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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…


  1. Yes, that (hand-dotting) does sound totally crazy and backward (based on my hazy recollection of the art-to-screen-tint process). But it looks really good so far.

    Now I see what inspired your letterforms. For an example that I instantly loved of slightly manufactured nostalgia, how about the title lettering on the cover of Workingman’s Dead (e.g., http://img.imeem.com/ai/FEFTOLWSSK7FYKZNXZAWSDRUQDYNGVFH.jpg), which was a bit of a shocker when it appeared. Or, also in the California early 1970s, anything by David Lance Goines.

    Comment by mark sawtelle — November 8, 2009 @ 10:33 am
  2. BTW, the timestamping on these comments doesn’t seem to have adjusted for the change back to EST. (E.g., I actually posted the previous comment at 9:33am.)

    Comment by mark sawtelle — November 8, 2009 @ 10:39 am
  3. “Also it’s incredibly obsessive & reveals my need for an ordering system to underlie everything I do.”


    Comment by graham — November 8, 2009 @ 3:24 pm
  4. Oh, that building’s great. Did you ever spend much time driving out Lancaster Avenue in Bala Cynwyd? There’s a similarly blah brick building, only some owner clearly had something funny going on in their head, so they slapped on a giant ornate train station clock right over the front door. One of the four-sided cube clocks that juts out from the wall so it can be seen from all sides. It’s huge and looks terribly heavy and I’d be quite scared to step under it for fear of it falling on my head, but it does always make me laugh.

    Sadly, I don’t think I can get you photos of the funny Western buildings. I usually see them while going from Austin to Houston, which I only did to visit my ex’s parents. And since he is now my ex (as of 6:30 AM Wednesday morning while cooking grits for breakfast!) I don’t think I’m too likely to be heading back that way any time soon. Anyway, the buildings are exactly the ones that you’re thinking of. I always wonder if they’re made that way to be more imposing or for some more useful reason, like shading the roof. But then, buildings down here are odd in general. The walls are so thin, I feel like I’d fall through if I leaned against them! I am a fish out of water and plan to head back East as soon as I can, to where the buildings are older than I am (older than my great-granny, too!) and the trees are taller than I am (okay, maybe that one’s an exaggeration… but not by much!). And there’s so much sky that I feel deep empathy for small animals that are scared of hawks. Too much! Back to the old country!

    Comment by Kate Thomas — November 8, 2009 @ 9:05 pm
  5. Funny western buildings? The best example I can think of is the Univ. of Texas at El Paso campus, which is Bhutanese Revival.

    Coffeemakers: I tried enlarging the picture to see the reflections of your kitchen in the shiny sides of the morenita (a la High Anxiety), but I was foiled by the crappy office computer. Can you photoshop it somehow? Nice pic; glad it found a good home. I’ll send you some Brasso next.

    Comment by Jonathan — November 9, 2009 @ 1:16 pm
  6. 6:30 am Weds morning? Rough! Come back home!

    I visited Dallas, where my dad grew up, twice this summer, and I was just kind of bowled over by the landscape. There it’s super-sprawl, subdivisions, and highways (rather than historical ‘western’ stuff, or Bhutanese-monastery!) but it’s just on a scale that I couldn’t really comprehend. That’s another whole set of thoughts, not for tonight… but my general conclusion, though not too articulate, was: “Man, the world sure has different places in it.”

    Well, I extend to you a pre-emptive welcome back to the east coast… if you find yourself nearby to Providence, I would love to have you visit!

    Jonathan, those buildings are crazy. Again, the scale is what’s so jarring, rather than the weird stylistic touches… Texas. man.

    Comment by jean — November 10, 2009 @ 5:19 am

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