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“what does that say?”

May 12, 2013 at 3:22 am

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It says: dissonance.

Here are the two colorways of the actual print, a green that’s somewhere between forest & olive, & a bright orange. It’s about 27.5″ x 12.5″, a large one. The below images link to the prints newly in the store!

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So… why “dissonance” ?

This print springs directly out of drawing (in mid-summer 2012) all the letters for the “our complexity is the world” print (some process details; buy one!); and feeling just a little fed up with drawing so many lowercase letters in the same form; and my handwriting slipping into sketchiness when writing “dissonance”…

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Then I realized that there was no need to pull those letters back into linear alignment, and that that was a word that I wanted to celebrate further in another print…

Late summer 2012 found me sitting on a rock on Conanicut, above the waves, mostly naked (as friends & I were a lot last summer), drawing it in my sketchbook:

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page

(Here’s past process notes from some color decisions, and some color testing and weird-overlap-printing. More process shots from printing are below; hover over them for details.)

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“Sooooo….. uh. Why dissonance?”

The application of this word to trans stuff or gender issues originates with the awesome writer and scientist Julia Serano, in her book Whipping Girl:

gender dissonance:
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

When I was first reading about trans stuff, Whipping Girl (which I highly recommend), was really important to me, not least because of finding Serano’s definition quoted above. Her extended explication of her use of the word “dissonance” gave me a handle on the way I felt about my body, which I had had no words for before. I had felt that way pretty much all the time since my early teenage-hood, and, partly because of having no words for it, had assumed all women felt the same way about their bodies.

In the couple of years since first reading that, the word “dissonance” has continued to be super relevant to my existence. As time has gone on, through conversations and meeting people and the internet and witnessing the multifariousness of the possibilities of gendered existence in the world, I’ve relaxed some of my harsh demands on my own gendered existence… I’ve allowed myself to be a person who has a complicated gender & complicated body, and I’ve complicated that gender & body for myself further… and come to embrace the ambiguity and positivity that come along with the word “dissonance”.

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It’s more useful for wrapping around my gender or body feelings than the commonly used term “dysphoria” — which is all medicalized, seems decisively negative, and makes you feel like there’s something “wrong” with you. Dissonance is originally a word for talking about sound or music, it’s the opposite of “consonance”, which is “things sounding similar” or “things in harmony” — but neither consonance or dissonance are necessarily good or bad, they’re just descriptions of two states of existing or relating.

Sometimes dissonance can be really incomprehensible, confusing, and make you feel unbalanced & weird, when two notes are not in tune or two frequencies are not quite lining up & there are weird noises that you think you might be imagining…

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BUT when you listen carefully it might also sound pretty awesome and interesting, and more complicated than just some Mozart or whatever, and there’s a lot to hear there that you might not have listened for if everything had been all sounding-good to start with…

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BUT even if you’re making this music yourself, on purpose, cause you like it, it might still be hard or painful to listen to… BUT you feel compelled to make it and/or other music is just boring and/or it’s the only thing you’re interested in and/or you don’t know how to make any other kinds of sounds…

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SO you keep making it even though it feels weird sometimes. Or, all the time. Or rather, it feels TOTALLY WEIRD and TOTALLY AWESOME at the same time, or so closely alternating / simultaneous that you can’t actually tell how you feel about it. Even figuring that out is confusing & takes up a lot of your mental energy, but ultimately it’s worth it cause you don’t really know another way to be… you don’t have a choice. OR maybe you do — the “born that way” doctrine is kind of obnoxious & determinist, after all, and you are indeed making a choice — as this guy has said, your choice is to be here with us.

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So yeah, DISSONANCE. All right.

“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

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How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!

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I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

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The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…

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…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:

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Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:

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2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:

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3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:

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4. …and then fill in the final gap:

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5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:

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Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:

complexity_focus_detail

And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:

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2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):

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3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):

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One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


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Full text of the poster:


so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world


In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?

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rubylith class & cool poster show!

March 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

We just had the third night of the “rubylith & hand made color separations” class that I am teaching at AS220. There are seven people in the class, all of whom are super awesome, dedicated, & interested… and I’m very grateful to & psyched about working with the cool, capable, and crucial TA Ryan Dean, a printmaker & printshop keymember.

Rubylith in progress (from a week ago), cut by Jeremy Ferris:

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This class filled up, and there were more people interested, so I’ll be teaching it again at the end of April & May, on Monday nights — you can sign up here on AS220’s website!

Also, if this particular subject matter isn’t relevant to you, but you need advice / troubleshooting / thoughts on a silkscreen project or technique, it seems like I am doing some “silkscreen consulting” these days, for money and/or for worthwhile trade. Get in touch if that’s something you’re curious about (unlike Dogbert, I will not “con and insult” you!)…

Class color mixing chaos scenario:

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Color experimentation while test-printing this frog print, by Jen Booth:

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Froggy close-up:

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There is some wild color stuff happening in the print above. One color has a swirl of darker ink going through it, while the other one has two different colors on the screen: an effect of switching the color out in the middle of the print run, after flooding the screen partway with the light green ink (the lighter area at the bottom of the image), then scraping that ink off, adding orange-brown ink & flooding the rest of the way. This kind of thing isn’t really replicable in an edition / multiple way… but it’s super beautiful as a monoprint!

