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

infinity of possible choices about letterforms

January 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

…or really, about anything, for that matter. !!! No time to write much at the moment but here is some process preview for new work I’m doing for the show (opens February 2nd, 5-7, AS220, 115 Empire St. Providence). Lots to do, not a lot of time. My strategy is to do whatever it is I’m procrastinating on the most — ask myself what is the most scary thing, do that first. Ha!

a pile of postcards on manila paper with various handwriting on them

rsvp notecards from 1959-1961, from a curb in new york city to an attic in providence to my hot little hands (thanks Will, collector extraordinaire!)

process shot of desk

desk scenario — I’m referencing years of collecting ephemera & hundreds of pictures I’ve taken of fonts for letterform generation, and mining writings that I was doing (for performances this past fall) for text generation…

hand-drawn font in progress, reads

learning a lot about script fonts; the variation is so broad, anything is possible!

using an architect's adjustable triangle to create shading

architectural drafting strategies; these letterforms are based on the packaging from some fireworks that Jacob had…

letters in overlapping screenprints

print over test print, experimental zone

jars of ink and test color strips, laid out on a desk

transparent color testing for some seriously procrastinated-on re-prints that will be part of this show, and also for some new prints!

okay byeee time to make another sandwich, drink more coffee, & then back to work!

I draw jasper johns paintings in the brown paper sketchbook

December 31, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Emmy Bright makes beautiful sketchbooks; I have one of them, and it’s basically my new favorite thing. I got some soft white & gray colored pencils, plus regular pencil, plus a 3B (that’s 3 degrees of soft, folks!) pencil; it was a funny scene of me sticking various pencils in & out of various pockets / my mouth, and also trying to find a place in the Phila. Art Museum to surreptitiously sharpen them all with a little knife which is DEFINITELY not allowed in there.

Whenever I find myself wanting to look more intensively at a specific thing, I know I need to draw it… buildings, people, anything. Often this is almost a moment of resentment, “Okay, I give in, this painting keeps pulling me back to look at it, I guess I will have to draw it.” You can glance over some art in the chaos of a gallery with people all around & be like “whoa that’s neat”, but when you draw it you get to really look at it & see how it’s put together.

My question here was, “What is Jasper Johns doing in these things besides using all these different tones/thicknesses of gray paint, cause he’s doing something compositionally, and he knows what he’s doing, he’s not just slopping paint around (though of course he’s also doing that).” …and of course the proportions & dimensions of all of them are really interesting, once you draw it & figure out what’s going on, as much as is possible standing up in an art museum trying to balance 5 pencils & an eraser…

At some point I’ll make a long how-to post about composition, the golden section, & proportional geometry stuff — but not today, I need to draw some more! and there are some things happening cause it’s new year’s. aahh! oh yeah, happy new year!

If you’re in or anywhere near Philadelphia (Providence counts!), please go see Dancing Around The Bride, the amazing show* where I saw & drew these paintings.

I would recommend it highly to anybody interested in graphic scores, dance, chance, chess, wordgames, playful nerds, gays, collage/combination/everyday objects in art, letterforms, painting, silkscreen, music, installation sound experiences, hissing whisper power voice, gray tones, friends/artists/lovers riffing off each other over the course of 50 years, etc. It’s free on the first Sunday of January (the 6th), and ends on January 21st! Go go go! Carpool! Super crucial & awesome.


Unrelatedly (well, maybe relatedly?) here’s some of what I’ve been working on recently which is stuff for my upcoming show in February… super excited about these little guys… okay back to drawing!


