Where Zines Happen: Jen Oaks

You’ve seen the work of Jen Oaks before: perhaps at Oakland’s First Friday, Little Otsu in SF, or hanging in a local gallery. I bet at one point or another you’ve coveted those Twin Peaks pins she sells like hotcakes or picked up one of her adorable cards for a terrier-obsessed friend. It is entirely possible that you read about Jen in the SF Weekly. Whatever the case, she is a powerhouse of awesome. 

So how does she do it? Where does she create her oh-so-colorful prints, the comic zines, those hilarious pup cards? Is her workspace filled with brightly colored 1950’s ads and stacks of books? Does she have a favorite colored pencil? Use a typewriter? I had to know more. I was determined. My curiosity was rewarded when Jen graciously took the time to answer a couple of questions. (spoiler: bright colors = yes, typewriter = no)

For the type of work that you create, what sorts of things inspire you, visually speaking? Do you have a favorite genre or artistic time period? 

I look at a lot of graphic and/or decorative work. Some of my (many, many) favorites are Mucha, Meg Hunt, Kevin Wada, Coop, Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, and John Baizley. I like illustration that leans toward the fantastical, especially. I aspire to be looser and less literal with my work. Buildings are also a huge source of inspiration to me. Old buildings with style and character thrill me to no end. I love drawing them and imagining their stories. Preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods is so important.

Which do you prefer in your workspace: peace and quiet, or lots of excitement? How does this affect your workflow?

I've had a few studios where I was the only person to ever show up. I was crammed in there with everyone's stuff, alone and sad and getting nothing done. So I definitely need people around. Otherwise, why not save my BART fare and just stay home in my pajamas? I'm lucky to finally have a studio with two fellow illustrators. I'd been waiting so long! When we're all three there and we're all working, there's a great atmosphere of progress and creativity. We support, critique, and inspire each other, and now that I know what it's like to have that, I never want to be without it. 

What do you like about your workspace? Dislike? What would your "ideal space" look like? 

We split kind of a lofty space in a warehouse at 2nd and Bryant. I like that there's plenty of room to breathe, and there are skylights and some food/coffee nearby if you remember to go before 5pm. There are lots of other artists around, but nobody's loud or up in my business. My dislikes have to do with typical SOMA warehouse conditions: it’s freezing in winter, roasting in summer, and there’s SOMA traffic and Giants traffic during baseball season. It's a circular building with the Bay Bridge onramp wrapped around it, but there is no crosswalk! Also, I don't feel terribly safe being there after dark, as the building is not the most secure. But hey, I’m lucky to have it. 

I've kind of grown out of my "beautiful studio" fantasies. I have four walls with pretty things tacked up and that's all I need now. At the end of the year, the building owner will be renovating to house tech offices and all the artists here will have to find new spaces. My studio mates and I are hoping to find a similarly-priced space closer to Market (what a dream!). And dang, a window would be really, really, really nice. 

Jen Oaks is an illustrator in Berkeley, California. She enjoys drawing hot girls, sloths, and strangers. Find more of her work at jenoaks.com. You can check out her work in person at this year's SF Zine Fest.

So You Want to Make a Zine (part 1)

This was supposed to be a single blog, but when Jennie and I got together to write it, we had too many ideas to fit into a single entry.  We got carried away with different ways of making zines, styles, etc., so we decided to break this up into a few parts. 
We start with inspiration.

Even if you don’t write personal stories, specifically about yourself, every artist draws from life.  Expose yourself to the world around you, and sharpen your senses by paying close attention to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel every day.  What’s calling your attention?  I always carry a journal with me, so I write down random thoughts and observations.  I like to eavesdrop and script people’s conversations when I’m on the bus or sitting at a café.  Other people take snapshots with their phones, or sketch out images they like throughout the day.  As long as you’re documenting the stuff that jumps out at you in some way, you’ll see a pattern.  What you notice is usually in sync with what’s going on in your head. 

