the same size, floating in space, not subject to the rules of perspective. This was a way of breaking the ordered, regular spacing of the building’s structure, which was part of the control system that Slater & his partners imposed on their workers. The word is only legible in denial of the factory’s regularity, contradicting how objects are “supposed to” behave in space.

I wanted to connect workers’ struggles today to the struggles of workers in the past, and make it clear that the fight continues — right now, with the struggles of fast-food workers across the U.S. and here in Rhode Island for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, among many other battles. The word is in Spanish to allow it to communicate directly to Spanish-speaking museum visitors — and to remind English-speaking visitors that these struggles are happening all over the Americas and the world. (And also to make it clear that I am *not* quoting the 1824 workers, since we don’t have any first-hand quotes from their speeches or meetings in the historical record.)

Some epic process notes….!

Based on the building’s plan, and on my own measurements of vertical elements, I made a perspective drawing (here ghosted out under a couple layers of vellum) and then drew the letters of the word I wanted to build in such a way that it would fit into the museum’s space:


Here’s a detail of projecting the letters, these largest ones cut up into overlapping pieces, back in space onto the “picture plane” (a perspective-drawing concept, the plane where all the elements have a “true height” to scale) to figure out how large I would have to build them to get them to look the same height in person…


The largest letter was six feet three inches tall, the smallest was about 18 inches tall.

(Most of this drawing was made on a drafting desk with a parallel ruler, but I did have to take it to my parents’ house in Philadelphia with me when I went back for a family wedding in the middle of the crunch time… here it is on their dining room table, with the plan of Slater Mill above the perspective drawing…)


The thing I wish I’d done differently in the drawing process: I should have made the original plan at a larger scale; it should have been 1 foot to 1/4 inch instead of 1/8 inch! (or even bigger?) Then I would have had more ability to get accurate detail from the drawing instead of having to do complicated proportional translation. Luckily I had this trusty analog tool:


The proportional scale! Which I don’t use all the time, but when I do use it, I can’t think of anything that could replace it.

Drawings were scaled up and then transferred to cardboard. I got all this two-ply bike-box cardboard which was nice & rigid (thanks, bike shop pals!), and perfect for being able to create a gluing surface on the edges, by peeling off one layer of corrugation, and bending back the other layer to give the hot glue something to hold on to.

Draw letter, add a 3/8″ border, cut partway through & peel:


Cut through the middle flat layer:


Gently bend back the bottom corrugated layer, and squish the corrugations down:


Cut two-inch strips of cardboard and hot-glue them to the folded-down edges (the paper-wrapped bricks are weights to hold the whole thing in place & keep the glued parts pressed tight together while the glue cools):


If you drop your razor knife with the blade fully extended like that, don’t try to catch it! (I didn’t… but just barely)

Some complete letters stacked in a nice-looking pile…


Each letter had its height divided in four, and I made four stripes of this pink paper that Alison Nitkiewicz & I screenprinted more than two years ago


(the Os extend a little beyond the top & bottom line of the letters, so they got a tiny stripe of another color pink added on the top…)

The biggest letters (the first ones that were done!) loaded in the van to go to the mill (and yes, the colors did look completely different in the daylight vs. in the studio lighting):


Late nite install:


Scøtt was a crucial, crucial helper in the hanging process, I really wouldn’t have gotten it done without his help… the timeframe was tight enough that we didn’t take any installation shots except this one, when we were almost done:


Jeremy Ferris took this nice picture at the opening, really showing the size & scale of the largest letters:


And here are another couple pictures I took as things were winding down:



And… just some of the smaller scraps of pink paper left over in the studio afterwards:


… and while we’re looking at letters, here are two variant proportions for the same letters from stops along the C subway line in Brooklyn.

These are different shapes, to fit a different size panel & with different street names (the first one is Nostrand Ave, the second one is Kingston-Throop Av), so the angles are all different… BUT the small tiles are the same size, and the “style guide” for how the tiles are cut and placed is the same, including the extension of the top point of the A and bottom point of the V past the bounding line for the rest of the letters.



Things I like to look at!

I have been posting a lot of found letterforms, also cool architectural things, process work, and occasional cats, on my instagram recently, I’ve been really psyched about that format for internet interaction… follow if you’re into it!

print objects, printed objects

April 2, 2014 at 3:36 am


Okay! I just got back from spending a good chunk of time in the Bay Area, for the “Southern Graphics Council International” graphics, print, & printmaking conference. I was nervous about attending this, I’m not sure exactly why, I think I was a little intimidated by the rumoredly academic/MFA-y focus… and maybe the general vague worry that one is not in the “cool kidz club” or something??? and maybe because I had been spending lots of time in the studio working in the past bunch of months, I was nervous about a highly social environment. but anyways, my fears were unfounded & it was awesome.

