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

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…!?


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

non specific progress

May 6, 2009 at 12:43 am

… this is an interim update to let you all know that I have not fallen off the earth. The Plant Sale poster is done, more images soon. We made a garden at our house (building four raised beds and two planter boxes out of old stockade fencing scavenged from the empty lot next door!) and planted seeds, we’re getting more plants at the end of next week. I’ve been working on making a website for my brother which is not functional at all: problems have to do with Arabic/English language switching and I am in over my head. As Andrew says: “you really should not feel bad about not being able to understand a complicated programming language just by looking at it!” to which I say “but…. I want to understand everything!” All these things are not possible within our human timeframes, I guess…

In any case, I am stopping all of that stuff (for now at least) because I need to draw and print. Drawing! Printing! Yeah! There will be an update on the print series progress soon, it is all insanely late, I know.

In other news, I won a dirty apron contest.

Also, here is a cool picture of the plant sale poster being printed in the early, early morning. In the glancing light from the eastern sun, you can see the pale green transparent ink, just printed, lying over the other colors in a layer that has actual *thickness*. Click to see the large file. So sweet!

printed ink with actual thickness

desk organizationals

January 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Thanks to Diego’s mom Susan (a public high school art teacher here in RI), thanks to Scott who drove me in his van and helped carry it, and thanks to Tatyana who helped me transport the wood for its new frame, I now have a new desk!

[new desk is at center, a corner of the older desk (4’x4′ for large drawings) is on the right, still covered with stuff]

here’s a past view for comparison; I always forget to take ‘before’ photos.

flat file
[to work on this project, I had balanced a board temporarily between a stack of books on my flat file (behind the chair, with green fabric on it) and other books on the little typewriter table (center). the flat file, which is a bulky 4’x2’x2′, is now upstairs in the studio where I’ll actually be able to open its drawers freely…]

Along with the desk base (which will be used as a work table base somewhere else) and the drafting top, Susan also gave me a bunch of parallel-rule drafting rulers that the high school was getting rid of: they don’t teach hand drafting anymore, a) because it’s obsolete, and b) because they don’t really do vocational programs any more. I gave one of the rulers to awesome local printmaker Meg Turner, an artist who works, like me, in architectural modes. She’s been using a ruler and a triangle on her sketchbook pages to compose her axonometric drawings, and has been in serious need of a parallel rule. (If anyone else local wants one, get in touch!) We talked about the questions surrounding why drafting by hand is obsolete, and why high schools no longer offer vocational classes… unfortunate developments, in our way of looking at the world…

But okay, I’m not going to go into that here, it would get lengthy… and this is about a new desk! The frame for it is attached to the loft structure, to the bookshelf behind it, and slightly cantilevered out over one leg on its right side.

slightly sketchy frame for desk
[frame skeleton]

drafting top in place!
[desk in place, with telling view of mid-cleanup de-organization]

There are various rationales behind having a second desk, the chief one being: if the computer and all the other random scraps of paper, business stuff, mail, writing notebook, (whatever), are not in the middle of the drawing table, then I can leave my main drawing there free and clear, look at it all the time, and the default action upon entering my room becomes: sitting down and drawing.


Obviously there’s still a ways to go before I get to that stage, since the stuff from the shelf and other places has now been totally piled on the desk and the floor… and I actually want to dismantle the main drawing desk and modify its support slightly (to better fit my laundry bin) while I’m in construction mode… but the new smaller desk makes the whole thing feel real & possible. Re-organization begins…

pile of zines…
[side benefit of this clean-up: gaining access to things that were obscured by being badly organized or inaccessible… among them, zines; here awaiting a new shelf where they might actually get looked at!]


January 10, 2009 at 6:46 am

here are two fortunes I received when I was in Phila. with my family, showing the fallibility of the fortune cookie predictor logic. after I opened the cookie containing the bottom fortune, I claimed the extra cookie that my gran didn’t want, and it held the top fortune for me:

one right, one wrong

… thus, by the cookie’s command, I’m in that new years mode where you gotta change everything around: do the long-put-off improvements, buy things you’ve been needing for a while, fix the broken, sort out the old nameless piles, throw things away, and close the book on unfinished projects.

so even though I am making big changes, and each day brings a lot of transformation, it also feels like I am treading water: ever since I was a kid, I’ve had to de-organize before I could re-organize, and bigger transitions mean more time spent in the de-organized state. there’s also lots of logistics & organization necessary, which is not my strong suit. even when printing, which should be the straightforward part, I’ve been encountering technical issues… part of me thinks “I should know how to do this by now!” and part thinks “this is how the world is, always learning…”

here, extracted from an close-to-collapsing pile of stuff on the pantry counter of my parents’ house, is a key example of “where I got it from”:


I mean, come on, tell me a better way to keep track of little tiny hardware!

adam ryder photo

my friends Adam Ryder and Brian Rosa are having an art opening for their photography of high-tension electric power line landscapes: tonight, Saturday the 10th, 6-9 pm, at the Stairwell Gallery on Broadway in Providence. inter-urban wanderlust dreams. there will also be coffee by cafe intelligencia. don’t miss!