It also helps to revisit your favorite artists, books, magazines, and music to feel excited again.  In the same way, these artists help you remember the things that are meaningful to you.  Personally, I find it helpful to keep my influences physically close to me.  My bookshelf has a special “go to” section that stores all of my favorite writers.  Whenever I’m out of ideas, I always read some of the books on this shelf and often they help me find the words/images I need to get started. 

How do you get started?  Jennie came up with these brainstorming exercises:

1)..   Mind map everything you’re thinking about.  Write down the first 20 words that come to mind. 

2).    Write down snippets of conversations you overhear throughout the day.

3).    Take 10 minutes to take snapshots or sketch out all of the random visuals that catch your eye.

4).    For the next 24 hours (nonconsecutive), make a drawing/write a phrase for every hour.  At the end of those 24 hours, take your 3 favorite drawings/phrases and base your zine on those 3 hours.   

Now that you have something to build on, there are decisions to make.  Here are some key things to consider, before getting started:

1).    Zine / paper size
2).    Number of pages
3).    Style

Make a zine mock-up (or dummy).  Fill up the pages with content, get the words and pictures out onto the pages, and the dummy will help you find the layout or design for your zine. 

This is how a zine is born.  You must have writings and visuals, you must establish a size and page count, and after you’re done with your dummy, you print, staple and collate. 

In our next entry of “So You Want To Make a Zine” we will go over the materials you’ll need to put this all together.  In the meantime, keep working on those brilliant ideas.  Flow is what’s important!  

My Top Zine Spots

Zines are a truly unique artform in and of themselves, and if you're reading this, chances are you're of a similar opinion. But unlike most literary mediums, zines are not massly distributed and can be hard to come by, which means if you want to find new titles you'll need to get a little creative in your search.  

I’ve stumbled upon my favorite zines by accident, but when I find spots I like, I always go back to them.  Here are a few suggestions for places you're most likely to find some good reads. 
  • Comic book stores with an indie flare: Comic Book stores all have their own personality.  Sometimes they gravitate more towards a Marvel / DC audience, but every now and then, you’ll run into one that supports a lot of local (indie) artists.  These shops usually have a section dedicated to zines.  A lot of them are by self-published cartoonists, so the zines at these Comic Book shops tend to be more visually driven, and are fully crafted – from cover to cover, and everything in between – with a lot of love. 
  • Independent record shops: I bought my first zine at a record shop.  I was browsing through the counter, waiting in line, with a CD in hand, and this little book grabbed my attention.  It had “COMETBUS” written in big, white letters across a neatly sketched, dark background.  I read through it and fell in love.  There were a few other zines around it, some flashier than others, but all beautiful in their own way.  Though there wasn't a big variety, I enjoyed seeing the theme of music weaved throughout these zines in a mixture of band interviews, comic strips, stories, and personal letters.  The record shop, itself, had published their music reviews and staff picks as a zine.  Overall, the zines I find in record shops are versatile and accessible.    
  • Local / used book stores: My favorite book store keeps zines next to the major magazines, but sometimes you’ll find some by the Music section or next to the Graphic Novels, depending on the content.  The ones on the magazine shelf tend to be ongoing, by people in other parts of the country who have a strong following.  This area is always neat, because you get to see what non-locals are creating.  They usually also keep a box of more random zines on the bottom shelf.  It’s like a mystery box, and I love not knowing what to expect from it.  What I find always turns out to be a nice surprise.  The last time I looked through, I found one of my favorite comic books, autographed! 
  • Specialized zine shops: These are few and rare, however, they do exist.  If they are not “specialized” zine shops, they will be crafty, DIY boutiques, where people who make their own stuff (like jewelry, clothes, cards, etc) distribute their work.  The coolest thing about these shops is that when they sell books/ magazines/ zines, they have a wide variety and an awesome selection of local and nonlocal work, all with an alternative spin.  
My favorite spot, though, is Goteblud.  It’s this small office that is only opened on the weekends, and people often miss it, so it feels like I’m about to find a long, lost treasure whenever I’m there.  

