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

being public

January 27, 2011 at 4:03 am

Quick notes about upcoming events; fractional treatment of complicated subjects.

sign

I am going to be speaking on a panel this weekend, as part of an event that the RISD Office of Public Engagement is putting on, titled “Queer Representation & Resistance as Acts of Justice“.*

The panel I am on is called “Identity, Place, & Practice” and (quoting from the official description), “will explore the ways that queer identity intersects with creative practice.” Since being asked to be part of the panel, I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot. …. I mean, I think about it a lot in general, but recently I’ve been trying to think about it constructively instead of just worrying a bunch of things around in my head.

I’ve been intending to do some writing about it, but I have had three other serious deadlines which have also been occupying my mind & time… plus a certain amount of procrastinating, finishing the first five pages of the Scar comic, enjoying being snow-bound with my awesome housemates, and cleaning up half of my print studio and my main working space, which, though it was really important and necessary, just got me back to clear-desk-land, didn’t get anything truly accomplished.

So yeah, I have a bunch of thoughts on these topics — queer identity, art, purpose, social identity, community, context, audience, story-telling, meaning — but nothing is concrete enough to put up in writing here yet. So, come to the panel to hear me attempt to sort it all out!

Sunday, January 30th, 12:30pm
AS220, 115 Empire St, Providence

My awesome and accomplished fellow panelists are Matthew Lawrence, Mickey Zacchilli, and Laurencia Strauss. There is another panel discussion afterwards about “Institutional Silences”; there is a related talk on Saturday afternoon… I am excited for it all, and very proud to be part of it.


I am also going to be in an art show at Cade Tompkins Projects, called “Printed in Providence”,* from February 4th to March 19th. You can and should come to this party too, especially if you need to ask me more questions to clarify what the crumb I was talking about in that panel!

opening reception Friday, February 4th, 6-8pm
198 Hope Street, Providence
(Entrance on Fones Alley between Waterman and Angell)

(more…)

time, timer, timing

April 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

new orleans, poydras st.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written or posted anything here! and I’ve generally been neglecting my internets in general. (with the exception of Facebook, for what it’s worth…) The translation of this is that I’ve been working really hard & intensely on stuff in the physical world.

new orleans, beautiful can from the fridge at Nowe Miasto, long-opened and full of moldy beans!

quick list:
new orleans …

new orleans, central city neighborhood

back in Providence…

  • drawing
  • printing (postcards, prints, posters)
  • a little bit of gardening
  • making zines
  • mixing colors, printing infinite rainbow rolls that really deserve the name
  • trying to get old projects printed so I can move on to new projects.
  • building little block cities out of a bag of woodshop scraps from Utah.
  • taking lots of pictures, realizing on return from new orleans that there are a bunch of things I like to take pictures of (hand-drawn letters, beautiful buildings, useful/weird customizations of things, falling-apart stuff) here as well! and that I should document it somehow, and that drawing just isn’t fast enough… that the speed of the camera doesn’t imply some kind of lack of moral grounding. I know, self-limiting thoughts, hilarious. !

providence, off of Prairie & Public streets.  they may be tearing this building down, it’s unclear…!?

etc?

Real briefly, big developments in my life & thinking have been these two:

— Realizing I don’t need to be an architect someday. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me it is a big one. Since I finished school, I had had in my head the idea that at some point I would stop making prints and go work in an architect’s office and work my way up into that kind of career… that that would be when my “real life” would start.

Recently, due to a number of incidents & factors that all kind of piled on each other, I realized that a) I really love making prints and those challenges and sets of ideas and questions and things to explore (especially, hey, prints about buildings); b) as an artist who understands buildings, I can always work with architects and build off their deeper knowledge and learn more from them and add something to their understandings (even in traditional architectural practice, architects hardly ever work alone, they are always collaborating with other architects, engineers, specialists, etc!); c) that I can always work on buildings but under a collaborative and co-learning model, not trying to fit the way I work into the hierarchy of an office (very intimidating to me), and not being limited by “architecture’s” rigid separation between designing and building.

With the idea in mind that I was someday going to stop printing and change paths, I wasn’t really letting myself give all my energy to print stuff… now I sense a re-focusing and a shifting of my attention, and expansion of energy… it’s very exciting. We’ll see what comes out of it. !!

drawing for plant sale poster 2010!

