Three events are happening alongside my forthcoming exhibition at the Workers Gallery:
- I’ll be talking about comics and protest, no doubt looping in Draw the Line, my Protest book, and some of the many other brilliant artists doing protest comics;
- I’ll be collecting local people’s stories and photos of times they protested, and turning them into a comic;
- And I’ll be running a couple of zine-making workshops.
I thought I’d better put in a bit of practice for the last of those, as it’s a long time since I’ve made anything that can accurately be described as a zine. By their very nature zines are meant to be quick, immediate and more about the message than the aesthetic.
I’ve been looking to Rachael House and Sarah Mirk‘s zines, and also had a very good and timely DM exchange with @bethmadethis when I saw she’d also just been running zine workshops.
I’ve now made three little practice zines, two on A4 paper, which end up being really teeny tiny A7 size; and one starting with A3, which comes out as A6.
(Short digression: the really small ones took me right back to my childhood, reminding me of some tiny treasured storybooks my mum and her schoolmates made back in her childhood in the ’40s. She kept them in a shallow box, of the type you might get a shirt packaged in, and only let me handle them under strict parental supervision – and rightly so, they were exquisite and would have been easily damaged by grubby mitts.
She told me back then that they ran a little lending library from their school desks. I recall being enchanted at this idea – it might even have been one of the ingredients that got me so hooked on comics making? – and also being very impressed with the drawings which, to my young eye, looked extremely professional. I’ll have to ask if I can see them again next time I visit, and see whether the drawings still look so polished now I’m an adult.)
For all I understand the zine/punk aesthetic, I have to put my hands up and admit that I found it very hard to resist polishing even my trial runs up a bit: basically, habits are hard to break.
I drew them in pencil, then inked, then scanned in and added fake-o letratone. I also used my knowledge of image editing programmes to move each page around a bit so it was central when printed – mostly things that aren’t necessarily available to the complete newbie. So I probably ought to at least try making one without any of this, since I’ll be asking people to do the same!
But anyway, I now have a few examples that I can take to Wales with me, and I might also print out a few to take to comic and zine festivals. It’ll be nice to have something that I can sell for a few pence, for people who don’t necessarily want to shell out for a whole book.
Also, a short note about my ‘car culture sucks’ zine: I’ve always disliked the way cars have taken over our cities and make life difficult for pedestrians and cyclists, not to mention the way they pollute the air, and their carbon emissions contribute to the climate crisis.
However, while you can get the basics across in an 8-page zine, there’s not much space for detail or nuance (I guess, look to Woodrow Phoenix’s Crash Course for that), and even at the time of producing it I thought ‘well, I’m just trying things out, it doesn’t have to be wonderful’.
This week, I got the news that my best friend from university days was run over and has lost the use of her legs. All she was doing was walking to her local corner shop. My zine feels all the less adequate now (and I’m all the more infuriated and disgusted by car culture).
Another friend posted “Hopefully one day people will stop shrugging their shoulders about car ‘accidents’ – 1,800 people are killed on the roads each year – amazing that this is acceptable and more people aren’t angry about it”, and I couldn’t agree more.
Anyway. If this, or anything else, gives you the impetus to make zines, here, have my worksheets. Feel free to copy these and use them in any non-commercial way you see fit.
Onto cheerier things. This year I will be selling comics at the Lakes Festival again. I’ll be sharing not just with my usual tablemate Zara Slattery, but with a whole bunch of Brighton artists. Yes, we’ve gotten organised. We’re a collective now.
If you’re a comics artist, I can’t recommend this enough: the power of a group is so much more than the sum of its parts. Not least, someone else to look after the table while I go and see the talks I want to!
It’s at a brand new location this year, which should be interesting, and will enable me to actually see a lake when travelling up to the Lake District, something that’s not been a given in previous years.
We’ve got our own website – seemed sensible now that we’re applying for stuff . Perhaps you’d like to follow the blog there as well? It won’t be updated as often as my own, but hey, what is there to lose?