Goteblud is more of a zine archive.  It’s also library as well as a store.  Though not everything is for sale, you get to read the owner, Matt Wobensmith’s, collection of zines, some dating back to the 80s.  You can sort through, not just timeless fanzines from the start of the Punk era, but classic flyers, art, and comics.  Visiting Goteblud is like traveling back in time, and learning about the past generations of people who communicated with each other through the things they created.  I love revisiting this history.  It’s inspiring to read a dialogue between artists who created a community with social media or the internet.  Plus, Matt is like that brilliant guy at the old video/ record store, who is passionate about what he does, knows the ins and outs of everything he has and can honestly answer all of your questions. 

Zine Spotlight: Wuvable Oaf

Ed Luce, creator of the popular zine-style comic, Wuvable Oaf, "adapted [his] technical skills as a painter into a more sequential narrative structure and began hand-making zines." He began Wuvable Oaf 4 years ago and today has approximately a dozen comics, which have inspired vinyl 7" singles, scratch n' sniff cards that capture the odors of the characters, Oafberry flavored lollipops, and even underwear that the Oaf wears for those that want to "slip into his clothes." I caught up with Ed Luce to discuss how the Wuvable Oaf zine and brand came about, how the zine has fulfilled him artistically, and discovered what he and his team have in store for the rest of the year.

How did you get into independent publishing, art and the like?

I was a painter for years but when I moved to San Francisco, my studio space was too small for that type of work.  At the time, I was already using a lot of cartoon imagery in my paintings, so comics seemed a very natural medium to evolve into.

A few good friends urged me to turn one of my drawings, a paper doll design for this character "Wuvable Oaf", into a comic.  From there, I adapted my technical skills as a painter into a more sequential narrative structure  and began hand-making zines.  Nearly four years and a dozen plus comics later, I've never felt more artistically fulfilled than I have self-publishing comics.  It just comes pouring out of me.

How would you describe what you do and the work that you produce?

Wuvable Oaf, while primarily comics based, is really a larger art project.  There's a story I'm telling with the familiar format and visual language of comics but I've always liked the idea of creating these artifacts from a fictional cartoon universe.  I think that's a hold-over from my days as a studio artist and the kind of mixed media work I made.  So I'm always dreaming up ways to push my characters beyond a purely visual realm.  The comic has inspired music in the form of vinyl 7" singles (written by members of Limp Wrist and Needles), scratch n' sniff cards that capture some of the characters' personal odors, even Oafberry flavored lollipops.  This past winter, we made replica underwear like the type Oaf wears, so you had the opportunity to slip into his clothes.  And now, with the Oaf doll, you can even hug a miniature version of him.   

What are you trying to communicate through your zines, art, website and other designs?

I think the central theme of Wuvable Oaf involves masculinity and the many strange ways it manifests within our culture.  It's from a gay perspective but doesn't seek to exclusively speak to a single audience; I try to structure the stories and dialogue in such a way that anyone can enjoy them, regardless of gender or sexuality.  As the series progresses, I feel I'm really starting to comment more on the fluidity of masculinity; how the lines between hetero and homo blur.  That's where all the interesting stuff takes place...particularly in regard to familiar pop cultural phenomenon like professional wrestling, heavy metal music and fashion.

What does your work consist of?

The comic book itself is really two series that intertwine.  The main book is sequentially numbered and features a multi-part storyline about the titular character, Oaf, looking for love in San Francisco.  I also release one-shot minis that shine a spotlight on some of the extended cast members, including the disco grindcore band Ejaculoid.  These come out more frequently (two to three times a year) and are printed in my apartment then handmade, zine-style.

What are your current projects, past and upcoming events?

I'm currently in the middle of a mini signing tour for Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1, the sequel mini-series to Igloo Tornado's wildly popular Henry & Glenn Forever (available at cantankeroustitles.com).  I have a story in that new book, about Henry and Glenn in couple's therapy.  Tom Neely and Benjamin Marra each do what they do best with the characters and concept in that issue too.