— A friend ribbed me that “For the past five years, you’ve been making the same thing!” Aha, a sensitive spot!

Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.

(Borges, The Secret Miracle)

Thinking about this, I realized that I have, for the past bunch of years, actually just been executing ideas that I originally had two or five or eight years ago… that I have kind of been a carrier-out of my own ideas, as opposed to an artist working in the present with what I am thinking about now… ideas I have now are pushed off till later (“till I finish the projects I already planned”) and sometimes get forgotten or shoved away entirely. Not the best of situations! So along with focusing my energy on printing instead of on a vague and not-really-desired future as an architect, I am finishing up long-standing projects and trying to get to a place where I can work more directly on ideas I have now…

Okay, so this could get into a much longer ramble about thoughts for the future and specific projects and etc. that I know you all want to know about… but I really need to get to printing!!! The upshot is, still working, still thinking, same projects, new motivation, new projects, new ideas pouring in all the time, can I keep up with them? Probably not, but I’m still trying.

can I get a little figurine made of this?[attempt on the left by me; drawing on the right by Lena, inspired by San-X, there is a singing worm from the worm-bin next to me; in background, new Industrial Trust Building postcards!]


Helpful Tools note:

I have started using an internet-based work timer called SlimTimer, which Arley-Rose told me about… I was skeptical at first, having had limited success with ‘systems’ which are supposed to help you manage your time… but whoa, being able to know how long I actually spend on things is actually CHANGING MY LIFE.


Also, Meg Turner & I are gonna be selling our work at the spring RISD alumni art sale! Saturday May 1st, 10am-4pm, Benefit St, Providence. Directions are at the link… come by & say hi even if you’re broke! I will have cheap postcards/small prints and zines for sale, as well as some older/larger/more expensive work too. Meg will be bringing her gorgeous photogravures (some new & some old), as well as new screenprints, up from New Orleans. Hooray for ART!

epic organization

February 1, 2010 at 4:02 am

9 years of work…

I’ve been spending the past two days up in the studio working on organizing & sorting out my flat file & print storage shelves (assisted on Saturday by one of my awesome interns, Kate!). This is partly to take advantage of the ever-recurring January potential of “new year, new beginnings”, and partly to get ready for the secret door projects store, aka. “secret store!”, which is now actually about 80% in existence & officially coming soon. To have a store, I have to know what I actually have to sell, right?

…all spread out on the floor…

Well, it turns out that I have more than I thought I did… In sorting out the flat file, I turned up some edition copies of the American Woolen Co. print (which I didn’t even think I had any of for my own archives!), some good copies of the Knitting Machine – Providence print, some perfect copies of the Happy Birthday Mike Leslie print, a couple of edition copies (plus some artist proofs) of the Knitting Machine – MassMoCA print… plus a bunch of other stuff that I thought I was entirely out of, or only had mis-prints or damaged prints remaining.

…don’t trip!

All this will be in the store when it is up! Which should be (I say tentatively) by this coming Sunday. It would be up sooner, except I am headed to New Orleans tomorrow morning & I’m hopefully gonna be drawing, printing, & taking pictures (and maybe building some stuff) the whole time I am there.


also notable in the past week or so:

“Hunter Plaid Perspective”

feat. Serena & Will:
pattern in perspective I

and then Serena, Meg, & Will (we found another shirt!):
pattern in perspective II

[these images are a photo response to: “R U A Team Player?“]


…and, last but not least, they have been tearing down the remaining 195 highway. The steel framework surrounding the painted concrete columns had been providing reinforcement for its crumbling structure….

wickenden st. / point st. overpass

idea appetizers

January 28, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Way too many of my thoughts yearn towards interesting projects that I hope to do sometime in the future. Most of them, I can’t even think about starting: I already have a huge pile of unfinished projects on my plate already, that I’m also really excited about. I’m not complaining: it would be way worse to have no ideas than to have too many ideas.

It’s risky to put up images of projects that are still in the realm of intention… but here are two things that I’m excited about right now.