* My one issue with the show was that THEY SAID NOTHING about any of the artists being in actual romantic relationships with each other, in any of the printed literature or wall text! The curators were super into the fact that “ooooh, they were all so interconnected” but mention *nothing* about any of their sexualities even once (though they do talk about Duchamp’s wife a little bit). They write that Johns & Rauschenberg “met in 1954 and remained close until 1961” and mention that Cage “first met Cunningham in 1938 and later became his partner”, with no clarification of what kind of partner… but really? Does gay exist? Not according to these curators I guess… or only in code…

This is sad to me because I think about young queer people (including myself, hey!) looking for some model of gay existence that isn’t “the sad teen who is bullied and lonely”, and look! here are four extremely successful & lauded individuals who are all gay, and you’re making an art show that’s all about their relationships, and you maintain complete silence about their sexualities. Really?

heretical certainties

June 8, 2012 at 4:28 am

I have some work in a really neat print portfolio put together & printed by Erik Ruin, a friend & political graphic artist who now lives in Providence! The portfolio release show is tonight, Friday June 8th, 7-late at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, featuring performances by a bunch of bands including Katrina & Julia’s band Groke, my housemate Work/Death, and the Assembly of Light choir (Providence’s neo-spiritual ladies’ rock/metal vocal performance group which includes the awesome artist/scientist/singer/general-renaissance-person Tatyana Yanishevsky), and more!

Come to that if you can, check out the work & the music, it should be great! Here’s the successful kickstarter page for the portfolio project, with more info about it.

My drawing is about Joan of Arc, who I’ve felt really close to since I was a little kid, in many ways that aren’t totally explainable and some that are (and some that have only become clear over time). Making this drawing, I followed my instincts & desires for it, and tried not to over-rationalize it or to demand much logic of myself… I wanted to make an emotional thing, not a “poster”. Not that a poster can’t be emotional, but… I needed to frame the endeavor differently for my own purposes.

It was really nice to get to make a pencil drawing as a “final” object — as opposed to having to turn it into a print myself. It was also really interesting to draw a person, since I rarely draw people (it’s possible that I have been avoiding drawing people for years!!??). Even though I was drawing from a photograph (this is Renee Jeanne Falconetti in the 1928 “Passion of Joan of Arc“, by Carl Theodor Dreyer, a seminal movie for me when I saw it in 1998 or so), it felt like I was drawing an actual person, and then at times it felt like I was drawing myself, and I felt like I was very bad at it, or very naive, but I proceeded with confidence and delight, and then I felt like I was my (confident/naive) high school self, specifically at a certain stretch of time when I was drawing a self-portrait in 10th or 11th grade, which I have a distinct memory of and which I know is a drawing in which I look extremely masculine, and I remember at 15-16 years old being both stranged-out by that visible masculinity as well as satisfied by my drawing of myself… so, making this drawing was a very strange & evocative time, and that’s all I am gonna say about that!

In the two images above, I’m tracing the long text onto the paper over a lightbox (thanks Will K. for the gift of that very useful tool!). Visible here are, on the left, the main drawing of Falconetti, in progress… under/around her eyes, the initial drawing of her that I started on the other side of the paper and then abandoned as too crappy (classic style!)… at the bottom, Joan’s signature… to the lower right, the printed-out text I am tracing from (thanks to the HPLHS for the very authentic Oldstyle font!)… and down to the middle of the page or so, my hand-traced 11.5-point serif letters.

Tracing these letters was totally grueling and a hassle, but they look sooooo goooood! Most of the hassle was using a 2B (soft/dark) pencil lead because I wanted the letters really dark to contrast with the H (hard/light) lead that I used in most of the rest of the drawing (this contrast can be seen clearly in the first image in this post). With the architect’s-lead-pointer sharpener that I use, you can get a very sharp point, but with a lead that soft, the point dulls fast, and the tip breaks off about every third time you sharpen it. But it got done! There are few things I love more than turning a uniform computer font into a destroyed hand-drawn font…

The final print! Printed on the offset by Erik Ruin. If you want to get a copy of this and the rest of the portfolio, 12 other images of heretics & witches, email him: erikruin (a) gmail.com.

