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drawing in new orleans!

February 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

I got stuck in New Orleans for five extra days last week, because of the many feet of snow that fell on the mid-atlantic cities, blocking all airport connections. So I got some extra time down there to draw, watch the Saints win the super bowl, build a loft with Meg in her room, and work a little bit more on a new print. It wasn’t really *warm*, but we did get some good sunny days, and it was really good to be there.

post breakfast
[looking skeptical, but actually feeling great, on a typical street in the Bywater neighborhood… my facial expressions rarely correspond to the internal emotions!]

Going through the photos of this trip and my visit in December, I realized there are way too many to put up here, and I should probably finally bite the bullet and make an account on flickr or something like that… but for now, here are just a couple of pictures/notes.

My experience with metal-plate-based printing is very slim: I made a couple of drypoints back in 2002 as part of a wintersession class that I partially audited before fleeing Providence (heartbroken!) on a two-week greyhound-bus Punch & Judy tour. Now, Meg is running a community printshop at an arts non-profit in New Orleans, and they have two large etching presses… so one of my goals for visiting was to print those drypoints again, and to work on a new plate… or two… or however far I got.

meg’s favorite factory

I’ve been really drawn towards just looking & drawing, as I’ve written about here before, and I had an idea about drawing directly on the printing plate… Well, this was more complicated than I thought it would be, because it’s very hard to see what you are drawing in the shiny metal, and even harder to understand how it’s going to print.

Sitting outside and drawing the factory was really rewarding, but the technical demands of the plate made those rewards fewer and farther between. You scratch a line in the metal – it feels like it was deep enough – but it might print really lightly, or really darkly — it’s hard to tell… and you can’t tell for sure until you pull a print from it, which is a bike ride and 45 minutes of work (at least) away.

preliminary pencil drawing and metal plate with tools…
[left: preliminary drawing on paper, and right: beginning to transfer it to the plate]

I guess I should say that it’s hard to tell *for me*, a beginner. Also, it’s really hard for me to feel like a total beginner at something: and the learning curve is pretty steep here, at the point where I am, and in this process which is ancient and demanding. Right? So, I can go easy on myself. Or, I would like to be able to…

reflection & scratched lines…
[out-of-focus scratched lines in the plate…]

The initial proofs look good, but I’ve got a ways to go… somewhat like all my other projects right now… argh. I don’t know why I expect anything different, at this point. My friend Sandy, who recently moved to New Orleans, brought up the idea of doing a series of prints about the city… I would like to… maybe studies of building details, especially of awnings and overhangs… I took some pictures while I was there for source material… but there are so many things I am trying to do!


Here’s Meg’s loft under construction (for some reason there are no pictures of it completed – yet):

meg with the drill
[yeah, we know you are supposed to use nails and not screws to hold joist hangers — but she wants to be able to take the whole thing apart and re-assemble it, if need be…]
(more…)

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!

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…

gray computer tones

October 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

The preliminary single-color version of the Polish Home drawing, which Olneyville Housing will use as publicity for their re-dedication, is done.

ink drawing - computer tones

The gray computer tones are useful for showing the shape of the building, & differentiating the bricks and the stone trim. They are little too clean, maybe, but when the image gets printed out, the texture that the printer makes — even though it is fine-grained — warms it up a little bit! And the final screenprint will be more complex & messy: the chaos will get its chance.

By looking at one of the pictures I took as a photo-reference, we can see what the real purpose and function of “Art” is in the world: removing awkwardly placed urban infrastructure!

photo reference


I’ve been reading the great new book The Printed Picture, by Richard Benson, which is all about how images have been transferred to paper across the years, and goes up through the present digital printing technologies. It is super excellent, super nerdy, and right up my alley. It was a gift — thank you Rob!

polish national home / george c. arnold building

October 19, 2009 at 5:43 am

I am working on too many projects at once but THAT IS OKAY.

polish home drawing

This is for a commissioned print of the Polish National Home, in my neighborhood, that has been renovated by Olneyville Housing Corporation, the local community development non-profit, for use as their offices.

I got to see the original blueprints for this building, and even some preliminary proposal drawings for it. In the preliminary drawings, it had an art-deco style chain-hung metal-and-glass awning over the door… then by the final blueprints, there is this totally awkward neo-classical pediment thing going on. Why? I don’t know.

polish home drawing detail

Ink is going onto mylar over the super precise pencil drawing. I forgot how much fun making this kind of drawing is.

It was great to figure out the geometry and composition of the front door corner facade: reminding me again that even a strange little building like this one has a proportional rhythm to it. The perspective looks wrong because the building is on a hill: the street to the right goes up steeply, but it looks like the line where the building meets the road is receding too sharply. Any suggestions about how to solve that problem?

The blueprints have great hand-lettering on them. At some point soon I’ll try & post some pictures of them and of other old blueprint lettering that Rob C. & I found recently…


… on the sad end of the spectrum, I suspect that the George C. Arnold building, aka “the skinny building”, is about to be torn down. The owner was grudgingly beginning to address its structural issues, and had put up some scaffolding along the back wall (which is windowless) when there was a suspicious fire. Last week, the scaffolding was taken down… which, to me, seems to bode ill for the building’s long-term survival.

george c. arnold building, providence, ri

It’s on the corner of Washington & Mathewson streets, in downtown Providence. Go visit it, pay homage, take some beautiful pictures, ask yourself again why the heck they ever built a building that is only ONE ROOM WIDE, maybe call the preservation society even though they are generally kind of ineffective these days… I don’t know what course of action to recommend… If it is demolished, a lot of people will miss it greatly.

If I had more time and was less project-schizophrenic and in a super-intense emotional state all the time, I would sit out there downtown, even in this cold October weather, and make some awesome drawings of it, probably crying giant tears the entire time… Things being as they are, I just took a bunch of pictures (crying giant tears the entire time) that will hopefully be able to serve as photo-reference for some drawings and prints in the future.

BLAAAARRRR

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