… and ultimately there were way more interesting events, talks, & shows happening as part of the conference than I could ever hope to do or see all of. Even in its aftermath I find myself overwhelmed by the feelings of “okay, I want to be in touch with that person, and that person, and follow up on that possibility…” with what’s probably an unrealistic number of people…

BUT, speaking of which, if we met there, or if you ended up with my print in the membership exchange, or if you found me through SGC, please be in touch — I would love to stay connected!


(the print I made for the exchange)

I have been gathering some conference photo notes & links here on my tumblr, but this is definitely not a complete catalog of the neat stuff that I saw or was part of! And there is also a *very* partial selection of interesting letters and building things I saw out west, here on the instagram

Also, San Francisco, Oakland, & Berkeley (and Walnut Creek and Grass Valley/Nevada City, which I also visited, to see my cousins, uncle, and great-aunt!) were beautiful & interesting, and I was really excited to get to spend some time experiencing the different topographies, architecture, and ecologies of all those places… as well as noticing different ways that people interact in different cities, I feel like I am inspired to make more & better eye contact back here in Prov, as opposed to avoiding catching people’s eyes, which I think I have been doing? Hmm.

… more thoughts about (and images from) those travels soon…


Anyways, one thing I was trying hard to get done before I left for California, but mostly failed to get done, was to finish some more of my bandanas (as visible here in their original incarnation/context) on different fabric (100% cotton this time) & trying out new inks. I did a bunch of printing (above & below, on Beth Brandon‘s fabric printing table), but didn’t get to finish the (even more time-consuming) sewing part…



… so I had only one finished bandana to take with me and when people were like “OMG can we buy those??” I still had to say “aah no I’m sorry I’m still testing the colors and methods of making it” which is just aggravating and it’s pretty stupid to have too many ideas and not be able to get them all done!

BUT guess what I got when I was in California???

MORE BANDANAS. Just what I needed!

This seems to be a new bandana, “made in China”, from a vintage store in Berkeley:


This is a real nice old one (also from the same vintage store), I think I have a similar-patterned one in just white (no black) on blue, but it’s really ripped & torn up:


This one is faces of historic printers, made by students in the printmaking dept. at Ohio University:


This one’s discharge-printed (aka, with a bleach paste) & hand-heat-set (to make the bleach work properly) (with a heat gun, on the sidewalk outside, apparently?!!!) by Matt & Lena at the Compound Gallery in Oakland.


The Compound’s central clerestory and shared studio space, with various letterpresses & proof presses…!


Another nice old bandana from the same vintage store as the earlier ones above, never seen one in this pattern before:


And this isn’t really a bandana but instead an absorbent cotton towel in a perfect color, this was a gift from my uncle, a trauma surgeon, who says that a specific kind of kit for sewing up human beings comes with three of these towels, and that he always uses just one of them, and saves the other two because he doesn’t need them, and the hospital would just throw them away because they are no longer sanitized! and they are the best towels! so he keeps them and gives them to people.


(…now you know where I originate from…)

Oh and if that wasn’t enough nice fabric for you to look at, check out “discharge-style” for more drooly times!

and… here are some more bonus shots: a detail of the shelves of a homemade print drying rack at the Compound Gallery…


… and the custom-made tool for tightening the wing-nuts that keep the rack shelves in tension. So nice!


“in the new year” part 1 — drawy drawy draw draw

February 20, 2014 at 2:36 am

architectural drawing of roof beams under construction

I haven’t been posting things here recently, I’m not sure why, maybe because it feels somehow weightier than putting something on tumblr or facebook, or like something has to be more “finished” to post it here? Which is absurd because this has always been all about process and things in progress.

Also I was really hoping for some “break time” in the new year, but turns out I’ve just been really busy with three big projects that haven’t been commercial print projects (as in making prints that people might purchase), but instead have been three challenging personal projects in response to assignments or calls from other people (for exhibition, publication, etc). So… kind of a break? at least a break from my regular print work? but all of the projects have been on tight deadlines (and/or just really late because I was supposed to work on them in the fall and didn’t because the fall was such a busy non-stop season for me…), so there’s been a certain level of stress / “I can’t do anything till I finish this project! aaah!” feeling to the past six weeks…

… and also some guilt: “if I post something on my blog, the people who are waiting for this work will think I am procrastinating…” :C

(Update: after finishing this post, I think the main reason is that when posting stuff here I feel like I need to write things about the images and tie them all together / explain somehow… and that writing takes a while…)

Anyways! Here are some images from the thing I am working on right now (the last of the three projects, will post next about the other two). Pencil drawing, gonna try to print it as a tri-tone made of halftone layers. This should be difficult, but not impossible, to print well. I’m trying to glean lessons / avoid pitfalls from printing the duotone hands on the Recycle-A-Bike poster