two ends of the spectrum

September 24, 2008 at 2:12 am

This past weekend, at the Block Party! that Andrew Oesch organized (and I helped with) in Worcester, MA:


…and, a couple of days earlier, working on drawing (or rather, desperately trying to figure out how to draw) the display font for what became this poster:


The Block Party was collaborative, temporary, and chaotic. It had no tangible “goal” besides getting a chance to play, offering other people (kids and adults) the chance to play, creating a potentially transformative experience, practicing collaborating and facilitating with Andrew O, taking the chance to do something we had wanted to do since we were little (have an almost infinite number of giant blocks to build with), and maybe getting a little transformed ourselves (I’m pretty sure that’s me in the red shirt):

BONE ZONE at stArt in the street, worcester 2008

Despite its transience, this kind of project is very direct — you can see the results in people’s enjoyment of and immediate narration of the experience (one kid, as his mom pulled him away from jumping on and squashing boxes at the end of the day: “But… this is the BEST PLACE EVER!!!”). I have a bunch of persistent memories from my own childhood (a giant wooden dragon in the children’s section of the public library, walking through a tall maze of translucent plastic at an art fair, building forts in the woods, working on a collaborative clay castle-sculpture at a craft show) which convince me that Sunday’s memory of building giant structures out of boxes will stick with some of these kids for the rest of their lives. Andrew O and I are left with nothing except lots of photos and a couple of sheets of colorful paper — almost all the boxes got smashed and recycled — the experience was the important thing.

A poster like this one (computer-designed, computer-printed) is also temporary. If I’m lucky, someone will put a copy of the poster up on their dorm-room wall, maybe keep it as a reminder of the speaker that influenced their changing ideas; maybe it will go into the departmental archive, but most likely, most of the copies will become part of the massive pile of paper-waste that comes out of any university in any given academic year. Hopefully, it will get some folks to come out to the talk — maybe more people than if it was a simple flyer designed in a word-processing program and printed in black and white… who knows.


Designing on the computer opens up too many infinite possibilities for me. I like the limits of the physical, of rubylith and of ink drawings; I’m more comfortable with the irregularity, and the permanence, that are built into something you make by hand. Looking at a computer screen, I get wrapped up in minutely adjusting the anchor-points of lines or editing shapes pixel-by-pixel, saving endless versions of things so I can revert to earlier decisions if necessary.

Working on an analog object, if you erased something, that means it is gone (even if you might reach for the command-Z key instinctively) and you have to draw it again, or as close as you can get to it. In the physical world, there’s no perfectability: whatever you make might have problems or issues, but they will result from how it was made and be a part of it — not errors you have overlooked and might have fixed if you had just had another couple of hours to spend in front of the monitor.

[here are two parts of the middle of the “digital/analog battle royale” illustration process for the Labor Studies poster. on paper:]
[and on the computer. notice the ink-line tracing of the two politicians, which is in the middle of being re-sized to fit the photo-reference mockup:]

When I was looking at display fonts to use on the Labor Studies Dept. poster, I couldn’t find a computer font that I liked. I started to draw letters from scratch, but the initial sketches didn’t fit the need or style of the poster, and I didn’t have a lot of time and wasn’t feeling super-inventive at that moment. The letter-pantograph device (seen at the top of this post) was handed down to me by my grandfather, a retired engineer, along with his set of 1970s Rapidograph pens. Using it, I drew the letters above, then scanned them in, enlarged them and printed them out, photocopied them to the right size, and traced their outlines in ink, making them more angular, and changing them somewhat (to differentiate them from the dreaded Comic Sans!). The tracings were scanned again, and photoshoppified into something usable for the graphic title of the poster.

The whole poster involved so much work, so much finicky moving of text and images back and forth, so much consideration and discarding of various fonts, so much attempting towards perfection. I’m mostly happy with it, especially with the illustrations, but I don’t think it has the richness and interest of most of my screen-printed projects… and since I’m not part of the community where the event will take place, it doesn’t have an effect on my life, and I can’t see its effect on other people.


The Block Party! project also involved a huge amount of work (done mostly by AO, though I jumped in at the last minute). Collecting and assembling all the boxes was an almost-infinite task, printing the patterned paper, pasting it on, organizing volunteers, thinking about the philosophy and metaphorical underpinnings of the project. . . However, there was no pretense of perfection: our basic goal was to have enough boxes to really transform the space of the street — beyond that, we had no idea ahead of time of how it would actually turn out, and we knew that we would be figuring out how to do the project along with everybody else who was there that day.

Searching for perfection — ignoring the demand for perfection (even/especially when it comes from within myself). Either of these approaches could be applied to any project, any medium, that one might want to work in. At this point, coming off of these two almost-simultaneous projects, I think I know which of these paths regarding perfection I like being on the most.