First, this one is really gonna happen: the drawing below (a detail is shown, in progress!) is going to become a print for Tiny Showcase. This driveway and its surrounding houses are located in South Providence.

south providence houses

I’ve been talking with Shea’la for way too long about doing a print with them, and I’ve kept starting and stopping various attempts… this is for real. It’s going to be a digital print, not a screenprint! Shocking. I’m excited that it will reproduce the pencil drawing in all its messy precise detailed obscured glory… along the lines of my general recent interest in drawing over making color separations, and because other people seem to be getting psyched about the drawings too. I’ll put up some kind of advance notice when it is going to come out, so those who desire to do so can get the jump on the release!


Okay, then we have this stuff which is really just a germ of an idea.

st. teresa’s through the window

This is what I see out my kitchen window in the early mornings when I have stayed up all night. There are four things that intrigue me about making this view into a print:

1) The steeple is of St. Teresa’s, a Catholic church in a neighborhood that once was entirely Catholic… up till recently, there were four active Catholic churches, two with attached nunneries, within about an eight-block radius right around here. These all had different ethnicities, congregations, & cultural connections: French nuns vs. Polish nuns, etc. (Mark, if you want to add anything to the history here, jump in!) St. Teresa’s shows up in these postcards I made last year of the view down Manton Ave:

manton avenue & st. teresa’s church, fall 2008

and also in this anti-gentrification poster that I made in 2006.

A couple of years ago, St. Teresa’s was closed due to falling numbers of congregants and no revenues (this being a pretty low-income area). There are still a food pantry and other social services operating out of the church, but no religious activity. You can see from the photos that it has now lost the cross from atop its steeple…

Apparently, because of the building’s structural problems and the lack of congregation, the diocese wants to tear it down. Some people in the neighborhood are gearing up to work on preserving the building, and possibly finding another use or uses for it. I am not Catholic, but the church holds a very important place in my geography, so I would hate to see it disappear. It’s on a main street, at the center of the neighborhood; I pass it on my bike ride home once I get to the crest of the hill; it has great wide steps for sitting on; its steeple can be seen from all over and marks my house for me when looking out from Federal Hill or Smith Hill. It’s no great shakes as a landmark building or anything like that, but it has historical meaning as a monument to the working people of the neighborhood who lived around it, and whose contributions & donations built it. I would like to make a print of it that was not about its Catholic holiness or authority, but about its place in the fabric of the neighborhood and its role in people’s lives… This might become that print.

2) I’m drawn to views out of, and compositions framed by, windows seen in perspective (as in the photo above). In this case, it would fit well with the subject matter, because I am thinking about the church as seen from the neighborhood…

st. teresa’s church, olneyville

3) For a long time I’ve been interested in this kind of sky, how luminous it is, how the colors fade into each other and into the glowing white, and how the heck could you screenprint something like that and make it that beautiful? I have some ideas. I like the challenge.

4) I really like the split and the balance between the glowing sky and the buildings below it that are cast into dimness… they are dark, but they are not totally black, they have tones and shadows and colors. I want to do more work with subtle changes in value and hue, to create this pre-dawn landscape, and then to balance it with the luminous sky. Similar scenes can be seen to the west in the evenings… I’ve thought of doing a series of those hill-top sunset views…

Aagcgk. Anyways, so many projects. Some of them will someday get done. Keep working. It’s okay!


(this post is to tide you over, dear readers, while I work on finishing the web store, which is getting close to being done, but not there yet! I have learned a lot about wordpress & php in the past month; not entirely, but partly, by “looking at it and figuring it out”. it’s been fun!)


I’m headed to New Orleans again in a couple of days, which is crazy because I totally really can’t afford plane tickets, but you do what you gotta do! This time I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t rain the whole time, and that I’ll be able to make some drawings, work on a collaboration with Meg, and do some intensive screenprinting and maybe some wheatpasting. I’m also hoping to re-print some drypoint plates that I made in 2001 (!) and work on new plates. WE WILL SEE. Projects. Places. yikes!

do you want to be the secret door projects intern?

January 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I am looking for someone to help me out with logistics, print organization, outreach, communications. This could range from schedule problem-solving to hanging out while studio cleanup happens, to doing publicity & helping put me in touch with galleries or publishers or people like that. If you’re interested in learning about screenprinting, meticulous analog art methods, and perspective drawing, I can help you out there! You could also have access to the studio here to work on print projects of your own. It’s unpaid, but perks of the position include bottomless coffee, good company, cookies and homemade bread… and of course prints.