It is a drawing of an imaginary building that is simultaneously falling apart / under construction, and it will have some text in it (spoken by the person on the right in the below image) but will mostly just be these people exploring the building…

drawing of two people standing under a sloping roof having a conversation

Drawy drawy drawy draw draw, keep drawing, draw all the lines:

drawing of broken lath-&-plaster walls with the plaster crumbling & the lath sticking out at odd angles

Will I someday remember to remember that drawing is easy and fun and the best part of everything? It’s so easy to get intimidated by it, before I’ve started…

When I’m drawing people from my imagination, I feel like I’m still in middle school. I remember the specific feeling of revelation, in early high school, where my drawing practice switched over from “oh I drew that face really perfect, even though it’s in the wrong place in the larger drawing I can’t erase it because I could never get it that perfect again” to “if I need to, I can draw it again, go ahead and erase & make it the way you want it!” But I still feel a little like the lines coming together “right” on a drawing of a person, especially the face, is a magical, accidental thing that I don’t quite have control over…

…and apparently I’m still channeling my favorite characters from elementary school:

illustration from the book

in-progress partial drawing of a child

(the color illustration is from Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, by Edward Ardizzone, great author/illustrator/graphic-narrative-maker/hand-letterer, staple of my childhood… I didn’t realize that he wrote & drew the “Tim” books over the span 1936 to 1977, that is a long run! I also didn’t realize that I haven’t read them all… gotta get on that. Also he made a bunch of paintings and illustrations of harsh scenes that he witnessed as an official “war artist” (!) in World War II… many things to seek out.)

Okay here’s some images from me testing out the tri-tone effect on the computer, to see if it will work with the scale of printing / scale of the details on the drawing… I think so? I hope so!

three-color separation of a detail of the drawing:

halftone image of a section of pencil drawing

lightest tones:

lightest color halftones

medium tones:

medium-value color halftones

darkest tones:

darkest color halftones

These are only test images, the separations will change… After making these, I looked at the Recycle-A-Bike prints compared to their transparencies, and made the note to myself that in shooting the screen, the smallest “positive” (ink) dots do not block enough light and are often lost, and then in printing, the smallest “negative” (blank paper) dots often get obscured by ink bleeding into them… so I will adjust the “curves” that determine where these colors fall in the image, to try for the most descriptive image possible…

Here is a detail of the combination:

combination halftone image in super close up

If you click through & zoom in, when you look at the full-size image, that is a screenshot & shows the image at 100% PIXEL size… that’s 27 lines per inch, at 600 dpi… you can look at the ruler at the top of the image to see what a ruler-inch is for comparison.

I hate to do this, so blog-typical (and I’ve done it before for this same thing! augh) but I need to get back to drawing, so I will say, “I will do a serious process post on how I make these halftone tri-tones / duotones sometime soon!”. And I will follow through with that! (After the thing is printed & mailed out… sheesh.) Is learning about that process something that’s interesting to anyone that reads this blog? Does anyone read this blog, in the age of facebook & tumblr? Hmmmm.

Here’s some sneak-preview multi-layer dazzle-camouflage-pattern blip-blops on clear acetates for one of the other “new year” projects, that I finished last week… I am under orders not to talk about it till the publication that it is for announces its contributors… so I have to wait to give out more specifics! But here are some cool/weird/accidental colors to tide you over:

a bunch of different color geometric patterns printed on clear plastic

Also it is Buio’s birthday sometime in February, he has been my good friend for almost 10 years! (I found him as a kitten in June 2004…) Here’s a nice picture of this companion in front of a cool Katrina drawing:

a black cat sitting on a table in front of a drawing of two women and their little dogs that says 'I stop the world and melt with you'


the show is up!

November 6, 2013 at 3:21 am

… after four and a half relatively brutal days (and some long nights in there) of installation work. I cut a ton of pieces of glass to put the art behind, I hammered in almost 400 L-pins to hold the glass (and prints) to the wall, I began to understand why people *frame* art (cause once you frame it once you never have to frame it again!!!), I depended on my friends, especially Scott, for help & support… I felt more professional than ever before, and also very much like a force of chaos in the desirably-predictable space of the gallery… and not in a cool disruptive gadfly way like when AO & I were working on the Magic City Repairs project, but in the way where I was letting people down… if that makes any sense?


BUT! It all* got up on the wall, despite (or because of?) the chaos; it looks very professional (I think/ I am still surprised by), and I really hope you will come to the….


free & open to the public, wheelchair accessible, etc, as a public institution all places should be. Catered! food! drink! (no wine though since it’s a university? or somethin’? bring your flask if you wanna, I guess). Thursday November 7th, 4:30-7:30 pm, University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Rd, Kingston RI.

please come & join the party & check out what I spent 13 years of my life on!