However, it’s relatively simple to apply the “chaos is awesome” mentality to projects (like the Block Party) where the chaos is actually unavoidable. It’s somewhat harder to let it creep in to the screenprinting projects I really want to be focusing on, the areas where my meticulousness is more ingrained and more likely to take charge. Additionally, when life is overwhelming (as it usually is for me), it’s easiest to strive for righteousness and certainty, since those seem like the most secure options. One constructive strategy might be to take on less, leave more time for things, don’t put myself in places where I’m so stressed out that perfection seems like the only achievable goal, where I don’t have time to accept complexity and confusion. I know this is possible, because I’ve worked on more and more projects recently where I’ve had to slow down to allow for learning and chaos. . . they are harder and more difficult to approach than the ‘perfectable’ projects. . . . but simply remembering that the harder projects are more fun is a large part of the process. . . .

Here’s Andrew Oesch starring as Sisyphus in Werner Herzog’s new movie about participatory, community-based art projects:


… and a good reminder (from fomato.com) about how not to get bogged down by more projects than I actually want:


thanks, cute creatures, for your infinite wisdom.

fun busy ness

September 6, 2008 at 7:53 pm

“Oh hmm, what would happen if I did… this… or like this… maybe that would be cool. Would that even work?”

…and if you give it a chance, it does, to a certain degree at least, and turns into something relatively rad, or at least something that offers interesting possibilities for the future. I was trying to use up some empty space on a screen… and I thought I needed to come up with an idea for an upcoming printing job. It turned out that I didn’t have to come up with anything for this job, I just need to show up and print something on people’s shirts from an already-prepared screen… so I get to save this idea for myself! I printed these anyways, to test and have some more nifty paper to write notes on, before washing the stencil out. (if you want one of these thingys, write me a letter: po box 244, providence, ri 02901, and I’ll write you back using the print for stationery.) You get extra points if you can tell me how I made the stencil for it!

Everything here has been pretty chaotic: I was out of town for a week, jobs and projects are turning around and changing up on me, our housing situation has been in flux since our new downstairs neighbors turned out to be worse than our old ones (wouldn’t have thought this would be possible, but I guess it is), and… I got a 10th-hour email from Dave Cole‘s gallery asking me to finish printing the Truckmobile posters.

[here, with three colors printed. finally.]

This is exciting, since (more…)

“pretty happy with”

July 6, 2008 at 2:34 am

This past month I’ve finally been working again on the second print in the print series. At the end of June, I had a tentative layout that I was pretty happy with, incorporating some larger perspective views of different kinds of connections between shared and personal spaces, and also a bunch of little axonometric drawings of more different kinds of passageways and doorways. It seemed like a good solution to displaying lots of options for offering different degrees of privacy within a living space…

However, the use of the words “pretty happy with” is always kind of a bad sign, stuff tends to ring hollow after a little bit if it can be described that way…


[another, earlier, version. note: AGP with sprained wrist/robot arm. ]

The original phrasing of the second pattern, from my print series proposal (December 2006), is this:

Private spaces should be delineated by subtle yet effective boundaries, so that individuals can be alone without closing themselves off entirely.

This is still what the poster is about, but I’ve realized that it has to not only deal with the boundaries, but has to involve their context, to also show the organization of the space in which the boundaries exist.


upcoming, rapidly

May 15, 2008 at 1:29 am

Farmers’ Markets poster: It’s further along now than it was in this picture. The Farm Fresh folks liked the layouts they saw yesterday! I am pretty psyched about it, though it promises to be a pain to align… It might be done this weekend, more likely early next week.

New Urban Arts: Come to the giant Art Party this Friday, May 16th, 6-8 pm. I’m currently helping students finish three complicated print projects. Hopefully they will all get done in time!

also, a page I am psyched about finally exists at the “cooperative (not collective)” shared server-space linkage-nexus, or whatever that kind of thing is called. it features a bunch of NUA-related collaborative web projects (and a sweet multi-colored transparent gif): cooperativenotcollective.org!!!

Print Series print #2: “private/shared”: long overdue update coming soon (also early next week) with images of drawings. thanks for your patience.

the feline graphic designer strikes again

December 10, 2007 at 1:26 pm

cat-created disorder on the drawing desk

Buio likes to sit where my attention is focused, especially since that puts him right under the warm lights (it’s cold here)…

the original drawing, from 2002

close-up of paper in chaos

I appreciate how the text now echoes the piles of broken timbers at the bottom of the drawing… At first, I was not sure whether I should use his modifications to my initial design (which had the text going straight across the page, horizontally, all normal-like). This text does need to be at least somewhat legible. As I look at it, though, it seems more & more likely that his input will be taken into account in the final product…

We shall see.

If all goes well and I finish these posters as planned, they will be for sale at the
“Millcraft” holiday art & craft sale, this weekend and the next weekend. (The posters will be cheap: $5 for a two color print, $20 for a three color print on nice paper.) The Millcraft folks seem to be slacking off, and haven’t updated any of their information on the internet, so here’s the setup:

at Firehouse 13, on Central St (off of Broad St. behind the McDonalds)
Opening party: Thursday December 13th, 6-9 pm
Gallery open: Dec. 14-16, Dec. 21-23
(fridays 5-9 pm, sat-sun 12-5 pm)

. . . also for sale there will be work by other folks, students and mentors, from
New Urban Arts.

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