Here’s what I wrote about the drawing / myself / Joan, for the portfolio:

Of all the heresies for which Joan of Arc was tried, refusing to wear “woman’s dress” was the one that her ‘Assessors’ came back to again and again, over the course of their lengthy questioning — and it was the charge for which they eventually convicted and executed her. The trial transcripts reveal Joan’s impressive resolve and spiritual conviction during the harsh rhythm of her inquisition. For me, as a person who spent much of my life under pressure to dress and look “more feminine”, reading and re-reading those documents is a difficult empathetic and vicarious experience. The quote in my drawing is unedited: I didn’t want to present just the parts of her testimony that resonate with my experience, but also her religious zeal & dedication to her God.

The signature in the drawing is the actual Joan of Arc’s signature… and the text is from p.87 of the T. Douglas Murray version of the trial transcripts, which you can look at part of right here on the internet.

There’s a lot more to write about how I think & feel about her, and my ongoing & always-developing relationship to women dressed as men, “women warriors”, “passing women”, etc….. but it’s gonna have to wait for later! For now just read these two awesome young adult books, The Blue Sword and Alanna… *then* we can talk about women warriors.

oh cleanup

May 15, 2012 at 12:37 am

I realized my room/studio (where I draw) is messy to the point of being un-usable. As in, it’s hard to stay in there & I feel like all the piles are going to fall down on me when I try to work at the desk. Which is the drawing place, the place where it should be really enjoyable to spend time because drawing is the most fun part of my work… right? So why is this place the most intimidating / feels the most precarious of any place in my house??? And, even worse, how long has it felt this way without me articulating it as such?

No pictures, it’s too embarrassing / sensitive. Now I’m wrapped up in cleanup / hopeful paradigm shift for my workspace. And things unrelated to work are going great! Even this cleanup hopefully signals/echoes the start of some new times & a different relationship to the physical scenario around me… will check in in a day or two with cleanup update… if I don’t get buried under piles… !

squashy takeover & transparent rainbows

May 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

This year’s Plant Sale poster is done! (Thanks to SCLT for their patience, and to my cousin (letterpress master) Dan Wood for cutting the edges off the prints for me super late-nite / lastminute!) Guess how much fun it was to draw these windows???

It features some of my (and possibly your) favorite buildings in Providence being re-inhabited by a terrifying-yet-friendly giant yellow squash plant. No full shots yet, you’ll have to catch a glimpse of one around town, but don’t steal them down till after the event on May 19th & 20th!

These posters keep getting sexier & sexier, says “one who knows“…

Here’s a moment in the process from about a week ago, when I was drawing the final ‘key’ layer with ink onto wet media mylar (plastic which is treated to hold the ink & not let it run). I mostly used a nib pen, but a couple of Rapidograph pens (passed down from my Grandpa, #1 & #00) are crucial tools for the tiny details. Then to correct blobs & mistakes, clean up lines, and also to create light in the dark areas, I scratch the dried ink away with the back of the blade of my trusty lil’ Olfa knife… Here you can see the pencil drawing underneath, layered with a sheet of tracing paper where I was working out the balance & rhythm of the large color shapes (of yellow squashes & green leaves) across the paper:

Also, each of the three layers in the print was a rainbow roll, which I’ve discussed in the past, but this is this new style where I do one transparent rainbow roll layer over a solid rainbow roll layer… and then a rainbow roll key outline layer. (As seen in this print from a year ago…) Something about the subtlety / complexity of those shifting layers overlapping each other turns out kind of incomprehensible & thus, it seems, pretty amazing.

Ink ready (those are three colors of transparent ink in the foreground, then a jar with water in it for washing off mixing spoons behind them):

On the screen, blending the colors together:

Then printed over the blue layer:

Here’s a tiny detail when ink on the final layer was still wet, and the early morning sunlight was coming in the studio window, showing how the ink sits bumpily on the paper (click for larger, it’s worth it!):

And, speaking of process, here’s what my past few weeks have been like:

To all my friends, including new/future friends as well as old friends, I’m really sorry for dropping off the face of the planet into this total screenprint work zone, please excuse my neglect of you / our friendship & know that I am eating mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in the middle of the night while I draw at a desk in a messy room, and thinking of you.