People are coordinating some rides from Providence on the facebook event page, if you’re not on facebook & need a ride, email me & I’ll connect you to somebody. You can also take the 66 bus from Kennedy Plaza, it seems to run about every hour… If you can get down there, someone will probably be able to drive you back to Prov afterwards, as a last resort you can climb in the back of Scott’s van….!


(This is the front of the postcard that I made, featuring many of my favorite tools…)

*(The only things still missing from the gallery walls, in my mind, are some photos that are necessary to give context to the paper ephemera from the Magic City Repairs project… photos which I don’t have physical prints of yet. In thinking about this, I realized that I haven’t gotten a physical print made of a photo since I stopped taking pictures with film, which is strange… but I’m gonna go to CVS tomorrow to remedy that situation, hopefully I have a chance to sneak in with a hammer & level before Thursday afternoon!)

The funny thing was, when we started to actually get all the artwork up in place, my first thought was “it’s like looking at my website, but all at once and without having to click on links”. I’m not even gonna try to figure out what that means in terms of how much the internet has colonized my brain, I’ll just leave it there… and I really haven’t processed the surrealness of having all this work, each piece of which has defined and shaped my life in its own way, up in the same physical space. It’s surreal. I don’t know what more to write about it than that — I’m still pretty sleep-deprived… !

Here’s a moment from the hanging process, this is the “recent work” wall, which is (parts of) 2012-2013, in progress… (and yes, “Queer Buttz” did make it into the show…)


Here are some screenshots of the spreadsheets that I made to organize the many (I haven’t counted yet) pieces of work for the show, and that will hopefully help me to put everything back in its correct place when it’s time to take it down…

October 27th at midnight:07:47 AM:

spreadsheet 1

a detail of another screenshot around the same moment:


… and then, November 1st at 2:53:54 AM:

spreadsheet 2

and here are the same documents (or a selection of the information thereon) in action, as reference documents for cutting the glass to go over the prints:


Here’s the *back* of the postcard that got printed (the yellow/orange image above up there is the front); I’m proud of all this hand-drawn text (from the poster) used as computer text, even though that in itself was a project & a half….


And here is the 4-foot-wide text on the gallery wall, I traced my scans of the knife-cut-paper letters into vectors & then it got computer-cut by some place out of a plastic fabric / sticker stuff… looks so cool, doing the vector work is physically difficult for me cause the tablet I have is old & it’s strenuous to hold the pen (because it’s wide in diameter, I think…)… but it’s cool to see my hand-drawn letters so big! Yay for vectors? maybe? It’s so not-fun to make them but… well… they’re useful…!?


That’s it! gotta keep working on some spreadsheet stuff tonight! Tomorrow I teach the second class of my AS220 class (on their website it’s marked as “sold out” for now, but there will be another one in January 2014!). Thursday the opening! Then hustling to finish up Craftland stuff! and to move my woodshop stuff out of Building 16… and you know, just to get everything done… whatever…

feelings of love, & fear

October 24, 2013 at 3:43 am

Last night & tonight I’ve been powering through the final incarnations of the project that I was making those three-dimensional letters for. Here’s the first one, the poster for my upcoming show (which will be printed by the URI printing services!):


So I think it was worth many hours of adjusting objects tiny amounts while squinting through the viewfinder???!!! Big thanks to photographer Matthew Clowney for helping me out with photoshop adjusting some lighting levels, sharpening, and making the pencil text more legible! and also huge gratitude to Scott for putting up with a giant door/table, tripod, and light stand (a.k.a. a mic stand that he let me borrow) in the middle of our shared studio for 48 hours…

Tonight I’m feeling exhausted by computer work / sitting at the compy all day doing layout — last night I was feeling SUPER energized & in love with all the tools I use and even feeling psyched about the digital tools — camera and photoshop — which I always feel like I am just starting to learn how to use. So — that excitement continues, but is always ready to flop over into overwhelmed-ness by all the different things you can do with digital tools… sometimes it’s nice to have a tool that just does one thing?

Here are some moments in this process that I had never done before, and which felt pretttty confusing / scary at times:

… initial thoughts towards text arrangement…


… got all the elements I had initially planned for in there, but it looks pretty barren & empty… hmm…


… some of my tools were on the table, what if I start putting the tools in there too? oh, that’s better. okay…


… at some point I realized I had to modify the chipboard holding up these little letters so that the light could shine through them…


… which gives me a new understanding of the term “drop shadow”…


… here’s the studio while I was shooting / adjusting / shooting / adjusting / etc. it really was pretty impossible to move around…


… and then here’s the second setup, for the postcard design, on which photoshop / layout is almost done. this camera & object setup went a lot faster, unsurprisingly! you can see how chaotic the table had become…


It was really fun to make a mess like this for the camera; it was crucial, I guess, to be doing it under time pressure so I had to bring it to a conclusion instead of fooling around; it made me want to be doing stop motion animation or something? or building dioramas of buildings to draw them? or just making lots more three dimensional letters? We’ll see… not right now, now I have to get the actual art ready for this show!