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Above, Al demonstrates the lighting that I’ve found useful for rubylith cutting… You want to have a bright, directable light, shining across your work so that your hand isn’t casting a shadow on the part you’re working on, and low enough so that the light will glint in the line you’re cutting in the red plastic and you can see where you’ve cut.

Two different color-test versions of this print in progress, from last week, by John McGarry:

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I’ve been teaching silkscreen since 2005 in various contexts: in a project-based mentoring context to high schoolers at New Urban Arts, individually to friends & colleagues, and in the past three years through classes at the New Orleans Community Printshop, at my house, and now at the AS220 Printshop!

I always learn a ton while teaching & figure out new ways to describe things and talk about these processes to make them legible. It’s fascinating to realize how different people’s minds work through these techniques differently… and it’s always surprising to remember that I have thought so much and figured out so much about the minutiae of silkscreen process over the past 12 (!) years. I still feel like I’m learning & troubleshooting so much… it’s sometimes hard to remember that I actually know some stuff. !

(… and if that seems crazy, it’s always important to remember (as came up recently for me in conversations with Beth Brandon & Meg Turner) that everybody looks complete and “like they totally have their act together”, when looking from the outside… but from the inside, each of us has many doubts & sees our self as incomplete, questing & questioning, a work in progress at best, a totally incoherent disaster-of-a-self at worst…!)

One color printed (the blue), overlaid with one layer of rubylith, by Jen Hall:

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This print will eventually have a *third* layer also, filling in the sky with a rainbow roll gradient… I (obviously) have such a sweet spot for this kind of loose/orderly geometry, cut without a ruler, but along straight lines…

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We have two more classes, one more week — there’s lots of printing (and color mixing) to do still — I’ll post final images next week!


I just shipped a bunch of posters (spanning 11 years!) off to be part of the National Poster Retrospecticus, a touring poster show that will be appearing for **One Night Only** in seven U.S. cities: Burlington, Rochester, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Richmond and Boston. So psyched to be part of this show, curated by JP Boneyard, going to so many places! I’ll post more info on the specific events as I get it…

segments of a bunch of colorful posters


One of our local hardware stores closed recently, which was sad cause they had kept it going for a long while & were central & really convenient, not just to me but I’m sure to many people (and they were in my favorite place in Providence, Olneyville Square). After workers ripped out the actual shelves & display racks, these red chalk drawings of shelves & display racks were revealed, drawn directly on the plaster wall.

red chalk drawings on an interior building wall

I don’t know when the hardware store was first opened, i.e. when these drawings would have been made, but maybe sometime in the 60s? The drawings are super nostalgic & powerful for me. I can see the original hardware store owners standing in the empty space, full of U.S. retail optimism, in what is basically a completely different economic world than we live in today, sketching what they wanted their future store to look like… I can hear the sound of the chalk on the plaster and the tones of their conversation. I don’t really know how to wrap my mind around it… but I wanted to document it… drawing! makes the world real…

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?

studio time

October 5, 2012 at 4:22 am

Radio silence here, due to mostly-quitting facebook (it was sucking all my life, time, & attention away?) and spending a lot of time taking care of long-procrastinated projects around the house & in the studio. Which has mostly meant cleanup & organization, sorting out things, taking action on random un-acted-on things, and building shelves. I probably haven’t talked about how much I like building shelves… more on that sometime soon, along with pictures of the shelves. (“It’s not hoarding if the stuff is on a shelf, right???”)

Now it’s back to art work, somewhat reluctantly. The studio is way way way more organized & more of an actual useful active work space than it’s been since we started renting it (SIX YEARS as of early September ’12!), so now I know how long it takes to have a functional studio space come together, for future reference. I find myself with a physical desire to keep organizing “just a little bit more”, to “really put things into place”, but I’m aware that organizing itself can be a procrastination tactic for me. I want to recognize the substantive value of “setting up” even in the absence of “actually playing” (as evidenced by the hours my childhood best friend Alyssa and I would spend “setting up” the My Little Ponies, in preparation for “playing with them” which never quite actually happened, the “setting up” was engaging enough in itself or maybe was really the whole point…). However, in my semi-grownup or at least no-longer-9-years-old life, I have stuff I want to make and this studio is a functional structure for letting that stuff happen, not an end in itself!

So this is what’s happening right now:

… getting ready to re-print these guys which have been my bread-n-butter in terms of what people want to spend money on around these parts; all five colors of the first printing are now pretty much all gone! Tuesday I got struck down by some sickness (cold & fever?), tried to fight it, Wednesday didn’t get much done besides a long bicycle errand, today gave in & spaced out & made good food & napped all day, taking care of the sickness which was making me immobile & useless… Then mixed some colors tonight, as seen in the photo. I’m trying to get just a couple of the second edition of these Industrial Trust Buildings printed before the RISD street art sale which is happening on Saturday October 6th, very very soon!