… get in touch if you’re interested!

linear logic

December 31, 2009 at 5:00 am

So, I am working on finally, finally, finally building the long-awaited & much-discussed web store for secret door projects (and friends). This means spending a lot of time in the spot seen in the photo below, & breaking my brain somewhat trying to wrap it around the linear logic of the computer.

my drawing desk, taken over by the computer.

As a high schooler in the early 90s, I was psyched to be the only female-bodied person in the (somewhat smelly) computer room learning QBasic & other simple programming languages. I got a lot of encouragement for being there: I was the ‘token’ that everyone was proud of. Computers weren’t my strength — but the logic was really intriguing to me, I had a lot of determination, and with good concentration & good explanation, I could eventually figure it out and make some cool things happen.

I now know that it is a rare delight to find someone who has a) the capacity for a deep understanding of a logical language, and b) the patience to give a thorough explanation of how it works. Sixteen years later, as I struggle with computer-programming-type things, I constantly see the calm & gentle face of my ninth-grade computer teacher, Matt Zipin, next to me, and hear the soft tones of his voice going over something with me (probably for the second or third time).

There is nothing in the world like an amazing teacher.

Now, lacking a patient and logical person to explain things, I find myself driven only by my determination, and guided only by various how-tos and written instructions (freely available but sometimes cryptic). It’s not hard in itself, all the elements are simple enough (I think), but the issue is that I must move forward in linear ways in order to make any perceptible progress.

Today I finally made a list of what my goals are for the store, in programming and in style, what I need to accomplish to satisfy myself that the site is good. As I was doing so, the realization rushed over me that this kind of computer work feels the same as the last stages of working on a print. When I’m almost done with the transparencies for a print, I write down very specifically what I have to finish before they will be ready to shoot, usually by color / transparency:

  • blue:
    • finish sky/cloud details
    • reflections on metal
  • brown:
    • tree trunks
    • scratch out texture in roofs
    • fix mistake in large “L” (ink)
  • etc.

…something like that. Then I move through the list, checking things off as I go, forcing myself to work on the next thing on the list, adding more items if necessary, until they are all done. That type of concentration is unnatural to me, and it can be pretty grueling.

That comes only at the end, though — through most of my working process I am jumping around from place to place on the drawing, then from transparency to transparency, returning to the drawing, pencil to ink to rubylith and back. Sometimes I’ll tell people that I like the strange connections that get made by those jumps; “the way of working creates the nature of the work”, “it builds upon itself”, etc.

That is bullshit, though, because ultimately that is really just how my brain works — I don’t have another strategy. When I’m drawing or working in that stage, the hand-tool-eye-paper-brain combo takes its own paths and I kind of follow along. It’s peaceful, intense, focused, and spaced-out all at the same time. After a couple of hours I look up and: “Hey! There’s a drawing! Sweet!” I’ll lay out some aspects of the composition ahead of time, but I don’t plan ‘how to draw it’ in advance: because I can’t.

(I can’t make a preliminary outline for a piece of writing, either, to save my life — I have to write a bunch of stuff, move it around, edit it, re-read a bunch of times, etc. Only then can I pull together what the complete sense is, and consciously refine the form around an idea.)

drawing made in new orleans, partly in the rain!
drawn on the street in new orleans: begun on a rainy day, finished on a clear one.

This jumping-about method doesn’t really work when approaching a numerically logical system, nor, especially, when approaching the construction of such a system. There’s room for a little bit of what Jacob calls “being a clicker”, messing around and seeing what happens. That’s usually what I do mostly… and this can offer eventual results (like the current form of this website)… but it takes a long time. And in dealing with an actual programming language — not just markup code and stylesheets — it might not actually ever work.

Last spring, struggling with setting up a janky wordpress plugin on a website for somebody else, I was in tears in frustration with myself at my inability to understand what was going on. A friend who was advising me said, “I mean, come on Jean, go easy on yourself! PHP is a high-level programming language: you can’t just expect to look at it and immediately understand what’s going on.” At the time, I was furious and felt that he was belittling me.

Thinking about his words now, as I tangle with PHP again (still with no training or real logical background, but maybe with a little less insecurity) I realize that he was right: that is exactly what I am doing. Why? Because that is what works for me in the other work that I do. I look at the drawing or the image or the building in front of me — I learn as much about it as I can, seeking out all the corners and details and information available in a non-linear way, making multiple intuitive connections — I make lines and shapes and marks and notes — and something coherent (and possibly even beautiful!) appears.