Here are some photos of the aftermath of the talk / presentation I did at the RISD Museum on Sunday:

A table of tools, including some of the drawings / watercolors I made of the Allens Ave warehouse demolition process this summer:


Erik Dardan & Scott talk in the background of poster process material spanning 11 years:


And this is for evidence of my “digital workflow” — scanning some of the three-dimensional letters to make them into the text for the back of the show postcard.


This is my 2005 (!) powerbook, with the bottom third of the screen non-functional, but luckily still choogling along, since my newer computer can’t run the ol’ crappy scanner (and I do love this old compy). These moments of going back & forth between digital & physical, in somewhat (very?) inefficient ways, strike me as totally hilarious and also a nice hallmark of living in ‘the future’, the real future, which feels terrifyingly and authentically science-fictiony… There’s never a clean jump into the future, we’re always dragging our old rapidograph pens and film line cutters and proportional scales and rusty 1970s pickup trucks and ninety-year-old buildings and crappy scanners that haven’t completely broken yet into the future with us… And we’re using them right next to our unimaginably high-resolution digital capture devices, at the same moment as we check in with our constantly-interconnected, instantaneously-updated, internet personality profiles…

There’s one more spot left in my Transparent Colors & Hand-Cut Stencils advanced silkscreen class at AS220! Starts October 30th, the awesome Jen Hall will be the T.A! Come hang out with us & learn some intense / cool screenprinting techniques!

cutting up nice things

October 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Finally I get my act together to make some three dimensional letters. This has been a written-down goal on the list for about 3 years now.

Three-dimensional letters, version one:

  • freehand-cut slightly ‘wacky’ letters out of overlapping test print
  • cut meticulous z-axis part out of screenprinted paper, with lots of lil tabs, tiny folds, & vigorous cursing
  • glue z-axis part to back of letter with white glue, toothpick, bone folder, and more cursing
  • glue traced/cut copy of letter (out of orange paper) to the back of the z-axis part to complete ‘box’ of letter
  • realize they look cooler incomplete, also this is taking WAY too darn long, so leave a bunch incomplete (for now)





three-dimensional letters, version two:

  • take an old print of which you have a lot of non-edition/”slightly messed up” copies that have been sitting around in the studio for 3+ years
  • cut letters out of it, slice slice! selecting for cool color/pattern moments
  • use a little template card to get the angle and widths consistent, curves are by eye/hand
  • cut up a lot of cardboard pieces, don’t cut yourself or hurt your wrist, ok?
  • stack stack stack!


(template guy, knife for scale)





roll over, more to come

September 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

This was the ten-thousandth (at least) picture taken on my little camera:


The other day, the camera created a new folder on the card & started putting pictures in it, and I was like “huh?” until I noticed that the first image in that new folder was titled IMG_0001.jpg. Looking back, the first picture I took on the camera seems to have been IMG_1576.jpg, so I’ve taken eight thousand four hundred and twenty four pictures since March of 2011… & a bunch more photos must have been taken by its previous owner (I can’t imagine that he only took 1575 pictures with it, but it’s possible?)… (and it’s a canon powershot sd1000 “digital elph”, if you’re curious.)

So, good going, lil camera! Thanks for being tough & sturdy, fitting snugly in my pocket, having decent battery life, and letting me take literally thousands of pictures of manhole covers, building details, hand-drawn letters, and cool-looking cats, etc etc, that I am happy to have recorded somewhere, even if they may never see the light of day…

I realized that in the last post I totally forgot about two other event-type things that are happening soon! Crap!

October 2nd through November 2nd, in Lowell, MA, some of my poster work is going to be part of a show at Zeitgeist Gallery, called “The Message is the Medium: Prints, Propaganda, and Persuasion”. There are two opening events, one Thursday Oct. 10, 6-9 pm, and another Saturday Oct. 26, 6-9 pm. Lowell is having a celebration of printmaking (?!) this fall and the folks at Zeitgeist decided to showcase political print work, and asked me & some other Providence artists to be part of the show. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like but I am excited to go & check it out, and I’ll try to make it to at least one of the openings! (Lowell is a really, really beautiful mill town… and when I’m there I’m gonna be looking around to catch a glimpse of a cat, so I can make the dumbest joke ever….)

Here in Providence, on Sunday, October 20th, from 2-4pm, I’ll be doing a presentation about my methods & process of working on things by hand, and leading a conversation about intractable, flawed physicality, at the RISD Museum.