Also listening to a live Work/Death set consisting of Scott putting a bunch of random metal items on a crappy old turntable & recording its rotation. Ambient aluminum rustlings. Lovely.

“master printer” / collaboration

July 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I spent the past week or so working with Noel Puello (friend, artist, fashion designer, New Urban Arts alum, and future student at MassArt!) on making a super-epic, four-layer, 12-color collaborative screenprint.

We made this print to fundraise for Noel’s college expenses: zig has a gap of about $8000 to cover for their first year of art school at MassArt. Read more, see more pictures, buy a print ($30-$100+ sliding scale), or donate just a couple of bucks, right here: http://noelpuello.net !!!

This was a whirlwind project:

  • about two weeks ago, we decided together on a size for the poster, based on paper I had around the studio
  • I gave Noel some wet media mylar (transparent plastic that’s been treated to allow it to accept ink & markers) and we talked about different layers & uses of color, looking at examples around the house
  • Noel went to the store & got some black paint markers (the easiest way to create solid black on plastic)
  • Noel flew to DC for a six-day national youth student leader conference and got about four hours of sleep every night and thought about the poster
  • Noel came back to Providence and made most of the transparencies for the print in one day (!)
  • we met up that evening & talked about rubylith and what text should go on the poster, organized the transparencies, talked about colors and added a rubylith “background” layer

  • by the next day, Noel had decided on the text, we finished the first layer transparency, shot the first screen, & mixed ink colors
  • two days later, Noel mixed the colors for the first & second layers, & we printed those layers on about 75 prints, with the help of CJ Jimenez…

  • the next day Noel mixed all the rest of the colors, and we printed the last two layers, including a final layer with glitter, with the help of Anne Reinhardt who also made us all an amazing dinner that we ate after midnight…

  • that was a very late night, but then we were done! BAM!

It was super interesting to work with a less-experienced screenprinter to help them realize their vision, as opposed to creating or setting out my own vision — I was definitely in the realm of “master printer assisting an artist” as opposed to “artist-printmaker” on this one. I also wasn’t in the realm of “teacher”, because I wasn’t “teaching” Noel a process that zig could then reproduce on zig’s own — rather, we had a joint goal: to create something excellent together.

In experiences that I’ve categorized as “teaching”, I’ve often stepped back and stopped myself from imposing my aesthetic opinion on the scenario, to let the learner follow a course I might not agree with. In this case, I was happy to have the occasional possibility to step in and offer a thought or opinion that I might shy away from talking about with someone who didn’t feel like as much of a creative peer as Noel does.

I was so psyched to work with a friend who was excited about learning and open to my ideas, but confident in the validity of their own vision & aesthetic sense as well. Noel & I were working together to do what was needed to make a beautiful and meaningful object. It’s been really fascinating to make something that looks nothing like anything I would have come up with out of my own imagination — but to still be extremely proud of what we made, and to feel a strong sense of my own artistic identity with it……

You think you’re a grownup & have felt or thought all there is to think & feel, but then there are these new complexities of feeling & understanding that come up, all the time, and demand to be paid attention to & not get generalized into prior experiences. !!!!


Buio stole my leopard-print bandana that I made (by ripping up a pair of pants I found in the trash) for the Feral Summer queer dance party last Friday!

but you just can’t be mad at a person-face cat.

thresholding

July 2, 2012 at 3:38 am

When you feel really like things are going to come apart into pieces, not in an epic explosive way but just in the way where you are not sure if you actually exist or why you are existing or what ground you are standing on at the moment (this could be a good or bad feeling, or in between), you do what is known as thresholding.

This is where you are feeling thresholdy (the feeling loosely noted above) and you go to a place that is a threshold in some way or another, some kind of amorphous/undefined/ambiguous area, a place in transition, a place with no boundary, a place that won’t be there tomorrow. The margins, the passageway between places, the bulldozed earth. GO BY YOURSELF. And then just spend some time there and walk where you feel like within/around that place. Maybe take a camera or drawing stuff because words are generally useless on the threshold, maybe take some food if you think to grab it on your way outta the house, but usually you are leaving the house (or wherever you are) in a rush because you are feeling fucking THRESHOLDY and in your room or trying to talk to your lovely housemate or in a public sociable space is NO PLACE TO BE when you need to be THRESHOLDING.

(Does it have to be said that a car can’t take you to the threshold? Get out & walk to find it, ride your bike but get off when you get there, you need to be moving slowly & feeling your feet on the ground.)

Do that for a while, look at everything, touch things, sit down, lie down, pick up things & put them back or put them in your pocket or put them where they should be. Watch the angles & proportions of the space change as you walk through it. Do something that is scary, climb up a thing, take off your shirt in the sunlight, test the rotted floor, be alone for a little bit longer. When you are done you are done, go back to where people are, or to the coffee shop, get warm, write in your notebook.

Nothing will be solved by doing this. But you do it anyway. Thresholding isn’t supposed to offer you anything, all it can do is echo your own internal threshold but be bigger than you at the same time, hold you within it… something like that… can’t analyze it too much, it’s a threshold…

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.

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

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…

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