<3 ian

it’s that time of year again…

April 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

…past time, actually. But I’m excited to be working on the Southside Community Land Trust‘s Plant Sale poster again, the fourth one I’ve done so far!

(my past posters for SCLT: 200920102011)

Sneak preview.

letters (click for larger, in the upper-left-hand corner check out the pinpricks I used to transfer the letters from tracing paper):

more letters, all related:

laying out the drawing on the kitchen floor so I can make a vanishing point that goes *way* off the [very large] page!

The actual imagery of the poster (slightly visible in the photo above) is much more developed now, that photo is from a week or so ago…

I get super melancholic when I think about how many beautiful buildings & places & spaces have disappeared from this city since I moved here (1999).

I’ve (finally?) turned to photography as a consolation for this, and as a way to remember that things are always changing & to be okay with that. I used to really look down on carrying a camera; I was against “instant nostalgia“, against “making memories through taking pictures rather than remembering”, and all: “I can draw it better than I can take a picture, and I’ll learn more about it while I draw it!”. I still mostly believe those things… but at some point I realized that I can’t draw fast enough and ultimately just can’t draw *enough* to document all the beautiful disappearing things that I will want to have a record of in the future. So photography becomes a necessary-yet-incomplete resistance to the constant forgetting that life in a changing city consists of…

But yaknow, it’s also springtime so what better moment to bike around & take pictures of hand-designed, yet still-not-all-obsolete, signs in Providence!

projects done, new projects

May 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

guys I made these posters they are cool now I have to get back to work & make some more!

(color balance is a lil off on these photos…)

The Plant Sale is this weekend! I’ll be there selling these posters at the “merch” section, come find me & say hi. (and get some amazing plants, this event is not to be missed!!!)

This show already happened (only a day after I finished the posters, unfortunately… but that is what facebook is for, right?). I have a super-limited number of these prints left, they’re not in the store yet — email me if you’re interested!

details:

This kind of side-to-side repeating happened to some extent, simply by accident, on the two previous Plant Sale posters I’ve made, so I made it happen on purpose for these guys:

… aaagh, trapped in an infinite Victorian wallpaper nightmare of eggplant jungle …


Thanks to the magical Noel’le for the loan of the 30″ long squeegee used to make the three separate rainbow roll layers that make up this print!

The drawings & transparencies turned out to be pretty intricate objects in themselves…


Next projects are a poster for Recycle-A-Bike, and lots & lots of work on architectural prints of an imaginary (or realistic?) future, for a show at Brown’s Bell Gallery in the fall… more info upcoming! I also have many many ideas for other projects… argh. Also I’m going to be a workshare again this summer at Scratch Farm — YEAH!

Been reading interviews with & writings by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, sooooo gooooood

delights of working

April 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

For a big chunk of the first couple months of this year, I wasn’t really working on print or drawing projects. Partly this is because I was re-doing the main section of my website, to focus on things that are my priorities now — rather than in 2007 when I first set the website up! (Though I haven’t even put the new pages and updated structure up yet, various reasons, blurgle…) Partly I wasn’t working because I was reading a bunch of books, because I was having lots of complicated thoughts, because I was dealing with personal stuff, because I was hanging out with friends and enjoying awesome Providence companionship.

However! whatever the factors, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been working a bunch, and man do I love drawing, and thinking about colors, and printing. !!! It’s good to remember that. I’m putting a lot of energy into figuring a bunch of other aspects of my life out, but it’s amazing to be able to come back to drawing and printing and get super entranced and delighted by it.

In part of my effort to get things done a little faster, keep it fun, and not get bored, a new strategy is “rubylith-native” letters — letterforms that are just laid out sketchily in pencil, and take their final form from the razor-knife cutting the rubylith film. “With that knife, you’re not drawing a regular line, you’re cutting the infinitesimal dividing line between what is and what is not.” Thanks, Jacob!

