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

pittsburgh

July 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm

braddock stairs
[fire escape stairs in Braddock, PA]

Well, here I am in Pittsburgh, PA with Meg Turner, at the house of our awesome friends Miriam and Jeffrey, hanging out with them and their awesome cat Boris, drinking a lot of coffee, drawing a lot, working (which includes drawing, but also fiddling with the internet and trying to stay in touch with everybody and keep it together), and trying to catch up on stuff. This is kind of overwhelming, since I am trying at the same time to explore outwardly (Pittsburgh is really intriguing & beautiful, lots of good biking & looking at buildings) as I try to clean house work-wise & inwardly (and hopefully writing some letters as well, Deb!). I’m also working on a commissioned print that has nothing to do with Pittsburgh, or Providence for that matter, so that’s another split for my time & energy.

Still, it’s really good to be here and good to focus: the unaccustomed environment allows for a certain kind of inward-ness that so far feels very productive.

I am enjoying drawing the same thing over and over. Drawing with pen only — no erasing (which is nice & challenging, though I think I’m gonna be throwing pencil back into the mix for the next one). There’s at least one more drawing to be made of this view… maybe more? as well as many more beautiful back alleys within five blocks of where we are staying.

snow way 1

snow way 2

snow way 3

Our friends and co-collaborators Liz, Meredith, Delia, and Andrew O are also joining us for parts of this informal residency — it’s (been) great to have them along. Andrew is *right now* doing a participatory city-building project in St. George, Utah — if you are in that part of Utah, you should find him, check it out, and jump in!


Here are a couple of photos from recent travels — I’ll be putting more up on tumblr soon.

gazela stairs
Stairs down to the engine room on the tall ship Gazela, in Philadelphia (May 15-18, May 29-31, July 8-12: family & weddings)

relatives?
Tape measure brothers, or maybe uncle and nephew? at my aunt’s house in Austin, TX (June 3-7, family visit & my cousin’s high school graduation)

a giant building, with a weird little cabin extension built out over the driveway…
in New Orleans (June 7-14, visiting Meg, learning about what it means to be hot)

beautiful letters, beautiful bike!  bike trips: the best kind of traveling…
Voluntown, CT (June 23-24, bike trip with my friend Laura)

photo of sketchbook…
Drawing from Chinatown in New York (June 29-July 1, work trip to draw & take reference photos for the commission)

sad neon
and… in Pittsburgh. (July 13-present).

So yes, I have been traveling around way way way too much — there wasn’t a week since the beginning of May when I wasn’t out of town for one thing or another! Craziness. This time in Pittsburgh is a good existence in one place for a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to an August & September spent entirely in Providence.

At the end of Sept/beginning of October I & some other Prov/former Prov folks are going to have a print show at the Bushwick Print Lab in New York. In November I think I’m going to be back in New Orleans to do some more teaching… more info & dates for both those things as they approach and as stuff gets solidified.

Also, I just found out that I am going to be in the RISD alumni/student fall and winter sales! October 9th and December 4th, respectively. In the meantime, some of my prints are now for sale at the awesomely curated shop-of-precious-items Frog & Toad, on Hope St. in Providence (as well as still at Craftland).

More updates later! There is a lot more to catch up on. I’m sorry for lacks of information about crucial projects… but I need to draw!

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!

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!

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!]

more sweet letters!

December 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

I’m closing in* on being done with these “superman” building prints. The “text on the poster” problem has been solved, courtesy of Stephen Brownell, who sent me an old postcard (date unknown, printed in halftones) that included the original name of the building: the Industrial Trust Building. Constructed, of course, by the Industrial Trust Company. Well, there’s no way I could have come up with anything more beautiful or poetic than that, so that is what is going on the poster: along with the word ‘Providence’; which made a lot of sense and felt right, ultimately.

In Italy, love of your home city or village, no matter how tiny, is called ‘campanilismo’, ‘bell-tower-ism’: the tower is what you can see from far away and identifies the place to which you long to return. As a proverbial generalization, Italians are said to be ‘campanilistic’ as opposed to ‘patriotic’ — devotion to the specific small place of origin outweighs any broader loyalty to the abstract, constructed idea of the nation. This building serves us pretty well as a bell tower.

After learning the name, I was able to find out some more:

Here’s some more process. The best part? Possibly.

Here are the two layers close to complete in Photoshop. This was a snap with the cell phone camera the way the lcd screen looks gives it the gradient (approximating the rainbow roll in the sky of the finished print), and creates a weird, colorful moire pattern (which the finished prints will not replicate!). Looking at this picture on the cellphone screen is the impetus for making a gray-black-and-white ‘minimalist’ version…

cell phone gray tone

Drawing letters; a sequence. Some pictures taken with cell phone camera so the focus & detail are iffy. Watch the C, D, and Es change.

initial layout…

coming to some conclusions

mostly done, re-tracing

re-tracing complete.