I look at it, and it sorts itself into an order that tells me what to do with it and how to do it.

As the architect John Hejduk says, “The lead of the architect’s pencil disappears. Where does it go? Then a line appears on the paper.” It is undoubtedly magical. It’s what I’ve done all my life. It’s the most prosaic motion; of scratching the pencil over the paper, of feeling the ends of boards with fingertips to ensure that they are cut to the same length. I have no idea how it works.

Can I work with PHP in the same way? How much patience do I have to approach it in a strictly linear fashion? And… is it worth it to discipline my brain to a completely different way of thinking, when I am already “good” at something else?

…well…

The answer to the first question is probably “No, not really”. The answer to the second question is, “Don’t forget to eat and make sure to get enough sleep”. And the answer to that last question has gotta be “Yes”… or else I wouldn’t be still sitting here in front of the computer.

My ninth-grade self is super proud of me.


[hey! jean! writing this has been a lovely and somewhat comforting digression, and has helped you sort it out a little… now get back to actually dealing with what you are trying to get done!]

*finishing* prints, part I.

December 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm

taking you Back In Time!!! … a whole pile of process images from printing the Durruti/Ruins posters. Process work from the Industrial Trust Building prints is coming in the next update, this one got way too long.

Mixing colors. a) they’re not all oranges and blues (!) , b) look at that nice set of blond-beiges, moving right-to-left, getting ever closer to the beige in the sky on the yellow-gold Durruti print.

beige assortment

Green-sky Durruti print, seen through the screen that is about to print the blue shadow. The pink of the QTX emulsion and the yellow of the screen fabric always make such weird and awesome colors. Maybe someday I’ll make a print that is as eye-breaking as this.

looking through the screen, about to print.

Trying out transparent colors for the blue shadow on the green-sky prints. The transparent inks have to be printed through the screen to show their density and hue accurately… At left is the first attempt (too purple). The final color was somewhere between the two on the right. I am excited to do some more experimental stuff with transparent colors; they can be a little bit of a hassle to print, but the way they lie in the paper (instead of on it like the solid colors) is so beautiful.

transparent colors testing…



When you are setting up your transparency on the screen prior to shooting it, remember to think carefully about how the image you are going to print will fit on the paper and how the paper will fit on your table under the screen! Or else you will end up with your screen sticking halfway off your printing table like this. In the background, AO is keeping me company, or rather, checking his email while I grumble & rant about making stupid mistakes like this one.

poor planning

Also here, as Mr. Punch would say, this is *not* the way to do it.

clamped print

Use caution when you open the door to unshaven young men who have moved into thin-walled schoolbuses for the winter; pretty soon they’ll be running up your electric bill in their desperate struggle to stay warm.

personal heating system
[a hairdryer in the studio? yup, for speed-drying color test swatches. They only show their true color when the ink is dry.]

After all that hassle, it actually works!

before & after.

This moment is always pretty magical. In this case, it was extra exciting: I’ve been trying to finish / thinking about / talking about re-printing these Durruti prints since last fall. A stack of paper with just the sky color printed on them has been sittiing around the studio since last December. I’m not sure why it took me so long: there were even a bunch of people who wanted to buy a copy, who I had been emailing back & forth with saying “if you can just wait a couple of weeks! I am about to finish printing them!”, also since last fall.

As I got to the point in the above photos — actually seeing the third and last color on the paper — a large weight lifted from my shoulders, and (not to over-dramatize it) there was a deep feeling of relief. I was antsy to print so I printed, not really thinking about it too much… but in the ensuing days, wondering why it had taken me SO LONG to get back to printing this thing, I realized that I had been completely afraid of it — that it had been pretty much PURE FEAR that was keeping me from working on it.

Fear of what? I am pretty sure it was just fear “that it was going to be really hard”. And in the end, printing it with tricky alignment, mixing the transparent color which I thought was gonna be super difficult… not that hard. Not easy, but interesting, lots of fun, and ultimately successful. I was really scared of color matching to the original prints — and I didn’t get the color totally matched — but the color that I mixed was better than the original color: better contrast, better looking, better overall. Answer: Nothing to be scared of.