Two layers of the 2011 Plant Sale poster are folded to the right in the photo below — the “key” outline (eggplants & linework), in black ink on mylar, and the transparency for the orange which will fill in the front of the banners, the red rubylith. The transparency folded back to the left is for the bright green that will be leaves & stems & some other things: that one is a combination of ink & rubylith. Both the orange and the green layers are in process in this photo; you’ll see their development further down in this post. (The blue bits are painters’ tape that holds things together and allows me to fold the transparency layers back and forth while keeping things aligned…)

Here I’ve cut the paper-color letters out of the solid “orange” of the banner; that is the layer that is lying flat underneath. Out of the “green” layer, which in the last photo was still solid, I’ve made delicate outlines for both the Southside Community Land Trust and Plant Sale letters, and I’m lifting it up so they can be seen. As with all these photos, you can click for a larger image, and in this one the larger size really makes clear what is going on.

SCLT asked me for some small graphics to use as spot illustrations or decorative emblems on other promotional materials. Here are those as drawn in ink on mylar, ready to be scanned in & cleaned up to become digital graphics…


I’m usually working on multiple projects at the same time, but usually not so close together or so intensively as these two posters. Here’s some progress on the Grass Widow / Songs For Moms poster (amid the detritus of drawing day, also feat. Jacob‘s sketchbook, Christopher‘s circle template, and (not pictured) Charlotte).

Letters done / building more developed / rubylith cut & folded back to prepare for more perspective drawing (!). Plowing through the chaos.


Back to the plant sale poster! SCLT is working with a RISD design professor to unify their graphic identity for their 30th anniversary — historically they’ve had a bunch of different publications & newsletters, a website, as well as posters made by artists, which have all been designed by different people and thus all over the place visually & aesthetically. They asked me to use some of their new identity colors in the poster:

It’s really interesting to have someone else’s color selection to work with, it makes things a lot simpler in some senses, reduces the scope of decision-making. I matched the colors exactly… and then in getting ready to print, I’ve found myself shifting them slightly towards a combination that is more interesting to me, or that seems more harmonious or possibly more weird. I do have to put my name on this thing after all… :)

Final, ready-to-print orange layer (actually it’s already printed as I type this!):

Final ready-to-print green layer (that one’s tomorrow i.e. in a couple of hours):

The bottom of the green layer, showing three different materials going into one layer of a screenprint. I cut the stems and graphic stuff out of rubylith, then taped a sheet of prepared mylar over it and on that, drew the ink textures of the leaves, the speech-bubble outlines, etc. Using ink & a brush on a piece of tracing paper, I drew the names of the musicians, scanned that in, inverted it, printed that onto a copier acetate… and then cut out those names and collaged them onto the other layers, cutting out gaps in the rubylith so that the letters would show through to the color beneath…

More soon, including, most likely, finished posters!


This past week I also got to go in the Tirocchi mansion, which E. Elizabeth has some real nice photos of on With Care. Rob & John & I went over and joined lots of our friends and fellow Providencians in a huge nerd posse exploring this soon-to-be-renovated magical giant house. I took lots of pictures.

Patterns for the copyin’:

Never-to-be-seen-again (at least by me) views:

And really beautiful construction details.

Rob, as is his wont and his passion, looked for unnoticed detritus, and John, as is his profession and his passion, did research:

Working! it’s awesome!

drawing some things

April 4, 2011 at 8:08 am

Spring is almost here (though for some reason snow is still falling on our heads occasionally?!)… so now that it’s time to ride bikes and go outside a lot, I find myself working on three poster commissions. I was not really accepting poster commissions for a while, but these are all a) awesome, b) meaningful within my community, and c) planned *way* in advance, so they meet the criteria!

Here is the initial pencil sketch for the 2011 Plant Sale poster, from sometime last week:

and where the drawing stood, pretty much done, in its full-scale version last night a couple of nights ago:

I figured out the secret to doing these things fast: if you choose a plant whose elements are relatively larger, they take up more space on the page, and you have to draw exponentially fewer of them! As opposed to the snap peas or cherry tomatoes of the two previous years’ posters… Strategy, Cozzens, strategy.