Leading up to SF Zinefest, I'll be at Comic-Con in San Diego this July (with Prism Comics), releasing a new mini and taking part in Justin Hall's Fantagraphics/No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics panel.  And right after Zinefest, the Oaf crew will be taking off to exhibit at the Tokyo Art Book Fair!  It'll be our first trip to Japan.

What is your favorite thing about the SF Zine Fest?

The crowd is very different from most other events I go to.  Since it's near Golden Gate Park, there's a lot of casual foot traffic and they always seem to be genuinely interested and excited by what they see at the booths.

By the same token, there are quite a few exhibitors at Zinefest that I don't see anywhere else, so it's fun discovering new work by a different group of people. 

Wuvable Oaf can be found at:

Where Zines Happen: Marcos Soriano

At SFZF 2011, I picked up issues #1 and 2 of Marcos Soriano’s Map of Fog; it immediately made my “faves of the fest” list. Here was a zinester writing about the San Francisco I experienced every day, in all of its entertaining and unapologetic ways. The zine reminded me that this city still had nooks and crannies to explore, every neighborhood held secrets.

Wanting to know more about Map of Fog, I got in touch with Marcos and asked him to discuss his creative process, as well as the space he works in. Fascinated by artists’ spaces, I couldn’t help but wonder how Marco’s studio affects the way he works and writes. Graciously, he showed me both the space where he writes, as well how he approaches a new issue of Map of Fog.

For the type of work that you create, what sorts of things inspire you, visually speaking? Do you have a favorite genre or artistic time period?

Map of Fog is a zine about San Francisco. Photos of the city are a crucial part of the zine; my girlfriend Tara Donohoe is the photographer. I think she’s got a pretty classic approach to composition—she often frames shots with a strong sense of line and movement—and I’m guessing that her eye is influenced by the art history she studied in school.

Which do you prefer in your workspace: peace and quiet, or lots of excitement? Does this affect your workflow?

I’m easily distracted, so I prefer a workspace with peace and quiet.  If I’m trying to work in an environment that has a lot of peripheral action, it takes me forever to get anything done.  I end up losing my train of thought and getting drawn into whatever’s going on around me, so I seek out workplaces that offer minimal distraction.  If someone’s having a conversation nearby, I can’t stop myself from eavesdropping!

What do you like about your workspace? Dislike? What would your "ideal space" look like?

A certain amount of the work for every issue of Map of Fog has been carried out at the writing desk in my apartment. When I’m alone in the apartment, it’s a nice, quiet place to work, relatively free of distractions.  The desk is up against a window to the backyard of the building I live in; there are birds that fly into the yard to dig for worms or seeds, and they offer a bit of relief from the work without being so interesting as to distract me entirely.  I can watch them for a few minutes while I turn a sentence over in my mind, and then get back to writing.

If I have a complaint about my workspace, it’s that it can be a bit too quiet at times, to the point of feeling isolated.  I find myself wondering what’s going on in the world outside.  I start to worry that interesting things are happening out there, and I’m missing out.

An ‘ideal space’ for me would offer a sense of camaraderie without distraction.  The library fits that description, and I do a good amount of writing there too.  But you’re not supposed to drink beer at the library, and you can’t leave your computer behind while you go to use the bathroom, either, so the library has its drawbacks too.

Marcos Soriano is the author of the critically acclaimed zine Map of Fog, which explores the city of San Francisco through a series of first-person accounts. He is a fiction writer and poet whose work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Quick Fiction, Fogged Clarity, Word Riot. In March of 2012 his third issue of Map of Fog was chosen as a “Top 10 Zine” by Maximum Rock’ n Roll.  Descriptions of his work can be found at

Zine Spotlight: Endless Canvas

Endless Canvas, launched in 2008, was inspired by East Coast street art blogs. From their inception, the group's focus has been to showcase the street art and graffiti movement in the Bay Area (Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco). Endless Canvas spotlights street art and graffiti through photography, zines and original art. We took some time to find out more about this amazingly creative collective prior to SF Zine Fest 2012.