Hey, what the heck is going on here? Why is the emulsion two different colors and all patchy-looking?

messing with the screen

When I initially conceived the Durruti print, I wanted the sky to be lighter than the paper. I had bought this yellow-gold paper, and wanted to print white over it for the sky and the bright details in the ruined building. So, I printed the white layer, and then went ahead and printed the blue shadow over it. Then, I began to have doubts: the text in the sky wasn’t readable enough. In the building, where the white areas were separated from the yellow by outlines, it looked great — I liked the way it popped out. But the sky, and thus the message of the poster, were too subtle. What to do?

To get the contrast I wanted in the letters, I needed to somehow print a darker color on the sky, without changing the white in the building or covering up the blue shadows. I didn’t want to cut up or modify the transparency itself, because I knew I would want to use it again to print other versions of the poster. Also, at that moment (over a year ago now), I didn’t have time to re-shoot the screen, or a free screen to shoot… There was a lot of argle bargle-ing… but eventually…

Using the screen through which I had printed the white ink, and placing it over a misprinted copy of the print for ‘tracing’ purposes, I took some of the emulsion and painted in all the white areas on the building that I wanted to keep, or areas of blue shadow that I didn’t want to print over. I re-shot the screen so that emulsion would harden… then a beige color (which can be seen being mixed at the top of this post) was printed through that screen.

yellow/gold Durruti final print

The photo doesn’t quite show the contrast as it is in real life, but I’m pretty psyched about how it came out. And — more color variations & experimentations will happen in the future!


Vibration pattern on the surface of my un-drunk coffee:

coffee frequency

It was sitting on the print table while I was printing. The main axis of the pattern (lower left – upper right in this photo) is parallel to the direction in which the screen moves up & down.


Jori Ketten, a local artist/photographer/teacher/co-conspirator (etc), helped me out immeasurably by taking documentation pictures of my prints — soon to be seen here. She also did photoshop magic on them (which would have taken me many, many hours). They look great, & she deserves a million shout-outs. Hopefully you won’t get sick of them. Thank you Jori!

yes.

November 8, 2009 at 6:14 am

halftones!!!

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…

I am not dead

September 28, 2009 at 5:47 am

… and I am slowly getting back to work. I’ve been helping friends with projects, enjoying summer, and swimming a lot. also bike riding. I’ve also been working on a bunch of self-figuring-out, which is ongoing and in progress! Some crazy romantic stuff has gone down. Two of my best friends and project collaborators, Andrew Oesch and Meg Turner, are about to leave town: AO for some epic travels on a balky diesel schoolbus, Meg for an exciting & challenging job in a far-away city where she has always wanted to live. Summer has been awesome, lovely, and really intense — but I haven’t gotten much work done. Now, by necessity (both financial, deadline-wise, and psychologically) it’s time for some work to happen… hopefully I’ll be able to write more here soon about projects in progress.

bucklin street warehouse

I’ve seen this building since forever on one of my often-traveled bike routes through Providence. For as long as I have known it, it has been covered in vertical painted metal sheathing (as seen above, under the cornice), with a smattering of small windows along its length. I had always assumed that it had a metal structure as well. Earlier this month, they started pulling the metal off, revealing insulation, many windows, earlier brick-pattern asphalt shingles, earlier wooden siding, and its original wooden structure. Man, just look at all those windows!!!! (It seems like it’s being renovated, which is a relief — I’m tired of watching buildings disappear.)

A couple of weeks ago I caught it in this great state of semi-dismantlement, as the workers were stripping it down to the original wooden board sheathing. Meg & I returned the next day & peeked inside as well as we could. I was delighted by all the overlapping layers, the history made visible. (Also one of my favorite things is fake brick patterning on anything!) Meg loves the point at which the forces of human action and natural disintegration are in balance upon a building: the time frame between when the building has been neglected to weather and age, but before it collapses — a realm of possibility…

bucklin street warehouse - short end

Looking at these photos now, I feel a strong kinship to this building. Its outer layer is pulled off, and what’s revealed is kind of patchy, not very well fitted together, and possibly a little precarious. However, what is now visible is more true and more real than its former, tacked-on facade was. The insulation and the weatherproofing is gone, so the building is more vulnerable to the elements and to external forces… but the source of its strength is clear. However, it is obviously a work in progress, under construction, and changing constantly even as we speak…

dimensions

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
  • POLAR ORANGE DRY!!!!!!
  • 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.

    BZANG.

  • 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.

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