I traded some prints to Shawn G. for a new camera with the capacity to shoot time-lapse stuff, so here’s a first experimental video in that vein. What is mostly noticeable from this is a) how many times I erase and re-draw things just to move them over a sixteenth of an inch, and b) how jankily I hold my pencil! Look at that squinched-up finger, eek. Other things that might be of interest to fellow nerds are the development of the tiny serifs as I draw the word “Plant”, figuring out the angle of the letter A and its cross-bar, and re-drawing the S over & over again to make it curve around the curve of the banner…..

The pencil is a 2mm H lead (I know, pretty soft) in a Staedtler Mars 780 architect’s lead-holder; the eraser is a Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub #1960: new indispensable tool, crucial for erasing on vellum, excellent on everything else as well. Periodic pauses denote sharpening of the pencil.


I’m also drawing a cool cutaway building, secret-headquarters-style, for a punk show on April 28th (yeah, way in advance!). I was working on it yesterday last week at “drawing day” at Ada Books, in the storefront window next to Tom Bubul‘s feet:

The tools here are: a regular pencil (B, really soft!), the trusty Peel-Off Magic Rub, Olfa knife for sharpening, and COFFEE.

The bands are: Grass Widow, Broken Water, Songs For Moms, Jacob The Terrible, and Static Era a.k.a. Natalja Kent‘s New America (that last link is slightly NSFW, sorry…). This show is gonna rule. April 28th. Thursday nite. BLDG 16. Don’t skip it…


I have a couple of small handmade books, including my hand-printed-&-bound calendar/planners from 2004-2006 (memories!), in the Magic Child Repository, a group show at Craftland that opens on Thursday, April 7th! Curated by Art Middleton of Tiny Hawks, Arcing, and other local awesomeness.

Okay I think that’s it for now. See you at a dance party or a show or a coffee shop or in my (or possibly your) kitchen in the near future!


reading: Loose Space: Possibility & Diversity in Urban Life, ed. Karen A. Franck & Quentin Stevens; The Screwball Asses, by Guy Hocquenghem; Lyonel Feininger’s collected comic strips from 1906…

comics drawing, story telling

January 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Whoa, sorry for a long time of no updating — I’ve been vaguely overwhelmed by holiday times, business stuff, traveling to see people, and working!

Now… the holiday crunch is over, and I got sucked into working on writing and drawing a comic. I know, this is not a “productive” silkscreen-type project like I probably should be working on, but it’s pretty exciting to me. It’s an adventure story based on a comic book character named Scar, made up by a middle school kid. Andrew Oesch and Walker Mettling had the kids in their after-school comics classes (at public library branches) draw and write a bunch of characters, and their attributes and backstories, to then write comics about. Grownups (or should I say, “grownups”) also made up some of the characters, but this one was written & drawn by a kid.

scar character page, drawn by a kid

Here is Andrew & Walker’s project blog with about ten of the many, many characters, and songs by Amil Byleckie to go with them!

The characters were all made into “rogues gallery” type books (as seen in the photo* above), which AO offset-printed at AS220. Using the books as reference, the kids made comics about and around the characters, which I mostly haven’t gotten a chance to read yet… and the character books were also handed out to various artists around town so they could also make comics & drawings based on the characters. (Here’s one: Mickey Z’s comic, and the characters it is based on.)

Upon seeing the full-color drawing that Alec Thibodeau (a dedicated vegan) made of “Tofoon”, a giant block-shaped warrior made of radioactive tofu, I said, “oh my gosh, I have to do this, what do I do, is there still time, I have to make a comic for this project.”

