Vertical Spectrum on the Letterpress, with String

Metashapes, Printmaking

Here’s a new Vertical Spectrum print, done on the Vandercook No. 4 at the Bow and Arrow Press today.


New Layered Spectrum I is a concept print, done in several passes using PANTONE Warm Gray 7, which is somewhat transparent so the depth of the color builds up over time. What’s new about this spectrum, is that I’m doing it with string.


I cut a 7″ x 4″ block out of 0.75″ wood, and put little strips of Masonite on the underside of the outside edges, so it would sit on the pressbed with a gap underneath. The Masonite also elevates the block to about 0.9″, which is very close to type height. I then wrap the wood block with string, using various layers to build up a multilevel surface that tends toward vertical but can vary to about 60 degrees. Since the string extends the surface above type height, but is compressable, it makes a very nice impression on the paper. Making multiple print passes with different wrappings builds up a layered composition on the print of lines of various orientations. What’s nice is that the fibers of the string actually make separate impressions, so each vertical line is also striped. Various tangles and knots also modulate the lines, so it’s not as geometric as could be.


I had the idea a couple weeks ago, and built a 7″ x 4″ block and a 8″ x 5″ block to play around with, but didn’t have time to actually wrap string and print until today. I plan to use more colors, use different sizes of string, and even use wires as a different vertical texture.

Cell Tower Portrait… 7 Years Later

Infrastructure, Metashapes

Back in 2006/2007 I did a series of prints based on cell towers that looked pleasing to me–usually with a triskelion arrangement, not a triangle of girders, which for some had a lyrical quality, kind of like a tree. One of the best ones was this particular tower, photographed in 2006, called “Cell Tower 05” because it was the fifth tower I cut from copper and printed. I later converted the digital photograph into an Illustrator drawing, in case I wanted to have it cut from plastic or metal in a size larger than I could do by hand:


Well, recently I got a current photo of the same tower, and re-created the artwork to reflect changes to the tower. Here is the new silhouette:


If you’re in Austin, and are curious to see the original, it’s right here (click to embiggen):



A Couple More Letterpress Block Prints

Metashapes, Printmaking

Here are a couple more letterpress pieces from the Bow and Arrow Press. These were done with the same block; one was printed in an ink mixed from graphite powder and Van Son Transparent White, the other was printed by using PANTONE Yellow and PANTONE 7459 and flipping the block after the color change.

Graphite-Spectrum Dual-Reverse-Spectrum

Smeared Turbine Videos

Metashapes, Wind Turbines

One of the main reasons I started doing my turbine studies is because I was fascinated with the interplay of light as the blades moved through their rotary space. Of course, the videos I’ve already presented haven’t really addressed that portion of my interest, because other interesting things got in the way. However, I started playing with some of my older footage yesterday, and came up with this:

This is a video of the the Vestas 660 turbine at the end of Hull, MA, cropped so that the blades are prominent, then smeared across the viewing area so the colors, hues, lights and darks become the only content visible. The rotating motion has become a reciprocal motion, and there is no longer a “wind turbine” signifier to confuse the concept. The video zooms in on the center nacelle, and then back out, so there is a dynamic to the values besides just the blade motion.

Other, similar videos are available in the Vimeo album here.

Patterns in the DTMF Number Pad

Data Representation, Metashapes

Today I am continuing on my interest in the tones used by wired telephony and the patterns made by same. I’ve managed to turn the tones used in the DTMF numberpad into visual representations and have started playing with the interactions between them.

Some background: when you hear a “TouchTone™” sound, you’re hearing two set frequencies played together that lets the switching equipment know what number you have selected. There is a 4×4 grid of these frequencies that creates a unique identifier for all the numbers on the telephone dialing buttons, as well as the star and pound keys. These frequencies were selected so that there are no easy multiples or common denominators between them, and so there is a definite gap between the highest of the low frequencies and the lowest of the high frequencies. Also, there are four extra “numbers” that are not used by consumers, which in some applications would allow the caller to select a call priority level (mostly used by the military) or activate special actions in the phone switch (used by telephone linemen). All of these numbers are arranged like this, with the lowest frequencies in the upper left and the highest frequencies in the lower right:

1 2 3 A
4 5 6 B
7 8 9 C
* 0 # D

(Of course, all this is quite wonky and is basically just part of my process for creating the following patterns. Please enjoy these as visual creations, and ignore the preceding telephonic geekery if you wish!)

First one is a simple interaction of grayscale lines with 50% transparency:

The second is the simple interaction between blue and yellow lines, also with 50% transparency:

More should be coming soon!

DTMF Made Visible

Data Representation, Metashapes

Another bit of noodling I did over the past few days, I’m playing with the frequency mapping of the DTMF (or TouchTone™) sounds used in telephony. These tones are becoming less and less prevalent as mobile phones replace land lines, so this is something of a latter-day portrait of a mature technology. The colors are okay, but I’ll probably play with them some more. Pictured here are the ringback tone, dial tone, and busy signal. I’ll do the numberpad presently.

Longo Zenith


I remembered these last night, and decided I would post them as a gallery. These are pictures of people staring down at my camera from above, which splays their hair out in interesting and flowing shapes. I used Illustrator to vectorize the silhouettes so they would become crisp and I could isolate and interpret the interplay of individual strands of hair. I rotated them so they emerge from the top of the frame rather than the bottom so that it is harder to read them as human heads, which helps focus your attention on the shapes and forms. The white sun-circle on the gray background provides a very simple spatial cue and locates the “zenith” of the title.

The name of the series is an homage to Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities images. My process is markedly different, but both series are stylizing the human form into a graphic shape using photography and unusual poses.

Roadbed Palimpsests

Infrastructure, Metashapes

I’ve been interested in the tar marks the city crews make on the cracks in asphalt roadbeds when they repair them, there’s a nice script-like gesture to the best of them. I’ve done some recording of the shapes and lines using multiple digital photos to create hi-res montages of shapes I’ve found in parking lots and city streets. While I was in Austin I did some waaaaay low-budget photo montaging with a digital camera that could only record 15 seconds of video, pointing it down from my driver’s-side window as I went down the road. I then stitched the video frames together to make a “manuscript” of the scribblings. Here’s an example of such:

All this was fine, and I had some of the more photographic montages in a show, but about a week ago I had an interesting idea: why take it a little further than just recording these, and actually create a collaborative art piece out of these marks? Thus, my roadbed palimpsests, a collaboration between myself and the Cambridge Public Works Department:

Ultramarine 01 • acrylic and tar on asphalt • 2011

Phthalocyanine Blue 01 • acrylic and tar on asphalt • 2011

Permanent Light Green 01 • acrylic and tar on asphalt • 2011

Permanent Light Green 02 • acrylic and tar on asphalt • 2011

These pieces can be seen on Russell, Milton and Chester Streets in Cambridge, MA, just off of Massachusetts Avenue.