Now it’s time for some kerning! (aka. figuring out how far apart the letters need to be in order to feel evenly spaced. The spacing doesn’t end up numerically even, especially with wacky letterforms like these, but ideally the positive & negative spaces balance each other out, nothing is crowded, and legibility is increased!)

letters traced (below) and kerned (above)

Here, the pink letters are the kerned ones. You can see the slight horizontal adjustments between the two texts, opening up more space or pulling it closer together… you can also see my final adjustment of the “N”, cutting it out of the tracing paper, moving it over a 16th of an inch, and re-taping with scotch tape! Here’s a larger version.

I do this by tracing the letters again, one by one, on a new piece of transparent paper. Starting with the first and last letter spaced the necessary distance apart, I work inwards making slight adjustments, moving the new paper around over the original drawing so I can visually judge the shape and amount of the space left between the letters. It’s kind of repetitive, sometimes involves a lot of erasing over and over again, and is totally not the fastest way to do it. BUT as David Gersten says when people ask him why he draws on paper instead of on the computer, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking??” Bzam.

Here you can see knife cuts in the rubylith where I’ve sliced through the softer red layer but haven’t pulled the red plastic off of the clear layer yet:

cutting rubylith

Here you can really see the difference between the kerned and non-kerned text. Compare the spacing of “OVI” and “ENC” in both sets of letters… (larger version)

traced & cut

A final layout, with the postcard from Stephen. It’s from the opposite side of Kennedy Plaza (obviously from before KP was KP; it seems to have been some kind of leafy park… any Prov. historians out there got information to offer?), but it’s surprising how similar the angle and the majesty are. Someone pointed out to me the asymmetricality of the building; it’s true, it’s totally weird.

layout & postcard

Here’s a grainy closeup of the letters showing just how much they changed between tracing and rubylith. The rubylith letters are vertically shifted from the traced ones, but the horizontal shifting all came from the kerning decisions!

overlay

Okay, that’s it for tonight, time for BED.


black cat print!

Craftland put one of my prints on their online store, and makes a deserved comparison to science-fiction virtual worlds! Yeah, I couldn’t even keep perspective drawing out of this super-simple, gradient-on-black, print of the helpful cat Buio. Lots of other prints of mine (inc. different versions of the Industrial Trust Building print) are at their holiday sale, till Dec. 31st… as well as many prints by other awesome Providence printmakers. If you’re in Providence, check them out! Blatant sales pitch! yeah!


Oh, if you’re looking for yet more obsessive silkscreen process, I recently came across LesliePVD’s blog, where she’s documenting her artmaking & printing processes, including most recently: screenprinting on linoleum tiles to make patterned floors!! She’s got a lot of great photos & descriptions of technique, much is learnable! Providence does spit out some awesome dedicated maniacs, does it not?


* Actually, this update was begun almost two weeks ago (Dec 2nd?), but I was too busy working on finishing the prints themselves to have time to go through the process photos to post them here. So, this is totally way old news. An update with the completed print is next! I also just came back from New Orleans, with fewer drawings than I would have liked (it rained all week), a copper plate partially etched, some photos, and lots of thoughts, which I will try to sort out & write about in upcoming updates.

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…

mockups / proofs …?

November 7, 2009 at 5:52 am

Well, I’m in the middle of trying to fend off a known issue in a way that I’ve never tried before.

Relatively often, I find myself working on stuff that needs to look semi-“realistic” or have a semblance of representation of a specific thing. (And yes, what exactly that means should entail a further digression, but I’m not gonna go there right now!) I don’t particularly like this territory for working — it is a little boring — but here I am in it at the moment: this is a commission & to fit the needs of the organization, it has to to achieve a certain level of beauty and pictorialism. To create the right sense of space and form and depth and distance, all that stuff, the illusion of reality, the colors all have to work together well, and have values and intensities that reinforce the illusion.

Getting this right is more or less easy if you’re drawing the outlines, then coloring in the shapes. Here, however, the colors go on the paper in reverse order: lightest to darkest, fills to outlines. The super-professional way to make sure they all look right together would be to do proofs before printing of all the different colors — but that would require setting up the four screens multiple times, instead of just setting them each up once.

The less labor-intensive way is just to test the colors, give them your best guess, then start printing and adjust each color when you get to it, crossing the fingers all the while. But, what if I print one of the earlier colors, say the light red of the bricks, the wrong color, or too dark or too light of a value…? By the time I get to the last color, the dark red/brown that will be the outlines, I might be asking it to play too many roles in the print, to be darker than some colors, but not too dark so that it diminishes others… THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. Multiple times. And it’s usually meant that, to maintain the desired illusion, I have to mix another batch of ink, shoot another screen, and print one more color than I planned to.