I looked through the books & to Andrew’s amusement, found a character that is maybe one of the more brawny / classic-superhero-y of the collection… at least as the kid drew him: so far I have drawn three pages that are pretty emo, and then there are two pages in progress that are more active… but I have a feeling there’s going to be a good deal of action eventually. Though, as AO said (in response to my worry that I wasn’t gonna get the action scenes done because all I wanted to draw was love scenes), “love scenes are kinda like action scenes.” ehhhhhh…

drawing

Anyways, I was trying to keep this update brief, and just say, “I’m making a comic & it’s really fun!” But now that I got into it, here’s the origin story of why I’m working on this comic that promises to be super epic, based on a little kid’s idea…

Thanks to the diligence and stubbornness of our mother, my brothers & I grew up throughout the 80s and 90s without a television in our house. Although we would go to a movie occasionally or watch TV at other kids’ houses, reading — books, picture books, newspaper comics, and Tintin comic books — was our main source of narrative and visual entertainment. When I went to college in Chicago in the late 90s, I drew a couple of comics & illustrations for the independent school newspaper there, and I was introduced to self-published zines and comics, but I never made anything long-form — I didn’t have any good ideas for what it should be about, and I didn’t want to make something just for the sake of making something.

Arriving in Providence at the end of the 90s, I was extremely inspired by the comics artists here, as published in the newsprint periodical Paper Rodeo and other small, hand-made formats around town.** I would dedicate hours of coffee-shop patience to deciphering what was going on in the tiny, odd-sized panels filled with scribbly lines. Stretches of narrative unfolded and then fell away, characters were introduced and then re-appeared, maybe, fleetingly, with a different name or years later, hardened and world-weary. Little guys got stomped on by giants, scrappy weirdos and machine-men fought against forces of corporate ownership, people tried to build structure and spaces and logic for themselves in a confusing world that was beyond their comprehension.

drawing

I loved how these stories created fantastical, imaginary worlds, filled with the adventure elements that I had loved as a kid & teenager — that at the same time served as metaphors for the world that we lived in in Providence, with its magic, struggles, and difficulties. Going to shows, making our homes in weird industrial spaces, and making art in Providence was the first time that I had felt like I was actually living in an actual place, living my real life — I didn’t have to live in medieval times or in an imaginary fantasy world to live authentically and experience exciting things. Biking manically through the car-clogged, snowy streets, climbing up dark, steep staircases to dance wildly at noise shows, exploring the city and meeting new people, staying up all night to finish making something important and beautiful — these were the real adventures of my real life in the broken, vibrant, difficult, actual world.

My ambitions to make comics continued to grow, but I knew that I still didn’t have a story to tell: I shied away from a personal narrative of my own life, because I felt like it wasn’t coherent or important enough. Translating things metaphorically seemed like the only way I could make a thing that would feel far enough away from me to be able to put it together as a story, as opposed to a shapeless, self-indulgent splurt of what my high school english teacher Mr. Reinke might call “logorrhea”. But what story did I have to tell that even merited translation?

After a friend of mine had a bad hand injury a couple years ago, I spent some time sketchily scripting ideas and scenarios for a comic about people in a world “not unlike our own”, where there’s a fascist military police force made up of people who’ve been augmented with metal/robotic weapon arms (with one thread of influence branching from Mat Brinkman’s Multi-Force comic epic, which is set in an underground labyrinth in which the monster/warrior characters have giant interchangeable battle arms…). The protagonist of my story was a young man who is recruited into the force and equipped with a weapon arm, but then deserts, thereby losing control of the arm. Removing the weapon leaves his own arm totally useless. He must figure out how to to hack the weapon arm and restructure its abilities from scratch, and how to use its weapon nature for good, or if that’s even possible.

So yeah, themes of physical vs. mental strength, the struggle with the body and its control, ability and communication, and a sub-narrative about neighborhoods and fascist urban planning strategies… also a love story between the young man and a nice lady who has a fiance who’s a legitimate member of the force, and the story of how she becomes politically radicalized… anyways! I have a bunch of pages of basically-illegible notes for this story in an old sketchbook… it was decent stuff, but I never made anything happen with it — partly because of time constraints & other projects, partly because I was self-conscious about the science fiction-y, comic-book-trope-y aspects of the story, partly because I was intimidated by having to make *so* *many* *drawings*.