My talk/presentation/conversation is called “Material Resistance”, it’s a “Demo & Discourse” event in the “One Room” series of presentations that is part of their “Locally Made” show happening now through November 3rd.

Confused? I am too, a little bit. But it should be good, I like showing & talking about my process work (as readers of this blog already know), and I’m excited to get to link the materiality / immateriality of the artwork I do with the materiality / immateriality of the body, language, and body+language stuff I think about a lot. RISD Museum admission is free on Sundays! FREE!

Here’s the statement for that talk, which I just re-wrote & expanded from what’s actually on their website at the moment… hopefully they’ll switch it up…

I’ll show some of the layered process work and test sheets from my silkscreen prints, and some recent drawings of buildings & spaces in Providence & the surrounding area, and maybe some other new projects. I’m interested in talking about how the physical substance of the world is crucial and everpresent — and always incoherent and stubbornly inaccurate. We muster up all these tools to bring our worlds into being, whether they are pencil, ink, & paper; structural and sheathing elements of the buildings we create for ourselves to live in; or the ways we dress, modify, and present our bodies to enable our existences… and even though all these attempts will fail us in one way or another… we do them anyways!?


I will also probably talk about screenprinting as a one-, two-, and three-dimensional medium… and about dazzle camouflage as queer protective/illusive body strategy, via analysis of scale and pattern in architecture… just some things I’ve been thinking about recently all the time…


Today I got to hang out with Tara Cavanaugh and do some co-directing, kind of, of some video documentation of my process & existence…? It was fun, we noodled around the Paragon Worsted Mills building and Tara took some footage of me drawing on the drawing of the loading dock alley that I’ve been working on (slowly!) since April 2012… and she got psyched on the afternoon-light-gorgeousness of that seemingly infinitely complex structure; it was cool to share that building with a friend…


Then we walked up Manton Ave to the house & she documented my visually hectic studio and me cutting tiny rubylith things (last steps on the power station rubylith!), and then we did a hopefully cool process walkthrough of shooting a screen, washing it out, setting it up, and printing! Bam! It will be very useful (as a teaching & explaining tool) to have this all well documented; I will share it here when it’s done!

Here is (slightly sloppy) evidence of demonstration printing of the 1-color version of the power station print; it’s come a long way from back in May


Well there’s already been some building details on here, but we need our hand-drawn letters, stuff on the ground (no manhole covers this time, sorry), and cool cats… in the interest of letting photos see the light of day, here you go!

Hand-painted sign plus doughboy doll from Mr. Doughboy in northern R.I.:


Some squished garbage that is totally gonna be the beginning of some art thing:


Rowan and a kitten on a string!



June 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm

As hinted at earlier, I have been working on drawing the Manchester St. Power Station, for a commission design but also for my own purposes. Though I’ve occasionally turned to camera/computer as photo-reference to keep the work moving along, since it’s been raining a bunch this week, mostly I’ve been drawing outside, “from the real”.

stormy building

[n.b. most of this update was written in late May, please forgive the slightly fictional historicity…]

To get the view that I decided is best (I will write more about this in a further post on this project) this means sitting on the Point Street Bridge, on the walkway part but about three feet from the guardrail & the vehicular traffic. This is a very loud experience (I keep forgetting earplugs) and also vibration-y, as I’m pretty sure that bridge was not made for the scale of trucks that pass over it.

providence poses for its portrait

Today it was also a very windy experience; a thunderstorm was projected, I kept expecting a giant bucket of rain to dump down on my head (as it did earlier this week: I attempted to shelter for a bit under one of the bridge trusses, during which attempt I took the photo at the top of this post), and there was a consistent & very gusty strong wind from the southwest. I was using a complicated paper ruler to get a specific kind of simulated-perspectival-regression thing to happen — when you’re setting up that kind of a scenario, you do it trial-and-error-style: “does this look right? does that look right? okay, draw the line, make the marks, good”. Then that little piece of paper with a family of marks and lines on it is your reference document for creating semi-realistic perspective on any line in the building that is parallel to that line. (does that make sense? I’ll write more about this technique at some point.)

buiding & drawing

And I guess that that is the downside of the paper ruler? Because if you have a windy day, and you are sitting next to a busy road on a bridge over a river, and your drawing is taped down to a piece of masonite board, and to keep the little paper rulers from blowing away you are sticking them between the drawing and the board, and if the wind then blows a bunch of grit & sand off the road surface right at you/your drawing and between the paper and the board, and to get rid of the grit so it won’t make bumps under the pencil lines you stick your hand between the paper and the board and try to brush the sand away….