So, the solution that I am trying now? Making a color mockup on the computer. This involves the extra steps of scanning the transparencies, messing with their contrast, & aligning them all on the computer… but that is much less involved than proofing all four colors/screens multiple times before printing. Also, the image doesn’t have to look perfect on the computer, just imitative of the real thing enough to give me a sense of what the relative values should be. This is not a “beautiful intermediate stage”, like some of the drawing stuff I usually put up here, and it’s not really going any farther than this: I think I’ve got more or less what I wanted to get from it.

color mockup attempt

Yup, it looks kind of terrible, and no, it will not look like this when printed. Computer images: not my strong suit. However, it is very helpful to get to look at the whole thing as a color image, instead of just as black & clear & red transparencies that I am trying to imagine in my head as various colors, holding all their possible interactions in my mind’s eye together… Not only does this let me think specifically about the values of the colors I want to use for printing, but I can modify the transparencies to make their interactions better, before the screens are shot. Hooray! Purposes are served!

All right, let’s look at something that actually looks good: how awesome is the drawing of these letters? Working out the letterforms was my probably my favorite part of this project. Drawing is the best!

detail of letters - click for full image

As I am clambering laboriously back into work mode after a summer of making very little art or work, I am realizing that drawing might actually be the best. At least, it’s what keeps pulling me back in, the flickering & elusive candle flame that I am following through the darkened building. I don’t know where it is leading me: what kind of drawing I need to pursue, and what its application should or could be, are still unclear. Do I draw to make plans for the construction of buildings? to figure out how to build furniture? to design fonts? to create images? to pay attention to, reflect, and understand reality? full-scale with a sharpie and a utility knife on sheets of drywall? I don’t know. But, for however purpose… it feels the best, makes the most sense, and is the most immediately engaging of any activity that I do.


In other awesomeness: New Urban Arts was just recently given the Coming Up Taller award, which means that some folks decided that it is one of the top 15 youth arts organizations in the country, and that Jason & Rosalia got to go to the White House and hug Michelle Obama! Tyler wrote about this, and the culture of awards, really thoughtfully on the NUA blog. I’ve known Rosalia since 2006… it’s really amazing to see her standing next to the first lady in that picture, with her smile of confidence and secret hilariousness. Go NUA!!!

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

classic superman style

October 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

This building, which faces onto the central bus plaza of downtown Providence, has been the home of three or maybe four banks, one after the other, in the ten years I’ve lived here. When I talk about the print I’m working on to people, nobody is exactly certain which bank is the current occupant… but everyone immediately knows the building itself. It’s generally referred to as “the Superman building”, because it supposedly gets leaped over in a single bound in one of the early movies.

“the superman building”

In architectural history class years ago, discussing 1920s urbanism, the professor raised the crucial point that Providence didn’t ever actually need setbacks on its single, lonely skyscraper — even now, the downtown density doesn’t warrant them. However, it’s good that they did build this slightly cheesy, mini-Hugh-Ferriss-ian pile of limestone, because it’s the one building that receives unconditional love from everyone who’s ever lived here. Providence’s newer tall buildings (whether from the 1980s or the 2000s), with their flat curtain walls, tend to be universally detested.

I drew it from life in summer 2002, sitting on the steps of the downtown post office for days on end (becoming buddies with the post office security guard in the process). Watching the sun pass over the building during the course of the day, I gleaned some secrets about the uses of recessed and protruding facade elements to cast shadows, enhancing the heavenward directionality. (The photo above is terrible, by the way: it’s taken with my cell phone camera at the cloudy end of a day, so none of the awesome linearity of the building is apparent… I’ll update with a better photo on the next sunny day!)

dave cole poster

I used the image to make the above poster design for Dave Cole, which the excellent Neil Burke printed (because I didn’t know anything about printing then, and was totally overwhelmed by the idea of printing 200 posters or however many Dave wanted). I finished cutting out all the super tiny windows totally last-minute, during down-time at my cousin’s wedding in Maine: I have troubled memories of sitting at a folding table, awkward in my fancy clothes, slicing meticulously with the knife, trying desperately not to be distracted by the fun happenings in the next room.

oh, the scotch tape!

complete with registration mark & black ink correction over the rubylith...

The transparencies, subject of so much precisional distress, are now in pretty rough shape: besides physical damage, check out where the non-archival scotch tape, stuck on to hold tiny straying pieces of rubylith, has actually bled the red color out of the rubylith! I scanned them a couple of months ago, and now I’m working in photoshop to repair some of the damage, and to re-align (more…)

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