How did you get into independent publishing, art and the like?

I got into zines through going to punk shows back in the day. After bootlegging political pamphlets for years I met some photographers who were printing there own graffiti zines. We got together and started a collaborative blog to post daily photos of street art in the Bay Area. About a year in we decided to make a quick collaborative zine to promote our website project (www.EndlessCanvas.com). We received a really positive response to the zine! People loved to have something tangible with texture so we just kept making more. They did so well that we started printing zines and comics for other local street artists. Screen printing our covers led into us screen printing limited edition posters for artists. This year we release our first perfect bound, full color, zine called Special Delivery and look forward to stepping our game up.

What are you trying to communicate through your zines, art, website and other designs?

Our goal with Endless Canvas was to put a spotlight on Oakland and build it's reputation in the global Street Art and Graffiti Movement. We've been very successful and built a lot of bridges for local artists.

What does your work consist of?

Our photography focuses on contemporary movements in our local Street Art scene.

What are your current projects and upcoming events?

We're releasing our new book Special Delivery which documents a massive mural exhibition in Portland that we organized in 2011, in which over 25 Bay Area artists took over a 5,000 square foot warehouse and painted every inch of it. Police called it the largest graffiti event to ever happen in Portland. Currently, we're working on Endless Canvas issue #6 and #7, which are being upgraded from staples to perfect bound. We're sitting on enough content to release a zine about Mexico City. We are participating at the Printmakers Picnic event held in Oakland during August. We're looking for a warehouse to throw Special Delivery Oakland 2012. Then Broke is in the middle of illustrating issue 4 of the More Beer Less Work Comic Book and we're compiling a zine of original illustrations by Ras Terms.

What is your favorite thing about the SF Zine Fest?

The best thing about Zine Fest by far is meeting all the other radical folks out there publishing their own work. We've made a lot of quality long term friends through this event.

Check out Endless Canvas' daily photography and zine catalog at: EndlessCanvas.comand keep in touch through their social networks...

Meet the SFZF Team

A project is only as good as the team behind it. We wanted to share a little bit about ourselves so you can see the folks making the San Francisco Zine Fest a reality. Check out our stories and give us a shout out, we're all ears.

Tom Biby is the Executive Coordinator for the SF Zine Fest and is also lead table/chair stacker. He has been part of the fest as an exhibitor, volunteer, or both since 2007. Tom makes comics and books as part of the Two Fine Chaps from his sumptuous art studio in Brisbane California.

Liz Mayorga was raised by wolves, who tried to make her tough. They taught her to howl and fight, but she just wanted read stories and draw. When she stumbled upon Zine Fest, she met another pack – a pack of zinesters, who said she had been howling all along. Liz is a writer/illustrator, and serves as the SF Zine Fest Volunteer Coordinator. She studied at UC Berkeley, and is getting her MFA in Writing at CCA.

Jennie Hinchcliff loves to send mail, all the time. She is co-author of the book Good Mail Day and an active member of the mail art community since 1996. In addition to organizing mail art shows and creating the zine Red Letter Day, Jennie is the founder of San Francisco’s Correspondence Co-op. You can follow her postal adventures at redletterdayzine.wordpress.com

Sean Logic is a writer, blogger, and founder of Ashcan Magazine, a web/print publication focused on underground art and culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. His writing has been featured in such publications as Razorcake, Thrasher Magazine, and The Contra Costa Times. He serves as the Marketing Coordinator for the SF Zine Fest and spends way too much time online.

Rick Kitagawa is a SF-based painter/t-shirt printer/storyteller/event planner and 50% of Monkey + Seal. He has helped to organize the SF Zine Fest for the past five years, including teaching the "Intro to Bookbinding" workshop and Screen Printing workshops. He loves monsters, demons, and all things creepy and can usually be found painting at Big Umbrella Studios or trying to find cheap vegan food around the city. He also likes puzzles, board games, and beer. For more, visit rickkitagawa.com

Ric Carrasquillo is a cartoonist, illustrator and animator living and working in San Francisco since 1998. He is the creator of [SIC] a web cartoon that celebrates his passion for mid-century design and modern architecture through an absurdist’s perspective. He began producing long form comics this year at privateaddresssystem.tumblr.com, and also produces work as part of the FiveTrueFans comics collective, an enigmatic and exclusive group of online cartoonists. Contemplate more of his work online at squillostudio.com.

