Work in progress, and studio visits for MAC

I had a slow February in the studio, which I think was partly a wind down from getting the show at Robert Henry Contemporary together.

I'm working on this piece again after noodling on some smaller stuff - I changed to a horizontal format and I think it's really close.  Maybe another week.

WIP 30" x 44" 

WIP 30" x 44" 


Meanwhile Andi and I have been doing studio visits for the next show at MAC, which will be Anne Canfield and Gary Petersen.  Great painters both.   I also got in a studio visit with Jennifer Williams who will be showing with us in June.  I'm into these shots of artists in their studios and am going to start doing them pretty consistently.


Anne Canfield in her studio. 

Anne Canfield in her studio. 

Gary Petersen in his studio. 

Gary Petersen in his studio. 

Jennifer Williams in her studio. 

Jennifer Williams in her studio. 

3D Printed Edition complete

I've gotten back my prints from, and the quality's pretty good.  Can't speak to archival quality of the plastic, but at a $100 price tag I think this is something we'll just have to put out there as part of the price point.  I could print them in steel/bronze but they'd obviously be more expensive.

These will be sold through Robert Henry Contemporary as part of their Artifacts program.  It's an edition of 30 with 3 artist's proofs.


They're not signed yet but the signature and edition sequence will go on the underside, in the thickest part of the model where the ink won't show through.

They're not signed yet but the signature and edition sequence will go on the underside, in the thickest part of the model where the ink won't show through.

Colin Keefe: Methods for Breeding Urban Systems

January 8 through February 21, 2016

Robert Henry Contemporary

56 Bogart St. Brooklyn, NY 11206 (718) 473-0819 | Gallery Hours: Thu - Sun 1-6pm

Opening reception: January 8, 2016, 6-9pm


Colin Keefe
Strata, 2014
Ink on Paper
30" x 44" (76.2cm x 1.1m)
©2015 Colin Keefe/Robert Henry Contemporary

In Methods for Breeding Urban Systems, his second exhibition with the gallery, Colin Keefe draws, in ink on paper, meticulously crafted plan and perspectival views of fictitious built environments constructed with design principles gathered from diverse sources such as the reproductive processes found in microbiology and astronomy, urban planning and architectural theory.

Although sometimes he begins each drawing with a set of parameters that detail a process of development, his obsessive depictions of layered metaphorical urban growths usually begin at random. Keefe says, “I may have something in mind for a particular drawing, a set of challenges or obstacles that I plan to introduce into the drawing that I then have to respond to, but in general the way the drawing progresses is incremental and organic…one mark acts as a biological progenitor for the next.” Each "seed", a city block, begins to interact with its environment and as the drawing "grows", clusters of city blocks build larger neighborhoods randomly, oozing here or spurting there.

In the same way that a gathering of ants acting autonomously create a colony, each line in the drawing creates shapes and patterns that in turn act visually on its neighbors and collectively constitutes the visual experience of the drawing. This bottom-up aggregation and interaction of parts is a metaphor for the self-organizing principles found in nature and provide Keefe a method to create the drawing.

Using a biological interpretation of a city's evolution as metaphor, each drawing resembles a microscope slide teaming with life. A natural selection for architecture reminiscent of biogenesis, the ancient Greek idea that living things could spontaneously come into being from nonliving matter, Keefe's complex adaptive drawings display emergent behaviors and are a visual exploration of theories of self-organization, emergence and complexity.

The Beginning of Everything

This drawing took about 80 hours of concerted effort.  It's 42" x 90".  It'll be shown at Robert Henry Contemporary January 8, along with a half-dozen smaller (30" x 44") works and the Artifact multiples I've been posting about.

I'm pretty excited about this show; it's been four years since I last showed in NYC and I think in the interim I've gone further down the rabbit hole of what this work is about really - a conflation of urban planning, microbiology and cosmology that I could talk about for hours...but when I'm drawing, it just kind of happens.

Manny stole my Sol LeWitt

Someone emailed me the other night, doing research on all of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawings. Apparently LeWitt kept track of all of the "first drafters" of each of his pieces, and I did an install of one of his shows at Ace Gallery in 1997.

Anyway, brought back memories of schlepping down to Washington Street (I think?) on spring mornings, crappy coffee in a Celadon blue Greek printed paper cup, to work on a drawing that now I only vaguely remember as being "wavy and long".  I think it's this one (below). I had a crush on one of the gallerists too, which I think was pretty standard fare for single 20-somethings.

Sol used to give out prints of his work to the artists who worked on his drawings. His studio mailed mine to 57 Hope Street in Williamsburg where I lived, but I never received it. I always assumed Manny, the gun-toting, porn-wallpapered-basement-office superintendent of the building who used to scream at the Chinese factory workers across the street, and who we paid to get our mail, and who we had to bribe to run the elevator, threw it in the trash.

Oh well.

Final 3D model sent off to printer

I took a few day's break from the studio after getting the big drawing done, but finishing the Artifact for the show at Robert Henry Contemporary was still a worry.