…. well, then what happens is that you watch your dumb little scraps of paper, that you just spent an hour utilizing to make all these crucial precise finicky decisions, blow away across a roadway of speeding cars and in the inevitable direction of a grody body of water. My initial reaction was “Oh crap!”, my secondary reaction was “Ah, you know, whatever, it’s just paper, I already used them to note the perspective lines I needed”, my third reaction was “Oh wait I still need those to make some more perspective decisions for the rest of the drawing…” and my fourth reaction was a deep sinking feeling of loss, destruction, regret, stupidity, and sorrow, an emptiness in the gut, a disaster I had just made happen. All in the course of 30 seconds.

I did jump up, making sure to carefully set my drawing on its board flat on the concrete walkway, but the paper rulers were already blowing down the middle of the roadway — and the Point St. bridge traffic is not to be trifled with at rush hour (or any time, really — it’s one of the worst biking passages in Providence, I think…). Somewhat ironically, the real reason I didn’t run after them immediately is that my new (to me) computer was in my backpack which was sitting next to me on the bridge walkway… I couldn’t quickly pick up backpack & drawing at the same time, couldn’t really run with them, and I couldn’t figure out whether to leave the computer, the drawing, or my bike totally vulnerable to anybody who might be walking past while I ran on a risky mission after the rulers. Bike: crucial to my life, irreplaceable; computer: new & valuable money-wise & also work-wise; drawing after 3 or 4 days of working on it: completely irreplaceable and also now extremely valuable in terms of time spent on the commission & when I needed to get it done by, and also just as a beautiful object that I was attached to………

grubby & stained drawing
[click on this image for a higher-resolution view, so you can contemplate just how dirty this drawing is]

So I let the paper rulers blow away. They weren’t even in the river yet, but they were already gone. This was a weird decision, for me. I hate losing things, I think about everything I’ve lost for a long time, the memory of them keeps coming back to me with regret & sadness. But it was a passable day for drawing, & I needed to get drawing done, and I sat back down & kept drawing. Lines! You can re-draw lines… But I kept being washed over by a wave of the regret and loss feeling, the lack of physical existence of the objects that I had such a clear physical memory of holding in my hands, folding, drawing on, using as tools, with their smeared graphite dirtyness and their intense reality that had just become unreality, or at least a reality that I could no longer reach in the same way…

About ten years ago, I asked a teacher and friend of mine, Peter Stempel, an architect and designer, why he had stopped making pencil drawings and started making his architectural drawings on the computer — in the early 2000s, he had just recently given up resisting the universal switchover to CAD. I asked: was it taking you too long to make the pencil drawings? No, he said, he was really happy about everything about his drawing process — except the uniqueness and fragility of the paper documents: when he took those drawings to the duplicator, if they got caught in the machine or torn or some other freak accident happened on the way there, that was the only copy he had and all the information he had worked so long to develop and note down could be lost. The possibility of this loss — in a profession where no one else was risking it — was too grave to entrust his work to that process any longer……

some details

Drawing as object // drawing as information. That is the dual nature that makes paper drawings so resonant: they embody both at the same time. In a computer era, the printout exists and has a bunch of uses, sure, but that paper is already garbage the moment it comes out of the printer — the important information is in the file, the vector coordinates, a series of numbers…

In a paper drawing, the paper holds the information but is also where the information came to become itself, where the decisions were made, where useless or inaccurate or simply un-beautiful lines were decided against and erased, turned from marks into indentations, ghosts or echoes… The drawing object is four-dimensional, resonant of its past as well as its bumpy, grubby, warped, gritty, folded departures from the plane… it tells of all the things that have happened to it, and of the future potential for its own non-existence. The person holding the drawing in their hot little hands has also had a lot of things happen to them, so maybe they understand how the drawing feels? but unlike the drawing, their own non-existence is not a future potential but instead a future certainty… whereas— unlike both— the vectors will last forever…

So anyways… philosophy aside: now that I’m done the commission (more process notes later) and have turned in the vector files I made based on the drawing to be sent to a company which will print them on tote bags (!!), my conclusion about vector graphics is that using the tablet & stylus to drag little “nods” around hurts my hands a bunch and puts me seriously at risk of repetitive stress injury… in a way that cutting rubylith and drawing never has… BUT… in this modern world, there’s nothing like being able to instantaneously send someone a vector file which they can reproduce at any scale and at any resolution. I just have to not work on those files for too long at a stretch…. AND there’s no question that drawing is way more beautiful. DRAWING!!!

And, on the practical aspect, I did also find a solution to my specific windy-day, drawing-on-a-bridge problem. The *new* informational scrap of paper is attached by a length of blue masking tape to a rubber band around my wrist… awkward but secure?


Hey remember this cool print I worked on last year with Noel Puello? Noel and friends (& fellow NUA alums) Carmela Wilkins and Sara Tolbert are working on another one this summer! Once again, for college fund-raising.

carmela sara noel

Here we are drinking coffee & tea & strategizing (with their sketch and color-test-sheet) around my kitchen table… I’ve seen some photos of their printing process that were stunning… I met with them today to do a quick html/css/ftp tutorial… and now they’re working on an updated web presence for it… I’ll keep you posted on the further developments of this project!

different colorway

I promise I’ll write more about both my weird simulated-perspective method, and the rest of the process on the power-station image, very soon!