When I read the character description of Scar (see the image at the top of this blog post), the parallels to my old story jumped out at me — all the old themes still tugged at me — plus the powerful idea of the flawed body & the search for completion. I was also psyched to try to write a tough superhero character, and to have the “trite comic-book-story” aspect of the character & the plot excused by its origin in a little kid’s imagination. I started writing a little bit of the backstory script — how he finds the arm, why Scar killed Black Death’s brother, what happened after his hands got cut off… and found myself totally thrilled and sucked into the process.

drawings

I’m way more compelled than I expected I would be by the demands of making drawings that tell the story, by figuring out how to do that. How to pace and time the action or sequence of actions, how to combine text and drawings in a way that leaves a lot to be filled in by the imagination, but sets up a coherent story for readers to grab on to. Still feel like I am totally ignorant of the “right way” of “how to do it” — but the first steps in figuring it out are very exciting. And — I finally feel like I have a story to tell.

So, the past couple of weeks have found me…

doing technical research:

conscripting my friends to be the photo reference for characters / people’s faces:

Ben as Brian/Scar:
pictures of a young man

Andrew as Time Stopper:
a drawing of a person and his superhero identity

combing my past photos for other visual references (in this case, cityscape, wide street):
cityscape view

making an actual balsa-wood model of the robot arm (I know, crazy, but totally awesome — I like having things I can look at to draw them, and the arm is as much a character in the story as Scar is…):
drawings and materials on a table

early version of the arm, now it’s a lot cooler than it is here:
balsa-wood model robot arm

Okay, that’s what I’ve been up to, also new year’s was awesome, and things are generally confounding and beautiful and transformative. I want to write more, and there is more of the backstory of why this story feels like it demands to be told, why it demands that I tell it. But! I also want to draw & write new pages of the story itself! Time time time…

I’ll post complete pages on the website here somewhere, when I have some more done. The first five pages will be published in the anthology that AO and Walker are putting out sometime “soon”, along with a bunch of other work surrounding all these characters, by kids and adults. I’m worried that I will never be able to finish my version/vision of Scar, that the story will spiral out of my control and that I will never be able to tell all the parts of it that are important to me (or that I’ll get distracted by the love scenes and never get around to figuring out how to draw the action scenes…!). But I know I need to just keep working on it, moment by moment, piece by piece, and let it accumulate slowly.

Also, the lesson that I ultimately take from Providence comics-makers, and from my friends alongside whom I am delighted to draw, is to remember to let things be loose, to not worry about connecting up every episode, but to concentrate on drawing the parts I want to draw, the parts that are the most fun to draw, the stories that are the most interesting to tell. Readers will make their own connections between them, and create a narrative out of my stumbly efforts…


okay wait, I can’t write about comics without linking to a couple of friends:
Melissa Mendes who is going really deep & intense with her self-investigative comics work right now;

James McShane whose total dedication to the form inspires & intimidates me daily;

and Brynocki C’s comics review blog, which might be one of the best blogs ever.


* apologies for all the blurry photos, I am reduced at the moment to using my cellphone camera since my old camera’s batteries seem permanently drained to the point of unusability, and I didn’t realized how much I depended on the macro-focus feature on my old camera. Acquiring a functional camera is on the to-do list…

** A small selection of this late 90s / early 2000s work, including Ninja and Maggots by Brian Chippendale, and Teratoid Heights and Multi-Force by Mat Brinkman, has been collected and re-published recently. Also, CF’s Powr Mastrs, though new work, is a product of the same scene/mentality… and Mickey Zacchilli‘s comics and print work are also in the Providence lineage of surreal, energetic scribble narrative…

« Previous PageNext Page »

this work is copyright to jean cozzens | Secret Door Projects

Creative Commons License
most of it is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
for more licensing & copyright details, check out the credit page.