So I sat down yesterday and worked out all of the technical problems I was having.  I also figured out a way to mask a drawing into a hex before converting to SVG, so when I got the SVG file into Blender I didn't have to learn some stupidly obscure way to do it.

This was a product of a lot of dumb hacking and old school drawing.  I've ordered 10 from in polished plastic, and I'll see what the physical product is like shortly before Christmas.  They'll be part of a limited edition of 30, priced at $100.

More 3D Model Progress

So I worked up another prototype and sent this off to the printer, specifying a few different materials (frosted acrylic, stainless steel), and should get test product back in a week or so.

Top two images are in Blender, last image is from order screen in  The test object will be about 1 3/4" across.

3D Printing prototype

I got back my first prototype from today.  The plastic is light and has a powdery feel. 

I have to wrap my head around what something looks like in modeling software versus the physical object; this came out with a much more subtle bas relief than I was expecting. 

Next step is to work on a new model, playing around with maps extruded onto spheres - city worlds - and organic buildings. 


Return to sculpture (by way of 3D printing)

It's been more than a decade since I made sculpture.  The last big piece I did was The Shape of the Universe, which was a 7' wide donut shaped city.  


Making that required building a plaster form, making a latex mold and mother mold, then laying up fiberglass to make eight segments, then splicing them together, etc. etc.

Fabricating sculpture requires time, space and money, sometimes lots of each.  My studio space is pretty compact right now.  We actually have a fairly large studio building - the carriage house behind our row home - but we use the ground floor to run Mount Airy Contemporary, so to really set up shop for making sculpture again would probably involve shutting down MAC and taking over that space.

So anyway...I have a solo show coming up in January at Robert Henry Contemporary in NYC, and the gallery asks artists to make Artifacts alongside the main exhibition content.  I don't want to just do a print, so I decided to explore doing something with 3D printing.

Now, bear in mind: my day job is in computers (I work at IT Solutions Consulting as a project manager and one time application developer), but when in the studio I've always kept it old-school.  Traditional fabrication techniques, hand holding pen on paper.  Drafting tables with Maylines instead of CAD, when I was doing that sort of work.  My dad was an architect so I grew up around that stuff and associate making with tactility and physical manipulation.  Making is something the body does as much as the brain.

As a result I've never really picked up digital fabrication skills.  I barely know how to use Photoshop, couldn't fight my way out of a Sketchup box. 

So: 3D printing is going to be a challenge for me.  

The required output is modest - it just needs to be a small sculptural object in an edition of 30.

Each piece will sell for $100, so factoring in gallery commission, the fabrication costs need to be under $50 to not lose money.  Ideally fabrication cost will be under $10.

I decided that I needed to learn about the process at the same time as learning the tools, so I'm taking two paths here:

The first is to iterate through some very simple prototypes using

The second is to learn how to use Blender and SketchUp.

For Shapeways, I took advantage of their 2D to 3D tool, which just extrudes an image into three dimensions based on greyscale values - where darker=taller.  Here's the drawing I worked with, the inverted image I used in the tool, and the initial result as a 3D model, ordered through Shapeways.  I didn't bother cleaning any of the image up - my goal was quick and dirty to get a physical object in my hands so I can review it, play with it, think about it.

The Artifact is unlikely to be a flat extrusion, though.  I'm going to be playing with remapping these things onto geometric shapes, tugging and distending primitives.  I'm going to build some of these architectural structures from scratch too, and see how that goes.

This will never be something scaleable to large sculpture, obviously - these things get printed on trays that have maximum dimensions and are priced by amount of material used.  But it looks like a fun prototyping tool for someone who still depends on physical objects for it to "mean something".

The second path: learning 3D modeling tools!

Work in Progress

Working on 90" long drawing for a show at Robert Henry Contemporary in January.  This is probably 1/3 done...and is an elaboration of Heliotrope, a smaller piece I made a year or so back.

Photos with iPhone; I don't get fussy with WIP documentation. 


Solo show in January...

The folks at Robert Henry Contemporary and I have been talking about a show in January.  No official announcement yet, but I'm working on a much larger piece for that show (42" x 90").  I haven't worked on that scale since 2007, so this is going to be fun (and a lot of work)!  Will post in-progress pictures in a few weeks.

New work

Just an update on some new work in the past year...

On Business Cards and identity

I had my first set of business cards printed by an old print shop near Canal Street in Manhattan.  It was 1994, and I'd looked the place up in the Yellow Pages shortly after arriving in New York.  The interior smelled of printing ink and oil, and I picked my card design from a rack of maybe twenty designs, classified by profession (like "Accountant" or "Dentist").  I picked the Dentist design, and a few weeks later I went back down to pick up a box of 500 cards with just my name and the phone number I shared with four other people.

Today the experience of purchasing business cards is a little different.  You go to, and something like 45 seconds later the Postal Service hands you a box of fresh-off-the-press cards that 20 years ago would have come out of an ad agency.  Branding isn't just for manufacturers and retail franchises any more - we all seem to be in the business of self-promotion.  I sometimes wonder if, culturally speaking, we've substituted finding a purpose with defining a brand.

All of which is to say, I ordered new business cards for POST.  My first time shopping on moo and I recommend it.