Also this update is dedicated to Puppy Bonesteel, a cat who passed away this past week. A unique & personable cat, he had beautiful spots & big eyes, he was a good friend to my dad and my brother (who shared in his ownership) and an adventurous animal. He is missed.


the “paper ruler”…

May 24, 2013 at 4:13 am

Related to this project for With Care, here’s a further note on font-drawing technique… or actually, on a technique that’s applicable to any precise-ish drawing *not* on a computer. [n.b. I wrote some of the below update back in February, revised & publishing now…]

My friend Will found this stack of 60-year-old r.s.v.p. cards, and I’ve been working on making letterform drawings of crucial or significant words on them… 35 of them were up at AS220 in February — these guys:


(more in-progress shots here and here.)

35 cards was enough for the gallery, and I had to get other things done for the show so I set the remaining 22 cards aside for a bit. I had been working on them with all the earlier ones spread out in front of me… so when they were all up in the gallery, I went in a couple times to draw some more of them while the space was open.

The card below is going to say “presence”… but whoops, even though the “E”s will be a little narrower than the other letters, the “S” is still too far to the right to fit the whole word on the card. I moved “P” “R” and “E” to the left already, but I had drawn out this nice and slightly weird curve for the “S”, and I wanted to retain its weirdness instead of making it more generic when I moved it over…

an index card with illegible handwriting on it and the large letters "PRES"

This involves a tool which I’m not sure I’ve ever posted a picture of here: the “paper ruler”, which is a scrap of paper, often an 8.5″x11″ sheet but it could actually just be a little scrap, folded in half diagonally (for length, straightness, & sturdiness), with the folded edge used to transfer distances and dimensions. Line the folded edge up to your drawing, make fine pencil marks on the paper ruler at the marks you want to transfer, then move it to where you want to transfer the dimension to & make the marks on the drawing.


For drawing purposes, it improves on a traditional ruler with numbered markings, because a) there’s no need to translate what is simply visual information into numerical information and back again, b) inches or centimeters have no relevance when the important units are “how wide is the letter” or “what is the distance between the baseline and the crossbar of the “A”, etc, and c) the piece of paper will be easier to hold and move around than a (usually heavier) regular ruler is. Also, you can make one wherever you happen to be by using a postcard, business card, or the edge of an envelope, or tearing a sheet of paper out of your notebook and folding it to create a straight line.

I took the paper ruler and made a set of marks on it showing how far I wanted to move the “S” over… then setting one mark against the existing curve of the “S”, marked that distance to the left, at intervals. You can see the dots on the card to the left of the upper part of the “S”, and a line traced through those dots to the left of the lower part:

closeup of the letters "ES" showing how the letter S is being moved to the left

The transferred “S” (dots erased, and lines cleaned up):


Once the drawings that they are made for are finished, the paper rulers become meaningless — I never remember which dimension was relevant to which specific thing I needed to measure, and the drawing’s done anyways. Even if I pause a drawing and start it a couple of days later, I’ll just make a new set of marks on a new folded piece of paper. But the rulers themselves have been touched and marked and known and seen so many times in the course of making the drawing, that it is hard for me to let them go completely… obviously sometimes they get lost in the shuffle of desk papers… but they are such information- and memory-laden objects that, though I occasionally intend or attempt to throw one away, I can never quite complete the action of putting it in the trash basket.

Thus, this envelope that lives next to my desk:


a selection of various sized rulers from the envelope:


closeups, including a golden-section reference card for a specific (unremembered) layout [blue cardstock, left], and an Occupy Providence flyer [upper right].


This technique, and this blog post, fall into the categories of “Why would I want to spend less time thinking?” and “my computer is almost 8 years old & very slow & drawing is way more fun anyways”* and “things that are way harder to explain in words than they are to do”…

… and also squarely within the category of “things I learned from Myron Barnstone that I use every time I draw”. Mr. Barnstone, who turned/turns 80 this year (I think?), is an independent art teacher in Coplay, PA (outside of Bethlehem), who teaches an intense course of study on composition, drawing, and color. I took his drawing and composition classes when I was 18. His rhetoric is deeply dogmatic, of the “My way is the one correct way to do art” variety — it took me about a year to recover from the intimidation & start drawing again after studying with him — but 16 years later, I use techniques & methods that I learned from him in pretty much everything I do. If you’re intrigued, the man is 80… his knowledge & skills are irreplaceable… now is your chance…!

* I got a modern computer this month… it makes many things faster… but drawing is still more fun…

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