Cindy Maram serves as Owner, Executive Editor and Art Director of Dig In Magazine, an online and print publication dedicated to the furthering of independent artists and has a strong focus on art, film, music and fashion. Cindy draws inspiration from her environment’s bubbling creativity. Her first time participating in the SF Zine Fest was with Mix It Up Magazine in 2009; she then returned in 2011 exhibiting on her own with Dig In. This is her second year serving on the organizing committee for the SF Zine Fest.

Lauren Davis is a blogger, editor, and comic book junkie living in Berkeley. She's the weekend editor for the science fiction blog io9 and a regular contributor to ComicsAlliance, where she can usually be found gushing over webcomics and envying the talents of extraordinary fan artists. Last year, she edited and published her first comics anthology, The Comic Book Guide to the Mission.

Exhibitor Registration is Open!

Greetings writers, artists, zinesters, & DIY aficionados,

We're happy to announce that exhibitor registrations has opened for the 2012 SF Zine Fest!  The show will be Labor Day weekend, September 1st and 2nd at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park.

If you are interested in registering as an exhibitor, please visit the Registration page. There you will find further instructions for submitting your registration form and paying your registration fees.

We encourage all exhibitors to register early! A few reasons why include….

1. After August 1st, the price for tables goes up for late registrants.

2. We will accept applications up until the time of the show, but every year we sell out of tables. An application received the week before the show may not make it onto the handout program and map - so people won't know where to find you.

3. Any special requests will be honored (if possible) in the order received.  So if you need any special arrangements (e.g. power outlets or want to be near/far from a wall) it’s a smart move to let us know ahead of time.

Once we receive your application and payment you will receive a confirmation message.

: Don't forget to fill out a Temporary Seller’s Permit and bring it with you to the show.  Everyone must have one if they don't have a California Seller's Permit.

Thank you all for your interest.  We hope to see some old friends and new faces this year.  Keep checking our website for updates about the show, and great info on the zine + DIY community. See ya at the fest!

Photo courtesy Ashcan Magazine.

Date and Venue for the 2012 Zinefest is Confirmed!

Thanks for your patience everyone and sorry about the long silence.  We had a great show last year - our largest yet - and we're getting ready to up the ante again.  The traditional date and place are staying the same:  we will be at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park on saturday and sunday of Labor Day weekend, which is the 1st and 2nd of September. 

We will start taking applications for tables in June, so start saving up and clearing your calendar, and of course  making art.

The show is entirely run by volunteers and we always need more help as the date of the show draws closer, so please email us at sfzinefest@gmail.com if you want to be part of making the show happen. 

We hope to see you all there!

East Bay Alternative Press Book Fair Saturday, Dec. 10

The SFZF's across the bay sister show is coming up on Saturday, December 10th! This is the 2nd annual East Bay Alternative Press Bookfair (whew! That's a long name! But you can just say EBAP!), and w had such a nice time last year that we definitely reccomend you check it out... There's a great lineup of small-press creators and companies, including Rock Paper Scissors, Gnartoons, Endless Canvas, Family Style, Mission MiniComix, Jen Oaks Illustration, Rad Dad, Trackrabbit, Estrus Comics, Brooke Appler (creator of that bad-ass poster!) and many many more. Its a perfect opportunity to pick up DIY gifts and stocking stuffers for all your loved ones, while supporting local artists! And its FREE to get into the show! 100% Awesome!

EBAP Bookfair • Saturday, Dec. 10 • 10am - 4pm • Berkeley City College 2050 Center Street, Berkeley (right by Downtown Berkeley BART Station) • FREE! • RSVP on Facebook